I live in the North West of England and I am a great fan of local markets, the mix of goods for sale and the conversations that bounce to and fro between stallholders and customers are two of the experiences that make a visit to the market such an enjoyable experience for me. Also they are a constantly evolving business as tastes and customers change, reflecting the increasing diversity of their customers backgrounds and heritage. and of course they are the perfect hunting ground for the photographer out on the hunt for the candid image.
There are generally two types of market, the market hall, the header pic is the fine Victorian market hall in Darwen, Lancashire, built with civic pride and confidence and dating from the 1880’s. These are generally open for most of the week, sometimes with extra stalls opening up outside on particular days. The other is the open market, opening on one or two days a week and featuring stallholders who travel from venue to venue. The picture above of Ormskirk Market shows this second. The market is open two days a week, Thursday and Saturday and is held on the pedestrianised main street, adding a colourful hustle and bustle to the town’s atmosphere. Everything from fresh meat and vegetables to bedding and shoes can be found, plus plenty of opportunities for a candid image.
The Cumbrian town of Keswick also has a fine example of the open market, again opening on Thursdays and Saturdays, the mix of goods available, rare breed meats, handcrafted cheeses, artisan breads etc as well as the more regular items reflects Keswicks place as a popular tourist destination.
Out in East Lancashire you will find the fine and imposing market hall at Accrington, its frontage an exercise in Victorian pomp, with clock, columns and statues representing the various bounties that nature provides. For all their almost otherworldly elegance the places are not museums but are a vital, vibrant, functioning part of the local community.
This interior shot of Accrington market shows the simple but elegant ironwork that supports the high, clerestory roof. It’s one of the things I admire about Victorian architecture, function wasn’t enough, there had to be style and elegance as well. Also as can be seen the largely uncluttered floor space allows alterations and modernisations to take place relatively easily.
North of Manchester you will find Bury and it’s market, spread over two halls, one dedicated to fresh meat and fish and the other to general items. Sprawling between the two is the network of alleyways and stalls of the open market, where you can shop until you drop.
Should you feel shopper’s fatigue coming on don’t worry every market has a cafe, or a selection of them. I find them perfect places to spend a while with coffee and cake or bacon roll ( usually all three to be honest ) and just let the world pass by.
Bustling Huddersfield in West Yorkshire is another favourite destination, I watch in fascination as stallholders bounce from customer to customer without a break in the rhythm, a dance set to conversation and chatter instead of music. I had some of the apples by the way and one of the melons. They were good.
Last but not least, what is almost my local market, at Bolton, Lancashire. It’s on Ashburner Street, not too far from the excellent Octagon Theatre. Not too long ago it had a bit of a refit which has worked really well, the strengths of the market were recognised and left untouched, with skilfull improvements, a food court with a real ale bar, adding to the atmosphere. There is a cheese stall that exerts an almost magnetic attraction for me, I must have been a mouse in a previous life. So that’s a brief tour around part of my northern and photographic heritage and influences. So next time you go to the market, take a camera as well.