Owner of rescued grocery store ‘overwhelmed’ by celebrity support

The owner of an independent grocery store rescued by a charity fundraiser has said she is “completely overwhelmed” by backing from celebrities.

Hilary Waterfield, who runs Brixton Wholefoods in south London and set up the appeal, hailed the support received from Sir Mark Rylance, Eddie Izzard and Adjoa Andoh after Covid lockdowns and rent increases posed a threat to the shop’s survival.

The cause raised £30,000 in just one week after hitting its original £20,000 target in three days.

Ms Waterfield said a lot of the money will be used to build up stock and pay rent.

The 68-year-old said Sir Mark, who has been a customer since the 1980s, encouraged her to appeal to the public after she bumped into him outside the shop one evening.

“I was talking to him about how things were… and he just said ‘Get customers to invest in the business. I’ll help you. Everyone will help you’,” she told the PA news agency.

Sir Mark’s donation message included his thoughts on why the cause is so important to him.

“I feel my good fortune with health is partly due to Brixton Wholefoods,” the actor wrote.

“Even recycling plastic bags, I first encountered at Brixton Wholefoods… They have been teachers and leaders in my life.

“Brixton would lose a vital friend if we lost them.”

Sir Mark Rylance and Eddie Izzard (PA)
Sir Mark Rylance and Eddie Izzard both supported the fundraiser for Brixton Wholefoods (PA)

Ms Waterfield also praised comedian and actor Izzard, who shared the fundraiser on Twitter.

“I just always loved her and I love her spirit… It was just so kind and I’m so thankful,” the shop owner said.

She added that a £5,000 donation was made to the cause at the same time Izzard tweeted.

“You’re doing a little bit of detective work… £5,000 (was donated) around the same time she put it on her Twitter, so you can maybe think it was (her),” she said.

Sir Mark and Izzard are not the only stars to have advocated for the store’s preservation.

Ms Waterfield said Bridgerton actor and Brixton local Andoh was a big help in the store reaching its fundraising goal.

“I’ve got a friend who has her number and I asked her ‘Can you send her a link to the GoFundMe?’ and within 10 minutes she’d put £1,000 into it and tweeted (her) support,” she said.

Hilary Waterfield outside Brixton Wholefoods (Hilary Waterfield)
Hilary Waterfield has been at Brixton Wholefoods for 42 years (Hilary Waterfield/PA)

“I’m so thankful to whoever gave us the anonymous donations, and to everyone else as well.

“The most important step (now) is for people to start shopping in their local community.”

– To help the store’s fundraising appeal, go to https://www.gofundme.com/f/SaveBrixtonWholefoods