Support Roman Road LDN through the Covid crisis

Project Summary

Roman Road LDN is a 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. Due to the pandemic our normal revenue streams have dramatically decreased. Neighbours, friends, family and readers, please support our work so we can continue to provide our services to the Roman Road community for another year. You can donate in two ways: join our Patron Scheme to be part of the community ecosytem we are developing, or support us with a single donation.

The Problem – The death of our local high streets

Twenty years ago, Roman Road high street used to be 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 high street was turning into a sleeper town. Increasingly, people just lived here to sleep and travelled elsewhere to shop, to socialise, to go to the gym and to do everything else.

We gradually saw a decline in footfall and by 2010 a third of the shops on Roman Road were empty. Like so many high streets up and down the country, they were neglected and had fallen into disrepair, and with no new investment people just stopped considering local as an attractive option. In danger of disappearing altogether we started to think about how we can break this vicious cycle, and asked how can we change the mind set of locals, and can we get 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 and high street. At the time Tabitha, the driving force behind Roman Road LDN, worked in glossy magazines, using her online editorial skills to make women fall in love with the latest luxury handbag or lipstick, and 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 Roman Road LDN was born, an online magazine and social media community that celebrates everything that makes our local area so special. We 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 in to networks of fascinating people in our community, 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 our website and social media platforms: our Commissioning Editor, 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 (we pay our interns the Living Wage).

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.

Poster showing extended editorial team at Roman Road LDN

Your support – How will it help the community?

With your support, Roman Road LDN can continue to provide the Roman Road 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 your money will pay for?

We have steadily been growing our Patron scheme, allowing readers to donate on a monthly or annual basis. We are delighted that we currently receive a little over £700 a month in Patron donations. Thank you.

But sadly this is not enough to cover the costs of our ‘editorial team of two’ that costs £30,000 per year, which we normally top up by grant funding and community projects. Due to the pandemic, our normal revenue streams have either decreased or ceased altogether, but we want to continue to serve our community. With your help we can fund our ‘editorial team of two’ and continue our mission for another year.

Timeline – Behind the Scenes

Social Streets and Roman Road LDN team at Mulberry UTC

2018, FebruaryWe 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

The editorial team of Roman Road LDN, outside their shop on Roman Road in 2019

2019, JanuaryWe moved into an empty shop on Roman Road and opened our editorial office to share with the community as a drop-in workspace – did you see us there?

The traders at Watney Market who took part in our training programme

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, JuneAbbotts 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.

The traders we worked with to support London's first women-led market, Lady Lane Market

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.

The young people who took part in our Mad About Grime youth multimedia project

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 Eastside youth centre on Parnel Road.

Man in mask carrying toilet paper, scenes from lockdown

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, Patrons and Partners Manager, Siva our Commissioning Editor, and Tabitha our Founder and Director.

Future Plans – We’re here for the long haul

1. Building a Community Ecosystem

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 has prompted the mass change in the perception of ‘local’ and the importance of community participation that we at Roman Road LDN 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. Launching a Virtual High Street

To compliment our Patron Scheme, Roman Road LDN is also developing a Partner programme that will be dedicated to supporting local businesses and organisations within our area. Within the coming months we will be upgrading our listings and launching our new Virtual High Street. With this, Roman Road LDN will be a hub for our community, a place that everybody can visit to find out what’s going on in our area, from 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’. Our long-term goal is to expand our network of neighbourhood magazines and good community vibes throughout the borough. We want to open new magazine titles to support the communities around Bethnal Green, Whitechapel, Poplar and Canary Wharf. We’ve here for the long haul. Our founding director Tabitha Stapely left her career as a leading magazine editor to develop a sustainable model of community-led journalism and she won’t stop until she’s succeeded.

Our partners

Over the last three years we have built lasting and trusted relationships with the key guardians of the community in our area.


Paul Augarde, Coherent Cities
Paul Auguarde, Placemaking Strategist

“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.”

Stuart Cox
Stuart Cox, St Margaret’s House

“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”

Rupert Danreuther
Rupert Danreuther, Queen Mary University

“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. ”

Sarah Lonsdale, Senior Lecturer, City University Journalism MA

“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.”

Follower, @tombage

“This account is keeping me going in lockdown. Love the photos of our neighbourhood and the captions. Keep up the great work ??”

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Follower, David Norris

“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.”

Resident and Patron, Jane Dance

“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.”

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Resident and Patron, Julia Neuhold

“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.”

Thom Palser, Spotlight Youth Centre Manager

“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 London has become THE go to place to hear about what’s happening in the area, to discover new things on our door step and to connect with our neighbours on the issues that matter to us”

Fiona Crehan, Tower Hamlets Council

“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.”

Mike Mitchell, Roman Road Bow Neighbourhood Forum

“Roman Road LDN’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 RoRdLDN has come to our rescue through enabling us share the draft neighbourhood plan virtually, and obtain local feedback. This community magazine is a precious local resource that we need to support through hard times. ”

Kata Szabo, Citizen Journalist for Roman Road LDN
Citizen Journalist, Kata Szabo

’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

We know this is already a difficult time for many of us so we are incredibly grateful for any support you can offer.

Roman Road LDN team shot - We love you x