“It still has a kind of magic. ”

Some people say markets do better in a recession. One of them just did. Long-threatened by those entrusted with its care, Greenwich covered market has just had a welcome reprieve. The entire development scheme that threatened it was a hubristic notion, of a hotel complex that would open long after a plethora of other new hotels, big and small, in this corner of London. Now, thankfully, someone at Greenwich Hospital Estates has run a spreadsheet that reflects the current outlook and competition, and abandoned the scheme.

The market’s not safe for ever. But hey, nowhere ever is. So it’s a time for celebration – maybe with music, played on glorious old vinyl, by one of Greenwich’s longest-standing stall-holders, Mark Wilson.

How do you feel about the reprieve for the covered market?
It is good news. I’m here just once a week so I don’t always get to hear the full story, sometimes it’s all Chinese whispers without too many details. But the fact we don’t get moved out for two years, I think that’s brilliant. People often say this market is on its last legs, but it isn’t, is it? It’s never going to be huge like Spitalfields, it’s a smaller community, but that’s good. It’s unique.

You’re old school, aren’t you – you were a regular at our much-missed, Stockwell Street market. When did you start coming here?
That would have been about 1994, I was at Portobello too. That was probably when Greenwich was at its peak, then or the late 1980s. Everyone remembers the old petrol station. It’s long gone now – but everyone remembers it.

You started out running a stall while you were in a band, didn’t you?
I was in a band, yes. Last Great Dreamers we were called. We did one album, on Music For Nations. I started at the market ‘cos of my cousin who was our manager, he was starting something in Norwich and said, Have you thought about doing this between gigs? I used to work at PRS and I’d given that up to follow my dream, really, and we never made any money from the band so it seemed like a cool thing to do. And it snowballed. We could do it between gigs. We used to come to Stockwell Street market after gigs, we sometimes we’d get back here at six in the morning, kick the band out, and lay out the stall. But of course we used to have stuff stolen, while we were asleep on the stall.

So after being in Greenwich all this time, does it still have some of that magic?
I think it does still have that magic. You can always look back through rose-tinted glasses. It has changed. But it’s got its own merits, there are new traders, new people coming in all the time. I think it will maintain itself if it’s got some youth and new energy with it .

Ten or 20 years ago, some people thought vinyl would die out. Now people think it will outlive CDs.
There is still a market definitely. I don’t think as many people come to Greenwich specifically for vinyl as used to, maybe at weekends but not a Thursday. But it’s never changed to me – I’ve been doing it 15, 20 years, people always tend to want to same thing, meat and two veg, I don’t think it’s any different now.

And I guess a lot of that meat and two veg is Beatles records for tourists?
Exactly. They want to take a bit of Britain home for their teacher back in Barcelona. Or “I buy this for my lecturer, who loves Pink Floyd.” Or for their dad, or for themselves.

So we all dream of looking through the boxes at charity stores and finding a Beatles Butcher sleeve. What’s your best discovery?
Oh man… I usually hear these stories second hand from friends. But some time ago I went to a scout fete at a village hall up in Norfolk, got there as it opened with all the grannies ready to elbow each other to get in first. And there was a guy with a bric a brac stall with a box of singles underneath. And all of them were demos from the 1960s – run of the mill stuff, and also stuff I’d never heard of, plus The Action, The Creation, psych and garage stuff. Some unusual artists. And he said five pounds. I was thinking he meant each, then I realised he meant for the entire box, and there were about 200 in there.

So I go to every village scout fete ever since then, but never found anything good at one since. Just Jim Reeves records.



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