People of all ages dressed up as zombies and took to the streets to express their opposition to the opening of the chain’s new supermarket in Wilmer Place, just off Stoke Newington Church Street.
John Page, member of the organising team, was really satisfied with the turn out: “I think the demo went extremely well. We do not really see it as a demonstration. It is more about bringing the community together and expressing our concern. We think the new Sainsbury’s will be the death of local economy and we try to illustrate it in a fun way that can get people involved.”
The concept of the march was really successful, since not only did it capture bystanders’ attention but it also communicated the locals’ concerns.
“We decided early on that the last thing we wanted to do is run a boring campaign, because we thought it wouldn’t involve many people. We tried to be artistic and innovative but we also think it was the best way to get the message across,” says Page.
The new branch is to be built next to Abney Park Cemetery, one of the most historic cemeteries in London. Andrew Harrison, another Stokey Local member had told ELL:“This supermarket would be so harmful to the cemetery, which is a lovely environment for wildlife as well as a beautiful monument, and we thought we should have some zombies to say that even the dead don’t want to have a giant supermarket next to them.”
Walking down Stoke Newington Church Street, the zombie-protesters were giving away leaflets about their campaign and dancing to the music of “Thriller” and “Zombie”.
Martin Wilsom a 32-year-old local who works in football wasn’t aware of the campaign before seeing the zombies, but immediately expressed his support: “It’s a fantastic way to raise awareness. I think people in Stoke Newignton are fairly proud of the fact it’s full of independent shops and has a community feel.”
Another bystander, 28-year-old Dj, Mike O’Shea, also voiced his endorsement: “We don’t need another Sainsbury’s. It is going to damage local businesses and we don’t need it. It’s globalisation and we’re not interested.”
Helen Kyriakou, a 29-year-old event manager who captured attention with her zombie Amy Winehouse outfit, really got into the role. Between her zombie groans, she grunted: “We don’t like chains. Say no to Sainsbury’s.”
Lolo Wood, a radio scheduler for the BBC, was another local who dressed up as zombie ‘Sister Lazarus’ and took to the streets to protect her neighbourhood’s character. “I don’t think we need a Sainsbury’s, but the main problem is where they plan to build it. It’s this little nice bit of the high street, full of independent shops. Let’s face it, Sainsbury’s won’t be making bespoke mattresses and hand-finished 1950’s dresses.”
Stokey Local’s John Page says the community fully appreciates what the small businesses around Wilmer Place have to offer: “There is a strong sense of community here and people value what they’ve got, which is a really good mix of local shops, many from ethnic minorities that sell food that you would probably not get in the same quality in Sainsbury’s.”
So far there has been no further communication about a planning committee hearing, either from the council or from Sainsburys. Campaigners are not waiting to find out. They are considering another outing for Zombies at Halloween, but check Stokey Local for more info and updates.
Video filmed and edited by Kieran Conlon