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 the café was very busy. I met Pepe, the Mexican boss of Simmo’s (Billingsgate) Ltd. and the Polydor’s manager. Evo, the security guard asked me to show him my drawings. I chatted with Mike from Barney’s Seafood. I also talked with Greg, the ponytail guy, about his students. Greg is a voluntary teacher for those who sell fish at supermarkets.
After I finished a sketch, I showed it to the owner of A.H.COX (Billingsgate) Ltd. but his colleagues said it didn’t look like him. I realised that he had become shorter in the drawing. The Indian fishmonger, who studies at University of East London, always asked me to draw his shop whenever I saw him. Today he asked me to draw the shop opposite him, because the guy opposite him is the big boss. He was going to graduate in a few months. He would probably go back to India because he didn’t have a visa to stay.
There was an old Arab man told me that he had been to Hong Kong. He had been to Nathan Road in Kowloon as well as the Wong Tai Sin Temple. The café is a perfect space to meet with many fishmongers. They take rest there and talk with each other. I was sitting there and doing sketches of them. Sketching becomes an icebreaker to start conversations with them.