'The markets have changed but our loyal customers still keep coming'
Many of Derby's market traders are from families who have been stall-holders for generations. Rachel Butler spoke to them about how the markets have changed and what the future holds.
As Lorna Margett puts it, she was "born under the counter".
Her mum, Joy, opened a florist's in Derby's Market Hall in 1971. Before that, dad Carl had a fruit and veg stall there.
So it is no surprise that Lorna herself now runs floral stall Flowers By Joy.
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"I remember being four years old and helping my dad unload his van," said Lorna.
"It was when the fish market was out in Osnabrück Square. I used to run through the fish market because it smelled so bad – there were lobsters hanging up."
That was in 1970. Opposite the fish market, where a cafe now stands, was a poultry market – and Lorna remembers the traders necking the chickens by the stalls.
Today there are fewer stalls in the Guildhall Market Hall – only 63% of its floor space is occupied.
It has led the council to carry out a review of all its markets, looking at whether the city can still support having both the Eagle Market and the Guildhall Market, along with others, such as the cattle market.
Lorna said the stalls that do remain are not as varied as they used to be.
"The atmosphere in the market has definitely changed over the years because you aren't allowed to shout out your wares anymore," said Lorna, 47.
"It made the ambience and it gave the market character. There were people that used to shout out their goods. My dad would be shouting, 'Come on ladies, apples! Three for a shilling'. Or you'd hear, 'Come on women, get your pockets out! Get your spuds!'"
That sort of "pitching" still happens at outdoor markets, like Allenton, but for regular stalls at the Eagle Market and Guildhall, there are agreements which prohibit "nuisance" to other traders, which can involve calling out.
Lorna said: "To work in a market, you've got to be a people-person. I'm outspoken. I'm not afraid to go up to a man and say, 'Come and buy some flowers and I'll give you a kiss!' But at the same time, if it's a funeral order, I can have a cry with the customers because I can sympathise."
After growing up with the Market Hall, there was never any doubt over whether she would working there herself.
"My family ran a fruit and veg stall called Margett's, then one day my mum, Joy, decided she wanted to be a florist," said Lorna.
"So she went to the library and got a couple of books about flowers. She set up the stall on the Monday and on the Tuesday she had her first big funeral order. That was in 1971.
"My mum said that me and my two sisters used to sleep in flower boxes under the stall while she was working. And we used to go up to the balconies and make dens."
When Lorna took over Flowers By Joy 12 years ago, it was her mum who taught her the tricks of the trade.
"When I started out, my mum gave me advice. She said, 'Get your brush out and make sure the floor is dry or someone will slip and you'll have to pay'. And she always told me to pay my rent on time because if there's no rent then there's no stall. She said that we're here to put smiles on people's faces – even if your own heart is breaking."
Because of the recession, some traders have had to pack up their stalls for good. But Lorna does not believe that dwindling numbers have had an effect on the Market Hall.
"This place is a community – we're like one big family," she said.
"Everybody looks out for everybody else. You jump on somebody's stall if they have to nip somewhere for five minutes. I can't visualise working anywhere else. They would have to shoot me to stop me from working here."
Another trader who has spent his life in Derby's markets is Michael Doyle, who runs clock stall Mecca in the Market Hall.
Michael followed his dad into the market trade more than 60 years ago.
"I'm serving the grandchildren now of the people I used to serve back in the 1950s," he said.
"Back in the day, it did used to be a bit more lively. There used to be records playing in the hall. But I can't imagine ever working anywhere else."
Michael's daughter, Linda Aston, is chairman of the Market Hall Traders' Association. She said fewer people used Derby's markets now than in the 1960s – but insisted that did not mean traders were struggling.
"It's not like it used to be but people still come," she said.
"We've all got our regular customers whose families have shopped here for generations. They'll come here and they'll say they don't know where else to shop because their mum used to bring them here. And it isn't just old people that shop here, like some think."
Despite the empty stalls, Linda said the situation was not as bad as it appeared.
"People come and go and people retire and others take their place. If you see a row of empty stalls, then there's probably a good reason for it," she said.
"It's just coincidental, the natural flow. But we've had four new stall-holders come in recently. The market is evolving, like everything. Everyone has to change with the times and that's what we're doing at the moment."
Linda and the traders work hard to make the Market Hall lively, with regular events taking place inside.
"We have live music on Thursday nights and storytelling," she said.
"The arts and crafts stalls have classes. There's even a haberdashery group. We do like to make it a family atmosphere and that's what keeps people coming in. At this market, you don't feel invisible."
One of the traders who holds a weekly class in the market is Marie Hendley, who has managed Habiknit for five years.
Her crochet and knitting classes, held every Wednesday, bring in about 20 people every week – some in their 20s, others in their 70s.
"There's been bad press about markets. Times have changed with the recession and we don't feel we've fared well with Westfield and the new bus station," said Marie.
"It has all affected trade, but the businesses in the Market Hall have been doing everything we can to keep trade coming. We're getting a load of new traders now."
Unlike Lorna and Michael, Marie did not spend her childhood in the Market Hall.
But she was quickly drawn into its family spirit.
"If I could describe the market it one word, it would be 'amazing'. I love it. It's my second home," she said.
Regular market-users explained why they like to shop there.
Jean Golding, 72, of Normanton, said: "I've shopped in the market my whole life because my mother used to. Prices are just as cheap today as they were 50 years ago."
Georgia Smith, 59, of Allestree, said: "I try to shop in markets more than the high street because you get better value for money. Customer service also feels more personal because the traders have more time for you.
"I think the markets have struggled because of the recession but then so has the high street. It's affected everyone."
At the other end of town, in Eagle Market, there is a higher number of stalls, with a 71.6% occupancy rate.
Last year, traders in the Eagle Market started a petition encouraging shoppers to support traders amid fears that more stalls would shut down.
Di Downing, who has been running Robby's jewellery stall for 22 years, said the solution would be to attract younger traders.
In the past, the council has launched start-up schemes offering new stall-holders money off rent for the first six months in a bid to bring in more traders.
"Most of the traders are of the older generation now," she said.
"The stalls that are empty are usually because traders are retiring and it's hard to get younger people to replace their stall.
"I think at the moment people are wary about starting up their own business – it's a bad trading situation."
Di began working in the markets as a teenager, starting out on a handbag stall in the Morledge.
"I loved it," she said. "It was easygoing and I was soon drawn in."
She soon started working at Robby's and, 10 years after starting there, she began to run it herself.
She said markets were no less busy now than they were 30 years ago.
"It's very different now because shopping hours have changed completely," she said.
"Markets are better these days because people are more interested in shopping. Thirty years ago, people used to shop from a list but now they like to browse.
"Also, there was a time when markets weren't open on a Wednesday or a Sunday. Your footfall is much lower through the days because people can now come at any time. We're still busy but not in blocks like we used to be.
"It is hard work to run a market stall but then it's like that everywhere. It's hard because you're a one-man band."
Di said that the main difference in Derby's markets today was the atmosphere.
"People used to pitch their goods – and because of all the shouting, there was more character," said Di.
"Markets did have a worse reputation then. There weren't as many traders' laws – everything was sold on a 'buyer beware' basis. If you bought something, you might not have got what you thought you'd got.
"Some people do think negatively about markets but I think part of it is because of the bad reputation from 30 years ago. We're not all Delboys now – that sort have been gone a long time."