When I was about six or seven I was as fat as a matchstick
My family, the Richardson family, have been in the area for I’d say at least 150 years and sometime around 1870 we had a Bakers around here. At one time I think it was illegal to street trade, it was in the ‘30s that the local council decided to license the stalls and the earliest license I’ve got is from 1937. The stalls have actually been here for over 100 years now. This was my old uncle’s stall. He was like a stepfather to me. I always wanted to be on the stall and I was given an ultimatum in the 70s, either come and work on the stall full time or the stall will pack up – that was when we was busy.
There were never more than six or seven stalls here. There was a salad stall, a fruit stall and a veg stall. When they were going to build a big Tesco here the council decided to move us all to this side of the road – there was only three of us left then. Not that many people come to the stalls now, but it has come at the right time of my life when I don’t want too much work. We’re in the position now that if we were twice as busy we’d be worse off because we’d have to employ someone.
It used to be very industrialised round here, what is the mosque now, well that used to be the MK Factory and there used to be a hell of a number of women used to work there so they sort of bought trade into the area. It’s changing now, but that’s the pattern of trade isn’t it? It’s a changing population now, changing the way people eat. But with the internet and all that things might change again.
There’s not many people on stalls nowadays who know what they’re selling. Like me, I know what potatoes I’m selling and what’s good for one thing and what’s good for another. But these people that do the bowls on the stalls or even the people in the supermarkets they don’t know.
Johnny over there does the fruit and salad, and I do the veg. We don’t tread on one another’s toes, we never have done. Because at one time my uncle did the veg, his brother had the fruit stall, then another brother had a stall. There was another family had the salad stall. We all did our own thing and you didn’t get any problems. If you start trying to compete with each other the quality suffers because you’re trying to compete on price.
My customers are people who’ve come for along time, and that’s one of the snags as well because the way the population has changed around here they don’t really buy our type of gear. But I always think things go round in cycles – whether I’ll be here to see the next cycle I don’t know.
Mr Richardson, Leeds Street market – Clarkes Vegetable Stall