Re-imagining the World One Mouthful at a Time . . . . .

The People’s Supermarket, London

25 November 2012

Volunteering at the People's Supermarket, Lamb's Conduit Street in Bloomsbury, London

Volunteering at the People's Supermarket, Lamb's Conduit Street in Bloomsbury, London

TPS Graham and Missie Cindz behind (on) the counter

TPS Graham and Missie Cindz behind (on) the counter

Labelling up TPS meal boxes. Roast tomatoes and emmental quiche own made by TPS Chef John

Labelling up TPS meal boxes. Roast tomatoes and emmental quiche own made by TPS Chef John


Earlier this week, I had the pleasure of working with Craig and the very enthusiastic team at The ‘People’s Supermarket’ (TPS) as a volunteer – helping any way I could in their daily going’s on. The People’s Supermarket on Lamb’s Conduit Street in Bloomsbury, London, is a food co-operative venture that’s been opened for over two years.

I stayed for the whole afternoon until 6.30pm. For me personally it was an enlightening experience. I can honestly say that from the moment I entered the store I found myself ‘connected’ by their surrounding and modest atmosphere. On approaching the Supermarket from the outside, you couldn’t miss the place on Lamb’s Conduit Street – featuring an idiosyncratic shop-front in their unmissable bright yellow and black corporate colours. The volunteers there were all very open and friendly too.

Inside the Supermarket was a medium-sized working kitchen producing food on the premises which includes meat and vegetarian meals, such as pasta bakes and Shepherd’s pie, quiche salads, fresh sandwiches, own-made puddings, plus more. However, I was quite surprised to see there wasn’t as much local produce from local suppliers on their Supermarket shelves (which I thought there would be more of), there was a lot of the usual stuff you’d generally be able to find in the ‘average’ supermarket, I suppose this is the stuff that gets customers into the Supermarket – creating footfall and brand awareness; but don’t get me wrong, there were plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables and baked loaves along with sweet pastries and cakes from the local bakery.

I arrived bearing Northern local treats, I hope they enjoyed them

I arrived bearing Northern local treats, I hope they enjoyed them


Why did you want to do this Missie Cindz? – I’m sure you’re all asking that

Being a supporter of Sheffield’s hard working independent businesses and producers community, and in my spare time, when I am not designing I’m always keen to collaborate with locals doing meaningful project with them. I wanted to see from a different perspective how others could/do make a difference to a business’ activity by volunteering and assisting without asking for (expecting) a monetary reward in return. I wanted to offer my skills in the Supermarket and meet their volunteers.

Prior my visit I had heard good things about the Supermarket. I follow their tweets so was aware of what they stood for and what they offered to customers (plus their sandwiches from ‘the sandwich man’ always looks awesome too). I was interested in the set up of the venture – a co-operative; and wanted to know more about what a Co-op business was and what it involved. I was curious to find out how a group of local people acting together would cope with the day-to-day running of the supermarket; to meet the common needs and aspirations of its members at the same time sharing ownership and making decisions democratically – does it work?

A supermarket owned and run by local people for the people

One things for sure I could see was that everybody was working together, they were cheerful and focused on making a success of the ‘People’s Supermarket’. There was a kind of ‘Make Do and Mend’ culture/ethos. It was actually very inspiring!
The concept of the ‘People’s Supermarket’ was simple; for an annual fee of £25.00 and a commitment to volunteer four hours per month in the supermarket (carrying out a range of on and off-floor activities), members will earn a discount on their shopping and a share and role in the management of the enterprise. My stay at the Supermarket was only short but I fulfilled my full four hours required as a volunteer for the month – to be honest, I would had stayed to do more hours too but my train back home was calling!

As I left the community Supermarket, I dropped off a collection of my favourite Sheffield food gifts for Dec and his volunteering friends (see photo above); I hope they enjoyed their Northern treats – I wonder who nabbed the Kelham Island beer? Volunteering is very rewarding. It made me feel good and that my services/skills really meant something. You should try it and make someone smile.

I wish Craig, Jo, Dec, Jackie, Paul, Graham, Michael, Jacob and every member of this project much success for the future. Good luck to you all – and if I can ever help again, just ask!

Would you be willing to spend four hours stacking shelves, doing spots on the tills and labelling up food boxes in a supermarket? Regularly? and for nothing? Well, it certainly makes a change from hanging out in Endcliffe Park Cafe, I suppose.

–Missie Cindz :)

The People’s Supermarket / 72-78 Lamb’s Conduit Street, Holborn, London WC1N 3LP / twitter: @TPSLondon
Opening Hours Mon-Fri 8am-10pm, Sat-Sun 10am-9pm

{ photos by Cindy Cheung as posted on Instagram }

Missie Cindz

posted under: Food and Drink