Marble Arch London BID (Business Improvement District) was established in 2016. It’s one of the smaller London BIDs, run by an agile, dedicated team which achieves a great deal to improve the operating environment of the local area with relatively few resources.
I was thrilled to be invited to work with them on kick starting marketing and placemaking activity that year, having worked with CEO Kay Buxton, on previous projects promoting Paddington.
Kay was keen to find creative ways to celebrate the history and culture of Marble Arch and Edgware Road, making a swift positive impression on the businesses that had recently voted the BID into existence, as well as the many people who live, work, visit and study in the local area.
A Taste of Marble Arch
There are well over 100 businesses selling food and drink in the BID area, from supermarkets to tiny cafes, artisan producers, diverse restaurants, traditional pubs and all sorts of food on the go options.
Edgware Road has long been famous in London for its Lebanese restaurants but the wider BID area – straddling both sides of Edgware Road, from Marble Arch to the Flyover – encompasses many more eating out options but was little known as a foodie destination. I was commissioned to project manage the production of an eating out guide to the area.
First up, we added an Eating Out Guide database to the BID website to host the details of every food and drink business. There was space for offers from the businesses as well as general information, images, opening hours, type of establishment and price range.
To create a printed guide, we had to be selective. I brought in food and drink expert and former colleague, Helen Graves, to help shortlist 50 establishments to feature in ‘A Taste of Marble Arch’ pocket-sized, pull-out map, eating out guide to the area.
Helen also helped us populate the database with informed and engaging copy and reviews. The job involved a lot of local leg work to engage with business owners, let them know about the project, verify information and get good photos. Selecting the 50 for the print version was intensive, trying to present a balanced mix of different types of establishment from across the BID area. Even working with an experienced designer, fitting the 50 around usable local maps with helpful, legible, copy checked information was another balancing act!
We were really pleased with the print version of A Taste of Marble Arch, the first of its kind, which was distributed to local hotel concierges, shops and offices to encourage people to explore and discover new places to eat and drink.
The Taste of Marble Arch is still in demand locally and updated editions are produced by the BID on a regular basis, reflecting the ever-changing eating out scene in London.
The Story of Marble Arch
Marble Arch is owned and looked after by English Heritage but before the BID came along, its story was little known. How did it end up there, what was it for?
Unable to find a definitive guide to the Marble Arch, we undertook to create one; an historically accurate, comprehensive yet accessible and lively guide to the iconic monument that could be of genuine use and interest to the local community.
I worked with my husband, Westminster Guide Peter Berthoud of Discovering London, to do the research, which required extensive reading from his personal London library as well as accessing specialist archives and liaising with other experts. Peter also tracked down the pieces of sculpture intended for Marble Arch now to be found at various sites around London.
We sourced wonderful imagery from the V&A, the Royal Collection, Courtauld Institute of Art and Historic England.
Working with Kay and a designer to produce an authoritative, easy to read, visual and engaging booklet which accurately presented the heritage of Marble Arch, was an iterative process. The resulting product was was a modern and accessible booklet, appealing to tourists and locals alike, with a foreword by English Heritage. It launched in November 2016 and was distributed to local hotels. It was gratifying a couple of years later when friends of ours picked up a copy in The Cumberland Hotel (now the Hard Rock Hotel London) and noted my husband’s name and mine in the credits!
A new edition was produced by the BID in 2019 with an additional section on the contemporary role the Arch plays as a beacon of free speech and prominent protest point. An online interactive version is available on the BID website.
The story can now be found on the walls of Marble Arch Tube subway tunnel in a new, permanent installation created by the BID in partnership with TfL, sharing the fascinating and surprising story of Marble Arch with millions more people. Another imaginative and enterprising project of the BID that leveraged its great relationships with key partners like Transport for London and English Heritage.
I loved creating a Culture Blog for Marble Arch London, unearthing all sorts of surprising stories from across the district – from Marble Arch to Connaught Village, Portman Village and up Edgware Road to the Flyover. We agreed that the blog should only include properly researched, authentic stories of people, businesses, public art and noteworthy events to be found in the BID area.
I created the blog and seeded stories to it in 2016-17, returning in 2019 on an interim basis. The Culture blog is a unique repository of stories relevant to the local community and stories are shared on social media and in monthly emails to BID members.
Among my favourite posts are:
The History of Marks & Spencer Edgware Road
Dancing Lessons in Connaught Square
The Cinematic History of Edgware Road
Where are all the souvenirs of Marble Arch?
Inside Edgware Road’s 1926 Signalling Cabin
With thanks to Kay Buxton and her team at Marble Arch London.