Venue Spotlight: Borough Market

BSL, 2016, guest blog, 2015, London, England

Venue Spotlight: Borough Market

Last week we caught up with the team at Borough Market who shared how getting involved in Disabled Access Day in 2015 impacted their activities at the market. We also got a glimpse into their plans for Disabled Access Day 2016 - if you’re in London you won’t want to miss it!

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It’s all very well having a single day every year at which an important issue is given a welcome airing. Here at Borough Market, we participate in lots of them: Terre Madre Day, Environment Day, World Water Day. They promote good causes, provide opportunities for public engagement, and can often be a lot of fun. But that’s not enough. It’s no use just packing up at the end of the day and then waiting to do it all again 12 months later. For us as an institution, the real challenge is to use these events to inspire change on an ongoing basis.

Photograph of signer Ben interpreting a demonstration kitchen at Borough Market

Borough Market’s involvement in last year’s inaugural Disabled Access Day provided a perfect example of how the impact of a one-day event can be felt far beyond that initial 24-hours. Our participation was centred around a cookery demonstration in the Market Hall, in which regular Borough Market contributor Celia Brooks provided a typically fascinating masterclass on the power of taste and aroma. What made this particular demo stand out from our usual twice-weekly programme was the presence of registered signer Ben LeGrys, who provided a British Sign Language interpretation of Celia’s words.

The response was amazing: a packed crowd absorbing the signed commentary as enthusiastically as they gobbled up the samples. There was clearly an audience for this—a passionate group of food lovers who had never previously had access to our demos. So we carried on. Disabled Access Day finished, but our commitment to deaf people continued. Now and for the foreseeable future, on the second Friday of every month, a sign language interpreter is on hand at the demonstration kitchen, signing away beside the stove while some of the best cooks in the country work their magic.

Beyond this specific example, our involvement in Disabled Access Day has had a vital impact on the way we think about the accessibility of the Market’s events and environment. Rather than just ticking boxes and meeting minimum standards, we’ve begun to think more laterally about how parts of our wider community might better be served. Our constitution, dating from the 18th century, says that Borough Market is here for “the convenience and accommodation of the public”. And that should mean the entire public, not just parts of it.

For this year’s event, we will be hosting a demo kitchen with MasterChef finalist (and BSL Level 2 interpreter) Tony Rodd, with Ben LeGrys again on hand to assist. In the pod next door, Celia Brooks will be running a blindfolded tasting activity, showing visitors how taste is altered when you can’t rely on your sight. We will doubtless be talking to Borough Market shoppers with visual impairments. And who knows where that might lead…

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Find out more about Borough Markets plans for Disabled Access Day on their event listing