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Friday 23 March 2012 2.40pm
Guess where I have just been.

Question: Are the temporary and permanent jobs advertised locally? Is Keith Davies still an interim MD? Apparently he lives in Wales but lives here part-time in accommodation provided by the Market. I have trawled the Southwark News, Evening Standard and FT but not found the MD role as being advertised? Apparently, there is also a direct relationship between two employees. An employee mentioned to a Trader in a 'fit of anger' that this person is a school friend and flat mate of another employee! Traders tell me that they cannot understand why this individual (clearly unprofessional to mouth off like that) did not leave during the supposed shake-up as the vast majority do not trust or professionally respect this individual.


I clearly would like to understand the Trust as it is such an important institution in our community.

Public bodies are generally transparent but not so with Borough Market Trust it seems that you have to trawl the web to find any information or hear it third hand. This constant vacuum cannot be good! There is alot of information, rules and regulations for trading at the Market but no information on the Trust, its committees or its long term plans.

Does anyone who lives locally work for the Trust? I am not certain whether they have an equals opportunity policy in place?
Saturday 24 March 2012 6.36am
Hello again. On the 5.32am train into waterloo…

Your post contains a number of elements, which are connected – it seems to me – by fundamental questions which are to do with ‘forward planning’ and ‘communication’. Forward planning is something which all organisations do to some degree, I suppose, particularly public sector organisations who waste herculean amounts of time doing it. I have a very good friend who worked for Goldman Sachs and retired at 38 who rubbishes all activity of this sort. His view – and I paraphrase – is that what really matters is getting creative, talented people together, rather than sweating out three or five year plans which never get adhered to. And they do always sound a bit Stalinist. And also ‘communication’ – again, how long is a piece of string? What really matters is the results, rather than whether you have consulted with 38.7% of your stakeholders, and circulated 39,564 flyers.

Anyway, I digress.

“Has the Borough Market Trust has shared the plans for the future with anyone in this community? “

I wouldn’t know about how the trust communicates with local people. I’m sure it should do, as a charitable body. There are panels up around the market, I guess. Have you asked your questions of the charming Kate – who has the brief for communications? I am sure she would tell you where all this is at? But if you mean ‘is there a plan and has it been emailed to everyone in SE1’, I don’t know. My perception is that the goalposts for the Thameslink project have changed so much, that anything produced 4 years ago would be totally different now.

But I do think the trust could and should produce a vision statement – something which says what they are about. This would ensure that everyone connected with the Market (all the stakeholders) would have the security of knowing that despite all the tumult, there was a constant point of reference to refer back to. This could be printed and made public, and would have scotched all the stupid ‘Tesco Express are coming’ rumours. I’ve suggested this before. This exchange reminds me. I shall say it again.

(although i'm a believer in the principle of 'benign despotism' if you must know. Francis the second and all that. or was it Frederick? i shall look it up and report back)

“Hot food versus ingredients/the offer in middle road/money owed and deals done/special treatment/david matchett and no hot food”

I don’t know about all the shady stuff! The market is a fabulous cauldron of rumour and counter rumour. Standing around for 10 hours in February with no customers means there is a lot of time for gossip. I see absolutely no evidence of ‘special deals’ – this may have happened in the past, I don’t know.

Hot food – my personal view? The ‘issue’ such as it is, I suppose, is related to the scale of this offer, the environmental impact, plus the way that it is secondary to the Market’s core values as an ingredients-led food market (see above). Clearly the customer base of the Market has changed profoundly in the last 15 years. Southbank has become the most visited destination in the UK (I think?), these tourists don’t want to buy parmesan, but they will buy a sandwich; the nation is in the grip of a crazy obsession with street food (crazy as I am old enough to think it is bad manners to eat while walking around!); and finally the 'Fine food revolution’ has happened. If you live in Primrose Hill, or wherever and you throw a stick, you will hit a fabulous little deli, a farmers market or a Waitrose with an offer which is right up there. So you don’t need to come to BM any more.

All this means that sales of ingredients are not what they were back in the day. They are still tons better than any other food market, believe me, but not what they were.

The hot food element of the mix is clearly one thing that can be addressed – you can’t close down Tate Modern.

I know some customers hate the hot food – some love it. I think there is probably too much, and some of it is a bit rubbish. This is my concern – if the market is going to have hot food, and I think it should, then it should be the absolutely the best street food in London. Full stop.

