How a Royal visit brought more cheer to Borough Market
Words: Clare Finney
From the defiant clang of the bell to the sunshine and familiar sounds and smells which filled the air after 10 days of silence, it would be difficult to top the atmosphere at Borough Market when it reopened yesterday. But if anything—or rather, if anyone could do it—it would be a visit from Prince Harry.
Arriving with little ceremony as a sign of solidarity and to spread the word that Borough Market is open for business once more, His Royal Highness brought “a real buzz back to the Market,” said Max of Alsop and Walker. Max and his colleague Enrique were one of a number of traders the Prince visited as he made his way round the stalls. Chatting to Arthur Alsop, the owner and founder of the Sussex cheese stall, he complimented him on his team’s dapper straw hats. “Where’s yours?” he asked Arthur jokingly, who confessed blushingly that he’d left it at the farm. All was easily resolved however by Arthur’s generously-sized samples of Mayfield and Lord London cheese.
The traders were characteristically generous: sausage from Cannon and Cannon, salami from Exquisite Deli, comte from Borough Cheese Company, tea from Ratan at East Teas, and a copy of Justin Gellatly’s recipe book, Bread Cake Doughnut Pudding. “You’re giving away the recipe for your legendary doughnuts?!” exclaimed Harry in mock horror as he accepted the book gratefully. “Rule number one: never reveal trade secrets,” he quipped as Justin chuckled happily. Yet the Prince, who bought doughnuts (salted caramel, vanilla cream and blackberry and apple, if you’re asking) from Bread Ahead was generous in his turn.
A community like this
He praised the traders: their strength, their support for one another, and the spirit of Borough Market. “I am envious of you, having a community like this, where everyone knows each other and helps each other,” he said to the team at Applebee’s restaurant, before thanking them and the staff at The Wheatsheaf pub for their bravery and initiative in ushering people into their cellars and basements. “The situation would have been much worse was it not for your efforts. Thank you.”
“It’s back to business now,” Paul Wheeler of Paul Wheeler Fresh Supplies told the Prince simply, as he waved goodbye to the customer he’d just been serving, echoing powerfully the line from Suléy Muhidin’s poem yesterday: “They can sell to queens and never show outward applause.” Yet Paul was not totally immune to the royal stardust, asking him if he cared to serve some customers: Harry declined, grinned, and thanked him for all he did for the Market every day. “It’s time to help those people in West London now,” Paul told him somberly, referring to the horrendous tragedy in Kensington to which Harry and his brother have already donated. “A couple of us have been sending extra veg and clothes.”
He spoke to Ganga Garbuja, the member of Borough Market security on duty that night, and thanked him for his help in escorting victims to safety. Ganga replied that the Market was “a home from home” for him, and the traders his family. The Prince also thanked Clifford Brathwaite on the maintenance team, who has worked 13 days straight to restore the Market after Saturday’s events, and asked him what he gets from the traders in return for all the day-to-day work he does for them.
Down to earth
“He asked me if I went home with bags full of cheese and bread every night,” laughed Clifford afterward. “He was such a nice man, really down to earth and funny. Last time I saw him, I was working as a plumber in Kensington Palace and he was just a little boy, asking me what I was doing.”
Nice, down to earth, funny, supportive—these were the adjectives which Harry’s presence conjured up among the traders he met. Yet his visit brought something more important still: “The positive message that the Market is open,” says Max, “and that Londoners should come.”
“I love it here. I just want to come down with my mates,” the Prince exclaimed to the Borough Market team at the end of his tour. “I’d not been before, but now I know they’re giving out free samples of ham and cheese…” He smiled that familiar, cheeky smile, then said seriously, “some of my friends are restauranteurs and asking what they can do to help.”
“Just come to the Market,” replied Kate Howell, the Market’s director of development and communications. “Come again. We’d love to have you. Everyone is welcome.”
“I will, definitely,” he said. “But when I do”—he mimed pulling a baseball cap over his eyes, and grinned—”you probably won’t see me.” And with that, and a last farewell to the traders, it was time for him to leave—not quite on a white steed, but for all the good feelings he left behind him, he might as well have been.