Sunday, October 12, 2008

The Great French Market Debate

Almost as regular as clockwork we have another story attacking the City Council for allowing Gentleman's Walk to be turned into a temporary French Market (click here). Such stories appear days after the last market has gone. At the risk of being controversial, I think we often mistake two issues.

This story is about bad planning on the part of City Hall, having the French Market on whilst the city is having a week of promotional events supporting Norfolk foods and produce. Absolutely right; it only takes a man with a calendar to stop this from happening. But these kind of admin errors often end up masking a much bigger debate: should we have the French Market at all?

You see some people would rather it didn't exist; we should be supporting our own market and local produce. We should eat, drink, shop and support local businesses. Then others would say that the French Market is good - adds to multi culturalism, diversity and the culture of the City. And it is, after all, only a few days every year. Those supporters say that local businesses should fight back on those days with their own special events and offers.

I would be very interested in your views.


Anonymous said...

I agree, its more about a council balls up over weeks than the wrongs or rights of a french market.

Personally I think the "planned" diversity and favour adds to the rich cultural life in Norwich, everyones a winner!

Perhaps it puts the burger and babb stalls in the market in the spotlight, that they have to raise their game, make a special name for tjemselves, not just rely on passing convenience custom and refined cheap flour stodge?

Anonymous said...

As I was visiting the Norwich and Norfolk Food Festival is a professional capacity I could understand the frustration with the double booking and how it detracted people from visiting the Forum and seeing the celebration of local producers.

I'm not sure I buy into the notion that a French Market, like the one which we had in Norwich, truly adds as much multi-culturalism as it could have done. Lets not forget that its not a market from a town in France paying a visit but rather a company who spend their life touring the UK as a "French Market"!

People I've talked to in Norwich remember a few years back when the French Market visited one week and the Italian Market the next. The traders were the same people with slightly different bread and other wares!

We also need to keep in mind that traders on our own market are, I am told, paying twice the rent they used to (for half the space I was told although this could be an exaggeration) and this means they have to try that bit harder to make a living.

Remarkable how that market, only constructed a few years ago, was today undergoing further (extensive) repairs when I visited it for some "refined cheap flour stodge". I won't excuse my own Sunday morning desire for some bacon and egg in white bread but I will say that many of the traders on the Norwich market work long hours for seven days a week and still find it in their hearts to help support some of the Norwich homeless.

Perhaps what Norwich Market needs is it's own events and perhaps they do need to raise their game. I think they are doing well in the face of adversity.

Does a French market add to the rich cultural life of Norwich? Possibly once it did. These days I can easily buy a baguette or smoked garlic or a crepe so perhaps it's not necessary at a time when we should be watching our spending and carbon footprint?