Camden Market is celebrating its 45th anniversary this year, and currently undergoing an exciting regeneration. Diana Nabagereka is General Operations Manager at the market, and instrumental in keeping the market a must-visit destination.

What is the best thing about your job?

Sitting with my team every week and having a hand in defining new talent at the market. That’s giving new businesses an opportunity to have their first go at Camden Market. The market is a melting pot of emerging talent and has been for 45 years. We remain open-minded about the diversity London wants from our Market. I also love how multi-faceted you have to be. I could be collecting rent, managing the operations of a vegan festival, collaborating with Dr Martens HQ retail plan, deciding the tenant mix in the vintage tunnel, or signing off P&L for a brand new shipping container development. All part of one day’s mayhem in a rapidly evolving market.

How has Camden Market changed over the years?

Without a shadow of a doubt, in the last three years Camden Market has become a cleaner, safer and more secure space. We now have more seating and livelier public spaces, with a huge landscaping and out door performance project underway for the summer. The north yard is still on the path to becoming (a much-needed) night time space, along with more restaurants and late-night entertainment. The retail mix, remains eclectic and Saddle Row and the Horse Tunnel market are still meccas for off-the-high-street finds. And with a focused effort we’ve stamped down on counterfeit goods and real fur in a bid to engage better with Camden boroughreal deal initiative.

What has remained?

The East Yard, Market Hall and West Yard have always been the epicentre of what is great about the Market and its community. 145 charismatic, independent, and hardworking businesses trading seven days week (rain, sleet or sun), striving to be successful. A unique and diverse mix of homemade arts, crafts, retail and popular street food for our 12 million annual visitors. This element of the market will always remain an integral part of what brings local and international visitors back.

How do you start your day?

My house over looks a beautiful park and so once my alarm goes off at 6.30, I spend the first 15 minutes listening to a mindfulness podcast, looking out at the calm, and preparing myself for a day of the unexpected. Breakfast is rarely at home – I always pick up an extra hot chai latte, a banana and a pain au raisin from Rodriguez at Pret Camden. #Clockwork.

What does your commute look like?

I live in Canada Water and so my commute is a brisk walk to the station, a train to London Bridge and then on to Camden Town via the Northern line. And yes the Northern line at 8.15 is as painful as they say it is. I’m normally rocking out to a Queens of R’n’B and Soul Spotify playlist to blur it all out. Before getting to my desk I will do a full walk of the three districts that make up Camden Market (Lock, Stables and Buck Street) – the first of three operational walks that my team do each day. A recce to make sure the traditional market traders are setting up, reviewing the impact of the last night’s business, and assessing the general cleanliness and maintenance of the market. This is usually the most tranquil walk of the day. We have 125,000 visitors a week and so to enjoy some quiet time with the Market is special.

What’s the first thing you do when you get to work?

I will have already blitzed through any outstanding emails on my commute and so I often start the day with a catch-up with my team. I have a team of three market managers, two market coordinators and a porter. Together we go through all of the ongoing developments and projects and any tasks for the day ahead. This can include anything from signing off a map and way-finding project to leading a waste management training session. We also have a run through of the new market traders and tenants due to join that day, ready for their orientation.

How does a morning traditionally play out?

At 9.30 each morning, one person in my team will curate the market. We have around 100 applications each week and once we have whittled down the best, we invite new traders to join the community. Once they are set and rent is collected, we ensure the remaining 500 traders spread out across the five-acre Market are open, ready to trade, complying with our Market procedures. I often leave this to the team and prepare for the day’s meetings. I’m honoured to have the opportunity to meet daily with senior stakeholders, residents of Camden, community groups and prospective tenants all keen to have an involvement with the market.

Do you have any particularly lively market traders? 

YES! Too many to name. But to give you a flavour; Laverne in the East Yard, sells Rastafarian apparel and sings ALL day long to our visitors. Mark Fleming, who owns the oldest Antique store in the Market, and insists on feeding me Champagne, is probably the best story teller I have ever met; and let’s not forget Spiros the owner of Cyberdog – one of our best-known shops. At over 2,000sqft, it’s a trance music and cyber clothing/accessory retail store with a difference. Never a dull day in the store, with a daily line-up of neo-rave performances and live DJs. Our tenant mix continues to engage with an alt-London as well as a curious consumer (often looking for something vintage). Indie-kids and punks are ever-present, but also uber-cool hipsters discovering something vegan, or hunting down Instagrammable street food. We’re also noticing a rise in north-London locals attracted to the Market’s ongoing revitalisation with additions such as The Camden Grocer, a new independent butcher and grill, and a sit down rotisserie restaurant. 

Where do you go for lunch?

I gave up on my waistline six months ago and I am a happier person for it. Now I do my best to support the food businesses within the market. Each day I’ll visit a new food trader and enjoy their daily special – I make sure to taste test the new brands on opening day. When I’m not working through my lunchtime wheel of street food, my go-to is either Kolkati, which does some great stuffed paratha rolls, or Kim’s Vietnamese hut. Kim has been with us at Camden Market for over 20 years and has a small kiosk serving up great Vietnamese food. My favourite is the duck ramen.

What usually happens during the afternoon?

The Market on most days peaks between 12.00-17.00 and so this time is usually spent on the ground, ensuring our tenants and traders are keeping the vibrancy of the scheme alive, service is exceeding expectations, and most importantly the bins are being changed! When I’m not on the ground, I’m often in meetings with members of the board, delivering updates on key projects around the market, and looking for new ideas and strategies to make the Market work better. One current project is increasing the number of stalls we have around the Market

How do you help new traders get settled?

Each new business has a free induction day. They’re introduced to the market and the various ways of trading before being left to set up for the busy day ahead. Towards the end of the day, we meet them one by one and give feedback on their display, location preference and service standards. A decision is then made whether they should join the market community as a regular trader. The tenants who are with us and operate from shops and restaurants, trade seven days a week and follow a community handbook – the bible of do’s and dont’s for the market. Across the year we host support classes and open house sessions to encourage and inspire independent and often young businesses on ways to drive their brands forward. Anything from social media workshops, and visual merchandising classes to simple IT drop in sessions.

What time do you usually finish? Can you enjoy the market after you’ve finished work?

On a good day I am normally walking off the cobbles at 19.00, however, during the summer the Market is pretty infectious and so it’s very easy to join friends for a drink or two at one of our bars. As the nights get warmer, our events calendar peaks, with an average of three events a week. I oversee the operational management of events, including late night street food parties, vegan festivals and the annual Camden Rocks takeover, meaning my day can often end closer to 22.00.

Where do you go for after work drinks?

Often after a long week on the cobbles I will hop over to either The Hawley Arms (Amy Winehouse’s old stomping ground) for a large Merlot and a plate of chips (yes I eat a lot), or I will wander down along the Canal to The Engineer, over in Primrose Hill. I work in a female-dominated senior team (which is inspiring, daily) and so I don’t have to say Prosecco twice to have a good group for some post work Friday socialising.