August 18, 2020
Portobello Road Saturday Vintage and Antiques Market. Working together makes everything possible.
As I made my way to Portobello on Saturday morning, I was mentally crossing my fingers that it would not have been too drastically changed. I was also hoping that if there were crowds that people would be wearing masks. Portobello Road on a Saturday has always been packed with people so it would be a hothouse for Covid-19. I arrived at 10:30 to find a very low key and safe event. Portobello was allowed to reopen in June, but I felt that now would be the time to see how it is responding and rebounding after an unprecedented three month hiatus.
It was a bit surreal being there. There was so much positive energy but there was only a fraction of the dealers that would have been there in better times. Fortunately, I met an old friend who has a stall selling very beautiful vintage mainly Art Deco handbags, John Stevenson. He was flanked by another vintage dealer with different collectibles and a silver dealer. They were quite far apart and there were very few outdoor pitches all told. He told me that he came because he lives very close by in Shepherds Bush and he could easily park, so it was not difficult for him. The other dealers on the other hand trek to Portobello from areas of Kent such as Brighton and the like. They need quite an incentive to drive to Portobello at 5am and unfortunately the sales don’t support the investment at the moment. John was doing well - selling a few hundred pounds worth of goods to a tourist just while I was hanging around. He did say though that this would normally be high tourist season and his would usually be earning upwards of a £1000. This seasonal boost is usually a sustaining factor that allows Portobello dealers to weather the slow periods in January and February.
The arcades were open but with many of the stands closed. A few of the arcades had taken the steps to only allow one side of the aisle to open to allow for social distancing. This was not true everywhere, but it was fine. People were staying quite far apart in any event. I was rather amazed that some of the dealers were not wearing masks inside the arcades as this seemed like needlessly putting themselves at risk. Although masks have become second nature to most there will always be the holdouts who can’t quite manage it consistently. I do think that the arcade managers should make this a strict guideline as it will entice more people to go in. I was there on a fact finding mission but if you are just a casual browser – taking your life in your hands is not very inviting.
I think overall Portobello is doing a great job of managing the pandemic and it is easy to see that it will recover. If we were to go back into lockdown – I am afraid this might have devastating consequences for Portobello, so let’s make sure that does not happen.