Ridley’s was a temporary summer installation located in Dalston’s Ridley Road market, East London, and created by The Decorators in collaboration with Atelier ChanChan, a group of designers, artists and architects.
It consisted in a restaurant that used the food-for-food mechanism in order to improve the street market within it was placed. People checked the day’s shopping list and went to purchase the ingredients on the market. After that, they could exchange those ingredients for a cooked lunch.
The installation was made with scaffolds provided by a construction company. On the ground floor was the kitchen, where meals was prepared and then raised by a mechanical table to the first level, where was the dining area.
During the three weeks of September 2011 that the restaurant was open the terrace was free to people who wanted to perform, share a story or play some music.
Dalston is a district of north-east London located in the London Borough of Hackney. With a population of 14,727 people in 2011, Dalston has always been important because of shopping and entertainment, you can find here the famous Ridley Road Market, the Rio cinema and the Arcola theatre.
The neighbourhood is currently in a gentrification process due to the redevelopment of the railway station and the revitalization promoted by the 2012 Olympics. This process has powered the commerce potential in this area, for this reason shops and cafés are growing in number.
Ridley Road market was established in the 1880s. There you can find fruit and vegetables, some fairly exotic because of the cultural variety of merchants. Turkish butchers, who are a significant piece of this street market, are located at the end of the high street of the market.
About transport, Ridley Road market is well connected by bus and tube, the nearest train stations are Dalston Kingsland and Dalston Junction.
The current commerce situation is difficult because of the depression. Every day 20 shops close their doors on the United Kingdom high streets.
Dalston is a lively neighbourhood with an ethnically varied population. Immigrants have come there since Jewish immigration in the early 20th century, but nowadays immigrant population is mainly Caribbean, Turkish and Polish.
Neighbours are lower and middle class and they use to be the unique shoppers of the market, since few tourists know about it. Current neighbours are being replaced by upper classes because of the gentrification process that is taking place: living standards increasing and many people can’t pay rental, so they are forced to leave the area.
In contrast with traditional neighbours, these upper class people don’t usually buy at the street market, they prefer other trades.
Traders, who live in the area, are mainly immigrants. In fact, the market began with a little Jewish community that has been replaced by other ethnicities along the time. For this reason you can find products from all over the world.
As to the more specific context of the project, the plot where Ridley’s was built had been bought by a friend of The Decorators. Besides the plot is private, it has been used has a public until it was sold, so people used to have lunch there: people could bring food from home, set up a table there and just eat collectively and quite informally.
Finally, is important to name some temporary experimental projects that clearly influenced the designers and that were taking place in London since short time before, the most important ones were: “swimming pool in Southwark”, “Frank’s Café” and “Cinerolum”.
1. RENOVATION VS. GENTRIFICATION
Dalston is immersed in a renovation process that has been accelerated by the 2012 Olympics. That could sound great, because the area is being improved with better installations and new constructions. The problem is that this renovation is a part of a gentrification process: people of higher social class are replacing people who can’t live in this renovated area because of the rising of living standards.
In addition, this process involves other consequences. On one hand, Dalston has been transformed quickly, but the new architecture is qualitatively poor because it doesn’t help to create links with the community. On the other hand, newcomers go mainly to the big chain supermarkets nearby because they have other culture for food shopping, and because of all the myths which say traders sell rat meat… This last point is essential, because some of the market traders have been losing business over the last few years, while the population in Dalston has grown by 40%. So, this last point have damage the situation of traders even more than the depression.
2. TRADITION VS. INNOVATION
The street market has the incentive of the tradition that it involves. But, young people and the new neighbours that are arriving to live in Dalston are looking for something different, more actual, with other activities beyond commerce itself. In contrast, this tradition of the street market gives the opportunity of having a sustainable local environment, instead of the industrialization of food.
3. ISOLATION VS. COMMUNITY ENVIROMENT
People who arrive to the neighbour don’t socialize with other neighbours in their everyday life because of their way of life. In this way Dalston is losing a good community environment that Ridley Road market could provide
Ridley’s is a collaboration between The Decorators, and Atelier ChanChan. The Decorators are an art and design collective based in London and composed by four people. They like “to create experiences and context-specific projects for art, cultural, and community environments”. Atelier ChanChan is a practice based in London that works between art and architecture spheres.
