More than 200 independent businesses from the East End launched a co-operative to combat rent inflations, corporate landlords, and local authorities on Monday.
Named the East End Trades Guild, the group held an inaugural event at Christ Church Spitalfields.
Krissie Nicolson initiated the project over a year ago whilst studying for an MA in community organising at Queen Mary, University of London.
Speaking to Eastlondonlines she said: “What we’ve discovered over the last year is that small businesses are often overlooked and they are faced with huge challenges everywhere they turn.”
“We want to celebrate the fact that they make the area distinctive, they play an active role and genuinely care about their community. They are really important to our local economy as well.”
Many of the members own businesses that have been in the area for generations and include manufacturers, grocers, shopkeepers, and café owners.
Nicolson has lived in Hackney for the past 15 years and feels that although the East End is one area of the country which is still clinging on to its identity, it is under threat:
“What we’ve seen happen over the last 30 odd years is that the land has been eaten up by these corporate organisations and multiples. They are taking away our streets.”
Leila McAlister, owner of Leila’s shop in Bethnal Green, got involved with EETG at its inception: “We were galvanized into doing something when Paul Gardner’s business, Gardner’s sundries, was basically threatened because of a rent rise.”
According to McAlister, there are misconceptions as to why some of the smaller businesses have been shutting down recently:
“Often when they go out of business, people think it’s because of the recession or because of liquidity issues and they can’t borrow money. Where as in actual fact small businesses are very prudent and they don’t borrow lots of money.
“They’re mostly put out of businesses because of having their rents doubled or tripled, which is not uncommon. Very few businesses can plan for that kind of increase in rent.”
“In the face of the big business moving into the area, together we are stronger. But I think we can work with them positively.”
The organisation will hold rent review workshops, hosted by experts or members who have negotiated good rent reviews.
Charlie Uzzell-Edwards, owner of the Pure Evil Gallery in Shoreditch, recently joined the EETG as a founding member. He said: “I think by organizing and by almost becoming a union of independent galleries and traders, this is going to give us a lot of strength so we’re not isolated and on our own.
“You’ll always have people who want to turn the gallery into a McDonalds and that is happening to a lot of places.”
East End Trades Guild trailer video below: