The Rise Of Pop-Up: Why East London?

Hannah Blacklock wonders why East London has become the second home of pop-up.


Los Angeles was the founding father of the pop-up phenomenon.

In America, they call it ‘flash retailing’, and it all started with a retailer opening up a temporary shop and selling limited edition products. As soon as they had sold out, the shop closed.

This business model has since been replicated, and adapted, across the globe and back in 2004 it reached the UK. Since then, the pop-up concept has become synonymous with London, and East London in particular.

East London is a hub of bustling crowds, inquisitive, forward-thinking people and fresh ideas.

Hence in the heart of the East – around Brick Lane, Shoredtich and Old Street – we find Box Park, The Old Truman Brewery and many other short-term rents. At present, within a few hundred yards of each other, you will find art exhibitions, food stalls, vintage shops and bars. All pop-ups. All offering something limited edition, niche and different.

The eclectic mix of East Londoners means that whatever your business venture, there will always an audience here. The blend of Canary Wharf suits, Hoxton hipsters and edgy entrepreneurs, all living in completely parallel worlds, but existing in the one and the same space, offers something distinctive and rarely found in one place.

Whether you’re appealing to the businessmen and women, the students, the genuine East End born-and-bred locals, or the creative bods that seem to congregate here – you have access to every type of person possible. East London is the perfect place to attract almost any demographic.

The people of East London support innovation, the unconventional and the unexpected. They want to be a part of something fresh and exciting.

The notion of something only being available for a short period, adds a sense of urgency, a necessity to visit, and the locals love it.

If we look at the wider picture, though, part of the reason there is such a thriving world of pop-up business in East London, is because the area is going through an historic process of gentrification.

Until fairly recently, East London was not seen as a particularly desirable place to live or work. Anything beyond an E3 postcode particularly, was seen by Westies as a bit of a no-man’s-land.

Now the East End is up-and-come: it’s got a new found lease of life and a lot of money is being invested in the area; and wherever there are empty shop spaces, cafes and bars which need filling, pop-ups have proved the perfect answer.

Companies such as Appear Here focus on finding and renting vacant space for pop-up ventures. It is so easy and accessible now, to locate and rent a space through companies like this, it’s not surprising how many people are exploiting the opportunity.

Even Transport For London are getting involved. They’ve collaborated with Appear Here and are renting out unused plots at Old Street tube station to pop-up businesses.

With costs low and the option to start renting space for as little as one day, there is little risk factor involved. Pop-up is the perfect way for young people to get their foot in the entrepreneurial door, and for big brands to get back to basics and interact with their customers on a personal level.

Jamal, 21, a Graphic Designer from Bethnal Green said: ‘Coming from East London is something I’m proud of, I couldn’t imagine living anywhere else. I’ve been looking at starting a pop-up, to sell my prints and stuff. I want to work hard. I want to succeed. I want the good things in life. But I need to get my name out there first, and it seems like a good starting point.’

With London-wide bodies like TFL backing the area’s initiative, it is easy to see why East London has become the heart of pop-up culture.