At London Fields Railway Arches
Bill Waldon, Westgate Motor Centre
‘I used to have five arches but I was priced out and ended up in this dark hole!’
Contributing Photographer Sarah Ainslie & I spent a day last week visiting the occupants of the railway arches in London Fields where an atmosphere of crisis prevails currently. Thirty years ago, these crumbling old arches were empty and derelict but, over time, a diverse economy of small businesses has grown up here – chiefly car repairs, cabinet-making and secondhand furniture dealing, supplemented more recently by brewers, bakers and coffee roasters.
Yet now the owner Network Rail is demanding 200% and 300+% rent increases which threaten to destabilise this small community and drive out those have been longest established in this location offering invaluable services to local residents.
‘We feel we are the guardians of the arches,’ explained Nivinh Chu whose father started Chu’s Garage twenty-eight years ago, ’Yet we are being driven out by these increases, when small businesses are the heart and soul of Hackney.’ In common with some of their neighbours, Chu’s Garage faces a back-dated rent hike from £18,000 to £40,000 per annum while for others the increases are even higher.
‘Bricks were falling out of the roof for the first twenty years but Network Rail did nothing, so we had to built this temporary roof so nobody gets injured,’ Nivinh admitted to me with a grin at the absurdity of the situation.
In response to these adverse circumstances, the occupants of the railway arches are banding together to form the London Fields Traders Action Group to challenge Network Rail’s excessive rent increases and we wish them all the best in their fight to stay in business. Follow their endeavours at www.facebook/londonfieldsguardiansofthearches
John Lucien and John ‘boy’ Griffin of Westgate Motor Centre, established twenty-four years under the arches – ‘We do general repairs and we try to look after everybody’
Ben Mackinnon, Founder of E5 Bakehouse
Ben Mackinnon and fellow bakers at E5 Bakehouse
Stephen Maxwell of Maxwell Pinborough, bespoke furniture
Stephen Maxwell and colleagues at Maxwell Pinborough
Vict Anhu Vu of USA Nails Beauty Supply – ‘For fifteen years, we have had three warehouses under the arches and a shop in Mare St’
Noemi Dulischewski, founder of Brunch, a pop-up restaurant in the the London Fields Brewery Tap Room which has been running for two years
Charlie Fox, Proprietor of Poetstyle bespoke furniture and upholstery – ‘We moved in on Christmas eve thirty years ago and now we are facing 250% rent increase’
Ali Sharif of Sharif Auto Services has been operating under the London Fields arches for seven years. Currently he pays £30,000 but Network Rail want £100,000
Charles Woodward and ‘Popsy’ of London Doggies, pet grooming business established six years
Ian Rutter, Company Manager of London Fields Brewery
Simon Clark, Coffee Roaster at Climpson’s Coffee
Ahmet Ozer has been dealing in secondhand catering equipment for seventeen years from his arch
Quang Chu, Nivinh Chu and Jimmy Chu of Chu’s Garage
Quang Chu and Jimmy Chu of Chu’s Garage, opened by their father twenty-eight years ago
Photographs copyright © Sarah Ainslie
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