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MEN OF STEEL

BELLENDEN BARBER

NO HOLDS BARD

We talk to Tara Fabrications

The local salon that inspired Desmond’s

A Shakespearean short with a twist

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a free newspaper for peckham and nunhead

THE

issue 13 february/march 2016

PECKHAM PECULIAR

PECKHAM PREFABS the dwindling dwellings of SE15 page 16


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DEAR READER, WELCOME TO ISSUE 13 OF THE PECKHAM PECULIAR, A FREE LOCAL NEWSPAPER FOR PECKHAM AND NUNHEAD. This is a special issue of the paper as it marks two years since we launched the first edition back in January 2014. Since then we’ve interviewed countless people who live and work in SE15 and shared their previously unheard stories with you.

Pictured: Christmas Yard at 190 Rye Lane. Plans have been submitted to Southwark Council to build 22 flats and a 200-seater restaurant on the site. Photo by Alexander McBride Wilson (Instagram: @mcbridewilson).

THE PECKHAM PECULIAR Editors Mark McGinlay, Kate White Production The Creativity Club (http://thecreativity.club) Photographer Lima Charlie Features editor Emma Finamore Sub-editor Jack Aston Illustrator Alice Feaver (alicefeaver.com) Contributors Russell Alford, Elisabeth Blanchet, Joan Byrne, Davina Hagan, Patrick Hanlon, Dan Harder, Louise Kimpton-Nye, Will Noble, Luke G Williams Marketing and social media Mark McGinlay For editorial and advertising enquiries, please email peckhampeculiar@gmail.com Blog: peckhampeculiar.tumblr.com Twitter: @peckhampeculiar facebook.com/peckhampeculiar instagram.com/peckhampeculiar Top tweet Ruth Kennedy, local resident: “I love The Peckham Peculiar. What a great local newspaper – truly representing and celebrating all things Peckham.”

We’ve broken dozens of exclusives about Peckham and Nunhead, and have highlighted many causes that readers have subsequently become involved with. We hope the paper is one of the many local forces that help bring our community closer together. The brilliant businesses who choose to support us through advertising are the sole reason that we’ve managed to reach our second birthday. Without them we wouldn’t exist, so we’d like to say a massive thanks to each and every one of them. Now, two years after The Peckham Peculiar began, we have decided to launch a sister title called The Dulwich Diverter. The first issue will come out in early May to coincide with the 2016 Dulwich Festival. Like this paper, the Diverter will be a free community newspaper that is published every other month. We will be distributing it to more than 100 stockists in East, West, North Dulwich and the Village. The emphasis will be on real reporting and unique stories that are all about the local area and its people, rather than generic content that is driven by press releases. There will be a strong focus on design and lots of great photography. We launched a crowdfunding campaign for The Dulwich Diverter in January and have raised raised almost £7,000 so far thanks to 107 hugely generous generous backers. The money will enable us to print the first two issues of the paper. The campaign will run until March 7 so if you’d like to get involved, there is still time to pledge. To be name-checked in our first issue, come to our launch party, book an advert or just find out more, visit tinyurl.com/dulwichdiverter Follow us on Twitter and Instagram @dulwichdiverter and read our blog at dulwichdiverter.tumblr.com. If you’d like to get in touch with a story idea, an advertising enquiry or anything else, please drop us a line. We hope you enjoy the issue. Mark McGinlay and Kate White

BENEDICT O’LOONEY/THE PECKHAM SOCIETY

NEWS

help preserve peckham A community partnership is setting up to preserve and protect Peckham’s historic townscape – and it’s calling for local people to get involved. The partnership will be made up of representatives from local businesses, residents, community groups and Southwark Council. They will work together to deliver the Peckham Townscape Heritage Initiative (THI) over the next four years. The aim of the THI is to conserve, enhance and regenerate some of the historic buildings along Peckham High Street and Rye Lane. Traditional features will be restored or reinstated and vacant upper floors brought into use. Heritage experts and local people have earmarked 44 potential properties and 12 priority buildings for the project. They have £2.3 million to spend on the scheme from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) and Southwark Council. High priority properties include 117-125 Rye Lane, the Art Deco building opposite the station that is occupied by Mighty Pound and Wow clothing; and 116 Peckham High Street, the former Red Bull pub that is now Armani beauty salon. The interior features a features a historic mural (pictured above) that depicts a scene from Shakespeare’s play Henry VIII. Southwark Council has appointed architect Claire Hegarty as the independent chair of the partnership. Her award-winning practice, Butler Hegarty Architects, has more than 20 years’ experience in conserving historic buildings. Hegarty said: “London is experiencing incredible change, which in many cases is great, but it’s important to respond to local issues and keep hold of what is unique and special about a place, and that’s what the THI and the partnership is about. “Neighbourhoods like Peckham are distinctive to London, with layers of memories and stories that we want to protect. I am looking forward to working with the council and local people to achieve that.” Peckham secured lottery funding in 2014 following years of work by the Peckham Society to establish the historic credentials of the town centre. Peckham Vision later initiated the proposal and was closely involved in preparing the successful bid to the HLF. All who live and work in Peckham are invited to join the partnership. To apply, visit southwark.gov.uk/JoinTHI. The deadline is February 22.

brimming with ideas The Friends of Brimmington Park are set to expand their activities in east Peckham following a successful neighbourhood meeting last month. The community group was founded 19 years ago and has focused mainly on improving the environment of Brimmington Park. It also runs the area’s popular Midsummer Festival. Fran Beckett, chair of the Friends, said of the January meeting: “Initially we were really discouraged because it was just the committee there, but half an hour later we had almost 30 people.

February/March 2016

“It was a lively, engaged meeting with lots of participation, ideas and considerable commonality of views.” There was wide support for broadening the Friends’ remit to become a community organisation covering the whole of East Peckham: the area bounded by Queen’s Road, Pomeroy Street, Old Kent Road and Peckham Hill Street. The Friends will continue to develop Brimmington Park as a family friendly place and make it cleaner, greener and safer. They will encourage more local facilities and will build links between residents with more

social spaces, get-togethers and events. Beckett added: “This part of Peckham has been overlooked for a long time, but there’s new life popping up around the place. One of the strengths of the area is its huge multicultural mix. There’s a lot of energy and enthusiasm here.” All are welcome to attend the Friends’ next meeting on February 25, 7pm at the Southwark Cypriot Day Centre, 12a Asylum Road. To find out more or get involved, email friendsofbrimmingtonpark@ hotmail.com.

THE PECKHAM PECULIAR / 3


NEWS

cool creations Creative kids are following in the footsteps of famous inventors by turning trash into treasures from a shed in their playground. The pupils, from John Donne primary school in Wood’s Road, have used recyclable materials to make robots, rockets, miniature Minecraft characters and puppets. They work with items such as old milk cartons, scraps of card and paper, fabric, bottle tops and “recycled bling” from the Work and Play Scrapstore charity in Wandsworth. The shed, which is called the Green Studio, was set up in 2012 as part of the school’s drive towards a more creative curriculum. Three years on it has become a well-established part of the learning landscape. The school’s Ruth Moyler, who has overseen the project, said inventing things is “empowering” for the children. She added: “They often leave smiling, with a sense of achievement saying, ‘Look what I made, all by myself!’” Pupils can choose to spend their lunch break in the studio and it’s also used for class sessions. Moyler said they have shown a real flair for invention. “Children have made junk-model robots with each new prototype superior to the last. “I find it very interesting that this is precisely the pattern of work adopted by several famous inventors, such as Thomas Edison and the

Wright brothers. I often speak to the children about this, and how they could also become amazing inventors.” The studio has many other benefits, she said. “Some children, who are new to the school with emerging English, have found the Green Studio to be an absolute haven, since the emphasis is upon creative activities rather than on spoken English. “Initially they are quiet, or only speaking with friends in their mother-tongue. Then quite soon, the Green Studio becomes a safe place for them and we converse in simple English. “There are other children for whom the playground is an overwhelming place, who flourish as part of a small group of children of mixed ages. These friendships, begun in the studio, often then continue in the playground afterwards.” Moyler, who runs practical workshops for staff in other schools about creative approaches to learning, said a scrap scheme in Southwark would be a valuable resource for local kids. “I remember very well the wonderful South London Children’s Scrap Scheme that used to run in Peckham’s Consort Road more than a decade ago,” she said. “It would be amazing to have such a facility in Southwark again.” To find out more about the Green Studio, email Ruth Moyler on rmoyler@johndonne.southwark.sch.uk.

