Chrisp Street on Air: The voice of a market

Interdisciplinary group The Decorators, give a voice to the local community living and working in and around Poplar’s Chrisp Street Market through a series of 9 podcasts ‘The Neighbourhood 9’ as well as broadcasts from a temporary built radio studio. Like many local markets and high streets nationwide, Chrisp Street is having to adapt to local development, changing populations and demands. Chrisp Street on Air provides an ingenious way to open up conversations about the future of the market, engage with local businesses and organisations and celebrate its unique character and place in the community.

 Chrisp Street Market, London, UK, 08/02/2014 © Dosfotos


Abridged version of Podcast #1 Landsbury Amateur Boxing Club
For more podcasts  visit:

The Roots

Market trading has been a longstanding tradition particularly associated with East London creating a distinct culture and community around its markets as social and business hubs. However, over the past 30 years as the emergence supermarkets and shopping centres has influenced and changed local and indeed the nation’s shopping habits, local markets have struggled to compete and adapt to increased competition, often dwindling to a few surviving stalls. Ironically Chrisp Street, once a busy Victorian market, was redesigned in the 1950’s as one of the first pedestrianised shopping centres and hailed as an example of ‘living architecture’ and a landmark in new urban design!

Like many local authorities, Tower Hamlets (where Poplar is located) is concerned about the future of its local high streets and markets as their demise and disuse has invariably led to a loss of community. They have undoubtedly been influenced by the increased interest in the revival ‘local’ shopping’ brought to the forefront by the Portas Review and another Tower Hamlets market, Roman Road featured on Channel 4’s Mary Queen of Shops.

Sowing the seeds of Chrisp Street on Air

What is the future of Chrisp Street Market?  To begin conversations around the subject, The Decorators,  specialised in designing experiences to engage people in architecture and their surroundings through a combination of specific project-based tools, have devised a way to get some insight into what the locals really think and want from their local area. Their previous experience through a public realm intervention combining food and architecture in Ridley Road market, as well as the many other interventions exploring the use of public space, has undoubtedly given them excellent insight into how to engage the public around a specific area.

The Plot

The first introduction to the Chrisp Street residents was in December with a Chrispmas meal in collaboration with three restaurants on the market, followed by the launch of Chrisp Street On Air and the temporary specifically built radio studio in February. Turning an empty locale on Market Way, the street leading up to/off the market, into a radio studio, has created a space of engagement and an essential on-site presence where members of the community are invited to become involved in a series of local events and future radio shows to be broadcast from the studio over the coming weeks.
This ‘live’ element is also accompanied by a series of recorded audio interviews with a selection of institutions and representatives of the local community from a specific location on the nearby Landsbury Estate, edited into themed field-recording style podcasts.
The importance of being able to listen to and broadcast the voices of people actually living and working in the area is paramount for any future initiatives and development of the area.


Over the next 6 weeks, The Decorators will also enable a series of events celebrating the resources of the local community and the market, not only to engage people in the area, but also of course to provide an entry point of discovery into Chrisp Street for those who have never been. How the market develops in the future and how it adapts to the changes in demographic of the area remain to be seen, but this first step in celebrating what Chrisp Street already offers and listening to how this can be improved, is an essential first step to opening up conversations and initiating local involvement.

Useful Stuff

Chrisp Street On Air, 11 Market Way, E14 6AQ
The Decorators
Portas Pilot Programme

Also see SeedTheCity’s article on Chatsworth Road Market

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Subscribe Scroll to Top