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African Showcase Market on in Barking town centre today

PUBLISHED: 11:45 01 August 2018 | UPDATED: 12:25 01 August 2018

Ola Mustapha, the market's organiser, and her cousin, Sophie Balogun. Picture: Rhiannon Long

Ola Mustapha, the market's organiser, and her cousin, Sophie Balogun. Picture: Rhiannon Long

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The African Showcase market has returned to Barking for the day.

The African Showcase market returned to Barking for the day.

For the past 15 years, Ola Mustapha, an events manager from Brent, has been running the African Showcase Market in boroughs across London.

It began in Brent, and has been coming to Barking for 11 years.

Wednesday’s saw more than 40 stalls, including drummers, arts and crafts, African food and clothing stands, which will celebrate the diversity of African culture.

Funkie Abdulazeez from Bexleyheath, who's at the market with her make-up line. Picture: Rhiannon LongFunkie Abdulazeez from Bexleyheath, who's at the market with her make-up line. Picture: Rhiannon Long

“Barking is our favourite place to do the market,” said Ola, who’s originally from Nigeria.

“When we first came here there were 33 BNP (British National Party) councillors. Just look at how the borough’s changed.

“This market has really helped to regenerate the whole town – I’ve left a legacy here.”

The market’s slogan is ‘celebrating diversity through commerce’, and Ola said the market brings a huge benefit to the area, both in terms of celebrating culture and increasing financial gain.

“I look for areas of regeneration and take the market there,” she said.

“One of the things this market has done is increase the financial income for the area.

“And it’s helped to increase black representation in the town. When we first came 12 years ago, there were a lot of African people running hair salons, businesses and restaurants. I realised there was a lot going on, but Barking wasn’t hearing about it. We were able to bring them out through this market.”

The market goes to various locations throughout the year, including Waltham Forest, Barnet, and even one in Wales. Last year’s in Barking didn’t quite go to plan, as non-stop rain put a dampening on proceedings.

“Before we began coming to Barking, no one had ever heard of it,” Ola added.

“Now my family know it, we come here every year and we attract such a range of people.”

Later today, music will be provided by afrobeat expert DJ Alexo, from Essex.

“We’ve been coming to this for the whole 15 years,” he said.

“It’s about promoting diversity and bringing all cultures together. We let the people know we’re here to look after everyone, and create a happy atmosphere.”

The market will run until 6pm today (Wednesday), in Barking town centre.

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