From this weekend, you might need to go a bit slower than usual round town. Why? Because, in the window of eighteen independent local businesses there’ll be a reason to stop, pause and reflect on the actual real-life people running our stores, cafes, barbers, hairdressers and restaurants. After all, it’s all too easy to take them for granted in our busy daily routines.
At each site you’ll be able to enjoy an eye-catching portrait of the people behind the business, read a quote or two – and then use your phone to scan the QR code to soak up the full interview. Check out, for example, the story behind longstanding Indian restaurant Bengal Lancer, pictured above.
This three-month outdoor exhibition is the brainchild of Mike Gyi, the founder of popular local WhatsApp newsletter Town Spot. “Every business in Kentish Town has a unique tale and we wanted to tell that in a physical and impactful way to help them attract more customers,” he says.
With that goal in mind he set up a crowdfunder earlier this year which smashed its target – receiving pledges from local residents, Camden Future High Streets Fund, and Matthew James Estate Agents. The project has since come to life in collaboration with local Kentish Town residents, Karishma Puri, a documentary photographer (read about her last project, Isolating Together), and Olivia Burney, a freelance journalist.
The pledges also mean he can offer readers the chance to enjoy the weekly WhatsApp newsletter for free for a full year. “I was hugely thankful to Camden Council for placing so much faith in Town Spot. I’ve been plugging away for three years at this project, and it felt like a big moment of validation and support,” he says.
Town Spot is a design-focused social enterprise “with a mission to connect people to where they live and ease loneliness,” says Mike. “We help people live more local in Kentish Town. We send residents a WhatsApp newsletter with local listings every Tuesday so they never miss the best stuff on their doorstep.”
Feedback from local readers is enthusiastic. “I felt more connected through lockdown,” says resident Jenny, “and have taken action as a result of the content. I donated food and money to Castlehaven Community Centre – I signed up to write to some Age UK Camden residents and I sent the Clean Break Theatre Company story and vacancy to someone I know who could give them lots of help and who would love it too.”
When Kentishtowner started in 2010 the idea was to create a publication to help local people feel more connected to where they lived, at a time when neighbourhoods were not championed in the same way they are now. And Town Spot has taken this into fresh tech territory on WhatsApp since it started almost three years ago.
“Residents will be more inclined to live locally and participate more in the local economy,” he says, “because they feel a greater affinity to where they live by reading the local business stories. Also, residents will improve their local knowledge with the WhatsApp newsletter and never miss out on the best things happening in the area.”
Back to the exhibition: businesses whose stories are featured include Morgan’s Stationery, Caliendo’s Gelato, Simply Fine Foods, Supreme Doner Kebab, Babuji, Bengal Lancer, George’s Barber Room, Giotto, Kentish Town Stores and The Oxford Tavern (all on Kentish Town Road); Bread By Bike and SKK Lighting (on Brecknock Road); Cafe Palestina and Matthew James Estate Agents (on Fortess Road); the Fields Beneath (on Prince Of Wales Road); MAP Studio Cafe on Grafton Road, and, on Torriano Avenue, The Rose & Crown.
Town Spot Presents is available for 3-months over summer from Friday 14th July. Why not use this map to tick off all 18 businesses and end up with a coffee or pint at your favourite?
And don’t forget to sign up to Town Spot to enjoy their weekly local listings sent via WhatsApp.