A FREE NEWSPAPER FOR LEWISHAM
The Lewisham Ledger I S S U E 9 | O C TO B E R / N O V E M B E R 2 0 1 9
Down by the river Treasures on the banks of the Thames PAGES 20, 21
Comic creators share their stories PA G E S 1 6 , 17
A family affair
Camaraderie in the community
Persian paradise at Caspian in Lee
PAG E S 1 8 , 1 9
PA G E 26
TH E LE WI S H A M L E DG E R
O CTO B E R / N O V E M BE R 201 9
PHOTO BY ISAAC WHITTINGHAM
Welcome to The Lewisham Ledger, a free newspaper for the borough. s regular readers will know, in each edition of the paper we run a special section on a different part of Lewisham, in addition to the usual borough-wide news and features. This issue has a focus on Lee, with a dedicated section on the area that includes an interview with the Lee Forum and a piece on local favourite Caspian among other stories. It begins on page 22. The paper has now been running since June 2018 and we’ve had a lot of support from advertisers throughout this year. A big thank you to all those brilliant local businesses who have booked an ad with us and helped keep the Ledger in print. As a small way of giving something back, we’d like to offer a free quarter page advert in our winter/Christmas edition to a local charity or equally good cause that benefits the Lewisham community in some way. We will also pay for a designer to create the artwork for them. The issue will be published at the end of November. If you know of anyone or anywhere that fits the bill, please let us know by emailing email@example.com by 31 October. In addition, if you’re a business or organisation who would like to advertise with us in the run-up to Christmas, please get in touch via the same address to find out how we can help promote what you do across the borough of Lewisham and beyond. We hope you enjoy the issue!
Mark McGinlay and Kate White
The Lewisham Ledger
Eleanor Bradford, who is currently crowdfunding for her new Ital cookbook
Catford resident's recipes for recovery A Catford resident has created an autobiographical cookbook that documents her recovery from anorexia. Eleanor Bradford moved from Bristol to London aged 19 to study fine art at Goldsmiths. When she was 22 she developed an eating disorder and found her life was dismantled in a way she had never experienced before. “I developed anorexia during my final year of university,” she said. “I’ve battled with mental health problems my whole life and had recently overcome problems with addiction. “Looking back now I was quite vulnerable at the time, and the anorexia developed as another addiction really, another coping mechanism for those underlying mental health issues. “I became ill quite quickly, within about nine months, and was transferred back to Bristol for hospital treatment, where I was told I was going to die within a matter of hours. “That was obviously very shocking to me, but even after that, for years I was unable to get any support or therapeutic help for my eating disorder.”
Cover photograph Charlotte Zalepa by Tony Barratt Editors Mark McGinlay, Kate White Creative directors Andy Keys, Marta Pérez Sainero Type designers a2-type.co.uk londontype.co.uk Photographer Lima Charlie Features editor Emma Finamore Sub-editor Jack Aston
Eleanor returned to London and began writing about her life, documenting everything that was happening to her and trying to rebuild her sense of identity. “It was my way of trying to understand what I was going through but also the history of my mental illness and everything that had led to that point,” she said. “It was a way to just get it all out.” The result is Vitality, a 126-page illustrated Ital cookbook, which has taken Eleanor four-and-a-half years to create. The book, which she describes as a “labour of love”, features around 75 vegan recipes, hand-illustrated by Eleanor, and is structured by different stages of recovery, from small bites through to meals for eating with loved ones. Alongside the recipes are personal accounts of Eleanor’s own anorexia and insightful explorations into ideas of identity and community. After moving to London, Eleanor became resident photographer for Lewisham-based sound system Unit 137, and sound system culture is also a big focus in the book. “I got to know Unit 137 through my older brother, who was involved with them as a saxophonist,” she said. “Growing up in Bristol it is very much a culture that is thriving anyway, but it became a really important part of my community and my sense of identity and wellbeing. “Then, when I went into recovery, it was again the thing that helped give me the framework for looking at holistic wellbeing. I also learnt about Ital through that culture and working with lots of Rastas, people like Macka B – he’s
Contributors Lorna Allan, Arthur J Comely, Helen Graves, Seamus Hasson, Rosie Parkyn, Colin Richardson, Nikki Spencer, Paul Stafford, César Vásquez Altamirano, Luke G Williams Marketing and social media Mark McGinlay
a member of the Vegan Society and he sings about it a lot.” Ital is a practice that is rooted in the Rastafari faith and encourages a holistic approach, where lifestyle choices are determined through self-reflection and consideration for the individual’s mental, physical and spiritual wellbeing, as well as for the environment. Ensuring the recipes in the book were accessible and affordable was important to Eleanor. “For a long time when I was ill, when I wasn’t able to work, I was living on benefits and had to use a food bank,” she said. “It meant that I couldn’t afford to financially sustain buying expensive or speciality food. I write about that and the impact it had on my recovery in the book.” Her crowdfunding campaign has already been backed by more than 60 people and if it reaches its target, Eleanor hopes the book will help others in a similar situation. “I know from experience that eating disorders affect everyone in the community,” she said. “The book is dedicated to one of my closest friends who passed away from anorexia eight years ago this December. I knew from that perspective how much it affected me as a friend. “I hope it does help people who are going through this and gives them agency, a sense of companionship and a sense of hope.” To pledge to Eleanor's crowdfunding campaign and receive a copy of the book in print and ebook format, visit unbound.com/books/vitality
Editorial and advertising firstname.lastname@example.org Follow us @lewishamledger @lewishamledger @lewishamledger lewishamledger.tumblr.com
Shining a spotlight on black history Black History Month is back this October, promising a packed programme of fascinating – and free – events across the borough. One unmissable highlight from this year’s line-up is a black history talk and book-signing by David Olusoga, the acclaimed British-Nigerian historian, author, broadcaster and filmmaker. Described as “one of Britain’s foremost historians”, he was on TV screens earlier this year presenting the second series of his brilliant BBC Two documentary A House Through Time, which explores the history of interesting houses and their occupants. Join him at Lewisham Library on 26 October from 3-4pm. Another event that’s not to be missed focuses on the Pulitzer and Nobel prizewinning author Toni Morrison, who died in August this year aged 88. Fans of the seminal writer can attend a special reading group at Downham Library to celebrate her work. Morrison was born in Ohio into a working class, African-American family. In 1949 she went to Howard University in Washington to study English, where she encountered racially segregated restaurants and buses for the first time. She later worked for publisher Random House in New York City, where she became the first black female senior editor in the fiction department. While there she played a key role in bringing black literature into the mainstream. An early book she worked on
was the groundbreaking Contemporary African Literature in 1972, which included work by Nigerian writers Wole Soyinka and Chinua Achebe. She fostered a new era of African-American authors, including Toni Cade Bambara, Angela Davis and Gayl Jones. Morrison finished her first novel, The Bluest Eye, by getting up at 4am every
day to write while raising her two children alone. Published in 1970, it was praised by the New York Times as being “a prose so precise, so faithful to speech and so charged with pain and wonder that the novel becomes poetry... But The Bluest Eye is also history, sociology, folklore, nightmare and music.”
Celebrated AfricanAmerican author Toni Morrison
Her next novel was Sula, which explored the friendship between two black women, followed by Song of Solomon. In 1987 came her most celebrated novel, Beloved, which was inspired by the true story of Margaret Garner, an African-American woman who escaped slavery but was pursued by slave hunters. Facing a return to slavery, she killed her two-year-old daughter but was captured before she could kill herself. The novel imagines her dead child returning as a ghost, Beloved, to haunt her mother and family. The book was a huge success, a bestseller for 25 weeks and went on to win the Pulitzer prize for fiction in 1988. Five years later, Morrison became the first black woman to be awarded the Nobel prize in literature. Discuss her fiction, non-fiction and the impact she made on the world on 25 October from 3-5pm. Other events to look out for include Reggae Readings with filmmaker Peter Lowe and Tippa Irie, who was an MC on Lewisham sound system Saxon Studio International. Join them at Lewisham Library on 31 October from 7-9pm. Elsewhere, films from Malcolm X to Selma will be screened at Downham Library on Sundays throughout October from 1-3pm; and kids are invited to join the Iroko Theatre Company for African music, stories and activities at Deptford Lounge on 29 October from 10-11am. To view the full programme, visit lewisham.gov.uk/blackhistorymonth
TH E LE WI S H A M L E DG E R
O CTO B E R / N O V E M BE R 201 9
Brockley Brewery to launch in Lee Brockley Brewery is set to expand with a second site in Lee, allowing it to brew four times more beer than its current premises in SE4. The company began brewing in 2013 in a former builder’s workshop on Harcourt Road in Brockley. It later turned part of the space into a popular taproom, serving beers and snacks. The brewery produces cask, keg and bottled beers, with a core range of five: a pale ale, red ale, lager, session IPA and porter. It also brews a variety of seasonal specials. Co-founder Andy Rowland, who has lived in Brockley since 1987, set up the brewery with six other partners. “I could see there was an opportunity to do something a little bit different in the area, and I wanted to get involved in something that local people would appreciate,” he said. The brewery now sells its beer to a range of pubs, bars and restaurants, primarily dotted across south-east London. The team initially looked to expand in Brockley but were unable to find suitable premises. “There’s a very small amount of trading industrial space in Brockley and we wanted a floor area that was considerably larger than we
have already,” Andy said. “We wanted to stay as local as we could and within the borough of Lewisham, and eventually we hit on the Chiltonian industrial estate in Lee.” The SE12 space will brew the company’s premium range of beers in bigger volumes, while Harcourt Road will continue as a functioning brewery with a focus on the seasonal and special brews. The taproom will also be expanded. Brewing will begin in Lee in October, with the taproom expected to open early next year. As well as brewing more beer, Andy said he’s pleased that the new space will allow the company to take on more staff. “We’re confident that as we expand we’ll be able to offer more jobs,” he said. In the run-up to the Lee taproom opening, the team will be hosting a series of special events in the space, including the launch of a new beer for “Brocktoberfest”, allowing people to get a sneak preview of the new premises and share their feedback. Andy said: “In the same way that the taproom at Harcourt Road is very much focused on Brockley, we want the Chiltonian to have an offer that the people of Hither Green and Lee Green will appreciate and make their own.”
Crackdown on HMOs
Cheers: Brockley Brewery's new premises in Lee will allow it to brew four times more beer than it produces currently
Lewisham Council is set to clamp down on unsafe flat conversions in the south of the borough. The council has approved measures that will prevent residential homes in four wards from being converted into cramped and unsafe flats. From March, landlords and property developers will have to secure planning permission to convert a small home into multiple flats in Bellingham, Downham, Grove Park and Whitefoot wards. The council will enforce this through an Article 4 direction to remove permitted development rights for converting homes into small houses of multiple occupation (HMOs) – accommodation where three to six unrelated people share basic amenities such as a kitchen or bathroom. The rules will allow the council to better manage the number, impact and standard of new HMOs in these wards, which have seen a “significant” increase in these types of conversions. It will also allow local residents to have a greater say on planning applications. Mayor of Lewisham Damien Egan said: “Unscrupulous landlords are taking advantage of vulnerable residents by buying up homes and converting them into multiple micro-units. “Everyone deserves a decent and secure place to live, so it is vital that we take steps to prevent small homes from being converted into cramped, expensive and potentially dangerous flats.”
