This week we offer two perspectives on the recent transformation of Woodgrange Road
The revival of our town centre
by Lloyd Jeans
June 2013, Number 8 opens for business
Andrea checks opening day stocks
WI cake stall, regular feature of Woodgrange Market
The WI stall, with its wonderful displays of home baking, has been a prominent feature of the market throughout its short history – a story of grass-roots effort that does appear to bear out the theory that revival is possible if it grows organically from below, but success is far less likely with regeneration schemes imposed from above by politicians and developers.
Market has gone from strength to strength
Also in this pioneering group of marketeers were Mic and Mary Clarke, subsequently the proprietors of Coffee7, another neighbourhood hub which has to recognised as an important agent in the remarkable rebirth of our town centre. Along with the complementary Kaffeine coffee shop, it has provided a place for people to meet and co-operate in a wide range of interesting (and hopefully profitable) ventures and enterprises. Cllr. Kay Scoresby – at the time the mayor’s choice as the representative for Forest Gate – was helpful in smoothing the way with the powers-that-be in the council, and the seeds were sown.
With the media full of Mary Portas and the government wailing about the death of the high street, it is incredible that there are only two shops boarded up in Forest Gate town centre. Another factor must be the amazing diversity of the local population, which opens up a wide variety of opportunities for independent traders and incomers who might prefer to work for themselves.
Woodgrange News - home to five separate independent traders
Woodgrange News is a good example in that it hosts no less than five other businesses. Adam the newsagent says that he could easily fill another floor given the number of people walking in every week asking for space for yet another niche enterprise.
‘Number 8 Forest Gate’ goes a long way towards fulfilling the hopes of the original marketeers in that all the twenty or so traders who fill its every nook and cranny live and work in Forest Gate. Managers Jeff Levi (Panda Jewellery) and his partner Andrea (Vintage Uber Glitz) negotiate costs on an individual basis, and there is a small percentage on every item sold. But otherwise all the proceeds go to the individual trader. E7 N&T will certainly be returning to the emporium’s other entrepreneurs in the future, but time and space allow brief profiles of two only - Jason Christopher and Antonietta Torsiello.
Jason Christopher is a Forest Gate artist who founded jsmART Designs (www.jsmartdesigns.com) to offer customers a “unique, personal and bespoke creative service.” He has hired space at the back of ‘Number Eight Forest Gate’ to display examples of his paintings and other original works (pictured) which he creates freehand, using traditional methods. He specialises in acrylics on canvas, murals, sketches and traditional sign-writing, and offers to replicate any picture or photograph.
Antonietta Torsiello is a young and again local visual artist and textile designer who had previously taken a market stall to sell her greetings cards and larger pictures (pictured). Now she has taken some space on the side wall of ‘Number 8 Forest Gate’ to showcase her work, which is starting to attract interest outside E7 as well as within. She has exhibited widely over the past three years, and is currently developing her print and textile patterns.