***Article first published in 2008***
Part 1 of an 8 part investigation into the different parts of Tottenham, as written by Bally Studios manager, Jimmy Mulvihill.
Seeing as this is where we are based, and the part of Tottenham that most of our customers will know best, we will start with Tottenham Hale. This area is the part of Tottenham that is least representative of Tottenham as a whole. Most people’s opinion of the area is that it is a little bit of a thoroughfare. I wouldn’t dispute that, to be fair. Many people get the tube to Tottenham Hale and change here to get the train to Stansted Airport, or Hertfordshire, and there are buses that go from the station to parts of London ill served by the tube, like Edmonton and Enfield. Many people going to Ikea change here also, so it does have a bit of a transient feel about it. However, with the recent redevelopment in the area, with about 1 in 4 people you now meet in the area being students, and with them skateboarding, roller-blading and even doing parkour in the area, it has given the area a really nice, youthful and vibrant feel. A lot of it consists of beautifulnature, the river lee, Tottenham Marshes and the Walthamstow fisheries, photos of which are on the following link:
Nature aside, it is mainly made up of a few different parts.
There are 2 main housing estates that make up pretty much all of the housing in the whole area. The Ferry Lane Estate is a 1960’s ex-council estate. It has improved a lot recently, and speaking as someone who was going to buy a flat in it, I think it is a fantastic place to rent or even purchase. At the time, in 2009, we were looking at a flat that was £148,000 for a 2 bedroom, good soundproofing and nice proportions, with fantastic views over the walthamstow fisheries,and only a few mins from the station. It was a lot cheaper than other flats that were in more up-and-coming areas, and there seems to be a surprising amount of city workers living there (no doubt taking advantage of the direct links form the nearby station to Liverpool Street). The aesthetics of the estate could be improved however, and since the pub and post office were ripped out for more housing, there isn’t much reason for anyone else to go into it unless you live there, hence it can feel a bit cut off to the rest of the area.
Just across the river is Bream Close, a private estate that was completed in the 1990’s. I lived here for about 4 years or so, and I think it has a much nicer feel about it than Ferry Lane, just in that the buildings are more spaced out, there is more natural sunlight as a result of the lighter tone bricks, and there is a lot more greenery. When the place was built, it was built with having more trees and patches of grass in mind, whereas the Ferry Lane estate has the feel of an estate that was built without green spaces being considered, and they have had to be crow bared into tiny patches retrospectively. One of the hidden gems in Tottenham Hale is that if you go down to the bottom of Bream Close, in early spring, there will be a few families of Geese living down there at the bottom. Many times I used to pop down there, where there is a picnic table at the end, and bring my laptop and complete e mails down there, while the Mummy and Daddy geese were walking around with a chain of 4-12 baby geese behind them. It was a nice way to spend a few hours. However, the proportions of the properties are not great. The ceilings are very low, and there is absolutely no outside space direct accessible from the flat. The soundproofing isn’t amazing either. They are great places for crash pads, (and in fact a lot of the major airlines seem to have bought flats there so that their Stansted based pilots and air stewards can use them as opposed to hotels) but, in my opinion, they do not lend themselves well to anything more long term. Cab drivers always speak very highly of the estate, and a lot of them will say that they have never had any problems there, and we moved there after were robbed (more of that later), as the police actually advised us to move there, saying how safe it was.
The Retail Park – which is home to big shops like PC World, Boots, B&Q, etc. The retail park is the main reason why most people come to the area. They get the tube from central London, or the train from Hertfordshire, exit the tube station, do their shopping, and then head back. A lot of them also drive there, especially on a weekend, as is evident from the traffic delays. There is a little cafe inside of Asda, and a Costa Coffee, Pizza Hut, Burger King, Greggs, KFC and Subway for the shoppers, so they do not even need to venture further from out of sight from the tube station. Now, a lot of people I have spoken to have actually talked about the retail park negatively. They say it looks like a homogenised identikit area, with no personality. They say that it doesn’t encourage people to investigate Tottenham High Rd. My personal opinion is that if people want to do a bit of shopping, there is nothing wrong with that, and they are still free to investigate the high road if they want to, no-one is stopping them. Also, from experience, I have seen so many people walk into the Ferry Lane and Bream Close estates wearing uniforms from the shops within the retail park to know that it undoubtedly offers a huge amount of employment to the local area. I’m not sure of the exact number, but I would estimate that there are about 400 jobs in the area as a direct result of the park. This, in itself, can only be a great thing.
