by Joanne O’Connell
Far-sighted investment by the council has helped Bolton to create a blueprint for sustainable markets.
The lunchtime crowd can’t get enough of the spicy Cameroonian curries and rice, wrapped in banana leaves. The traders grinding fresh, specialty coffee are also doing a cracking trade; TV chef Simon Rimmer showcases seasonal foods in his cooking demos; and, at the micro-bar, they are handing out samples of locally brewed craft beers.
This isn’t Borough Market, London: this is Bolton – and if you want a glimpse of what a sustainable market of the future should look like, industry experts claim you should look no further.
Three years ago, however, it was a different story. The market was popular with locals, and its food outlets were winning awards, including Best Food Market at the BBC Radio 4 Food and Farming Awards 2011. But the building was run down: even loyal customers were complaining about the state of the loos and the lack of decent baby-changing facilities. The roof was in a bad state of repair and the building – as Jackie Casey, general market manager at Bolton market, admits – “was not fit for purpose”.
Food markets are often neglected by local councils, which fail to recognise their social capital, so organisations – such as the National Market Traders Federation – have been waging vigorous campaigns to try to reverse this problem.
But Bolton council took a modern, radical approach. Casey says: “The council understands the value of the market; it employs 500 local people and supports 300 small businesses.”
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