Once upon a time, in a previous life, on 20th February BC (Before Coronavirus) we held a large public meeting at the George IV, attended by many Chiswickians including many traders from the High Road and surrounding shopping streets. It was lively, positive and very encouraging, and we felt there was a real sense of community and excitement.
Things have of course been delayed, but we are using the time to hone our plans and get ourselves ready for the Great Re-Opening.
Led by local residents Karen Liebreich of Abundance London, Bridget Osborne of the Chiswick Calendar and Ollie Saunders Chartered Surveyor – gave a short presentation. From a palette of possibilities we had selected two ideas to run with – a Chiswick Flower Market and a Property Forum to help kickstart the revitalisation of the High Road. We emphasised that these were not exclusive ideas – others were more than welcome to run with other ideas, but perhaps the Flower Market could act as an icebreaker for many more, easing the path for other initiatives. Food, vintage, arts and crafts were other popular ideas and we look forward to seeing their development too.
As a result of the meeting and the strength of feeling from the floor, along with the feedback received afterwards, a Tenants and Landlords Forum has been set up, led by Ollie Saunders, with help from local Chartered Surveyors Jeremy Day and Andy Cole. CPD sessions were already planned, along with ways of providing help and advice to existing tenants and those looking to open on the High Road. The Forum would also provide more information about rental levels in Chiswick so that the property market worked better for everyone.
It was all looking very promising with government initiatives on rates and green shoots popping up in the Chiswick crevices before everything fell off the Corona Cliff. The Forum is now helping tenants in discussions with landlords and is striving to help keep as many businesses solvent so that when it is safe for us to emerge blinking into the light once more and we can again say that ’Chiswick is Open’, as many of our shops will have survived as is possible.
The Flower Market plan was (is!) for a monthly Sunday morning market on the old Market Place, the area in front of the police station currently used as a car park. The idea of creating a Columbia Road for West London was received with great enthusiasm.
Before even whispering the idea we had approached the existing flower sellers and the traders who overlook the area. As Nature Intended, Chateau and Foster Books were supportive. Dukes Meadows Trust which runs the weekly Farmers’ Market was also positive and has since been generous with advice. All seemed set with a fair wind.
In the days that followed the meeting the Flower Market team set to work with huge enthusiasm. Our inbox was full of support – ‘a wonderful idea… a fantastic idea… an excellent initiative… ‘ and this was accompanied by offers of support for which we are very grateful. We will be in touch shortly. We will be needing help pretty soon, both administrative and on the ground help on Market Days. Like the glamorous but redundant brain surgeons currently finding themselves fighting Corona virus by filling out boring drug charts in spare basement wards, some of the jobs may not be exciting but we will need help – and Chiswick will probably need this Flower Market to help us revitalise our High Road even more than before!
So, to bring you up to date with progress so far:
We strengthened the team. We now have a top finance director, a market manager from the events world, a designer, a surveyor, and a pool of talent to dip into as we get closer to launching.
We embarked on a major consultation exercise. It seems we are not obliged to do this for licensing purposes, but as we personally are of the area and for the area we would like everyone’s input and to listen to any issues beforehand. We dropped letters off to all the traders along the nearby part of the High Road, Devonshire Road and Turnham Green Terrace. These went in BC, and we were about to mailshot all the residents in the flats above and the houses in neighbouring roads. For obvious reasons that hasn’t happened. We provided our councillors with an early sight of our business plan, and met with several of them.
We have a survey ready that we would encourage you all to fill in. Which hours should we open? What should we sell? And any other comments you have to send us. We are listening…
We sorted out our constitutional status: We have applied to become a CIC, a Community Interest Company. We started to sort out our bank account but this has also hit the Corona Skids for now. Likewise our insurance policies.
We met with London Borough of Hounslow. They were wholeheartedly supportive of our project and while they won’t be able to put any money into the Market, they will help us navigate the exciting issues of licensing, traffic management and waste disposal. Our learning curve is steep!
We worked out our Traffic Management scheme. We needed somewhere to park the flower trucks and we think we have found this, tucked away out of sight of the High Road and not near any residential properties, but near enough that the traders can sprint over to collect more stock. We worked out where the disabled bays could go temporarily on the Sunday mornings. We planned out how many stalls we could have and where they would be positioned.
We started the licensing procedure. This is really boring, so we won’t thrill you with the detail. Just trust us, it’s really dull, so we are definitely taking one for Team Chiswick here!
We set up a website and twitter account. @ChiswickFlowers.
We started approaching flower traders to see if they would be interested. There was an excellent response, and then… So now we have time to curate our offering, approach the best flowery people and prepare a fabulous market for west London.
We need your art. If you are locked up with your kids please get them to create us flowery pictures. We want to use these for our banners, website, tweets and… to cheer ourselves up. So please, don’t murder your children: give them some paints, coloured pencils, i-pad, plasticine – whichever medium you can and get them to create for us. What does the Chiswick Flower Market look like? What do they want at the market? Which flowers can they see there? (We accept grown up flowery art too.) Send them as jpgs to firstname.lastname@example.org or via twitter to @ChiswickFlowers