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NEWS

all hands on decks

... And don’t forget Bea’s Baby Bop, every Thursday at 10.30am!

The Peckham Rye Music Festival is set to launch this spring, bringing more than 50 local and international DJs and underground music talent from across the globe to SE15. The event is the brainwave of BBC radio producer and Peckham resident Glenn Middleditch, who DJs and runs his own record label, Mutual Friend Recording, in his spare time. He also puts on monthly music night Friends Of Ours at Canavan’s. The three-day festival will be held on the weekend of May 13-15. Friday will feature a multitude of music workshops and seminars, Saturday will be the “big party” and Sunday will be the recovery session. The event will focus mainly on electronic music and will take place at venues including the Bussey Building, the Four Quarters, the Nines, Peckham Springs, the Gowlett and the White Horse. On the Friday, the festival will team up with Tony Nwachukwu, founder of multi-platform music project CDR (Create, Define, Release) to offer a series of music production workshops and seminars at the Bussey Building. The educational side of things is important to Middleditch, who has taught radio skills at Point Blank music school and the University of West London. Last year he spent two months working with Syrian radio stations on the Turkish/Syrian border. Saturday will be the main focus of the festival, with dozens of DJs including Kassem Mosse, Charlie Bones, Wbeeza, West Norwood Cassette Library, Ethyl & Flori, DJ October and Nikita taking to the decks.

Sunday will have a “relaxed, chilled” vibe, with DJs performing smaller, more intimate sets in pubs and bars. “A DJ who normally does banging techno might play the funk and soul their parents listened to when they were kids,” Middleditch said. Details are yet to be firmed up, but wristband holders are likely to be offered special perks, such as discounted Sunday roasts or free Bloody Marys. Middleditch, who has worked on festivals

including Glastonbury, Reading, Leeds and Bestival for the BBC, has roped in a team of friends to help him with the event. They include Lyndsey Boggis, a lead organiser of Radio 1’s Hackney Weekend that drew crowds of 50,000 people. Explaining why he decided to launch the Peckham festival, he said: “I have run club nights in London for about eight years. It’s always been underground electronic music mainly – house, techno, electronica, that sort of thing.

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“There’s some amazing stuff going on locally, with all the different record shops and labels, people like Bradley Zero with Rhythm Section and Tender with 22a. I thought, ‘Let’s get together and collaborate and do something to celebrate all that.’” For more details or to buy tickets, visit peckhamryemusicfestival.co.uk or follow @peckhamfest.

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NEWS

peckham pulls together People voiced strong views about the pace of change in Peckham at a packed community meeting last month. More than 150 people attended the event at the CLF Art Café, which was organised by Peckham Vision in conjunction with Southwark Council. They discussed what they thought of Peckham now and what they’d like it to become. Tom Buttrick, from Southwark Council’s planning team, said feedback gathered would help inform the New Southwark Plan, a document that is being drawn up to detail the council’s planning policy. Amar was one of many residents who spoke at the event. “I’m interested to know why there’s such a burning desire to make so many changes in Peckham all at once,” he said. “Societies are very complex situations. So many people, different people, live here. I think it would be much more appropriate to be making small changes, seeing how those pan out, seeing how things develop and do that over time.” He said that property developers and architects are ultimately professionals driven by targets and growth, adding: “Growth should be much slower in a place like Peckham. It shouldn’t be driven by financial incentives.” Eric, who was born and raised in Peckham, said: “Southwark Council are going to be cutting 73 per cent of the youth service budget. But at the same time they want to be talking about building nice places, redevelopments on car parks and stuff like that.” Speaking of the Heygate and Aylesbury estates, he said: “The council are not developing the area for us,” adding: “They’re trying to socially cleanse us. They’re pushing poorer people out of the area. People I grew up with have been forced out. “It’s the same as what’s happened in Brixton and Shoreditch and eventually it’s going to become like Notting Hill. If anybody doesn’t know the history of Notting Hill, go and look it up, because that’s what’s happening here. So let’s do something about it.” Another man said: “When an area like Dalston, where I’m from, gets gentrified – not regenerated, gentrified – when the people who actually live there aren’t there anymore, how can you say it has the same community spirit as it had before?” Cyndi Anaso, Peckham resident and founder of Reclaim Brixton, said: “It’s up to us in this room to start a dialogue with the silent majority of people who feel exactly the same way as we do about these developments.” Peckham Vision coordinator Eileen Conn agreed, adding: “We can all get to know each other well and work together for the benefit of the place that we live and work in. That’s my dream for Peckham’s future.” Get involved with Peckham Vision by emailing info@peckhamvision.org and follow them on Twitter @peckhamvision.

6 / THE PECKHAM PECULIAR

amazing aisosa A Peckham student who scooped a top charity award has described winning the prize as an “absolute honour”. Until he began his medical degree last year, Aisosa Ihama was a carer to his mother, who suffers from a range of chronic illnesses. He also looked after his four young siblings from the age of seven. The student, who is now 19, was supported by Action for Children’s Southwark Young Carers service. It gives carers aged under 18 a break and provides a regular outlet for them to relax and socialise with others. Despite his mountain of responsibilities during his school years, Ihama – also known as OJ – scored strong GCSE results and successfully completed his A-levels before accepting a place at Bradford university. He collected Action for Children’s prestigious chief executive’s award at the charity’s annual Stephenson Awards ceremony, which took place at the House of Lords. He is now a national ambassador for Action for Children.

peculiar fact

The road from Peckham to London was once notorious for highwaymen.

Aisosa Ihama with Action for Children’s Ben Phillips

street scenes Colourful artworks inspired by the people of Peckham could become a permanent fixture on a local wall. Peckham Promenade, by acclaimed artist Janette Parris, is based on the characters, lives and daily interactions of the people who live, work and visit Rye Lane. It reflects the stories Parris encountered while chatting with residents and traders. Part of the series is now on display at local gallery Peckham Platform, 89 Peckham High Street, until March 25. A video plays alongside, animating conversations the artist had with students during workshops at Harris Academy Peckham. Parris has created a whopping 60 metres of street scenes in total, and it is hoped that this summer, the entire work will be painted onto its final destination: the walls of the Rye Lane/Choumert Grove pedestrian corridor. Speaking of the exhibition, Parris said:

“I’m delighted to be exhibiting at Peckham Platform, as it gave me the chance to meet and work with people in the area and portray their lives. “A big part of my work is about highlighting the everyday. I wanted to depict the familiar and often enjoyable experience of popping to the shops in Peckham.”

make it a habit A new bistro is opening in Nunhead. The Habit is a neighbourhood restaurant owned by Daniel Benjamins – who has lived in Nunhead all his life – and his friend John Hollins. It is located in Sheel Pharmacy’s old shop at 60 Nunhead Lane and will open in February. Benjamins will be front-of-house and Hollins, who was previously sous chef at Trinity restaurant in Clapham, will cook. A modern British menu of fresh, seasonal produce will be paired with the “finest wines, local beers and a few cracking cocktails”. Brunch will include granola with natural yoghurt; crushed avocado on toast with

poached eggs and grilled courgette; and The Habit fry-up: sausage, smoked bacon, mushrooms, plum tomato, beans, egg and toasted sourdough. For lunch diners can choose from dishes such as creamed cauliflower soup, Montgomery Welsh rarebit or steamed Cornish mussels with chorizo, lemon and parsley. Puddings include warm chocolate pot with milk ice cream and blood orange, and there’s a kids’ menu too. The Habit will serve brunch, lunch and coffee from Tuesday to Sunday. It hopes to open late on Fridays and Saturdays soon. February/March 2016


