Roman Road LDN is a news and culture magazine and online community that uses journalism to strengthen communities. We share the best stories from the local area and work to connect people, raise cultural awareness, promote the local economy and, most importantly, increase community spirit. We are part of a movement campaigning for impact media where journalism delivers social impact.
The Social Issue – The darkening of our local communities
Twenty years ago, high streets were the hub of our community. Full of independent shops and family businesses, where friends, family and neighbours would socialise in the street. But with the growing popularity of online shopping, out-of-town shopping centres, and people travelling into the city centre for work, our bustling, self-sufficient neighbourhoods were turning into sleeper towns. Increasingly, people just lived here to sleep and travelled elsewhere to shop, to socialise, to go to the gym and to do everything else.
High streets saw a decline in footfall and life in local communities dried up. Our neighbourhoods become neglected and, with no new investment, people stopped considering ‘local’ as an attractive option. We saw how this was harming the wellbeing of people so we started to think about how we could break this vicious cycle. We asked ourselves how we could change the mindset of locals and encourage them to reconnect with what’s right on their own doorstep.
The Solution – To fall back in love with ‘local’
To revive our community spirit and the local economy, we needed to change people’s attitudes towards their local area and to get them to re-engage with their neighbourhood. At the time Tabitha Stapely, the driving force behind our local titles, worked in glossy magazines using her online editorial skills to make women fall in love with the latest luxury handbag or lipstick. In a moment of inspiration, she realised she could utilise those same skills to help a whole community fall in love with their neighbourhood again.
And so Social Streets C.I.C was born. It’s the not-for-profit news and media company that publishes Roman Road LDN and other local magazines in Tower Hamlets that celebrate everything that makes our local area so special. Our titles cover hidden East End histories, interviews with local heroes, inspiring art and cultural events, reviews of the best places to shop, eat and drink. We also promote the work of local charities and good causes as well as grassroots campaigns. We use community-led journalism to help people see the extraordinary things that are happening right on their doorstep, to tap into networks of fascinating people in our community, and to remind ourselves how living a more local life is better for our wellbeing.
The Impact – A happier and wealthier community
We know local journalism strengthens the community. Last year we carried out a survey on 200 of our readers to measure the social value of ‘local’ journalism on community spirit, wellbeing, cultural awareness and the local economy. The survey set out to provide qualitative as well as quantitative evidence of the impact on the community, which proved that what we were doing was working.
The Team – Our editorial community
We are working towards a new sustainable model of journalism, so we keep our HQ team as lean as possible. We just need two people to produce daily content for each neighbourhood website and its social media platforms: our Editor Assistant, a professionally trained journalist, and our paid Editorial Intern, usually a recent journalism graduate looking for a three-month stint of hands-on work experience.
Instead of a closed room of journalists controlling and deciding the news, we work in partnership with a wider network of local contributors who we train and mentor to become Citizen Journalists. Our Citizen Journalists have the opportunity to join our monthly Open Editorial Meetings to help develop and plan ideas. Many use our platforms as a way to promote local causes they care about.
This is how we think journalism should work. It takes more time and care, but like family, it’s what makes us stronger.
Your support – How will it help the community?
With your support, we can continue to provide our neighbourhood with a model of ‘responsible journalism’ that both strengthens the community and helps you get the most out of our neighbourhood.
1. To keep content accessible to all
Your contribution will help make sure we can keep our content free and accessible to all in our community rather than putting it behind a paywall.
2. To keep our local news unbiased and trustworthy
By being funded by our readers we can stay independent and report on the news that matters to you and our community rather than being beholden to corporate sponsors. This means that the only people setting our agenda is you, our readers.
3. To ensure our neighbourhood continues to be seen and heard
We publish news and features that are so local, no other publication would cover them. With your support we can make sure that our community is seen and heard – that our high street is supported, our culture and heritage is documented, and our events are promoted.
4. To make sure everyone benefits, including the marginalised
Community-led journalism takes time. We find our stories, campaigners and citizen journalists by pounding the pavements and building relationships with people in our community. Your contribution will provide the resources needed to give as many people a voice as possible including those that are marginalised.
5. To help us all feel more connected to where we live
Your contribution will help us make sure you continue to get the most out of your neighbourhood. We help connect you to each other and to discover the best of the area and see the extraordinary in the ordinary on your behalf, helping us live a more meaningful and rewarding local life.
The Financials – What will your donations pay for?
Your donations will be used to fund our editorial team of two. To run this publication and online community requires two full time staff – our Editorial Assistant and our Intern.
We have steadily been growing our membership scheme, allowing individuals and organisations to donate on a monthly or annual basis. We are delighted that we currently receive a little over £1000 a month in member donations. Thank you.
But this is not enough to cover the costs of our ‘editorial team of two’ that costs £50,000 per year. Our aim is to be 100% funded by our members so we are only accountable to our readers.
Read our Ownership and Funding Declaration.
Timeline – Behind the Scenes
2018, February – We launch! Our base is at Mulberry UTC who provided us with a free space in return for working with their students on digital content projects as part of a one-year agreement.
2019, January – We moved into an empty shop on Roman Road in Bow and opened our editorial office to share with the community as a drop-in workspace – did you see us there?
2019 May – Behind the scenes, we also work in the wider community providing training to those with low digital access including tiny local businesses. Here is Tabitha and Ioana with the traders we trained at Watney Market in Whitechapel.
2019, June – Abbotts Flooring built us an office in their curtain department! In exchange for rent we’ve been helping them with their online presence. That’s where we are to this day! Here are Siva and Grace.
2019, June – Another one of our projects was to build an online presence for Lady Lane Market, London’s first women-led street market, and to provide digital marketing training to the traders. Here’s BBC London filming the launch day.
