Mile End Floating Market

Key Facts:

Project summary: A temporary floating market during the Olympics, on the Regent’s Canal with 20+ trading boats.

Location: Mile End, London, UK

Programme: Assorted trading boats selling food, clothes and other things.

Initiator: Canal & River Trust (Formerly British Waterways)

Project Duration: 4 weeks (20th July – 16 August)

Lead in Time: 6 months

Site Area: 600m stretch of canal towpath.

Client Team: Canal & River Trust

Project Team: Canal & River Trust London Region, Administrative support by IWA volunteers

Funding Sources: Internal Budgets

Project Costs (Build): None

Project Costs (Operation): Unknown

Staffing: Volunteers

Profitability/Loss: Profit

Permissions / Permits: None

Local Links: The market stalls were all existing trading boats, some were and remain based in the London area whilst others travelled especially from further afield.

Publicity/advertising: Website, online, press, managed by CRT press team.

Project Evaluation:

Site Details & Ownership:
600m stretch of canal between Victoria Park and Mile End, the towpath linked the live site at Victoria Park and high Street 2012 at Mile End. The entire section of towpath is backed on to by Mile End Park.

Project Reach / Visitors / Target Audience:
Olympic visitors, Londoners of all ages. Showcasing the variety of innovative boat-based businesses that exist on the canal network.

Problems Encountered / Overcome:
Installation of facilities for boaters (e.g. additional water taps) and the provision of a regular boat service proved difficult. This was likely due at least in part to heightened security and the challenges of operating on the canal in the immediate vicinity of the Olympic park.

The provision of water was remedied by negotiation between IWA volunteers and Queen Mary University (on the far side of the canal) to allow use of their private water supply for the four week period.

Feedback from users / staff:
“Stumbled across the floating market whilst riding my bike on a Friday evening. Really enjoyed the atmosphere, al fresco drinking with free barges providing free entertainment. 10 – 15 barges vending anything from food to alternative medicine, library to a sweet shop. My advice is the weather permits, take a bottle of wine and unwind in the hippie atmosphere”.
User feedback (via Time Out)

What next?
Following the floating market at Mile End it subsequently continued with a number of the same boats in Paddington and Little Venice on the other side of London from 20th August to 2nd September. Little Venice is traditionally very popular with tourists in general rather than being more Olympic focused.

The move to Paddington after four weeks was necessitated by the requirements of the boats to not trade in one place for more than 4 weeks at a time.

Complementary Programmes:
The floating market would work well as a temporary addition to many canalside businesses or venues.

Project Website / Further Info:

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