Producing the Goods 2

Bradford Markets: creating links to culture


The first of many striking things about Bradford Metropolitan District Council's approach to its five regular markets and seasonal specials, is that they fall under the department of leisure and culture. Malcolm Veigas, the energetic officer in charge, handles markets, parks and landscapes. This is no exercise in bureaucratic categorisation but simply a reflection of how things are connected. Bradford's method of making culture central to the importance of the city has helped it to think laterally about the way markets are valued, for example, Malcolm is looking into opportunities for placing market stalls selling fresh fruit and healthy snacks in parks at weekends, as an alternative to hot dogs and burgers.

Bradford is famous for its south Asian ethnic population hosts an enormous annual mela (from the Sanskrit to meet) of culturally diverse entertainment and stalls, including food. The notion of using markets as for a for entertainments is, as we have seen via fairs, nothing new.  From Malcolm's point of view, the everyday vibrancy of markets makes them perfect to combine with artistic performances or seasonal and cultural festivities. In fact research  among market shoppers carried out by the Council reflects that people are attracted to markets and stay longer (and spend more) if something else is going on at the same time. Dhol drums not doldrums, as it were. Conversely, the cultural material of markets has inspired artistic interpretations such as the Natural Theatre Company's Literary Greengrocer - a performance where the market stall format offers a new slant for a comedy about book sellers.

In contrast to the serious challenges of Queen's Street market, another encouraging Bradford development can be traced in plans for the city centre regeneration. Quite opposed to sweeping markets aside, the metric of the 3 metre-wide market stall has become the benchmark for city centre street design and informs the positioning of street lamps, benches, electricity and water supply. Eureka!