Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Starbucks Stokes a Revolt; A London Life

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Starbucks Stokes a Revolt; A London Life

Article excerpt


When locals learned the coffee giant might move into their favourite street, they were driven to take drastic action

WE STOKE Newington residents are proud of Church Street, a haven of independent shops and people. Musicians and media types pootle about the farmers' market; old gents thumb secondhand books; mothers graze their freerange children on the samples in the Fresh & Wild organic shop.

When rumour filtered through the yoga classes a few weeks back that Starbucks might be moving in to the building that once housed the much-loved Vortex jazz club, we were apoplectic. The building was bought in 2005 by local property developer Richard Midda.

I practically choked on my aubergine smoothie when I heard the news.

"Starbucks? Never!"

Petra, a local student I chatted to the other day summed up local feeling: "A Starbucks here would be another step in the advance of Americanism."

"Frappe-bollock-ccino my arse," said cafe owner John, 47.

Stokey residents have a history of civil disobedience and on 6 January a group of activists moved in to occupy the building. Then, on 20 January, it reopened as a social centre with a cafe, film and music nights and a "free shop", where goods are exchanged for no money at all, much to the confusion of customers. All this in 14 days. We should give the Dome to this bunch and they would have something worthwhile up and running in a fortnight.

"We're trying to make it as useful a space as possible," one squatter told me when I dropped by for peppermint tea.

"This is a place for real human interaction. It fits the ethos of the street."

Local support is strong; shopkeepers have provided food, while the offlicence agreed to distribute leaflets.

Last Friday night it was humming.

Guitarists jamming in the corner; couples popping in for the screening of The Motorcycle Diaries; mothers discussing childcare. …

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