TH E LE WI S H A M L E DG E R
O CTO B E R / N O V E M BE R 201 9
Playtower petition reaches 1,450 Residents will be given a long-awaited update this month on the stalled scheme to transform Ladywell Playtower into a three-screen Curzon cinema, Lewisham Council has said – as a petition to reopen the beleaguered building reached more than 1,450 signatures. The historic Playtower closed 15 years ago and suffered serious fire damage in 2006. It was listed as one of the top 10 most endangered buildings in England and Wales by the Victorian Society and was placed on Historic England’s register for heritage buildings at risk. In 2017 the council invited businesses and organisations to bid to restore the Playtower and received 24 expressions of interest. In November that year, it announced that a joint bid by Curzon cinemas and Bromley-based property developer Guildmore had been selected to take their scheme forward. However, since then the building has remained boarded up, with no obvious signs of progress made. Two public exhibitions scheduled for the beginning of this year were cancelled due to “unforeseen circumstances and ongoing discussions” over the site. An online petition started two months ago by the Lewisham Building Preservation Trust to bring the Playtower back into use had attracted more than 1,450 signatures as this edition of The Lewisham Ledger went to press. Signing the petition, Allan Adams said: “The council will not come clean as to why this project has stalled”, while April Neate said: “It’s awful that such a building should deteriorate. Let’s stand together to see Ladywell improved and the community served by its council.” Stephen Locke added: “Lewisham, Ladywell, Catford and the surrounding areas have lost too many historic and beautiful buildings. This one needs to be loved again by everyone.” In a report on the Playtower in 2017, the council estimated that the cost to restore the grade-II-listed building would be more than £5 million, with “at least a two-year planning and construction phase required”. It said that completion would be “no sooner than 2020”. Guildmore and Curzon’s original proposal included the provision of 19 to 21 flats, which they said would be sold at
Despite plans to turn it into a cinema, Ladywell Playtower remains boarded up PHOTO BY PETER ANTHONY GORMAN
market value in order to fund the restoration of the Playtower. But Guildmore’s website later stated that the scheme would include a “new development of 34 apartments”. Asked why the numbers differed, a spokesman for the company said the number 34 had been uploaded in error by a third-party consultant and the figure was removed. When the council chose Guildmore and Curzon to take the scheme forward, it also announced a reserve bid for the site, which it said would be offered the scheme if “adequate progress” towards the Playtower’s restoration was not made. Led by Hither Green-based developer Hillman and the team behind Peckham’s Copeland Park and Beckenham Place Mansion, the reserve scheme proposed a mixed-use cultural quarter with a similar set-up to Copeland Park, with art, leisure, education, commercial
and creative space and 20 flats at belowmarket rent. Two further schemes from Picturehouse and Goldsmiths were also shortlisted but were unsuccessful. Asked to comment on the continuing delay to the project, a Lewisham Council spokesperson said: “Ladywell Playtower is an important historic local building and our long-term plan remains to refurbish it and bring it back into use for the community. “This is taking longer than anticipated and we share residents’ desire to see the development progress. “We are working with Guildmore/ Curzon – who remain committed to the scheme – to develop viable options for the future of Ladywell Playtower and the surrounding site. We hope to be able to announce more details this month.” If you would like to sign the petition to reopen Ladywell Playtower, visit tiny.cc/playtowerpetition
Young designers' catwalk triumph Two talented teenagers from Lewisham premiered their eco-friendly fashion designs at London Fashion Week last month as part of an event for budding young designers – and were praised for creating the best outfits of the show. The Fashion Futures event was the culmination of a 12-week programme led by London-based charity Fashion Awareness Direct (FAD), which worked with 70 students this year. It goes behind the glitz and glamour of fashion design and aims to increase access for young people from a diverse range of ethnic and socioeconomic
backgrounds, particularly those who are underrepresented in the industry. Fashion Futures premiered on day one of London Fashion Week and showcased the designs of 20 finalists from the 12-week scheme. George Howie, 19,
and Maria Silva, 17, both from Lewisham, were then crowned joint winners. This year’s brief was focused on themes of sustainability and humankind’s relationship with the natural world, challenging students to consider
Lewisham's Maria Silva and George Howie are pictured second from left and fourth from right
Sixty minutes to save the world A Brockley mum held an event that focused on tackling the climate crisis at a local level. Jessie Hunt, founder of Facebook group Plastic Free SE4, invited local activists, business owners, councillors and beekeepers to an evening called Sixty Minutes to Save the World at Brockley Social Club. The free event aimed to empower those in the packed-out room to make a difference, with a series of “lightning” talks and workshops. There was inspiration from Extinction Rebellion activists and Climate Action Lewisham; and top tips from local zero-wasters, including Anna Kokornacka and Aga Czarnota from Beetroot & Beans in Forest Hill, and Sophie Tait, author of trashplastic.com. Attendees also heard from school strikers, who took part in the global climate strike on 20 September, and from Little Art Forms, which focuses on socially engaged and collaborative arts. The workshops were led by Jenny Rosenberg from Friends of the Earth. She said: “Time to avert catastrophic climate change and the horrifying impacts it will have on our lives is fast running out. We know the solutions to climate chaos and there’s still time to act – just. But we need to work together if we’re to convince our government to act. It’s time to take climate action now.”
Little Art Forms' Grace Thompson PHOTO BY DAVID WOODMAN
the wider environmental implications of fashion design. George’s black dress delivered an ecological statement that highlighted the plight of bees and their importance to the ecosystem. He constructed it from a stunning custom-made fabric that took him 30 hours to create. Meanwhile Maria opted to showcase a series of menswear pieces channelling messages from the zero-waste movement, with designs made from repurposed old clothing and materials to keep them from going to landfill. The winners were chosen by an array of industry experts, from fashion influencer Claudia Ayuso – who has a following of 115,000 on Instagram – to representatives from FAD and companies such as ASOS. CEO and founder of FAD, Maria Alvarez, said: “Each year we’re blown away by the dedication and hard work of the students on our programme, so it comes as no surprise to us how many go on to achieve success in the industry, whether that’s securing a place at a prestigious university or getting a job with a major fashion brand.”
Refugees welcome in Lewisham Some of the world’s most vulnerable refugee families are set to start new lives in Lewisham. The Refugee Council and Lewisham Refugee and Migrant Network will provide life-changing support to the families, as part of Lewisham’s refugee resettlement programme. The council has pledged to welcome a further 100 refugee families to the area – in addition to the 17 families who came to live here in 2017 – in line with its commitment to becoming a borough of sanctuary. The resettlement programme takes a collaborative approach, comprising the council, a professional support provider and volunteers from the local community. With the expansion of the programme, the council has appointed the Refugee Council and Lewisham Refugee and Migrant Network to act as the professional support provider for arriving families. The Refugee Council is keen to make full use of the learnings and experiences it has gained from providing resettlement services in Yorkshire and the Humber and Hertfordshire for several years. This is the first time the charity has worked with refugees in London. Resettlement provides life-changing support to people who have survived brutal conflict, war and persecution but are still unable to return home. From welcoming people at the airport and showing them their new homes to supporting them with opening a bank
Above: the Lewisham Migration Forum
account and seeking employment, the help people receive through resettlement programmes is vital. Dr Lisa Doyle, director of advocacy at the Refugee Council, said: “Every single resettlement place the UK provides is a vital lifeline to people and helps refu-
gees to rebuild their lives in safety. The resettlement scheme in Lewisham has been specifically designed so that it brings together the Refugee Council’s wealth of experience in delivering programmes of this kind, with Lewisham Refugee and Migrant Network’s strong
Building a future A Deptford homelessness charity has collaborated with the V&A on a unique furniture-making project. Eight people who are staying at the 999 Club’s night shelter or have previously been homeless have been paired with expert design mentors to create bespoke pieces of furniture. The items are made from donated recycled materials, including packaging crates built for the V&A to protect travelling exhibits. They went on display at the London Design Festival last month. The furniture is functional, multipurpose and portable and can be used when
people move on from the 999 Club to new, temporary accommodation, which is often sparsely furnished with items that can be in poor condition. Chileshe, who made stacking storage for vinyl as part of the scheme, said: “There is a huge crisis on the planet around waste and pollution, so this is a way to demonstrate to people they can do this too – every man’s trash is another man’s treasure. “After this project, I plan to go back into further education for pleasure, rather than necessity. Construction, woodwork and design are definitely things I would consider very seriously.”
Help for deaf rail users
Interiors entrepreneur Claudette Webb
Design mentor Alex and Michael, who took part in the scheme
reach and presence within the local area. “The Lewisham community has been incredibly welcoming towards the Syrian refugee families who have settled here already, and it will be fantastic to build on this wonderful good will.” Rosario Guimba-Stewart, CEO of Lewisham Refugee and Migrant Network, said: “We will use our 25-plus years of experience in delivering frontline support and advice to communities and knowledge of the local area to ensure the families will be offered the support needed to become a part of this community. “Lewisham has proven to be London’s leading borough for refugee resettlement and this programme is part of a wider campaign, of which Lewisham Refugee and Migrant Network is proud to be a key member, to make Lewisham a borough of sanctuary for migrants, refugees and asylum seekers.”
An entrepreneur’s Lee-based business has been chosen as one of 100 trailblazing small companies in the countdown to Small Business Saturday. The Design Webb, launched in 2017, is one of this year’s “Small Biz 100”, a handful of companies chosen from across the UK that “reflect the vibrancy” of its 5.6 million small businesses. In the 100 days leading up to Small Business Saturday on 7 December, the campaign will spotlight each of the 100 businesses, to celebrate their success and encourage the nation to shop local. Founder Claudette Webb, who offers interior design services and hand-sewn, made-to-measure curtains and blinds, swapped a software support job in the City to start her own venture. She said: “When I heard that I’d got through, I was just flabbergasted. I kept thinking, ‘They’ve made a mistake and they’re going to email me and tell me’, but they hadn’t. It took a while to sink in, but it’s amazing.”
London Overground staff at Honor Oak Park station are receiving deaf awareness training as part of a scheme to improve journeys for deaf people and those with hearing loss on the rail network. It is estimated there are 11 million people who are deaf or have hearing loss in the UK, which equates to around one in six people. There are also 151,000 British sign language users – many of whom use the rail network and have difficulty understanding announcements at stations. Tim Scannell, who often travels by train, said: “As I am deaf, I can’t hear station announcements over the Tannoy. I get nervous asking other passengers for journey advice, especially if there are changes to the service. Being able to communicate more easily with station staff would help to reduce my anxiety.” In total, 350 staff will embark on the Arriva Rail London scheme, with employees set to be fully trained and ready to assist passengers by the end of 2019.
Honor Oak Park will be deaf friendly
TH E LE WI S H A M L E DG E R
O CTO B E R / N O V E M BE R 201 9
Blooming marvellous: the Abbotshall Healthy Lifestyle Centre is home to a community and urban wildlife garden among other facilities
Community matters at Catford hub A group of volunteers are hoping to continue their good work at a much-loved community centre for the long term. The Abbotshall Healthy Lifestyle Centre (HLC) on Catford’s Corbett Estate is home to playing fields used by the Lewisham Tigers football club for boys and girls and Carpe Diem FC. There’s also a cafe, a community and urban wildlife garden and an activities studio, which hosts independent fitness classes, yoga and groups for mums and kids and older people. Since January last year, the Abbotshall HLC Community Board – a local group of residents and HLC staff established by the Corbett Residents’ Association – has been managing the site on an interim basis. The board went on to formalise itself as a company and has submitted an application to the Charity Commission to gain charitable status. Lewisham Council is hoping to find an organisation to take over the lease of the centre on a long-term basis, and the HLC board is currently working on a bid to that end.
Mekor Newman, who chairs the HLC board and the Corbett Residents’ Association, said: “At the moment we’re developing our business plan and trying to look at how we can get a good tender in so we can keep the HLC in community ownership. We did a big survey in the community to identify some of the things that we need to put on, so we’ve got that feedback to add into our tender.” In the meantime, the board has been busy organising lots of events – including summer barbecues, picnics, a community camp-out and annual fireworks displays – to increase local awareness of the centre and crucially, to help raise much-needed funds. “Our events are really focused on profiling the centre, getting people to come up and use it and experience what they can from it,” said Mekor. “The last one we held was our summer festival, which went really, really well. It was fantastic, one of the best we’ve had so far, and it raised a lump of money that’s sustaining us now. The next event we’ve got coming up is our fireworks night on 1 November.