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NEWS

drinking den Belgian beers, whiskies and cocktails are all on the menu at new Peckham nightspot the Confession Box. The cosy basement bar is hidden beneath the Four Quarters at 187 Rye Lane. Drinkers can choose from more than 20 Belgian beers and 50 whiskies from around the world, from Maker’s Mark to Green Spot. Snacks include American-style grilled cheese sandwiches. The cocktail list has been devised by expert mixologist Badr Echa. It includes a Franhattan, which is made with Jim Beam rye, sweet vermouth, dry vermouth and a maraschino cherry. Upstairs, the main bar features an array of restored arcade machines, with retro classics such as Street Fighter II, Asteroids, Pac-Man, Time Crisis 2, Sega Rally and Super Hang-on.

A new scheme to refurbish 133 Rye Lane as an allcommercial “creative hub” called the Market will be submitted to Southwark Council in February. Developer Frame Property is proposing to renovate the Edwardian building and remodel the open shopfront in a traditional style. An extra two storeys will be added to the roof. There will be restaurant, bar and gallery space at ground and basement levels, flexible studio and workspace on floors one to four, and an event space, bar and terrace at fifth floor level. A creche and health-related uses could also be accommodated. 133 Rye Lane hit the headlines last year after Frame submitted proposals to build 11 flats in the property, which is located directly in front of the Bussey Building. CLF Art Café owner Mickey Smith said the inevitable noise issues would “kill” his business and more than 15,000 people signed a petition to halt the plans. Frame then withdrew the application in favour of an all-commercial scheme. Speaking at the public consultation on the new proposals at All Saints church hall last month, Frame’s Nick Mansour told The Peckham

Peculiar: “We’re honestly delighted to be doing a commercial scheme. “Like a market, it will be a flexible and multifaceted space so it can respond to local needs. There are so many people in Peckham doing interesting things in different spaces. We’re going to be talking to as many of them as possible to get their ideas.” The workspace will be a “co-working community” for up to 350 people. Mansour said monthly membership prices will be roughly akin to other local facilities such as the Office Club,

which costs £180 per month. The restaurant and bar will be located at the back of the building and are expected to be latenight venues. The events space will be available to hire and the ground floor shopfront will feature a rolling exhibition showcasing local people and businesses. If the plans get a green light, building work will begin in late summer, with the first couple of floors expected to open by the end of the year. The rest of the building will be completed in early 2017.

ANDY WORTHINGTON

© SOUTHWARK COUNCIL/GOOGLE STREET VIEW

The Confession Box is open Wednesday to Saturday from 7pm until May 2.

plans for landmark building revealed

mixed views on road changes reservoir fence stays watertight More than 6,000 people have signed a petition to open Nunhead Reservoir to the public – but owner Thames Water insisted it cannot allow access to the space for safety reasons. The water company installed a new barrier around the underground reservoir about a year ago, after people regularly broke through the old fence to reach the grass beyond and enjoy the breathtaking London views. The menacing structure, which would not look out of place in Fort Knox, Area 51 or a maximum security prison, is fitted with barbed wire and sometimes patrolled by guard dogs. Sensors are used to detect when it has been breached. Many have questioned why the land must be sealed to the public when a similar underground reservoir at nearby Honor Oak has a golf course on top of it. But a Thames Water spokesman said: “Nunhead Reservoir plays a key part in supplying high quality drinking water to many homes in the area so we need to keep the site secure at all times. “The land at Honor Oak has been leased to February/March 2015

the local golf club since 1912. As part of the leasing agreement, Thames Water maintains the perimeter wall and fence but the club ensures the land is accessible only to members and their guests.” The petition for public access was started by local resident Rosanna Thompson, who also founded Facebook group the Friends of Nunhead Reservoir. “Of course it is important to make sure the water supply is secure,” she said. “But we don’t see why at Nunhead Reservoir, the specific areas that are deemed by Thames Water to be at risk, such as the doors at the south side of the site for example, could not be secured properly, rather than enclosing the whole piece of land. “There are many different options to be explored which could allow this to happen. Thames Water could really give something back to the community by working to make this beautiful and well loved spot available to be enjoyed by everyone.” To view the petition, visit tiny.cc/nunheadwater

Proposals to change road layouts in the Bellenden area have led to mixed reactions from residents. Southwark Council said the scheme is aimed at promoting Bellenden Road as a quieter route for cycling and walking. It also wants to improve access to green spaces and road safety. If the plans go ahead, the one-way sections of Lyndhurst Way, Bellenden Road and Highshore Road will turn two-way. Chadwick Road between Lyndhurst Way and Bellenden Road will also be made two-way. The stretch of Bellenden Road from Blenheim Grove to Highshore Road will become a dead-end for cars, with William Griggs Garden redesigned (subject to planning permission) to provide a turnaround point. The junction of Highshore Road, Bellenden Road and Elm Grove will be modified to give priority to Highshore Road west and Bellenden Road north; and the junction of Holly Grove and Lyndhurst Way will be closed to vehicles. Parking bays will be removed from Highshore Road, Lyndhurst Way and Bellenden Road, resulting in a net loss of

14 spaces. Raised junctions, more double yellows and new zebra crossings will be built, and some sections of pavements widened. Residents tweeted mixed views about the plans. @jessevershed said that closing off the junction on Bellenden Road would lead to a “massive logjam of cars” when events took place at Elim House or St James the Great church. @mrmakote said: “Lyndhurst Way has two-way traffic proposed and is already mad busy,” adding that the proposals would “substantially increase the traffic” on the street. But @doaneatlarge said: “I live on Bellenden Road and think the proposals are much better than what we have. Some traffic that now goes around the one-way system will actually be diverted to Bellenden.” The council has finished consulting on the plans and will make a formal decision at the end of March. View the proposals in full at southwark.gov.uk/consultations Pictured: Holly Grove looking towards Warwick Gardens.

THE PECKHAM PECULIAR / 9


PECKHAM PEOPLE

on his metal IF YOU’VE EVER WAITED FOR A TRAIN ON PLATFORM TWO OF PECKHAM RYE STATION, YOU CAN’T FAIL TO HAVE NOTICED THE SPARKS FLYING FROM TARA FABRICATIONS’ STEEL YARD BELOW. We drop in for a chat with Lee Parsons, who heads up the company with his dad Stephen WORDS WILL NOBLE PHOTO LIMA CHARLIE

