Castries Market- the Caribbean’s future Borough Market?
In the last few months, there have been utterings of the enhancement of the Castries Market, once I heard about it, the first thing that popped into my head was “well it’s about time!” I know for some, the market may represent many unsavory things- the smell, the filth or even some of the unruly characters but for me the market represents so much more- I view it as the meeting place of the largest number of agro-entrepreneurs on island. And for many including myself, it was the place of business for many of our relatives.
Built in 1891 and opened in 1894- it was the ‘supermarket’ before supermarkets. It became the go to place for a variety of goods from fresh meat and fish, herbs, spices, crafts and dry goods. But what I love most about the market are the rituals. Come Saturday morning, vendors are out as early as the crack of dawn to secure a prime spot and wait patiently for prospective buyers. The buyers themselves, largely, wives, mothers and aunties, most fresh-faced, because there was not enough time to put on makeup or donning head ties because who has time to fix hair when you need to catch your favorite vendor- were always the first in line.
Another magical thing about the Market is the way it is able to transcend class. In the heat of the ‘hunt’, Creole can be brought out of even the poshest of middle-class women, so as time passed by and the market’s perception (and infrastructure) slowly deteriorated, what once was a Castries landmark is now a fading relic, much like the rest of Castries.
What made me excited most of all to hear about the market’s redevelopment was the mention of London’s Borough market. It was said that elements of Borough Market would be emulated in the redesign of the Castries Market. For those of us who aren’t familiar with the Borough market model, it’s quite simply the hub of London’s world-class food scene. Much like the Castries Market, Borough Market has a way of bringing people together- because once you walk in, it is a reflection of the diversity of England in general. While Borough Market did start out much like the Castries Market with the sale of fresh produce, the nineties brought about an interest in artisanal foods, so much so, that today it’s kind of like a very big food court with a handful of vendors selling produce.
Now while I don’t know what the actual plans for our market are or when work will commence on the redevelopment, what I do know is that it needs to undergo a transformation- much like all good things, change is necessary for growth. Also, the expectations of our tourists are no longer the same sand, sea and sun; most want an intimate peek into our St. Lucian lifestyle and for many that starts with food- I mean look at the number of food and rum festivals we have in the region. And look at how many tourists still wander into the market for a meal, when many of us locals do not do the same. Think about it- if the market was truly transformed to incorporate traditional elements of produce vending with modern culinary artisans and craftsmen in a comfortable, St. Lucian setting, that is located in the city center, it would suit both locals and tourists alike. So really the question is- what’s taking us so long?