If a family dinner in Exmouth Market costs over £120 we need a more balanced local economy

Clerkenwell councillor BEN MACKMURDIE isn’t anti-gentrification, but hopes EC1 businesses can offer something for everyone as the cost of living crisis intensifies

An image of St James Church overlooking Clerkenwell Green
Photo by James Orr on Unsplash

Last month I was at the Whitecross Street Festival on councillor duties and we went out afterwards in Exmouth Market. That Sunday dinner for a family of four came to over £120.

That’s expensive. We know hospitality businesses are struggling, that the pandemic has been hard and that rents and rates are huge. But these prices increasingly mean that it is only affluent people who can afford to come to eat in places like Exmouth Market, and for me that’s a shame. These prices are not attainable for people who live on the Finsbury Estate, Brunswick Estate and other local areas and with the cost of living crisis, they will be increasingly excluded. Back in the day we had the wonderful MP Chris Smith, and this concept of developing the City Fringe, all about joining a Angel to the West End and creating jobs. It was successful: maybe too much so. Since then the area has become more one-sided, which is good in one way, but which also troubles me.

It’s easy to be ‘anti-gentrification and want to go back to when we had a Wimpy on Exmouth Market not to mention the lamented Clarks pie and mash shop. Of course these are differ ent times, and of course there has been social change. When I was younger I had a bit of a chip on the shoulder about it. Now I can see the benefits too. But as a Labour Party member my overriding feeling is that I want everybody in the community. whatever background they may have, to have the same oppor tunities as everybody else in the area, which includes eating out and enjoying life.

Even the shops are expensive. Once we had Iceland. Kwik Save and other local places where OAPS, those on benefits, single mothers and other less affluent people could shop. Not so much now, except the new Aldi on Old Street and just look at how busy that is. It just goes to show that there’s a large community of people that need cheaper shops.

Exmouth Market and the wider area are also very much geared towards the night-time economy, and with massive hotels opening. will become even more so. The international business community is obviously good in that it creates money, jobs and wealth. But the area shouldn’t all be about going out or expensive coffee. It’s also about popping down to the shops in your community and bumping into people you know. I believe that there should be a better balance between day-time shopping and the night time economy, and that we should look for more provision of shops and perhaps, a greater range of venues. Many moons ago, I did look at trying to create a working mens club – perhaps I’ll revisit that idea.

There are positive moves afoot. The Peel, among others, has worked tirelessly to engage the community. We’re now also going to get a public and community space in Clerkenwell Green in the old 19th century toilet. Local artists and people will be able to use it, and we’re seeking to do this over the next five years along with an upgrade of the Green.

But I’m also thinking of how businesses can help. Perhaps restaurants might consider doing local family days, maybe once a month, where the price of a Sunday dinner and a children’s menu would be set at 50%, perhaps between a certain hour or so? It would certainly engage the wider community. There’s a huge history to build on here and initiatives like this would help us to move forward in a more inclusive spirit.

AdBlocker Message

Our website is made possible by displaying online advertisements to our visitors. Please consider supporting us by disabling your ad blocker.

About EC1 Echo

EC1 Echo is your free local independent community news website. We publish stories to the web across the week and offer a platform for local people to highlight what matters to them. EC1 Echo is a not-for-profit project in partnership with the Peel Institute. Please consider becoming a subscriber supporter from £3.00 per month.
We need your help

Submit your listing here