Window on St James

An ugly shopfront is getting a makeover thanks to local artists, writes Hannah Ford

1b Coppermill Lane

Artists and supporters get ready to transform 1b Coppermill Lane. Invisible Numbers co-founders Hannah Ford and Rebecca Ward are pictured front and second-left, respectively

As a resident of the St James Street area, I pass 1b Coppermill Lane on a daily basis. I felt frustrated that this run-down shopfront was being ignored while the rest of the area was being regenerated.

I am a founder of the art collective Invisible Numbers and curated a group exhibition for this year’s E17 Art Trail with co-founder Rebecca Ward. We brought together some amazing local artists, designers and historians for the show, and we have so much more to share.

So I thought, what better way to do it than with a window gallery at 1b Coppermill Lane? I ran the idea past Rebecca, knowing she would agree, and we submitted our proposal to Waltham Forest Council’s regeneration team and the lottery-funded volunteering project St James Big Local. We immediately got a phone call to meet up to discuss the idea.

The St James Street area has recently been the subject of a £3million revamp led by the council and has also benefited from some new street art. Coppermill Lane is at the heart of this area and now also forms a gateway to the newly-opened Walthamstow Wetlands, London’s biggest nature reserve. But the dilapidated shopfront at 1b Coppermill Lane, where the road meets St James Street, lets the area down badly.

Myself and Rebecca met up with Oliver Price from St James Big Local. He was very excited at our proposal for the space. Currently, 1b Coppermill Lane is a sub-station owned by UK Power Networks so it can never be used as a shop, but they agreed we can use it as a window gallery. We won support from the council and I also invited estate agents Stow Brothers to come on board to my amazement they agreed.

To celebrate the start of the collaboration, I decided we should bring together local artists, designers and community members for a photograph. As we stood outside the shopfront, I was amazed at the number of people who stopped to ask us what we were doing. When we explained, they were genuinely excited about the idea.

Leaving the shopfront empty gives a bad impression of the area. Encouraging freeholders to renovate their buildings can only benefit the community. I love the St James Street area and want to give something back by supporting local artists and designers. Opening a window gallery will be the perfect way to do just that.

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