Worldwide icon-chevron-right Europe icon-chevron-right United Kingdom icon-chevron-right England icon-chevron-right London icon-chevron-right Giant snails and dwarf porn: welcome to Deptford Market

Giant snails and dwarf porn: welcome to Deptford Market

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You want London's best market? Head to SE8, says Alexi Duggins. But be warned: you won't find any artisanal parmesan or vintage jumpsuits here. Odder stuff? Yeah, different matter. 

© Chris Waywell

The first time I went to Deptford Market, a white stallholder was yelling 'Sod off, Mohammed!' at a Muslim passerby. Suddenly the air was filled with shouting. People stopped to stare. The two men stepped towards each other. And, as incandescent glares met over secondhand books, for a hot, tense moment, time itself seemed to stop.

Until they pissed themselves laughing.

'See you later, Dave!'

'Cheers, Mohammed!'

Deptford Market doesn't play by the rules. To be honest, I'm not sure it even knows that there are rules. The bric-a-brac pitches of Douglas Way are less stalls than old stuff fly-tipped on to the pavement. At local discount shop El Cheap 'Ou (motto: 'Love you can afford'), there are packs of LED lights mixed in with the cheese ravioli. There are gigantic African land snails being sold by butchers rather than pet shops. Once I nearly bought a beautiful pair of green curtains. Until a dog started rolling around on them while the stallholder chucked him greasy sausages.

Deptford Market

But the stuff! It's the sublime and the fucked, all jumbled up then thrown to the ground and priced according to the vendor's mood. There are beautiful, azure Singer sewing-machines next to heaps of loo seats. Charming old leather suitcases propped against knackered dishwashers. Antique clocks and barometers huddling underneath ironing boards. And it's all so cheap that there's no point in haggling. Which, frankly, is just as well. Because the traders' response tends to be: 'You can sod off unless you're gonna spend real money!'

 

Deptford Market

London's markets were all like this once. Unprettified, unruly and, at points, utterly bonkers. Partly its nuttiness comes from being able to find buckets of lesbian dwarf porn, air rifles of dubious legality and half-full (half-full!) bottles of massage oil. Partly because you can find 'League of Gentleman'-esque street signs like 'Plz someone must no the local man that stole my dog from Tesco!' But mainly it's because you meet characters like Ronnie, the exotic-fruiterer who sells massive lengths of sugar cane with quips like 'Don't go beating anybody up with this! (But if you do, you can eat the evidence.)' Or Pete, the secondhand book salesman. His enticing sales pitch? 'HALF PRICE IF YOU CAN READ!'

Deptford Market

But the best thing about Deptford Market? It's the best thing about London: it's full of people who don't look like you. They don't live like you. They don't think like you. Some of them don't even speak the same language as you. They aren't interested in the hottest new collaboration between streetfood whizz kids. They don't give a monkey's about artisanal sourdough. But who cares? There are plenty of markets you can go to for that. But Deptford Market? It's like nowhere else.

Deptford Market Douglas Way and Deptford High St, SE8. Deptford rail or New Cross Overground. Wed, Fri, Sat 9am-6pm.

Love a market? Here's five of the best streetfood markets.

Deptford Market

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