'Coming to work here was a pleasure before - but now it’s a duty'
Words by Delphine Chui and Jenny Proudfoot
The incident saw a van plough into pedestrians on London Bridge before driving to Borough Market where they targeted victims in a series of stabbings, leaving eight people dead and a further 48 injured.
Following the attack, Borough Market was closed for 10 days, with the surrounding area cordoned off by police, reopening just weeks ago.
The closure is said to have cost market traders £1.4 million, with stallholders losing vast quantities of stock and loss of earnings, something many fear they will not get back in insurance.
Since the attack a fund has been set up by the market, seeing more than £100,000 donated to support traders, and £33,000 from the emergency fund has already been distributed to help struggling smaller traders.
We spoke to Borough Market stallholders a month on to see how the businesses are coping after the attack.
‘It was a very funny atmosphere, especially the first day – it was very surreal,’ a trader at Maria’s Market Café informed us about going back to work. ‘Knowing people that had been injured, knowing people that had been killed – we couldn’t concentrate.’
‘My colleague was here,’ a salesman at The Borough Bar explained of the incident, ‘So of course we were very afraid because for about five hours we didn’t know if he was safe.’
‘90% of us had actually gone home because of how late it was, but there were some of us that were here – some were caught up in it and some saw it’ explained a trader at Total Organics. ‘There has been a lot of counselling going on. Counsellors have made themselves available to us – there’s no stigma.’
She continued: ‘Although I personally wasn’t here, it’s still nice to know that there are people out there who will have your back. In disasters we all come together, and it helps.’
With the stallholders forced to take 10 days off, a trader at Maria’s Market Café described how it was a painful wait: ‘I’m always here on a Saturday and people think when you have time off, you can do all sorts of things but it’s not like that. You become immobile because you just don’t know what to do.’
Over a week out of business has proved difficult for the small businesses, with the stallholders at Chegworth Valley explaining the losses. ‘It has definitely affected the business big time. If you think, that’s ten days including two Saturdays, that’s thousands.’
‘The fish restaurant next door lost two and a half grand’s worth of stuff because no one could get to their stall for 10 days and the meat place must have lost a lot of money too.’ They continued: ‘They got rid of three tones of wastage, so much money was wasted on products.’
‘I put an insurance claim in so hopefully I will get something back there,’ explained a trader at Maria’s Market Café. ‘I claimed it as not being able to get onto my business premises because you couldn’t get anywhere near with the whole area on shut down. We’ll take it from here but hopefully we’ll get something.’
It looks like she is one of the lucky ones, however, as she explained: ‘We all have our own separate insurance and I think some people weren’t insured for terrorism – it’s not something you ever think is going to happen.’
‘The landlords have been good though,’ she continued. ‘They have reimbursed our rent and service charges for 10 days so that was nice of them. It’s a little bit but it does help.’
But in terms of sales, the attack doesn’t seem to have scared locals away, in fact it has done the opposite with business booming as a result.
‘It’s actually come back better than ever,’ explained the traders at Chegworth Valley. ‘We reopened on the Wednesday and that was our busiest day since Christmas. From then onwards it has been non-stop. It is busier than ever now. People haven’t been scared away by it.’
A trader at Pimento Hill agreed, explaining how it had actually driven new interest and provided an increase in footfall. ‘For us it has been much better than before,’ he explained. ‘When we look at the figures, it’s almost as if we weren’t closed for the 10 days. On the first Wednesday we made about double what we would normally do on a Wednesday, and on the Thursday as well.’
He continued: ‘I met a guy here today who has been in London for 30 years and never knew about Borough Market. It’s actually bringing people here to come and see what it’s like.’
‘With the support of the Londoners and obviously the tourists, the last two weeks have been very good,’ explained a trader at Total Organics, showing us the collection pots on each stand that were filling rapidly.
In fact, it looks like Londoners are making a conscious effort to stop by the market and show their support. ‘An important businessman told all of his employees to come here,’ explained a salesman at The Borough Bar. ‘He asked all of his employees to come here and he gave them each £10 to spend.’
In terms of taking precautions, it is obvious that the market has ramped up its security, with barricades stopping cars from driving past and plain clothed policemen frequenting the stands, but there was a common feeling of looking forwards rather than backwards.
‘Life has got to go on,’ explained one trader. ‘All I can say is thank god as bad as it was that it didn’t happen in the daytime with little kiddies here – can you imagine families and children? It could have been a lot worse.’
‘We feel safe,’ explained two stallholders at Chegworth Valley. ‘To be honest this is probably the safest place in London right now,’ with traders insistent on continuing with work as normal.
One stallholder at The Borough Bar informed us that fear wasn’t an option: ‘OK there was an attack and there will be others for sure, but we must continue to live like nothing happened. If we start to be really afraid and stay close to home because of this, they win.’ He continued: ‘Coming to work here was a pleasure before but now it’s a duty.’