Issue 11 of The Lewisham Ledger

Page 1

In good taste


The Lewisham Ledger I S S U E 1 1 | F E B R U A RY/M A R C H 2 0 2 0

Eating and drinking in Crofton Park PA G E S 26 , 27

A juicy story

Meet the team behind Uncle C’s PAG E 3 0

Making movies Tianna Banton’s career in cinema PAGES 14, 15

Speaks volumes

The community bookshop that’s a true local gem PA G E 2 3


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Welcome to The Lewisham Ledger, a free newspaper for the borough. s regular readers of the Ledger will know, each issue of the paper features a special section that focuses on a different part of Lewisham, in addition to the usual boroughwide news and features. In this edition we shine a spotlight on Crofton Park, talking to some of the people and businesses that reside there. The section begins on page 13 with a letter to Lewisham penned by blogger and long-term resident Jane Martin, and continues on page 23 with a feature on Crofton Books, a look at the local food and drink scene and more. Elsewhere in the paper, we chat to talented Catford filmmaker Tianna Banton and catch up with DIY guru Mo Sumah from the Telegraph Hill Centre. There's also a piece on recently opened New Cross juice bar Uncle C's, and in the centre pages, a photo essay on local treasure trove Aladdin's Cave. We're now working on the April/May edition of the paper, which will be published in early April. If you have a story that you think could be of interest to our readers, please get in touch via And if you're a local business who would like to advertise with us, please drop us a line at the same address to find out how we can promote what you do – both in print and online – across south-east London, in this paper and our two sister titles, The Peckham Peculiar and The Dulwich Diverter. We hope you enjoy the issue!


Mark McGinlay and Kate White

The Lewisham Ledger

Catford campaigner Austen Jones and his wife Lyubov

Take me to the bridge, says Catford resident A Catford resident is calling on Lewisham Council to reinstate a footbridge that once linked east and west SE6, allowing people to cross over the railway line by Ladywell Fields and avoid walking or cycling on the polluted south circular. Austen Jones, volunteer chair of the Ravensbourne Park Gardens user group, said the bridge once connected Doggett Road to Catford greyhound stadium on the other side of the tracks. But the bridge was removed when Barratt London redeveloped the stadium site into the flats now known as Catford Green. The planning application at the time envisaged a new, more accessible footbridge and cycleway for all to use, closer to Catford Bridge Station. It is understood that the council was to build the new bridge with cash levied from Barratt as part of the Catford Green scheme. But when the council refused Barratt permission to build a 17-storey block on the site following widespread public opposition – and an eight-storey building was constructed instead – the resulting reduced levy meant the initial proposed bridge design was considered too costly.

Cover photograph Tianna Banton by Lima Charlie Editors Mark McGinlay, Kate White Creative directors Andy Keys, Marta Pérez Sainero Type designers Photographer Lima Charlie Features editor Emma Finamore Sub-editor Jack Aston


As a result the design was changed to incorporate stairs and lifts instead of ramps on either side of the railway line, a more affordable option but one that raised concerns over public safety and maintenance issues. Austen, whose campaign to build a new bridge is backed by the Friends of Ladywell Fields and Blythe Hill Fields, said: “It is now 2020. No bridge has materialised and nothing is mentioned in the public domain about what Lewisham Council is intending to do – either to build a new bridge or invest the money [from Barratt] elsewhere. “Without our replacement bridge the ongoing consequences are clear. Firstly, Catford’s proposed regeneration offers no hope of any east to west pedestrian cycleway Green Chain link in and out of Catford centre and residents and visitors have to breathe the fumes from the south circular as the only direct way in and out of Catford coming from Blythe Hill Fields, Ravensbourne Park Gardens and Ladywell Fields through to Mountsfield Park or vice versa. “Secondly, schoolchildren on both sides of the railway line attending either Holbeach Primary School or Prendergast Ladywell School continue to be left without a safe bridge crossing in an environmentally friendly link via Ladywell Fields. “Thirdly, every cyclist and pedestrian using Ladywell Fields is thwarted from enjoying easy access in and out of Catford centre.” Austen added: “Clearly the Catford centre regeneration process is considering access for pedestrians and cyclists and a reduction of pollution, as

Contributors Rosario Blue, Seamus Hasson, Ronnie Haydon, Jessica Kendrew, Jane Martin, Colin Richardson, Paul Stafford, Alice Troy-Donovan, Luke G Williams Marketing and social media Mark McGinlay

evidenced by the accepted proposals to move the south circular as it passes through Catford. However, there is a clear and natural limit to how far the regeneration process can proceed without enticing pedestrians and cyclists in and out of Catford town centre.” Austen also suggested that section 11 of the Green Chain walk, which connects Crystal Palace to Nunhead Cemetery, could be extended to Catford via green space at Duncombe Hill, Blythe Hill Fields, Ravensbourne Park Gardens, Ladywell Fields and then over to Catford town centre via the new bridge. TfL is responsible for the Green Chain walk through mayor of London funding. Barratt has so far provided the council with £424,000 of Section 106 contributions as part of its Catford Green development. On top of this, it has an agreement in place with the council to contribute an additional sum towards the new bridge, with the final amount yet to be decided. Stephen Thompson, managing director of Barratt East London, told The Lewisham Ledger: “We are working with the council to agree the Section 106 contribution for our development at Catford. “We are currently in the process of setting up a meeting with them to agree what the appropriate contribution should be, and expect to have this confirmed by the end of February. We look forward to working constructively with them on this.” A Lewisham Council spokesperson added: “We can confirm that a meeting has been arranged with Barratt to seek a resolution to this issue.”

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Literary festival launches

Tall tower is green-lit

The inaugural Deptford Literature Festival is set to take place on 14 March, showcasing local writers and artists, bringing the area’s rich literary heritage to life and looking to its future. Celebrating the diversity and creativity of south-east London through words, stories and performances, the day-long festival will feature talented writers, artists and organisations based in Deptford, Lewisham and south-east London. Funded by Arts Council England, it has been created by Deptford-based literature development organisation Spread the Word, who said that the festival has been designed with the local community at its heart. Many of the events on the programme have been sourced through an open call for festival activity, with everyone welcome and encouraged to come along. There will be 17 events on the day, of which 14 are free. One of the figures headlining the festival is local writer Jay Bernard, author of the Ted Hughes award-winning collection Surge, which responds to the New Cross fire. Jay will be taking part in an event at Deptford Lounge titled Writing the Past: Black Archives and Activism, which will host black poets, playwrights

A controversial housing scheme that was blocked by the GLA has been greenlit by the secretary of state for housing, communities and local government after the developer launched an appeal. The scheme, on the Conington Road Tesco car park just north of Lewisham Station, comprises 365 homes in three buildings of eight, 14 and 34 storeys. A fifth of the flats will be “affordable”. Despite fierce opposition, the scheme was approved by Lewisham Council in 2018, but the GLA then overturned the decision due to the lack of affordable homes. Developer Meyer Homes appealed and last month housing secretary Robert Jenrick MP approved the plans. He agreed with the planning inspector that the affordable housing is “the maximum, if not somewhat more, than what can be reasonably provided”, that the benefits of the scheme are “sufficient to outbalance” the “less than substantial harm” to heritage assets and that there would be “no harm” to views from parks. He also agreed that the effect on nearby homes would “not amount to unacceptable impacts” and that the scheme would “contribute positively to the character and appearance of the emerging Lewisham town centre”.

Playwright, poet and performer Inua Ellams is one of the names taking part in the festival

and activists from London whose work has consistently sought to give a voice to untold and lesser known histories. Elsewhere, Deptford resident and internationally renowned playwright, poet and performer Inua Ellams will host a special open-mic edition of his incredibly popular RAP (rhythm and poetry) party at the Albany. Poets and MCs are encouraged to come along and perform a piece inspired by a track on a Spotify playlist, featuring songs by artists such as Stormzy, Wiley, Lauryn Hill and Ms Dynamite. In another festival highlight, Deptford-based poet and visual artist Ella

Frears will guide the curious and intrepid on a walk through Deptford Creek to explore its stories and write poetry on their discoveries; while local writer Maria Thomas will invite visitors to pen tiny stories inspired by Deptford Market at a flash-fiction workshop. Meanwhile, Brixton-based children’s bookshop Round Table Books will host a series of free family activities at Deptford Lounge, with authors and illustrators including Dapo Adeola, Hannah Lee and Nigel Twumasi. For full details of these events and lots more, visit



F E B R U A RY/MA R CH 2020


Migration museum moves to Lewisham A museum exploring migration in the UK is opening its doors in a local shopping centre this month. The Migration Museum will stage a dynamic series of free exhibitions, events and education workshops in a unit in Lewisham Shopping Centre that was previously a branch of fashion giant H&M. Highlights from the 2020 programme will include Room to Breathe – an immersive exhibition inviting visitors on a journey through a series of rooms featuring hundreds of personal stories from new arrivals to Britain. Another exhibition will explore 400 years of emigration from Britain to coincide with the anniversary of the Mayflower’s voyage to north America; while a further display will see artist Angélica Dass document every human skin tone through portrait photographs. Events from stand-up comedy to art workshops, football tournaments and temporary displays exploring the impact of immigration on the spheres of sport and music will also be taking place. Sophie Henderson, director of the Migration Museum, said: “As a new museum, we’re constantly asking ourselves how we can make what we do more accessible, breaking down barriers and reaching wider audiences, which is why we’re so excited to be opening our new venue in the heart of a busy shopping centre in one of London’s most dynamic and diverse boroughs. “The Migration Museum in Lewisham will have something for everyone

The Migration Museum will offer a varied programme of exhibitions and events

– whether you live locally or further afield, identify as an immigrant or trace your family roots in Britain back many generations. After all, if you peel back the layers of anyone’s family history in Britain, you will find stories of movement and migration. “We will provide a space for exploration, discussion and reflection on highly

relevant themes that go to the heart of who we all are – as individuals, as communities and as a nation. Come and visit us, share your story and how it connects to the bigger picture.” Since 2013 the Migration Museum has been exploring the central role that migration has played in shaping who we are today. It has popped up at venues in-

cluding the Southbank Centre, the National Maritime Museum and City Hall and its move to Lewisham follows a twoand-a-half year residency in Lambeth. The museum will be based in Lewisham until October 2020 at least, with the possibility of a longer residency beyond that. Longer term, it continues to seek a permanent venue for a national Migration Museum for Britain. The museum’s Matthew Plowright added: “Migration is a pressing contemporary issue and is at the centre of polarised political debate about national identity and our relationship with Europe and the rest of the world. “But immigration is far from a modern phenomenon. There’s an underlying story of comings and goings from Britain stretching back many centuries. And this story goes to the heart of who we are today. “We think it is high time that this essential part of the national story is properly addressed in the UK too. Britain has thousands of museums, but none comprehensively focused on this important theme that connects us all. This is a clear gap in our cultural landscape. “Countries from Australia to the US, Brazil to Germany have popular, successful migration museums that provide spaces for exploration, discussion and reflection away from the anger and division often found in politics, the media and online.” The Migration Museum opens in unit 11, Lewisham Shopping Centre on 14 February


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Putting down roots More than 150 volunteers from across Lewisham took part in a community tree-planting day, braving the cold and rain to plant 450 native trees and 300 English bluebells in a Bellingham park. Woodland in Forster Memorial Park was replenished with new trees and plants, creating vital food and shelter for wildlife. The volunteers also planted a hedgerow on the boundary with busy

Volunteers planted hundreds of trees and bluebells

Whitefoot Lane to form a green screen against noise and pollution. “We had a great turnout,” said Alice Stell from the Friends of Forster Memorial Park (FOFMP), which led the event. “One guy brought photos of his granddad, who used to be a park keeper here. Dads and toddlers came to make a memory of planting their first tree. “We had local gardening group Nature’s Gym and also Good Gym, who run 5k and then do a social enterprise. We had some Beavers, so lots of kids. There was a really good mix of people. “The trees will be a good way of capturing carbon, particularly as we border quite a main road. Also, Forster Memorial Park has a lot of ancient oak woodland and beautiful tree cover. We want to make sure it’s around for as long as possible by replenishing it with new trees.”

