‘It’s our heart and soul’

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Market Hall in CamdenImage copyright Jennifer Scott
Image caption The windows of the Market Hall were smashed as the fire took hold

The blaring music and bustling streets surrounding Camden Lock Market have been replaced with tearful stall holders worried about their futures.

In the early hours of the morning, 70 firefighters and 10 fire engines attended the scene as flames burst from the top of the Market Hall building – next to the iconic railway bridge at the heart of the North London destination.

The top three floors of the former Pickfords stables and Grade II-listed horse hospital were engulfed in the blaze that took London Fire Brigade almost three hours to bring under control.

And as the traders arrived to the smoky remains of where they had once sold their creations, there was upset and confusion around how it could have happened.

Anna Sionek has been selling her artwork in the hall for four years and was devastated at what she may have lost.

“Every piece I had in there was handmade by me,” she said. “That is my business, my livelihood, and I am very upset.

“But it is not just me who will suffer – it is the people we employ. They depend on us and now I don’t know what we are going to do.”

Image copyright Jennifer Scott
Image caption Firefighters were still on the scene come lunchtime to investigate

The famous market started in the 1970s with just 16 stalls and grew from a Saturday afternoon event to a seven-day-a-week shopping experience, with more than 1,000 places to shop, eat, drink and dance into the early hours.

Due to the hard work of the fighters – who were still on the scene come lunchtime – the blaze was stopped from spreading to nearby buildings, no-one is believed to have been hurt and much of the market remains safe.

One woman who runs a food stall near the entrance said: “We are going to be opening today and lots of the market is safe, so we are very lucky and very grateful.”

But for those who worked out of the hall, this was their patch – a part of a larger community that they love dearly.

“This place is my heart and soul,” said Laetitia Dupont, who has lived in Camden for 10 years and set up her stall selling lamps and jewellery just 18 months ago.

“Even if the things I sell survived the fire, they won’t have survived the smoke and water.

“The firefighters are doing everything they can, but it is devastating for the people who work here.”

Image copyright Jennifer Scott
Image caption Emergency services were guarding the scene as teams investigated the cause of the blaze

This isn’t the first time that Camden stall holders have been hit by fire.

On 8 February 2008, the famous celebrity haunt The Hawley Arms was severely damaged in a blaze, along with six shops and 90 market stalls.

And in 2014, some 600 people fled a blaze in the Stables Market, which saw the whole area destroyed and sold to new developers.

Ozgur Kaya, who works on a jewellery stall in the building, now fears for the market hall’s future.

“We must protect this market,” he said. “It is so unique and there is nothing left like this in London.

“Whether your stall was inside or not, it is so important to all of us and we really hope it will be back up and running soon, how it was.”

Media playback is unsupported on your device

Media captionCamden Lock fire eyewitness: “I could see flames”

The sense of community around the incident is palpable.

Jordan Lemon works on an Italian leather stall on the ground floor of the building – so his stock is safe – but he wanted to offer his support.

“There are people in tears that have lost everything,” he said. “These are their jobs and their businesses.

“I wasn’t even going to be working today, but when I heard the news, I wanted to come and be here for people.”

Two fire investigation teams are trying to get to the bottom of what caused the blaze.

But, for the meantime, those world-famous traders will have to wait until the smoke clears to find out whether their future is bright.

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