The Bullring Open Market, nestled in between the Bullring Shopping Centre and the Wholesale Market is jarringly noisy and famously cheap and cheerful. I’ve worked there for about four years, selling organic and, where I can, local produce. However, the market itself has been the lifeblood of Birmingham since Peter de Birmingham was granted a market charter in 1166 in order to hold weekly markets. Since then it has changed greatly with the diversity of products available reflecting the diverse make-up of the Brummie population.
The market means different things to the people who use it but for us it is a way of life, especially on the outdoor market – usually businesses are family run, and passed on through generations. Traders fought hard in the late 90's to keep the market alive and it appears that just ten years later the battle has resumed. The plan is to move the Wholesale Market about 8 miles away, to Witton, to a super-duper, made to measure building. Consultation has begun with current residents of the Wholesale Market but no consultation has (yet) happened with retail traders up in the Bullring.
The current feeling amongst the traders is that they are being ignored and the threat to their business is being played down. The objection to the move is that currently not only do the majority of fruit and vegetable traders buy their stock there, and as a Birmingham resident succinctly pointed out, “These bargains are only possible because of the proximity of the Wholesale Market and the opportunity it gives to traders to continually top up their stock without incurring transport costs”, but they also pay for storage within the Wholesale Market. Traders are not against change, and have shown through the years their resilience and ability to adapt to changing customer needs, but they want to be considered in city planning processes. To many traders, this feels like the beginning of the end of the Bullring Open Market.
Markets have been found to play an important role in providing affordable, high quality food for local residents. Consequently, markets bring together a diverse group of people from different ethnic and socio-economic backgrounds, and all are catered for. A quick look around the Bullring Open Market reveals stalls catering in Caribbean produce, Asian produce, organic produce and dairy products. To potentially lose this asset to Birmingham would be a huge mistake and traders are currently working on setting up a campaign to support the Bullring Open Market and try to ensure its future.
Carol Byrne LOVe (Local Organic Vegetables)
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