The days before automation took over at London's famous Convent Garden fruit and vegetable market, were re-lived at a fair in the city on Saturday (7 August).
The days before automation took over at London's famous Convent Garden fruit and vegetable market, were re-lived at a fair in the city on Saturday (7 August). Six porters who are experts on carrying baskets on their heads took part in a race.
SYNOPSIS: As a preliminary to the actual competition, they carried only six baskets. But even then, the windy conditions made the going difficult.
The current champion is 50-year-old George Rutledge and he made the six-basket race look easy.
A large crowd gathered at the Wandsworth festival to watch the race. They were originally run at Convent Garden, but since the market was moved the baskets have been replaced by forklift trucks and other machinery.
The wind made it virtually impossible for the porters to race in the big event...in fact most couldn't even manage to pick the baskets up.
The only starter finally was Mr. Rutledge and he showed just how much skill was needed to earn a living in the Garden many years ago. He began work there when he was 14.
Even now, the future of these races is uncertain. The baskets are not made in England any more and the organisers are having difficulties replacing them. They're considering getting them made in Cyprus, where a lot of basketry is still done by hand. But the baskets did come through for this year's event, and although they're more than thirty years old now, the organisers are confident they'll be able to use them again next year. Eventually there'll also be a shortage of competitors - no-one's being trained to carry baskets for a living these days. The only hope is that someone may keep the tradition going as a hobby.