'Bermondsey Seven' evicted as food market tensions grow

  • @tompeck

Something is rotten at London's Borough Market – and it's not the organic goats' milk ice cream.

Several traders at the landmark gourmet market and crucible of Britain's burgeoning foodie culture have been evicted from their pitches. Their crime? Trading simultaneously at nearby Maltby Street in Bermondsey, a fledgling foodie destination which is seen as a rival.

The market, has become, if anything, the victim of its own success. Almost three centuries old, its stalls, just south of the Thames at London Bridge, make up one of the capital's most popular destinations. Originally selling just fruit and vegetables, in recent years it has become home to dozens of high quality fine food purveyors, from cheeses, to cold pressed olives, to cured meats and cakes.

Every weekend thousands of tourists arrive, and sellers cater to the passing trade by offering hot food and snacks – but the visitors buy less overall, seemingly at the expense of the market's traditional traders.

Growing tensions have partly resulted in the emergence of the rival market – and culminated in last weekend's evictions. "Maltby Street is right on the doorstep of Borough," said Peter Wilkinson, the chairman of Borough Market. "If they set up there as well, it is damaging to the other stall holders. They can trade there if they want but not while they receive subsidies from us, thank you very much."

But the prevailing mood among the stall holders the authorities claim to be protecting is rather different. The "Bermondsey Seven", as the evicted stallholders have labelled themselves, and are now tweeting as such, elicit considerable sympathy among former fellow traders at the market.

"Why shouldn't you be allowed to expand your business?" said a longstanding stallholder. "The management look at how busy the market is and think everyone must be making lots of money, but they're not."

Food producers were drawn to the rather rundown street after Monmouth Coffee Co set up under the railway arches. The cool, slightly damp vaults provide space for grinding machines, brewing vats and ovens – and are perfect for cheese-making.

"Maltby Street is not a market," said Dom Coyte, from the Borough Cheese Company, which now has space on neighbouring Stanwell Street. He was given 48 hours notice to leave Borough Market last weekend. "We went there because it is a special space. The conditions are perfect."

Mr Coyte said he had offered to stop trading at Maltby Street "in a flash" if that would mean Borough Market would let him come back, but he has had no response.

"I got a mortgage last week for the first time ever. I've got two kids," he said. "Suddenly I had my house keys in one hand, and my mobile phone in the other telling me I had to go."