They provided the restaurant with their products. They were more important that what could appear at first appearance, since if they had decided not to collaborate the project wouldn’t have been successful.
Shoppers & neighbours
With their participation Ridley’s became into a fantastic stage with a great communal environment. They enjoyed participating in the food-for-food mechanism, so they brought life to the street market.
They were invited to Ridley’s to cook only with food from the market. They had the role of changing the behaviour of some people demonstrating the amazing meals that could be made from Ridley Road market produce, and how cheap it can be to eat well. They were very involved with the project because they believe in the importance of a sustainable local environment instead of the industrialization of food.
She was a friend of The Decorators, who thought of doing a project there because a lot of the market traders were losing business. She let the plot to them and Ridley’s was made possible. The owner wants to build her studio in that plot, but because of the success of Ridley’s, the council advised her to open a restaurant or a bar on the ground floor, so her studio would be on the first floor.
Hackney Council & Design of London
Design for London was a support partner who showed Hackney Council the necessity of supporting the project. With that support Hackney Council was flexible with Ridley’s during the construction, because they hadn’t permission until it was built.
Sponsors were essential, because they made the project possible. The main ones where: United House, a leading housing specialist; PKL, the world’s largest supplier of temporary kitchens and catering equipment for hire; and Mesa Studio, an enterprise that makes furniture.
United House let the scaffolds of the structure of Ridley’s and put the economic support; PKL supplied the catering equipment; and Mesa Studio made the furniture.
Here we have a short chronology that shows the main events related with the project:
1880s // The market starts with 20 stalls in Kingsland High Street
1920-30s // Big Jewish immigration. After this moment Dalston will receive several wide immigrations, so the area will become into multiracial. Caribbean (1950-60), Turkish and Polish will be some of these new communities that will arrive
2001 // Gentrification process starts. The houses value will increase about a 400% in 10 years. This process will increase between 2005-2012 because of 2012 Olympics, that will provide new infrastructures like Dalston Junction rail station.
2008 // European Recession. Economic situation beats the street market economy. Traders are now in a difficult situation.
?………………. A friend of The Decorators gets the plot and let it for them to make a temporary construction that could improve the situation of Ridley Road market.
June………….. The designers start studying the street market in collaboration with traders. They will be three months analyzing all the problems in order to design a good project. In this time designers will try to make the traders involved in the project.
?……………….Sponsors are achieved. They are: United House; PKL; and Mesa Studio.
August……………….Day 8 – Ridley’s construction starts
…………………………Day 22 – Starts to advertise the restaurant with pamphlets and online
September………….Day 7 – Ridley’s opens
…………………………Day 13 – Ridley’s terrace is available for who wants to performance
…………………………Day 24 – Ridley’s close. Around 750 people have eaten there by the time it has been opened.
…………………………Day 26 – The restaurant is removed
- Improve the economic situation of traders
In order to improve the bad situation of traders in the street market arise the food-for-food mechanism, which consist in paying with food a cooked meal. Visitors had to check the day’s shopping list on a blackboard and purchase the raw ingredients on the market. These ingredients will cost £3, and they will be used to make the evening meal. So, visitors had to exchange them for a cooked lunch in the restaurant.
This system in the evening is quite different since the market is closed at that time. People had to pay £15 for their meal. It included a £5 voucher for use on the market.
The produce collected at lunch was used to cook dinner, and the money made at dinner was used to get ingredients for the following day’s lunch.
So, Ridley’s was a self-sufficient restaurant, co-existing with the market, the traders and its neighbours.
- Get funds
The financing of the project was a central problem. It was solved with sponsors. The more important were: United House; PKL, and Mesa Studio.
United House put the economic support, and let the scaffolds for the structure. This company gave his support because they were interested in the improvement of the area, since they were building there. PKL supplied the kitchen equipment. Mesa Studio made the furniture.
- Escape of business taxes
Restaurant’s settlement was complicated because of the licences, since a new business have to commit some conditions and taxes that is difficult to afford. As the plot owner wanted to build in the plot her studio in the future, the restaurant would be temporary, and accepting all the commercial terms would be a bad idea. So the solution was taking the pop up business benefits, as the no long-term lease commitment.
It had other consequences, like the fact of being there only for 3 weeks, but it helped a lot in economic terms.