Above and top: mayor of Lewisham Damien Egan with some of the team from the centre PHOTOS BY CÉSAR VÁSQUEZ ALTAMIRANO
“That’s our focus really at the moment. We want to create a resource that people use, which also provides local facilities, projects and activities for local people in the community to benefit from. At the same time we want to use
the centre for bringing people together in the community.” The board works with local places and groups such as the Corbett Community Library, the Corbett Residents’ Association, St Andrew’s Church and other residents’ groups in Catford South ward. Mekor said the centre is an invaluable community asset. “Our partnership with Lewisham Tigers has been amazing,” he said. “They’ve got bigger and bigger and on the weekends there are loads of kids playing football. “During the week the gates are open for kids to come and play until the staff leave. It’s the only thing like this in Catford South, so we really do want to keep it open and make the most of it.” He pointed to the Corbett library, which the residents’ association and the Archibald Corbett Society helped save from closure. Thanks to the volunteers who now run it and an injection of lottery funding, today the space is thriving. “Those two groups have really made a difference at the library, making it a real community hub,” he said. “Now we hope we can do the same with the HLC.”
12 LET T E R TO L E W I SH A M
am London born and bred. I was born in Brixton to parents who emigrated from Jamaica in 1954 and met here in the UK. By 1956 they had got married and had me. My parents were of the Windrush generation. They were very driven and they came here for a purpose. Once they realised they were going to be here in the UK permanently they made sure their children had the best education possible and made sure that we were brought up to feel confident, so we could go out into the world and do as well as we possibly could. I’ve always lived in south London. I moved to Lewisham in 1988 because I had a little girl – who is now 31. I’d been living in Croydon in a tiny house and thought it would be nice to have some more space. My brother said to me, ‘Why don’t you move to Catford?’ and I said, ‘Where’s that?’ because the furthest east I’d ever come was Crystal Palace. But I came to Catford and thought, ‘Yes, this is where I want to be and bring up my baby.’ At the time I was working in central London in comms and public relations. But then I got a job at Lewisham Council so that everything could be close to home. I worked there for more than 20 years in different departments and spent much of my time in economic development, looking at ways of trying to grow and regenerate the local community. I loved the role because it meant that I got to know lots of different people, the vast range of communities in Lewisham, and I learned different ways of engaging with people. My aim was always to translate what I learned about day-to-day life in the borough to impact on local and national policies in order to make a positive difference to people’s lives. One of my proudest achievements was the apprenticeship scheme that I got off the ground. In just a year we went from no apprentices to around 40, working in all kinds of jobs, from the theatre to accountancy, admin and construction. Our apprentices really reflected the population of the borough at the time, and to see young people with limited options really change the trajectory of their lives and their families’ lives was incredible. Unfortunately, austerity and the cuts arrived in 2010 and I and many others had to leave the council as local authority funding was cut right back. After a while I thought, ‘Why don’t I work for myself?’ and so for the last five years I’ve been working on my social enterprise Urban Dandelion, trying to inspire communities to bring about the change they want to see. People come to me with issues or ideas or plans, we talk about them and then they turn them into action – I’m there to facilitate, guide and to be an advocate. I’ve done a lot of work around older people in the borough – many of whom live alone and struggle because of the lack of community centres. Older people can easily become isolated, and we now have three local churches that have come together to provide activities every month, through which we are reaching hundreds of older people. We’ve also had a drive to help older people get involved in volunteering in the area. I’m one of three dementia champions. In fact, Catford South is
health inequalities across Lewisham. I’m trying to ensure positive change, because the systems that are currently in place health-wise don’t work anymore. I’m known for going in, rolling up my sleeves and getting involved in anything that will create good outcomes for Lewisham residents. I see the role of mayoress as a chance to showcase the various communities we have – from our older residents, who have so much to offer, to our young people. In Lewisham a quarter of people are under the age of 19 and younger people get a really bad press, particularly young black boys. I want to give everyone in the community a voice. Because I’ve been in the area for so long, people know how to get hold of me. People will stop me in the street or send messages via WhatsApp or Facebook. I get invitations to events in the community all the time and I always try to attend. Sometimes I may have two or three events in one afternoon. I think we have an opportunity to do some really exciting things in
the only formally registered dementia friendly area in Lewisham – that’s something else we have driven through. Another thing I’ve been working on is health. For people of African and Caribbean descent living in Lewisham the health outcomes and statistics are really concerning. I began to investigate why it is that so many African and Caribbean people in Lewisham in their 50s, for example, already have such lifelimiting conditions, such as diabetes with a high risk of having a stroke. It seems to be accepted as a way of life but it isn’t a way of life we should accept. I’ve been working with the council, as well as various community organisations and GPs, to try and change the situation. The Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust have opened their arms, allowing a group of like-minded people with similar concerns to meet every month at their premises. Out of this work the Lewisham BME Network was formed and in turn, that work brought me into contact with the elected mayor of Lewisham, Damien Egan. One day I went to see the mayor with a proposal and he asked me if I would be the mayoress. I really didn’t see it coming at all! My immediate reaction was, ‘I don’t think I can do this’. My work in the community is the most important thing to me, you see. It takes a long time to build up trust and people don’t always trust statutory organisations. So there was a lot for me to think about. I spoke to my daughter about it and she said, ‘Mum, we need someone like you to be there, to be seen. It will
BOROUGH Barbara Gray was made mayoress of Lewisham this year after around three decades of dedicated work in the borough. The Catford resident tells us why she is determined to make the most of the role and the platform it provides
AS TOLD TO LUKE G WILLIAMS
PHOTO BY ARTHUR J COMELY
mean a lot to more people than you realise.’ I thought, ‘Well, I can’t really say no now!’ So I agreed to be the mayoress. I think I bring a lot to the role; I know Lewisham very well, I know how to work with change and I understand how councils work. I’ll be mayoress for a year, and I began in April. I am also adviser to the mayor in terms of addressing
Above: mayoress of Lewisham Barbara Gray
Lewisham is rich with people who have lived and worked here for many years Lewisham. The borough is rich with people who have lived and worked here over many years with a great deal of expertise and passion for their areas. Above all, Lewisham is a place that means a lot to me. It’s a place where I feel very comfortable, very safe. If anything happens there is always help next door or just around the corner. You’re never on your own. We have a lot of people who have lived here for generations, which has built a real sense of community. I do sometimes worry about development and regeneration. I grew up in Brixton and Clapham and Battersea and I could never go back there now because I can’t afford it. But I think Lewisham will hold its own and hold on to what makes it special. Sometimes I visit other places and realise that what I have here in Lewisham is worth so much, and is so valuable that it’s just not worth going anywhere else. People who leave Lewisham and then come back and visit always say they miss it. Looking back on my life I also often reflect on how hard life must have been for my parents as they tried to make their way here when everything was stacked against them and it was not at all what they expected. I went through similar challenges finding a home and bringing up my daughter as well. In the end, I think a lot of what I’ve done professionally has been with the intention of honouring my parents and their legacy and trying to leave a legacy for the next generation. I have a responsibility to try and inspire people.
14 N IG H T L I F E uzzy black and white TVs, a mishmash of framed pictures on the wall ranging from Princess Diana to the family dog, floral wallpaper, dainty china teacups and saucers with matching teapots – you’d be forgiven for thinking you were sitting in your grandma’s front room. It is, in fact, what could now be considered a south-east London institution. Little Nan’s bar, named after founder Tristan Scutt’s beloved grandmother Little Nan Jojo, is hard to miss, with its gloriously kitsch contents spilling out from a railway arch at Deptford Station, where it offers a warm welcome to brunchers, lunchers and cocktail appreciators (not to mention vintage fans). It looks like it’s always been there, but its story actually began up the road on Deptford Broadway, in a storeroom attached to the Bunker Club. Tristan promoted club nights while he was studying fine art at Goldsmiths, embedding himself in the New Cross and Deptford nightlife scene. On graduating in 2006 he bagged a job managing and promoting at the New Cross Inn, before moving on to a similar role at the Cavendish Arms in Stockwell, with more of a complex programme of events including comedy nights and burlesque shows. While working at what he fondly calls “the Cav”, Tristan also ran drum ’n’ bass nights and other parties at the Bunker Club back in Deptford with his friends, under the moniker “Deptford Army”. Before long he asked the owners there if he could open up his own bar, in what was then their storeroom.
HAVE A BUTCHER‚S Tristan Scutt, founder of south-east London institution Little Nan's, tells how he came to launch the kitsch concept – and how his beloved nan Jojo inspired the name and the decor WORDS BY EMMA FINAMORE n PHOTOS BY PAUL STAFFORD
He was able to transform the tiny, windowless space just off the club’s dance floor into a whole new bar, and in early 2013 the first Little Nan’s was born. Tristan didn’t just derive the name of his new venture from Little Nan Jojo – he took interior design inspiration from her too, decking the place out like her living room. “It was all my nan’s personal possessions. She passed away 10 years ago and we kept all her stuff,” he explains. “I always wanted to run my own space, and the Bunker’s storeroom was the only place I knew that was available. I wasn’t into the whole speakeasy thing, but then all
of a sudden people were like, ‘Oh this is really cool’, and I thought, ‘Yeah, I suppose it is!’ It was never really that thought-out, it just came together that way. “The original place was just literally all my nan’s stuff – her teapots, her ornaments – and as it’s grown, a lot of my friends’ nans have passed away and they’ve donated stuff. I’m also a mad hoarder,” he admits. “A lot of it is about memories; I was incredibly close to my nan.” Despite being a hit with the locals – especially the signature teapot cocktails, with concoctions named after loyal regulars such as Lady Council Princess and Sebby Seb Seb,
TH E LE WI S H A M L E DG E R
NIGHTLIFE 1 5
O CTO B E R / N O V E M BE R 201 9
Left: frozen macarena anyone? Tristan Scutt offers a warm welcome at his cocktail bar Little Nan's in Deptford
Tristan’s nan’s favourite celebrities like Queen Cilla Black and Lord Roy Walker, and her favourite soap stars, Lady Pat Butcher and Bet Lynch – in late 2014 the bar ran into licensing issues and had to move on from its first Deptford home. “Overnight, we had to not be there anymore, so we just had to look around for anywhere affordable,” says Tristan. “It had to be pop-ups until we could afford to do real rents.” This was the beginning of three years spent flitting around the city, popping up in places like New Cross, Greenwich, Dalston, Shoreditch, Telegraph Hill, Forest Hill and Nunhead. The team also set up permanent spaces north of the river, like Little Nan’s Fitzrovia Kitchen and Bar, following the distinct Little Nan’s template but each with their own unique character and imaginary, colourful backstory. The Flat Butcher event space at the Fitzrovia bar is conceived as Pat Butcher’s flat when she moved away from Albert Square. This approach obviously works: in August none other than Pat herself (aka actress Pam St Clement) visited the venue for afternoon tea. Tristan has the picture to prove it – framed of course – with his heroine standing next to Little Nan’s very own “Queen Patricia” bust (a tribute to the Queen Vic’s famous Queen Victoria bust in Albert Square): “We were told someone special was coming in,” he laughs, “and that was the someone special!” Tristan never forgot about home, though, and always had one eye on the old neighbourhood. “It was all about getting back to Deptford – all roads lead to Deptford,” he says. “We were gone for three years, and in that time we were making a real thing about getting back. We still bought all our
The original place was literally all my nan's stuff – her teapots, her ornaments
fruit and veg from Deptford, the staff all came from Deptford.” When they secured the current site by Deptford Station it was a homecoming of sorts, but to a place that had undergone quite a few changes since 2013. “It was coming back to a slightly different Deptford,” explains Tristan. “You’ve got to remember, when we first opened here we were the only cocktail bar. There’d be nobody walking around Deptford. “Over the years we’ve become appreciated by a massively more diverse group of people. Yesterday we had someone celebrating their 21st birthday, and at the weekend we had someone celebrating their 60th.” In 2017 the team settled into another south-east London home, at the Broadway Theatre in Catford.
