Gentrification, creativity, community and thriving in the East End - Interview EEP founder with Helen Edwards

Gentrification, creativity, community and thriving in the  East End - Interview EEP founder with Helen Edwards

Q. How long have you been in London ?

A. Forever ! Since 20 years now I have been lucky enough to be in East London -its very hard to leave! I worked in bars whilst studying for my MA in the area 20 years ago when nobody except the artists dare to live in the warehouse style buildings.

Q. Whats changed?

A.  The cost of living primarily , shops and living generally - a gentrified area goes through a process of social cleansing as the developers build less social housing and in come the bankers. Technology has changed the way people work - who would have thought of pro-working and co-working 20 years ago ?


Q. How is it for small businesses in East London ?

A. Its not easy, we are like an iceberg, the shop is just the top of it ! 80% of our sales are actually via our online website -where we started out before we found affordable retail space. If its wasn't for fantastic campaigns by the dedicated local community such as East End Trades Guild, none of us would be able to afford retail space in East London now.

Q. Why are there so many independent shops in this part of East London?

A. Its a hub of creativity and despite a lot of the artists moving the other side of the A12 , Walthamstow and Leystonstone to find affordable homes and studios, there is a need to celebrate their art in an area which is full of thriving independents, however long that lasts! Its tough, we have seen many shops close due to rising business rates, forcing the chains to come in and take over. Thats gentrification for you! Luckily we have some great neighbours still -Unto this Last and Tatty Devine. With Jealous Gallery moving East to Shoreditch it brings back some of the culture lost when Redchurch St lost all its galleries and Versace moved in! Also Pure Evil, Nelly Duff and Print Club all make it worth the trek East if graphic art is your thing.

Q. East London has quite a cool brand at the moment -why do you think that is

A. A lot of great ideas happen here -it was the first place in London to have the rainbow beigel, bulletproof coffee, the unicorn latte, the porridge cafe, the cereal killer cafe - ideas grown out of the curious nature of the 'hipster crew' a place where art and technology meet. Entrepreneurs are always looking ahead so its the perfect place to start a trend.


Q. So, how have you managed to stay in East London?

A. Its all about community, I came to look at the shop at 234 Brick Lane from the advice of a good friend. Paul and Thelma (Bernstock Speirs) agreed on a creative space/share which has been amazing - a massive relief after 3 months of looking for affordable space for our shop in East London! Their focus has changed from retail so it was a perfect opportunity to fill the front of the shop with our prints. Its great to be around creative makers too!