Having a laugh A local resident who became a comedian by mistake – coming to terms with “quite a severe stutter” in the process – has told how his new Catford comedy night is going from strength to strength. Chris Douce, who lives in Hither Green, went along to what he thought was a comedy gig to support a friend. But due to a misunderstanding over email he found himself taking part in a comedy workshop instead. “Everyone was introducing themselves, saying ‘Hi, my name’s Steve, I run a night’; ‘My name’s Nina and I’m a clown’,” he said. “When it got to me I said, ‘Hi, my name’s Chris and I’ve come here by mistake because I thought my friend was here.’ “I never wanted to go to a comedy workshop, but I thought to myself, ‘Well I’m here now’, and it turned out to be very good. I started to do some gigs all over London and it gradually helped me to come to terms with how I spoke, making peace with it almost and not fighting against it anymore.” Chris, a university administrator and part-time student at the Open University, was soon mulling over launching a comedy night of his own – something he describes as a “rite of passage among comedians”. At the same time, he heard about new cinema and events space Catford Mews, which had just opened in SE6 – and when he approached them with his idea, they invited him to hold a pilot event. The night, which was MCed by Chris, was a huge success, with over 100 people turning up to see President Obonjo, Fatiha el-Ghorri, Tadiwa Mahlunge, Nena Edwards and others perform. The Catford Mews Comedy Club was born. The first official night took place in January, with an audience of 120, and a February event in aid of FoodCycle Lewisham was held earlier this month. More nights are planned for 5 March and 2 April, with the latter in aid of another local good cause that is set to be announced soon. Acts on these two nights will include Pete White, Jenan Younis, Junior Booker and Katie Pritchard in March and Ravi Holy, Sonia Aste, Trev Tokabi and Ian Lane in April. “I’ve got a broad ethos for the night, and that is to try to make it inclusive and diverse; a really good, fun night out that hopefully the people of Catford and Lewisham will enjoy,” Chris said. “I try to choose acts that are quite different, because difference is a good thing.”

Visitors can follow a nature trail around the park and there are nature walks for kids to seek out bugs and berries. FOFMP holds regular events like making bird-feeders under the park’s new outdoor gazebo, and is raising money to redo the children’s play area. It has also won a grant to install new bins and benches. Alice has lived near Forster Memorial Park her whole life. “It’s where I take my dog, it’s where I go for jogs,” she said. “It’s the park I’ve grown up in. Parks can be a significant part of your life, because often they’re your only access to a big bit of outside space. People use Forster Memorial Park to meet friends and keep fit. It’s such a hub for lots of people. “It’s so important for mental health as well. So often you’re surrounded by busy roads and loud traffic, but Forster Memorial Park offers complete escapism.”

Space for all A new community centre, exhibition space, historical archive, cafe, flexible church and office area – with affordable social housing for young people aged 18 to 35 above – will be built in Deptford if plans get a green light. The Deptford Ragged Trust is hoping to replace the Shaftesbury Christian Centre on Frankham Street with a sixstorey building after it acquired the land the property sits on last December. A planning application was expected to be submitted as this issue went to press. “The current building was built after the war as a sort of prefab and was never intended to have this kind of lifespan,” said Tim Fallon, chief executive of local charity the 999 Club and member of the Bear Church, which is part of the trust. “The plan is to demolish the building and replace it with a modern, purposebuilt community centre, with space for

The building will offer community space for everyone to use

Catford Mews Comedy Club founder and Hither Green resident Chris Douce


everyone to use and 23 flats above for young people who are in housing need.” The trust dates back to 1844 when eight men and women opened one of London’s first ragged schools above a cowshed on Deptford High Street. Part of the new building will host an archive of artefacts connected to the school. The flats above are intended for longterm use, said Tim. “We can’t solve the housing crisis in one scheme, but it’s our contribution to say we recognise that there’s a real problem around housing in Deptford. There’s a lot of change happening here, there’s a lot of property going up, but a lot of it is very expensive. “We’re passionate about developing affordable housing that won’t just be more of the same. We want it to be possible for young people to stay in Lewisham and not have to move out because it’s becoming too expensive.”

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Have your say on boundary shake-up

Return of a smash hit SmashFest is back for the fifth year during February half term – and this time the theme is “space plague”. The free festival is on a mission to increase participation and diversity in STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) subjects through the arts. New Cross Gate residents Dr Lindsay Keith, her husband Wyn Griffiths and friend Sally Spurring are the trio behind the Deptford-based event. “One of the motivators for us was a study that found that quite a lot of young BME people – particularly of black Caribbean heritage – felt science was not for them, it was something that other people do,” said Lindsay, a scientist, former TV producer and research fellow at Greenwich university. “So our motto was, ‘It is for you.’” Fusing Lindsay’s science background, Wyn’s design skills and Sally’s experience in radio, they agreed on a few key festival tenets. “It had to be entertainment-led, so no boring talks or lectures,” said Lindsay. “It also had to be free and properly hyperlocal. We also wanted a strong story to link all of the activities. We decided on a disaster narrative, because who doesn’t like a disaster film?” The festival merges art installations, experiments, theatre, games, variety shows, comedy and music, all related to the theme. This year a special immersive performance – where visitors will help scientists save the planet from impending disaster – will feature alongside the regular drop-in activities. “In the first year an asteroid was going to hit Deptford and we had five days to figure out how to save the world,” said Lindsay. “The second year was a solar storm, the third year was a super volcano, and the last one we did was a flood. Now we’re back with space plague.”

SmashFest inspires its young visitors to see themselves as the scientists, engineers, artists and communicators of tomorrow

Hither Green and New Cross Gate look set to become new council wards in their own right under a proposed shake-up of electoral boundaries – but Whitefoot ward could be wiped off the map. The Local Government Boundary Commission for England is currently consulting on the changes, with any new boundaries set to come into force at the local elections in May 2022. The new Hither Green ward will be carved out of Lewisham Central, Catford South and Whitefoot wards, while New Cross ward will be split in half to form the new ward of New Cross Gate. Of Lewisham’s 19 wards, 16 are proposed to have three councillors, while the rest – New Cross Gate, Lewisham Central and Bellingham – will have two councillors. Councillor Jonathan Slater of Whitefoot ward said: “We are very proud to represent Whitefoot ward residents, however we do acknowledge that residents, as was evidenced in the most recent Lewisham Characterisation Study, have a stronger affinity to the areas of Hither Green, Catford and Downham.” But he added: “We support the principles that all wards should be represented by three councillors.” Andrew Pick from the Hither Green Community Association welcomed the prospect of Hither Green becoming a new ward. “The general feeling is that it’s a good thing,” he said. “We’re going to benefit from potentially having three councillors, so that can only be an advantage.” The public consultation continues until 2 March, with final recommendations published on 30 June. To have your say, visit all-reviews/greater-london/greaterlondon/lewisham

Take part in daily activities at Deptford Lounge from 17-21 February, and book a free immersive adventure on 20-21 February via

Catford masterplan edges closer A draft masterplan to revitalise Catford town centre is expected to be presented to Lewisham’s mayor and cabinet in early June. Architects were appointed in summer 2018 and have been drawing up a plan for a redesigned street layout, new buildings and more than 300 new homes. The council has also been working with TfL on plans to reroute the south circular. If the draft plan is endorsed by mayor Damien Egan and cabinet, public consultation on the proposals will take place throughout the summer, with a final version set to go back to the mayor in autumn or early winter. “It all begins with the road – realigning the A205 [south circular] to the south of Laurence House to form a single junction with Sangley Road,” Sarah Walsh, Lewisham Council’s senior programme manager for regeneration and urban design, told the Ledger on a recent tour of Catford town centre. “The indicative position of the road is what’s reflected in the masterplan but it takes many months of network modelling – especially with the amount of cycle facilities we want to introduce –

investigating bus movement and new pedestrian crossings. That has been progressing.” Once the road is moved, the redundant space between Laurence House and Lewisham Town Hall will become a “pedestrianised, landscaped, internal street”, with cafes, shops, civic and library space and new homes. Speaking of current business opportunities, Deborah Efemini of Team Catford, which is about to reopen its Catford Cornucopia shop on Winslade Way, said: “As the masterplan emerges there are opportunities for meanwhile use. “The types of business that we [Lewisham Council] are looking for are from within the borough and looking to expand. It’s businesses that might be in an arch somewhere, so the roasteries, the microbreweries. It’s those types of businesses that we want to go out to and say, ‘Look, if you want to grow your business, this is somewhere you can do it.’” Planning and licensing permission has now been granted to Mickey Smith, founder of the CLF Art Cafe at the Bussey Building in Peckham, to turn former working men’s club the Brookdale into a music, arts and cultural venue.

Plans to redevelop The Black Cat pub were refused last month

Next door, The Black Cat pub was saved from redevelopment in January when the council refused an application for change of use to “flexible” options including retail, restaurant and drinking, as well as alterations to the pub frontage. Planners said the proposal could lead to the permanent loss of a pub on the site. Around the corner, Camberwell architect Tsuruta is reworking 17-18 Catford Broadway into two commercial units with five flats above. Windows to the side will look out onto the old lane that runs adjacent. Sarah said: “Historically a lane connected the Victorian hinterland and the aspiration in terms of the masterplan is to reinstate that.” Viewings for the two units will begin in March and the building will be finished in June. Meanwhile surveys are continuing at the Catford Constitutional Club, which the council closed last year due to safety issues with the structure. Originally a farmhouse, it is one of the area’s oldest and most cherished buildings. The aim is to “retain the building as much as possible as it is, not to knock it down and build something else”. Deborah said: “The council are committed to getting another pub operator – it will be a pub.”

10 N EWS

Clubbing together The number of youth clubs in London has nearly halved since 2011, according to a report last year – but one corner of Lewisham is bucking the trend thanks to a small group of dedicated volunteers. When Grove Park Youth Club closed its doors in 2013, local resident Rob Clayton was determined not to see another public asset sold off to developers at the expense of his community. Following a tireless campaign to save the club, Lewisham Council gave Rob and his team a chance to formulate a sustainable plan for its future and after years of hard graft, it is now tantalisingly close to reopening. With the help of volunteers from Willmott Dixon, the building has been rewired, the parquet flooring repaired, the windows fixed, a new kitchen installed and walls painted. Bellinghambased Phoenix Community Housing has come on board to help reopen the club and to run it and last year, housing association L&Q pledged £50,000 that will go towards the final key repairs, including fixing a leaking roof and skylight and the broken-down heating system. The club is now shortlisted for local listing and the project has the full backing of the council, mayor Damien Egan and local MP Janet Daby, who is one of its patrons. Nevertheless, it seems that not everyone got the memo. A private planning application submitted last November to build a six-storey block of flats next door to the club alludes to potential future development

A group of volunteers who helped clean up Grove Park Youth Club stand outside the building

locally, including a “possible five-storey building” on the youth club site. “We’re hopeful the building will be locally listed, but equally there’s still talk of it being demolished, so we’re concerned about that,” said Rob. “It’s upsetting for everybody who has worked so hard to save it.” However, he added: “After a five-year community campaign we are optimistic and very hopeful that the youth club will reopen this year.”

Let's fill Lewisham with murals

Against the bleak backdrop of widespread youth club closures, Rob and his team’s achievements and vision seem all the more remarkable. “I believed there was a way forward, a novel way, and maybe a unique way, that with some energy we could bring people together and find a solution,” said Rob. “The stakeholders, Lewisham Council, the mayor and our local MP fully support us and we’re very grateful for that.”

Going underground A copy of The Lewisham Ledger was among the items buried in a time capsule as mayor Damien Egan signed the lease on a plot of land in Ladywell that will be used to build London’s largest community-led affordable self-build housing project. Community land trust the Rural Urban Synthesis Society (RUSS) is behind the pioneering project, with volunteers hoping to start building 33 affordable homes on the one-acre Church Grove site later this year. In addition to the December 2019/ January 2020 issue of the Ledger, which included a feature on the project, the

time capsule contains photos of the volunteers who built the new community hub on the site and a book about Lewisham’s self-build history. A list of groceries and other items with their current costs, a copy of hit novel Queenie by local author Candice Carty-Williams and a letter to Lewisham residents of the future were also buried. A plaque will be inserted above the capsule stating that it is not to be opened until 2120. RUSS chair Anurag Verma said it had been a “long haul” getting the project to this stage, adding: “The signing of the lease on the land is an important hurdle for us to clear.”

