KEEPING a 700-year-old street market up to speed in a modern world may seem a difficult task. But Roy Wayre, who took on the new role of manager of Surrey Street market in February, says while the task is a challenge, it is not a daunting one for him. The roots of the market are, he says, firmly entrenched by its reputation as a haven for customers seeking fresh fruit and vegetables. But while that side of the market thrives at the northern end of Surrey Street, apart from a successful flower stall and a couple of food outlets, the southern and middle parts look a bit desolate. With the gaps comes the feeling that the market is not all that it should be, and Mr Wayre is determined to address that problem as a priority. Essential in achieving that will be attracting new traders, widening the scope of goods on offer and re-establishing Surrey Street's identity as a unique Croydon shopping destination. Mr Wayre is putting the finishing touches to a recruitment campaign which is designed increase the diversity of the market by bringing in more stalls selling clothes, hardware and food from all over the world - basically "anyone who wants to come here". He is also working on providing better storage space for traders, bigger pitches and more parking, all important factors if new stallholders are to be attracted to Surrey Street. He is bringing to Surrey Street experience of starting markets like New Street in London from scratch and developing markets while developments go on around them. He was in charge of keeping Stratford market thriving while the Westfield shopping centre was being built – a very distinct parallel with his job in Croydon. Mr Wayre said: "Street markets are going through a renaissance and you can't stick in the past. Love "I take a positive view that Surrey Street is half full and not half empty – they are two different things. I believe people love Surrey Street but we need to spread the word about what it offers." In this drive to re-establish Surrey Street's identity, Mr Wayre wants it to be a seen as more than just a market. He said: "I would like to see it also become a meeting place for people where they can come along and sit outside over a food or a coffee and have a chat. I want a market that is unpredictable. "Some people are already coming into the cafes to do that and I want that to expand." He believes once people are in the market, the chances of them looking around and buying increase. Publicising the positive identity will be important both in keeping existing customers and drawing in new ones from outside the borough and those who will eventually be using the proposed Westfield/Hammerson development. The first step on the road to a new Surrey Street era will be a "re-launch" event on July 12 when the market will be the venue for a summer fair, complete with street entertainment and children's activities, all aimed at bringing people in to experience Surrey Street at its best. Mr Wayre said: "Surrey Street has been here for 700 years, I see no reason why it shouldn't be here for another 700."
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