If you haven’t made it to Island East Markets, check out the little video* I shot on the last day of their trial period, on October 21st, to get a little feeling of what it’s about.
Moving back to Hong Kong was a decision that wasn’t completely my own, and one of the things I missed the most about London was its abundance of brilliant outdoor markets. Everyone knows Borough, Spitalfields and Broadway, but I fell in love with Maltby Street in my last year there and, when I was back again just a few months ago, it was even better than I had remembered.
Hong Kong’s wet markets will always be a source of fascination for me, and I’m fully aware of the small independent markets that exist around the city – such as the occasional Star Ferry organic fruit and vegetable market, the Discovery Bay monthly, and the Tai Po market among others. The problem was that they were either quite small (in the case of the Star Ferry market), or simply too far for myself, an east island dweller.
Markets, like independent businesses, are vital to the spirit of a city. Markets that celebrate local agriculture, enterprise and creativity are even more valuable, becoming not only a community hub but a space where people can come together to learn more about the local businesses available to them. I’m thinking particularly of the brilliance of Simple Market in Taipei, which is so strong in its celebration of homegrown produce and products. So, earlier this year when I heard from my good friend Janice (aka e-ting) that she was planning to set up an organic farmers’ market on Hong Kong island, I couldn’t wait to see it realised.
In Hong Kong, we are so reliant on imported produce (whether it’s the 90 per cent of meat and vegetables from mainland China or the airmiles-heavy products from around the globe) we forget that we actually have a number of sustainable local farms available to us. (For a well-written summary of Hong Kong’s troubled relationship with its food provenance, read Daniel’s excellent piece here). Also, sometimes attitudes don’t help: the SCMP recently ran a controversial piece on whether organic produce is worth its salt in the city, which this humble writer thinks completely missed the point of the movement in the first place (again, see counter posts by Grassroots Pantry and Island East Markets themselves for good arguments in favour of supporting local organic farms, especially the smaller ones).
But I digress (for now). The below shots are from the first day of the market, on September 29, 2012. There’ve been so many fantastic write-ups in both the press and blogs, so I won’t need to regale you with just how bloody successful the whole thing has been. I’ve given a small part of my time here and there to help Janice and Vince (the other brilliant mind behind the market, without whom this couldn’t have been accomplished either!) and I am just in awe of them. They’ve managed to wow the Swire property group (who owns the land on which the market takes place) so much with their professionalism and enthusiasm that the market has now been renewed after the initial four-week trial period – Island East Markets is coming back next Sunday the 11th, and will continue running weekly on Sundays until December 16th!
It just goes to show that if you are determined enough to do something great in this city, anything is possible.
Island East Markets
Returning November 11th
Tong Chong Street, Quarry Bay
* A little disclaimer: I just really liked the first 30 seconds of the tune I used – ignore the fact that it’s actually a Japanese song used in a video about a local Hong Kong market! But am told it’s a positive tune about doing your own thing and being yourself. And I wasn’t planning on shooting a video that day but just ended up doing it – if I’d planned better I would have had more people in the video. I’m sure there are a lot of people conspicuously absent from this! Well, next time.