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Love Local

Anne Beamish, co-founder of Indie Cambridge, tells Velvet why she flies the flag for the independent scene

Cambridge seen from the tower of St. John's College
Cambridge seen from the tower of St. John's College

"In 2010, a think-tank voted Cambridge ‘number one clone town’. In its report Reimagining the High Street, The New Economics Foundation called the city I live in and love ‘a clone zone – with a bland and homogenous offering’. While possibly true in certain streets, you only need to look through the pages of this magazine to see what a huge variety of local, independent businesses and people there are in Cambridge and the surrounding towns and villages.

In 2012, I founded Independent Cambridge – to showcase and celebrate what was happening in the local scene. Initially this involved spending many, many hours out and about on my bike, noting down all the independent businesses that I discovered on my travels. And it was a lot and not just on the high street. There is an incredible number of small companies operating from offices above shops, artists and makers busily working away in studios and individuals working from home – and local coffee shops!

Along with creative director Steve Linford, we went on to publish three books celebrating the amazing diversity of the local scene. We carried out individual interviews and photoshoots to build up the story of the independent sector – and to shine the spotlight on the people behind the businesses. In pretty much every case, these people are also local residents. They send their children to local schools, they raise money for local charities, they contribute and care about the place where they live – they have a real stake in Cambridge rather than seeing it as a just a name to make a profit from remotely.

And this is the thing. Local independent businesses tend to work with each other. They collaborate with each other, they buy from each other and they recommend each other. They also employ local people and pay taxes! All this adds up to a massive contribution both culturally and commercially.

In fact, if every adult in Cambridge chose to spend just £5 per week in its independent shops, restaurants and cafes instead of online or with the big chains, it would be worth an extra £24 million per year to the city’s economy. That’s just a slice of cake and a coffee once a week, so it’s easily done!

Around 60p of each £1 spent locally goes back into the local economy compared with a measly 5p if you spend it online or out-of-town. It also means you are getting fresher food, better service, greater choice and the chance to talk to people who often have a great deal of expertise about what you are about to spend your hard-earned cash on.

Seven years on, Independent Cambridge - now Indie Cambridge - has grown into a membership organisation. We still do everything we can to promote the independent sector online and through our magazine The Indie, but now we also offer our members more opportunities for collaboration and skill-sharing through our membership card scheme and Indie Academy. This will hopefully help to strengthen their businesses and ensure their place in our city for a long time to come."

For more, visit independent-cambridge.co.uk

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