Women at Watney: Voices from an East End market
An exhibition capturing women's memories of Watney Market, past and present. Drawn from interviews recorded by East End Women's Museum volunteers in spring 2017. A joint project with King's College London and University College London, and funded by the London Arts and Humanities Partnership.
The market is about more than buying and selling. Sometimes women visit for fruit and vegetables; and sometimes for family and friends. For several generations the market has provided valuable social connections and networks.
Some of the most vivid memories of the market focus on food. Food is closely linked to a sense of identity for many shoppers at Watney Market, and as the communities around the market have changed so have the types of food on offer.
As well as standing in front of market stalls as shoppers, women stand behind the stalls as traders. For over 100 years women have worked in the market as street sellers, stall holders, and store owners, and have played an active role in the day-to-day life of the market.
Watney Street was once lined with bombsites, the remnants of WWII. In 1965 redevelopment began, and the market was temporarily relocated. But the project took a decade to complete; in 1977 the graffiti ‘this market has been murdered’ appeared on a boarded-up shop in Watney Street.
Watney Market appears in E. R. Braithwaite's novel To Sir, With Love and in the 1967 film adaption starring Sidney Poitier. Performance artist, poet, and member of the Basement Writers Gladys McGee also wrote about Watney Market.
Since the late 19th century Watney Street Market in Shadwell has offered East Enders food, clothing, and community.
Women at Watney: Stories from an East End Market was a collaboration between the East End Women’s Museum, Kings College London and University College London, and was funded by the London Arts and Humanities Partnership.