Customers at Tara Fabrications come in all shapes and sizes. “I’m not a small man myself,” admits owner Lee Parsons, sitting in his office under a railway arch in Dovedale Court. “But once we had a guy who was twice the size that I am and he kept breaking his bed. “He’d gone through about 22 beds in a yearand-a-half. I didn’t want to ask what he was doing in them. We had to make him a bed that weighed about two tonnes in the end. Then we had to reinforce his bedroom floor just to take the weight of it!” In a few hours’ time Lee and his team will be breaking for Christmas, but for now the yard outside, which is sandwiched in between two great sets of railway arches just behind Peckham Rye Station, is frantic. A forklift truck darts around the stacks of girders and rods; and welding sparks fizz up like mini firework displays. On the radio, Canadian rocker Alannah Myles is croaking out her only big hit: “Black velvet and that little boy’s smile. Black velvet with that slow southern style...” Lee is a man who enjoys a challenge – like his corpulent customer’s bed. “We’ve made staircases with a grapevine design up the side, so we’ve had to make grapes out of steel and things like that,” he says. “It’s an art, but it’s a dying art.” Tara Fabrications was previously located in Clapham, where it operated for 25 years. It was founded by Lee’s dad Stephen Parsons, along with his business partner Tom O’Hare. When Tom was diagnosed with cancer, Lee gave up his security job and joined his dad’s business – the same time it moved to Peckham. Tom sadly passed away, and Lee knew his long 10 / THE PECKHAM PECULIAR

term future was here. “I’m a Jack-of-all-trades at the moment – same as my old man,” says Lee, who is involved in every aspect of the business, from going over the finances to making deliveries to doing a spot of welding. Not that Stephen agrees with all Lee’s methods. While the junior Parsons uses a laser level for precision jobs, Stephen is liable to cock a snook at such technology, and will make his own handmade templates tacked together with bits of wood. Sometimes he will double-check a job that Lee or one of the employees has done with the laser, using his own templates as the measure of perfection. “It can work out better the old-school way, because sometimes the laser won’t hit in the right place,” admits Lee. “There’s no computer on Dad’s desk either, he won’t use it. He’s not old – he’s 58 – but it’s not the way he was taught.” The methods of father and son may differ, but the level of service is the same. “I won’t say we’re the cheapest out there because I know we’re definitely not,” says Lee, “but customers come to us for the service they get.” A friendly, family-oriented company, Tara Fabrications crafts items out of steel and an increasingly rare product – cast iron. They make all sorts of things, from grilles and light fixtures to tables and bookcases. Gates and railings are part of their repertoire too. “If you’re doing railings up in central London all they really want is big thick bars with massive railing heads on the top, because it’s the London style,” Lee says. They also build fire escapes, which like everything else, are assembled and tested on

site. “People on the platforms see these massive staircases going up in our yard and blokes walking up and down them, jumping on them to make sure there’s no movement,” says Lee. “People are looking at us going, ‘Are you trying to dodge the train fare?!’” Such a stage – one right in the heart of Peckham too – places Tara Fabrications literally in the public eye. It’s the kind of advertising you can’t buy and Lee’s boys like to play up to it, in effect doing their own marketing as they work. They’re also partial to breaking into song as they weld and shape their metal creations. “I’m forever getting tweets off people saying, ‘Can you turn the music up?’ or, ‘Can you tell him to stop singing, it’s terrible!’” laughs Lee. Although Tara Fabrications covers anywhere within the M25, Peckham is their heartland. They made gates, railings and window grilles for a pair of properties in Chadwick Road recently; and are working on some more gates for a place in Bellenden Road. They also helped Honest Burgers set up shop on Blenheim Grove; and when the market stalls on Rye Lane break – which happens frequently – traders bring them to Lee and he welds them up. No job is too small. “See those steel poles there?” says Lee. “A local student from Camberwell arts college came in and went, ‘I’ve got a problem, I can’t hold my camera up. Can you help me out?’ And we made that for him.” The steel industry has changed dramatically since Tara Fabrications was founded, not least in the way it is sourced. In 2014 the UK produced 12 million tonnes of steel, while China made 823 million tonnes. It’s the only aspect of Lee’s business that isn’t

local – something he regrets. “Most steel now comes from places like Norway and Russia,” he says. “It’s sad because we were once one of the best steel countries in the world.” Operating in Peckham is changing too – it’s getting costlier. Since Tara Fabrications moved here, Lee reckons the rent has at least doubled. It spells a difficult future not just for the stalwarts of the area who came here in the first place for the cheap rent, such as Tara and the garages, but for the newcomers too. Rising rent might not be the end of it either; railway arches are no longer the unwanted storage units they were, and it’s common knowledge that owners Network Rail could be sniffing out wealthier tenants. However, Lee believes his business is safe – for now. He says: “Knowing how the building industry works, when Network Rail do decide what they want to do with the arches, it’s going to take them a year to draw up a plan, then two years to get that plan approved, and another three years to get it into place. That’s six years, so we’re not too worried at the moment.” Having said that, Lee is adamant that if the call did come from Network Rail, he, and most of the other tenants in the arches, would fight tooth and nail to stand their ground. They like it here and people like them being here. But just as Peckham Rye Station threatens to take away, so it continues to provide Lee with work. Tara Fabrications has just been awarded a contract to renovate and fit new stairs in the station. Seeing as Lee’s company backs right onto the building, they can deliver materials directly through the door. It doesn’t get more local than that. February/March 2016


PREGNANCY AND POSTNATAL YOGA WITH MICHELE AND HANA

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DESMOND’S

how’s trix? CHANNEL 4 COMEDY DESMOND’S CENTRED AROUND THE AMBROSE FAMILY’S BARBERSHOP IN PECKHAM AND STARRED LEGENDARY ACTOR NORMAN BEATON IN THE TITLE ROLE. Creator Trix Worrell tells how Bellenden Road salon Lloyd’s (pictured above and right) provided the inspiration for characters such as Porkpie WORDS AND PHOTOS JOAN BYRNE

Trix Worrell (photo by Lima Charlie) 12 / THE PECKHAM PECULIAR

Of all the barbershops in the world, it was a salon in Peckham that inspired one of Channel 4’s best-loved sitcoms. That show was Desmond’s, and it was broadcast for six years on peak-time TV, beginning in 1989. Desmond’s was created by Trix Worrell, who grew up in Peckham and went to Peckham Manor School. When he was commissioned to come up with a sitcom about black people in “melting pot” London, he accepted the challenge but said he had no idea what to suggest. Luckily, on his way to meet the producer, he happened to glance down from the top deck of the 36 bus. He spotted a group of barbers at a window ogling young women, while at the back of the shop sat their abandoned customers. It was his eureka moment. At first the producer was less than enthusiastic about setting a comedy in a hair salon, until Worrell explained that West Indian barbers are more than that. They are drop-in social centres where “people sit all day, and some get a haircut”. The barbershop that Worrell saw on that fateful journey was Fair Deal on Queen’s Road. Development of the Desmond’s concept, however, came from Lloyd’s, his local salon on Bellenden Road. He would go and sit in the shop for hours at a time. “A haircut,” he recalled, “could take forever and a day”, with all the chat going on about music and sport, particularly boxing. In fact, Desmond’s character Porkpie was inspired by one of the regulars who was often sent on errands and to place bets. Along with millions of viewers, I’ve loved the characters in Desmond’s, the down-home setting, the clever and touching humour, the reversal of stereotypes and the issues it has tackled. So, in 2009, when I spotted a barbershop called Desmond’s on Bellenden Road, I wondered: could it be one and the same? There was only one way to find out. I popped in and spoke to the

barbers, Lloyd and Fergie, who confirmed that it was and let me take some pictures of the interior. On subsequent visits I photographed Lloyd, who ran the business for 30 years. Some of his customers had been going to him throughout that time, including a gentleman whose head he shaved with a cut-throat razor. The Bellenden Road shop was used only for exterior shots in Desmond’s. When they filmed there, the TV crew would dress the shopfront with a Desmond’s sign because at that time the barbershop was still called Lloyd’s. It changed its name to Desmond’s after the series finished. The rest of the action was filmed in London Studios, formerly LWT, in front of an audience. With 71 episodes, Desmond’s became Channel 4’s longest-running sitcom in terms of the number of shows. It has attracted many fans, from youngsters in the UK (who tell Worrell the show is “wicked”) to hip-hop artists in the US. The actual Desmond’s, chaotic-looking and unique, closed its doors six years ago, but you can still catch the sitcom on All 4 and London Live. Worrell said: “I didn’t write Desmond’s for black people. I wrote it for white people. There were so many negative images in the media, I wanted to show what it was like at home. Really, it’s the migrants’ story and that’s its enduring legacy.” Speaking of Peckham today, he said: “People living in Peckham have a lot of pride and that’s heartening. All the art is fantastic.” Worrell, of course, is among its most notable contributors. What’s more, with Desmond’s he has created a show that’s an affirmation of the kindness, gentle humour and getting along with others that still defines Peckham today. To see more of Joan Byrne’s photos of Desmond’s, visit DKUK hair salon in Holdron’s Arcade, 135A Rye Lane. The free exhibition runs until February 13 and is open from 12-6, Wednesday to Saturday. February/March 2016


