Like many high streets, Willesden Green was struggling, with some tenacious and enterprising shopkeepers hanging on during the recession. With a peppering of independent traders amongst the take-aways and bookies, how could Willesden Green find it’s mojo? How could this very long high street become a local destination? With an experiment.
Queens Parade is the experiment. An experiment which has worked. It blended components that most high streets have; empty space and enthused local people, to create something that most high streets could benefit from; small scale retail diversity, a range of activities for residents and visitors and.... vibrancy. Vibrancy is a by-product of this experiment, it arose organically as Queens Parade, a run of small empty retail units, were occupied by a changing rota of people trying to get their business or project off the ground.
The Parade opened in March 2012, as an Outer London Fund project, offering local entrepreneurs the chance to occupy and run their own shop on the High Street. After 2 months of opening its doors, Queens Parade was voted by Time Out readers as one of nine best shopping locations in London. Its initial success kept on attracting local interest, but lack of regular shoppers was threatening the project survival. Some uses worked and stayed, developing a local audience and establishing roots. Others learnt important lessons and decided to change direction. Sometimes it just didn’t work out, and participants were able to move on without accruing crippling liabilities along the way.
Queens Parade residents have risen to the challenges, and are commited to the local community. As part of their lease they are required to offer a variety of free events, concerts, workshops, exhibitions. This ensures various opportunities to not only shop, but to collaborate, build a sense of community, discuss, learn and just have fun. Their hard work and perseverance has helped them to attract and retain a unique audience of regular supporters and the project still continues to hit headlines. It has been important to make sure the Queens Parade shops complement, rather than compete with existing high street traders, to help Willesden Green become a better place to live, with more interesting and local activities. 3 years on, the project has exceeded expectations.
So far 25 start-up businesses, 6 charities and voluntary organisations and 47 individuals have had the chance to test their products and ideas from a visible space. It has also provided apprenticeships and job opportunities for 67 people, hosted 242 public events and welcomed over 56,000 visitors.
Queens Parade is now the longest running Meanwhile project, and fully independent of funding. The project has been kept alive thanks to the ongoing support of Brent Council and the landlord, now we are proud to say that Queens Parade will continue as a self sustainable project until the site is redeveloped.
For more information, and to view the 3 year anniversary film, visit www.meanwhilespace.com