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Dickensian’ shopkeepers of Columbia Road take on big stores

PUBLISHED: 18:00 17 November 2009 | UPDATED: 15:15 05 October 2010

ONE of London’s last Dickensian cobbled thoroughfares is planning late night Christmas shopping to take on the big 21st century chain stores. Some 40 shops in the East End’s Columbia Road are opening for late-night shopping on Wednesday evenings throughout December

By Mike Brooke

ONE of London’s last Dickensian cobbled thoroughfares is planning late night Christmas shopping to take on the big 21st century chain stores.

Some 40 independent shops in the East End’s Columbia Road are opening for late-night shopping on Wednesday evenings throughout December.

“We refuse to be dictated to by a retail world where a sense of fun has all but gone,” said the traders’ publicist Juliette Tuke.

“We are one of the few streets in the country composed entirely of independent shops. There are small art galleries sitting next to cup cake parlours and vintage clothes stores, while English and Italian delis trade alongside garden and antiques outlets with pubs, cafés and restaurants in their original Victorian setting.”

The shopkeepers deal in a mix of products from English cheeses to hats, garden pots to modernist furniture, king prawns to Street Art in this narrow turning off Hackney Road, near Shoreditch Church, on top of the normal Sunday trading next to the famous Columbia Flower Market.

Every now-and-then Columbia Road gets closed off when film crews descend to capture the genuine Dickensian atmosphere with its cobblestone carriageway, 19th century lamp-posts and mostly original shop fronts. The street was built on a watercress field as a Victorian shopping arcade 150 years ago.

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