New uses for old kiosks

The urban activist Jane Jacobs used to love old buildings because of their great suitability for economic re-use. But MV wonders if even she could  have anticpated the  refurb ideas that entrepreneurs are trying out in Bloomsbury’s abandoned telephone boxes.

According to this week’s CNJ a New York based firm called Bar Works has been given the go-ahead to open their first Pod Work office kiosk in the UK – in the phone booth opposite Senate House.

Bloomsbury seems to be the chosen test-bed for a range of these urban retrofit ideas of the British design icon – other recent schemes have been the salad bar in Bloomsbury Square and, more predictably, a proposed coffee stall in Russell Square, which has not been taken forward.


This latest is an entire “office pod”,  with a 25-inch screen that can be used with laptops or phones, wi-fi and a printer/scanner. The business owners claim it’s aimed at those looking for “affordable, convenient work space in attractive locations”.

Presumably you won’t have to keep feeding it with 20p pieces to save your work.




Shopfront of the Year 2016 – nominations sought

We’re seeking your nominations for the Marchmont Association ‘Most Improved Shop Front 2016’ award.

This is the award made each year to the shop we think has made the biggest difference to the street environment over the previous 12 months. Recent winners have included Pitted Olive, Vital Flowers, Fork deli and Balfour restaurant.

This year we want to open up the competition by asking our supporters to nominate shops you think have improved the most over the past year. Shops need to be in MA’s ‘Area of Benefit’ and must have carried out some improvement work over the last twelve months. Please send nominations to by 18th July.





Welcome to Leigh St

No sign our area is failing to attract people wanting to give their business ideas a shot, or that see it as a place to expand.

On Leigh St we have two new arrivals – estate agents Greater London Properties on the corner with Judd St, and Cast Iron Radiators – a Yorkshire based company that manufactures and restores radiators in Scarborough. The company says it’s chosen Leigh St as one of three planned central London showrooms, a place prospective customers can visit from all over the south east. Presumably it’s chosen our area for its public transport links. Let’s hope they’re not all driving in.



It’s great the area retains a vibrant mix of different commercial uses, though we can’t fail to note – two property related companies moving into Leigh St; a barbers and a stationers moving out, following the much-missed Povey’s hardware store.

Meanwhile – Cromer St sees the second branch  of Italian bar owner Giusseppe Maggioni’s Casa Tua cafe. The original on Royal College St has proved highly popular and the Cromer St site offers a bigger space for lunches and – in time – evening meals as well. An opening highlight is a photography exhibition by Mike Owen, including images from studio shoots featuring Tilda Swinton and Kate Moss. Exhibition starts April 18th.


North Sea Fish refurb

Leigh St has been on something of a winning streak in the Marchmont Association’s annualshopfront awards – the last two years have seen wins for ‘Vital Flowers’ and the ‘Pitted Olive’.

Staking an early claim to keep up that trend must be the North Sea Fish restaurant – where work has just completed on a stylish refurbishment. The false bay windows have gone, replaced by a smart modern look that also much more closely matches the first shop fronts from the early 19th Century design. Built between 1810 and 1830 these properties would have been residential with street-front ‘parlours’ originally. The conversion to the first retail use coming later in the century. The North Sea has been here since the early 80s.






Leigh St loss

Sad to see the closure of Milners barbers on Leigh St. Northern Soul shuffling and Crystal Palace fan, Paul Milner brought the business to our area in 2012 having been in Camden Town for many years. Big rent increases forcved him out of that location and the same has done the trouble here. Paul said “The reason I moved was a 40% increase in rent demand.” We wish him well and are glad he has found a new base at Giovanni’s on Upper St. We will see what type of business thinks it can afford the latest cost of doing business in Leigh St. The shop – owned by a lawyer in Australia the MA understands – has now been empty for three months.

Milner’s closure came to us alng with news that AJ stationers on the corner of Leigh and Judd is also to close up shop – but not the busnioess, which is instead looking for a new location.


…. or five pounds before 5pm. That’s the deal bering offered by the Bertha Doc House at the Curzon Bllomsbury.

The Bertha Doc House is a centre for the exclusive screening of documentary films – the only one of its kind in London and is a creation of the Bertha Fopundation, which spent thirteen years championing documentaries in the form of a year-round documentary film festival and now has its first permanent home on our doorstep. It aims to promote the very best independent, international documentary at all levels – in the cinema, online, via social networks and in collaboration with international broadcasters,develop new audiences; and to encourage further impact for the films we showcase andsupport and nurture new generations of independent documentary film makers.