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Street markets told to stop trading during virus crisis

Lockdown sparks debate over whether there is a difference between buying food at a stall or a shop

03 April, 2020 — By Calum Fraser

Rollo Millership is starting deliveries through a website for farmers who supply Islington Farmers’ Market

ALL street traders in Islington have been told to shut up shop due to the coronavirus outbreak.

Some stalls selling fruit, vegetables and other goods had continued to operate around the borough since the government’s lockdown order on non-essential retailers.

But the organisers of the Islington Farmers’ Market, which has brought fresh produce to the Angel every Sunday for about 20 years, have cancelled plans to open on Sunday.

A spokeswoman for the market said: “We’re very sorry everyone, Islington Council have taken the view that Islington Farmers’ Market is not permitted to operate and therefore it is temporarily closed.”

She added: “We know that this will be disappointing news for many of you. We were planning to position stalls with lots of space between them across Chapel Market.”

A council spokesman said: “The health of our residents is a top priority for the council, and we are working hard to limit the spread of coronavirus. Having taken this and the government’s guidance regarding social distancing into account, we felt it necessary to close the farmers’ market until further notice.”

Following this decision the Town Hall yesterday (Thursday) decided to close all other market stalls.

The closures have sparked debate over whether there is any difference in buying food from a stall or a supermarket, if crowd control and distancing measures are observed.

Rollo Millership, who has worked at Islington Farmers’ Market for 13 years, said: “To be honest a lot of other markets around London are still running and there are food stalls in European cities as well.”

The farmers’ market in West Hampstead, in neighbouring Camden, went ahead on Saturday. Some passers-by criticised how close shoppers and traders were, but police said that the queuing system with cordons appeared to be working.

Mr Millership, who grew up around Canonbury but has since moved to Finsbury Park, has decided to set up a delivery service called Nourished Communities for the farmers who used to supply the Islington market.

He set up a website and put his number there for people who want to have a box of fruit and veg delivered to them.

He told the Tribune: “My phone has been ringing non-stop. It is actually really quite emotional. You have people calling who are living on their own and really need fruit and veg and they are scared to leave their house.”

The scheme is focused on servicing N1 postcodes, but this week they have sold out. Mr Millership is now planning to expand the service.

As the Tribune previously reported, an “army” of volunteers including the “mutual aid groups” have popped up around the borough to help the elderly and infirm to get groceries and essentials.

But many families and residents across London are struggling to get enough food as supermarket delivery slots are blocked for weeks and queues form outside shops as a result of attempts to manage numbers.

Mr Millership said: “We are not a big company and we want to cultivate a community of people buying from small farms and producers.”

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