Social Life carried out an independent research project over the summer of 2014 to understand how traders in the Elephant & Castle Shopping Centre are being affected by the proposed regeneration.
We wanted to understand more about the Shopping Centre's social value, how the proposed changes are affecting people now and how they will impact on traders and customers' businesses, livelihoods, friendships and local relationships in the future.
Elephant & Castle Shopping Centre traders support the local economy and local communities in various ways – as independent family businesses employing local people with long-established customers, as a diverse and supportive local business community and through informal support networks for local people that reach across the city and the globe.
Many traders described the Shopping Centre as a “community”, or a big “family”: a friendly and supportive place with people from all walks of life and different backgrounds coming together. There are many different countries represented in the Shopping Centre, we found that 26 different languages are spoken. Traders told us as that the Shopping Centre told us that “All the world is in this place”.
The traders had mixed feelings about plans to redevelop the Shopping Centre. Currently it provides affordable local shops for the local community and affordable premises for independent businesses and traders. There was a fear that this may be lost if rents go up and high street chains are brought in. Traders said that relocating would kill their business, and that they would “lose everything” if they were forced to move.
The results of the research and the photographic portraits taken by Errol Francis were made available in a number of ways: we wrote a short report, we are planning to organise a local exhibition of stories and photographs; we shared the research findings with local groups such as, the Elephant Amenity Network and the Latin Elephant. This project also formed part of The Unusual Suspects, a festival about social change organised by the Social Innovation Exchange.
The research findings are available here.