Open air markets are as old as the market towns they spawned but in the modern world of 24 hour shopping, credit cards, super stores, sprawling multi shop malls and one stop shopping do they still have a place in the contemporary social landscape? Are continental and farmers markets the answer? What do shoppers traders and council have to say about the places they shop in, work in and control? This survey is the first comprehensive account of English markets as a social space. It investigates markets throughout the country and comes to some surprising conclusions about the role they play in the world of modern Britain. It sets out the everyday cultural practices which inform and sustain markets as a crucial part of our social fabric. It offers a series of suggestions for their rejuvenation, a glimpse of their potential in improving everything from community employment to individual health and concludes with a powerful endorsement of their continued relevance to our social life.
Sophie Watson is professor of Sociology at the Open University. Her recent publications include 'City publics: the (dis) enchantment of urban encounters'. David Studdert is a research fellow and author.