Year in review

Categories: News and previews

Tragically, Borough Market’s defining moment of 2017 had nothing to do with food and drink: in June, a terrorist attack rocked this historic institution to its foundations. But while this event will live long in the memory—and those who were killed or hurt will never be forgotten—these past 12 months have also provided plenty of reasons for more positive reflection.

In the weeks and months that followed the attack, it was impossible not to be struck by the strength and togetherness of this large, diverse community. The affection with which the Market is viewed around the world also shone through, particularly in the tidal wave of responses to the #LoveBorough campaign, the flood of generous donations to the Trader Support Fund and visits from such high profile visitors as HRH Prince Harry, London Mayor Sadiq Khan, the Archbishop of Canterbury and TRH The Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall, who came to show their support to traders. This sense of friendship and solidarity was captured a few weeks ago by the Market’s Chair of Trustees, in his description of how Borough recovered from the horror of the attack.

The importance of engaging with every part of this extraordinary community was recognised by the Market in a packed schedule of public activities laid on throughout the year, which included the usual vibrant celebrations of food and culture on St George’s Day and Apple Day.    

Local school children were a particular focus. Run in collaboration with the School Food Matters charity, Borough’s Young Marketeers programme is designed to help primary school and secondary school children develop a better understanding of and interest in food and cookery; this year, as well as the usual sales of fruit and veg grown by the children and soup made from surplus produce, the scheme held its first ever Celebration Sale, which involved children making and selling food inspired by their family heritage.

The Borough Market Cookbook Club—a free-to-join club whose members come together most months to discuss an iconic cookbook and share the dishes that each of them have prepared from it—had another fantastic year, with its membership swelling and its gatherings quickly selling out. This year, these included summer and Christmas parties, for which more than 100 cooks gathered in the Market Hall to share the masses of food they’d lovingly prepared.

The Market’s regular cookery demonstrations on Thursday and Friday lunchtimes—all of them free to attend—provided visitors with a highly accessible forum for learning more about food. As well as hosting one-off appearances from cooks of all different stripes, the Demo Kitchen was taken over for extended residencies by the likes of River Cottage, Three Girls Cook and the Severn Sisters. The highlight was perhaps the Christmas programme, which brought an incredibly diverse collection of chefs into the Market Hall to cover everything from Indian desserts to Russian gifts; from St Andrew’s Day to Chanuka.

A fond farewell
Tim Lang, a hugely respected member of Borough Market’s board, has been a bastion of the Market community for many years and recently came to the end of his tenure as a trustee. As professor of food policy at City, University of London, Tim knows better than anyone how our food system is failing us, and why the alternative models represented by the producers and merchants at Borough Market matter so profoundly. In his time as a trustee, he has been a highly vocal advocate for the Market, and has done much to define how its producers, traders and shoppers fit in with the bigger picture. He left us with a manifesto of sorts: a forceful, urgent plea for the global food system to be transformed into something more sustainable.

Innovation and discussion
Borough Market aims to play its part in this transformation by providing a space in which new ideas can be tested and shared and important debates can be conducted in public.

The popular Borough Talks series provided plenty of opportunity for discussion, with some of the food world’s most interesting and influential characters meeting on stage in Three Crown Square to talk about the ingredients of the perfect cookbook, the role of the media in promoting food businesses, the British drinks revolution, and how the impact of food production can and should be reduced.

In September, the Market joined forces with another group of sustainability champions—the River Cottage team—to host a month-long series of talks, masterclasses and demonstrations by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s talented and impassioned team, including the highly engaging Market Life interviewee Gill Meller

For November’s London Food Tech Week, the Borough Market Food Tech Village pop-up aimed to demonstrate how cutting-edge technology can aid small-scale, sustainable food production, tackle excessive meat consumption, and provide systems for urban growing. Before the event, its tech-savvy founder, Nadia El Hadery, talked to us about sustainability, disruption and the importance of collaboration.

Market Life magazine evolved both in its size (with a major redesign) and the scale of its ambitions, featuring interviews with some of the food world’s biggest influencers (Dan Barber, Tony Conigliario, Carmel McConnell) and recipes from some of its most talented cooks (Zoe Adjonyoh, Felicity Cloake, Rosie Birkett)—the result was yet another award for a publication that provides space for weighty ideas and a joyful celebration of food.

Sustainability and waste
When it comes to issues of sustainability and waste, Borough Market has continued to lead by example. In August, in response to the global scourge of plastic pollution, the Market unveiled three new water fountains and announced the phasing out of sales of single-use plastic water bottles across its estate, while using its public profile to encourage other institutions to follow suit.

In November, against the odds, the Market launched its LoveBorough Imperial Porter, with all profits going to the Trader Support Fund. Brewed locally using hops grown in the heart of the Market, along with a generous amount of chocolate from Rabot 1975 and coffee from social enterprise Change Please, it was a beer that could boast genuine London terroir.

Dozens of traders again contributed to Plan Zheroes—a charity that diverts surplus produce from food businesses to those in need. In 2017, 15 tonnes of past-their-best but otherwise entirely delicious ingredients were redistributed, compared with nine tonnes last year. To promote the scheme, Plan Zheroes’ inspirational co-founder Lotti Henley talked to us at length about her work.

For the second consecutive year, Plan Zheroes formed a partnership with chef Jeremy Pang and his team at the School of Wok for an event called Wok for 1,000. An enthusiastic crew of volunteers gathered in the Market Hall to turn piles of unused produce into around 1,400 portions of green curry, laksa and wontons for people desperately in need.

New traders
The new traders that joined us this year between them encapsulate the Market’s ethos: innovative, activist, small in scale, local, socially responsible, environmentally aware. This included Nibs etc, purveyor of cereals, cakes and brownies made using fruit and vegetable pulp from local juice bars, which would otherwise be thrown away; Food and Forest, which promotes the benefits of agroforesty through the sale of sustainably sourced nuts; Time for Kimchi, which sells traditional Korean kimchi, pickles, chilli sauce and roasted seaweed, made in Brighton using all-natural ingredients; Luminary Bakery, a social enterprise that offers women from disadvantaged backgrounds the chance to gain work skills while creating magnificent cakes; and Butter Nut, which sells a small range of unprocessed nut butters, handmade in Tooting.

Looking to the future
Anyone seeking to get the best out of Borough will be in for a treat next year: a few months back, the Market began collaborating with Hodder & Stoughton on production of The Borough Market Cookbook, which is due for publication in October 2018. This beautifully-photographed tome will feature 120 recipes from Ed Smith that showcase a rich array of seasonal produce, together with interviews with traders and a series of essays on the history and ethos of the Market.

There are positive times ahead. The Market will continue to thrive; it will continue to serve its community; it will continue to promote a better model of food production and consumption; it will continue to offer exceptional food, made and sold by people who genuinely care. We look forward to you joining us here.