2019, September – Part of our work is to nurture the next generation of journalism and to inspire local young people about digital and media industries. This is our ‘Mad About Grime’ youth project, in collaboration with Poplar’s Spotlight Youth Centres.
2020, April – When the pandemic hit, we launched our Covid19 Help Hub offering live news updates, information on which businesses were still open, advice on how to support others and tips to take care of ourselves.
2020, October – Celebrating 7,000 followers on Instagram. From left: Grace our intern; Natasha, Membership Manager, Siva our Commissioning Editor, and Tabitha our Founder and Director.
2021, November – The launch of The Slice Tower Hamlets, a print magazine featuring our content from Roman Road LDN as well as our sister titles, Bethnal Green LDN, Whitechapel LDN and Poplar LDN.
Future Plans – We’re here for the long haul
1. Developing deep networks within the community
We are building something totally new – a community ecosystem centred on the publication, where local residents, businesses, organisations and our editorial community can connect and support each other. This pandemic in 2020 prompted a mass change in the perception of ‘local’ and the importance of community participation that we at Social Streets C.I.C have been steadily working towards since we launched. We have always believed that all of us have a vital role to play in the success of our community and neighbourhood, and ultimately in our individual wellbeing and happiness.
2. Improving our member’s self-publishing platform
To complement our membership scheme, we are developing a Membership for Organisations that allows local businesses, organisations, faith centres, schools, charities place to create a profile page on our website and share their events, workshops and classes to independent shops and essential services, as well as local news and stories from our area.
3. Extending our reach borough wide
As they say, ‘there is strength in numbers’. We have a network of online neighbourhood magazines and good community vibes throughout the borough and we recently launched a print magazine for the borough as a whole, The Slice Tower Hamlets. Our founding director Tabitha Stapely left her career as a leading magazine editor to develop a sustainable model of community-led journalism that delivers social impact and she is passionate about continually improving the model and sharing learning with other independent publishers in the country.
Over the last three years, we have built lasting and trusted relationships with the key guardians of the community in our area.
“Roman Road LDN is the standard-bearer for how to build a platform for a community’s voice. It manages to gel the multitude of voices in its fast-changing neighbourhood, into a single, cohesive and authentic picture of a place and its community – with its heritage, its challenges, its diversity and its aspirations. Positive community activism and journalism at its best.”
“St Margaret’s House has really benefited from our collaboration with Roman Road LDN. We really wanted to connect locally with new audiences and we wanted to work with a digital organisation who were imaginative in their way of going about this. They are friendly, creative and fun to work with but also very strategic and professional. They have really added value to our project and helped increase our community engagement in Tower Hamlets”
“Roman Road LDN is the essential resource for the area. Nowhere else covers the incredible things happening in this part of London with such depth or style. We love working with Roman Road on successfully connecting our Queen Mary events to the local community. We would recommend wholeheartedly supporting Roman Road LDN to help platform the amazing things happening on Roman Road and its surrounding area. ”
“The caring and nurturing atmosphere at Roman Road LDN means that recent graduate journalists from City start their internship lacking in confidence but end their time there ready to take on the wider world of journalism, skilled up and confident in their abilities as writers, researchers, and content managers. It is a hugely impressive organisation and we are really lucky to have such a good relationship with the team at Roman Road LDN.”
“This account is keeping me going in lockdown. Love the photos of our neighbourhood and the captions. Keep up the great work 💪🏻”
“I now live in the States, but have never forgotten or will never lose my East End roots. So yes, I will gladly join your group, this from a fellow East Ender. Ta to all.”
“I love getting Roman Road LDN – thank you so much! Fascinating articles and such excellent journalism – one of the best things to arrive in my inbox each week! It’s one of my little luxuries, to settle down with a cup of tea and read it.”
“I’m a RomanRoadLDN patron. Community is particularly important now and I consider myself lucky that I am able to support organisations like this one. Highly recommend signing up to their newsletter.”
“As someone who grew up on Roman Road, I have seen the area progress whilst still retaining its character and charm. With so much change, it can be hard to understand where we have come from, what the future looks like, and how we can come together as a community to ensure we are all on the journey together. Roman Road LDN has become THE go-to place to hear about what’s happening in the area, to discover new things on our doorstep and to connect with our neighbours on the issues that matter to us”
“Social Streets provided amazing digital training for our Lady Lane Market project. This project involved recruiting women from across Tower Hamlets and City of London communities and offering social media training to enable them to start their own business and become market traders at the iconic Petticoat Lane Market. The digital training support was pivotal to the women growing their business and supporting our local high street and market presence.”
“Social Street’s news and articles on local businesses, housing and local campaigns have been a valuable source of information as we have developed the neighbourhood plan. During the pandemic they came to our rescue by enabling us to share the draft neighbourhood plan virtually, and obtain local feedback. This community magazine is a precious local resource. ”
’I have had the pleasure of interviewing people from different backgrounds for Roman Road LDN, representing diverse aims and ideologies. Every member of our community carries such great importance; like screws in machinery, no matter how small, everyone has a place. This has opened my eyes about how mutually beneficial it can be to promote the local area. For me, this magazine exudes teamwork and family, providing the opportunity to create together, where everyone has a voice.’
Thank you for your support
If you are able to support us in any way, thank you. We are grateful for your support and your confidence in our organisation. It’s our members that make everything possible.
Become a member
Everything we do is made possible by people like you, who contribute what they can – from as little as £3 a month – to build a new kind of community-centred journalism that delivers social impact to your neighbourhood.
Our individual members can ask us to cover stories and can share their views and opinions in our community news section.
Our organisational members can publish profile pages, events and news on our website and get 10% off advertising online and in our print magazine The Slice Tower Hamlets. Find further information on the benefits of Organisational Membership here.