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Spitalfields Antiques Market 21

September 9, 2010
by the gentle author

This is Emma, who usually shares a stall, pictured here on her first day of going it alone. “I’m coming back after having my baby, Albert, a year and a half ago on Christmas Day,” she confided to me gingerly, pushing her long hair behind her ears as she summoned the confidence to reassert herself in the world. Emma’s collection of pressed flowers, papercuts, old stationery and life drawings make an intriguing display with a poetry all of its own. “They fit together to make a story, a little bit like a fairytale, but I don’t know what the story is yet…” she added with a cautious smile of anticipation.

This is Scott & Alan, two lads from Brentwood in Essex, discreetly shielding their stock of prehistoric antiquities from view. “After eighteen years of metal detecting and collecting, we started buying and selling,” explained Scott, eagerly holding up a coin minted by the Iceni tribe two thousand years ago, “I’ve been doing it since I was eleven and developed a passion for it.” Surveying their trove of coins dating from the Iron Age to the sixteenth century, beside Anglo-Saxon bridle mounts and strappings of bronze overlaid with gold, who could resist the mystery and allure of these precious trophies?

This is happy-go-lucky Natalie from Dalston cradling Brian, her favourite bear. “He looks like a Brian,” she informed me with inexplicable authority, “Not a martian or a dodo, as some have suggested, but a nineteen fifties homemade attempt at a bear.” Do not always expect to see Natalie here in the market, because, as she declared candidly, “It’s too much like hard work to do it every week.” Yet Natalie is no slacker.“The truth is I am more of a buyer than a seller,” she confessed later, “I get sentimentally attached to everything and I don’t want to sell any of it.”

This is Marcus Rixon, a supply teacher from Portsmouth whose life changed six weeks ago. “Someone gave me a cabinet, and I thought ‘I want to do it up,'” said Marcus, open-heartedly revealing the origin of his modest business enterprise, reclaiming old furniture that has been beaten up and knocked about, repairing and recycling it. “It’s just me, a garage and the Volvo at the moment!” he added with a carefree shrug, relishing this newly discovered freedom from the classroom and excited by the possibilities of his first day stalling out in Spitalfields Market.

Photographs copyright © Jeremy Freedman

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