- Innovate to attract new customers
In order to attract people, the restaurant had to be very attractive. The pop up architecture of the restaurant; the gap in the middle of the table through with you can see how your meal is prepared; the raised platform table; the social environment; the delicious meals; and the views, became the restaurant into incredible place for all people.
- Improve the community relationships
The neighbourhood had two different kinds of people: who usually went to the road market; and people who went to supermarkets. In order to join both groups and improve the community relationships, the restaurant was the point where both groups could be gathered. They sat down in a communal table and had a social time.
- Create links between customers and traders
One of the reasons why people come to street markets is the relation with some traders. In order to make people come back in the future, one of the strategies consisted in make people meet some traders that collaborate a lot with the project. Visitors could take a map where different traders were located, and explore the market.
In addition, some traders went to Ridley’s to eating, so they could meet people then.
- Create a street market culture in Dalston’s newcomers
The most important problem for traders was that newcomers buy in supermarkets instead of the street market, so despite of the increase of the population in the area there were fewer customers. The strategy was to encourage them to buy in the street market to eat in Ridley’s. Every noon around 50 people had to visit the supermarket in order to have a meal in Ridley’s, and every evening 15 people received a £5 voucher for use on the market with their payment, so they will come back some days after to make their shopping.
At the same time, Ridley’s project was demonstrating them that having a good lunch don’t depend of using street market’s food or how much it could cost.
- Create a one-off moment
To make Ridley’s truly able to attract people it was necessary to go beyond the normal restaurant concept. The lunch time was a scenography, the meal was cooked in the kitchen and when it was finished it was lifted to the first floor. Meanwhile diners could watch the chefs through the table gap. The views were also interesting, since there you could watch and feel the market environment. The restaurant was interesting because meeting new people too, because of the communal table. Moreover, it was a scenario where people were invited to performance, and when customers could be having a good time talking.
- Make agents a piece of the project
Ridley’s was successful due to the active attitude of every part. That positive attitude was being managed for 3 months while designers were analysing the market with traders. About dinners, they become into an active piece of the project since the accepted to participate in the food-for-food mechanism in order to taste Ridley’s plates. The strategy applied to get this result was involving every agent as a part of a process, making feel them as the important piece of the project that they really were.
- Show the advantages of sustainable products
Ridley Road market had a bad reputation about its food, there were some myths about the food, such as rat meat was sold. Moreover, Dalston’s new comers used to buy in supermarkets instead of the road market, because they didn’t have tradition of market. For these circumstances, Ridley’s had the purpose of showing the advantages of having sustainable products making amazing plates with ordinary food.
Chefs were really involved in this purpose, because they were opposite to industrialization of food, as supermarkets promote. So they cooked fantastic plates demonstrating the possibilities of market products.
Identification of problems
The first step in the Ridley’s project was identifying the bad situation of commerce in the last years. This fact moved the designers to do something in a friend’s plot to improve the market.
Street market and neighbourhood study
The designers were studying the context for 3 months with traders. With this study they met the different problems in that context, and decided the strategies for the project and the targets.
Design of Ridley’s running
In Ridley’s was very important to have a functioning strategy that could link the restaurant with the market in order to improve its situation. In this sense the food-for-food mechanism is proposed. This system means that the restaurant can’t be conceived without the street market.
Sponsors + collaborators
The project hadn’t a promoter behind him, so it was necessary to find financing. The solution of the funding problem was sponsors, who gave economic support and let materials and equipment.
Publicize the project was essential to succeed. It was publicized in the neighbourhood with posters, and online with an special page named ridleys.org, basically. There you could know about the project and the running, but you could also book your dinner and ask for using the terrace to perform or do some activity.
Once that all the project was thought and defined, the next step was building it. It was built by the designers and people who wanted to help. They used the scaffolds that United House provided as a structure, and equipped Ridley’s with all the stuff that it needed.
Dismantling of the restaurant
Ridley was a temporary restaurant, so 3 weeks later that it was set up it was removed. In that way, the plot is nowadays not built, and in the future it would receive a restaurant, as the council ask to the owner.
Make neighbours and traders a piece of the project
Make neighbours and traders a piece of the project is something quite difficult. In addition, it had a huge risk because if those agents hadn’t wanted to participate the project would have been a completely failure.