Some of the items buried in the time capsule, which will be opened in 2120

Hear SoundSpark and others perform in Telegraph Hill

Free concerts for kids

A musician and educator is putting on a series of free concerts for children up to eight years old with special educational needs and disability and their families. Clarinettist Gennie Joy, who lives in Lewisham town centre, works with children with special needs in schools and music groups. “When these kind of events do happen they’re often in the centre of town, but I wanted people who live locally to be able to access them on their doorstep,” said Gennie, who has performed at venues including Wigmore Hall. Gennie’s woodwind quartet SoundSpark and a host of other professional musicians will be performing, with the relaxed concerts ranging from classical music to themes from the movies. She added: “It will be a great opportunity for kids to experience live musicmaking and for families to meet each other and build connections locally.” The Listen up Lewisham concerts are on 29 February, 21 March, 18 April and 23 May at St Catherine’s Hatcham, Pepys Road. Book your free tickets via

The local artist behind some of Lewisham’s best-known public artworks is hoping to inspire the next generation of artists by launching the Lewisham School of Muralism – but he needs to crowdfund £64,000 to make it happen. Artmongers founder Patricio Forrester’s striking murals include Brockley Key, Round about Now, which brightened up a drab wall on a busy road next to Lewisham Station, and His ’n’ Hers – the giant necklace and tie on the side of a building in Deptford. If he hits his crowdfunding target, Lewisham will become the first London borough with its own dedicated school of muralism. “Because I’ve done a lot of murals in the area, young artists from Lewisham started to get in touch with me, asking about permissions and all sorts of practical questions,” Patricio said. “One guy wanted to make a mural about knife crime. I wanted to help him but I couldn’t, because I don’t have the structures in place. It made me realise that I needed to set up a scheme to support him and all the other young people who want to do things but they haven’t got the contacts, they don’t know what process to follow or they’ve got an idea but it needs development.” Patricio is asking local people to back the crowdfunding campaign with a pledge of £2 upwards. Almost 150 people have donated so far and if that number reaches 300, the project could attract mayor of London funding. If the crowdfunder is successful the school will launch in September, with classes at Goldsmiths for three groups of 12 students. They will create six new murals across the borough in 2021, with local walls earmarked including Lewisham Hospital’s maternity ward and another at Lewisham Shopping Centre. “The Lewisham School of Muralism will concentrate all the knowledge I’ve developed, from the practical side to the participatory process,” Patricio said. “When you create a mural you’ve got to think about what people want, what the space needs and what will be an artwork with integrity. “It’s a complex process when you ask the community what they would like. You have to shift the conversation and engage in a creative spin so that you’re interested in it, they’re interested in it, they didn’t know they were interested in it until you started doing it, and then bang – there’s something new.” The crowdfunding campaign is open until 25 May. To pledge, visit

The Lewisham School of Muralism needs as many pledges as possible

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Supporting health and wellbeing for you, for your family – for life




F E B R U A RY/MA R CH 2020

y husband and I moved to Crofton Park over 31 years ago. We didn’t know anyone in the area but having already lived in Sydenham, we ideally wanted to stay in south-east London – and most importantly it was cheap. We asked very little about things like school catchments, as it wasn’t on our minds. Luckily we found a place near Stillness, a good primary school, as two years later our daughter Alex arrived. In 1988 the demographics were very different. Many of our neighbours were elderly and we were the newbies. Our street is now typical of the area, filled with lots of young couples, often starting families, establishing themselves here and helping to make a strong community. The high street three decades ago was so different. There was nowhere for a decent drink in the evening or a nice coffee during the day. The imposing Brockley Jack pub was there of course, but it wasn’t the place it is now. The only other drinking establishment on the high street was a very uninviting private members’ club called the Alpha. For me, the seismic change came when Graham Lawrence opened Mr Lawrence’s wine bar in October 1992. It was the most exciting thing that had ever happened to Crofton Park and 28 years ago, a game-changer. It was unsurprisingly an immediate hit. In those days people smoked inside bars but I didn’t mind that my clothes and indeed skin would reek of tobacco – it was worth the buzz and excitement of getting a babysitter and visiting my local wine bar, only five minutes from my house. The food offerings were great, the sharing basket being a firm local favourite. The Brockley Jack was taken over by Greene King with an extensive openplan refurbishment about 20 years ago. It became that affordable, family, community pub that many people were looking for. We were regulars – meeting other families there for food and a chat. We also started to go to the theatre there – more on that later. The Alpha club closed and following a refurbishment Antic opened it up as Jam Circus in 2005. Richard Salthouse, who now co-owns Salthouse Bottles, No10 Coulgate and Joyce in Brockley was one of the early managers and his vision and enthusiasm had an immediate impact. The first five years of Jam Circus were exciting, giving us three very different but excellent choices of places to drink and socialise in Crofton Park. A significant memory was “snow day” in early 2009 when so many families retreated to the bar after sledging on Hilly Fields or Blythe Hill for hot chocolate or something stronger. The sense of community was amazing. The London Beer Dispensary opened in May 2014. It was billed as “the bar without a bar”, serving craft beer from the local brewery, Southey in Penge. On the food side, Pat-a-cakes led the way, opening a popular cafe with good coffee and delicious homemade cakes, immediately improving the Rivoli parade that had seen a number of neglected shop units. Stacie, the owner, had bundles of energy and ideas. Being regulars at her cafe we came up with the idea

Jane Martin moved to Crofton Park 31 years ago and writes a popular local blog about life in the area


Crofton park of Croftfest and later Croftmas, to help promote the area. Many of these festival days have since taken place, proving to be great family events involving lots of local businesses, the library, Beecroft Garden school and St Hilda’s church. Pat-a-cakes sadly closed in November 2011 after four years and in May 2012 the popular Fred’s opened in the same location. Arlo & Moe was another notable cafe addition, opening in September 2013 on the site of the former George barbers. The original sign is wrapped around the counter in the cafe. This is one of my favourite cafes in the area and the homemade food is all of exceptional quality. The daily soups are always delicious and Mondays are my regular day to pop in and watch the world go by from the window seat. Other businesses I particularly love in Crofton Park include Jones of Brockley, which has the best cheese selection. The Malaysian Deli is understandably very popular. I have


As part of this issue's Crofton Park special, blogger and long-term resident Jane Martin looks at how the high street has changed and shares some of her favourite local haunts


bought many a lovely dress from Paraphernalia, which has been on the parade for 22 years. Gently is a great homeware and gift shop and the Crofton Park opticians are excellent. I must also mention community supermarket Jay’s Budgens, which is a local institution. Everyone pops in and has a chat with Jay, Patrick or the other friendly staff. Beside the main high street there is another row of shops on Ewhurst Road. These are special to me, being at the bottom of my street. We are very lucky to have an excellent butchers, The Proud Sow, and dress designers The Workshop. You are guaranteed a good chat with Josh and George or Donna and Lucy. As well as our fantastic businesses we have two unique gems in Crofton Park. The first is the Brockley Jack theatre, which has entertained audiences for more than 20 years. The standard and quality of shows performed there is outstanding. The second is the Rivoli Ballroom. You would never guess from the exterior that there is a sumptuous ballroom inside. It is just beautiful and has featured in many films, TV shows and music videos. I have been to many local parties there, including my own last September to celebrate turning 60. It holds a special place in my heart. Another landmark building along the high street is our community library, which also houses secondhand bookshop Crofton Books and a cafe. It has become a real community hub, hosting many events and activities and is a great local asset. The past year in Crofton Park has seen some significant changes. Jam Circus closed in January but reopened in June last year under new ownership as the Crofton Park Tavern. After Mr Lawrence’s wine bar sadly closed in May 2018, it finally reopened at the end of October as Jerome’s Wine Bar & Shop, with new owners. After an 18-month closure this was eagerly anticipated and I certainly have not been disappointed – I now have “my local” back again. There have also been fantastic additions to our green spaces. The Fourth Reserve by the railway bridge has been developed and is a brilliant nature reserve for the community to use on open days. It will be extended even further over the coming months. I also adore our community railway garden running alongside the northbound station platform. It was extensively landscaped in May last year and a stunning garden has been created for everyone to enjoy and use. I love walking past it every morning and popping in to see the changes over the seasons. There are big plans this year so watch this space. Crofton Park finally got the recognition it deserves when the mural was painted on the bridge by Lionel Stanhope last June, leaving people in no doubt which part of SE4 they are now in. As you can probably tell I absolutely love my area and have welcomed all the changes over the last 31 years. The community spirit is alive and kicking and I plan to live here until I’m carried out in a box.

14 FILM he borough of Lewisham has a history of being used as a backdrop for films. All sorts of movies have been shot on these streets, from Bond’s Skyfall and Legend – the Kray twins biopic starring Tom Hardy – to 1980s classic Babylon, exploring sound system culture against a backdrop of racism, violence and disillusionment, scored by reggae icon Dennis Bovell, a dub and Lovers’ Rock pioneer based in New Cross. Now the borough, specifically Catford, is set to appear on screen again, in a movie produced by a local filmmaker. Writer and director Tianna Banton, who lives in SE6, is about to release The Closer I Get To You through her production company Hanton Films. She describes it as a “black British romantic comedy” – the most recent in a string of interesting and innovative projects from the young creative. Hanton Films celebrated its sixth year in business in November, and its mission statement is an important and honourable one: “Dedicated to telling diverse stories.” Recent work that embodies that ethos includes Just Remember, Young Black And On The Way Up, Trial and Error (screened multiple times at Peckhamplex in 2017) and A Kind Soul – exploring issues around mental health and opening up conversations on the subject. Upcoming film The Closer I Get To You is set to continue this approach, digging into personal relationships and trials of the heart – tracing the story of two young people in love, Nadiene and Devon – while paying homage to the music and movies Tianna grew up with. She actually came up with the idea while listening to music – Beyoncé and Luther Vandross’ The Closer I Get To You, hence the film’s title – during a university coursework session, and just started envisioning a story. “I jotted it down and went back to my coursework, but then the idea kept coming back to me,” Tianna remembers. “And with me, if I have an idea more than once it’s like the universe is saying, ‘Go forth! Do this!’ So I started writing it.” Originally the story was going to be about young love and a great adventure, but as she went along Tianna decided to throw in a few plot twists that you might not expect from your average rom-com. “My brain was like, ‘We’re going big!’” It only seemed right, as the romcom genre is one that is close to her heart. Tianna talks warmly about her childhood memories watching movies like this, going to her grandmother’s house in Catford to watch feel-good films like How Stella Got Her Groove Back. “Movies made me who I am – the music and the stories,” she says. But it was also a genre she wanted to put her own stamp on: “I grew up watching rom-coms, but black rom-coms were actually incredibly rare, and if you did see them, often the romance played second fiddle to violence or cheating. “Why Did I Get Married is a great one, for example, but the romance plays second fiddle to the fact that one of the husbands is cheating on his wife. “I wanted to do something where love is the centre and everything else is second to that. So The Closer I Get To You is very strong on romance. But it’s cute, it’s not overbearing. You don’t get sick of it, it’s more, ‘I want something like that.’”


‚ TIANNA S TALE Tianna Banton's new movie is a black British romantic comedy with a twist. The Catford resident explains why the rom-com genre is particularly close to her heart WORDS BY EMMA FINAMORE n PHOTOS BY TALITHA LINDO


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Some of the plot comes from real life, from seeing how people are when they’re in a new relationship – “That, ‘Nothing else matters if I’m with you’ kind of feeling,” Tianna says – as well as from her imagination, taking us through the journey of two people getting to know each other, falling for each other... as well as lies, betrayal and heartache. And what about the ending? “Well it’s kind of sad,” Tianna admits. “Actually, it’s really sad – I cried! Every rom-com ends happily, and there’s not much else you can do – because they’ve reached that happy ending. “Any plans for a sequel don’t work because they’ve already got back together, they’re already living happily ever after. But because I loved the story and the cast and crew – we had such a good time – I wanted to leave that door open.” The plot unfolds in locations that will be familiar to many south-east Londoners. Half the film was shot in Catford, while other parts were filmed in Elephant and Castle and Brixton. Some of it is especially close to home for Tianna. “Luckily my grandparents are awesome people and they were like, ‘Oh you can use our house’,” she smiles. “So all of Devon’s apartment stuff is filmed at my nan’s house in Catford, and all of Sasha’s [Nadiene’s best friend] stuff is filmed at my granddad’s house in Brixton. “I chose Catford as a location because I live in Catford, it’s my town. It also has many beautiful spots, one of them being Canadian Avenue where we shot a couple of scenes.” Filming took place in June, with post production beginning in August.

