Between 30 November and 03 January, the riverside stretching from More London (By HMS Belfast) Hay’s Galleria, London Bridge City Pier to London Bridge City, came alive with over 100 log cabins, twinkling with Christmas lights.
The area, from The Scoop to Jetty Pier is surrounded by offices with an estimated 180,000 employees. Being an affluent location, this is reflected in the medium to high end products that were available to purchase. This is the second year of Tudor Markets’ Riverside Christmas Market and one of two they host in London, the other being at Angel. Their first year saw 37 traders across half of the site, all of whom came back. To almost treble the offering in 2015 is all credit to the people behind the event.
The management team at Tudor Markets. James Willis and Danny Watson have over 50 years market experience between them, both having been former traders. The company work with four London Borough Councils hosting a number of weekly, monthly seasonal and specialist markets throughout the capital. I met up with Director Danny and Bryan, the Market Manager who showed me around.
Traders were supplied with a lockable 3×3 log cabin, decorated with garlands and fairy lights; a personalised wooden sign and electricity. On site security and CCTV was also provided and food traders were given a chalk board on which to display their menus.
There were two main food areas, situated at different ends of the site. The offerings were quite impressive and it was refreshing to see some different victuals, interspersed with the usual suspects, such as fish and chips, burgers, pulled pork, Chinese, English and German sausages and French crepes. Although the pricing was down to the individual retailer, it was suggested that most items should be priced between £5 and £6, very reasonable for the Capital.
Stolle have a restaurant in Camden selling their Russian style ‘pies’ which they opened seven months ago. This was their first time on a market and they were happy with the results. The pies can best be described as a slightly sweet, brioche style baked bread, stuffed with various fillings, including meat, salmon, chicken, cabbage, cheesecake and plum. I opted for cabbage, which I was told was most authentic and had a filling not dissimilar to sauerkraut. They also sold borscht and pelmeni – Russian dumplings not unlike pierogi.
For those of you who have been to Greece, you will be familiar with yiros, the Greek flatbread filled with salad, meat, sauce and a handful of chips! Yiros is also the name of the stall selling these wraps, belonging to an Anglo-Greek owner. The food they sell is the food they like to eat and it is all homemade. They joined Tudor at their Kingston Market in May. Brian tucked in to their spicy yiros which had a Malaysian influenced sauce.
Completely new to me was the Chinese waffle pancakes which I was told is popular street food in Hong Kong and China. Pretty self explanatory; a thick pancake batter is poured in to a bubbled waffle pan. The cooked pancake is then shaped in to a cone and filled with your sweet filling of choice – much like a crepe.
Due to the large area that the market covered, some traders had more than one stall to maximise on footfall and special rates were introduced to accommodate this. The Management team made sure that these were at opposite ends of the market to avoid the feel of repetition.
David and Sarah were busy running the Bridge City Bar, selling a range of alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages and was one of two bars selling mulled wine. They also own the vast pick and mix stall as well as one selling cheese.
Michael Manning was responsible for the other mulled wine offering, sold from his eye -catching wooden, wheeled cart. This was his second year at the London Bridge Christmas Market and has many years trading experience, particularly at food festivals. He also had two bratwurst stands on site.
Something that I hadn’t seen in the UK before, but had experienced in Germany was Schokokuss, or chocolate kisses as they have become more popularly known. Think of a giant marshmallow teacake and replace the biscuit with a waffle base and you will be about there. These don’t use gelatine and are therefore vegetarian and come in 24 different flavours, with white, milk or plain chocolate coatings. Marketed as ‘£1 a kiss’ and with some gentle cajoling, both stands were constantly busy with people purchasing this affordable treat. Danny and Erin of D&E Catering have been selling these for three years, all over the country, including with Tudor and they have proved very popular – like I was when I presented a box to my colleagues in the office!
Hot on the heels of Danny and Erin is their son Daniel, who, at the age of fourteen, was looking after their stall selling a vast range of pictured drink coasters, including a large selection of London, England and UK themes.
