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Assignment - Bury Market, March 2013

My tram ticket didn’t state any capacity for time travel, but arriving at the Bury Interchange to visit the town’s market certainly suggests a couple of decades fell away when we crossed the M60 Rubicon into Lancashire. I’m reminded of my grandmother, my childhood and it’s like a hug of nostalgia. The market is a bustling hive of determined pensioners and mobility scooters, pigs’ feet and ox tongues, sheets of ribs and free-range apostrophes. Even on a snowy March day, it’s an eclectic, joyous and chaotic mix of all Northern life and I feel like I belong. While Nigella Lawson lingers photogenically alongside still-lifes of sun-drenched vegetables in the markets of Italy, here in Bury, there’s a visceral reality, a no-nonsense approach to trade that isn’t quite as photogenic. No baskets and straw hats here: it’s flimsy plastic bags and hoods up against the cold: strawbs and toms, King Eddies and swedes. And say what you like, but not many foodstuffs south of Manchester can glow like a tandoori marinated drumstick – no sunshine required. The market overwhelms your senses: its handbag canyons, floor to ceiling, its rainbows of zips and ribbons, its noxious nail bars and its Chinese herbs. Saucy mini-skirts for naughty nurses are displayed to flirt with shoppers, while across the way, pairs of giant knickers and dishcloths flap in the breeze like saggy bunting. The market is packed: there are no empty stalls, no signs of recession. Branding on every surface reminds you that it’s variously World Famous, Award-Winning and more. It’s a part of northern folklore, and every northerner has been there on a coach trip at some point. People smoke and chat at wipe-clean gingham tables, with bacon barms, milky tea and squeezy plastic tomatoes for the ketchup. But that’s not to say that everything is predictable here. You can get your dog a haircut, or buy a gravestone, try on outsize onesies (2XL – 5XL), find meerkats in Victorian costume (£15.99) and 3D kitten pictures. The Baby Countdown Advent Calendar (only £5) inspires me to mentally scroll through my list of friends, hoping to find one who is pregnant. The Meat and Fish Hall is where the market really sings. Here, you could almost be in Barcelona’s Boqueria – mackerel flash and glisten on one side, while sausages and chicken breasts sit in damp pink piles on the other. Boundaries between the species is parsley on the fish side, and on the meat side, it’s plastic grass and daisies in a nod to former lives. This is all a serious business, traders shout their best deals and wink at the ladies, while pink-faced staff bend, stoop and stretch to serve at speed. It’s banter that spices up tonight’s dinner and everyone’s called Love – even the men. Would I come again? Oh yes, but with a much, much bigger bag. © Linsey Parkinson 2013


Assignment - Bury Market