Despite being embraced by many locals, the team were told in summer last year that Lewisham Council would not be renewing their licence, despite outcry from customers, thousands of tweets, and more than 4,750 signatures on a petition hoping to reverse the decision. “It was a lot of politics really,” says Tristan. “We had our leaving party there on New Year’s Eve, and now as far as I know it’s still empty.” At the time, Lewisham councillor Brenda Dacres said the bar had “proven to be unsuitable” for the operational business needs of the theatre, citing “loss of full access to the theatre space” and a “detrimental impact” on the site. But Little Nan’s is a survivor, and at this point Tristan was in conversations with his old team at the Cavendish Arms in Stockwell. “When I started talking to Shirley at the Cav it seemed to make sense – I’d actually tried out a lot of the decor there in the first place. It felt kind of right. And the response has been really good, really nice.” As well as bringing that unique Little Nan’s flavour to the pub, Tristan has also opened an events space out back – Shirley’s Ballroom – in tribute to the landlady, continuing his habit of celebrating strong female figures. With so many sites to keep a handle on, where does he spend his free time? “I just hang out here!” he laughs, gesturing around Little Nan’s, “or Deptford Market. I’m from here, I grew up here – I’m very loyal to the old-school Deptford places.” As well as Viet Rest on Deptford High Street – “You have to get Google Translate out to order” – he cites spots like Maggie’s Cafe in Lewisham as among his favourites, and he’s glad they’re managing to hang on despite how the areas around them are shifting. “It’s changed a lot in the last five or so years. Before that it was kind of mad in Deptford – it never seemed to change. When I was running the Deptford Arms in around 2008 the New York Times did a piece about Deptford, calling it ‘the new Haight-Ashbury’ [the San Francisco neighbourhood synonymous with the counter-culture movement of the 1960s]. A lot of it focused on the train carriage that used to be here. But everyone living here was thinking, ‘The new Haight-Ashbury? What?!’” He talks about how rents for businesses have gone up in southeast London, especially in places like Peckham, and how that can be hard for ventures like his, started from scratch without being bankrolled by a wealthy family or investors. For Tristan community is really important: “That’s why we do free hire for anyone in south-east London, at Grandad’s Shed.” This space in the arch next door to Little Nan’s Deptford spot is a large room decked out in vintage finery, hosting birthdays and weddings, gig nights, comedy and charity nights. “There aren’t that many spaces like this in Deptford,” Tristan explains. “And people like it because you don’t really need to decorate it. At least half the weddings we’ve had are people who met here. People will say when they book, ‘We actually met at Little Nan’s’, and we’ve had people propose here.” Quite a place to start a love story.
16 C ULT U RE
Woodrow Phoenix Typographer, font designer, comic artist, graphic designer, illustrator, author and teacher – to name but a few of the many strings to his creative bow – Brockley resident Woodrow Phoenix’s formidable talents are matched only by his dazzling versatility. “Artist-designer I guess probably covers it,” Woodrow says when asked to define “what he does”. “I treat what I do as artistry. That word covers all sorts of stuff. “I suppose you could make a living out of just comics if you did enough of them, but I tend to do other things as well. I kind of like that because it means I have some variety in what I do. “One day I’ll be designing a book cover for somebody, another day I’ll be doing some illustrations, then I’ll be teaching or working on a book. All these different things feed into each other and make life interesting.” Woodrow’s fascination with comics extends back to his childhood. “My parents weren’t artists but they were artistic,” he explains. “So we were brought up with the idea that it was important to be creative. There were always comics around where we lived, because there was this kid who lived upstairs called Carlson McLean who used to read comics then leave them lying around. So I read
comics from the start, from the age of two or three.” Woodrow’s entrance into the comics industry came after studying typography at university. “I was always interested in comics, but it’s such a crowded field. I was interested in comic book lettering and how that worked. That was my way in. “After university I started lettering professionally for all the comics companies that were around in the 1980s – Marvel UK, Fleetway and DC comics, for example. “I did a lot of lettering and then also started to do illustrations as well for publications like the Radio Times. Then I started self-publishing my own comics on the side with a bunch of other people. We would literally take our comics to copy shops, stick them on a photocopier, take them home, fold them, staple them and sell them.” Soon Woodrow was enjoying wider success and acclaim – his newspaper strip The Sumo Family was published weekly in the Independent on Sunday, while his mystery series The Liberty Cat appeared in Japanese publisher Kodansha’s famed Comic Morning magazine. Arguably Woodrow’s masterpiece, however, is his 2008 graphic novel Rumble Strip, a devastatingly powerful meditation and examination of how cars negatively
WORDS BY LUKE G WILLIAMS
The borough of Lewisham is home to a wealth of artistic talent. Here, three creators of comics – Woodrow Phoenix, Miller Town and Daniel Christie – share the stories behind their strips
impact upon existence – a work created as a tribute and memorial to people that Woodrow knows who have been killed by cars, including his sister Marsha, who died in a car crash aged just 11. “It’s an important work for me because I was trying to push the medium and tell a different kind of narrative without people in it,” Woodrow says. Similarly groundbreaking was Nelson, a 2011 “collective graphic novel” that Woodrow co-edited and designed and which featured contributions from 54 British comic artists. And then there was his unique 2014 graphic novel She Lives, a 96-page work fashioned on huge one-metresquare pages, which was exhibited at the British Library as part of its Comics Unmasked: Art and Anarchy in the UK exhibition. Woodrow’s summation of what makes the comics medium so unique and appealing to him is instructive. “Normally when you interact with mediums such as books, theatre or film, what you interact with moves past you, and then there’s nothing left but your memories of it. “But with comics you’re looking at a fixed image that stays there. You can look at it for as long as you want. You can move forwards or backwards. I think that’s very powerful. With a
TH E LE WI S H A M L E DG E R
O CTO B E R / N O V E M BE R 201 9
Above: Woodrow Phoenix. Far left: Donny Digits and Rumble Strip. Centre: The Mystical Legend of Eagle-Ras. Below: Miller Town
comic you’ve got it, it’s always there and you can look at it whenever you want.” Woodrow goes on to explain that the varied subject matter, style and form of his work stems from his wideranging interests. “I like all kinds of food, all kinds of music, all kinds of art. I’m interested in all kinds of genres and styles so it seems logical to me that whatever kind of story I want to tell I have to find the right style to tell those stories in the best and most appropriate way. It comes naturally to me to vary things.” Such variety has also extended to Woodrow’s living arrangements – brought up in Brockley, he has also lived in Peckham and Shoreditch among other areas of London, but is now happily ensconced back in SE4. “I do love Brockley,” he emphasises. “I think it’s a really interesting place. I slip local references into many of the strips that I make. American authors are always repping their neighbourhoods so I think we should do the same! “In 2009 I did a comic strip for the Guardian called Donny Digits, and the titular hero lives on Tyrwhitt Road, although I don’t name it specifically. It also features a dramatic car chase on the Blackwall Tunnel approach road. “In Rumble Strip I also featured an unnamed but quite recognisable Tressillian Road. If you know the
streets you’d recognise them.” Follow Woodrow on Twitter @mrphoenix Miller Town A surreal, playful, sometimes political and always entertaining independent comics company, Miller Town is the brainchild of Forest Hill-based father and son duo Henry and Stanley Miller. “I started making comics a few years back – out of boredom I suppose,” says Henry. “I’d been to Gosh Comics in Soho and seen their collection of zines and homemade comics and I liked the idea of producing an object that people could involve themselves with. “So I started making a comic in my kitchen, Stan saw me doing it and the next thing I knew he’d made a comic too. He was just 11.” The subject matter of Henry and Stan’s work is extremely varied, although some common themes do emerge. “Stan and my work is very different but we both delight in surreal, weird and unusual stuff,” Henry explains. “My first comic was called Escape. It was based on random things I’d heard said on the TV show Escape to the Country. I wrote them down and put them against pictures of people wearing cardigans.
We'd take our comics to copy shops, stick them on a photocopier, fold them, staple them and sell them
“Stan’s first comic was called Typical Worm, about an earthworm going about his daily business only to be picked up by a bird. Then his mum arrived and wondered where he was. It ended very tragically!” The bonding experience of making comics together is clearly something that both Henry and Stan enjoy. “Dad’s always drawing and that influenced me a lot,” Stan, now 16, explains. “He also had a massive and epic book by a comic artist called Anders Nilsen which I read – that also made me want to make my own comics.” “We go to lots of comic fairs together and have a little table where we sell our comics. It’s a nice bonding activity,” Henry adds. “Stan’s comics sell a lot more than mine! “Our comics are quite small physically. You can look at them, fit them in your back pocket or lose them in the inside pocket of your coat, then discover them again.” Henry and Stan have also branched out into running their own annual comic fair, the Catford Comic and Zine Fair, the third incarnation of which will take place at the Blythe Hill Tavern on Stanstead Road on 8 December. “The comics or zines community is very nice to be part of,” Henry says. “We squeeze about 30 artists into a room at the pub, sell and talk comics and play music.” And Miller Town’s next comic? “It’s about Bullseye contestants,” Henry reveals. “I’ve spent too long watching episodes on Challenge TV. I’ve drawn the contestants and the comic celebrates their lives. It also has the dimensions of Shakespearean tragedy when Jim Bowen lists the prizes they could have won.” For more on Henry and Stan’s work visit millertown.co.uk Daniel Christie One of the rising talents of the UK comics scene, Daniel Christie’s 2018 graphic novel The Mystical Legend Of Eagle-Ras is a 346-page epic, which fuses sci-fi, crime and fantasy within a fictional British urban context – a housing estate named Petty Peak. “The Simpsons have Springfield and EastEnders has Walford,” Daniel
explains. “My stories all take place in this area I created, which contains elements of places where I’ve lived, including Lewisham, Brixton – where I was born – as well as parts of Birmingham and Coventry and other British urban settings with a dystopian twist. There’s also a page in the book which specifically visually references Deptford High Street.” Multi-talented Daniel – who has also won admirers for his work as a grime artist – emphasises that his creative output reflects his own “socially conscious” concerns. “A few years back, I reached a crossroads and thought, ‘What path should my life take?’” he explains. “People I knew were fighting or stabbing each other or going to jail. In my rapping I had never glorified crime, my work was always more introspective, but I felt there was something I wanted to say that music couldn’t do justice to. “One day I closed the door of that previous world and started drawing these characters. It was very therapeutic. “They all represented people or things from my own life – experiences I had, people I knew. It turned into something I had to do. Sort of like an emotional dump.” Drawing on his childhood love of comics (“my mum was a Rasta and didn’t believe in us watching TV, so I gravitated towards comics like 2000 AD”) Daniel oversaw every aspect of preparation and publication of The Mystical Legend Of Eagle-Ras himself. “I’m trying to show kids from my background that if you have an idea you can put it out there,” he explains. “I’ve started giving workshops in schools and so on. I’m trying to pass on the tools and experience I have to the next generation.” Daniel’s work has attracted acclaim, and he was recently named one of the winners of a competition run by the highly respected Lakes International Comic Art Festival. As a result he is receiving mentoring and is attending a series of workshops overseen by major industry figures such as Tim Pilcher and Dave Gibbons, while one of his stories is set to feature in a new anthology of comics. “It’s a great honour,” Daniel admits. “I’m constantly trying to get my work into the hands of the right people. Hopefully these small steps will lead to something bigger. All the art for my next project is complete and I’ve got to do a sequel to Eagle-Ras too. I’ve got a lot going on.” Daniel is on Instagram @oldbofficial and youtube.com/OLDBchannel
18 LEWI S H AM I N PI CT U R E S
WORDS BY SEAMUS HASSON
PHOTOS BY LORNA ALLAN
The idea for the group grew out of a question asked by the Albany and Entelechy Arts: "What if older people had the chance to go to an arts centre instead of a day centre?"
very Tuesday at 11am a group of older people fill the cafeteria at the Albany to sing their hearts out. The weekly gathering is part of a wider initiative between the Deptford venue and Entelechy Arts, called Meet Me at the Albany. The programme has been running since 2013 in partnership with Lewisham Council and gives formerly isolated people a chance to take part in a range of creative activities. I had the privilege to join the group recently to get a flavour of what it’s all about. I arrive just as choir practice is finishing up with a rendition of Fats Domino’s Blueberry Hill. Sung with gusto and a huge helping of joy, the happiness and sense of camaraderie in the room is palpable. Sarah Phillips has been volunteering with the group for the past year. She says it attracts a broad spectrum of people aged 60-plus. “We’ve got some
MEET ME AT THE
people here who are in their 60s and still working, up to our oldest member who’s around 94,” she says. The philosophy behind Meet Me at the Albany is to provide a more creative environment for older people. Regular activities include art classes, sculpture and poetry writing. “There are people who are artists already and people who become artists when they arrive here,” Sarah says. “We do all sorts of things. We’ve got a prolific dot painter in the group, a 90 year old. A lot of people are just here for the social aspect as well.” It’s out of that group that the Meet Me choir has evolved. First conceived as a temporary slot in the programme, its popularity with members has seen it become a permanent weekly fixture. “About 25 of our members go to choir every week and it’s a really important occasion for people,” says Sarah. “They’ve performed far and wide.”
