A new hope

There was an article back in 2015 where an unnamed peddler at the Sungei Road Thieves' Market told the writer: "We are all poor people here. There is nothing much we can do. The Government will not listen to us."

This was in response to the National Environment Agency’s initial rejection of relocation proposals back then. Prior to that in 2011, the market had shrunk to half its size to pave the way for the new Sungei Road MRT station. Fast forward to 2017, we are now gobsmacked that the inevitable closure of the eight-decade-old market has happened. But there might still be hope for the vendors yet.

One of the vendors said: "You see junk, I see treasure. Perspectives, my friend."

Vintage Flea Market by The Retro Factory announced just after midnight last night (Jul 11) that they will be working with the president of the Association for the Recycling of Second Hand Goods, Koh Eng Koon, to bring vendors over to the now-iconic Golden Mile Tower roof car park this weekend.

Gary Tan, coordinator of The Retro Factory (they are a "group of vintage collector friends who support the arts and vintage heritage culture") told us that “there is an estimated 60-80 original vendors out of 200 or so who are contemplating” to move over. Rentals are currently $5 a day for association members, with a $100 security deposit. Additionally, there’ll be 12 extra booths reserved for artists, musicians, craftspeople or anyone who wishes to sell their pre-loved goods.

Facing "real financial destitution", Koh said in the lead-up to the closure that there has been "no real alternative to turn to". Local community group Save Sungei Road Market had also chipped in and tried to propose other possible sites for the vendors to move to. Meanwhile, NEA has offered vendors lock-up stalls with a 50 percent rebate on market rental for two years to aid in the transition. But even with that, many aren't able to afford the daunting rental overheads and monthly bills, which is why they set up shop in Singapore’s only free hawking zone.

One of the many random pre-loved items you could once find at the former Sungei Road Thieves' Market

Hopefully, this initiative will be a shining beacon of hope for the many elderly who have been hawking at the market for decades. More importantly, at least a part of Singapore’s heritage can continue to live on, even if just for a moment.