Watching movies while growing up, the music and the stories, made me who I am Tianna’s team has grown since her first film, when she had just three others working with her. Now she has a full crew – lights, props, sound, hair and makeup, camera operators, two assistant directors, even a caterer. “We really grew with this project,” she says. “It feels like the most professional film I’ve done. Normally I’m the one running around saying, ‘We need to do this and that’, but this time I had an amazing assistant director who was like, ‘What do you need me to do? Tell me what needs to be done and I’ll do it.’ It was a great time, I don’t have one bad thing to say about the experience from beginning to end.” Now the process is over, how does she feel about the final product? “I’m happy and excited,” she smiles. “At the beginning the editor and I would meet every Sunday for about four or five hours and go through everything, do a draft, take it home, make notes, bring

it back the next week. The last time we did that there were no more changes.” After this painstaking process was over they handed the film to a composer to create its score – DB Swang, an eclectic beatmaker and producer making trap music and EDM, but inspired by 90s R&B and ragga. “This film is modern day but it has a very strong 90s vibe to it,” explains Tianna. “So I was kind of envisioning R&B and slow jams. And he [DB Swang] was like, ‘Dude, don’t worry – I got this.’ So it’s all original compositions, which is exciting. “The last time I watched the film from beginning to end, I experienced so many different emotions. The love and the romance, and then at the end, ‘Oh my God why would you do this?!’ and had to remind myself that I wrote it. There are two places where you will probably cry.” Tianna describes emotions running high on set too: “Hats off to them

Above: filming a scene from The Closer I Get To You in Catford Left: Tianna Banton

[the cast] – they really had to pour their heart and soul into those scenes. The last day of filming was the most emotional day, everything up to that point had been sunshine and rainbows and puppies and love, and then the last day was, you’re going to cry.” Talking about female lead SarahMaeva Cialec as Nadiene, she says: “I’ve never been prouder of anyone – she’s completely method [acting], so she was really putting herself in these situations. In one scene she’s got bags under her eyes, she’s wearing clothes with food down them, there are plates piled up, she’s not left the sofa in days. I just wanted to give her a hug!” The sisterly atmosphere came in part because Tianna assembled a predominantly female crew, creating an on-set culture of openness and a “safe space”. She talks about how important it is to her to lead a team where people feel comfortable going to one another with their concerns, or can voice their opinions without feeling intimidated, full of “solidarity and togetherness”. It makes sense then that this year Tianna is developing an LGBTQ+ film – “I want to make films that reach everyone,” she says – called Going The Distance, and last year announced Hanton Films’ Dare To Be Diverse campaign – reinforcing the company’s commitment to diverse inclusion and representation in all its productions. As well as continuing to write and direct interesting and inclusive films, this year Tianna will be writing music too – something she sees as an “outlet for emotions, like therapy” – and hopes to release an EP. It sounds like 2020 is set to be a big one for this young creative on the rise.

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Cathy, Lewisham via Kerry

‘When you go to England you’ll get a bicycle, they said. I never did.’

Tara, Tooting via Trinidad

‘When I was working in the factory, I would get the English dinner and plaster it with pepper sauce. Everybody looked at me as though I was crazy, but it made it edible for me!’

Maurice, Hackney via Akuma

‘We had Sooty and Sweep wallpaper, which I thought were some demons. We spent all night scratching their eyes so they couldn’t look at us in the dark’

Discover more stories and share yours at the Migration Museum in Lewisham Shopping Centre Discover more stories and share yours at the Migration Museum in Lewisham Shopping Centre #AllOurStories



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he last time I visited the Telegraph Hill Centre was to meet with manager Sue Morgan. I was interviewing her for a feature on these pages, in which the Australian native spoke passionately about the brilliant work carried out at the centre and the unequalled range of community-based events hosted there. That was back in the summer of 2018 and last month I returned, this time to have a chat with Morlai Sumah, or Mo as he’s affectionately known around these parts. Mo is the centre’s facilities coordinator, with a masterful knack for fixing household gadgets, miscellaneous trinkets and toys. His ingenuity when it comes to bringing seemingly skip-bound items back to life has inspired yet another unique community initiative in the SE14 space. “Mend it with Mo” sessions are held on the first Thursday of every month at the centre and are an opportunity for local people to bring in personal items that are in disrepair to be mended by the man himself. The idea for the service came about after Mo fixed an old trolley for Sue that she had previously earmarked for the skip. “One day I said to the service centre manager, ‘You know a lot of things that people throw away I can fix if given a chance’. She agreed that it was a good idea,” Mo says. “Where I come from [Sierra Leone] we value things, but here because of job opportunities, there’s money floating around. When things break there’s a culture of ‘get rid of it and buy a new one’, even though it’s minor things a lot of the time.” Mend it with Mo has been going for over a year and from the beginning it has proved a valuable resource to local people, particularly the elderly. “When we first started, oh my goodness, I couldn’t believe how many people turned up with all sorts of stuff needing to be fixed,” Mo says. “It’s getting even bigger now. Every first Thursday there’s a queue. I have to say to people, ‘Leave it here, we have a store, I’ll store it’. Then every week from Monday to Friday I will make sure I fix at least one item. “Sometimes things just can’t be fixed, it’s just wear and tear, like with this hoover the motor needs to be replaced,” he says, showing me an old Henry hoover. “Is it really worth buying a new motor when you can go and buy a brand new hoover that will last you for about 10 years?” People bring in all manner of household objects for Mo to have a look at, including toasters, overhead projectors, hoovers with broken hoses, toys, prams, blenders, coffee machines and old VCRs to name but a few. “They often come in with items and tell me, ‘I’ve got this, or I’ve got that and I love it, it’s just stopped working, can you see if you can fix it for me’,” says Mo. “Sometimes it’s a gift from a loved one who maybe isn’t here anymore, and they just don’t want to throw it away.” While Mo doesn’t fix items such as smartphones or tablets for insurance reasons, he will have a look at them, advise whether they can be salvaged and help people source the necessary parts. He is also on hand to help mainly older people with tasks like adjusting screen brightness, wifi codes and



Mend it with



Morlai Sumah, who runs a monthly mending session at the Telegraph Hill Centre, tells how he made the journey from Sierra Leone to south-east London

passwords. As a result of this the centre also now offers free computer classes for older people to learn the basics of IT. Since starting the workshop Mo has encountered some items of real sentimental value. An old VCR particularly sticks in his mind. “The guy who owned it said it was older than his two grown-up children,” he says. “It was one of the old ones where you put the tape in the top. You press play and then you just flip up the cassette from the top to eject it. “Luckily it was just the fan belt and we were able to order the part on eBay and we fixed it together. Afterwards it was working perfectly, and he was so happy. He said he just loves it, he has loads of old video cassettes that he still watches.” Fixing old VCRs is bread and butter to Mo, who used to repair them regularly when he worked for the British Embassy back in his home country of Sierra Leone. It was part of a journey that would eventually see him move to England and make a home for himself in south-east London. “I was living in the countryside [in Sierra Leone] with my family when a war broke out and so we flew to the city. “I enrolled on a course in servicing TVs and satellites. I found work at the British Embassy where I received further training. I was fixing televisions like Thomsons, Grundigs and Albas. “At the same time, I had my own workshop and was always busy with work. The British ambassador would regularly call me and ask me to service the videos, check the heads, check the fan belts.

Morlai "Mo" Sumah, facilities coordinator at the Telegraph Hill Centre, is a dab hand at DIY “Then the war was coming closer to the city and one day the embassy called me and said, ‘We want you to have a better life.’ So, they gave me a six-month visa originally to come here.” Fifteen years on and Mo has firmly immersed himself in the community. He works full-time as premises manager at Chelwood Nursery School in Brockley, where his day begins at 7.45am. He has a three-hour lunchbreak which he spends at the Telegraph Hill Centre in his role as facilities coordinator, looking after the building and checking fire safety precautions are in place. He puts on the Mend it with Mo workshops for free, although sometimes happy customers make a donation towards the centre. Mo sees it as an opportunity for him to give something back to the community. “The most rewarding thing is when you see the happiness in someone’s face when I fix something,” he says. “I feel good. It might be because they can’t afford to buy a replacement, or it might be because the item was given to them by a loved one who has now gone. Because I work within this community, I want to give something back to this community. “Where I came from community is very important. We love each other, we help each other and here it’s the same. At the Telegraph Hill Centre there is a brilliant community network. I feel blessed to work here.”


hey say that one man’s junk is another man’s treasure. If that’s true, then Aladdin’s Cave is home to more valuables than the V&A. Situated in the former Lewisham Road railway station building on Loampit Hill, the shop is a treasure trove of hidden gems and abandoned junk, a beacon of character and colour in an otherwise unassuming southeast London street. It has become something of an institution, even featuring on TV’s Salvage Hunters. Chaotic yet undeniably charming, it’s the sort of place where you might expect to stumble across a rare artefact while looking for a stainlesssteel mixer tap. While it may be closing its doors for the last time soon – permission has been granted to demolish the shop and build a commercial unit and seven flats in its place – its memory will live on in the many online photos and articles it has attracted. During my recent visit I was immediately struck by the selection of chairs on display on the pavement outside. Dining table chairs, funky yellow ones, those plastic chairs you find in school assembly halls and a two-seater leather sofa sprawling across the footway. A choice of large and splendid hall mirrors with metal frames are perched on a row of wooden cabinets and tables. On the roof a group of mismatched figures peer from the balcony: a pirate hanging out with a James Dean lookalike and a whimsical character with an eagle on his head all at the same party. Inside, the shop is no less idiosyncratic, with a rather freakishlooking mannequin greeting customers as they enter. Walking along the narrow dark passageway lined with old pieces of furniture and stacks of panelled doors is not for the faint hearted. Just in case there aren’t enough chairs outside, a few dozen more dangle from the ceiling above. The room at the back is certainly brighter and a little less cluttered – but only a little. The merchandise here is displayed with more attention, showcasing a range of stylish and contemporary fireplaces. An ornamental horse and carriage and a strange-looking Jabba the Hutt type creature stare at one another on one of the mantelpieces. Dozens of lamps adorn the walls and a vast selection of chandeliers hang from the ceiling. During my visit I stumbled across a glass-fronted cabinet packed with delph, china and old photo frames. Elsewhere I found stashes of books and an old set of Britannica encyclopedias. The outside area at the back – while not exactly Kew Gardens – has bucketloads of charm as well as old porcelain bathtubs, toilets and wash basins. When the shop does close, where else might one happen upon such a random array of items? Aladdin’s Cave doesn’t put prices on anything. I suppose to do so would be a task of Herculean proportions and everything is up for negotiation. For anyone who hasn’t yet experienced this wonderland of treasures – and for those who have – it’s well worth taking a trip down there before it’s too late.


