The Baby Face Experiment – Retail Space Regeneration in London

31st August 2012

Babies of the Borough

Yesterday we spoke about the high-profile end of urban regeneration – with the new digital hub and 12,000 new homes being built on the former Olympic site in London’s East End. But what about the well-publicised plight of other retail environments such as the ones in South East London which were badly hit by looters in last year’s riots?

Here at Barber we are specialists at attracting shoppers with innovative retail window displays and eye catching branding. In south east London they have another problem – not just attracting shoppers but deterring vandals. We were very interested to see this new experiment called ‘Babies of the Borough’ in Greens End, Woolwich. Here the shutters of all the shops have been painted with graffiti-style portraits of local babies taken from photographs supplied by neighbourhood families.

When the shops close and the shutters come down, the idea is that local louts will think twice about damaging the shutter or breaking into the store if it is painted with an innocent, chubby-cheeked, smiling baby face. This premise is based on research which suggests that seeing a babies face evokes a caring response in humans – add to this the fact that the baby may be someone they know locally and they would also be damaging a terrific piece of artwork then perhaps it could work. The painted shutters have been in place for three weeks now and the firm sponsoring the experiment will be monitoring them to see whether the idea is successful and if so, i may be rolled out to other troubled retail environments

Local mobile phone shop owner, Zaffar Awan, who is participating in the retail experiment describes how he lost everything in the riots:

“We had another set of shutters. They were broken and almost everything was stolen from the shop…”

When Zaffar’s shop is closed the shutter comes down and everyone sees the face of local baby Max beaming at them from the front of the store.

“Most passers-by who see him smile back. I wish we could keep the shutters down and open the shop at the same time. That would be ideal.”


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