The 100 best shops in London â top ten best shops
Count down the top ten best shops in London with Time Out
Edited by Dan Jones and Katie Dailey, with contributions from Tessa Griffith, Alfred Tong and Kate Worthington. Explore the individual top fives of every contributor.
Rough Trade East
Old Truman Brewery, Dray Walk, London, E1 6QL
Bucking the trend for record shops to curl up and die in the face of the digital onslaught, Rough Trade surprised everyone by opening this massive music shop off Brick Lane. It’s now the best place in the capital to stock up on sounds – in the form of vinyl, CDs and live performances from new indie acts. Rough Trade founder Geoff Travis is a legend in independent music – he stocked his original Portobello shop with small labels when no one else did. Then, when he launched his own, Rough Trade Records, it was instrumental in starting the careers of The Smiths, The Strokes, and Belle and Sebastian.
In the early '80s Travis left the running of the original store in the more than capable hands of its current directors, and RTE owes its fresh approach to music retail to its this newer crew, Stephen Godfroy, Pete Donne and Nigel House. The pulling power of the store and the Rough Trade name means it secures cameo performances from audio leviathans like Radiohead, who are happy to prop up in the tiny stage area and play for the 300 or so fans who can squeeze between the record aisles. Gigs are always free; you just need a wristband and an eye on the programme. But aside from the music itself, Rough Trade is just a nice place to be, and purpose built to make people linger; there’s a coffee bar, a black and white photo booth, magazines, and always something going on. As well as musical performances, it’s not unusual to find a craft workshop, a film screening or a book-reading taking place in store. The diverse events programme means along with seeing bands live, you can often see them in conversation; 2011 saw a rare appearance from the hugely influential 1970s group Throbbing Gristle talking about their return after 30 years, a coup unlikely to have been secured by any other record store. A special place.
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