Last weekend the eagerly-anticipated annual Crouch End Festival returned. This well known North London event celebrates the creative spirit of the local community and is the UK’s biggest arts festival, run by a team of volunteers and funded by local business & those that live in the area. This year there are over 200 mini-events taking place across Crouch End’s finest establishments, showcasing everything from theatre and opera, clothes upcycling, sewing lessons, outdoor film screenings, cartoon and comic book selling, and, of course, a zombie walk through the town to finish things off nicely.

For the past couple of weeks there has been a real buzz about the place; every time I get off the bus I am greeted by locals offering leaflets, trying to entice me and the other busy commuters to open our eyes and hearts to the community that is right on our doorstep. These events provide the opportunity to get to know your neighbours, while supporting local talent, allowing us to discover a new dimension to the place we call our home. At times like this, when tragedies like Grenfell aren’t far from our thoughts or newspaper articles, it’s comforting to know that a strong community spirit is closer to home than we might have originally thought.

But let’s not be showing any kind of favouritism here! It’s not just Crouch End that celebrates the arts & champions the independents. London is brimming with undiscovered gems where you can find a bargain, learn a new skill and of course, possibly make some new friends who live down the road. Here’s the first half of my Top 10:

  • Greenwich Market – open every day from 10am – 5.30pm this indoor market houses over 120 stalls selling everything from jewellery to second-hand furniture, but on a Tuesday they dedicate more of the floor space to antiques. It’s the only market in the UK that is set inside an actual World Heritage site – not something you see everyday! There’s also loads of food stalls meaning this is somewhere you can while away your day.
  • Crafty Fox Market – held on the first Saturday of every month at (currently at) Mercato Metropolitano in Elephant & Castle, this market hosts over 30 traders and workshops, with a focus on UK handmade items & design talent. They host the market at different & interesting locations across London, and are on the move fairly regularly, so keep your eyes peeled to see if its coming to an area near you in the not too distant future!
  • Sunday UpMarket – the clue is in the name here, but this weekly market on Brick Lane has been running since 2004 and is home to over 140 creative traders selling and showcasing their art, design & music.  Situated in The Old Truman Brewery, there’s a real community buzz here, and the range of food stalls from around the world only adds to the authenticity and diversity that we know and love about London.
  • Columbia Road Flower Market – for Londoners in the know this is a weekend staple in Bethnal Green. Open Sundays 8am – 3pm(ish) come rain or shine, this street is transformed into an oasis of colour with every type of flower you could possibly imagine and some great deals to be had if you’re prepared to haggle.  There’s also around 60 independent shops with small art galleries, delis, bakeries and antique dealers, so it really is somewhere to satisfy the whole family.
  • E17 designers – this community group of artists & designers have set up events around the Waltham Forest area to showcase and sell their work. They are best known for their annual event, The Walthamstow Garden Party, which is a day filled with music, circus, dance, theatre & crafts to name but a few! The event attracts artists both local and international, and is a great day out for locals and wider community alike.

There’s plenty more where that came from – stay tuned for the rest of my Top 10 next week!