Friday, 29 July 2011

Kirkgate Market - a great place that Leeds City Council plans to ruin

OK, I'm from Bradford and the goings on in Leeds are none of my business. But it makes me angry to see Leeds making the mistakes Bradford made in times past particularly where they concern one of the wonders of that City - Kirkgate Market.

Put simply the Council thinks that the future for Kirkgate Market lies in it becoming a sanitised version of the Borough Market in South London. And this will mean the end to the exciting, vibrant ethnic and flea market that has grown up in the dingy area between the listed market building and the bus station. This part of the market is what they're about - not fancy food emporia trading on five-year leases in a listed building.

However, Leeds' bosses are too bought into the shiny Leeds idea. Here's Cllr Richard Lewis:

The strategy needs to be implemented if the market is to take advantage of the proposed Eastgate development.

Got that - the proposals are about John Lewis rather than about encouraging the fantastic, vibrant interchange that a market provides. I'm as foodie as anyone but the market shouldn't be some sort of yuppy magnet but a place for everyone. For the Somali immigrant and Pakistani mum as much as for the locavores of North Leeds.

I've written before on this - pointing out that it's the 'down-market' end of the market that is thriving, crammed with customers and full of fascination (and bargains). So it is both wrong and stupid for Cllr Lewis to get rid of that bit and keep the bit that's managed as a shopping centre rather than a market hall.



Mike Chitty said...

The potential of the market as a place where the communities of Leeds trade with each other providing a cultural smorgasbord is phenomenal. Food, clothes, musical and other artefacts.

However this would require imagination, patience, and perhaps some proper enterprise support to help people trade effectively. Much easier to bring in the brands and serve the designer handbag brigade while continuing the displacement of the poor from the heart of the city.

Anonymous said...

Simon and Mike - it seems like you're buying the 'Friends of Kirkgate Market' propaganda lock, stock and barrel.

We don't know what exactly the Council plans to do yet - all they've said is they are reviewing the optimum size and looking at a different management structure.

Anyone involved with the market knows the 76/81 halls is (a) in a terrible state of repair and (b) is too big. There are numerous void units and they are increasing.

If the Council were proposing to completely get rid of the 76/81 hall you might have a point. If they are reducing it though that seems much more sensible and means you could have a more vibrant market. Surely it is about having a mixed offer, rather than an either / or choice between boutique / foodie and downmarket / cheap?

Finally, I think consumer expectations have risen - across the board - and the market needs to move with that.

Simon Cooke said...

Can't speak for Mike but I make my own mind up. I also know what I'm talking about - some of the 'friends' stuff is sound but not all. Successful markets are not about long leases but about flexibility and variety.

The market could be improved a little but to suggest that it should be smaller - and that's exactly what the council mean when they say 'optimum size' (as if there could be an optimum size other than one defined by the market) - is a ridiculous idea and sets the process for it either becoming a faux-market that is little different than Mr Morisson's 'Market Street' or closing.

And might I suggest that - if you're going to address me by name, it would be jolly nice if you left your name!

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure on what basis you can say 'to suggest it should be smaller is a ridiculuous idea'.

Why should we keep the markets the same size it has been for the last 30 years? Surely, the size should be based on what gives the markets the best chance of success, even if this is different from what size it has been in the past?

Given there is currently a void rate of 14% according to the Council report published last week what would be wrong with reducing the size by 20%? This would make 100% lettings much more achievable, make the market more vibrant and hence more attractive to customers.