Spitalfields market ‘take over’ by East End Trades Guild’s Small Business Saturday
- Credit: Jeremy Freedman
The oldest family business in Spitalfields which fought off the big chain stores in a ‘David and Golliath’ struggle to survive has led the East End Trades Guild’s Saturday take-over of the Old Market.
Paul Gardner, fourth generation owner Gardners Bags in Commercial Street, joined Tower Hamlets mayor John Biggs for ‘Small Business Saturday’ to put them on the map.
He got through a tough struggle with rents and rates until the trades guild took up the cudgels to prevent family businesses going to the wall.
The Spitalfields Market ‘take over’ event highlighted local traders with a hand-drawn street guide created by renowned artist Adam Dant showing shoppers how to dodge the chain stores and support the corner shop.
The map includes a selection by the ‘Gentle Author’, the anonymous Spitalfields Life blogger who helped start up the guild in 2012 to fight off encroachment from chain stores and developers.
“East Enders have always invented ingenious and creative ways of making a living, driven by necessity,” the Gentle Author said.
“They have defined the East End as the centre of innovation and enterprise for three centuries, from 18th century weavers to high-tec computer code writers of our time.
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“This resourceful culture makes the East End a place that cherishes independent traders.”
A toy-maker in Bethnal Green and a fishmonger in Stoke Newington are among the latest businesses to inch their way onto the map after the guild’s crowdfunding campaign last month.
Guild founder member Rosie Wolfenden, who runs Brick Lane’s Tatty Devine handmade acrylic jewellery shop, said: “It’s important to celebrate all the independent makers, ‘doers’ and their creativity.”
The guild was launched six years ago to fight off developers and big business moving in and pushing up rents and rates, often forcing family businesses to the wall.
It has won concessions from landlords including TfL and Network Rail after taking up the fight in the summer against railway arch rents rising astronomically by as much as 300 per cent ahead of their mass sell-off. Campaign tactics have made the voices of small businesses heard in Downing Street with tough lobbying backed by the East End’s MPs and mayor John Biggs.
The mayor promised: “The council will continue to help small firms thrive. Independent, small businesses are the backbone of the local economy, so it was encouraging to see so many entrepreneurs setting out on their own and being given the support to show their work.”
Some 30,000 copies of the trades guild’s street guide have been distributed across east London through its 300 members.