DESMOND’S

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CULTURE

cult comics

Bobby Joseph in Copeland Park

AUTHOR AND GRAPHIC NOVELIST BOBBY JOSEPH IS THE CREATOR OF SKANK, A SATIRICAL BLACK CULTURE COMIC THAT WAS PARTLY INSPIRED BY PEOPLE HE KNEW IN 90S PECKHAM. Now, after a 19-year hiatus, he has collected some of the most popular strips into a book, which is published this month

WORDS EMMA FINAMORE PHOTO LIMA CHARLIE

“Jungle music damaging ozone layer, says expert”; “Gold teeth: the new epidemic!”; “Guns, sex, ragga… gardening tips”. These are just a few of the eye-catching, tongue-in-cheek (and least X-rated) headlines that jump off the covers of Skank magazine, “Britain’s first satirical black culture comic”. The publication, which was printed from 199497 and dubbed “the world’s most dangerous comic” by the founders of Viz, came straight out of south-east London, and some of its most enduring characters were inspired by real-life people in 90s Peckham. Skank was founded by then aspiring writer Bobby Joseph under the guidance of Dotun 14 / THE PECKHAM PECULIAR

Adebayo, the journalist and broadcaster who launched publishing company X Press. The comic book was written and edited by Bobby, and illustrated by local street artists Daniel Francis, Michael Robinson and Joseph Samuels. “Skank was basically a platform for young black kids to do comics,” says Bobby. “Without going too much into it,” he says, glancing sideways at his teenage son, Orion, who’s here with him, “I used to date a woman who lived on the North Peckham Estate. So I knew Peckham quite well back in the day.” Soon, Bobby was creating comic book characters inspired by his experiences in Peckham and beyond. Scotland Yardie – a

Jamaican cop – was based in Brixton, and Mr Bowcat lived in Lewisham. One of the most popular strips was Mary Mampy, the voluptuous leader of a Peckham girl crew who was usually on a quest to find younger men. Her adventures often began with the words: “Somewhere, on the North Peckham Estate…” The Mampys, says Bobby, were a response to Viz’s vulgar parody, Fat Slags, which had debuted just a few years earlier in 1989 – but were more Patois than Cockney rhyming slang, and more relatable for a young, black British audience. Bobby tells me that high-street chains wouldn’t stock Skank – “I think we were a bit too contentious for them” – so instead they

distributed through word of mouth, record stores, comedy nights and independent shops, selling 15,000 copies in London alone. “There was a shop in Peckham, right next to the post office opposite the bus garage, that used to photocopy the cover, blow it up as a poster, and put a sign up saying ‘Skank sold here’,” says Bobby. It’s not really a surprise that WH Smith wouldn’t touch it: Skank was politically charged. Characters included the expertly named Rachel Prejudice going shopping for skin-lightening cream at the “BNP Chemists”. There was also “Black to Basics” – a page sending up Conservative prime minister John February/March 2016


CULTURE The South London superhero Kid Speedo has learnt that the villainous Doctor Terrible had secretly planted a bomb on him… My Speedo senses indicate that Kid Speedo needs to remove the tooth of doom from his mouth…

AFRO KID BY BOBBY JOSEPH AND JOSEPH SAMUELS

Major’s Brixton upbringing, taking its name from the so-called “Back to Basics” speeches at the beginning of his time in office. Of course, there was a lot of humour around sex and drugs. It was an adult magazine after all, created by a bunch of 20-somethings out of Bobby’s bedroom who were taking a sideways glance at 90s Britain, through the lens of southeast London. Bobby later created a sequel for Skank called Black Eye magazine, and went on to work as a freelance writer and columnist for various newspapers, television and radio programmes. He has worked for Radio 4 and the BBC’s award-winning sketch show Lenny Henry in Pieces; and has also helped make documentaries about diversity in comic books – an issue close to his heart. “Places like Marvel and DC are starting to recognise the importance of diversity behind the screen, not just on the screen,” he says. “They’re employing more black and Asian writers, which is good. They’re showing signs of change. “Here in the UK, if you look at the well-known comics, there are hardly any black characters. The authors are white authors, they don’t make the characters properly diverse in any way.” Bobby wants mainstream comics to be more reflective of multicultural Britain: “We’ve got Minnie the Minx, why can’t we have Mina the Minx? It’s just not indicative of what life is like for kids here.” In 2014 Bobby’s work was featured in the British Library exhibition, Comics Unmasked: Art and Anarchy in the UK, which traced the “long and tumultuous history” of the British comic book, from the early pioneers to today’s innovators. “I’ve got a letter from the British Library

Kid Speedo (krrrz)… this is mission control… (Krzzz)… we have run diagnostics on Doctor Terrible’s latest weapon (Krzzz)… the only way you will be able to defeat his evil plan is by breaking (Krzzz)… the sound barrier (Krzzz)… we believe that will be the only chance you have (Krzzz)… of disarming the bomb.

Thank you mission control. Kid Speedo already knows that for him to foil Doctor Terrible’s diabolical plan, he must run as fast as he can - possibly faster than he has ever run before.

Good luck (Krzzz)… Kid Speedo! (Krzzz)…

Almost there… must run faster… to break… sound barrier…

Mission control…? Are you there…? Did we succeed…?

I have a strong suspicion that the tooth fairy will NOT accept forcibly removed teeth.

thanking me for my piece and telling me it had been viewed by over 60,000 people,” he says, smiling at the irony of his work being in demand at such an institution of the establishment. Another one of Bobby’s creations is Afro Kid (pictured above), an adventurous, mischievous boy living in Peckham, who appears regularly in Vice magazine. He’s based on Bobby’s son. “Orion would hear stories about me and what I’d done, and would ask when he could read my comics – I wanted to do a strip that he could read,” he says. He describes the comic as a love story to his son, all fun and games. Orion’s a bit too old for Afro Kid now though; he wants to read harder, satirical stuff, like Cyanide & Happiness, a controversial web-

comic. He talks me seamlessly through a few of his favourite strips and it’s clear he takes after his dad. Bobby’s earned some celebrity fans along the way too. Orion’s eyes light up when he tells me about one occasion: “Jonathan Ross came up to me in Forbidden Planet once [the sci-fi and fantasy bookstore] and said, ‘I used to read your dad’s comics.’” Skank is still in demand as well. Over the years all Bobby’s copies have been lent out, never to be returned. “There are certain copies I don’t have, I’ve got scans but not the physical copies,” he says. “Once I saw one of the issues being sold on eBay and I tried to buy it. But then I was outbid,

on my own work! So that was quite amusing. I think it went for about 20 quid in the end.” He’ll soon have another body of work though. This month, Bobby’s publishing Skank: The World’s Most Dangerous Comic Book, which will feature some of the most popular and rare comic strips and give an insight into the making of Skank. “Some of the stories behind the magazine are way more crazy than the magazine itself,” explains Bobby. “Even though it was completely out there, it shook things up quite a bit when it started.” Then in July, he’s teaming up with Skank illustrator Joseph Samuels to publish a fullcolour graphic novel about Skank regular, Scotland Yardie, through Knockabout Comics. Knockabout is the biggest publisher of underground and alternative comics in the UK, printing material by Alan Moore, the writer who created cult classics Watchmen, V for Vendetta and From Hell. Basically, it’s a very big deal. “I’m writing [Scotland Yardie] as a black Lethal Weapon in South London,” says Bobby. “That’s the best way I can describe him. He’s been sent over from Jamaica to clean up the streets of Brixton.” Bobby explains, with the skill of a seasoned storyteller, how the Skank novel will be like his cool, arthouse film, while Scotland Yardie is going to be the big summer blockbuster. There’s no doubt both will be must-read books. Skank: The World’s Most Dangerous Comic Book will be published in a limited print-run and will be available to buy online from February 2016. Scotland Yardie will be published in July through Knockabout. Follow Bobby on Twitter @Malcolm_Vex

