“People appreciate a well-built machine”

 

As you root around the items on Julia Hadden’s stall, you’re filled with a feeling of bliss, because they’re so beautiful, as well as sadness, a nostalgia for an era that we never knew. Those items document a time when kids would get their mums to pack up sandwiches in greaseproof paper first thing, then they’d disappear for a carefree day making mischief on their bikes, away from the prying eyes of adults. Those items commemorate a time when objects had a certain rightness, solidity and functionality, and were made to last. Like many stalls, Julia’s is a little history lesson, all by itself.

Your stall is named after Major Taylor; who was he?

He was an American cyclist, the first man black man ever to win a World Championship, in 1898. He was the first black man to ever be part of an integrated team and to have commercial sponsorship. He went on to cycle all over the world and got paid huge amounts to do it – but in America, other cyclists would try and knock him off his bike, one competitor tried to choke him on the velodrome, or if he won, they would give the trophy to the white man who came after him. He self-published his own autobiography – and then lost all of his money in the Great Crash of 29. He died a pauper at 53 in a horrible run-down hospital and was buried in an unmarked grave. Finally in the 1950s they exhumed his body and put up a monument to him. He was an amazing man.

How do you track your stock down?

There are such things as cycle jumbles, just for cyclists, and I get some stuff there. I’ve got people who know me and bring me items, and then there’s items from run down shops – because a lot of bicycle shops went out of business and just left their stock in the basement. Car boots and things like that, anywhere and everywhere.

This part of Broadway market is quite new, how long have you been here?

Seven months. It’s taking a little while but it’s finally a stable amount of people. And now people know about it they come out and hang out on the grass and have a nice lunch, it’s much quieter than the main market, calm, with more of a leisurely atmosphere.

Why cycling items and ephemera?
I had an old bike that was my mum’s, an old English Phillips Sit up and Beg. She’d had it years and years, I went it to get it repaired at a shop and they ruined it. Everybody told me, That bike’s so old, you should just throw it out! So I bought a vintage cycling repair book and did my own bike up. Then I looked for pieces to go on it, and the new stuff was really badly made or too expensive, so I started to get vintage stuff. Then people started to ask me where I got these items, and finally I figured, if other people are interested in it, I’m sure there’s a market for it!

Your stall commemorates a part of the English lifestyle, and manufacture, that’s gone, although people like Brooks saddles say they’re bringing it back.

The old Brooks leather saddles were much better made, the leather these days has a certain PVC coating on it. You don’t get that quality any more. The older stuff lasts longer., and it looks nicer too. I get a lot of older men who come to the stall and go, Ooh, I remember this, I remember that item. An era of well-made bikes, a lot of time and care went into building them well, rather than welding them really quickly. And making them as beautiful as possible.

What’s the best thing you’ve found recently when you’ve been rooting around for stock?

It was a Boys’ Own magazine with an article in it, called Cycle Sailing. It shows you how to build a sail for your bicycle, so you can go and sail around. I haven’t tried it yet, but I’ve got quite a few friends who want to find a field and build one and try it out as a sport.

So when the pressures of life get too much, you can get on your bike and…

Sail away! Yes!

The Major Taylor stall is at the small courtyard, off Broadway market, Saturdays and Sundays. You can reach Julia on majortaylorstall@gmail.com; twitter @majortaylortalk

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