Roman Road in Bow has been shortlisted for the Great British High Street Awards and is one of the top three in London. During the past ten years the road has seen good and bad times, so locals hope this opportunity will prove a turning point.
In 2013 the road had been selected to be part of Mary Portas’ TV series about recession-damaged town centres, and for a while it seemed like it was prospering thanks to the opening of new cafes and clothes shops. Today, this East End street and its market is still struggling to be the well-perceived centre for good shopping and fun experiences they hoped to become.
There are signs that a strong sense of community, and keen levels of volunteering could eventually trigger success; there is much optimism. Many locals want the road to become an award-winner, but others seem to have lost faith, pointing to problems they encounter every day.
Michael Randolfi, from Randolfi Refreshments at the top of the road, tells EastLondonLines: “No parking, cheap clothes and Westfield”. These are the reasons why people do not come to the area. Perhaps he has a point. The Roman Road Market has countless stands of cheap tops, trousers, jackets and dresses…and again more tops, trousers, jackets and coats; not much food or interesting objects.
Champers Dry Cleaners and the Crafty Cobblers’ employee, P. Malik, is also doubtful about the Road winning the award. “It was a lot busier ten, twelve years ago than it is now,” she says. “The market can be improved a lot more, there still need to be more food shops and restaurants, although there are better cafés now.”
On the other hand, other locals have seen changes and appreciate them.
At Lofty, store owner Tony Wong says: “There are a lot fewer empty shops now and there are a lot of estate agents; the whole road is full of estate agents.” While, at Roman Tackle, Sharon Langston says she can see the area picking up again and it is thanks to new faces: “There are new people moving in all the time and this is very good for the road since it brings new businesses.”
A newly opened shop at the top of the road just opened in February, called Solinka Polish Delicatessen, is owned by a Polish family living in East London. “Someone was selling the space and it seemed like a very good investment,” says owner Ewa Soroka. “The council should invest more in the area, but Roman Road has a lot of potential.”
Although many are unsure about the road prospering and shining anytime soon, Roman Road could still win the Great British High Street Awards and this would give the people hope for a brighter future.
Vote for Roman Road here
By: Claudia De Carli