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.
I am Henry Unwin, 22 years old and I’ve worked here since I left school, about six years. But I had a Saturday job like before, I used to come down here as a kid, so coming down here about eight years. My childhood in the fish market is good as I came down here when I was really young. So now I’ve grown up. I’ve known everyone down here for years now, so it’s good.
I wake up at 1:30am in the morning. I’ll be down here for 2 o’clock, work until about 8:30am, and I get home about 10 o’clock, sleep to about 5pm in the afternoon, maybe a bit earlier sometimes. And then go back to bed about 10 o’clock and back up at 2am in the morning. It is quite hard waking up sometimes, but it’s alright when you’re up. This is a good atmosphere, good buzz.
I enjoy working here with my dad.
I know everyone down there now, so it’s good, we’re used to it. I like the Cafe the most because of the food. We got a good spot here, in the middle of the market and it is a good spot. I’ve got loads of mates down here, there is a man who used to work for us, I still talk to him but he works somewhere else now. But I’ve got lots of friends down here. Some of the customers here are alright but you will also get some rude ones.
Christmas is good down here. It’s really busy. Thousands of people. We sell out every day, which is good. I like Christmas. It’s just good because you get down there really early. You’re here for about six hours. It’s constantly busy. Loads of people come in, sell out of all your fish, it’s good. It’s funny, during Christmas everyone’s in a good mood. It’s good but really cold though.
It’s a tradition to wear a white jacket here.
I’ve got a uniform, a white jacket, I’ll give it to you. Because it’s a tradition. Everyone has their own white jacket, like a uniform. It gets dirty, but it’s good. Just like everyone else, I get a new jacket every year, because they’re white, they get really dirty.
I heard about the relocation, to describe it, it’s a bit rundown and needs to be updated. It’s moving to Dagenham, which is ten minutes away from my house, so it will be good for us.