The Barter Archive aims to preserve the stories and collective memories of the people working at the Billingsgate Fish Market at Canary Wharf, London. The archive begins as a series of observational drawings which are gradually exchanged for the fishmongers’ stories, memories and personal objects.
Today, I was making observational sketches in the Billingsgate Fish Market as usual. Many people came and greeted me. Michael (Mike), one of the fishmongers, remembered my name as Pat. He asked if I was an architect, and said that I sketched well and God blessed me. He mentioned that they would have to move to Dagenham, a factory area, in five years. I responded and said my sketches would be a good record.
I also met a security guard, Evo, who has been working in the market for two years. He is now studying for a Master’s degree in Computer Engineering. He usually works at the outdoor car park of the market. He said that the security job in the fish market has to take a shift and he worked at the entrance today. He preferred working indoor more than outdoor. I taught him some Chinese characters like ‘water’ and ‘people’.
Ali, the owner of the cafe in the market, wanted to treat me for a cuppa tea, but I still paid him anyway. He told me that he got up at 2am every day and the chef would be here from midnight. They are open earlier than the fish stalls. He was very friendly and mentioned that he could to treat me some food. He asked me to just voice out if I needed any help. Of course, I would do that in the future. He told me that he would have a meeting in the office on the second floor of the market to discuss the relocation to Dagenham. He mentioned that Billingsgate is the largest first market in Europe.