The best part of Seven Sisters is undoubtedly West Green Rd, for several reasons. I am of the strong belief that any business that needs their staff to wear a uniform to identify themselves as staff members is missing a trick. I can understand a huge chain store warranting them, for brand identity and to make things quicker, etc. However, a better way for a smaller business to show their customers who runs the shop and who they need to chat to is to simply make your presence known to the customers. And that, in a nutshell, is West Green Rd. Walk down the road and many shopkeepers are standing in doorways. Some will say “Hello my friend, have a look around, best price for you my friend, best price…..” They are all passionate, and many of them will have their kids working on the weekend. Signs are handwritten on bright yellow and pink cards. As of late 2013 there are only 4 chain shops on the road out of about 130-150. Let me just repeat that – there are just 4. A fried chicken shop, a betting shop, an estate agents and a convenience store. There is not one chain shop on the Tottenham end of West Green Rd. None.
Here is something that says a lot about the area – there was a pound store there (not the big chain, an independent one) and someone then set up a shop called “99p or less.” In an act of business bravado that was mind-blowingly simple as it was brilliant, someone further down the road then set up the “98p shop”. (Right now in Tottenham someone is probably plotting the opening of the 97p store…) It’s that sort of place, where shopkeepers live on their wits and you can still bargain with them. I once bought 2 suitcases that were £35 each for £39 in total, and the shopkeeper seemed happier with my purchase than the guy before who paid full price for his parrot cage. Yep, a parrot cage and suitcases being sold in the same shop. That’s West Green Rd.
There is a road with 19 African churches on it too, Lawrence Rd. This isn’t the longest road in the area by the way, you can walk it in about 4 mins, yet still they cram them in there. The local community centre is called the Bernie Grant Arts centre, and has the Marcus Harvey Library in it. They are not named after some 16th century aristocrat who you would have to consult wikipedia to find out who he is, but men who meant something to the people there, in the late Local Labour MP Bernie Grant, the first British Black politician, and Marcus Garvey, the Jamaican Political leader who died in 1940. There is thus a strong connection between the people who live there now and the people of the past who have a connection with it’s current residents.
Another great place is the South American Indoor market that is right next to the entrance of Seven Sisters tube station. Its a fantastic indoor market, where the sellers and shop staff have personality and rapport with their customers. The shop owners will treat you as a person, not a customer. I once went into a shop on the road just outside the market looking for a deal on some soft drinks, and the shop owner spoke to me for 30 seconds and then suddenly shouted down into the basement, “Dex? I’m sending a guy down to see you, sort out some cheap drinks for him, yeah? He might order some extra stuff off us in the future, so don’t f**k up his order, right?” And to be fair, he didn’t f**k up my order.
The shops might not be on the same scale as the Westfield, but nor should they be. The best selling point of the area as a whole is that, when people say to me “What’s it like”, it takes me about 3 mins to explain it all. It usually ends with me saying “Well, you should go there.” Sure, many of the stores are a bit rundown, and need a bit of a clean up, but it’s all part of the character for me.
Aside from this vibrancy, which is it’s greatest selling point, there are other good points too. Transport connections are great, with central London reachable in 15 mins. The buses are good, with night buses too. Many of the properties rival nearby Northumberland Park in terms of size and quality, which sets a high standard, and more bands that come to the studios come from Seven Sisters rather than any other area, with a lot of them are working in the city, or studying and looking for more bang for their buck within the rental market. If you’re looking for that, as Bally Studios staff can personally testify, there are worse areas to choose than Seven Sisters.
Let’s hope that the council decides to make sure that the current South American Market can, in some way, be saved, while still redeveloping the area.