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PECKHAM IN PICTURES

palaces for the people WORDS JACK ASTON PHOTOS ELISABETH BLANCHET

Prefabs started springing up in British towns and cities after World War Two, following Winston Churchill’s pledge to build half a million temporary bungalows to tackle the housing shortage. In the end, just over 156,000 prefabs were delivered between 1945 and 1951. Nicknamed “palaces for the people”, they were equipped with mod cons including fitted kitchens, indoor toilets, refridgerators and baths with hot running water. All prefabs built under the housing act came pre-decorated in magnolia, with green door frames and skirting boards. Surrounded by their own gardens, they contrasted with the cramped inner city dwellings that many people had been accustomed to. Prefabs were only designed to last 10 years but they soon proved popular, and instead of being demolished as intended, residents campaigned to save their homes and communities from the wrecking ball. In 2002, photographer Elisabeth Blanchet decided to start documenting these unique 16 / THE PECKHAM PECULIAR

properties and the people who lived in them. “I knocked on the door of a prefab in Peckham and a lovely man answered,” she said. “I told him I was interested in his house, and he let me in and served me tea and biscuits. He was a D-Day veteran, so he liked the fact that I originate from Normandy.” Over the next couple of years, Elisabeth was invited into dozens of prefabricated living rooms in this corner of south-east London. She interviewed many residents, collecting their stories and capturing their lives on camera. The result is Prefab Homes, a 64-page book that reads like a love-letter to the post-war properties. Filled with images of prefabs and the people who lived in them, it’s a record of what is fast becoming a lost way of life. Elisabeth discovered more than 40 prefabs dotted across Peckham, Nunhead and Dulwich when she started work on the project 14 years ago. However, their numbers are dwindling. Plans to demolish the 187 prefabs on the Excalibur Estate in Catford and replace them with February/march 2016


PECKHAM IN PICTURES

371 new homes have attracted fierce criticism from some residents. About a quarter of the properties have been knocked down so far. And, in November last year, an empty prefab on Peckham’s Costa Street hit the headlines when it fetched nearly £1 million at auction. An application to demolish the property was submitted to Southwark Council just before Christmas and it was pulled down last month. Elisabeth, who considers the prefabs to be “national treasures”, says: “If they can be repaired and done up, why demolish them when people really like them and want to stay in them? “With the demolition of prefabs goes the demolition of communities, especially in places like the Excalibur Estate. They are a good example of a social scheme that was very successful.” For more on prefabs, including details of upcoming local walking tours, visit prefabmuseum.uk. View Elisabeth’s work at elisabethblanchet.com. Prefab Homes is published by Shire Books and costs £7.95. February/march 2016

THE PECKHAM PECULIAR / 17


PECKHAM IN PICTURES

18 / THE PECKHAM PECULIAR

February/march 2016


PECKHAM IN PICTURES

Mother’s Day Sunday 6th March 13:00 - 18:00

The Pyrotechnists Arms 39 Nunhead Green, London SE15 3QF Give your Mum the day off and treat her to a 3 course Sunday lunch with a free glass of Prosecco and chocolates for each Mum.

Come and see what else is cooking at The Pyrotechnists Arms throughout the week. Monday Monday club with bar snacks & loyalty card. Happy hour from 16:00 to 19:00. Flavours of Ireland 12:00 to 21:00. Thursday Rusty’s Curry Club 12:00 to 21:00, with loyalty card Friday Fish & chips 12:00 to 17:00 Saturday Sandwich Saturday 13:00 to 17:00& Live Sport Sunday Rusty’s Roasts 13:00 to 17:00 Starters & Desserts £4, Main course £10, 2 courses £13, 3 courses £15

UPCOMING EVENTS

Valentines Meal - Sat 13th Feb The Peckham Comedy Club - Sat 20th Feb Alice’s Tea Room - Sat 5th March £9.50 with100% of ticket sales going to St Christopher’s Hospice

£20 set price for 3 courses Child size portions available for the under 12’s. Call 020 7732 4311 to book your table.

Coming soon each Wednesday, Quiz Night and Steak & Lobster night.

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The Hidden Fortress

Asa Butterfield, Sally Hawkins, Rafe Spall

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Thursday 18 February (2014) 12A 111 min A socially awkward teenage math prodigy finds new confidence and new friendships when he lands a spot on the British squad at the International Mathematics Olympiad. A tender and perceptive film – about love.

Thursday 17 March (1958) Not rated 126 min

This samurai classic which influenced George Lucas & inspired Star Wars, tells the story of a general and a princess, fighting their way home through enemy lines in feudal Japan.

7pm Bar, themed snacks 8pm Film Free raffle prizes courtesy of Rye Books, Push Studios

Using in-class exercises, and take-home assignments this course focuses on the nuts and bolts of creating narrative fiction, such as point of view, characterisation, structure, theme and creating scenes through dialogue. You will look at ways to build writing into your lifestyle, and the process of editing and rewriting. There is an opportunity to workshop, enabling you to feel comfortable sharing your work, as well as benefiting from valuable feedback. You will work towards a piece of 1-2,000 words, to read at the final class.

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Upstairs at East Dulwich Tavern, 1 Lordship Lane, SE22 www.thebiggerpic.co.uk

February/march 2016

THE PECKHAM PECULIAR / 19


SHAKESPEARE SPECIAL

shaking up shakespeare IT MAY BE 400 YEARS SINCE SHAKESPEARE’S DEATH, BUT NEW FILM THE WORKS, WHICH IS WRITTEN IN HIS WORDS BUT SET ON AN ESTATE IN SE15, IS TESTAMENT TO HIS TIMELESS APPEAL. Creator Elliot Barnes-Worrell explains how he hopes to bring the Bard to a whole new audience WORDS EMMA FINAMORE PHOTO LIMA CHARLIE

Short film The Works is a modern-day tale with a twist: every single line has been taken from a Shakespeare play and sewn together to create a brand new story, combining classic Shakespearean characters with contemporary plotlines. The film, which is set on an estate just off Peckham Rye, is the brainchild of local resident Elliot Barnes-Worrell, who read all 37 plays and more than 830,000 words of verse and prose to make it. “I want to celebrate Peckham and celebrate Shakespeare – two things you wouldn’t necessarily put together – without making it ‘hiphop’ or ‘gangster’,” Elliot tells me when we meet. He also hopes to bring Shakespeare to a wider audience. “This is a language that’s available to everyone, it’s not an elitist language,” he explains. “Eighty per cent of Shakespeare’s original audience couldn’t read or write. “In Romeo and Juliet, Juliet speaks about Greek gods, which seems really high-brow to us now, but at the time everyone knew about them – it was like talking about Batman.” Juliet is one of the characters who appears in Elliot’s film, along with Portia from The Merchant of Venice. In The Works, they wake up together after meeting at a gay club the night before. Macbeth also features, reimagined as a black 50-year-old woman; while Henry V and Henry VI share a joint on a park bench and discuss modern masculinity. It’s a concept that Elliot is keen to explore in his work. “I’m interested in what it means to be a young man in an area with a prevalent gang culture, and what masculinity means,” he says. “It means being hard, not losing face. But behind closed doors with a confidante, what would those conversations be like?” Elliot says that growing up he faced similar pressures, especially at school. “I did feel pressure to be hard – if someone knocked you over in 20 / THE PECKHAM PECULIAR

