Street markets, informality and the performance of London
in Cheap Street
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This chapter argues for the long-standing affinity between the market and the theatre, expressed in the frequent elision of festivity with commerce in markets, fairs and carnivals. The chapter utilises Mikhail Bakhtin’s idea of the carnivalesque, and Stallybrass and White’s application of it to cultural transgression. It argues that the street markets were performative places, and picks up earlier analysis of sensory affect in an investigation of the soundscape of the markets. Performance and sound lead into a final section that continues the cultural analysis of the markets and their people commenced in the previous chapter, describing how the costermongers populated the music hall stage, with a voice and look that was distilled (directly or indirectly) from street market origins. It concludes that the street markets existed on stage and in representation in a form that allowed them to be consumed nostalgically in popular culture well beyond the period of this study.

Cheap Street

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



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