London’s east end: A new ‘creative’ destination

Old Spitalfields Market, Brushfield, London, E1: http://www.oldspitalfieldsmarket.com/

Guest article by Kenneth Wardrop

London has the reputation of being a creative city – a vibrant centre for music, fashion, media, art, theatre, advertising, design, and architecture.  In the context of place management and branding the emergence of London’s East End as a creative destination within the UK’s capital city is an excellent case study.  Indeed London’s new city promotion body created in 2011 and promoting the destination as a place to visit, invest, live, work and study –  London and Partners is heavily promoting London’s creative industries.

The area around Spitalfields Market, Petticoat Lane, Brick Lane (and the Old Truman Brewery), and Shoreditch is now one of London’s coolest places to ‘hang out’ – a real ‘Creative Quarter’.  In addition to trendy cafés, restaurants, pubs, shops, venues, and galleries;  the area has become a centre for creative businesses originally attracted by the cheaper rents, richness of history and character, and buzzing edgy atmosphere.    The area is a particularly favourite spot for Generation ‘Y’ due to the alternative and vibrant ‘night time economy’ with a great club scene with a bit of edge.  The area is also a favoured ‘alternate’ residential area.

Old Spitalfields Market has been at the heart of the regeneration of this part of London’s East End, and has more recently been transformed further with the addition of the ‘New’ Spitalfields Market with its restaurants, retail and leisure focus. Due to its close proximity to the Broadgate and Bishopsgate Business Districts (where 30,000 people now work and is part of the City of London’s Financial Square Mile),  and which were developed in the late 1980’s early 1990’s. Spitalfields Market has been a great neighbourhood regeneration success .

Shoreditch, London's East End

The regeneration of the area has also been greatly assisted by significant investment in transport infrastructure and in particular the London Overground railway line linking the North and South of London, and also linking the Olympic 2012 complex in Stratford in East London with the rest of the city. The London Overground in total represents a circa €1.2billion investment. The creation of a new station at Shoreditch and the refurbishment of Liverpool Street station close to Broadgate and Spitalfields has also been a significant regeneration catalyst.  The regeneration impact that started around Spitalfields and Broadgate in the late 1980’s has spread out to Shoreditch and Hoxton in the East End, and will be accelerated further as the East End benfits from the effects of the significant investment in the London Olympics 2012 infrastructure.  It is interesting to observe overtime the emergence of a critical mass of new cultural venues and enterprises that have become established initially in a tight area around Spitalfileds, with subsequent and successive waves creating a ripple effect that has turned around the fortunes of this one of the oldest parts of London.

This area of the city is being further animated by hosting the annual London Design Festival (September 17th to 25th 2011).

The Festival  is characterised by a number of signature exhibitions and events such as the Tramshed and Tent London. The marketing and promotion of the festival is greatly enhancing the positioning of London’s ‘design hub’ credentials. In Shoreditch the event is characterised by a number of ‘pop up’ exhibition galleries and venues showcasing makers and artists from around the globe.

The Tramshed for example is now in its second year and is supported by the Society of British Interior Design and in its objectives states: “Tramshed 2011 will celebrate the diversity of the industry in the broadest sense. Tramshed 2011 improves upon the successes of last year’s event, with a diverse group of exhibitors known for their vibrancy and capacity to innovate. Exhibitors include Bocci, Aesop, Mitab, Autoban, Soren Rose Studio, Studioilse, Matthew Hilton, De Vorm and Benjamin Hubert.The Tramshed 2011 Seminar Series will feature presentations and discussions from designers, journalists and entrepreneurs on some of the most pertinent issues in the design world today. Conducted by Sam Grawe, the series promises to engage, challenge and entertain both trade and public alike”.

London Design Festival: Tramshed Exhibition Rivington Street Shoreditch London (September 2011)

Interestingly the London Design Festival events, such a Tent London the Design Trade Show (also open to the public), Origins Contemporary Craft Fair, and the programme at the Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A) in addition to raising London’s profile as a creative city have also it appears been very successful in stimulating ‘creative tourism’ .

V&A London Design Festival Installation 'Timber Wave' by Amanda Levete Architects

It is certainly worth other destinations keeping an eye on London’s brand positioning activity and continued push to establish its credentials as one of the world’s most creative cities.

About Ares

Ares Kalandides holds a PhD in Urban and Regional Studies from the National Technical University of Athens. He is the founder and CEO of Inpolis, an international consultancy based in Berlin, Germany and has implement several projects around the world. Ares teaches Urban Economics at the Technical University in Berlin and Metropolitan Studies at NYU Berlin.
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4 Responses to London’s east end: A new ‘creative’ destination

  1. Ares says:

    This is an excellent example on how an inner-city neighbourhood can be upgraded through “symbolic renewal” and the role that the creative economy can play in this. By “symbolic renewal” I mean a change in its reputation or its image – in other words in perceptions of it. What we should ask ourselves though, is who profits by this regeneration, who does not. Also, we should think about who loses. Is there displacement? Is this a last enclave of low-rent housing that will soon be lost? Are there any measures to protect low-income households? This is not a comment against regeneration – I just think we need to think about the famous: “for whom”?

  2. Ares, Agreed about housing displacement – The Guardian Newspaper on 7 October 2011 (see link below) carried a story about the house price inflation in Stratford n London’s East end (and home to the London Olympic Games in 2012) and just a wee bit further East of Shoreditch and Spitalfields http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2011/oct/07/olympics-east-london-house-price-boom

  3. Speaking as a resident of the area in question, I’m slightly worried that what’s being played up here is the physical regeneration and not the key attributes of its people. For instance, New Spitalfields was far from welcomed locally in its inception, with the familiar brick facades of the market giving way to somewhat alien wood and chrome etc. We also lost a music venue into the bargain, although the proximity of such an undeveloped low rent artists’ quarter adjacent to the City was never likely to fend off speculative development in that sense. Equally, you don’t have to stray too far to find the shabby and unfinished either.

    Anyhow, for the story of the people (which truly generate the footfall) check out http://spitalfieldslife.com/

  4. Andrew, It is good to get this personal and residents perspective! The shabby ‘edgeness’ on the fringes is also what draws me to this part of the city Kenneth

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