The Hills Are Alive With the Sound of Dalston

Sylvia Okyere revels in the sights, sounds and people in Dalston Market, London.

Awkward thought of a black girl dressed as Fraulein Maria spinning in circles in the middle of a busy market.

It’s strange to think that a simple market place in East London is inspiring to anyone, but it’s where i’ve grown up and It’s home to me. No matter where in England I go, I always find myself back in Dalston Market taking in the colourful atmosphere, and the the mix of different cultures united in the act of selling goods. How often do you see a Jamaican elder conversing with a Turkish elder about putting reggae reggae sauce on lahmacun? The people on the stalls are dream sellers who will make an ordinary tomato the 5 star meal that you’ve always wanted. And let’s not forget, everyone loves being chatted up by the cockney fruit sellers! I feel so special when they try to sell me their juicy melons and ripe bananas!

But of course I didn’t always like being there as a young teenager, mainly because of a harrowing incident involving a fishmonger, a fish and my face (don’t ask. I still scowl at them when I walk past that stall). And saturdays were always when the competitive mothers and old ladies came out with their shopping trolleys, followed by their less than eager children. Me and my mother would always stop at the Afro-Caribbean food stall where she would get into an argument with the owner; this always resulted in a battle of who can haggle the price of yam to the lowest pound.

Let’s skip to a few years later, when I decided to leave London on my university adventure to Bath. Not saying that it’s a tumbleweed city, but the markets definitely do not have the sounds of soca and calypso blazing throughout the day! I am a third year Drama student, and walking through Dalston market has allowed me to pick up many accents that I use to my pleasure at uni! In fact throughout the years I have accumulated insults in 25 different languages! I don’t get the chance to go home as often as I used to, and I often suffer withdrawal symptoms of home when i’m sat in the dreary confinements of a sweaty study room. This usually leads to me blasting the awesome music I hear in the market...VERY LOUDLY. I wish i could go around the study room acting like a fruit seller and getting people to buy some juicy melons off me, but I haven’t got the guts. Or the actual fruits...so that’s considered to be sexual harassment.

When I go back home I revel in the sounds of the market, I wink at bob the fruit seller as I buy some oranges off his stall, I let the stall owners teach me how to say ‘hello’ in their native language. Dalston market has inspired me to become culturally creative, I’ve used a lot of cultural inspirations in my work at university and it’s helped me to develop an afrocentric personality within a new surrounding. So the next time you just happen to be in Dalston, close your eyes and take it all in. I would say spin around too but you’ll probably bump into an old Nigerian lady who will barge you with her trolley and insult you in Yoruba.


This is the 15th article to appear in The Branch. It is 553 words long.

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