If you are looking for the best free self-guided tour of East London, this is my recommended route.
I recently worked with the British Council to guide a group mostly Hong Kongese around some of the best social enterprises in London. A great group NGO workers, academics, and social entrepreneurs.
This is the route and tour I gave them, and you can visit all of these places by yourself too.
Bromley By Bow
FoodCycle is a charity social enterprise that combines volunteers, surplus food and spare kitchen spaces to create tasty, nutritious meals for people at risk of food poverty and social isolation.
We stopped for a talk from Helena Chouchani to learn more about their growing number of FoodCycle Hubs across the UK, and franchising plans for expansion. Of course we stayed for a yummy lunch too!
Bikeworks runs a variety of community cycling programmes including employability for disadvantaged groups, all ability cycling, bicycle reuse and recycling, school cycle training and more. As a business it provides cycling services to consumers and organisations – so buy your next bike from here!
We were lucky to have a private tour from co-founder Jim Blakemore. He talked about the entrepreneurial journey, and how their social outcomes can continue to grow as the business grows.
Hackney Pirates is an enterprising and fun charity that works to develop the literacy, confidence and perseverance of young people in Hackney, so that they can achieve both in school and in the world beyond. And did I mention, their shop is an actual pirate ship?
Anthony Mensah gave us an enthusiastic tour of the ship, including secret passageways, ideas rooms and huge world under the sea. We loved seeing the work of the children displayed for sale in the shop, and all left feeling inspired to read more too!
FARM:shop is an urban farming hub, featuring urban agriculture experiments and a fresh food café. It’s also home to London’s first and largest aquaponics system. Follow the connections from fish tanks to lettuce rows. At the back, there is a hydroponic allotment, and a chicken coop!
We were surprised to find out that the system, once up and running, is quite easy to keep running. The farm, the animals, the plants and the café can all be run by a single person. That person is Andy Rasbery, and we were very happy that he could also spend time with us explaining the history of the shop and how all the systems work.
Stop by for a sandwich sometime. You won’t find fresher food in the city!