Whether it's the current political climate or the actual climate, it sometimes seems like the newsreel is permanently stuck on doom and gloom. But London is full of community initiatives, social entrepreneurs, charity organisations and yes, even big corporations who are working hard to find solutions. We reckon they deserve attention too, so as an antidote to the barrage of bad news you might have heard this week, here are five stories that we hope will put a smile on your face or at least brighten your commute.
1. A pop-up bookshop celebrating women and people of colour opens
Female-fronted magazine gal-dem is launching a pop-up bookshop today (23 November) which aims "to bring some fresh authors to London's literary scene". The shop, called Becoming, will stock work written exclusively by women and non-binary people of colour and coincides with the publication of Michelle Obama’s new memoir of the same name. Writing in the Guardian, gal-dem co-founder Charlie Brinkhurst-Cuff said:
In 2016, The Bookseller found that fewer than 100 of the thousands of books published that year were by non-white British authors. Having access to books that reflect your experience is something that everyone deserves, and that can only happen sustainably if more women of colour, and non-binary people of colour, can have their works published and championed.
Despite, or perhaps in spite of, the dire stats, London's literary scene is looking pretty lit right now. This week also saw the opening of Second Shelf Books in Soho. Launched by former arts journalist and book dealer AN Devers, the shop champions rare, antiquarian and rediscovered work by female writers. Head along to discover new authors and diversify your bookshelves.
gal-dem's pop-up shop Becoming is at 10 Bury Place, London WC1A 2JL until 30 November.
Visit Second Shelf Books at 14 Smith's Court, Soho, London W1D 7DW.
2. Largest ever survey of London's trees carried out
They say the grass is greener on the other side. Well, now Londoners can see just how lush the capital is, thanks to this tree canopy cover map. Launched by Bread Board Labs in collaboration with the London Mayor, it's the largest survey of its kind and could help London on its way to becoming a National Park City. David Elliott, who heads up Trees for Cities, told Londonist:
London has its parks and green spaces, but there's potential for so much more to make the city greener, healthier and wilder. This new map makes it clear to Londoners where they can go to make the most our city trees, and where there's room for more.
Those green splodges equate to a canopy that stretches over 21% of the capital (or 127 sq miles, give or take a few misidentified reedbeds and football posts) and Sadiq Khan plans to extend this by 10%. In what is tree-mendous news for London's lungs, the map's data will be used to target the areas lacking foliage. Check out the map here.
3. Electric car charging could soon go wireless
Ever experienced range-anxiety? It's a term used by electric vehicle (EV) drivers to describe the fear of running out of battery before you reach a charge point. But EV drivers could soon be topping up on the go, thanks to a new wireless trial from car-sharing company Zipcar and EV tech firm FreeWire. As the BBC documentary Costing the Earth made clear, availability of charging points is one barrier to uptake (price is another). Jonathan Hampson, Zipcar UK general Manager, told Londonist: "The reason we're taking part in this trial is because we want to assess Freewire's mobile charging technology as a possible solution to charging our new fleet of 325 shared EVs in London.
"Our vision for London 2025 is of a city where zero-emission car sharing is the norm for Londoners, helping the city improve congestion and decrease pollution.
"But for now, our main challenge remains that London's charging network is still not widespread enough". Since launching in July, Zipcar's current vehicles have clocked up 150,000 zero-emission miles and the company hopes wireless charging will drive this number up.
4. This app is on a mission to save the British high street
Would you swap the ease and speed of an Amazon delivery for a trip to your local shop, if you could check the price and location of your desired item first? NearSt's success depends on you doing just that. It began life as an app, which shows shoppers what goods are available locally, but now all you have to do is Google an item and a shop's product will appear in the results alongside listings from the big online retailers. Already the tech is making waves among London's independent traders. Andy Barr, a manager at Belgravia Bookshop told Londonist:
Every week we’re having people coming in mentioning they found books in our shop through Google. It is actively driving buying customers into the shop, which is kind of what the shop exists for
Co-founder Nick Brackenbury says it's about "unlocking the value hidden away in high street shops" and it seems to be working. Shop footfall is up by an extra 500 people each month. This week, NearSt announced a partnership with Google that sees the app rolled out across the UK, with a particular focus on small independents. The announcement is a timely one; Just a Card Indie Week, encouraging purchases from emerging creatives, runs until 23 November and a #shopethicalinstead hashtag is doing the rounds on social media. With Christmas around the corner, planning a more sustainable shopping spree has never been easier.
5. Futuristic tube trains are coming to the Piccadilly line
In what is the holy grail of good news for anyone who's ever sweated it out on the blue line while jammed between a pram and a suitcase, the Piccadilly line is finally getting an upgrade. That's right, the 94 shiny new tube trains will feature wider doors, air conditioning, in-train information systems and walk through carriages. If successful, Siemens Mobility Ltd hopes to roll them out across the Bakerloo, Central and Waterloo & City lines.
Unfortunately, the trains aren't hitting the tracks until 2024, but if you think another six years of playing rush hour crush in the Capital is bad, think again. Figures on the top ten busiest metros were released this week and the London Underground doesn't even make the grade.
Read all about the Piccadilly Line's fancy, new trains here.
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