• A helping hand for Ballymore’s communities
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A helping hand for Ballymore’s communities

Creative and artisan businesses in new mixed use developments are looking to ways to support their communities as essential restrictions on movement continue through the coronavirus crisis. Across developer Ballymore’s London neighbourhoods small businesses are coming up with ways of helping residents and broader communities to continue to enjoy coffee, culture, fine food and fitness activity at home, while keeping their own businesses on track. And one business at its London City Island development, in Leamouth, has joined forces with the developer to offer a special Gift Box of grocery essentials free to NHS worker residents.

The Espresso Room Pantry at London City Island is a coffee shop that is now supplying groceries so that it can remain at the heart of its community. The pantry and Ballymore are collaborating to provide the Gift Box, which typically includes such staples as bread, vegetables and fruit, as well as a sweet treat. The box is being made available to NHS staff living at any Ballymore development free of charge, on email request – with a copy of NHS ID – to the pantry. Other residents at the development can buy the box from the pantry and this, as well as other groceries and a selection of healthy menu dishes, can all be delivered to the home to help those self isolating.

Residents of London City Island taking their daily outdoor exercise have a chance to see the latest art exhibition in the windows of the arebyte Gallery. But everyone can appreciate Best Effort Network, the first solo presentation in the capital by 1990s net art pioneer Olia Lialina, via arebyte on screen (AOS), the gallery’s digital channel. “Olia is one of the best known artists working online, using a browser as a canvas,” says Nimrod Vardi, founder and creative director of arebyte.

AOS launched just over a year ago, being a natural medium for an arts organisation whose mission is to support artists working in digital and emerging artforms. “It is the culmination of previous platforms, and an extension of our gallery,” explains Vardi. The platform’s traffic has soared as people look online for cultural experiences. “This is a great archive of the current state of digital art, and we have additional content, such as talks and panel discussions,” Rebecca Edwards, curator at arbyte Gallery says of AOS. As creative workers struggle to find outlets for their work, arebyte is continuing to provide an important platform, with upcoming activities including Powerplay, a virtual reality exhibition featuring works by digital artists in Africa. “We’re working to promote and curate good content,” adds Vardi.

At Embassy Gardens, in Nine Elms, cycling studio ‘static’ had been building up classes and events before the coronavirus outbreak. “We had special ride sessions on Christmas Day morning and New Year’s Eve and on our last day set up an outdoor class in the square,” says Ollie Chipp, managing director of static. “We’ve had a phenomenal response and built an incredible community for both members and pay as you go visitors of all ages and abilities.”

When the studio had to close its doors, it did some fast thinking and came up with an alternative to the conventional response of freezing memberships, which was to offer its Keiser M3i - Lite bikes on loan to members living at Embassy Gardens. The static team was soon delivering bikes to homes, where residents can keep on riding, motivated by a playlist created by static’s instructors. “It helps members stay in touch and it helps us as a start-up. We’re supporting the people who have supported us,” says Chipp. He is already looking ahead to the time when classes can resume. What’s planned for the relaunch? “A big party,” he says.

Embassy Gardens’ much loved coffee shop District is also looking to the future. Owner Chelsea Finch says, “We will be working hard to re-open with a bang and, in the meantime, keep customers updated with any exciting projects and how to get their hands on District coffee beans for all their home brewing pleasure on our Instagram, @districtcoffeeldn”.

Some stores here are continuing with care to serve the community. Top Embassy Gardens restaurant Darby’s has temporarily become a community store, open from 10am to 4pm. The store is offering high quality meats, deli delights, beer and wine, and gourmet meals for two, including its Dexter beef pie.

Neighbouring health, beauty and lifestyle store Linnaean may not be able to welcome visitors to its stores but its hair and beauty expertise is still on hand, through online consultations with skin therapists and hair stylists. Its skin therapists can carry out online assessments and advise on products, which can still be bought from Linnaean, thanks to its delivery service. The store’s hair stylists can advise on how to carry out colour treatments in the home. Both are being well received by customers, who can stay in touch with the store via its Instagram page, @linnaeanliving, and website.

The store is also collaborating with local personal trainer, Kasia Romanowicz, to offer the first six people to purchase a £250 gift card a free 30 minute training session. It’s just one example of how local businesses are coming together to help one another and their customers. “As an independent business we are extremely grateful for everyone’s support in this difficult time,” says Elena Tayleur, founder of Linnaean.

From all of us at Ballymore, our communities are ultimately made by the people who live in them and the small businesses that support them in so many ways. We thank our businesses for playing their part in helping to keep communities strong. We also thank the health services in the UK and in Ireland for all they are doing for us.

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