Claire Barnett and Alex Williams moved to Woodberry Down in 2015 and fell in love with the area – so much so that they wanted to have a stake in something local, even if they weren’t sure exactly what that would be. They were on the bus one day when they passed an empty property that was available…
That property is now Evoke, a beautifully designed fitness studio that offers an array of exercise and wellbeing classes – yoga, boxing, dance, HIIT and barre – under one roof. Claire and Alex conducted extensive research with locals about what they wanted from a fitness studio, and with a sprung floor to minimise the impact on joints, small class sizes and carefully selected expert instructors, this is a studio with a conscience.
‘If you’re going to be able to run for the bus when you’re in your eighties,’ says Claire, ‘then you need to have a really strong grounding and proper guidance, which is why we offer small classes to make sure people are doing it safely.’
The classes are full of a mix of people, from locals before the development began to those who’ve moved in since, as well as many people from the nearby warehouse district and Stoke Newington. Bringing all these people together is a big part of the Evoke ethos. ‘Lots of our classes have a paired element in them,’ says Alex, ‘so it’s inevitable you end up meeting and talking to people. It’s not just the physiological element of exercise, you also get to connect with someone you didn’t know before the class.’
Claire and Alex agree that they wouldn’t have done this anywhere else. ‘Woodberry Down is this oasis that no one knows exists apart from the people who live here,’ says Alex. ‘It’s a village feel – and yet so close to the centre of London.’
‘The people on the community services are doers,’ adds Claire. ‘They just make it work. If you’re willing to put your hand up and say I want to do something great for the area, people will help you.’
When I notice that the studio fridge is well-stocked with Prosecco, Claire says, ‘Oh, that’s for our Beat and Bubbles dance class. People were hanging around and chatting anyway after the class, so we thought we’d make it more of an occasion.’
Proof, then, that fitness doesn’t have to be all work and no play if you do it the Evoke way.