Just north-east of the retail park, is the new Hale Village. I have to say, when it was announced, I was quite sceptical myself that it could be good for the area. Talk of cramming 1,600 flats into such a small area, well, it sounded like they were prioritising quantity over quality. However, since it has gone up, I have been pleasantly surprised, and actually think that it is a really great addition to the area. The buildings have a great splash of colour, and there is also a great little playground in the middle of the development, which has a bouncy, rubbery floor to it (I must confess, I actually walk through the playground on the way from the tube station to the studio, just so I can literally have a spring in my step…… *embarrassed*) Also, the shops that they have currently opened in the development are actually shops that the locals will benefit from, as opposed to shops that people will travel in on the tube specifically to use. The Tesco extra is very handy, especially as before Lidl had a shopping monopoly over the area, and with it there is a new cash machine, which seeing how unreliable the cash point at the petrol station was, was much needed. The new gym that has barely been opened for a few weeks now also seems to be very popular, and is cheap enough that it doesn’t price out most people from using it.
These are the only shops that are opened at the moment, but if it were up to me, and in case any of the developers are reading, I think the area desperately needs:
A Nando’s style restaurant – currently, Pizza Hut is the only place where you can go to eat that isn’t your typical fast food restaurant. If you want anything a bit fancier, then it’s just Pizza Hut at the minute.
A Charity Shop – I’m a big lover of charity shops. I think they are great, in that they raise money for worthy causes, but also as they are a great way to spend 15 mins of a rainy day. Charity shops appeal to students, older people, people on a limited income, and people looking for something to do, and Tottenham Hale has a lot of each of these.
A Bank – If you want to go to the bank, you have to go to the high road at present. And when you do get to the high road by taking the quickest route, it’s still a bit of a walk from there. Any bank that opens up in Tottenham Hale will have about 5,000-10,000 people who will be able to call it their local bank. Especially as there seem to be quite a few elderly people in the are, it would be a godsend to them to not have to get the bus to the high road. Even people in nearby Blackhorse Rd would no doubt benefit.
Another Pub – A few years ago, you had the Ferry Boat Inn, The Narrow Boat, and the White Hart. Now, we are down to 1, just the Ferry Boat Inn. Much as we love it (it’s great value, warm & cosy and has a great history and architecture to it), it’s a shame that it is the only pub in the whole area, and the area would be really improved by a second pub, so that you had a choice of the type of pub you wanted to visit. Having said that, about 10-15 mins walk away is the The Prince Arthur/Mannions pub, which is your best bet if you want to catch the football, and it is a nice enough old man’s Irish pub, with cheap pints and a relaxed atmosphere. It’s more in the Seven Sisters area though, but it is a place that is better than you would expect, and I am more than happy to recommend the place. A couple of bands who have rehearsed with us have also said that they put on live bands there, but as far as we know, they do not have their own PA system.
A live music venue! – There used to be one down the road in the Walthamstow standard, which was one of the most underrated venues in London (good sound system, nice size and directly opposite a tube station on the fast Victoria Line). But since that shut down to make way for a Turkish supermarket, there is a real lack of a community hub in the area. 90% of the population of the new development seem to be students, so a music venue/place to meet would have a captive market. The Fountain used to be based in Tottenham Green, and that doesn’t have live bands any more, and these music venues that ave closed down have not been replaced. Plus, as so many bands from Harlow, Ware, Cheshunt and the surrounding areas that come to us say that there are not too many music venues in these areas, and seeing as Tottenham Hale has direct links to Hertfordshire, it would be great for bands that are based in Hertfordshire who work or go to college in central London, and want to play a gig that both of their social circles can come to. To any naysayers who say that Tottenham would not be improved by a music venue, I would say to look at Brixton, Notting Hill and Brick Lane. All of these had flourishing music venues when they were less than prosperous, and the music venues doesn’t seem to have stopped these places from improving dramatically in recent years.
A Post Office – The nearest one is in Tottenham Green, which is 15-20 mins walk, on Broad Lane, and you need to factor in a 15 mins wait there all the time, as it is so busy.
Independent shops – On the whole of the Tottenham Hale area, apart from a couple of shops that are hidden behind a tall high rise residential block, I cannot think of any independant shops. And I think that the area is much poorer for it. It could drastically be improved by an independant record shop, boutique clothes shop, or even a delicatessan. If you only have multinational chain stores within the area, then it sends out the strong message: “If you want to conduct business in this area, you need multi million pound backing. If you do not have it, then don’t bother, we don’t want you”.
