Residents claim wide range of 'classy' businesses are lifting village
ONE of Reigate and Banstead's most deprived villages is undergoing a "cultural revolution," according to businesses.
For years, parts of Merstham have been listed as among the most socially disadvantaged in the county.
But with a new gallery opening on the High Street next week, business owners are claiming Merstham no longer deserves its much maligned reputation, as there is now more than a touch of class in the village.
Artist and art coach Julie Bond, 48, of Quality Street in Merstham, is set to open RTGallery.
She told the Mirror: "People write off Merstham and it really isn't fair. Take this stretch of road here. Yes there is an off-licence and a pub, but there's also an antique shop and a music shop in the village too.
"I think there is a need for art and expression in Merstham. I've had four commissions for portraits – three are from Merstham, and not from people you think would go out and splash money, these are just ordinary residents.
"Art appeals to everybody. Class doesn't come into it. On this stretch we're trying to bring something a little different into Merstham. Perhaps it's the start of a cultural revolution."
The Merstham estate has been identified as one of the most disadvantaged parts of Reigate and Banstead, by the local council, and is one of four areas targeted for priority regeneration.
Caroline Pocock, of Station Road North, has lived in Merstham for 10 years and helps run the antique shop next door.
She told the Mirror: "With this row of shops and the gallery coming in, we're getting quite a little centre of culture.
"With the music shop, and the antique shop, it's exciting. People will start popping from one shop to another here – who knows where it might end?"
Neighbour Rachel Donaldson, 28, a musical instrument repairer at Newton Violins three doors down agreed.
She told the Mirror: "No area is one dimensional and people wrongly pigeon hole Merstham. With Quality Street at the end of this stretch of the High Street there's a lot of history here, especially with all the beautiful buildings."
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