Bruce Grove is the area that most people will have seen of Tottenham. For the wrong reasons. You remember the big building on the corner that was set fire to for the Tottenham Riots? That was in Bruce Grove. As was the bus that was set alight. So it’s a bad area, yes? Well, no, I actually quite like it!!! There are a lot of good aspects about the area. The main area is centered around Tottenham High Rd. This road runs North-South, with a spur coming off it in the very centre of Bruce Grove, which comes off it in a North-West direction, towards Lordship Lane.
On this road, there are a few types of shops. You have the usual chain stores: Asda, Greggs, McDonald’s, KFC, the usual banks, etc. And then you have the independent shops, many of which are fantastic, and 99% of them owned and run by immigrants. There is a Reggae record stall right near the station, African shops that sell indigenous food (Snail on a stick, anyone?), a shop that sells some great Turkish pizza, and some great restaurants, including an Italian, Thai, Chinese, Vietnamese, Caribbean, Turkish and African restaurant. On this road, I have had some of the greatest ever Caribbean Chicken ever, (super fiery hot with amazing quality chicken and soaked in tangy sauce, served with Caribbean rice) which was at a Caribbean takeaway which was briefly based next door to The Elbow Room, and I have been able to track down some great Cypriot food from some of the Eastern European speciality shops that operate there. You only have to take a stroll down the road to see exactly how multicultural Tottenham is, and how much the richer it is for it. More details are in this BBC piece on the area, and its diversity. http://www.bbc.co.uk/worldservice/specials/1044_ourstreet/index.shtml (Ironically enough, though, my love for many of the shops was thrown into a bit of a quandary one day, by the BBC themselves, as I have explained in an after note….)
However, there are two shops that dominate the road. The worst offender being betting shops. Even the local MP, David Lammy, has been on his soapbox about it. Quite rightly too. There are too many of them. “How many is too many?” you might say?” 4? Is 5 too many? “People like to bet don’t they, what’s wrong with betting shops?” Well, there are 38 of them in Tottenham. Within a 6 mins walk, you can pass about 6 or 7 of them. And if I am being honest, I have seen a deterioration of the area since they opened. Local pub? Good place for a betting shop!! Local family business? Ladbrokes will love that site!! I think this is the one factor that is holding the area back the most. I have personally spoken to about 6 bands who have come to Tottenham Hale to use the studios, really liked it, and then decided to check out rental property in Bruce Grove, as it seemed close to the studios, and they were surprised by the quick transport links to the area. Sadly, all of them, with no exceptions, said that the betting shops were an eyesore. And you know what? They are! How many were interested in renting in the area? 6. How many ended up renting? 0. All of them had jobs, were nice people, and would redoubtably have spent money in the local area. Such a shame.
The other shop that is plentiful in the area are hairdressers, and barbers. Tottenham, in general seems to be full of them. 30 or so, at least. I think that they are really great, and add to the area a lot. (Which I guess is ironic for a man who hasn’t been to one in nearly 15 years). Now, when looking at the effect that any shop can have on an area, you can look at it from one of two different points of view. The first one being from a cultural and community point of view, i.e. a non economic point of view, which is just counting the value that they add to the area, apart from a value that can be measured in pound-sterling. For example, an Art gallery, as well as giving people a chance to spend money in an area, and employing people in it, are nice for an area. They give you something to look at while passing, and can bring a bit of vibrancy to an area. I believe that the betting shops detract from the culture and community of the area, and take both money and the soul out of the community. However, the barber shops, I think do the exact opposite. Walk past, and, especially on a Friday and Saturday night, they seem to be crammed, almost like they are a social club! I guess that, in a way, they are. After all, if you don’t drink, and don’t want to be in a drinking atmosphere, as many of the social clubs seem to have shut down, there are not too many places where people can gather for social reasons.
Especially in Tottenham, there are no cinemas, no dance halls, no bingo halls, roller skate rinks, ice rinks, youth clubs, etc. (Having said that, Tottenham was once a hotbed for entertainment venues). Therefore, these salons, in part, seem to serve this purpose, and by this, I believe they really add to the sense of community, and vibrancy of the area. From an economic point of view, the rents are relatively low (compared to other parts of London), and there always seem to be at least 2 stylists/barbers busy cutting or styling hair in each salon, so they provide employment aplenty. Seeing as they are businesses that have very low operating costs, they are relatively stable and can ride out economic hardship better than many businesses, and are therefore usually passed down through the family, providing security for future generations. They are cheap to set up, in that they do not need massive amounts of stock, and instead of adding a profit margin on a product that needs to be bought first, they turn skill and training into cash. To my mind, businesses such as these can become the foundation of growth and prosperity of an area
Finally, transport wise, Bruce Grove is well served. The train station has direct links to Liverpool Street, and there are numerous bus routes, including the 149, which has direct links to the very up and coming Dalston, before continuing to London Bridge.
The Best Parts:
Great range of restaurants, takeaways and shops with a wide cultural range.
Great sense of community.
Good amenities, such as supermarket, banks, etc
Train service is vastly underrated.
Room For Improvement:
Way too many betting shops
A slight parenthesis: After living in the area for about 6 months, I had a bit of a shopping spree one day, and came home laden with about 7 bags from 5 different, local shops. It was about 2pm, and just as I was making a cup of tea, I heard the voice of John Peel coming from the TV. John Peel? On the TV at 2pm? I wandered into the sitting room, cup of tea in hand, to see what this programme was, and John’s dulcet tones continued: “Haringey Health inspectors are carrying out a raid on local shops within the Bruce Grove area of Tottenham…..” and to my horror, a camera crew was walking into the very shop that I had been in 10 mins earlier!!! (Although obviously it had been filmed many months ago). Still, when the producer unveiled a rats nest, and cockroaches in the kitchen, my heart sunk! After the credits rolled at the end, the announcer revealed there were 3 more shows like this. 4 shows in a row. Oh dear…. Now, I’m not saying that Tottenham has a problem with Health and Safety, and Hygiene; To the contrary, the Haringey website seems to suggest otherwise. However, the difference being that when other places have a less than perfect health and safety record, I didn’t have to watch it on a 32 inch TV with stereo sound!! I confess, that it did put me off going to some shops, the shops that were exposed, but I can genuinely say that the show was called something along the lines of “Grime Inspectors” or something similar, so they were obviously hunting out the worst offenders. Still, many of the locals shared my fascination of the show, and I can assure you that it is not representative of the shops of the area as a whole. Honest 🙂