Hello, my name’s Martin. I worked in the Billingsgate Fish Market when I was 15. I’m forty nine now so I’ve worked here for 34 years. I’m from Essex. I live about 20 minutes away. My dad used to work there as well and he worked in the old market. So I come down with them just like the stand boy. And then I just basically decided to stay, working here is like staying in the Hotel California: once you’ve checked in, you can never leave, apart from killing myself. Haha.
Once the fish comes in, the fish has to be sold. It’s a really good job in the Summer. You get all day yourself so you can sit in the garden and the sun. It’s nice when you see a lot of people going to work when you’re going home. It’s also nice in the Winter when you wake up on a Monday morning. It’s snowing and raining and you ain’t going to work.
It’s not good for your social life and work overnight. It’s alright if you are married to a nurse and she works at night. She will be still in the day. Obviously it is unsociable hours but I do enjoy it. I’m a free man. I’ve got my Elvis behind me. Elvis is from Latvia. Now we’re also bringing in other people into the market, which is good as well.
Everybody listens to everyone’s problems.
Elvis is over there, Scott and Greg, everyone’s alright. When it’s busy, it’s really busy, like crazy busy because everything’s condensed into a few hours work. Wednesday is quiet but there’s still a lot to do. You always have something to do.
We’re like family. Everybody talks to everybody. Everybody listens to everyone’s problems. Everybody likes to chat. There used to be a bar upstairs. A pub. When it’s open, we go have a drink after work. But that’s just because there’s so much trouble up there. So a lot of people’s coming out the nightclubs and coming down here. When you walk around you will see a lot of money flowing about there.
When we’re going home, I’ve got showers upstairs, so we’ve got lockers and clothes there, and have a nice change. That’s the best part of the night. The market is always funny. There’s always been a laugh. It’s very hard work. A lot of people can’t do it. A lot of people can’t work here all day. Plus outside, rain, snow, wind. Nothing stops us. We’re soldiers.
We’ve never been together all of a sudden.
Personally I don’t think the relocation will work. They’re talking about putting the meat market, the fruit and veg market, and the fish market altogether. Well, we probably have 25 plus lorries coming down in the morning. There are a few times that for free with the meat, and the fruit and veg, the road links coming in are going to be blocked up. Plus three markets, we’ve never been together all of a sudden. I don’t think it will go. Plus as well, I don’t like Dagenham.
When we first came here, there was nothing. This market was put on a bit of land because nobody wanted, basically to build or live here. So when we first came here, there was nothing. And then there’s one building, the Canary Wharf Tower, and then slowly, slowly, slowly started building up. It’s progress. I mean, it’s a nice city, but the market tenants when they come here, so all the guys who own the stands had the opportunity to buy this for themselves, for something stupid like about, I think Tower Hamlets didn’t want it. They wanted to sell it.
How much is this land worth now?
I think something like eight hundred grand. Well, how much is this land worth now? I think it’s the only bit of space around Canary Wharf that’s not been developed. I reckon it’s worth billions because you can put three office blocks, two hotels. Anything on this land. I mean, you’ve seen how big it is, ain’t ya. And so that’s what it’s all about, really. It’s about the City of London Corporation getting money out of it and sticking it into a rubbish place like Dagenham. That’s my opinion. That’s my personal opinion.
I think after the relocation, there will be hotels and a couple of office blocks, but there was no city airport when this first came here. It was nothing. The entrance for cars used to be down that end. So this is all changed. They’ve built this all to adapt to the new road structure going into London. See, before Billingsgate, in its old place on Lower Thames Street. It was so busy because it’s one of the main links into London. If lorries pulled up, people were talking about how it’d stop traffic. So they had to move it. It’s pretty much the same thing again. I think it’s more to do with money.