So what exactly is Host of Leyton?

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An enterprising new multi-purpose venue has just opened in E10. We meet the couple behind it

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A prominent street corner. Photo: Host
A prominent street corner. Photo: Anthony Coleman
Last weekend saw the opening of Host of Leyton, a new retail, events and shared working space on High Road Leyton, next door to Leyton Midland Station.

James Pallister, a writer with a background in design journalism and an editorial business owner, and Nicola Read, an architect who combines teaching at London School of Architecture with running 8.15 Agency, are the creative couple behind the space which kicks off with a weekend Christmas shop repping multiple local suppliers and makers.

As you’d expect with an architect involved, Host of Leyton is a beautifully renovated space that wouldn’t look out of place on any of east London’s fanciest shopping streets. The exterior is painted a handsome dark grey, inside the walls are classic white, a simple fireplace provides a focal point and large windows flood the space with light.

Buy stylish things. Photo: Miranda Eason
Buy stylish things. Photo: Miranda Eason
Sunday was day two of the Christmas pop-up shop and the space was packed with customers picking up stylish Christmas presents and cards from the likes of Stengun Drawings by Leyton-based artist Caroline Barnard who specialises in bird and botanical designs; Petal And Pot selling actual botanicals; Newton & Pott, purveyors of chutneys, jams and preserves made from seasonal fruit and veg in Hackney; Blue Guy Pottery makers of covetable ceramics and Pressed and Folded for the coolest Christmas cards.

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With Despina of Pan selling homemade savoury pies and Perky Blenders providing the coffee it’s the perfect place to pick up not-your-average Christmas gifts and refuel before ticking off whatever’s next on your festive to do list.

After picking out a Secret Santa gift for my upcoming friend-mas night out, I caught up with James and Nicola to find out more.

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Caroline and
Nicola and James in-store, with child. Photo: Anthony Coleman

How long have you lived in the area?
“We moved to Leyton in 2014 into an old commercial building near Abbots Park. We were renting in Mile End and loved the spirit and the people of east London, but prices started going up aggressively so we looked further afield. A good friend, who lived in Leyton and sang the praises of Palmeira, spotted the place where we now live. We’re very grateful to her. We like Leyton, it’s well connected, it got a great high street and it’s close to some great open space – the marshes, the flats, the forest and, on our doorstep, Abbots Park.”

What’s the story behind the space?
“We have a slightly eccentric housing position, having taken on what was a commercial property. The long and the short of it is that we had a shop on our hands. It used to be a car parts shop, before that it was a furrier, and furniture shop before that. There’s a trend to change shops to residential, something we were loath to do, with the prominent corner position it felt like it needed to be a shop.”

But Host of Leyton isn’t solely a shop?
“The idea is that it’s a neutral but fantastic space, where we can host great things. As well as the weekend shop we will run a programme of workshops and evening events. For the growing gang of people who work freelance or from home we can provide nice facilities on their doorstep. Also we both needed a place to work and, having a small kid around, a place close to home is more attractive than, say, a studio in Bethnal Green or Hackney. Basically if you’ve a shop in need of a space, an event in need of a venue, or a laptop in need of a desk you should get in touch.”

Why run it as a multi-use venue?
“The shop has to stack up commercially. After mulling it over and trying out a few things we came up with the notion of a simple space that could be used in multiple ways. If you have a few ways of bringing money in, it’s less risky, you can be nimble and adapt to what works. It’s quite pragmatic really.”

Chairs. And lights. Photo: Host
Chairs. And lights. Photo: Anthony Coleman

You’ve launched with a Christmas pop-up shop.
“We’re keen to get people in and start having fun in the space. We have around 25 different suppliers involved, many of them local, but not exclusively. Come for grub, garlanding and gifts. And, license permitting, next week you can have grog too. With those in place you can’t fail to have a good time.”

How will the shared workspace element work?
“At the moment we’re starting to offer monthly desk membership for £140. We’ve plenty of locker space, fast wifi and it’s a lovely space to work in. But it’s probably not for people who need to be in the office 24/7 as we’re keen to get our events programme rolling most evenings.’

What kind of events can we expect?
“We’re looking forward to people coming to us with ideas for events. The price is competitive but will depend on the event. One of our most successful partnerships so far has been with Julia Georgallis of the Bread Companion who runs sourdough breadmaking workshops. She brings her portable woodfired oven, teaches bread and donut-making techniques, you have some food and go home with the loaves you’ve started. We’re also lining up some talks. We say it’s ‘a bit of zone 1 in zone 3’. We like the idea that you can access great things without the faff of going all the way into town.”

Find Host of Leyton at 658 High Road Leyton, E10 6JP. Host of Leyton’s Christmas pop-up shop is open 10th, 11th, 17th and 18th December from 9.30am. Keep an eye on the website here. Get in touch with James or Nicola at james@hostofleyton.com

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