Historic Cambs market traders feeling ‘forgotten’ after double blow

When the coronavirus pandemic escalated and the country went into lockdown earlier this year, many retailers were forced to close their doors and pull the shutters down.

For some traders this has taken a mammoth toll and they’ve had no choice but to remain closed.

Peterborough’s market has been hit particularly hard, with many of the stall holders wondering how much longer they’ll be able to hold out and continue trading.

The market is an institution, having been in the city for around a hundred years.

But between the reduced footfall due to coronavirus, as well as the changes happening around the city, the market has been struggling.

Nazim who owns the clothing stall Hype, has been at the market for 30 years, starting at just 19-years-old.

He told CambridgeshireLive: “The trade has been a little bit low.

Peterborough market in the shadows of the cathedral
(Image: Cambridge News)

“Especially elderly people, because they’re more vulnerable.

“They’re the sort of customers we have and they’re scared to come out.”

Like many stall holders he is worried about the future of the market and his livelihood, but he said “all we can do is hope.”

Having been at the market for decades he has seen a lot change, the biggest being the demolition of Northminster multistory car park, which meant part of the market had to close while it was demolished.

“It’s been going downhill,” he said, “but by closing that side of the market we’ve lost a lot of good stalls there, that’s made a major difference.

“There were six of seven stalls there bringing in a big amount of customers.

“You feed from each other, less stalls means less chance of surviving.”

And while Nazim has been at the market for decades, other stall owners Ben and Sophie are newer comers to the scene with Peckish Peterborough.

Sophie and Ben at Peckish Peterborough are passionate about making sure the market has a future
(Image: Cambridge News)

Ben explained the impact that the demolition of the car park has had on an already struggling market.

“The car park closing has affected the footfall a million fold,” he said, “we tried to do things like moving people over to the food court and advertising to make people aware the market is still open.

“It’s just affected a lot of people’s businesses, it’s affected morale, but we’re still here, the market’s been here a hundred years.”

With everything going on, one thing the market has had through it all is a sense of pulling together.

“It’s brought everyone a lot closer together,” he explained.

Stall holders feel as though they’ve just been forgotten about
(Image: Cambridge News)

“We’ve had to work together. We were the last to open again in normal businesses because we were deemed ‘non-essential’.

“We had to stay closed until they had in all the walkways, it’s been up and down every minute you think you’re going forward then you end up going back.”

Businesses were awarded grants from the council to help see them through the difficult times, however not everyone was able to last long enough to feel the benefit.

Sophie said: “There’s been a lot of speculation about the regeneration of this area, a lot of people are worried, a lot of people put a lot of effort into this.

“People were here 30 years and lost their businesses because they couldn’t hold out for grants because they didn’t know what was going on.”

“You take it day by day,” explained Ben.

Azi has been at the market for six years
(Image: Cambridge News)

Having been here six years, Azi who runs a fruit and veg stall described it as “beautiful and very busy” saying it was “completely packed and now it’s completely different.”

He said “there’s not much left” of the market which is in “bad condition” and it’s meant that he’s “struggling to run the business.”

The market also has a food court area, full of cuisines from around the world which reflect the multicultural dynamic that is Peterborough.

Angel owns Be Kind Kitchen, providing vegan food to hungry shoppers and before COVID providing a zero waste deli.

She’s been concerned about the future, saying: “Less customers is the biggest issue, but then we had the drop of the car park so when we got told last June the car park would be closed within two months we lost 70 per cent of our custom.”

Angel runs Be Kind Kitchen
(Image: Cambridge News)

She explained how things “got quite difficult” between the demolition of the car park and introduction of lockdown, with Angel trying out a delivery service from home to allow her to continue working.

As a food business she was eligible to take part in the Eat Out to Help Out scheme, however she said: “I did Eat Out to Help Out but that didn’t help me.”

The feeling of being disheartened and in low spirits is spread across the market, as Angel said: “My neighbour, she sent me a message saying she’s been dressed since 10.30am but she didn’t want to come.”

She simply did not see the point in coming and opening up her stall to stand around waiting for customers who aren’t coming to that part of town.

Peterborough market is full of amazing produce from all over the world
(Image: Cambridge News)

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For Angel it’s a real shame that the market has been ignored and left behind from the regeneration of the city centre.

Compared to the shiny new Cathedral Square, surrounded by restaurants and with artisan pop-up markets throughout the year, Peterborough’s City Market looks sad.

There’s a heaviness in the air, as you walk past the stalls rife with colourful fruits and vegetables, or pass by the racks of clothing for every shape and size, there’s a feeling that the market has been left behind.

“I have regulars who look past what the market looks like,” explained Angel.

“For a city this big it should be a thriving place, a place people want to come.

“When I came here it was about community, this is a place where you can foster and build new businesses, but small businesses but it’s not happening.

One stall holder described it as a ‘shanty town’
(Image: Cambridge News)

“Half the places have closed, it looks like a shanty town, I know it’s clean, but it looks like a shanty town and people don’t feel comfortable.”

She went on to say: “A little lick of paint, a little bit of re-tweaking things and maybe putting sides walls to warm it up a bit would make it a nice place.

“I’m still grateful we got the chairs, we get customers on a Saturday, people come in and eat as a family.

“But I find it disheartening. I put my heart and soul into this market, to get to this point where it’s just run down.

“Every day is ‘tomorrow will be a better day’, that keeps me going.

“Though tomorrow might not be better.”

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