Traders didn’t understand the benefits that the project would give them, so at first it was difficult to make them participative. They were essential for the food for food mechanism that used the vouchers system, so the designers spent much time with them to gain their trust. Finally, traders were more willing to help with the project, and when Ridley’s started they noticed that it was really improving their bad situation.
Change the behaviour of Dalston’s newcomers
The biggest challenge was trying to change the behaviour of some people who used to buy in supermarkets instead of the road market because they didn’t know the advantages over supermarkets, like the quality of the products or prices. Only with this challenge could be possible to turn the economic situation of the street market.
Start without money
At first the project was only an idea that didn’t have an economic support because there wasn’t a promoter behind it. In this situation is very difficult to get to do something, but with sponsorship that idea become into a reality.
Ridley’s didn’t have permission by the time it was being building because designers didn’t know they had to get it because of the structure. But when it was finished they get all the permissions and certificates that were necessary, because as a restaurant it needed licence to cooking, selling…
The administrative terms conditioned the project. For example, it was necessary to apply for a temporary event notice to sell goods and alcohol for a period of time, but you can only apply for three in a row and each for four days. That was the reason why Ridley’s was opened for 3 weeks and only for Wednesday to Saturday.
Supplying of water and electricity
The restaurant was built without electricity and water relying on the hospitality of others. Finally were the street cleaners who supplied water, and a shop next to Ridley’s which supplied electricity. This point was successful, but could have affected the whole project.
———–SUCCESS AND FAILURE——————————————————————
V – Ridley’s as a restaurant
Having started with no money, it ended up becoming an obligatory stop for people of Hackney. Around 750 people visited Ridley’s, which was fully booked for dinner fairly soon.
V – Improvement of the economic situation
Ridley’s was a breath of fresh air to the market economy, since it attracted many people of the area and encouraged them to visit the market with the food-for-food mechanism and vouchers.
V – New customers for the market
The restaurant attracted people who didn’t used to buy in the street market making them buying there also when it was removed. So somehow it created a street market culture in Dalston’s newcomers.
V – Better community environment
Ridley’s improved the community environment of the neighbourhood with its presence. Moreover, all different agents cooperated to make successful the project, since it was good for all of them.
V – The street market was better during Ridley’s
Before Ridley’s the street market wasn’t very attractive. Ridley Road market was like other usual street markets, there was nothing special that could attract other kind of people without a street market tradition. With Ridley’s it was different, because people visited the market while they were going to the restaurant.
X – Transcendence
The improvement of the market situation hasn’t lasted totally. It’s true that new people still come, but is important to continue working on the market with other projects. So, because of its temporality, all the benefits that Ridley’s brought to the market won’t last in the time so much.
Fortunately the council advised the owner of the plot to open a restaurant or a bar with the studio that she wants to build in the plot in the future. So before long a new business will be continuing Ridley’s legacy.
1. One important thing of this project is choosing the problem that we want solve, and its difficulty. In this case we have the gentrification process that is affecting the market situation. But the point was changing the behaviour of Dalston’s newcomers instead of changing the context. So what is important here is to know if one scale is affordable or not in order to spend all the efforts in the proper problem.
2. It is essential to study perfectly the context and all the points related with the project in order to do a good project. If we don’t do this, we will fail in simple things.
3. Street markets aren’t attracting a great part of the population who would be willing to try these products. The problem is that markets haven’t change in the last years and many people don’t feel attract to them. So, what they have to do is give that people something attractive that could make shopping more interesting.
4. The food-for-food or a similar mechanism is a very clever strategy to improve the economic situation of some area. That is because if you ask money in a bad situation for economy that makes people unwilling, but if you ask for something different people start trusting in you. In this way, you show that you don’t want money because you aren’t asking for money, so people could advise that you really want to help to them.
5. If you don’t have money to do a project what you need is sponsorship. In this case starting with £0 they made a completely project. So if you want to do something money is not determinant, there are other ways to be funding.
6. If you want to change the behavior of traders and show them that there are other options to improve their business they will be unwilling at first. It’s necessary that your idea start running to show them that you were right. When they would see your idea working they will support it and they will be more collaborative.
7. Using a temporal project you can change something in the reality, but it isn’t going to endure in the time forever. So if what you want is to boost an idea that could be a good way, but if you want to change some situation for the future you have to think in an improvement for a long term.