LONDON: In many ways London’s Borough Market looks unscathed, with the familiar throng of shoppers and tourists jostling for samples of gourmet food and enjoying the market’s famously bohemian atmosphere.
But speak to market traders or nearby shop owners and they will tell you that visitor numbers are down and some businesses are still struggling.
A year ago, on June 3, 2017, the historic market was turned into a scene of carnage when three terrorists struck, killing eight people and leaving dozens injured.
On Saturday, businesses caught up in the London Bridge attack sent out a message of defiance as they prepared to mark the anniversary.
“The terrorists won’t beat us. We can’t let them win, they are cowards,” said Paul Crane, 48, who has managed a fruit and veg stall at the market for three decades.
“It’s very much back to business as usual. We’re not scared. Life goes on,” he told Arab News.
Crane’s stall lies just feet away from the Wheatsheaf pub, where London police shot and killed the three attackers.
The stallholder said he had just packed up and left minutes before the terror attack. Business suffered for months afterwards “as the locals stayed away,” he said.
“The tourists still came, though, and in about six months we were back to normal.”
Visitors to the Wheatsheaf pub shared similar messages of defiance.
Gary Smith, 60, a project manager, said that 10 days after the terror attack he was back at the pub with friends.
“I arranged to meet a friend in the Wheatsheaf out of sheer tenacity really. The pub was just as busy as before, which was amazing really. It’s the London spirit,” Smith said.
Jason Eagles, 50, an IT project manager and local resident, said: “Did I change my mind about coming to the Wheatsheaf? No. It’s not an issue — I’m not going to let a couple of these ‘lone wolf’ people change my lifestyle.
“I enjoy the area and live close by. There is a stoic nature around here — people don’t want to give them the fear they want. Minutes after the incident, we all came together and said, ‘we are not going to let this beat us.’”
Luiz Forster, 53, a worker at the Cinnamon Tree Bakery in Borough Market, had a similar view. The stallholder said he packed up about 5 p.m. on the day of the attack, but “hung around to meet friends after work as usual.”
“After the attack, it became a long night as we waited to see if all our friends were safe,” Forster said.
The stallholder said that the market was closed for 10 days after the terror attack, which badly affected business and supply chains.
“The butchers had to throw away so much meat,” he said.
“In some ways, I’m not sure business has ever fully recovered,” he said.
“It’s not quite as busy here as it used to be. But we’re resilient — we couldn’t wait to come back after the attack and get going.”
But probe a little deeper and it’s clear last year’s attacks are still fresh in the mind for many who witnessed the terrible scenes.
Several stallholders and business owners who saw the attack unfold declined to speak to Arab News.
The owner of the Market Porter pub said: “I don’t want to relive the experience, I already lived it once. I hope you can understand this.”
Outside the market, a pair of policeman sit in their armored car sipping coffee.
“We don’t have to be here today,” said one, a special firearms unit officer, who declined to give his name.
“But we know what happened this time last year; everyone does. So when I have my coffee breaks, I come and park here. I want to make our presence known and give reassurance. It’s a symbolic gesture.”
On Sunday, representatives of Borough Market will join with Southwark Cathedral, Southwark council, the City of London, London’s mayor, the NHS, police and a host of local residents, businesses and charities to remember the events of last year. A remembrance gathering on London Bridge at 4:30 p.m. will offer a minute’s silence before flowers are laid at the Southwark Needle sculpture at the foot of the bridge.
Borough Market does not trade on Sundays, but its gates will be open to anyone seeking a moment of “quiet reflection,” Donald Hyslop, the market’s chair of trustees, told Huffington Post.