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Kirkgate Market voted Britain’s favourite market at the Great British Market Awards


Posted on 18 March by Penny Rivlin

During the week commencing Monday 25th January, Yasmin Hussain and Penny Rivlin conducted fieldwork in Leeds Kirkgate Market. Yasmin was getting to know stallholders from Leeds' South Asian community, and had enjoyed conducting a number of interviews with Punjabi speakers across the course of the week, whilst Penny interviewed stallholders whose origins spanned China, Afghanistan, India, Romania and England.

We were delighted to hear the news, on Friday morning that Kirkgate Market was honoured at the Great British Market Awards as Britain's 'Favourite Market'. The award, based on an online poll of 100,000 voters, is welcome news to Leeds City Council given the structural and spatial changes within the market associated with their redevelopment programme - an investment of £12.3 million.

Read the full article on The Yorkshire Post website

At the Awards ceremony, Marcus Jones MP, Minister for Local Government, commented that markets 'are the test beds for entrepreneurs starting out in the trade and the heartbeat of communities across the country'; a point underscored and extended in a recent paper on urban markets and diversity by Hiebert et al. (2015). Situating (new) questions of the relationships between urban markets and processes of superdiversity in relation to (older) questions of the relationships between economy and society, the authors suggest that a combination of 'low entry barriers' and slender profit margins are instrumental in the development of urban market communities as constitutive of 'co-present ethnicities, cultures, languages and religions'.

Urban markets often disproportionately represent diversity in cities because a wide range of people - including new migrants, diasporic and other marginalized groups - are able to participate in markets as traders and customers without highly developed attributes such as language fluency, formal training and level of education: factors that constitute 'high entry barriers' for admission to many occupations and modes of entrepreneurship (Ibid, p, 6). Leeds Voices is collecting empirical data on Kirkgate Market that substantively echoes, and expands on these points (in response to Hiebert et al's call for sustained research into urban markets and superdiversity).

We have observed, for example, stallholder situations wherein the stallholder has limited English language skills, yet has successfully traded in the market for several years. Such processes of enablement, or modes of coexistence across difference, entail the interplay of complex factors, including inter- and intra-ethnic modes of accommodation (cultural, linguistic, religious); processes of community adaptation; and expanding vocabularies of sociality and care within the market. We are currently developing our work on this theme: in the meantime, we are pleased that Kirkgate Market - a site of exceptional multi-ethnic interaction -  has received recognition as the apex of 'Great British Markets'.

Hiebert, D., Rath, J. and Vertovec, S. (2015) 'Urban markets and diversity: towards a research agenda', Ethnic and Racial Studies, 38:1, 5-21.