Streets
in Cheap Street
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This chapter steps into the street markets to look at the impact of their legal and economic informality on their distinctive material culture and sensory affects. The chapter explores three themes in particular. First, the notion of urban rhythms and their operation in space and time is analysed using Henri Lefebvre’s idea of rhythmanalysis to understand the transitory temporalities of the informal economy. Secondly, the street markets’ distinctive lighting – by means of naphtha flares – is examined. The ‘flaring’ quality of the markets’ lights marked them as heterotopic urban spaces, in many ways ‘other’ to the respectable shopping streets of the West End. Finally, the chapter argues that the informal constitution and vivid sensory qualities of the street markets may be interpreted as a type of temporary, impermanent or ‘fragile’ architecture that further contrasted with the more solid and formal aspects of London’s retail infrastructures.

Cheap Street

London’s street markets and the cultures of informality, c. 1850–1939

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