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Stokey businesses unite for ground-breaking year of change

Businesses in Stoke Newington have spent the past year pulling out all the stops to increase footfall with a new website and thriving events.

In 2022 the newly-formed Stoke Newington Business Association, launched the See you in Stokey website, teamed up with Guardian cartoonist Henny Beaumont to run the Invisible People Art trail and ran Constellations – a trail of stunning lanterns.

Bolstered by a £50,000 grant from the High Street Recovery Fund, local businesses have been on a mission to get people back to our shopping streets.

Chaired by Heidi Early of Earlybird Card Shop, the Business Association is comprised of 15 committee members who meet regularly to spearhead projects to boost the area.

Heidi said: “The pandemic showed us what amazing things could be achieved when we work together. Stoke Newington’s strength is its amazing, diverse community – as businesses we wanted to celebrate that, to showcase the area and all it has to offer via the website and to give visitors and locals some wonderful events to enjoy.”

Invisible People was the Association’s first big project and used the windows of local businesses to showcase the art of people who feel marginalised, are disabled or have a learning disability. The art trail was curated by the Guardian's political cartoonist Henny Beaumont, who is also artist in residence for the British Institute for People with Learning Disabilities. The event attracted visitors from all over London.

The group ended the year on a high – with Constellations, a trail of eco-friendly star lanterns made by traders, schoolchildren and the community in conjunction with Output Arts.

The stars represented the invisible lines that connect us as a community and, as well as being displayed by businesses, formed part of a parade from the Town Hall to the Fire Station, culminating in a Christmas tree lights switch on and carols.

Heidi added: "It was a massive project but so worth it when I saw the faces of everyone walking down Church Street along with the sea of star lanterns - it was amazing.

“Working on Constellations brought the most incredible sense of community – bringing together traders, schoolchildren and voluntary stewards and establishing partnerships with the council and TFL. It meant the world for customers to pop into the shops afterwards to tell us how much they enjoyed the event. It really was humbling."

Speaking at the SNBA Annual General Meeting recently, Andrew Goodacre, CEO of the British Independent Retailers Association (BIRA), said: You’ve shown me events that offer such imagination – I wish we could replicate it around the country.

“The Invisible People Art Trail, Constellations are wonderful and have such community involvement. Community is connected here. You put heart into Stokey and the passion comes through.”

The association is now planning for 2023. Heidi said: "This year is going to be tough for everyone and we're going to have to work harder than ever but we're small business owners, we relish a challenge and the toughest times are the most creative - watch this space.”


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