Neighbourhood parades play a significant role in providing a social space in the heart of local communities and handy access to shops on peoples’ doorstep. Francis Road is a small high street in a residential neighbourhood just off High Road Leyton. Baldwin’s butcher’s at no. 177 and Greystone’s radio shop at no 153 had long been closed down and many of the other retail outlets were hanging by a thread or had already been re-purposed into residential accommodation when Waltham Forest Council commissioned us to devise a high street re-activation programme. Over the years footfall had declined with local people choosing to travel to shopping centres and supermarkets further afield.
We started by developing an engagement program to bring customers back to Francis Road. To do this, we partnered with a local primary school where we worked with teachers to design and deliver a 2 week educational programme around the high street. In small groups, the children interviewed shopkeepers and learned how small businesses operate. They then designed their own imaginary high street shop in a shoe box and worked with our team on ideas for branding and shopfront designs.
When we had finally completed an ambitious program of repair and rebranding of shopfronts, signs and building facades, our new customers were already waiting in the side streets, only this time they brought their parents, grand parents and siblings along too.
More and more people came and Francis Road has recently been pedestrianised to allow pavement cafes to set up tables on their forecourts and to make space for tree planting. Francis Road has a quiet success story, but one of profound transformation that reaches deep into its’ residential hinterland.