TH E LE WI S H A M L E DG E R
LEWIS HAM IN PICTURES 1 9
O CTO B E R / N O V E M BE R 201 9
As well as choir practice, Meet Me at the Albany offers a wide variety of arty activities at its weekly sessions, including sculpture, crafts and poetry writing
She says she has seen participants defy some of the pitfalls associated with aging; becoming more engaged and confident over time. “It’s a really fundamental part of most people’s week. For some of our members this is the only social interaction they have all week, while for others it’s part of a busy schedule. “But for everyone I’d say the feedback we have continuously is how important it is, how much people trust in the fact they can come here and be themselves and take part in as much or as little as they like and just be part of the community that we’ve got here.” Speaking to some of the members over lunch, it’s clear how much it means to them. Jean Prior is 89 years old and quite a character. She tells me that she comes from a singing family and that coming to choir practice brings back some memories. “I like singing full stop,” she says. “It runs in the family. When I was young,
For some of our members, this is the only social interaction they have all week
I would sing in the choir and all kinds of things like that.” Frederick Kealey is another longtime member. “All my life I’ve sung. I was a choir boy,” he says. “I love coming here, I’ve got my friends here.” Rachel Bennett is a music teacher at Goldsmiths and has worked with West End singers. When she was approached by Entelechy Arts to lead the choir she jumped at the chance. “I’d done quite a few choirs in Deptford and around London and because I’d cared for my mum when she was aging, it felt like a really nice way to keep in touch with that world of the elderly. It’s a special world. “We’ve done lovely performances. They’re so committed, they come every week and if they can’t make it, they let me know. They’re the most committed choir members I’ve ever had, and they’ve just been amazing, they’ve gone from strength to strength. It’s really inspiring.”
20 MU D L ARK I N G sign above the Dog and Duck steps leading down to the Thames foreshore at Rotherhithe contains an engraving of a small boy with a grubby face, ankle deep in water. This so-called mudlark was immortalised by Henry Mayhew in his book London Labour and the London Poor in 1851, and is illustrative of many such souls scratching out a living by finding and selling things which fell from trade ships so numerous, on a river so congested, that you could at one time cross between banks by jumping from deck to deck. Though the term became synonymous with street urchins, it was a recognised occupation until the early 20th century. Mudlarks would earn a pittance for low value items like coal and rope. Over in Deptford, I meet a modern day incarnation in her workshop at Art Hub Studios on Creekside, adjacent to an art restoration business and resplendent with curios she has collected over the years. Charlotte Zalepa is the founder of jewellery business Chalk Designs, and her Thameside scavenger hunts are fuelled by a fascination with social history as opposed to the survival imperative driving earlier generations. She plans to recast the artefacts she has sourced from the Thames as pieces of jewellery, which at once feels wildly imaginative and perfectly in tune with the growing popular interest in reuse. She describes being introduced to mudlarking by a friend: “You know when you find something outside your work that fits in perfectly with your
Treasures Thames Of THE
Charlotte Zalepa turns curios she collects while mudlarking in the Thames into unique pieces of jewellery. We meet her at her Deptford studio WORDS BY ROSIE PARKYN n PHOTOS BY REBECCA WISE
personality and what you’re interested in?” She relishes the peace and tranquillity to be found by the river, a benefit the original mudlarks might not have enjoyed as they traversed the washed up sewage and corpses. The schedule for mudlarking excursions is entirely dictated: “You go out when the tide is out, which could be a couple of hours. You get a little sliver, and you keep going until the tide is fully out and stay out until the tide comes in. The Clippers that go up and down help churn things up.” It’s important to ensure that you don’t get cut off by the tide. While Charlotte heads out regularly near her studio, she distinguishes herself from the real obsessives. “There’s a couple of different types of mudlarks. I’m one of those who’s just curious and into finding interesting things and finding value in them, regardless of whether they’re actually valuable. Then there are mudlarks who are in it for really hunting. There’s a difference.” She tells of a small and supportive community that self organises according to experience and knowledge acquired. Instant gratification may elude the novice mudlark, but the secrets of the river are revealed over time and as trust is built. “You kind of have to earn your stripes a little bit, and then they’ll be like, ‘Oh, have you ever been to this part of the river, you could find this’. They hope you’ll keep going and going and find it yourself. They’re all really kind, they’re just worried that someone’s going to come in and wreck it, someone who doesn’t really have
TH E LE WI S H A M L E DG E R
MUDLARK ING 21
O CTO B E R / N O V E M BE R 201 9
Left: Charlotte Zalepa. Below and opposite: some of her fluvial finds and jewellery sketches
a love for it or an understanding of it. It’s like a process; you grow into it.” I later learn of the immense contribution that London’s mudlarks have made to our understanding of the city by surfacing individual items and whole categories of objects that have led historians to think differently about the past. The River Thames is one of the richest archeological sites in Britain, and one that renews itself every time the tide turns. The Museum of London has acquired more than 90,000 objects from mudlarks, including 90% of its medieval metals collection. The mud preserves objects that would have long ago disappeared or been melted down if they had remained on land, and they cluster according to their weight,
allowing mudlarks to learn how to identify patches of a certain material. Those scouring the banks are obliged to take items over 300 years old to the Museum of London’s finds liaison officer for further investigation, and tend to crowdsource knowledge about new discoveries by posting images on social media. The most common items include ceramic pipes for smoking, so ubiquitous because they were used once then thrown away. Mudlarks have found medieval shoes, Roman gambling tokens and 16th century posy rings. Charlotte hopes that turning her finds into jewellery will bring them new life. “They’re artefacts that were lost and are now found. I hated the
You have to earn your stripes a bit. Mudlarking is a process; you grow into it
idea of finding these things and putting them away – it felt really sad.” Charlotte has a glass case where the pieces she has uncovered are carefully curated into a striking arrangement according to their material and hue. Some are fragments of something larger, others are whole; very few are immediately identifiable. The guesswork and speculation is part of the fun as far as she’s concerned: “You create these stories in your head. It would be nice to know the original, real story, but I enjoy the mystery and using my imagination.” It’s easy to envisage the joy at finding them, and marvel at the skill needed to turn them into something else. She is interested in making conceptual jewellery that looks beautiful but also conveys an idea. Charlotte’s favourite recent find is red garnets. She won’t reveal where she discovered them, but says that once she spotted the first, she saw many more gathered in little clumps. Their presence in the Thames is well known, but no one is sure where they came from. She discounts the theory that they fell from a ship on the basis that they appear in different parts of the river. I notice she talks about “getting your eye in”, a phrase used by mudlarks that encapsulates the way the practice sharpens your vision. She loves finding metal because it is so hard to spot. “It can hurt your eyes because it’s all hidden by mud; you might just catch a glimpse. When I find a piece of metal, I do a little dance.” As well as creating her own pieces, Charlotte would be thrilled if a mudlark came to her with something of their own. One client has asked her to make a brooch for her boyfriend from deer teeth found in Scotland. To reflect their passion for hiking, she has created an outline from Scottish lakes they have walked. Tempting as it may be to leap down the next flight of steps in search of treasures, mudlarking is illegal without a paid-for permit provided by the Port of London Authority. Digging is allowed south of the river, but mudlarks roaming on the City of London foreshore may only scour by eye. Those keen to dip their toes in this murky but magical water can sign up for a tour of the foreshore run by the Thames Discovery Programme. Visit Charlotte's crowdfunding page at kickstarter.com/projects/ chalkdesigns/the-mudlarkersjewellery-collection
22 LEE S P EC I A L ave you watched an old building in your area being demolished and wondered why no one asked you for your opinion before they unleashed the wrecking ball? Do you look around your neighbourhood and wish things could be changed but don’t know how to make your voice heard? Well, down in Lee, a group of local residents decided to get stuck in, and they’re already making a difference to the local area. Down in Lee something is stirring. And it isn’t a mouse. In August 2015, Sarah McMichael and several like-minded residents, with the backing of 91 proposers, put in a formal application to Lewisham and Greenwich councils, requesting recognition for a new neighbourhood forum. Five months later, their application was accepted and the Lee Forum was born. The forum covers an area of approximately 293 hectares. It stretches from Manor Park and Hither Green Station in the west to the John Roan playing fields in the east, and from Lee Green in the north down past Lee Station to its southern boundary, the south circular. It was originally planned to be a smaller area, sitting entirely within the boundaries of the borough of Lewisham. But after an initial consultation, it was extended northwards and eastwards into Greenwich so as to fully incorporate the town centre at Lee Green. There are around 21,000 people living and working within the forum boundary, all of whom are entitled to become members. Anyone with an interest in the area can also sign up. The main aim of the forum is to give local people a say in the development of their neighbourhood. Under the Localism Act, which became law in 2011, neighbourhood forums can help shape local planning policies. But first, you need a neighbourhood development plan. And for that, you need to consult. Extensively. “When we did our first local consultation,” says Sarah, “we did a leaflet drop across the whole area, went to loads of local meetings, contacted local groups and tried to reach as many people as we could. “The first questions we asked were really broad: what do you like about your area, what don’t you like, what would you like to see changed, and what would you like to see kept? And then from all the responses that came back – I think we got about 600 – we started to work out what the main priorities were.” That led to the first draft plan, which was drawn up with the help of a consultant, whose time was paid for by a government grant. Then there was a second local consultation, which included public meetings and surveys that could be completed online or on paper. The forum cross-checked their findings with local councillors to make sure they weren’t missing any key local concerns. A second draft was followed by a third consultation, which has just finished. The results were set to be presented at the Lee Forum’s AGM in late September as The Lewisham Ledger went to press. A final draft of the plan will now be completed and submitted to Lewisham and Greenwich councils. Sarah hopes that will happen before the end of the year. The councils will then check that the plan doesn’t conflict with their own planning priorities, which it shouldn’t because they have already been consulted on this point.
ONE FOR ALL AND ALL FORUM Bringing derelict buildings back into use and tackling fly-tipping are just two of the Lee Forum’s successes so far. We find out more WORDS BY COLIN RICHARDSON n PHOTOS BY LIMA CHARLIE
Assuming all is well, the plan will be sent out for independent assessment, where every aspect of it is examined in minute detail – “partly,” says Sarah, “to show that we’re not making it all up. It then goes to referendum and it’s voted on within the forum area. The councils run that. It’ll be a funny election because it won’t be a ward-based election, it’ll be a bit of Greenwich and a bit of Lewisham. “If a majority vote ‘yes’, then the plan is adopted and it becomes policy.
