April 6th was a red letter day for Covent Garden Tenants Association, as it received a certificate from Companies House to commemorate its 100th anniversary on their register. The tenants association has been front and centre of all of the major events that have impacted the Market in that time, including a World War, several painful recessions, a relocation from W1 to SW8 and in more recent times, the redevelopment of the Market and a pandemic.
Gary Marshall is the longest serving of those 24 chairmen, having been in the position for 17 years since taking over from Philip Emanuel in 2005. “I certainly didn’t intend or expect to be chairman for so long,” Gary says. “To a certain extent, circumstances have dictated that it made sense for one person to see through this period in the Market’s history and I am extremely proud to be that person. Representing the tenants of this magnificent Market and working with my dedicated executive team has been an absolute privilege, even if not a pleasure every single day!”
Gary served as deputy chairman for almost a decade before he became chairman, so has been integral to the CGTA for more than a quarter of its existence. “During the first few years I was involved, our main role (as it had been since the foundation of CGTA) was to negotiate rent, leases and service charge on behalf of our members with the landlord. We were also involved in lengthy discussions with the Transport & General Workers Unions around salaries and working conditions and those were extremely robust negotiations, every year.
“If you look back through the minutes of CGTA meetings, which are saved for posterity in the CGTA office, there have been plenty more times over the years when it has been said on the record that it’s ‘game over’ for the Market and it ‘won’t be here in 50 years’,” says Gary. “There have been several seismic UK and global events that have negatively affected trade for lengthy periods, but we have got through them all and once the redevelopment is complete, in 2027, I truly believe that we’ll have a market that’s the envy of the rest of the world and set up to deliver us a long and successful future.”
Other than protecting the interests of its members, there has also been an expectation on the CGTA chair and his exec committee to represent the Market at industry functions, such as dinners and trade exhibitions and conferences. “The demise of the unions looked like it was going to reduce the burden on the association and its exec team,” says Gary. “But before we had the chance to get complacent, the first news about the Market’s redevelopment began to emerge.
“We weren’t consulted on the plans at the very start and that’s where a lot of the problems began,” says Gary. “When we were part of the discussion, we were told that the redeveloped Market would be smaller than the existing site, but that we would have a Market that would be fit for purpose, sustainable and work logistically. I don’t need to go into the whole story again, but suffice to say, if it weren’t for the tireless dedication of myself and my executive team, who have put thousands and thousands of unpaid hours into meetings over the last decade and more, I don’t think we would have ever got to that point.
“The committed support of the CGTA by its members, the fantastic tenants of this Market has been invaluable through that time, as it had for the 90 years before it,” continues Gary. “We reached a landmark settlement agreement with CGMA in 2020, but that does not mean the work stops for CGTA. I’m happy to say that our relationship with the landlord has never been in a better place than it is now, but the unity of our tenant community will continue to be integral to our ongoing dealings with CGMA as we negotiate our way through the final few years of the redevelopment programme.
“Once we’ve done that, it has long been on record that our intention is to begin negotiations with the landlord on their disengagement from the Market, with the tenants taking full ownership of the New Covent Garden Market site. That has always been my vision and I believe it is the only way we can ensure this Market is fully protected way into the future.”
The settlement agreement was signed during the latest challenge to confront the Market and its tenants association. Gary says: “Our generations didn’t live through World Wars and we’ve just been through the most difficult period of our own working and personal lives. As always, our community refused to lay down and let the pandemic ride roughshod over their businesses. The biggest and smallest firms, the family and corporate firms and people who had been around for decades or a matter of months were all faced with the largest challenge ever thrown at them. It’s been difficult emotionally, financially and mentally for everyone, but people across the Market never forgot those who were worse off than themselves.
“Once again, we showed the value of a real community and now we’re starting to see things come back to life. The Market is buzzing; people are telling me across different sectors of foodservice that they are busier now than they were pre-Covid. Lots of firms have invested in their premises – or soon will when they move to new units – and in their fleets and we’re taking premium to another level. The professionalism and the quality of our product and service are being talked about throughout the catering trade and we’re seeing many people coming back to the Market,” he adds proudly.
“It seems what we did during the pandemic has made our customers realise how good we are at what we do – that’s why they are coming back in their droves and long may it continue.”
Start as you mean to go on
The minutes of the first meeting of the committee of the Covent Garden Tenants Association Ltd were taken at the registered office of the Association, at 113 Long Acre, on Wednesday 3rd May 1922. The meeting, for the record, began at 2.15pm.
The meeting was chaired by the first incumbent as Chair of the CGTA, Major EG Monro and also present were HG Walker, SG Coleman, E Parsons, D Cooper and EP Champion. A letter was received from Mr Samuel Jacobs, regretting his inability to attend as he was overseas at the time of the meeting.
The first meeting was largely take up with the formalities of declaring the association up, running and ready for business. The secretary produced a print of the Memorandum and Articles of Association and it was agreed that he should obtain 100 prints of the document, the cover of one of which is featured on the opposite page. The secretary was then advised to obtain “a Minute Book, a Register of Members, Account Books and other such books and things”, to “frame the certification of incorporation and hang it in the office” and to have the name of the association “painted up at the entrance”.
In slightly less trivial matters, the first serious business the CGTA saw to was to discuss the Notice which had been served to a Mr Kauffman by a member of the Covent Garden Estate Co. On the advice of the chairman and secretary of CGTA, Mr Kauffman had been instructed to retain possession of the stand, which he had done, and the CGTA had written to the Covent Garden Estate Co. to request a meeting to discuss the matter further. It was agreed at the meeting that the matter should now be left in the hands of the chairman, whose meeting request had been granted.
And thus, 100 years of protecting the interests of tenants of the Market began…
Pictured: Ann Harding has worked for CGTA since 1993 and in the Market since the first day it opened in Vauxhall, in 1974. Having previously worked long-term for Banco Español in Market Towers and then briefly for JB Thomas, Ann answered the call when Peter Fowler was looking for a new association secretary nearly 30 years ago. “I know we were the first of our accountant’s customers to get to 100, so it’s definitely an achievement,” she says. “I was really surprised when we received the certificate though, I didn’t know they did things like that for companies. I’ve got to go out and get a frame now!”