Later this year, the Wholesales markets will be demolished to make way for a £500m redevelopment and it will be replaced by bars, restaurants, parkland and a raft of new apartments and accommodation. As part of an ongoing commission that I am working on in the area, I had the opportunity to visit the markets and experience life in the iconic market before it's gone.
It was an early start, most of the work is done from 4.00am onwards so I need to make sure that I was there on time. At that time in the morning, the city has an almost eerie feel to it. However, the markets felt even stranger. As I went in, I was struck by how little activity there was. I was expecting a ridiculously busy environment similar to the outdoor markets. This was surely down to a larger percentage of the traders having to pack up due to the looming demolition.
Those that were there had a strange air of defeatism about them. The handful of people that I spoke to seemed dejected and almost prickly that I was there to document what would soon be gone. Any animosity aside, the people that I spoke to were all quick to point out how things had changed and what it 'use to be like'. Colourful pictures were painted of the bustling markets and almost every sentence starting 'when I was a lad', harking back to some former golden time.
The real sorrow was the vast sections of the markets that were empty or being emptied as I made my way around. One guy that I spoke to had worked at the markets for decades repairing the carts that shuffled produce around the markets. He was a very genuine guy and I couldn't help but think what he would go on to do next after such a large part of his life would be lost with the demolition of the markets.
The markets and the lives of the people that they house are the cost of progress. The old will be replaced by new, shiny modern buildings and the people that work there, will be moved to new premises outside the city centre. However, it is a shame to see such a large part of the city's history be lost along with all of the hard working characters that it has been home to over the years.