The Market has not allowed any new hot food offers to come on for some years. The problem the management have, in my view, is that they are trying to rein in the scale of the hot food offer, but they are not yet managing to make the existing offer the best. It’s tricky to achieve this. My understanding is that people who have leases can’t just be told what to do? And even if they could, if a certain trader just doesn’t get quality, just isn’t interested in making their offer better, and is digging their heels in, that’s really difficult to manage. and taste is ultimately a bit subjective. what some people don't like, others love.

But I don’t really know about this – I just know that some of the hot food isn’t good enough.

And because the offer has been the same now for years, because of the restriction, where is the hot food which properly reflects the extraordinary multicultural nature of Southwark, for example? It’s just not there.

David is the Market Development Manager. He would say, I am sure, that getting this Balance right is a real challenge.

“regime change etc”

I don’t know how you define regime change - all I was making reference to was the departure of the previous MD and the Chair at pretty much the same time. Is that regime change? I would have thought so. There are certainly new faces – the office team is bigger than it was. Again, this is a red herring. If the bottom line is in the black, and the Market is delivering in other respects, I don’t really care about all that. I do miss Chris Denning, though. There are not enough balding, ginger people on the market (this is written expressly in the hope that he will read this)

I don’t know anything about trustees etc. As I said in my last post, I’ve never met one. I’m sure I could if I wanted to, but I’ve got a business to run.

"traders are constantly audited…”

That’s nonsense. Traders are audited in two principle ways - a six montly food and other safety review, which is pretty vanilla compared to other venues, believe me; and a yearly ‘secret shopper’ process, which fires up some traders, but which I think is pretty good.

Waterloo is emerging from the mist…
Saturday 24 March 2012 1.16pm
Philip
Thanks again for your lengthy response. I am certain it made thetrain journey much more pleasant.

Just got off my bike to send a quick response.

I don't believe that I am asking for a 100 page document or a 5 year plan. A statement of sorts plus an idea of what the Market plans on delivering to this community would have been appreciated. This was promised in writing to this community. The market may be key to your and other businesses; however, it is and always been a part of this community. It was kept open through the efforts of this community way back. It is not just a place where Traders flog their goods. The results may be important to the Traders but we live and breath Southwark. Being consulted means we are part of the future plans for this area? We do live here after all. Every other organisation consults in some way with this community. As for communication (you mentioned it), looking at the skillset on the Board, there is a Trustee Drew Cullan, who one would assume plays a key role? The website also refers to a Communication Department?

Hot food, well I can only relay what I have been told? If, as you say the food is substandard, why are Traders allowed to sell it and at extortionate prices? Why have some Traders been allowed to expand the hot food aspect of their business? With experts like Tim Lang and David Machette, who have both been at the Market for a considerable time, surely these issues, which appear to be ongoing, should be less of a challenge by now? the problem appears to have grown despite their expertise? I don't personally have an issue with hot food but from my own experince of shopping at the Market, it appears to be disorganised and unmanaged. Appears!

Regime change? If Cameron stepped down as head of the Tory party, the fundamental policies and principals of the party would remain intact, especially if all ministers kept their positions. I can only assume that Borough Market, as a public body, is governed by committee, democracy and consensus. The Board and Management team remain intact. Unless there were no committees, board meetings and management were fast asleep on their jobs, I dont believe two people leaving equals a regime change. It would be interesting to hear the point of view of the former MD and Chairman or any others. No slanging match though just a clean debate.

I dont mean to offend (if the tone is less than friendly) and I would normally spend time re-reading to ensure grammar and spelling are OK but not easy on my bike.

Also agree audit of Traders is a good thing but I think you slightly miss the point. It appears that the application process for Traders are more stringent than thatfor Trustees or employees? The information for Traders is readily available on the website but there is a lack of information regarding the Trust. Again, Drew Cullan is the expert on the Board, and for some considerable time, surely this should no longer be an issue? Previous threads allude to this a historical problem. Also, the expertise and experience of the Management is completely unavailable on the website. Most organisations are transparent about this.