I’d like to see it all finished by this time next year, but there are so many unknowns along the way.” The Lee Forum says that its plan “will give our community direct power to develop a shared vision for the development of our local area. The neighbourhood plan will influence where new homes, shops, community facilities and offices are built by facilitating planning permission for those that best meet the needs of the local community. It will also
Above: a group of Lee Forum members outside Manor House Library
help protect valued local heritage and character.” It’s an ambitious and detailed document, which can be read in full on the Lee Forum website. It’s packed with historical detail and imaginative project proposals and is infused with a decided love of the place – which is what drives Sarah’s passion for improving her neighbourhood. A trained teacher and accountant, Sarah has lived in Lee for 20 years. It was one of the few places she and her husband could afford when they moved to London. “What really sold Lee to us,” she says, “was that when we arrived at the train station, there were hanging baskets there. And I know it sounds silly, but it said to me that people here cared about where they lived.” They moved in and have stayed in Lee ever since. “I love it here,” says Sarah. “My children go to school here; once you have children, you tend to settle down a bit. My husband’s American, so he’s come a long way to be here and he loves it, too.” Sarah is joint chair of the Lee Forum, along with Mark Rochell. There is an 11-strong committee, all of whom share her enthusiasm for the area. Pat and Peter Richardson, for example, are longstanding community activists who are strong supporters of the forum. Pat has lived in Lee all her life. Peter is on the coordinators’ committee for the Lee Green Assembly. The couple have been involved in the local library users’ group since it was set up in 1999 and have been instrumental in helping keep Manor House Library open. Although the forum’s energies to date have been focused on consulting the community and drawing up the neighbourhood plan, they have begun to make a difference in other ways. The forum can act as a point of
TH E LE WI S H A M L E DG E R
LEE S PECIAL 23
O CTO B E R / N O V E M BE R 201 9
One derelict house now has new windows going in. It's a tangible achievement contact for people who want to report a concern to the council. “When you call the council, you don’t always know who to talk to,” says Sarah. “But because the councils support the forum it’s sometimes easier for us to find the right officer, because we have a supporting officer in each council.” She cites “a story that had a good ending: a teacher wrote to us with concerns about a pupil’s damp living conditions in a rented private property. We contacted the council’s enforcement officer, who went in and served an enforcement notice.” Another example is fly-tipping. “Thirty-six people sent in photos of hotspots and we mapped them, contacted the refuse officers for both councils and said, ‘This is an identified issue, would you come down and do a walk with us’, and they did.” While they were on their walk, a man came out of his house and asked what they were doing. “We told him and he said, ‘Oh, I look out of my window every day and I see the overflowing bins and it makes me really cross’. So, he joined the walk,
Above: Lee resident Sarah McMichael, joint chair of the Lee Forum
established contact with one of the officers and now knows how to report fly-tipping.” Another key concern to emerge from the forum’s consultations was derelict buildings. “We contacted the enforcement officers at both councils, who, I have to say, were very helpful,” says Sarah. “But they had to educate us about what could and couldn’t be done.”
It’s taken time but already one empty building has been brought back into use and several others have been renovated. “There’s one house that was derelict when I moved here, and it’s been derelict forever. It was called the ‘falling down house’. And now hoardings have gone up and windows are being put in. We weren’t the only ones pushing for it, but it helped having us on the ground. I’m really, really pleased with that. It’s a tangible achievement.” The forum has also undertaken a huge piece of work identifying and applying to both councils for the local listing of 80 sites of heritage significance. Greenwich has approved nearly all the sites already and Lewisham is still in the process of assessing and agreeing to theirs. As for the future, if the Lee Forum’s plan is approved by local voters, Sarah has two particular projects that, above all other, she would like to see realised. The first is the River Quaggy Walk. The Quaggy runs through Lee but is accessible in only a few places. The forum, along with other local groups, wants to see improved access to the river through a dedicated Quaggy Walk, from Sutcliffe Park to Lee Green town centre and beyond towards Manor Park. Secondly, Sarah wants to see the town centre and Lee High Road revitalised, becoming much more pedestrian-friendly and with more public space. You can be sure that Sarah and everyone involved in the Lee Forum will be doing their utmost to see that all their hard work doesn’t go to waste. For more details, to join the forum or to get in touch, visit leeforum.org.uk
TH E LE WI S H A M L E DG E R
aniel Grey from Lee is such a fan of tea that he started creating his own blends. His Lewisham Tea Company teas are now served at cafes and bars across the borough, and are also available online. When Daniel decided to launch his own organic tea company earlier this year there was only one name he wanted to give it, he says when we meet for a cuppa at Middleton Deli on Loampit Hill, the first cafe locally to sell his teas. “I was born at Lewisham Hospital and the area has always felt like home,” he says. “We moved to Dartford when I was three but we were back here all the time to see my grandparents, and stayed at weekends and in the holidays. After university I moved here to live with them, and then more recently I got a flat just down the road.” While researching tea in the local area, a Google search unexpectedly led him to the Horniman Museum in Forest Hill. “I used to go there all the time as a kid with my parents and grandparents but I didn’t realise until then that Frederick John Horniman, who set it up, was a Victorian tea trader. With all that history to draw on, the name made even more sense,” he explains. Daniel and his family have always been big tea drinkers. “When I was growing up, the moment anyone walked in, the kettle would go on and things would always be talked about over a cup of tea”, he says, although it was only more recently that he started drinking herbal over traditional tea. “Last year I decided to give up alcohol for a while and get fit. I’d go to the gym and want something to drink afterwards.
LEE S PECIAL 25
O CTO B E R / N O V E M BE R 201 9
Daniel Grey took his love of a good brew to another level when he launched the Lewisham Tea Company earlier this year. We met him for a cuppa to find out more about his burgeoning business WORDS BY NIKKI SPENCER
PHOTO BY LIMA CHARLIE
“It was my younger brother who first encouraged me to try herbal teas and green teas and I became really interested in their health properties. “I started ordering and sampling all sorts of different teas from Sri Lanka and Singapore and wanted to learn more. “It began as a passion project but quite soon I realised that I wanted to create my own tea and launch it as a business.” Daniel found a Sri Lankan family company in Kent who helped him create his first six blends, including black, green, herbal and chai teas, and he now has further varieties in the pipeline.
My grandad was a staunch PG Tips man, but I won him over with my apple and ginger tea
“They source all the ingredients from around the world and then they are blended on site,” he says. “It’s all about the taste but it’s also about how the teas can make you feel good. “We have a beautiful pink Bora Bora berry tea, which is packed with vitamin C and also helps relieve stress, while our Vanilla Rooibos tea is caffeine-free, high in natural antioxidants and is also good for the metabolism.” Daniel used his savings to launch the company and has done everything he possibly can himself. “I have a background in web design, so I built the company website myself, and friends locally have been great about helping with things like photography. “Another friend who is a designer helped me with the packaging, which is eco-friendly and biodegradable”, he adds. Selling his tea however has been a new experience for him. “I spend all my days working at a computer, so going into places and saying, ‘Do you want to buy my tea?’ has been pretty daunting”, he admits, “although it is getting easier as more places take it. “Getting Middleton to stock it early on was amazing. I emailed them and they were so open to the idea. A lot of their products are locally sourced and their customers are very supportive of that. “I find that people who live in Lewisham do like to buy things that are local.” Other stockists now include the Fox and Firkin in Ladywell and Drink at Bob’s in Hither Green, both of whom are experimenting with using the tea in cocktails too. The teas are also for sale online and they have customers from as far afield as Wales.
Above: Lee-based tea entrepreneur Daniel Grey at The Talbot pub on Tyrwhitt Road, Brockley “As we are a new business it’s all about word of mouth,” Daniel says. “One of my friends told her mum and we post supplies of our mint tea out to her regularly just outside Cardiff. And the awesome thing is she lives on Peppermint Street!” Daniel’s teas are also proving popular as house-warming presents. “If someone is moving into a flat or house locally it’s a nice, inexpensive gift. I think they will be popular at Christmas too.” One of Daniel’s earliest customers was his late grandfather, Roy. “Grandad was a staunch PG Tips man but I won him over with my apple and ginger tea. “Our teabags have a lot more tea in them than everyday bags, so we encourage people to use their bags twice as the second cup is just as good. Grandad would always have a cup of apple and ginger last thing at night and then use the bag again in the morning. He swore by it.” Daniel still works nine till five for an online fashion company, so he is running the business during the evenings and weekends. “I’m 33 and lots of people my age are getting into side hustles and following their passion, which I think is great. One day it would be nice to just concentrate on tea but for now it’s fun doing both.” So has he swapped alcohol for tea permanently? “I have started drinking again occasionally but I’ve actually rather lost the taste for it”, he says. “I’ll have a cup of Lewisham tea over a beer most evenings.”
26 LEE S P EC I A L
adan Montero and her son Poria (or Amir, as he is known to many customers) welcome me warmly at their restaurant, even though it’s closed on the day we meet. Hospitality is second nature to them – in their blood even – as Iranians love to host people, and they especially love to cook for them. Caspian has built up a reputation thanks to Ladan’s excellent cooking, but when she found the place more than 19 years ago, it was just an empty shell. “A friend of mine had a cafe next door, but this was always just an empty shop,” she says. “I thought, ‘I’m going to try to take over that place’, but oh, it was a big mistake! It was so hard to kit it out, there was no kitchen or anything.” The family had to pull together to get the project off the ground. “I said, ‘OK, we have to build this place because if we get somebody else to do it, it is going to be too expensive.’” Ladan had noticed there were no other Iranian restaurants in the area. “I had to take my children to Kensington to feed them Iranian food. “I wanted somewhere we could go as a community and eat, or just show people that it’s healthy food and we make everything fresh. I passed through here a few times, I saw the [to let] sign and I thought, ‘I’m going to go for it.’” “My mum wanted to introduce Iranian cuisine to this area,” says Poria, “but also at that time there was a lot of negative press with Iran so she thought maybe she could bring a positive light through food.” The restaurant is now so popular that they regularly have to turn people away. A typical meal begins with plates of herbs, which Iranians eat as if they are salad leaves, and dishes piled with yoghurt or smoky aubergine, served with bread for scooping. “The majority of our starters are more like dips,” Poria explains. “We have a few aubergine dishes that are very popular and then we do a potato salad, which is practically the same as a Russian salad. “Then we have the yoghurt with cucumber, the potato salad with chicken, the smoked aubergine with egg and tomatoes and the fried aubergine with onions and walnuts.” These are followed by lots of grilled and spiced meats. “Iranian food has similarities with cuisines like Lebanese or Turkish,” Poria says. “We do a lot of similar kebabs but we use different ingredients to marinate the meat. “We use a lot of saffron in our cooking, a lot of fruit, aubergines, and we have a lot of stews. We are also big eaters of rice. It’s like with the majority of Italian food, if there’s no pasta it’s not a complete meal – that is Iranians with rice. “We do have another side to the cuisine too, which is our speciality dishes – they’re like traditional meals that we have at home. One of the most popular is the chicken that we cook in saffron, with a special rice with sweet and sour berries, pistachios and almonds. That’s probably one of the bestselling dishes. We do homemade saffron ice cream as well, that’s very popular.” They also make fezenjan, a traditional Persian stew, which is rich thanks to the addition of walnuts and
Left: Ladan Montero (centre) with her son Poria and daughter Lorna
PERSIAN PARADISE WORDS BY HELEN GRAVES
PHOTO BY PAUL STAFFORD
Since opening on Burnt Ash Road in Lee almost 20 years ago, family-run restaurant Caspian has established itself as one of the area’s most popular places to eat
In Iran people love to go and see each other; all the time there is a party a special cooking technique. “We cook the walnut without oil, for a long time until the oil separates from the nut,” Ladan says. “Then we add some pomegranate and chicken. In Iran they make it with duck but we make it with chicken because everybody likes chicken and duck is fatty. The only fat in that food is from the walnuts, and we try to take most of the oil off.” Ladan learned to cook at a young age, as making food for others is an essential Iranian skill. “In Iran people love to go and see each other; all the time there is a party. Any small things they invite each other in the house and they don’t call you, they just turn up. “You don’t make just one [type of] food, you make lots of food, for different people. You know somebody is coming and if they don’t you just pick up the phone, you call your sister and say, ‘Don’t you want to come and eat this?’ “There are only three of us at home but my mum will cook for like, six, because people turn up,” Poria says. “At Christmas I used to make lots and lots of food,” Ladan adds, “because some of the friends of people, if they don’t have a partner or children they can come here and the door is open, they would come for Christmas lunch. They’d just call me and I would say, ‘You are welcome.’” Ladan might cook in large quantities, but she is very particular about her ingredients and methods in order to maintain the quality. “A sandwich bar or burger van is easy – you buy everything packed and then you just cook, but with Iranian food it is different. I used to cook for my family but to cook everything fresh for lots of people is really hard. It took all our time in this restaurant to get it right. We don’t mix lots of spice and extra things – anything you eat you have to taste the ingredients. That is really important.” According to Poria, their Iranian customers are particularly discerning. “They like it to taste just how their
mum would make it so they are quite critical,” he says. “Also, because as a family we eat here as well, we try to keep everything just right.” “When my grandson was really small we used to go out for a meal but we would have to take some food for him – he only wanted to eat food from here!” Ladan laughs. Ladan is always checking on her team to see if the food is up to her standards. “I like to be in the kitchen most of the time to make sure everything is going my way,” she says. “They know how to do it but this is me – I like to check everything. Sometimes I will just walk in the kitchen and ask for the food. It’s the same with my suppliers; I make sure everything is nice.” In addition to their Iranian customers, many other regulars are non-Iranian locals, something they did not expect. “We didn’t think the food would do so well among non-Iranians. We thought it would just be Iranian customers, as a lot of the families come from Greenwich or Bromley so this is a good centre point between the two,” Poria says. “We are thinking about opening another restaurant but it depends. It becomes difficult sometimes to maintain the same standards and quality when you get bigger. You see it a lot with chain restaurants – when they suddenly expand, the quality goes down. But because we have so many customers coming from far and wide we are thinking we might open another one. We just have to think where it would be.” Wherever it is, they hope they will find the same community spirit that they have encountered here in Lee. “We are a community here, where all the local businesses look out for each other,” says Poria. They might have seen a lot of change in the area since they moved in all those years ago, but one thing has stayed consistent, and that is Ladan’s high standards. The customers speak with their feet.