From old photographs and ornaments to doors, chairs, crockery and clocks, Aladdin's Cave is packed with paraphernalia and intriguing finds

An ornamental horse and a Jabba the Hutt type creature stare at one another on one of the mantelpieces







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Left: this Spider-Man statue can be found alongside a range of candelabras, clocks, door knobs, a framed picture of Tom Jones and rusty radiators in need of restoration

20 LEWI S H AM P EO PL E ince arriving in London from Zimbabwe in the mid 1980s, Pax Nindi – international carnival guru, arts industry expert, filmmaker and musician – has jumped from project to project; and unlike most people attempting to be a jack of all trades, he seems to have become a master of them. Even though he’s now based in Forest Hill, his first experience of life in the UK was a little further afield. “If you’re from Zimbabwe, as far as you know everywhere here is basically London,” he laughs, remembering the mistake he made when he arrived at the airport in the UK, asking a taxi driver to take him to Middlesbrough (where his only British friend lived), four-and-a-half hours away. He got there in the end by train but only stayed in the North Yorkshire town for two weeks before returning to the capital to enrol on a media training course. He had to sleep rough in Victoria Station before figuring out where he could afford to stay, and he took on a newspaper delivery job and worked in an Indian restaurant to make ends meet. It was quite a contrast to his life back home, where Pax had been in a senior position in newspaper production and print – running a department rather than delivering the newspapers himself. He lived all over the city – squatting in Covent Garden, sharing with a girlfriend in Barons Court – before winding up in Forest Hill. As became a theme in his career, he embarked on a wide variety of projects, running all sorts of courses – drumming, journalism, kids’ workshops – and playing and writing music. He also did an apprenticeship with Albany Video: a project making productions for Channel 4, running workshops and creating locally based tapes with community groups. From this Pax founded Pax Vision, a community video project in Deptford, continuing Albany Video’s work as a vehicle for his band Harare Dread – an African roots reggae outfit incorporating the sounds of Jamaica, Zimbabwe, Malawi and Europe, who by this point were playing festivals like Womad and Glastonbury. But it wasn’t long before something new came along – he was approached by the organiser of Deptford Days to take over the running of the event, which was then just a one-day festival


that she had begun while working at Leander Hall community centre on Ship Street for local children. “With me everything goes big,” smiles Pax. “It started as just a day thing, then the following year it was a two-day festival with a procession, the year after that it was two weeks... by the time I finished it was a whole month!” Pax then moved on to the Arts Council in the mid 1990s, where he discovered another creative passion: carnival. “They basically asked me to find anything I was interested in to start working on, and I found a position paper on carnival, just sitting there,” Pax remembers. “It recommended that carnival should have its own website – the internet had only just started then – that there should be books on carnival, there should be conferences, there should be networks and so on. And I thought, ‘Ah ha!’. I got it.” From here Pax started taking carnival to the global stage, organising international conferences – “I brought anyone who does carnival from all over the world; people came from Japan, Brazil, Trinidad... everywhere” – here in London, but later in places like South Africa and Canada. “It’s networking and sharing information,” Pax explains of the conferences. “So for example if I’m organising a carnival in Hackney and the police want to charge me £50,000, how do I know if the same thing happens in Manchester, or Holland? So it’s good for sharing information, and people who design costumes who might only know Notting Hill Carnival can come and they’ll meet people from all over the world.”


While carving out a successful career in the arts, Pax Nindi discovered a passion for carnival. He has gone on to be involved in events all over the world, from Notting Hill to Nigeria


While at the Arts Council he also wrote and published the 2007 National Carnival Arts Strategy, as well as initiating and editing his book On Route – a sort of carnival bible. “I commissioned 20 people to write different things about carnival,” he says. “How to run a stall at carnival, recipes, education and the academic side of carnival, and lots of different subjects you might not associate with carnival.” Pax was starting to travel all over the world sharing his expertise, as well as working on events like Notting Hill Carnival and mentoring people trying to set up their own carnivals. He speaks, for example, about collaborating with people in Nigeria on a carnival taking place around a river – “an amazing carnival, traditional and modern, they have camels and drums” – and going to Bosnia to talk about how carnival can help mend and build communities, using the creative process of planning the procession and designing and making costumes as a way of bringing polarised groups together. His first experience of carnival, in Deptford, is surprising for someone whose career went on to be shaped by it – “it wasn’t good!” – but when he went further afield Pax got the bug. “When I went to Brazil I found all these different, new rhythms. It was really, really inspiring,” he says. His time at the Arts Council wasn’t just about carnival though. Pax was also able to start funding projects that had been previously dismissed – such as circus arts. He helped these groups access funds by improving animal welfare standards and setting up the Circus Arts Forum. He did the same thing with street art too, helping a sidelined creative group access funding and setting up the Independent Street Arts Network,



F E B R U A RY/MA R CH 2020

I'm always thinking to myself, ‘What should I do next?'

Left and opposite: Forest Hill resident and carnival guru Pax Nindi

supporting people involved in the outdoor arts. When he left the Arts Council, it was with a huge skillset. “When I got there I had no clue about business plans, no clue about strategy, and when I walked out I could do a 360-degree health check of an organisation,” Pax says of his time there. He then became an independent consultant, setting up his company Global Carnivalz, and his first client was St Paul’s Carnival in Bristol, taking on the role of artistic director. “It was completely different to Notting Hill – in Bristol they were all about the sound systems, no costumes,” Pax remembers. “The board members were all sound system people and I came in wanting to do a mas [masquerade] parade... I had so much stress with that one!” Despite difficulties with budget, timing and approach, he pulled it off – bringing in artists to design costumes, and successfully changing the dates to allow more time for preparation. “You know what? They said they’d never seen the carnival like that, and I came back for the next three or four years.” Then – true to form – Pax made another big move, becoming creative director of the UK Centre for Carnival Arts in Luton. As part of that he ran the Carnival Crossroads Eastbound Olympiad for the UK’s eastern region, working with five towns on a project celebrating something unique about each town – then choosing a local musician, choreographer and costume designer to produce a big, celebratory performance.

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Pax then stepped things up yet again by becoming vice president of the World Carnival Commission in Canada. Music has been a huge part of his life alongside all this, as a VJ (video jockey) for people like Lewisham sound system legend Jah Shaka, projecting visuals onto a screen along to the music. “The Jamaican newspaper the Gleaner called me the first ever dub VJ,” says Pax. His band Harare Dread have also gained a big following in Brazil. Now he says he tours every year: “I do like three months when it gets cold here, from December to about March. I sing in Shona [a Bantu language of the Shona people of Zimbabwe], which was flavour of the month at one time – with Paul Simon and ‘world music’ and everything – but after that no one was interested. “In Brazil, they listen to Michael Jackson, they listen to Madonna – they can’t understand what they’re singing, the same as when I sing in Shona. They just like the way I rhyme and the sound.” While on tour he plays pretty much every day, switching bands between reggae and rock. And if that wasn’t enough, he also plays bass with Ghanaian dance music icon Ata Kak, touring Europe, Australia and Russia. This year will be Pax’s seventh Hackney Carnival – where in 2018 he initiated the first ever Hackney Kids’ Carnival – and he will be working on others in Hull and Reading, as well as releasing his 15th album and going on tour again. That list will no doubt be added to soon, as he says: “I’m always thinking to myself, ‘What should I do next? What should I do next?’”

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here is something undeniably magical and romantic about secondhand bookshops. The dusty, musty scent of used books. The scan of the shelves for a hidden gem. The mystery of wondering who once held the book that you now have in your hands. As the child of an ardent bibliophile, much of my childhood was spent being dragged around secondhand bookshops by my father, first reluctantly and then willingly, as my own bibliophilia grew and blossomed. As the last millennium drew to a close, though, my father passed away and online outlets like Amazon, eBay and AbeBooks achieved supremacy. And so it was that I forgot about the wondrous magic of secondhand bookshops. With occasional flashes of nostalgia, I watched the stores I had once frequented evaporate from Charing Cross Road and the dusty corners of British high streets. And quietly, without realising it, a little part of me died too, along with my father and the disappearing, ghostly premises once inhabited by shelves and shelves of books. Thank God then, for Crofton Books, a secondhand bookshop located in Crofton Park Community Library on Brockley Road, an enclave where literary magic and romance still reign, and where regular customers include Ernest Hemingway’s greatgranddaughter and acclaimed spoken word performer, poet, recording artist, novelist and playwright Kate Tempest. The brainchild of local writer and poet Jason Shelley, Crofton Books teems with life, its vibrant stock spilling out of the doors and shelves and almost on to Brockley Road itself. “I’ve worked in lots of bookshops over the years,” Jason says. “Then I started a writing, ideas and media company in Crofton Park [Tlön Media London] and saw an opportunity to open a bookshop while I was writing. “I noticed there was a strong interest in literature in this area and in Brockley. People like good literature, as opposed to just the populist stuff. “We opened in 2016 and have been going from strength to strength. Helen Davies, who reviews fiction for the Sunday Times and who lives locally, helped me set it up. “She got a designer in from the Sunday Times who designed all our branding, which you can see online on our Twitter, Facebook and Instagram pages. His name is Russel Herneman, he’s just designed a bag for us as well. “We sell a wide range of material – quite a lot of Murakami, philosophy, art books, retro stuff, kitsch stuff. “What people donate determines what we work with. We’re constantly changing our sections because we might have a mass of stuff in about feminist art, for example. It’s always interesting as our stock is so varied.” The positive response to Crofton Books since it opened has heartened Jason and, in turn, has benefited the adjoining library. “Since the bookshop opened, book sales have increased by 10% each year,” he says. “Library usage has also increased as the bookshop feeds the library, encourages more people to join and vice versa. “We work well together. Although the library and bookshop are separate entities, we run joint events and push through cross-marketing to support each other. The library manager Silvana Altamore is great to work with

Writer and poet Jason Shelley, who founded secondhand bookshop Crofton Books


Go on, have a


The shelves at Crofton Books brim with a wonderfully eclectic range of secondhand treasures, from Homer's Iliad to Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse-Five. We popped in for a browse WORDS BY LUKE G WILLIAMS n PHOTO BY LIMA CHARLIE

Crofton Books is a meeting place – you can't get that through Amazon

as she has had varied experience in the arts and events. It is very satisfying to work within the local community.” The eclectic range of stock at Crofton Books is quite astonishing, and something Jason is clearly proud of. “We have quite an incredible range of stuff that I think other bookshops struggle to match. We are finding now that a lot of people travel from outside of the local area to visit the bookshop. “We try to give a personal service. We’re constantly writing reviews of different books to give people an idea of what they’re buying and we try to be as creative as possible.” Jason says Crofton Books’ success also stems from a reaction against the

somewhat impersonal and soulless experience offered by ebooks, Kindles and online booksellers. “Over the last 10 years or so I think there’s been a turning point in terms of how much people use computer and electrical items to read. More and more people are going back to what we all used to do – namely carrying books around. “The visual aesthetic of a bookshop is really important – the fact you can come in and there’s a physical object you can hold. It makes people think in a different way to when you’re just staring at a computer screen. “Bookshops are becoming more fashionable again, particularly as the ecology movement and reuse ethos

grows. We are encouraging a culture of reading and reusing in our area. Parents who visit the shop say they love explaining to their children in a library setting that they can borrow, return, recycle and spend money, an important part of the local economy that also helps the library building. “The bookshop is also a meeting place. You can’t get that through Amazon.” Jason also enjoys the insights into wider cultural and political concerns offered by the ability to chart trends in people’s reading. “It’s always interesting to get a handle on people’s different reading habits. Before the general election people were reading a lot of Orwell and now they’re starting to read more Camus.” Another strength of Crofton Books is the varied army of volunteers who give their time to the shop. “It works really well when the people working in a bookshop have different interests and that’s the case at Crofton Books. “Our volunteers are a varied group. Some of them have medical conditions, including two people who have had strokes who couldn’t go back into paid work because of where they were in their lives. Volunteering at the bookshop has helped them feel their way back into work and see what they can do. We also have students from Goldsmiths, retired people. All sorts. “People find being in a bookshop changes their way of thinking. A bookshop is quite beneficial for the mind, whether you’re working here or buying things. That’s particularly important I think with the world being in the state it’s in right now. “We have a really interesting time, a lot of different characters come into the shop. We have a sense of humour and don’t take ourselves too seriously.” One of the many volunteers at Crofton Books is Judy Gordon, a local writer and play director who established the Montage theatre company in Brockley. “The bookshop is a gem,” she says. “Each book I file has a story to tell and whatever I have going on in my life usually disappears in the time I have here. People from all walks of life and ages come in to look around, sometimes with an enquiry or more often browsing in silence. “There is such a flurry when a rare Orwell, Harry Potter or a Gruffalo tale needs to be found, whether it’s on the shelves or in the magic ‘back room’ of stacked books awaiting attention. A donated book finds a new home and a new heart, continuing the joyful cycle of secondhand books in Crofton Park.” My own visit to Crofton Books validates Judy’s words. My wide-eyed four-year-old daughter was delighted and enraptured by the range of exciting children’s books strewn on the shop shelves and floor. After an exciting half an hour or so of browsing and searching, we headed home just £8 poorer with a range of titles in a Crofton Books cloth bag, including a beautiful pop-up anthology of some of her favourite fairytales. That night, when the lights were dimmed for bedtime, I even saw her sneak a torch under her duvet so she could take one last loving look at the pop-up book before she went to sleep. That’s the magic of Crofton Books.