Great exchanging thoughts with you Philip. I hope I have not left anything out...
Sunday 25 March 2012 5.53am
firstly, i've subsequently learned that a vision for the Market is imminent.

i like your point about how the market sits in the local community, how it is not just a place for me to flog parma ham. i don't think about this very much. of course, you are right, not least looking back to the threats to its future a few years back. and the simple fact is that the institution itself is a charitable trust, with articles (which i've scandalously never bothered to engage with) which must be all about serving the local area and population. most other food markets in london (all other food markets?) are run for profit - on our patch, the real food market by the royal festival hall, the maltby st market, the bermondsey farmers market (is that still happening?). I trade at the Covent Garden Food market once a week - that is run by Capco, who turn over hundreds of millions of pounds.

i'll maybe speak to someone at the market next week - but i guarantee if the market is generating a vision it will be widely consulted upon. otherwise i'm sure the trust would take the view that it would be entirely without purpose.

i take back my comment about ‘benign despots’. I realise I meant ‘absolute despot’. There is a subtle difference.

hot food - sure. i would agree that if the view is generally held that elements of it are substandard - whether the quality of the offer, the variety, the presentation or whatever - then logic suggest it should ultimately be sorted. i do think this is happening, that it is a bit subjective, and i do think some aspect of the sorting are really very difficult, but yes, if i was king/top despot for the day, i would:

1. try and address the issue of proportionality. i would say hot food can be – say - no more than 25% of a stall where there is a produce offer, and it shouldn't be given such a prominent place that it overwhelms the produce offer. maybe i would restrict the hours during which it can be sold. (this last one is tricky. all that would happen is that we would stand and watch cafe brood, and that lot, make squillions. our customers want feeding. see above)

2. try and address the issue of presentation. i would walk up to some stalls and say 'your stall looks messy and tatty. make it look 10 times better before i come next time, in a way that only I will be the judge of. And stop hawking your offer to everyone that passes by. do this or i will suspend you from trading for two weeks'

3. try and address the issue of the variety of the offer. i know there are plans afoot with this.

4. try and address the issue of the quality of the offer. clearly if i was king for a day, i would sit at a high table by roast, and get traders to bring samples to me on a golden platter, and i would pronounce at the end of the day, using a town crier type of person. but that's not very practical. there are other ways of doing this.

regime change - i hear what you are saying.

and no offence given or taken - your tone is entirely appropriate.

you make an analogy between the application process for traders, and for employees of the trust and for trustees. my gut feeling is that i don't think that is comparing like with like? but as i don't know anything about how the market appoints staff/trustees i couldn't really comment. i'm sure you are right that principles of transparency should underpin this process – it all seems pretty standard to me, and I worked with trusts for years in another life. i sense from your posts in this thread to do with 'united st savoirs' (don’t know what this is) that there is more backstory to this than sits with my pay grade. So I will step out.

Enjoy the sunshine. Take it from me - it won’t last!
Sunday 25 March 2012 12.44pm
philip crouch wrote:
I don’t really care about all that. I do miss Chris Denning, though. There are not enough balding, ginger people on the market (this is written expressly in the hope that he will read this)

Oh Philip, you old sentimentalist you! I should point out that I had lustrous locks before I had to deal with 'orrible 'erberts such as yourself. The ginger has mostly turned to grey for much the same reason!
Monday 26 March 2012 9.49am
Philip

The hot weather appears to be staying. I am travelling, so just a quick response. You mentioned in an earlier response that you were in the Trader Rep system. I find it very strange that you only now learn that a vision statement (presume this means the future plans), is imminent? You mentioned communication? I am sure that you haven't thought about the Markets place within the community, however this could be because Trustees and Management don't think it is important? Possibly a reason why we have been side-lined as a community?

Borough Market Trustees appear to be on the board for circa 5 to 10 years? If they are experts on their fields why do the issues persist and worsen? Are they on the Board because it adds value to their CV's or because they value the Market and its place in our community? There is more information on the website about Trustees and their expertise than that of Management.

You quoted the following: < finally the 'Fine food revolution’ has happened. If you live in Primrose Hill, or wherever and you throw a stick, you will hit a fabulous little deli, a farmers market or a Waitrose with an offer which is right up there. So you don’t need to come to BM any more. >. My question is does this mean that Trustees and Management are happy with the 'kitchenisation' of Borough Market? Are they happy to lose customers to Waitrose and these other Farmers Markets? I have lately seen lots more cakes and sweet been sold by Traders. Is this fine food? You say ingredients are not what they were in the day. Is this because less ingredients are being sold and customers are visiting
markets where they can actually shop for ingredients? Also, I don't see any attempt to attract people like me to shop at the Market (not as a worker or a resident). I am certain when I spoke with my old favourites last year that they were being ''forced to make changes' to their hot food. I know that someone I visit most mornings was extremely unhappy? It was mentioned to me recently that this has all now stopped. Also, I noticed that the fish man has a dedicated kitchen and so does the farmer next to him?