TH E LE WI S H A M L E DG E R
LEE S PECIAL 29
O CTO B E R / N O V E M BE R 201 9
aren Dawson has been at the helm of Harlequin fancy dress shop on Lee High Road for 28 years – and still wakes up every morning looking forward to coming to work. “I’ve always loved fancy dress and you just can’t be miserable working in a fancy dress shop”, she says as we sit and chat in her treasure trove of a space, located in a small parade of shops between Lewisham and Lee Green. “The thing about this business is that the people who come in are usually happy, because they are going somewhere special or celebrating something special. Of course, you do get the occasional person who hates fancy dress, but mostly everyone loves it. “There is nothing nicer than when someone closes the changing room curtain and you hear them laughing as they are trying something on”, she adds. “Sometimes they are in absolute fits.” And no day is ever the same. While we’re chatting Karen takes a phone call from someone who’s after a Batman Joker outfit for a party, the vet from across the road pops in with his daughter so she can choose a helium balloon for her mum’s birthday, and a guy in his 40s spends ages reminiscing about coming to the shop as a teenager to buy pranks to play on his gran, before leaving with a mullet wig and a fake parking ticket. Karen loves the local community of small shops on Lee High Road, many of whom, like her, have been around for decades. “There’s Billy Vee Sound Systems and Westcombes fireplaces and we all know and support each other, maybe more so than if we were in the centre of Lewisham,” she says. Karen started out by offering fancy dress hire from her parents’ house in Downham back in the mid 1980s. She used to work in the accounts department at Burberry, but when they made her redundant she used her small payout to launch the business. “I’d always made my own clothes and used to make costumes for friends. I asked my parents if I could run something from home as it would save on the overheads”, she says. “We stored everything in the loft and people used to try on costumes in my bedroom. Back then I didn’t think to have set opening hours, so people would knock on the door when we were in the middle of having our tea sometimes.” Every time she made any money, Karen bought more stock. “You know how your mates tell you when they’ve bought a new dress or something? Well for me it was always, ‘I’ve bought a new Supergirl costume!’ Your priorities do change. “I called the business Clowning Around, which I thought was pretty clever, but then I started going to trade shows and discovered that there were loads called that,” she laughs. Back then Harlequin was run by a couple called Les and Pat. “They were quite elderly and wanted to retire, so Pat got in touch and asked if I was interested in taking it over”, explains Karen. She opened the shop with a silent business partner, Colin, a customer who ran a wholesale party supplies company.
We all dress up and have sweets for kids who come in trick or treating
Karen Dawson has owned Harlequin fancy dress shop on Lee High Road for almost 30 years. We popped in for a chat in the run-up to Halloween, the business’s busiest time WORDS BY NIKKI SPENCER
“A few people said that I was mad to go into business with someone I didn’t know that well, but actually it worked out really well,” she says. Two years ago Colin retired and now Karen runs Harlequin on her own, although he still owns the property. Even with support from someone else, Karen says it was tough at the beginning. “It was very scary to go from not having to pay rent or rates to having all of that to think about”, she recalls. “We opened on 1 April 1991, which still makes me laugh. I remember our first ever sale was a grass skirt and two fake cigarettes and I still see the woman who bought them around here occasionally.”
PHOTO BY LIMA CHARLIE
Luckily for Karen, it was around this time that the fancy dress industry started to take off. “I’m not sure why exactly, but in the 90s fancy dress went crazy. The quality of things for people to buy just got better and better, so we stocked loads more outfits for sale and accessories too. “When the couple [Les and Pat] came back a while later to see the shop, they couldn’t believe how much stuff we had. I think a fancy dress shop should be like an Aladdin’s Cave.” There’s something interesting to look at on every surface, with masks and fairy wings hanging from the ceiling, walls covered with every outfit imaginable, from witches and vampires to pirates and superheroes,
Above: Karen Dawson in her fancy dress shop Harlequin
and a counter cabinet packed full of makeup. There’s even a whole area at the back just for wigs. Below the shop, the basement is crammed full of rails of clothes that adults can hire, with everything from Winnie-the-Pooh and crocodile outfits to fairy princesses and historic costumes. “Customers come in because they are going to a wide variety of events, from the rugby and the darts to Secret Cinema and Comic Con”, says Karen. “World Book Day in March is always busy with children, and school staff too.” The shop’s peak time however is Halloween, when Karen is in her element. “It’s my favourite time of the year because there’s such a lovely atmosphere. We open late and on a Sunday too, and friends and family come to help out. “We all dress up and on the day we always have sweets for kids who come in trick or treating and to show us their outfits.” Every year she says people are trying to think of something different to do. “Now lots of people are watching YouTube and doing their own makeup with Rigid Collodion. ‘Zombie’ contact lenses are really popular, as they can change a whole outfit.” Karen also loves Christmas and always spends a lot of time thinking about the shop window display. “I like to do something that children will love,” she says. “One year I did Elf, with spaghetti with smarties and giant candy canes for walking sticks.” Ten years ago Karen’s husband Pete retired and now helps her in the shop. They both love any excuse to dress up. “We used to live in Woolwich on the London Marathon route and we would always have a massive fancy dress party with balloons and air horns and everything,” says Karen. “We’d often end up featured in the local paper.” They were married by an Elvis lookalike in Las Vegas and have a photo from their wedding day hanging in the changing rooms at Harlequin. “It was a second marriage for both of us so we decided to go to town. All the women were dressed as Marilyn Monroe and the guys as Elvis. Pete is a big Man City fan so he wore a pale blue suit and I wore a pale blue 1950s dress.” They celebrated Pete’s 60th birthday last year with a 1920s party and for Karen’s 50th they had a Hawaii Five-0 theme. “Getting ready is the best part and dressing up just makes things more fun,” says Karen. “It means that you are already in the party mood when you arrive and seeing friends and family all dressed up too is brilliant.”
30 PR O M OT I ON AL F E AT U R E
The school in Lee helping disadvantaged pupils secure places at top universities Oxbridge graduates are overrepresented in the upper echelons of the main professions. New research by the Sutton Trust, published this year, found that 65% of leading judges and QCs attended Oxford or Cambridge. Improving social mobility depends on encouraging young people from all backgrounds to aim high and on giving them a fighting chance in the fiercely competitive Oxbridge application process. A school in Lee is working with the young people of Lewisham to help
them reach this goal. Mohamed, Amy, Maria and Pebbie (pictured top right, left to right) all went to local 11-16 state secondary schools in the borough and then went on to secure fully-funded scholarships to study for their A-levels at Colfe’s Sixth Form – a co-educational independent school – they are now at some of the top universities in the country, including Oxford, Cambridge and Russell Group universities. Their journeys demonstrate that means-tested bursaries at
Working collaboratively with Colfe’s and other schools staff has had a positive impact on many of our students who have gained places in top universities.
Celine Nembhard, Careers Coordinator at Deptford Green School
independent schools can have a transformative effect on children’s lives if targeted in the right places. The scholarship programme – fully funded by the Leathersellers’ Company which governs the school – has been running since 2010 and has grown considerably over recent years. In any typical sixth form year at Colfe’s, about 10 per cent of the intake qualify for Free School Meals. The average for state grammar schools is 3 per cent. Colfe’s works closely with local 11-16 state schools in Lewisham and surrounding boroughs, running after school enrichment classes in Maths, English and Latin, trips to visit leading universities and joint debating teams. Almost without exception, Colfe’s Leathersellers’ Scholars proceed to top Russell Group universities beyond the sixth form. This is genuine social mobility and has been acknowledged as such by an independent study into the effectiveness of the programme. The report highlighted the “groundbreaking nature of what the school is achieving” and its “role in enhancing social mobility in south east London”. Colfe’s partnerships with local 11-16 state schools–including Deptford
TH E LE WI S H A M L E DG E R
PROMOTIONAL FEATURE 31
O CTO B E R / N O V E M BE R 201 9
top Universities.” Jake Armstrong, Careers Leader at Addey & Stanhope School in New Cross, hope to maintain the develop the partnerships with Colfe’s for many years to come “Both schools work together closely to ensure that the young people of Lewisham have access to a range of opportunities that contribute to their future success. Students at Addey and Stanhope School, working with Colfe’s, are able to attend Oxbridge trips every year where they can experience university life and find out what it takes to be at some of the most successful universities in the world. Several former Addey & Stanhope students have received fully funded scholarships to study for their A-levels at Colfe’s. These students then return to the school to promote the scholarship opportunities to students in Year 10 and Year 11. Six Addey’s pupils – our best ever uptake – have started at Colfe’s Sixth Form this year.” Colfe’s School is an academically selective independent school for boys and girls in Lee, Lewisham. The school offers financial assistance in
Information on open days and assessments for entry in September 2020 is available online at www.colfes.com
Green, Addey & Stanhope Trinity and Conisborough College amongst others – is nurtured by a member of staff who spends half her timetable strengthening those links,which are mutually beneficial. Richard Russell, the headmaster of Colfe’s said; “The academic improvement at A-level at Colfe’s in recent years owes much to the programme and the social dynamic of the sixth form has benefited hugely from the initiative, without which we would risk becoming a middle-class vacuum. “It is in the interests of all students that they should learn to live in a socially diverse context, rather than secluded from social variety: the ambition of the scholars enables them to establish themselves as pace-setters in the competitive milieu of the sixth form, bringing benefits to all.” Celine Nembhard, Careers Coordinator at Deptford Green School agrees that the partnership between the schools has given access to a variety of resources. “Working collaboratively with Colfe’s and other schools staff has had a positive impact on many of our students who have gained places in
ABOVE: Mohamed, Amy, Maria and Pebbie are now at Oxford, Cambridge and Russell Group universities.
offer normally no more than a 50% reduction in fees but a means-tested scholarship (calculated on household income) could mean a fully funded place.
