Quality of life
above: Space and light in the South London Gallery. Right: May 1968, a centrepiece of Tate Modern’s Joan Miró retrospective in 2011. Opposite: Stunning architecture tranfsorms the learning environment, Michael Faraday School.
enormous success since opening in the Bankside Power Station in 2000. In 2011, it celebrated the success of its internationally acclaimed Miró exhibition, the first London retrospective of the artist’s work in 50 years. To help accommodate its five million visitors a year, the gallery is now being enlarged with 11 floors of new gallery space to be housed in a £200 million building by Herzog & de Meuron, opening in 2012. On a smaller scale, but no less vibrant, is the South London Gallery in Peckham Road, described by Adrian Searle, art critic of The Guardian as “one of the most elegant art spaces in London”. Dating back to 1891, the South London Gallery was the original launching pad for Tracey Emin and it has recently been extended with a new Matsudaira Wing, shortlisted for a New London building award in July 2011. Southwark’s location means many of its residents are just minutes away from the theatres and cinemas of London’s West End. But the borough itself has a much older theatrical heritage. The Rose Theatre on Bankside was home to Shakespeare and Marlowe’s plays in Elizabethan times and, following its partial excavation in 1989, now puts on events throughout the year. Just along 16 issue 8 winter 2011/12
from the Rose is the famous Globe Theatre, Sam Wanamaker’s dream reconstruction of an Elizabethan theatre which opened in 1997 and now draws visitors from all over the world to its Shakespeare productions. Then, in the south of the borough at Camberwell, is what its patron Joanna Lumley calls the “wonderful” Blue Elephant Theatre. In the past year this popular space, set up in 1999 by Antonio Ribeiro, has put on shows ranging from Japanese drumming to the world premiere of a play by Mervyn Peake. Essential to the quality of life in Southwark is its strong sense of individual neighbourhoods. From trendy Borough down to leafy Dulwich, each has its own character and attractions. Regeneration is also creating new areas such as Bermondsey Spa, where tree-lined streets will provide over 2,000 homes (with 40% of them affordable). Small-scale regeneration projects are bringing new life to previously run-down areas. For example, the Bellenden Renewal Area in Peckham has been transformed with its Antony Gormley street furniture, a nature garden managed by the London Wildlife Trust and the Shopwork gallery. Nearby, in Rye Lane, a former cricket bat factory is now a cultural hub with a gallery, cafe and
film studio, and an old bricked-up Victorian waiting room at Rye Lane Station is being turned into a new community venue. As for accommodation, Southwark has the highest level of local authority and social housing in London. The council owns over 39,000 rented and 13,000 leasehold dwellings; housing associations have more than 15,000 and only 56% of the borough’s residential properties are in the private sector (owned or rented), compared with the national level of 82%. Private homes sell for high prices (an average £373,000 in April 2011 according to the Land Registry), though this level is still relatively cheap by comparison, for example, with nearby Westminster (£636,700). The rising population means there is an urgent need for affordable housing in all parts of the borough. New developments will deliver at least 850 new affordable homes in both 2011/12 and 2012/13. Southwark Council is also taking significant strides to make all its own homes warm, dry and safe, by investing £326 million over the next five years. Fortunately for all these new residents, Southwark is seeing its largest schools renewal programme since Victorian times in a major Building Schools for the Future partnership between the council and Balfour Beatty. Over