basketball, for example, even if it was an accident, you had to beat them up. “There was a hierarchy of strength; it was a bit like prison rules. What that does to the psyche is really damaging.” He credits his love of acting and his family as shielding him from all that: “I had a lot of love and support at home.” When he was 14, Elliot’s drama teacher encouraged him to apply to the Brit School – a renowned performing arts school with alumni ranging from Adele and Amy Winehouse to Rizzle Kicks and King Krule. He won a place, and describes his time there as a totally new world; a culture shift. “It really saved me,” he says. The ‘hard-man’ culture was gone too: “Suddenly I didn’t have to fight.” He also felt he could be himself. “My mum’s partner is a woman, and at my old school I had to hide that, I had to lie. Then I went to the Brit School, and there were openly gay kids at 14 years old.” After completing his A-levels, Elliot joined the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, but although he rapped and performed poetry – so wordplay and language were central to his work – Shakespeare still wasn’t on his radar. It was watching a two-man Zimbabwean production of Hamlet when it all clicked into place. “There were just two guys in boiler suits,” he says. “I don’t know if it was the accents or the music, but I was like, ‘Wow’.” Inspired by what he had seen, Elliot went on to act with the Royal Shakespeare Company. “I learned so much about Shakespeare, read so much about him, played all the roles,” he says. But the productions left him cold: “It was just old white men. Very middle England, very posh – all in beautiful leggings, of course – speaking received pronunciation [RP]. It was like, ‘What are you saying?!’” The prevalence of RP got Elliot questioning the lack of voices in modern productions of

Shakespeare, and how performances suffered from it. “One of my best mates is from Liverpool, and he has this amazing, splashy Scouse accent. “The vowel sounds are so open, there’s so much love in them, and the consonants are so bitten and hard. Shakespeare’s his favourite thing in the world but he’s never had a chance to do it. And I just know he’d be dope at it.” He says he wanted to give his friend the chance to speak Shakespeare, as well as people with Nigerian, Jamaican, Brummie and a whole range of other accents. “Antonia Thomas from Misfits is in the film, and she’s really well spoken,” he says. “I wanted her to explore being black and middle class and to put her with people with other accents, because that’s what London’s like; it’s just 45 per cent [white British], there are people from all walks of life, and that’s what I want to show on screen.” The Works is set on an estate overlooking Peckham Rye Common, a location that Elliot chose not as a comment on housing or class, but because of the scope for stories and characterisation that it gave him. “Shakespeare is full of intertwining stories, and so much of life on an estate is about bumping into people, knowing what the family at number 37’s up to. There’s a courtyard in the middle too, like a stage: ‘All the world’s a stage.’ It’s perfect.” Elliot is planning to take The Works to schools, local cinemas and to film festivals like Cannes and Sundance; he wants it to open minds everywhere. To this end, he already works with students and with young offenders, teaching Shakespeare. “Drama schools aren’t the most diverse places in the world. I was the only black kid in my class, which felt weird,” he says. “So many people want to be actors when they’re young and it just doesn’t happen. “I go to inner city London schools, I get to know the students and then give them monologues that suit them, and we work it out together using

Google and stuff. They do it their own way; it’s what I live for.” Speaking of Shakespeare’s universality, he says: “I want a kid in Peckham or Compton or Brazil to see The Works and see themselves reflected. In Shakespeare I don’t think there’s a stone left unturned when it comes to feeling. “If you’ve ever felt jealousy or hate, or loved someone so much you want to kill them; if you’ve had insomnia or depression, or struggled with your sexuality, he has written about the nature of that.” Elliot sees Shakespeare’s female characters as “the first feminists”, but feels that modern interpretations often don’t reflect this. “Shakespeare writes fire women characters,” he says. “They’re so strong.” I wonder if the writing process helped Elliot feel closer to Shakespeare the man, and he says: “I felt like I saw something, all these recurring themes, the futility of life. But Shakespeare says pretty much everything: he’s a feminist, a black activist. “In The Merchant of Venice he’s a horrible antiSemite, but then you read Shylock’s speech: ‘I am a Jew. Hath not a Jew eyes? (…) If you prick us, do we not bleed? If you tickle us, do we not laugh? If you poison us, do we not die?’ – and you think, ‘Oh my God, maybe he’s Jewish!’” Musing on what the Bard himself would make of The Works, Elliot says: “He might punch me in the face, or he might think, ‘Yeah, you’re using what I believe to be humankind, and writing your own story in my words.’” Elliot has a busy year ahead. In addition to releasing The Works, he’s appearing as part of a star-studded cast in ITV’s new costume drama, Jericho; a Wild West-style story set in the Yorkshire Dales. He’s also been in LA recently, in talks with Hollywood big-shots. The world might be celebrating Shakespeare in 2016, but it’s set to be a pretty big year for Elliot Barnes-Worrell too. February/March 2016


SHAKESPEARE SPECIAL

shaking up shakespeare IT MAY BE 400 YEARS SINCE SHAKESPEARE’S DEATH, BUT NEW FILM THE WORKS, WHICH IS WRITTEN IN HIS WORDS BUT SET ON AN ESTATE IN SE15, IS TESTAMENT TO HIS TIMELESS APPEAL. Creator Elliot Barnes-Worrell explains how he hopes to bring the Bard to a whole new audience WORDS EMMA FINAMORE PHOTO LIMA CHARLIE

Short film The Works is a modern-day tale with a twist: every single line has been taken from a Shakespeare play and sewn together to create a brand new story, combining classic Shakespearian characters with contemporary plotlines. The film, which is set on an estate just off Peckham Rye, is the brainchild of local resident Elliot Barnes-Worrell, who read all 37 plays and more than 830,000 words of verse and prose to make it. “I want to celebrate Peckham and celebrate Shakespeare – two things you wouldn’t necessarily put together – without making it ‘hiphop’ or ‘gangster’,” Elliot tells me when we meet. He also hopes to bring Shakespeare to a wider audience. “This is a language that’s available to everyone, it’s not an elitist language,” he explains. “Eighty per cent of Shakespeare’s original audience couldn’t read or write. “In Romeo and Juliet, Juliet speaks about Greek gods, which seems really high-brow to us now, but at the time everyone knew about them – it was like talking about Batman.” Juliet is one of the characters who appears in Elliot’s film, along with Portia from The Merchant of Venice. In The Works, they wake up together after meeting at a gay club the night before. Macbeth also features, reimagined as a black 50-year-old woman; while Henry V and Henry VI share a joint on a park bench and discuss modern masculinity. It’s a concept that Elliot is keen to explore in his work. “I’m interested in what it means to be a young man in an area with a prevalent gang culture, and what masculinity means,” he says. “It means being hard, not losing face. But behind closed doors with a confidante, what would those conversations be like?” Elliot says that growing up he faced similar pressures, especially at school. “I did feel pressure to be hard – if someone knocked you over in 20 / THE PECKHAM PECULIAR

basketball, for example, even if it was an accident, you had to beat them up. “There was a hierarchy of strength; it was a bit like prison rules. What that does to the psyche is really damaging.” He credits his love of acting and his family as shielding him from all that: “I had a lot of love and support at home.” When he was 14, Elliot’s drama teacher encouraged him to apply to the Brit School – a renowned performing arts school with alumni ranging from Adele and Amy Winehouse to Rizzle Kicks and King Krule. He won a place, and describes his time there as a totally new world; a culture shift. “It really saved me,” he says. The ‘hard-man’ culture was gone too: “Suddenly I didn’t have to fight.” He also felt he could be himself. “My mum’s partner is a woman, and at my old school I had to hide that, I had to lie. Then I went to the Brit School, and there were openly gay kids at 14 years old.” After completing his A-levels, Elliot joined the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, but although he rapped and performed poetry – so wordplay and language were central to his work – Shakespeare still wasn’t on his radar. It was watching a two-man Zimbabwean production of Hamlet when it all clicked into place. “There were just two guys in boiler suits,” he says. “I don’t know if it was the accents or the music, but I was like, ‘Wow’.” Inspired by what he had seen, Elliot went on to act with the Royal Shakespeare Company. “I learned so much about Shakespeare, read so much about him, played all the roles,” he says. But the productions left him cold: “It was just old white men. Very middle England, very posh – all in beautiful leggings, of course – speaking received pronunciation [RP]. It was like, ‘What are you saying?!’” The prevalence of RP got Elliot questioning the lack of voices in modern productions of

