Highlight of the year: Lewisham Model Market

Way back in June when I heard about Street Feast re-opening the Model Market in Lewisham and filling it with food and drink traders, I couldn’t quite get my head around it.  I remembered the ’50s Model Market pretty vaguely, as a dingy alleyway between the high street and the shopping centre, where you would find a record stall and a couple of electrics shops.  I couldn’t quite imagine how going out anywhere in Lewisham was ever gonna be my cup of tea. People used the word ‘hipster’ a lot and grumbled that they belonged in Shoreditch and not Lewisham. Much as I defend the place of my birth to anyone, anytime, I really had to see this for myself.

The Model Market surpassed all expectations and became the joy and delight of the summer.  It won the Locals’ Pick at Time Out London’s 2014 Love London Awards. In fact, since I now write this on 1st January 2015, looking back over in the year in customary fashion, it became the highlight of my entire year in terms of going out in the local area. I’m sure this accolade means that you won’t notice the lateness of this post, which I began to write four months ago.

On its last night of its first summer in Lewisham, Saturday 27th September, 2750 people went along to experience it.  For many it was for the nth time of the summer.  There were queues around the block. If you weren’t there early enough, there really was no getting in.

But why such a success?

Of course, run by edgy ‘nomadic street food circus’ Street Feast, the food and drink vendors were all excellent (I won’t name them all here but you can check out the Street Feast Facebook page for more info; their new website is coming soon). Apart from some criticism that they were pricey (‘for Lewisham’), the quality and variety of the food and drink available was very high. My foodie friends confirmed this for me by trying everything out and raving about all of it. For me, the food and beers are important, but there are other reasons why the Model Market was my happy place of the year.

It attracted people from all over the area – the locals came down the hill from Blackheath; they thronged from all parts of the borough; I even read fables (OK, tweets) about taxi drivers bringing guests from Mayfair.  I always bumped into people I knew there, friends and even family. You could come early with your kids and stay for early dinner (missing the entrance fee if you came early enough, always a winner with us as a family) or come with a crew of friends later on for food and late drinks. There were oldsters, youngsters, teens, toddlers. I celebrated my own birthday and the birthday of my charming friend Gemma, and often bumped into other birthday-celebrators who we knew. Everyone who went enjoyed it and each person had their own highlight. I’m guessing some people came to make trouble (especially before the £3 to enter was introduced) but I never heard about or saw anything.

An important element for me, the Winyl brothers mixed that magical combination of wine and vinyl: the Winyl bar served wine and the Winyl djs played sets from early until late, which created a festival-like atmosphere in the balmy summer evenings and got the mixed group dancing until 1am. The soundtrack catered for the wide crowd which ranged from hip teens to – well, me and my friends, and older!  A typical Winyl set included the eclectic sounds of Eddy Grant, Tasmin Archer, Marlon Hoffstadt and a LOT of Fleetwood Mac. My best Winyl moment came when I heard a song I liked and couldn’t identify. I could see the artist’s name on the record but couldn’t quite read the name of the song as it revolved. A couple of tweets later, the following day, and DJ Winyl got back to me with the answer (it was Claude VonStroke, Who’s afraid of Detroit?, a classic house tune from 2006). Such lovely dj attitude and this tune will remind me of my warm golden summer at the MM.

You could buy marshmallows at the bar and toast them in the steel drums which were lit up when it got late. You never felt the cold at Model Market. Was it the fire bins or the Frontier lager? Who cares! You could get home easily (for us, just one short journey on one short bus). Can I remind you this was in Lewisham, where nothing cool or desirable has happened in my living memory? You certainly wouldn’t expect to go somewhere where you might bump into your neighbour, your brother, your MP, your friends from Twitter, your old school pals, etc etc, all having a nice time together.  So here are a few memories of the eats, the slushies and vibes, and the good times with family and friends.  In Lewisham.

With a bit of better planning I would have gone there every one of its 15 weekends in 2014. I literally can’t wait for June 2015 to roll around because I know for sure that Street Feast will bring back Model Market to Lewisham. I will give you one piece of advice for when they do. Model Market will be rammed in 2015. Get there early, be prepared, for when you get there you will see all sorts of different people of all ages and creeds and they will all be having fun, whether it’s over crispy calamari, or a scooped-out watermelon colada, or dancing round the fire with a toasted marshmallow and a beverage in hand.

You can follow organisers @BigEater or @StreetFeastLDN on Twitter, or subscribe to the mailing list at http://www.streetfeastlondon.com/
I for one am in true debt to these people, whoever they are. Thank you for my highlight of 2014 and here’s to lots more in 2015. Oh and Winyl, please do let us know if you need the help of any local djs. Will spin records in return for pulled pork.

 

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