Sadia and Kash of Sparkle Fashion have been selling designer bags for over ten years at markets around the coutry. They started in Liverpool and now have two shops there but chose to trade in London rather than their home town of Manchester.
New to Tudor Markets last year was Jamie Myers of Mon Bijou. She runs a shop in Hampstead selling her handcrafted, ethically sourced jewellery, which was shortlisted for Boutique shop of the year. Prices ranged from £24- £320 and she commented that the clientele suited her products, describing the market as being in ‘a great location’.
The jewellery which Seyada from Istanbul was selling was completely different. Bold pieces made from copper, incorporating semi precious stones. She complemented the jewellery with a collection of brightly coloured Turkish scarves.
Karina of Camden Art was displaying a selection of her handmade jewellery alongside a collection of framed, unframed and canvas works in a variety of media and styles. Whatever your taste in art, I believe you would have found something you liked.
Issy of London ArtLife is a regular Tudor trader and had a stunning range of oil on canvas paintings which are commissioned by different artists from all over Europe. Many of the images were of London and one that particularly caught my eye was from a photograph she had taken last year when the grounds of the Tower of London were covered in poppies. It now hangs in my landing!
Another Tudor regular was Joe who had two ‘Aladdin’s Caves’ of chalets with an eclectic array of antiques and collectibles. Such was the popularity of his wares that the second cabin was looking considerably less stocked after less than two week’s trading and he admitted that he was going to have to replenish!
Having a similar problem and probably the biggest crowd puller was Drone London. Craig got bought a pocket drone last year and, in his words, ‘the quality was rubbish!’ The problem was that when you crashed it (which as a new flyer you invariably will) the circuit board wasn’t protected. He sourced one where the mechanism was covered and set up stall at the market to see if he could sell a few. Having no trading experience of these at all, he was overwhelmed by their response and had to close up shop for a day to restock. The tiny pocket sized drones are as Craig described ‘fun flys’ and aren’t fitted with cameras. They reach a maximum height of around 15’ and Craig was busy demonstrating them throughout the day.
The event was also used to help raise money for local and national charities. The dedicated London Bridge City Christmas Market Charity Chalet supported six worthwhile causes: Penny for London Awareness Day, Great Ormond Street Hospital, RSPB, Beyond Food, Mayor’s Fund for London, Cambridge House To celebrate Christmas Jumper Day on 18 December, a giant snow globe was installed at More London Place where visitors were invited to have their photo taken inside, with donations given to Save the Children and Cambridge House. A supporting competition took place with a prize of £100 spending money.
To spread the magic of Christmas, MoreLondon organised a series of entertainment, available predominantly during the evenings and weekends:
Every Monday and Tuesday night at 18:00, a Christmas film was shown including the classics Miracle on 34th Street and Home Alone.
During my visit I witnessed the Elpless Elves Trail, some enthusiastic ‘Elves’ snaking through the market, leading children and their parents around London Bridge City. These took place on a number of Saturdays during the event.
Additional entertainment included Busk in London (music, magic and performances) on Thursday and Friday evening and during the day on Saturdays; National Health Singers Carols, North Wood Morris Men, Southwark Bell Ringers, St Joseph’s School Choir, London Baptist Association Christmas Carols and Crystal Palace Band. And apparently it’s not officially Christmas unless the Coca Cola truck makes an appearance!
Despite the relentless rain that the country suffered and the competition from other Christmas Markets both in the capital and nationwide, there were plenty of people around, getting into the festive spirit and most importantly, purchasing. The magnificent vista of the Tower of London across the water and the iconic Tower Bridge certainly made this one a winner in terms of location and with plans to expand into Potters Fields Park this year, it promises to be bigger and better.
If you would like to be part of this year’s event, please contact the Tudor Markets Office on 0208 570 6456 or email firstname.lastname@example.org Early booking is recommended to avoid disappointment.