London's oldest wholesale market is on the verge of its biggest change in over a thousand years. Fish merchants are facing tough times.
The market is under pressure to modernise and its iconic and ancient traditions are under threat. The job of the licensed fish porter, once a job for life, could be thrown open to all comers. The market is divided: will ancient custom or modern commerce win out?
Billingsgate is home to fifty-four merchants, selling fish wholesale and direct to the public, with regular deliveries offered around the Home Counties and beyond.
The market authorities - part of the City of London corporation - believe that the role of porter, defined in 1876, is out of date and needs replacing with a more modern regime. But not everyone agrees - some even worry that the removal of the porters are a first step towards closing the market. The Corporation strongly deny this.
The proposals to change the portering system are currently out for negotiation; meanwhile, the fish merchants are talking with the relevant Unions to find a solution.
It's against this backdrop that we follow the daily lives of those who work in this world-famous market.
- Billingsgate is the first episode of the BBC Two documentary series The Market
The Fish Market is first shown on BBC Two and the BBC HD channel at 9.00pm on 24th May, 2012. For further broadcast details and to watch online where available, please visit bbc.co.uk