Stokey Local, the campaign opposing the proposed Sainsbury’s development just off Stoke Newington Church Street is planning a new day of action today and inviting all supporters to a “Zombie-a-thon” at midday. EastLondonLines will be there to report the event so follow us on Twitter #eastlondonlines.co.uk.
The community group has been lobbying against the High Street giant’s plans for over three months now and decided to protest in a different way: it has invited all like-minded locals to dress-up as zombies and join them at Wilmer Place, (above) off Stoke Newington Church Street at 12pm this Saturday, October 2.
“We wanted to do something more fun than just standing there with a banner saying no Sainsbury’s. Something with a bit of a character and a sense of humour,” says Andrew Harrison, a member of the Stokey Local group.
The zombie-concept seems to fit their campaign in various ways. As he goes on to explain, the proposed supermarket is to be built next to Abney Park Cemetery, one of the most oldest cemeteries in London, a wild place which is very much a part of the community. “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.”
The unique demonstration will also involve a mock funeral with traditional jazz musicians, another nod to Sainsbury’s plans. “It indicates that a big supermarket like Sainsbury’s is going to be the funeral of many local businesses,” says Harrison.
Stoke Newington has a thriving local business sector with small corner shops that claim they will be affected by a new retailer of such a size coming to the area. Sainsbury’s has stated that it is going to create 200 jobs but according to Harrison that figure does not take into account the jobs that will be lost in the process. “The jobs they’re offering can’t be compared to working in your own business that you might have inherited from your dad.”
Johnny Rodriguez, who works at The Fisheries fishmonger nearby, told ELL earlier this year that small businesses were already under pressure:
“Business is diminishing due to the recession. Having a ‘one stop shop’ here would just make it worse. We would struggle. We would probably have to cut down on staff and on the amount of fish we stock.”
One newsagent has already shut up shop. ‘Kris’ Patel had been there for 25 years but was gloomy about the prospects for the area. His empty shop window sports a “Say No To Sainsbury’s” poster and a letter thanking everyone for 25 years of custom and friendship.
The Stokey Local campaign is also expressing concerns about traffic. “The underground car-park with its entrance on the High Street is expecting 20 to 40 cars an hour. That is an already incredibly congested part of the road and it just can’t stand that amount of extra traffic”. The Sainsbury’s lorries bringing stock through Church Street will probably make matters worse according to Harrison and the turning that the juggernauts will take (pictured above) is right opposite a primary school and next to an outdoor cafe terrace.
Sainsbury’s did organise a consultation about the project in Abney Hall last July, showcasing their architectural plans but many locals expressed their opposition. Local Labour councillors have also written an open letter to Sainsbury’s and Newmark Properties who is handling the development, saying that they owe it to the local people to have a proper consultation.
“The fact they refused that request from the local councillors, it’s an astonishing thing for us,” said Harrison.
Diane Abbott, the local MP as well as Labour and Lib Dem councillors are also supporting the locals’ request for a proper consultation. “They said they want to be part of the community but their actions are completely contrary to that,” complains Harrison.
Thus far, Stokey has gathered about 1,000 signatures supporting their campaign. “There is already a Sainsbury’s in Dalston and one in Stamford Hill. We have access to them if we want to, so we’re not being ridiculous, we’re not saying we don’t want a supermarket anywhere near Stoke Newington. We’re just saying we already have plenty of them, we don’t want more.”
Zombie-a-thon will take place at Wilmer Place on Saturday October 1 at 12pm. More info here.