the form of academic merit-based and means-tested scholarships in the senior school. Awards are made at the discretion of the school and the number varies from year to year, in a typical year group we would expect around a quarter of pupils to benefit from some sort of fee assistance. Academic merit-based scholarships
Sixth Form Open Evening
Senior School Open Morning
Thursday 10 October 6pm - 8pm
Saturday 9 November 9am -12 noon
Year 6 Taster Day
Book your place online today
Tuesday 15 October 9am - 3.15pm
TH E LE WI S H A M L E DG E R
LEWIS HAM LEGEND 33
O CTO B E R / N O V E M BE R 201 9
ica Paris is not one to rest on her laurels. The singer, actress, author and presenter left home at 15, and by 19 she had signed to Island Records, released her debut album So Good and was a household name with smash hit tracks like My One Temptation. Her knack for combining pop and soul with jazz leanings – like many new artists based in south London today – proved an instant hit. Her debut album went platinum, and set the tone for her whole career, which saw her go on to work with the likes of disco legend Nile Rodgers, hip-hop heroes Eric B & Rakim, Boy George and Prince. This Christmas Mica will be working much closer to home, near where she grew up in Brockley – treading the boards at Catford’s Broadway Theatre as she stars in its Beauty & The Beast pantomime. It tells the story of Belle, who longs for romance and adventure, and a badmannered prince who is transformed into a beast to teach him a lesson. Mica plays the Good Fairy who swoops in to the rescue, making both their dreams come true. Mica’s own fairytale began when she was a child. Her grandmother noticed her talent for performing when she was just four years old, as she sang along to the theme tune of kids’ TV show The Adventures of Rupert Bear. When she moved from Islington to a big Victorian house in Brockley aged eight, her grandparents encouraged her to join the choir at their place of worship, the New Testament Church of God on Lee High Road. Her granddad was a minister there, and it was where she sang her first ever solo performance. “I was the star of the church, you know?” Mica recalls, speaking from the back of a taxi in Belfast, where she’s en route to the theatre for makeup and costume before a matinee performance of Fame – the musical she’s been on the road with for the past year and a half. “I remember looking down and seeing my white socks and shoes – we didn’t wear those shoes any other day than Sunday.” As well as taking childhood friend Gabrielle with her to church – “She always wanted to come” – Mica’s household was a hotbed of talent. “My dad is the one with all the gifts really,” she says. “My aunts and uncles too – the house was full of music, whether it was ragtime or Mozart.” One of Mica’s sisters, Paula, is also a singer, performing under the alias Alisha Warren in the 1980s and 90s. Dawn, the eldest, is an academic who’s just finished a PhD, while their cousin is none other than former world champion boxer, Chris Eubank. Mica says this wealth of creativity and talent came from a work ethic that ran through her whole family. She was soon fully immersed in her grandparents’ church, performing there and at other places of worship, entering competitions and recording music. “There was choir practice, Bible study, I was winning awards all over the country,” she recalls. “There wasn’t any time to go out to play.” By her mid teens she was performing regularly with the Spirit of Watts gospel choir and was ready to forge her own path.
Left: singer Mica Paris is making her first foray into panto at the Broadway Theatre this Christmas
Paris London IN
Mica Paris will be starring in the panto version of Beauty & The Beast at the Broadway Theatre this winter. The singer, who grew up in Brockley, reflects on her multi-faceted career in showbiz WORDS BY EMMA FINAMORE
While she says many of her friends in Brockley were planning on moving into their own flats and starting families, she had other plans: “I knew I didn’t want that, and I was ready to do my own thing.” Mica made a demo with someone else at the church and it immediately garnered interest from record label executives. She moved into her own place in east London and was offered a deal by Island Records. “But I had to persuade my grandparents to sign the contract for me,” she laughs. “I was too young to legally do it myself!” Even though she did manage to convince them, Mica says her grandparents were concerned that a career in the music industry was a pipe dream – and that “all people in music ended up dead or on drugs”. That’s definitely not how her career went though. After seven studio
albums, one compilation album, four EPs and 27 singles, Mica has also been honoured with the Gold Badge Award by the British Academy of Songwriters, Composers and Authors – for her contribution to the British entertainment industry. Despite these successes, she says the main highlight of her musical career was showing her grandparents that she could be successful, and that there was another way you could have a life in music, rather than going off the rails. “A year after I left home they were watching me on Top of the Pops,” she smiles. “I’ve lost lots of friends to that sort of thing [drink and drug issues] but I never went down that path. I think I could always feel my grandparents in the back of my mind.” Of course, her story doesn’t stop with music. Mica has crossed over into
Growing up, our house was full of music – whether it was ragtime or Mozart
radio too, hosting Soul Solutions on BBC Radio 2 – interviewing big names like Alicia Keys and Motown legend Martha Reeves – and narrating several music programmes for the station. She’s presented documentaries – like Channel 4’s The Gospel of Gospel, exploring the influence of the black American church tradition on pop music – and has acted and contributed to panels on various TV shows (look out for her in ITV’s Marple, playing an American jazz singer performing with Louis Armstrong’s band). This summer she’s been making more programmes for Radio 2, called Mica Meets, interviewing artists like Sister Sledge and Gladys Knight (of The Pips). “I think they open up to me more than they would to someone else,” she says, of shifting between the role of artist and broadcast journalist. “Because I’ve been there, I know what it’s like.” Mica has put this experience to good use through writing too, having published a book about finding confidence and happiness in your own skin. She’s planning another for next year, exploring the experience of women in music. “I want to get their stories out there. Everyone talks about ‘this’ [glamour and showbiz] but no one talks about the other stuff.” And it doesn’t stop there. Mica has also devoted much of her time to charity work. She’s supported causes ranging from youth homelessness, gender equality and anti-rape campaigns, to music venue renovation projects and the Amy Winehouse Foundation. She’s also worked with the Met Police on anti-gun campaigns, ever since her brother was tragically shot and killed in 2011. It’s an impressive – and actually pretty humbling – CV. How has she made the crossover into so many other avenues? “People just asked and I said yes! My grandparents were such hard workers, grafters, and I have that too,” reflects Mica. “They were homeowners when no one else we knew owned their own home. “I think I’ve got that from them – it’s often a mindset of immigrant families, they’re determined to always do better, and have a sort of fear of not working. It’s a working class thing – Michael Caine said that to me once, that he always wants to work, and I was like, ‘But you’re Michael Caine!’ But it’s not about just working all the time, it’s about what that work actually is – it has to inspire you.” Aptly then, the conversation turns to her forthcoming career plans. Once her current Fame run finishes off in the West End, she then goes into rehearsals for Beauty & The Beast in Catford. What is she looking forward to most about the production, and being back in her old stomping ground? “Mostly I’m looking forward to seeing people I haven’t seen for 30 years. And I’ve never done pantomime before,” she says. “I thought if I was going to do it I should do it at home. The audience won’t give me a hard time. And it’s always good to go home.”
34 LEWI S H AM L E I SU R E
SOMETHING TO EAT Spicy beans on sourdough toast with chorizo and eggs This brunch dish from Archibald’s in Lee will get your day off to a strong start The idea to create Archibald’s began while we were living just around the corner from where we are now on Manor Lane in Lee. We both wanted to be able to pop out for great coffee with brunch locally. There was nothing like us in the neighbourhood so we thought we should just do it ourselves. Danny left working in the City to return to his love of and career in hospitality, while Miles turned a love of coffee and a career in storedesign into helping create Archibald’s. We’ve now been serving beverages, brunch and bakes daily for more than five years. We’re all about the coffee here and have partnered with Hackney-based Climpson & Sons since we opened. This recipe for spicy beans on sourdough toast with chorizo and slow-cooked eggs was one of our first brunch dishes and is still a firm favourite, which always sells out. It’ll be our brunch special on the weekend after this issue of The Lewisham Ledger is published, on October 5-6.
WORDS BY DANNY AMBROSE AND MILES SHIRLEY
Ingredients (serves four) 1 red onion 1 red pepper 2 cloves of garlic 1 red chilli 454g can of plum tomatoes 454g can of mixed beans 1 small vegetable stock cube dissolved in 200ml water 1 tsp smoked paprika 1 tsp chipotle chilli flakes (or regular if you like a less smoky flavour) 1 or 2 free range eggs per person 6 slices or 75g roughly chopped chunks of chorizo per person 2 slices of sourdough per person 1 tsp olive oil Flat leaf parsley 1 tbsp of vegetable oil for cooking Salt and pepper to taste
4 Add the tin of tomatoes and break them down with a fork. Then add the beans. 5 Pour boiled water into the empty tomato can and dissolve the stock cube, then add to the pan, turn down the heat and simmer gently. 6 Add the paprika and chilli flakes, season to taste and add a pinch more paprika or flakes should it need the kick. 7 After 20 minutes the beans should be starting to soften and the sauce thickening, so it’s time to do the eggs. 8 In a shallow pan bring 3 to 4cm of water to a simmer, crack the eggs into the pan and leave on a low heat to slowcook. Simmer gently for about five minutes, depending on how you like your eggs. 9 If you’re making the chorizo option, heat a dry pan, lightly char until you smell the aroma of spicy paprika, and add to the beans. 10 Slice your sourdough and toast it. Rub with a garlic clove and drizzle with olive oil. 11 Plate up and add a generous serving of your beans. Top with your slow-cooked eggs and flat leaf parsley. Enjoy!
Method 1 Chop the red onion and pepper into roughly 1cm cubes. 2 Heat the vegetable oil on a medium heat, then add the onion and pepper and lightly sauté for eight to 10 minutes. 3 Chop the garlic and red chilli and add to the pan for one minute.
CROSSWORD NO. 9
8 AADEFMMNNNR (anagram) (7, 4) 9 Chopper (3) 10 Swindle (3) 11 Generous (7) 12 Landscape (5) 13 Foe (5) 14 Printer ink (5) 15 Long-necked mammal (7) 17 Bury (5) 18 Northern Italian city (5) 21 Envious (7) 23 Stadium (5) 24 Norwegian playwright (5) 25 Establish, erect (3, 2) 26 Roman vehicle (7) 27 Owing (3) 28 Go astray (3) 29 Spiritualist, medium (11)
1 EM Forster novel (1, 7, 2, 5) 2 Foot joint (5) 3 Speech of praise (7) 4 Loving (7) 5 Classical dancer (9) 6 Very old (7) 7 Costume occasion (5, 5, 5) 8 Shooting star (6) 16 To do with monetary affairs (9) 19 Esteem (7) 20 Get hitched again (7) 21 Caretaker (7) 22 Beginning (6) 25 Cut of meat (5)
8 Across is a musician and one-time resident of Lee. 44
A lewisham LOCAL James Robertson Justice Best known for his role as the demanding surgeon Sir Lancelot Spratt in the Doctor series of films from the 1950s and 60s, British character actor James Robertson Justice was born in Lee in 1907. Justice started out as a journalist at Reuters alongside Bond creator Ian Fleming. He spoke up to 20 languages and played rugby for Beckenham RFC. After branching into acting, his forceful personality, imposing physique and booming voice helped him land roles in many comedy films, from Crooks Anonymous to legal farce A Pair of Briefs.
Justice wed Dillys, a nurse, in 1941. They had one child, James, who tragically drowned in 1949 aged four. Justice was later declared bankrupt and died penniless in 1975. His ashes were buried in the moors near his former cottage at Spinningdale in the Scottish Highlands.
DOWN: 1 A Passage to India, 2 Ankle, 3 Tribute, 4 Adoring, 5 Ballerina, 6 Ancient, 7 Fancy dress party, 8 Meteor, 16 Financial, 19 Respect, 20 Remarry, 21 Janitor, 22 Outset, 25 Steak. ACROSS: 8 Manfred Mann, 9 Axe, 10 Con, 11 Liberal, 12 Scene, 13 Enemy, 14 Toner, 15 Giraffe, 17 Inter, 18 Turin, 21 Jealous, 23 Arena, 24 Ibsen, 25 Set up, 26 Chariot, 27 Due, 28 Err, 29 Clairvoyant.