10/02/2014 12:05

Markets, I love them!

a display or Woody's preserves

Meet Elaine Martin from Woody's Preserves, a market enthusiast who visits weekly for fresh ingredients for her lovely jams and pickles from our fruit, veg and spice stalls. 

"Markets – I love them! One of my earliest memories was standing on the cobbles of Batley Marketplace as my mum, along with what seemed like every other woman in the town, rummaged the stuff on Maggie's secondhand stall. Nowadays it would be classes as vintage & be a well presented showcase of treasures & must have buys, but in the late 60's it was a double stall piled high with clothes, some of which only looking fit to go back to the rags from which they were probably salvaged. Women rooting for kid's clothes, a man's shirt, a blouse – anything. That day's lucky finds tucked securely under their arm or thrown over a shoulder waiting 'til they had looked & inspected everything on the stall. Once satisfied, the chosen articles were then handed back to the attractive, dark haired Maggie to hold up, have a quick once over & give a price.

Holidays always present the opportunity to visit the local market. Like a sixth sense I always manage to stumble across it. From the faded glory of Blackpool's small covered markets, spending hours flicking through the 7” singles on the record stalls, through to Budapest's huge indoor market housing mainly paprika & meat stalls. GUM in Moscow's Red Square, the hippy market in Ibiza, the fruit & veg market in Funchal, Madeira, they are all so exciting.

Kirkgate Market is in a class of it's own. A beautiful building that I can't imagine not being there for ever. To me, it is the heart & soul of Leeds, a monument to a wonderful, vibrant city. Kirkgate Market the ice breaker – in the 80's, on meeting my North East born future sister-in-law for the first time “Ah, Leeds Market, coach parties go downfrom the Newcastle – they sell fabulous dressing gowns!”. Kirkgate Market the experience – years ago a friend of my then boyfriend came to live up North & upon visiting the market was so captivated & inspired by it's unique atmosphere he felt the immediate urge to do something to capture that moment! He went straight to the barbers at the top of the market & promptly had a short back & sides. Maybe not the best haircut he ever sported, but as a newcomer to the city he wanted to embrace something he knew was very special.

Through the years I've been a frequent visitor to the market & for me it's magic never fades. The haberdashers, with their wonderful array of stock have always been the place to visit when the children have had school dress up days or if I have a coat that may need a re-vamp. The fishmonger stalls – a huge choice, glistening fresh & beautifully displayed, “My son's coming home for Christmas. He's a pescetarian – what can you recommend & how should I cook & it?” The fruit & vegetable stalls – my personal favourite. From Granny Smiths to okra, so much choice, wonderful quality & all so cheap. If it's not on Kirkgate market then it certainly won't be anywhere.

If I was new to Leeds, I too would easily be swept away by Kirkgate Market – it's fabulous, it's vibrant, it's unique! The building itself - the cream & green tiles, the black wrought ironwork, the dark, well trodden paving flags, the high roof, the balcony - a wonderful monument to a proud city. The friendly traders shouting out to ply their wares. The excitement of Butcher's Row, the one with the loudest voice stood at the shop's entrance beckoning potential customers to look at their perfect window display & grab a bargain, fill the freezer, feed the family, have the best barbecue on the street. The fruit & veg stalls with their quality goods beautifully displayed. So cheap too! The fishmongers, see & choose exactly what you want & know it's fresh. Larger than life characters adding to the mix of sight, smell & sound. A pleasure for all the senses. Need sustainance? Cafes serving everything from a milky coffee & hot buttered currant teacake to crepes to hearty dinners to jerk chicken to mezze to noodles to burgers to freshly squeezed juice to currys to anything & everything your taste buds could wish for! I've only scratched the surface here. You really must go see for yourself & experience our fabulous city market.

 Markets – I love them, but Leeds Kirkgate Market – I adore!!"

Thank you Elaine, a delight to read.