|The Wholesale Market covers 0.5 square miles in the city centre|
Now, you could argue heritage shouldn’t cost anything, I know, but the best way to experience a carboot sale is with a tight budget. Everyone returns having had a good chat, haggle and mooch in the car boot.
|Birmingham-made King Dick spanner|
James and Adam love shiny things - James brings back a box of knurled brassy washers. No one knows exactly what they are, not even the person selling them - perhaps typical of many of the items you might find at a carboot. Adam takes them away and creates a unique necklace for Lee.
|Hear the Gucci sock story|
'I’m an Italian working in the UK for an Indian Corporation. I’m buying from a guy, probably middle eastern I guess, socks made in India, pretending to be Italian, cotton maybe from Uzbekistan... They say they’re Gucci and they’re not, they say they’re Italian and they’re not. 100% cotton which I doubt, but it is so unashamedly not true, I mean no one can be fooled.’The socks lead to a discussion on the globalised economy and the questionable quality of some goods at the carboot.
Nikki felt drawn to a porcelain egg:
‘ that interaction with a stall holder, Arthur was saying there’s a really nice lady at that stall, and that’s a big part of it. An older Caribbean lady with lots of fashion things. You want to buy something from her anyway, and it reminded me of my Grandmother and her mantelpieces. All a bit of a trip back in time for me, really.’Observations of traders and punters were equally revealing:
‘You see people carrying sacks of stuff that they’ve bought. It’s a microcosm of Birmingham. You’ve got people newly arrived in Birmingham buying new stuff relatively cheap to help them get set up, and you’ve got the house clearance guys who’ve been in at the other end of people’s lives clearing away, but also in a way completing that circle because they’re providing cheap stuff again for people who are starting out and so it goes round.’From the people who took part in the walking tour most were new to the car boot sale and to the Wholesale Market precinct. All wanted to find out more, joining our mail list. Additionally it sparked an interest in the Wholesale Market as a whole, and a quarter of walking tour participants have volunteered to support ‘Wholesale Memories’ in the future as we approach a closure date.
|The London buses are coming|
In many ways the Wholesale Market precinct is not an obvious venue for an arts or heritage exhibition. It’s hard to find and little known about. There are safety aspects to consider, as it is in the middle of a working Wholesale Market. The building itself is due for demolition and has been little cared for for many years. Not least of our problems has been the uncertainty in terms of timescale for our work - the Wholesale Market and Sunday Car boot Sale has been threatened with closure throughout 2017.
Despite the difficulties, moving into the precinct has been our priority. It brings us physically closer to the people in the Wholesale Market. The stories belong to the people in the precinct, so being there is the most obvious place to be. But as always it’s about a genuine exchange - trading is something the people in the Wholesale Market understand more than most.
Wholesale Markets are not generally regarded as part of our ‘Heritage’. Our trading roots are ancient, but historically overlooked, given that they are driven by commercial concerns and logistics rather than ‘cultural significance’. The history of trading may be commonplace, but also essential. Birmingham Wholesale Market literally feeds the West Midlands every day.
The Wholesale Market is at the heart of the trader’s network, where most trade is not directly to the ‘consumer’. For a city like Birmingham, the Wholesale Market is particularly significant to our own identity as ‘the city of a thousand trades’. Through Wholesale Memory we hope to bring to life the stories of Birmingham Wholesale Market, but it will remain an exchange: We, as people living in Birmingham, need to recognise and value the contribution still being made, and throughout our history, at the Smithfield Wholesale Market. As Carl Chinn, says:
‘We don’t discover markets, they’re a part of us...Markets are vital to who we are. Without the Markets they would never have been a Birmingham.’For more please see Wholesale Memory.