24 C R O F TON PARK SPECI A L was on my way to the Jack Studio Theatre, for the purposes of this here feature, when I bumped into one of my neighbours. I told her where I was going and she said, “I didn’t know there was a theatre in Crofton Park.” You could have knocked me down with the proverbial. I mean, the Jack Studio Theatre is an institution. It’s always been here. Or so I thought. As it happens, the theatre opened its doors 26 years ago, in 1994. The pub to which it’s attached, the Brockley Jack, has been in situ for a lot longer. The theatre has become one of south-east London’s many crown jewels, deeply embedded in the local community and the London theatre scene. It was set up by three Royal Shakespeare Company actors who were regulars in the Brockley Jack pub. With the support of the then landlord, they took over the function room at the back of the pub and turned it into an auditorium. The room above, an equally large space, became both the rehearsal and dressing rooms. Three companies, one after the other, ran the theatre for the first 12 years or so. And then, 14 years ago, a new creative team took over. They’ve been here ever since. “When we took it on, nothing happened for quite a while,” says artistic director Kate Bannister. “The space itself didn’t have any equipment whatsoever. And it didn’t have a regular audience or people who wanted to put on plays. “It has taken years to build it up to where it is now, where you have performances throughout the year. There’s a big, loyal, local audience, and there are lots of different companies – ourselves included – coming to perform here. But for the first few years it was very stop-start until it got on to a roll and for the last eight, nine years it’s been really successful.” In the early days, help was forthcoming from other theatre folk and from Lewisham Council, who provided some equipment. Local businesses have also been very supportive. Fast-forward to 2020 and today, the theatre is entirely self-supporting. It has been registered as a charity for the past 10 years and receives no funding. But it manages still to stage 12 to 15 productions a year, with very little downtime. “During a typical year we probably have four dark weeks, when there’s nothing on,” says Kate. “We have two in the summer, one for testing the electrics and then maybe another one or two weeks. “But for most of the year, a show finishes on a Saturday and the next company comes in on the Sunday. So, Sunday, Monday, Tuesday is the get-in, the lighting and the dress rehearsals and then the shows are on from Tuesday to Saturday. For the greater part of the year, one show finishes and then, the next week, another one will open. It’s pretty much constant programming.” Shows generally run for three weeks or longer, although they can be on for just a week. The range of performances is extraordinary. “It’s very diverse, but deliberately so, because we will look throughout the year to have a variety of productions that will engage different audiences. We will look at some classical works – Shakespeare or some classic adaptations – but also new writing and occasionally there’ll be a devised piece.”




The Jack Studio Theatre puts on a diverse range of performances throughout the year and has a loyal local following. We went backstage with Kate Bannister and Karl Swinyard

Pool by Tom Harvey is set the morning after Labour's 1997 election win

Nathan Medina and Brendan O'Rourke in Tom Molineaux

The current show, Chaplin: Birth of a Tramp, is a new production based on the extraordinary rags-to-riches story of south Londoner and cinematic icon Charlie Chaplin. The theatre also stages musicals, with live musicians. “Queen of the Mist [which had its European premiere at the Jack last year] had an eight-piece band plus a conductor,” says executive producer Karl Swinyard. “It was amazing.” “We’ve got a new musical coming up called Diva: Live from Hell,” adds Kate, “and that will have a three-piece band on every night. It’s an American show, so this is its British premiere.” When you consider that the theatre has an audience capacity of between

50 and 63 people, depending on the way the seating is arranged, it is some feat to add in a cast of performers and an eight-piece band. But it works. “We’re probably one of the bestequipped venues of our size in London,” says Karl. “The sound isn’t stereo, it’s all around you. And because of the nature of the space it’s a very, very clean sound. Unlike some other pub theatres, which are above a pub, we don’t have an issue of noise going one way or the other. It’s so quiet, you can hear a pin drop.” The theatre has its own entrance, although there is a door through into the pub, where you can buy food and drinks and take the latter into the auditorium with you. The venue is



F E B R U A RY/MA R CH 2020

It has taken years to build the theatre up to where it is now

wheelchair-accessible and, says Karl, “we’ve got air-conditioning, so it’s very comfortable in the summer.” Karl and Kate reckon that more than half of their audience is local, with the rest coming from across London and further afield. The theatre prides itself on supporting up-and-coming talent. Vinay Patel, whose first full-length play, Bump, was one of the winners at the Jack’s Write Now festival a few years ago, has gone on to write several more plays and became the first black and ethnic minority writer to receive

a solo writing credit for Doctor Who. Demons of the Punjab, broadcast in 2018, was the sixth episode of Jodie Whittaker’s first series as the Doctor. Patel has a new episode, Fugitive of the Judoon, in the current series. “It’s not just writers and actors who develop here,” says Kate. “One of our lighting designers, Ben Jacobs, actually won the 2018 Offie [Off West End] award for best lighting design for an in-house show, The Wolves of Willoughby Chase [which Kate directed], and now he’s working at the National and in the West End.”

Pictured above from far left: Cinderella: A Fairytale, A Cool Million and The State of Things

The Offies will be announcing their 2020 winners on 8 March. The Jack has two people who worked on shows they staged up for a gong. And then there are the London Pub Theatre of the Year awards to look forward to. At the inaugural award ceremony last October, the Jack was joint runnerup, with the King’s Head in Islington scooping the top prize. Maybe this year they can go one better. Meanwhile, there’s plenty to be getting on with. “We want to continue providing theatre for our community and supporting emerging artists,” says Kate. “It’s always great to meet new performers, new writers, new directors and companies and work with them on their projects. “It would be lovely to have some funding to feel more sustainable, but I think that’s very difficult at the moment. Our aim is to continue doing what we’re doing and getting better at it.” Chaplin: Birth of a Tramp is on until 22 February. Diva: Live from Hell opens on 17 March

I’M A 15 February – 1 November 2020 Book Now


Malaysian Deli “I came to London from Malaysia in 1975 to be with my husband,” says Zaherah Rashid, owner of Crofton Park’s much-loved Malaysian Deli. “We had two children and now the UK is home. I’ve lived in this area since 1980, so 40 years.” Zaherah originally opened a restaurant called Malay House in Croydon, but found travelling there and back every day took its toll. “After 10 years I thought, ‘This is too much, going up and down.’ I thought I would move [the business] nearer the house because the area has changed a lot. It’s more trendy, and there are more people. “We opened Malaysian Deli six years ago. It was supposed to be a cafe, and we wanted to do more cakes but because we had lots of cafes around already, we didn’t want to be competing with the others, so we thought, ‘We’ll do Malaysian food and only open evenings.’” Zaherah learnt to cook from older family members. “I used to work with my auntie in Satay House. She opened the first Malaysian restaurant in London and it’s still running now. She taught me to cook. “My mother also does a lot of cooking in Malaysia, a lot of catering, so I’m taking after my mum. She goes to rural areas, teaching them cooking and she’s a good cook, she’s very active.” The traditional dishes that Zaherah learnt from her mum and auntie are the ones she serves at Malaysian Deli today. “We are famous for our sambal, which is like a chilli paste that comes with the nasi lemak.”



From the Malaysian Deli's tender beef rendang to French wine and cheese at Jerome's, Crofton Park offers a variety of places to eat and drink. Three local favourites tell us more


Nasi lemak is a dish consisting of rice, the spicy sambal and accompaniments including peanuts, dried anchovies, cucumber and hard-boiled eggs. “It’s a complete meal on its own”, Zaherah explains. “In Malaysia we normally have it for breakfast.” She has found that her regulars appreciate her uncompromising approach when it comes to flavour. “I don’t adapt to European tastes – it’s how Malaysians eat. That’s why people like to come to the Malaysian Deli because they can learn, and now they are used to all the spices and the chillies.” Those who shy away from chilli heat need not worry, however. “Our dishes are a variety – we not only have chillies, we have milder dishes that are creamier with coconut, so the children can enjoy it as well. “We also have a lot of vegetarian and vegan dishes and I make sure a lot of the dishes don’t have gluten, as we have a lot of gluten-free customers. I also make sure that we don’t mix the peanuts with other dishes – we try very hard.” Her most popular dish is rendang, a slow-cooked meat dish made with coconut milk. “I think people know Malaysian food for the rendang, with beef”, says Zaherah. “It’s very traditional. We cook it for around two hours until the meat is very tender. “At the moment we also have nasi kerabu – it’s more traditional on the east coast of Malaysia, and it’s a whole leg of grilled chicken with a coconutbased sauce with salad, rice and some chilli. “That is very famous now, very popular. I feel like our food, it’s waking



F E B R U A RY/MA R CH 2020

your tongue, so when you go home you can still feel it. You definitely know you’ve had it!”

Jerome’s Maria Manzo and her partner Jerome Bichot opened Jerome’s Wine Bar & Shop just over three months ago, in the site formerly occupied by Mr Lawrence. They’d discovered the wine bar in its previous incarnation 18 years previously, and when Jerome found himself out of work the closure of Mr Lawrence seemed like fate. They snapped it up. “Jerome was very excited because he’s very passionate about wine,” says Maria, “and he just loved the idea of this little gem in this part of London. Before he was working at a French brasserie serving fine food and fine wine and he worked there for about 15 years. “He loved the feeling of working in an independent place in a very residential area but then unfortunately the [brasserie] closed down. “He tried to find jobs in other places but it was hard, and he hated the idea of going to work for big chains. We had always had the idea to open something like this so we decided to open a wine bar and focus on the things that Jerome is really passionate about.” “For me it’s a lot about quality,” Jerome says, “so it’s mainly French wines because I know more about French wine than wine from the rest of the world. There is a bit of everything from good wines to very expensive wines, very fine wines. So we can please everyone, basically.” A glass of wine at Jerome’s starts at £4.75 and a bottle at £19, although they also aim to introduce people to wines they may not have had the opportunity to taste before. “He’s got

a system called Coravin”, says Maria, “where he will open very fine wines periodically to give people the chance to try expensive wine without having to spend a lot of money on the bottles.” The Coravin system works by punching a needle through the cork to allow the wine to be poured while leaving the cork intact. When the needle is pulled out the cork reseals, meaning the rest of the wine is preserved for another day. “We also do a small selection of food,” says Maria, “mainly cold food, charcuterie and cheese. We try to keep the quality high with selected suppliers, and we work with a local supplier [in Borough Market] for the cheese platters in particular – it’s called L’Ubriaco Drunk Cheese.” The pasteurised cows’ milk cheeses are made using merlot, cabernet and raboso grapes to speed up the ageing process and produce a spicy

aftertaste in a process known in Italy as “ubriacatura”. Crofton Park residents have received the new bar “very, very well”, says Maria. “We have had so much support and we are now very close to the community. People keep on coming back, so it’s good.” They’ve found the transition from working in central London to working on their own terms challenging but rewarding. “Jerome’s is very focused on the quality,” says Maria, “so we make very small margins but we’re happy about the products. And the people around here are so nice.”

Pictured clockwise from above: Malaysian Deli, The Proud Sow and Jerome's

The Proud Sow Oliver Khaldi is on a mission to reconnect his customers with the provenance of their food. Inspired to start his own business after he began buying whole pigs from a friend and

I don't adapt our food to European tastes – what we cook is how Malaysians eat

butchering them, he wanted to put his new skills to better use. “At the time things like Abel & Cole were starting to become prevalent so the interest was raised in where our food comes from,” Oli says. “Then in 2014 we [Oli, his girlfriend and their business partner] decided to take it one step further and buy what was then called Peter James Family Butchers in Crofton Park.” Many people are now looking to cut back on their meat consumption and Oli agrees that the ethical carnivore should be “willing to accept the basics of ‘better meat less often’. “A lot of the information out there about farming is distorted to fit with people’s agendas. Our biggest crop in the UK is actually grass and to convert that into something useful you need animals. “The beef and lamb industry has always been strong because we have all this pastureland. The problem is there are incentives to produce more and go to this mono-crop culture, which destroys the countryside and the biodiversity. Thankfully there is still a big movement to put hedgerows back, plant trees, create forestland and really understand the cycle of food. “We talk about ultra-processed foods as bacon and sausages but to create a meatless burger is as much processing, if not more and it’s arguably more destructive for the environment in terms of its soy content, and soy is GM modified. Then there are all the chemical balancers and emulsifiers needed – you can’t just make it out of vegetables. “If you follow the money, everyone is piling into meat free, which means that their agenda is to demonise meat. Just like 25 years ago [when it was] ‘Let’s chuck our money into making these monstrous industrial meat sheds’. Neither is the way to go. If you go all the way back to post war we were quite happily feeding ourselves. “I want to show people the real value of these farming methods,” he adds. “Although it’s called The Proud Sow we sell all types of meat and we are 100% free range and whole carcass butchers. “Really it’s about the provenance of everything, so we are dealing with small farms and small distributors and really understanding where everything we sell comes from. The shop has always been a community butcher and right from the start we trusted in the meat, we knew it was going to be our greatest selling point. “The people make it what it is though,” he adds. “It’s all about serving the customers at the end of the day. In 2014 in Crofton Park, it was on the cusp of growth – people were moving in who had been priced out of East Dulwich and Peckham. It’s the natural wave of ‘further out, further out’ and we hit that wave at the right time and were very lucky. “A year before, one of our close friends moved in down the road [from where we are now] and we were like, ‘You’ve moved where?!’ A year later we were buying a shop here.”

