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Quiet market traders? Istanbul may as well just install vending machines | Paul Smith

A shouting ban is crazy, as markets are meant to be noisy places – you should have heard my grandfather sell his wares

I once made a surprised man fall over a small dog by shouting at him in a market, which is testimony – if any were needed – to the power of vocal advertising. Markets are supposed to be noisy. They are the last unsterilised retail environment, and banning shouting, heckling, recreational foul language and casual threats would be like carpeting the Amazon. But sadly, this is exactly what authorities in Turkey have done, by introducing a law last month that bans traders from shouting and singing.

Market trading has been in my family for generations and so I feel a sense of comradeship with those in Turkey now being forced to quieten down. My own grandfather would stand in Petticoat Lane with fabric stolen from a Limehouse curtain wholesaler and go about his business shouting: “All nicked! Nothing legal! Take it off my hands quickly ladies – I’m too pretty for prison.” Let’s consider this for a moment – here is a man, loudly proclaiming an actual crime and furthermore stating an enthusiastic desire to make an actual profit from it, in broad daylight, in the middle of London. Remarkable.

In Britain, selling fruit and veg from a market stall is still sometimes a licence for foul talk. It can often just pour out of you as soon as you put your money belt on. Good fruit and veg market shopping can be like buying stuff from her out of The Exorcist. But it’s always, I hope, just a bit of fun. Many of my counterparts in Istanbul have managed to turn this kind of thing into song. They’ve given the format lyrical integrity, like Rodgers and Hammerstein. Brilliant.

There is certainly a need to stop traders harassing shoppers, but that’s because harassment is a crime, not advertising your wares. Many London markets prohibit heckling by traders, but this works because most of the larger ones are now entirely gentrified. It’s all cupcakes and knitwear, from Camden Town to Greenwich. After all, crochetwork is a tricky thing to heckle passers-by about. It wouldn’t stop me having a go, though, as you can probably imagine. But anyway. The point is that people are going to these markets for entirely different reasons to those visiting our friends in Istanbul. As long as the traders aren’t heckling each other – which any half decent market manager will stamp on immediately – a bit of volume absolutely makes the occasion.

Perhaps the Turkish authorities should do away with all the market stalls and install row after row of vending machines, with Mariah Carey being piped through the sound system to add a bit of acceptable ambiance. No one would ever go, of course, and the city would be poorer, both in terms of market rents and cultural character.

“There is no joy in a market shrouded in silence,” said one Turkish market-goer, interviewed about the change in legislation. She is entirely correct. Surely the world is already joyless enough without stopping barrow boys singing about mandarins.

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