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Free rent for a year for start-ups in Poplar’s Aberfeldy ‘street of a thousand colours’

PUBLISHED: 15:00 22 September 2020 | UPDATED: 15:20 22 September 2020

The colourful Aberfeldy Street. Picture: Buster Manston

The colourful Aberfeldy Street. Picture: Buster Manston

Buster Manston

New businesses are getting rent-free premises in east London for a year to help kickstart Poplar’s Aberfeldy shopping parade—probably Britain’s most colourful street after its summer makeover in the wake of the pandemic recession.

Natalie Dinsmore from More Life Home, Liam Harvey who runs Aberfeldy Big Local and pals Joshua Martin and Leon Herbert opening their DigiBarber shop. Picture: Poplar HarcaNatalie Dinsmore from More Life Home, Liam Harvey who runs Aberfeldy Big Local and pals Joshua Martin and Leon Herbert opening their DigiBarber shop. Picture: Poplar Harca

Three start-ups have been chosen by Poplar Harca regeneration organisation out of 60 applicants for new retail units in Aberfeldy Street, based on their ideas and meeting public needs in the area.

The organisation’s ‘Start here’ scheme offers retail space free for a 12-month trial period with business support to turn the neighbourhood into “a vibrant social and commercial hub” to help east London’s recovery from recession.

“We want to support independent traders to meet the needs of the community,” Harca’s chief executive Steve Stride explained.

“Our rent-free period is important to develop a ‘high street’ that can flourish.”

Poplar's Aberfeldy Street parade of shops. Picture: Poplar HarcaPoplar's Aberfeldy Street parade of shops. Picture: Poplar Harca

The lucky three include Digi Barber app for customers booking haircuts, now wanting to open a barber shop offering training while giving slots to freelance haircutters on rota—a snip of an offer.

Digi Barber’s Leon Herbert said: “We want to run a barber shop while creating the next generation of barbers-in-training from our community. It’s a chance to pass this skill on to others.”

Another enterprise drawn from the hat for 12 months’ free rent is Aberfeldy Front Room with £1million National Lottery cash to create a social hub to stage neighbourhood events like skill-sharing workshops, youth hang-outs and community meals.

The third enterprise is More Life Home which creates jobs and volunteering by recycling “cared for” furniture and also selling recycled clothes and homeware as well as supplying furniture free to those in need.

Before... the old Aberfeldy Street that was drab and uninviting. Picture: GoogleBefore... the old Aberfeldy Street that was drab and uninviting. Picture: Google

The once-drab Aberfeldy Street, a backwater off the A13 East India Dock Road with its rusty railings and shop-front shutters, is now bristling with small businesses like the grocer, tailor, pub, chemist and even a youth boxing club.

It underwent a total makeover in the summer with murals covering the buildings on both sides with a patchwork of colour after conversations with traders such as the tailor who has been measuring up there for 40 years.

Textiles and patterns were donated and scaled up into different artworks on each shop along what must now be London’s if not the country’s most colourful thoroughfare.


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