The Magnificent Seven

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Seven of the world’s great markets are coming together to share knowledge, run joint ventures and speak with one voice on the global stage

Wherever you go in the world, no two big-city food markets are exactly the same. Budapest’s neogothic 19th century Central Market Hall could hardly be further in either distance or appearance from the 1960s seafront development of Sydney Fish Market. You won’t find a Melton Mowbray pork pie in Seattle’s Pike Place Market, and there’s little point seeking out a Catalan pastisset at Berlin’s Markthalle Neun. But while every major market has its own distinct character, they also have a great deal in common.

“Whenever we meet our colleagues in London, Budapest, Seattle, Sydney, or anywhere else in the world, we see that the successes or problems of any market that occupies a central role in its city are exactly the same,” says Òscar Ubide i Marcet, manager of La Boqueria, Barcelona’s world-famous food market. A large urban market—one with scale, visibility and footfall—can help define its city’s food culture and influence the thinking of vast numbers of people. But the huge pressure on city centre land use means that many such markets also live with threats from development, rapidly changing demographics, new infrastructure projects and the effects of pollution.

Sharing knowledge
In recognition of these shared characteristics and challenges, Borough Market has recently joined together with six other famous urban markets—La Boqueria, Queen Victoria Market in Melbourne, and the aforementioned institutions in Seattle, Berlin, Budapest and Sydney—to create the Magnificent Seven (M7) alliance. These markets, which between them serve around 74.5 million people every year, will work together on joint ventures, sharing knowledge and using their combined profile to ensure their voice is heard on the global stage in discussions around sustainability, shorter supply chains, urban regeneration and community engagement.

Borough Market has for many years enjoyed a twinning arrangement with La Boqueria, and has close and long-standing relationships with many other markets, but the M7 alliance will formalise and strengthen those bonds. “In a world where we are increasingly looking inward, markets can play a unique role in linking the local and the global,” says Donald Hyslop, chair of the Trustees of Borough Market. “Markets bring people together to enjoy some of life’s great pleasures: the love of good food, company and community. We are also seeing growing interest across the world from the public in all aspects of food; they want to know where their food comes from and speak directly to the farmer, or the producer who brings their crop to market, the fisherman who’s dived for the scallops and the artisan who’s churned the cheese.”

Speaking with one voice
As part of the agreement, the seven markets have committed to gathering together at least once a year to share ideas and experiences. They have also agreed to showcase each other’s produce, create a shared staff development programme, cooperate to meet their common goals, and attempt to speak with one voice on the issues that affect them all

Florian Niedermeier, Managing Director, Markthalle Neun, Berlin, said: "Markets are the places where people first met to barter and trade food and ideas. That’s how cities started and that is where the roots of their structure and organization are to be found . We are delighted to be part of this international alliance, as we feel that it is our communal, universal duty to explore new ways and approaches to that ancient interconnection between people, food, farming, and trade.“