Save Latin Village ®

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan
City Hall, The Queen’s Walk
London SE1 2AA


7th April 2020

Seven Sisters Market Tenants’ Association (SSMTA)

233 High Road
London N15 5BT


Dear Mayor Sadiq Khan,

COVID-19 & Seven Sisters Indoor Market (Latin Village/Pueblito Paisa)

The Coronavirus pandemic has highlighted that the world must pull together and be proactive in caring and assisting one another through these challenging times.

The Seven Sisters Market Tenants Association (SSMTA) would like to take this opportunity to outline some of our collective concerns – both related to the COVID-19 crisis, and wider issues at the market. This letter covers the following:

  1. The mental and physical health impacts of COVID-19 on the market tenants
  2. Request for confirmation of rent suspension for the market tenants from 16/03/20 onwards
  3. Concern regarding the recent cut off of electricity and access issues at the market
  4. Recognition of ongoing discrimination and human rights violations at the market
  5. Demand for the immediate termination of MAM/Quarterbridge’s lease

We, the SSMTA, would like to begin by highlighting our ongoing cooperation during this crisis, out of respect to one another and wider society, as we collectively practice social distancing to avoid transmission of the virus despite the impact a loss of trade is having to ourselves and our families.


  1. The mental and physical health impacts of COVID-19 on the market tenants

As it is for many people, this is a time of great uncertainty for us. The pandemic has a caused a lot of distress for our community. Many of us are isolating with our immediate families, but there are also many of us who are forced to quarantine alone. Throughout the years, the market – our Village – has been the only family many of us have. We are used to spending from first thing in the morning to the end of the day together, from Monday to Saturday. Without this family and interaction – shut behind four walls – many of us are now worrying about the future.

Several of our colleagues have reported severe impacts to their mental health at this time, including high levels of anxiety, panic attacks, immense stress, depression and loneliness; among other characteristics associated with what we could call “Pensioner’s Syndrome”. A tenant reported to us on the 2nd April; “ahora hay fobia y depresión porque así es como estamos en una cárcel / now there is fear and depression because it’s as though we are in prison”. Another added; “estoy acostumbrado a ir al mercado todos los días…ahora no tengo nada que hacer… mi salud se ve afectada por esto / I am used to going to the market every day…now I have nothing to do…my health has been affected by this situation”. These are just two examples amongst dozens reported to us by the market tenants, who like the rest of the population, are suffering as a result of COVID-19.

It is also our physical health which is being impacted by the pandemic. Last Wednesday 1st April, our dear colleague Fabian was rushed into hospital with suspected COVID-19. His immune system had been lowered by the ongoing stress and harassment he has faced as a result of unlawful treatment and eviction from his unit (53) in the market. He is currently in intensive care, and we are working to support his family at this difficult time. Fabian’s experience highlights how this crisis will disproportionately impact London’s BAME migrant communities hardest.


  1. Confirmation of rent suspension for the market tenants

We would like to take this opportunity to ask the Mayor to confirm that as a result of the temporary market closure due to the Covid-19 crisis, Seven Sisters Market tenants will have their rents suspended until the market reopens. We request that this rent suspension be backdated to 5 days prior to the lockdown (16th March), when the electricity was cut in the market and trade was not able to occur as usual. Please see section 3 for further detail.

As you may be aware, markets and traders across the country are facing similar financial challenges posed by the pandemic and many market leaseholders are leading the way in demonstrating compassion and support. At Queens Market in Newham, the market is open, and people are observing the two-metre rule. All stalls and shops have notices required behaviours under the pandemic, and stalls have been given four weeks’ rent holiday. Seven Sisters Market was forced to close on 20th March, despite the vital role it plays in ensuring Latinx and other BAME migrant communities have access to essential cultural foods. The provision of culturally appropriate food is vital to build up peoples’ immune systems.


  1. Concern regarding the recent cut off of electricity and access issues at the market

In a meeting with us on Thursday 12th March, TfL said they would do everything to keep the market going. On the following Monday 16th March, the power was cut to the market. From email correspondence between ourselves and TfL, and the health and safety assessment carried out recently on the market, it is known that market operator MAM/Quarterbridge’s representative Jonathan Owen had been sourcing unauthorised electricity, and had failed to pay a £163,000 bill to British Gas, resulting in the power to the market being cut off ever since.

This occurred despite the fact that many of the tenants, such as the butchers, sell perishable products, and are at risk of losing their livelihood because of such actions. From 16th March onwards, the tenants could have taken these perishable goods out to be resold, or at the very least, not wasted. However, under the strict orders of MAM/Quarterbridge’s representative Jonathan Owen, they were prevented from doing so. This is in addition to the market to being opened and closed at will by him in recent weeks, causing further disruption to business and ongoing mixed messages about market access communicated to tenants by Jonathan Owen.


  1. Recognition of ongoing discrimination and human rights violations at the market

With the aggravating circumstances of financial insecurity, access to the market, power cuts, and impacts to our mental and physical health in the face of the situation presented by Covid-19, it is very serious that MAM/Quarterbridge – who have direct contact with the traders – have been accused of harassing some of the market tenants. These are people who only have their store, are alone in this country, and have been subjected to ongoing discrimination by MAM/Quarterbridge’s representative Jonathan Owen, including insults such as; “here you no longer have a future”, “the electricity is not going to be fixed”, “you have already lost everything “ and “you’ll have to adjust to the new rules when you’re transferred ”.

Both the SSMTA and the wider market tenants are tired of this ongoing harassment, bullying, discrimination, and poor management of the market, which has been only further exacerbated by the crisis posed by covid-19. During this very delicate moment, we would like to insist that our rights as a minority community be respected, and that greater compassion to us as humans be extended by all stakeholders associated with the market, not only now, but going forward. This is in direct keeping with the OHCHR statement released on Monday 16th March, which declared that actions relating to Covid-19; “should not be used as a basis to target particular groups, minorities, or individuals. [and] should not function as a cover for repressive action under the guise of protecting health…”.


  1. Demand for the immediate termination of MAM/Quarterbridge’s lease

We must therefore demand that MAM/Quarterbridge’s lease be terminated with immediate effect.

TfL’s reputation with many of the tenants at Seven Sisters Market is currently under strain because of their working partnership with MAM/Quarterbridge, and if TfL are seen to be inactive or reluctant to show their support for the market’s tenants at this time of need, then it may be exceedingly challenging for TfL to secure their trust and cooperation again going forward. In recent weeks, we have had reports from several tenants that they are losing confidence in TfL. They have experienced inaccessible, formal language akin to that used by MAM/Quarterbridge, and they are losing faith that TfL will offer them protection, not only during the Covid-19 crisis, but going forward. We believe that if TfL seizes this opportunity to show their commitment to the market tenants and responds in full to the concerns listed in this letter, then this will make the relationship significantly less fraught and will go some way towards restoring the market tenant’s trust in TfL.

We thank you for your cooperation on this matter and look forward to hearing a response from you promptly.

Yours sincerely,

Chair Victoria Alvarez
Seven Sisters Market Tenants’ Association

With support from the Save the Latin Village campaign