28 C R O F TON PARK SPECI A L t’s a typically busy morning at the Neighbourhood Vet in Crofton Park, where the reception area is quite the social centre. One woman has called in with her Labrador to pick up a poo bag from the counter: it seems her companion has answered the call of nature en route to Hilly Fields. Another, barely in control of an exuberant Bedlington terrier, pops in to discuss an implant. Meanwhile, another woman brings in a limpideyed spaniel, because she’s worried about his incessant paw licking, except he hasn’t licked his paws once since he arrived. “It’s probably because he loves coming here. He’s so relaxed he doesn’t need to do it.” That’s an unusual reaction from an animal on a trip to the vet, but it must be music to the ears of the team, as co-founder Amber Christie explains: “We’ve always wanted to be able to get to know the clients, so we devised a consultation system that allows people enough time to tell us about their pet. As far as possible we’d like people to feel they can drop in or phone once they have had their initial consultation. “If someone books in with a new puppy or kitten they may want their initial consultation to take more time, because there are so many more services we can offer for a pet animal in terms of staying healthy.” The neighbourhood vibe is ingrained in the practice’s approach to pet care. This was pretty unusual when Amber and her co-founder Suzanne McNabb started the practice in 2011. “We met at veterinary school in Australia and became friends. We qualified and moved over here in 2001


Pet project The Neighbourhood Vet is a local hub for pet owners and their dogs, cats and other furry friends. Our reporter popped into the busy Crofton Park practice to meet the team who work there


to work in different practices, but over the years we decided to go into business and create something better of our own.” When their first practice opened in East Dulwich it caused quite a stir. The bright, spacious premises and coffee and biscuits for clients made it seem more like one of the posher estate agents than a veterinary practice. “It’s not so unusual now that people have quite high expectations of customer care, but back then the level of service came as a great surprise for our clients,” recalls Amber. Crofton Park is the second of three Neighbourhood Vets in south-east

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F E B R U A RY/MA R CH 2020

Left: veterinary surgeon Rory Cowlam with a patient Opposite: another satisfied customer with members of the team

Canine content? Top dog tips n Encourage socialisation. Dogs like to make friends with other dogs n Be aware of the time commitment. Dogs are labour intensive n Buy top quality food but don’t overfeed n Exercise. Exercise. Exercise n Go to puppy training classes n Keep away from Gumtree. Consult the Kennel Club ( uk) for pedigree dogs, and Battersea for rescue dogs

London. Surrounded by perfect dog-walking country – One Tree Hill, Ladywell Fields, Brockley and Ladywell Cemeteries – it’s like pooch central, although consultant Rory Cowlam says that most of the patients are of a feline persuasion. “Cats are still the UK’s most popular pet. This practice generally reflects the nation’s pet preferences. I’d say our client base is 55% cat and 45% dog, with a few rabbits and guinea-pigs for good measure.” The Neighbourhood Vet is active on social media, and is one of the veterinary practices featured on CBBC’s The Pets Factor, so there’s plenty of opportunity for the vets to educate their followers on animal husbandry and welfare issues. “I’m concerned about the indiscriminate breeding and buying of brachycephalic dogs [squishy-faced dogs like pugs, often major social media stars],” says Rory. “People think they’re cute but often they’re in distress because they can’t breathe. The overbreeding of these dogs means they present with so many health problems.” Another aspect of unregulated dog acquisition is a growing trend to “rescue” dogs from abroad, which concerns both Amber and Rory,

Feline groovy? Top cat tips n Don’t get a second cat. They’re inherently solitary but think of you as their possession n Do read the International Cat Care (icatcare. org) advice page for information on how to keep your cat stress free and avoid problems like cystitis, colitis and over-grooming n Buy top quality food but don’t overfeed n Make time for your cat – playtime and exercise time n Encourage forage feeding: hide food in puzzle systems to encourage hunting behaviour and prevent overeating

because there are so many unwanted pets in shelters like Battersea Dogs Home whining for a home. “We’re seeing more infectious diseases coming in from the continent; illnesses that had been wiped out in the UK are reappearing because people are importing irresponsibly. It sounds cooler to say you’ve imported a dog from, say, Romania rather than Battersea,” explains Rory. “The only silver lining I can see about Brexit is that it will allow us to apply more controls and revise our import laws. I saw one dog that someone had imported from Europe, with some kind of passport issued by a dodgy vet. The dog went on to have eight puppies with numerous health problems. It’s a real issue, and it’s a message we’d like to get out there in our community.” The Neighbourhood Vet runs a Pet Club to help customers spread the cost of essential preventative care, such as vaccination and flea treatments, but all vets these days recommend owners purchase pet health insurance, to avoid eye-watering bills. It’s crucial to factor in vets’ fees when calculating the cost of pet ownership, yet they’re often overlooked in the excitement of

purchasing a puppy, kitten or even a smaller pet like a bunny. “Veterinary care is private healthcare, after all,” says Rory, “but so many people seem shocked by the cost. It’s why we’re careful to talk people through their options when faced with the prospect of extensive and expensive treatment. “There are charities, such as the PDSA [People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals] and the excellent Celia Hammond Animal Trust here in Lewisham, which can support people who cannot afford private healthcare, and we do our best to point clients towards these more affordable options. “The fact is that a practice like this has enormous overheads. People think that vets take home a lot of money. That simply isn’t true. Many of us are still trying to pay back our student loans after the five years’ training.” It’s one of the reasons, Rory says, that vets suffer such high levels of stress, and why he’s grateful to work at a supportive practice like the Neighbourhood Vet. “The stress of the job comes down to this: you’re dealing with people face to face, whose emotions may be running high because of their beloved companion’s health issues, and then you have to present them with a bill

at the end of it. When a client’s in tears because they cannot afford an operation for their treasured cat, or euthanasia is looming, it’s hard not to take on that grief yourself. No wonder vets are four times more likely than the general public to commit suicide.” On a happier note, there are steps you can take to avoid the need for costly treatment as far as possible – and ensuring your animal friend leads the healthiest life it can is the best way forward. Feed it well, advises Rory. “Food is the best medicine. I believe many of the problems we see with pets, particularly obesity, are to do with the over-processing of pet foods. “There’s a trend towards raw and home-cooked foods for pets, and there are benefits to this type of feeding. Cats and dogs are carnivores so they need pure meat.” If cooking for kitty seems too much of a faff, there’s premium animal food on sale here in reception, as well as toys and accessories to keep your pet engaged. Boredom is a real stressor for cats in flats and doggies without daycare, which is why avoiding it is one of Rory’s top tips for potential cat and dog owners to keep them out of his surgery – apart from social calls, of course.


The Uncle C's team: Elliott Wright-Clarke, Pamela DuncanWilliams Gayle and Darwin Favourite

The owners of Uncle C's Juice Bar in New Cross not only serve up delicious smoothies and juice – they're also passionate about helping young people lead healthier lives

Raising the bar

new smoothie and juice bar has opened up on New Cross Road, serving healthy, fresh fruit juices and custommade smoothies, as well as vegan waffles with a variety of toppings and homemade vegetable soup at the weekends to keep you warm and nourished. Uncle C’s Juice Bar is the name, but it does much more than juice. Community is important to its three owners – Lewisham locals Pamela Duncan-Williams Gayle and Elliott Wright-Clarke and Hackney native Darwin Favourite. They want to work with the community and empower local businesses and young people. The trio share a refreshing chemistry. “I can’t stand them,” Pamela, 34, jokes when I pop in on a cold Sunday afternoon. Uncle C’s opened its doors in November last year. “We want to make sure people experience what we have to offer and help them eat healthier, [without] compromising the taste, so that it’s a holistic approach to everything,” says Elliott. “It’s not just business: it’s a whole, rounded, complete thing that we’re doing.” Elliott, 32, and Darwin, 35, met 10 years ago while Darwin was running Games on Skates in London Bridge. They struck up a working relationship after Elliott, impressed with how Darwin put on such a successful event, humbly suggested they merge their talents to make it an even bigger success. “So I approached Darwin,” Elliott says. “I said, ‘Hey, you lot need me on your team’. So we didn’t really start off as friends. We started off as business partners and the friendship grew from there on in.” Darwin and Elliott began putting on a range of community projects, working with young people to




help nurture their creativity and entrepreneurial talents. One night around December 2018, as some of those projects were drawing to a close, the two men discussed what their next move might be. “I said juices, kind of flippantly, and Darwin was like, ‘Nah, you’re on to something.’ So then we thought about it and developed it.” While considering locations for their new venture, Elliott remembered that Pamela, whom he had known for seven years, had an empty property in New Cross. Pamela had been planning to open an African and West Indian restaurant in the space with a business partner, but despite the money and work that had been put into it, the two of them had parted ways. The unit – at 395a New Cross Road – was more than just bricks and mortar to Pamela. The property has been in her life for more than 30 years, and has played a significant part in her history, her family’s history and most importantly, her father’s legacy. “My dad, Charles Kofi DuncanWilliams, first had the premises as KA Minicabs before I was born,” she explains. “It was a minicab station, which later changed to Chaly’s Mini Cab. “Next door to the premises he had a barbershop called Flex Barbers. And then slightly down the road, like a quarter of a mile away on Deptford High Street, he had a supermarket [Tina Mini Market] that he ran with my mother.” Pamela took the reins of the minicab service after her father became ill in June 2016. “During that period the cab office was still operating. I was the director and owner of the business and at that time my dad was just the secretary because he was [elderly].”

We want to be involved in the community and for young people to know that we're here

Her father’s illness took its toll on Pamela emotionally and financially, and in May 2017 she shut up shop. After her dad passed away, it was important to her to do something positive with the premises. “My dad always said to me, ‘This shop is for you. I want you to do something with it and use it for you and your boys.’” When she was approached by Elliott and Darwin, after discussing their plans the three agreed to do business together. “The gentlemen were very sensitive to my story,” Pamela says. “They understood where I was coming from and allowed me to name the shop after my father.” The trio decided to push forward in January 2019, banding together to sort out their finances and reconstruct the whole building. Uncle C’s Juice Bar was finally born, a bright, welcoming and relaxed establishment, decorated with Guyanese, Jamaican and Ghanaian flags and colours, a celebration of the three entrepreneurs’ backgrounds. “I’m from Ghana,” says Pamela. “Darwin is from Guyana and Elliott’s from Jamaica, so we’ve all got different cultural backgrounds. “We managed to incorporate all our cultures, all our differences. We’ve incorporated all our flags, all our countries, all our colours in every part of the shop.” Uncle C’s places an emphasis on community and youth empowerment and plans to expand the juice bar by building those relationships. “We want to be actively involved,” says Elliott. “We’re not just trying to open up shop and be like, ‘Yeah guys, come here, let’s take your money and then go.’ We want young people in the area to know that Uncle C’s is here and actively doing things with them.” “We’re building up relationships with the gyms and the yoga studios,” says Darwin, “where we supply discounts for them on a regular basis, just to get people more active with going [to those places].” Their plans for expansion include working with the local youth football teams to provide them with juices when they play at weekends. They also plan to contact schools to let them know they offer the option for students interested in business to take out work experience with them. They’ve already taken on one young person, who comes in a couple of times a week. They have further plans to hire out their bar on Sundays for private functions, people running workshops and other independent ventures, and they will be providing food and smoothies throughout. They also want to include more hot food on their menu, such as roti, chickpea curry, paninis and chicken with waffles. Uncle C’s Juice Bar is the result of three strong and hard-working individuals determined to empower their community to be healthier and reach their full potential, while serving the freshest smoothies and juice. It’s an inspiring vision that deserves to bear fruit.


















