Sunday, 19 October 2014

To market

The latest market to appear on Melbourne's horizon has a lot going for it. Except for its name.

Coburg's weekend market is the result of the vision and hard work of the Chen family, notably Ethan Chen, who described the market in terms of a testament to his father, who twenty years ago, established a textiles factory on the same site and contributed a great deal to the community. Now times have changed and the Chen family are happy to celebrate a rebirth of the venue as Batman Market.

The idea behind the market is to showcase Melbourne's multiculturalism through food, art and performance. With last week's first market and over 100 vendors, 40 of whom were food stalls, this vision seems set to be realised.

But, as I alluded to, I'm just not sure the name, Batman, was a wise choice.

John Batman was a grazier, entrepreneur and explorer who settled in the north-east of the Van Dieman's land colony in the late 1820s. He is of course best known for his role in the founding of the settlement on the Yarra River which became the city of Melbourne. I guess this is why the market founders chose the name, there are many nods to John Batman in this city. But John Batman was also a very controversial figure due to his dealings with aboriginal people in Victoria and Tasmania. Described as a "rogue, thief, cheat, liar and filler of blacks" by his neighbour John Glover, he was further denounced by Tasmanian Colonial Governor, George Arthur as having, "much slaughter to account for". Not a figure who represents multiculturalism at all.

I wish the Coburg Market well, it is a wonderful concept and I loved being there. But any reference I make to it will not, as other publications have done, be making any lighthearted allusions to Batman Begins, the masked avenger or Gotham City.

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