Philip, you appear to have almost as much questions as me and all I want is to understand. One can't gloss over the cracks is something one of your Traders said to me recently. It appears to me that this is what Borough Market is attempting?
Monday 26 March 2012 1.01pm
damc,
I confess I find your posts very confusing. There are so many question marks it's difficult to understand what information you are seeking. Many of your queries would be better addressed directly to the BM management or Trustees.

If I understand correctly, you are not a 'worker' or 'resident', and complain that the 'community' has been sidelined, and nothing is being done to attract 'people like yourself'. What 'community' are you referring to, and what are your particular requirements of the market that are not being addressed?

There are plenty of raw ingredients available in BM, but the major change to the area over the last 10 years has been the growth of tourism, and an apparently uncontrolled growth of street-food style additions to some stalls in and around BM to satisfy the transient visitor, and which bring big profits to those who can provide such stuff.

Philip,
thanks for the detailed and entertaining posts. You make important points about the standard of some of the hot food products. It's unpleasant to hear some of the 'hawking' of some of that stuff, and I personally would not want to eat slop served from a large paella pan that is exposed to the droppings from the avian population roosting in the girders above!

One other issue is the growth of the 'off-market' traders, by which I mean the ones in the foot tunnel between the market and the high street, and Cafe Brood and The Guildable Manor guys adjacent to the Cathedral. These traders are not part of BM but trade off the back of it's success. It's hell trying to walk past Cafe Brood, where they have gradually extended their table and chairs to block off a large area of the path. Traders who have to access the stores under London Bridge find it a nightmare to get their trolleys through that space and the staff of Brood are distinctly uncooperative in helping to maintain clear access for them.

It's not pleasant to try to shop in the market only to be confronted at every turn by people shoveling food into their mouths, who then leave their greasy waste packaging on traders stalls or pile it onto the nearest flat surface rather than find a bin. Relocating hot food into a particular zone may help control the queues but will do nothing to address some visitors disrespectful behaviour.
Monday 26 March 2012 5.38pm
Spartacus,

My question was slightly confusing. Apologies. I want to knw what the Market is doing to attract people like me, not MERELY as a resident or worker but as as raw ingredient shopper?

If you don't mind too much, I would like to keep this debate open. One result is that we will be receiving a 'vision statement' soon.

Also as a charitable institution, this information should be readily available.

Yes, there are more questions than answers and if Traders don't have the answers and we don't, then who does. ( almost ended that with a question mark!).
Monday 26 March 2012 6.28pm
damc wrote:
I want to knw what the Market is doing to attract people like me, not MERELY as a resident or worker but as as raw ingredient shopper?

No need to apologise, however,I'm still unclear about what it is you feel is missing as a 'raw ingredient shopper'. You could be referring to the non-existence of some ingredients you seek, or a lack of some sort on the part of BM Trust in dealing with the management of the space itself.

As you imply in your last para, the people who have at least some of the answers are the management and trustees themselves. I note your earlier comments, in which you identify some individuals in those organisations, and imply that there may be some dark dealings in the background. As Philip mentioned, the market is a rich environment for rumour and counter-rumour. Having met several traders and trustees (past and present), the insight I have is limited to their opinions rather than direct experience. I'll just say that much of it is entertaining hearsay, but some of it makes Machiavelli look like an amateur!
Monday 26 March 2012 10.57pm
I agree mainly on one point with damc. The poor PR strategy of the Borough Market. But this was already clear months ago when we were discussing the issue. So anything that can bring them to be more open and clear on their purposes is welcomed and needed. Their website is and was ridiculous.. once that I wanted to find info on the impact of network rail development on the future of the market I had to go on the website of Network rail...

But in terms of produce, please.. there is no better Market in London. You can find everything and more. Although anything can be improved. Specially now that some land will be given back for traders. So let's see.

But now damc, we are all waiting for these revelations you talk about...

@spartacus: yes those ready food shops satellite to Borough Market near Southwark Cathedral should be reduced in space. Some times more than a place of faith it looks like an al fresco eatery..
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