Inspirational Lewisham PE teacher Sydney Pigden is credited by Ian Wright for changing the course of his life. The legendary striker tells us more ydney Pigden was a remarkable man. A war hero and an inspirational PE teacher for three decades at Turnham primary school in Brockley, he is credited by legendary south London football hero and England international Ian Wright as being one of the foremost influences on his life and career, as well as “the first positive male in my life”. Sydney, who died in 2017 aged 95, was recently honoured with a memorial plaque at the school, which is now called Turnham Academy. Appropriately enough, the memorial was unveiled by Wright himself – alongside Turnham Academy head of school Davina Belcher – at a ceremony towards the end of last year. “Some of Sydney’s close friends contacted the local authority a while back, writing about the positive impact he had on the young people of Lewisham,” Davina says. “As a school we work really closely with other community stakeholders and we have a community stakeholder group that meets once a month and talks about ways to celebrate the [Honor Oak] estate. We decided as a joint project to put together a bid for a plaque and we were successful. “Having the plaque on the wall commemorates Sydney’s life but it’s also a reminder to all of our staff here of the role we play. It serves as an inspiration for us to every day strive



to make a positive impact on our children. It’s a permanent reminder of the impact teachers can have.” The obvious choice to unveil the plaque, of course, was Sydney’s most famous former pupil and Ian Wright was only too happy to oblige. “Syd was a bigger hero [than me] because if I hadn’t met him, I wouldn’t be in the position I am today,” the 55-year-old former Crystal Palace and Arsenal striker told The Lewisham Ledger at the unveiling. “I [first] met him outside the classroom – maybe the second or third time that I had been put outside [for


misbehaviour]. On this occasion he went in and spoke to the teacher and then came out and said, ‘Come with me’. “And then that was it – I was eight and on and off for around the next 18 months he got me up to speed. “The problem was, I was struggling in class and when I couldn’t grasp a lesson, I got disruptive. So that’s why the teacher was unfortunately putting me outside. “What I didn’t realise until I grew up was how much I admired the fact that they [the teachers] kept on going even when we were being disruptive. “Once Mr Pigden had sorted me out, [he] gave me books to read and helped with my writing, [then] he put me back in the class and gave me responsibilities like the registers, [and] being the milk monitor.” Wright’s own family background was deeply dysfunctional – his father Herbert had walked out on the family, his stepfather was violently abusive and his mother Nesta was on the road to alcoholism. By providing his young pupil with structure and nurturing and encouraging his nascent football talents, Sydney turned Wright’s life around and put him on the road to stardom. He also imparted important life lessons. “He taught me to try and interact with people,” Wright reflected. “To be more patient. It was something I battled with. “Now I get everything that he was doing. I always look back to the fact that he just did it. He just took me on. “My household was quite toxic with my stepfather and my mum. But he

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[Sydney] just loved me. He saw how angry I got when I played football and it didn’t go [well] for me. “He always talked to me about winning and losing and that you have to win with grace and lose with grace. It was very hard to do that when I was younger. I was always thinking that if you lost, you weren’t good for some reason. I don’t know where that came from. “I felt like a failure because I didn’t get a lot of encouragement but he slowly made me realise that I wasn’t. He was the one. I’d give him all the credit for shaping me.” Touchingly, Wright dedicated his 2016 autobiography A Life in Football to his beloved mentor, whose own incredible life story began in Sydenham, where he was born on 25 April 1922. Despite being a bright boy, Sydney was forced to leave school at 14 and seek employment, due to his family’s straitened financial circumstances. Within a year of leaving school, both Sydney’s parents had died, but – foreshadowing the devoted support he would later show to many generations of schoolchildren – the financial intervention of his former headteacher ensured he was able to complete his


If I hadn't met Sydney, I wouldn't be in the position that I'm in today

Top and opposite page: Ian Wright visits Turnham Academy Above: Sydney Pigden Right: the new plaque honouring Sydney

school certificate by attending evening classes. After a spell in the civil service as a clerk in the War Office, Sydney joined the RAF in 1941 and flourished. As part of 164 Squadron he flew more than 100 daring missions in Spitfires, Hurricanes and Typhoons, including many successful raids on enemy ships, radar stations and transports.

The fact Sydney survived World War Two was remarkable in itself. On several occasions the aircraft he was flying were damaged, including one particularly dramatic episode when he had to land his Typhoon in Normandy with no flaps or brakes, successfully skidding the aircraft after the runway ran out – a highly skilful manoeuvre that won him a mention in despatches. After the conclusion of the war, Sydney participated in the celebratory Battle of Britain flypast on 15 September 1945. He was demobbed the following year and married Aileen, whom he had met while stationed in Scotland in the war. Subsequently Sydney trained as a teacher at Wandsworth teacher training college, moving to Turnham primary in 1950. As well as losing his parents aged just 15, Sydney’s life would be touched by further tragedies – he and Aileen’s only child died in infancy, and Aileen herself died young in 1968.

However, Sydney’s capacity and passion to inspire others remained undimmed by these personal losses. In the course of his long and meritorious services to the children of Lewisham, he touched numerous lives, including that of Wright’s Arsenal teammate David Rocastle, who also attended Turnham primary school. An accomplished sportsman, who was still playing golf in his 80s and was also a qualified referee, Sydney used the sublime talents of former Tottenham Hotspur striker Jimmy Greaves to fire the imagination of the young Wright. “He was the one who introduced me to Jimmy Greaves,” Wright explained. “I was only eight so I didn’t know who Jimmy Greaves was. He talked about how he finished, how he’d score his goals. “I would always try to get close to the goalkeeper and try and really smash it hard into the goal. “He [Sydney] was the one who said, ‘Ian – come on! That’s not it. Look where the goalkeeper is, look where the space is. Find the space.’” Never forgetting the lessons that Sydney taught him, Wright would go on to score 387 senior goals for seven football clubs, principally Crystal Palace and Arsenal, as well as nine times in 33 games for England. It was a legacy that Sydney was rightly proud of – he even once remarked that watching Wright’s debut for his country was a prouder moment for him than the Battle of Britain flypast. There’s also one final, touching coda in the story of Sydney Pigden and Ian Wright. By the year 2000, the two men had not seen each other in many years. Indeed, Wright had been incorrectly informed that Sydney had passed away. While filming a documentary at Arsenal’s then home ground Highbury, Sydney emerged from the shadows to greet his former pupil with the words, “Hello, Ian – long time no see.” Wright’s initially bewildered and then tearfully emotional reaction to seeing his former teacher once again has seen the clip become a social media favourite, viewed millions of times worldwide, including on World Teachers’ Day last year when it was shared on Twitter by Jeremy Corbyn. It’s a clip that speaks powerfully of the potential of one human being to alter the course of another’s life through kindness, compassion and support. As Wright himself has said of the remarkable Sydney Pigden: “He’s still with me. He’ll always be with me.”


SOMETHING TO EAT råraka with beetroot and puy lentil salad These Swedish hash browns from plant-based food vendor Daun's Deli are a Scandinavian classic Add a knob of butter and when melted add a little oil. Use your hands to squeeze out the juice from the potato mix to remove any excess liquid, then form the mix into patties. Depending on the size of your pan, fry two to three rårakor at once, shape them and press gently on top to press out more liquid. Fry for about five minutes on medium to high heat, until crusty – then they should be easier to turn.

Ingredients For the råraka 500g firm potatoes 150g carrot 100g brown onion ¼ tsp white pepper powder 2 pinches of sea salt 2-3 twists of black pepper 1 pinch of grated nutmeg ½ tsp turmeric powder Dairy-free butter Cold-pressed rapeseed oil For the beetroot salad 100g beetroot 100g puy lentils 1 bay leaf 2 pinches of sea salt 1 tbsp olive oil 1 zest of lemon ½ juice of lemon ½ red onion 1-2 tbsp fresh dill To serve Crème fraîche or plain yoghurt Fresh dill Lemon wedge Method 1 Brush and wash the beetroot and boil with the skin on until soft but with a slightly firm centre. Transfer to cold water and cool before removing the skin. 2 Boil the lentils with the bay leaf and


some salt for about 15 minutes. They should not be overcooked and start to fall apart. Drain and add the olive oil, lemon zest and juice while the lentils are warm.

3 Chop the beetroot and red onion into small dices and chop the dill finely to your taste. Add to the lentil mix and gently combine. This salad could be made in

advance as the flavours evolve. If so take it out of the fridge at least 30 minutes before eating. 4 Peel the potatoes, carrot and onion. Grate by hand or in a


8 Across is a well-known feature of Crofton Park.




8 ABIILLLMOOORRV (anagram) (6, 8) 9 Look over (4) 10 Extreme lack of food (10) 11 Shrewd (6) 13 Fantastic, great (8) 15 Omen (4) 17 Outfit, get-up (7) 19 Healthy food element (8) 22 Improve, enhance (6) 24 Days gone by (10) 26 Escape, run away (4) 27 Plotting (14)

1 Athletics field event (6) 2 Earth’s satellite (4) 3 Albert ____, notable physicist (8) 4 Empty (6) 5 Pasture plant (6) 6 Fortified wine (4) 7 Grand shop (8) 12 Speak, say (5) 14 Bury (5) 16 Wealth, luxury (8) 18 Think too highly of (8) 20 Our continent (6) 21 Hypothesis (6) 23 Roman emperor’s title (6) 25 Military vehicle (4) 26 Item of cutlery (4)















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food processor. Add the seasoning and mix gently. Turmeric is used mainly for the lovely yellow colour so can be left out if you wish. 5 Heat up a saucepan.

6 Add some oil on top and when the patty is ready to be flipped, fry on the other side on medium heat for five minutes. Then add a splash of water, put a lid on the pan and leave to cook for one minute. Check that the surface is golden brown and that they are cooked through. If not leave to cook for a few more minutes, or bake in the oven at 180°C. Leave to cool and eat warm or at room temperature. 7 Serve with the salad and a dollop of crème fraîche or plain yoghurt (drained if too runny), fresh dill and a lemon wedge. Enjoy!

A lewisham LOCAL Will Hay Film, radio and music hall comedian Will Hay was partly known for his schoolmaster sketch as the jovial Dr Muffin. Born in Stocktonon-Tees in 1888, as a child he moved to Crofton Park, living on Eddystone Road and later Merritt Road. He attended Brockley Primary (now Beecroft Garden) school. He worked with Gainsborough Pictures and became one of Britain's most prolific film stars, with his breakout film, Boys Will Be Boys, described as "very amusing" by Graham Greene. His 1937 film Oh, Mr Porter! is regarded as one of


Daun’s Deli was founded by Rickard Daun, a food enthusiast from Sweden who moved to Catford two years ago and started his own business. He began trading at Catford Food Market and other markets, then held a regular supper club at Bottle Bar and Shop on Catford Broadway. Last September, he took a space in the newly opened cinema Catford Mews, where he offers 100% plant-based food that is homemade with seasonal ingredients and minimum food waste. Inspiration comes from all over the world but with a Scandinavian twist. The recipe that follows is a Swedish classic, råraka – or Swedish hash browns. It works as a starter eaten at room temperature with beetroot salad, and is also perfect with seaweed caviar and crème fraîche. It can also be served as a hot main course with lingonberries, plant-based bacon and a cabbage salad. This recipe makes six rårakor.

the greatest British comedy films. Hay was also a respected amateur astronomer and has an asteroid named in his honour. He died in 1949 aged 60 and is buried in Streatham Park Cemetery.

ACROSS: 8 Rivoli Ballroom, 9 Scan, 10 Starvation, 11 Astute, 13 Terrific, 15 Portent, 17 Costume, 19 Nutrient, 22 Enrich, 24 Yesteryear, 26 Flee, 27 Conspiratorial. DOWN: 1 Discus, 2 Moon, 3 Einstein, 4 Vacant, 5 Clover, 6 Port, 7 Emporium, 12 Utter, 14 Inter, 16 Opulence, 18 Overrate, 20 Europe, 21 Theory, 23 Caesar, 25 Tank, 26 Fork.


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