And I just don’t think that this is the way that it should be. Hale Village is at it’s teething stage. Here is what I would suggest. Set aside a shop, that measures about 1,500 – 2,000 square foot, and split it into different sections. You wouldn’t need to phyicially do this, even some paint or gaffer tape on the floor, could show the different sections. You could get about 40 sections of 30-50 square foot each, big enough for maybe a 8 x 6 foot slot. That is big enough to have a table set up, selling excess clutter from around the home in a car boot sale style; big enough to set up a few stands for an artist to show off their artwork; for an old lady to sell some cakes she has made; or for someone who is skilled with a sewing machine to do alterations to clothes; even a tarot reader to give readings, or a massuse to give back rubs. An indoor market, as it were. There are literally hundreds of jobs that could be done. 40 units. Charge them £5 per day each. Lets say you had a 70% occupancy, which is the industry average, and the space would have £140 income per day. Just for the empty space, as everyone would bring their own tables. No wages costs.All the businesses share the same electrical supply, the same light and heat, etc. We live in an age where people can set up a blog for free, or instead of buying hosting for their website, they can set up a Facebook page. From charging just £5 per day for each section, at 70% occupancy, that would be £980 per week. £50,960 per year. If you had it full, you could get £72,800 per year. More importantly, it would send out a great message to the people of Tottenham, that you can start a business with a £5 rent per day, a painters and decorators table from B&Q and some unused items lying around in the garage that someone might want, or a skill or talent that you have.
I know first hand how much it can turn around your life to have your own business. When the riots happened in 2011, many people said that it was because lots of young people had no hope. What better way to give people who are unemployed the opportunity to build a small business than to say that they can start their business, and it if goes to the wall after 1 month, and they do not even bring in a penny of income in the whole month, they will have lost just £150 if they operated 7 days a week. And lets keep this in perspective, £150, in that sort of context, is nothing. The educational aspects, and the lessons learned from the setback alone would be worth it. It would give locals an opportunity of improved financial independence, would prove to be a great learning curve, would bring people into the area, and would still generate £50-£70,000 per year. Big businesses have amply opportunity to conduct business in Tottenham Hale, what about the small businessman? These are the exactly the people that the local council should be investing in, and by doing so, Tottenham Hale can benefit in the same way that Camden Market has experienced massive growth around it’s markets.
Also, from an economic point of view it makes great sense. The vast majority of larger companies started off as small companies. Recent success stories such as Innocent Smoothies, The Gadget Shop, Sports Direct and The Body Shop shows that if there is a way to get people into buisness in the first place, the company could become a huge employer and tax payer in the future. It also makes sense to spread the risk, so that instead of 1 employer employing 1,000 people, 100 companies can employ 10 people, or we could even have 1,000 people that are self employed. Big companies, whilst providing essential employment to many, are like big ships. It takes them a lomng time to respond to market forces, and it is therefore hard for them to cut their cloth accordingly. Levels of beurocracy need to be cut through, and change can be mortally slow. Companies like HMV, Jessops, Woolworths and Game are all examples of companies that didn’t have the ability to change as quickly as they would have wanted or needed to. When a big company goes into receivership, there are multiple people becoming unemployed simultaenously, big bailouts needed, men in suits to check over the figuires and work out how it went wrong, redundancies, newspaper headlines, and many times the staff are the last people to know about it, so they are the least prepared for it. Whereas with small companies, the kind that are being neglected in Tottenham Hale at present, when a company runs into problems, the stall holder can pack up his foldable table, pack up all of his stock in to a box, and get a cab home with it all, with no massive fall out. There they can lick their wounds, and plan their next step, and best of all, because they were the owners of the companies, they will probably know what it is that caused them to go out of business, so there will actually be a lesson learned.
Tottenham Hale Industrial Areas – And then finally, you get to the industrial parks, the MillMead Industrial Park, and the Lockwood Industrial park. You get all of the usual businesses on them, like Cash & Carry’s, manufacturing: (A steel factory, several clothing assembly plants), house removal firms, double glazing factories, fast food preparation, a few cafes , a few car repair shops, with a strong presence for Kosher/Jewish businesses, as well as Turkish/Cypriot businesses. There are about 20 different music recording studios, with us being the only rehearsal studios, a photography studio, a vinyl pressing plant, and even a studio that specialises in fire breathing, stilt walking and sword swallowing!! It’s not the sort of place you’d walk though to see if anything took your fancy however, you’d need to have a place in mind to go there for.
One of the upsides of the estate having so many businesses on the estate though is that the crime is very low. In fact, in 8 years of us running the studios, and having had over 12,000 sessions with an average of 4 members for each of them, we have never ever had any reports of any victims of crime. One reason for this might be, as I learned from a business on the estate, was that there is a lot of CCTV in the area, simply because lorries carrying a full load from Turkey/Eastern Europe don’t want to spend 3 days driving across Europe, only then to have a risk of having any of their stock stolen!
The Best Parts:
Bally Studios, of course!!
The Walthamstow. fisheries
River Lee, Tottenham Marshes, The Paddock Nature Reserve
The Ferry Boat Inn
Being 15 mins from Liverpool Street and 18 mins from Oxford Street.
Room For Improvement
Lack of pubs
Lack of independent Shops
The one-way system can be chaotic on a weekend, but thankfully works have started to fix this.
Link to Bally Studios extended guide to Tottenham Hale.