Borough Market bounces back

Categories: News and previews

On Wednesday morning, Borough Market reopened after a simple, poignant ceremony. Donald Hyslop, the chair of Trustees of Borough Market, reflects on an important step along the road to recovery

Yesterday morning, something resembling normality returned to Borough Market. While our thoughts remain fixed on those killed, injured or struggling to come to terms with this horrific experience, and we will continue to offer as much support as we can to anyone who needs it, we are now starting to push past the horror and look to the future. The camera crews and royal visitors have added a slight touch of unreality to the place, but the Market is finally back doing what it does best: selling wonderful food and drink in an atmosphere of love, friendship and togetherness.

Just before 10am on Wednesday, the Market community packed together in a tight space at the top of Three Crown Square. We stood in silence for a minute, remembering those who were killed or hurt on 3rd June. Suléy Muhidin read his poem Keeping Tradition Alive, which was inspired by his love of Borough, then a group of our traders rang the market bell. As the last chimes echoed around the hall, the place erupted in a full-throated cheer. And that was that: Borough Market was back in business.

Monumental effort
Getting here has taken a monumental effort in an atmosphere of great stress and sadness. Over several days (and nights—there are a lot of eyes with a lot of bags under them today) the Market’s traders and staff worked like Trojans to get this place cleaner than clean, restock stalls that had been left untended, and deal with the surge of press interest and public goodwill that crashed over us this past week.

None of this would be possible without the extraordinary sense of community that makes this such a special place to work or visit. Everywhere you look, acts of kindness and solidarity are playing out. There are hugs and handshakes, messages and tweets, t-shirts and badges. Gestures of support are everywhere: Fish! restaurant offering fish and chips for staff and traders working through the night to get the Market back in shape; Gourmet Goat giving away a symbolic Cypriot dish in exchange for donations to the Red Cross solidarity fund; The Turkish Deli donating half of its coffee sales to the same appeal; the local florists and greengrocers building a commemorative display around our entrance; the hundreds of supporters—from local businesses offering thousands to the student throwing in a fiver—who’ve put money towards a fund to help small traders whose livelihoods have been threatened.

Filled with life
The most important thing for all of us is that people are here again, in a public space that thrives on noise and energy. They are coming in their droves already, chatting, smiling, browsing, spending, turning this back from a place of tragedy to a place absolutely filled with life. Tonight, those shoppers will be cooking meals using exceptional ingredients, bought from people who care passionately about the food they sell. Those meals will be shared with friends and family. And Borough Market—this beautiful, colourful, diverse collection of people—will be doing its job again, despite the efforts of a handful of men driven by hate instead of togetherness.   

The poem that Suléy read on the stage just before the bell was rung invoked the spirit of those traders who worked at the Market through the centuries, seeing it through times of hardship, plague and war, long before this latest challenge: “Our old Southwark traders, they are here with us today. / Chuffed at your work, your grit, your drive / To keep the spirit of Borough Market alive.”

That spirit is alive. Mark my words.