How it started

Well, my long time friend and occasional business partner, Hi Ching, heads up an arts company, River Cultures and got in touch to tell me about a new arts festival he was putting together, looking specifically at South East Asian arts and culture. What could I do to help?

Hi and I had worked together a few times before. First he cast me in a mad show that he had written and produced at the Albany Theatre, then we partnered up on various Chinese New Year Festivals at Canary Wharf, in the City and the Southbank, and setting up and running an organic teahouse in Oriental City.

Well – what about something to do with food, I said. Food is, of course, integral to any culture and SE Asian life pretty much revolves around where to get the next excellent meal. Hi knows I’ve always wanted to develop a food court or street food project, knows I’m mad on food, a bit OCD when it comes to organisation and project management – and thus the Five Foot Way street market was born.

So, the next step was to find a place to hold it. I was really keen to hold the market near my office as I had grown to know many of the businesses in the area, and spent my lunch hours walking around and exploring – mainly to find delicious lunch options. By coincidence, Hi had organised several events for the arts festival in the area, and there was a natural synchronicity in the way things were beginning to pan out.

I trawled the internet for venues in the area, pounded the pavements after work and during lunch looking for places that looked like they might be suitable and contacted the very helpful Hire Space in my quest for the perfect venue. Now, Southwark is up and coming, and there were a lot of possibilities but it doesn’t yet have the trendy appeal of Bermondsey or Shoreditch, so it wasn’t looking great.

After pondering the various options, I was thinking we’d have to look further afield which would have been alright I guess, as the arts festival is running Londonwide but it made me feel a bit sad, as I really wanted to put this small patch of London on the map. A bit of resident’s pride I guess. Then as luck would have it, I was picking up my lunch from one of my favourite local eateries, Bangkok Kitchen and they were advertising a new bar and nightclub venture of theirs, Star Anise. Oh – that looks good, I thought – it’s in a railway arch, has lots of room, is nearby, is available to rent for special events, won’t break my budget. The cogs in my head started ticking…

Had a quick Google and found their Facebook page and got in touch. Well, we arranged a meeting and met up with the gregarious and energetiic Farhan, and his talented business partner, Guitar, and the pieces just fell into place. But not in the way I imagined. It soon became clear that great though the space at Star Anise is, the courtyard which houses Bangkok Kitchen would be much better. It’s semi-open-air and semi-covered, so we’ll get the feel of an outdoors bustling market, and still be prepared for possible inclement October weather (although I’ve put in my order for brilliant weather early). I love the atmosphere at Bangkok Kitchen, it’s semi-secluded and when it’s busy there’s the pleasant hum of people just enjoying their food in a relaxed environment. It feels as close to a South East Asian street stall as I could wish. This blog post from She Simmers sums up how great it is there.

So there we have it, the first leg of this journey is done. Next, how to find the food?