Benj Scrimgeour is behind new street food, shopping and art space Vinegar Yard in London Bridge. He was also the founder of Flat Iron Square, also in London Bridge, which he has now sold. He explains to Emma Lake how he curated the new space
You’ve recently opened Vinegar Yard, an eating, drinking, shopping and art space in London Bridge. How did the opening come about?
It was a space used by Network Rail when they were doing the Thameslink project. When they cleared off at the end of last year, the site became available for short-term rent. We’ve had a long relationship with Network Rail, so we ended up agreeing to lease it off them. We’re not quite sure how long we’ve got it for – probably until Christmas. We felt that the short-termness of it was half the attraction. It’s here today, gone tomorrow.
How did you approach the design?
We repurposed everything apart from the decking. The bars, the shipping containers, everything – even the festoon lights. We did Flat Iron Square, which is a very similar formula – a nice, comfortable, easy place for people to take time out.
You also have the Mutoid Waste Company [which makes artwork from scrap metal] on-site – how did that come about?
The Mutoid Waste Company has been going since the 1980s, and so have I. I said to Joe [Rush, founder], we’re going to do this site, we want to put something slightly alternative and arty in there – what about doing a Mutoid retrospective? He was up for it and he could do some of his own stuff. We’ve given him a workshop and the idea is that it’s a live workshop with his guys working there.
Where did the train carriage overlooking the site come from?
Joe came to me one day and said he could bid on a train from the Fast and Furious live show. The show had gone spectacularly bust so everything was up for auction. He had an idea to put oversized model ants all over the building, but then he said let’s put them over the train instead.
The food vendors include Baba G’s, Up In My Grill, Turnips and Sugo – how were they selected?
I’d like to say there’s a magic formula, but there isn’t. It’s the people we think will fit in and they must have a good reputation food-wise. They’re all very different.
Why did you decide to include a shopping element to Vinegar Yard?
At Flat Iron we ran a weekend market called Flea and that was great, but having this as a dedicated site for Flea makes life easier. We decided to offer some permanent pop-up shop units to some of the traders; they can then open during the week. It gives people the option to do a little browsing in the evenings.
There are a lot of street food markets popping up across London, is this a concern?
We’re all a little bit different. There are the guys that do Market Halls, there’s Street Feast, there’s Kerb, there’s us. We’ve all got a slightly different twist – the Market Halls are all very pukka and impressive; we’re slightly more relaxed.
Will you be opening in other locations?
If something comes our way, but we’re quite fussy. Location is really everything; if the location is right, you can do anything.