Shakespeare, and how performances suffered from it. “One of my best mates is from Liverpool, and he has this amazing, splashy Scouse accent. “The vowel sounds are so open, there’s so much love in them, and the consonants are so bitten and hard. Shakespeare’s his favourite thing in the world but he’s never had a chance to do it. And I just know he’d be dope at it.” He says he wanted to give his friend the chance to speak Shakespeare, as well as people with Nigerian, Jamaican, Brummie and a whole range of other accents. “Antonia Thomas from Misfits is in the film, and she’s really well spoken,” he says. “I wanted her to explore being black and middle class and to put her with people with other accents, because that’s what London’s like; it’s just 45 per cent [white British], there are people from all walks of life, and that’s what I want to show on screen.” The Works is set on an estate overlooking Peckham Rye Common, a location that Elliot chose not as a comment on housing or class, but because of the scope for stories and characterisation that it gave him. “Shakespeare is full of intertwining stories, and so much of life on an estate is about bumping into people, knowing what the family at number 37’s up to. There’s a courtyard in the middle too, like a stage: ‘All the world’s a stage.’ It’s perfect.” Elliot is planning to take The Works to schools, local cinemas and to film festivals like Cannes and Sundance; he wants it to open minds everywhere. To this end, he already works with students and with young offenders, teaching Shakespeare. “Drama schools aren’t the most diverse places in the world. I was the only black kid in my class, which felt weird,” he says. “So many people want to be actors when they’re young and it just doesn’t happen. “I go to inner city London schools, I get to know the students and then give them monologues that suit them, and we work it out together using

Google and stuff. They do it their own way; it’s what I live for.” Speaking of Shakespeare’s universality, he says: “I want a kid in Peckham or Compton or Brazil to see The Works and see themselves reflected. In Shakespeare I don’t think there’s a stone left unturned when it comes to feeling. “If you’ve ever felt jealousy or hate, or loved someone so much you want to kill them; if you’ve had insomnia or depression, or struggled with your sexuality, he has written about the nature of that.” Elliot sees Shakespeare’s female characters as “the first feminists”, but feels that modern interpretations often don’t reflect this. “Shakespeare writes fire women characters,” he says. “They’re so strong.” I wonder if the writing process helped Elliot feel closer to Shakespeare the man, and he says: “I felt like I saw something, all these recurring themes, the futility of life. But Shakespeare says pretty much everything: he’s a feminist, a black activist. “In The Merchant of Venice he’s a horrible antiSemite, but then you read Shylock’s speech: ‘I am a Jew. Hath not a Jew eyes? (…) If you prick us, do we not bleed? If you tickle us, do we not laugh? If you poison us, do we not die?’ – and you think, ‘Oh my God, maybe he’s Jewish!’” Musing on what the Bard himself would make of The Works, Elliot says: “He might punch me in the face, or he might think, ‘Yeah, you’re using what I believe to be humankind, and writing your own story in my words.’” Elliot has a busy year ahead. In addition to releasing The Works, he’s appearing as part of a star-studded cast in ITV’s new costume drama, Jericho; a Wild West-style story set in the Yorkshire Dales. He’s also been in LA recently, in talks with Hollywood big-shots. The world might be celebrating Shakespeare in 2016, but it’s set to be a pretty big year for Elliot Barnes-Worrell too. February/March 2016


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HEADING

PIZZA AT QUEENS ROAD PECKHAM

There’s now even more time for you to enjoy our delicious pizzas! Blackbird Bakery Peckham is now serving pizza, local craft beer, wines & delicious desserts from 4 - 10pm Wednesday to Saturday. 10% OFF OUR ‘LATES’ MENU FOR PECKHAM PECULIAR READERS WITH THIS VOUCHER

B L ACKBI RD

BA K ERY

Offer applies to ‘Lates’ menu (food) between 01.02.16 & 31.04.16 (4 - 10pm) See website for details. Blackbird Peckham is located in the arches at Queens Road Station - www.blackbirdbakerylondon.co.uk.

INDEPENDENT SIX SCREEN CINEMA Est 1994

Join the crowds at London’s Best Value Cinema 95A Rye Lane SE15 4ST 2 minutes from Peckham Rye Overground Station

£4.99 ALL TICKETS ALL DAY

BEST HAIRCUT YOU’LL EVER HAVE

Additional £1 Supplement for 3D Films

VISIT OUR NEW WEB SITE

www.peckhamplex.london Film and event information | Book tickets | Sign up for our weekly newsletter Tel 0844 567 2742 Follow us on Twitter @peckhamplex Find us on Facebook

December 2015/January 2016

CALL OR EMAIL TO BOOK ON 0207 732 2229 INFO@CUT THROATLONDON.COM • CUT THROATLONDON.COM 42 CHO UMER T ROA D, PECK H A M, LONDON, SE15 4SE THE PECKHAM PECULIAR / 21


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SHAKESPEARE SPECIAL

en route to elsinore THREE YEARS AFTER OTHELLO WOWED SELL-OUT AUDIENCES AT THE BUSSEY BUILDING, SHAKESPEARE PECKHAM IS BACK, WITH AN EAGERLY AWAITED, CONTEMPORARY PRODUCTION OF HAMLET. Producers Anthony Green and Rachel Creeger tell us why it’s a must-see WORDS LUKE G WILLIAMS PHOTO RUTH BLOCH

It’s a dark and rainy winter’s evening when I meet Anthony Green and Rachel Creeger in one of the trendy bars that now permeate Peckham. Despite the inclement weather, though, the duo are positively buzzing after a day spent rehearsing. “We’ve had spine-tingling moments already and we’re only on day two,” Green tells me, with an endearingly enthusiastic air. Over the next hour or so, I’m not only engaged by Green and Creeger’s company, but I also come away firmly convinced of the scope and integrity of their theatrical vision. If you are someone who thinks that Shakespeare is irrelevant to modern life, then their production of Hamlet, which runs from February 1-27 at the Bussey Building, might just convince you otherwise. Long-time Peckham resident Green – who has accumulated almost 20 years of professional acting experience in TV, film and theatre – begins by telling me how Shakespeare Peckham came into being. He says the company was inspired by the Royal Court’s Theatre Local project, which brought plays to “alternative spaces”. It began in an empty unit in the Elephant and Castle shopping centre, then moved to the Bussey Building in Peckham. “The Royal Court really engaged with the local community,” says Green of the 2011 project, which saw Rachel De-Lahay’s play The Westbridge premiere in SE15. “It was a wonderful experience to witness, and this company was inspired by that.” So committed is Green to the concept, that he remortgaged his house to make Shakespeare Peckham a reality. He met Creeger via the arts organisation the So & So Art Club, and she took February/March 2016

on the role of production manager for Othello in 2013. When Green contacted her about reuniting for Hamlet, she leapt at the chance. “By that point my career had moved in another direction, focusing on new writing and comedy,” she says. “But I thought about how brilliant the production of Othello had been, and the fact that I share the principles Anthony works by, so I agreed to co-produce and be assistant director. “The idea of giving people opportunities and making Shakespeare relevant without being patronising by making the language any easier is very exciting.” Underpinning the philosophy of Shakespeare Peckham is a belief in and a commitment to diversity and inclusivity that is inspiring. When casting Hamlet, Green and Creeger utilised an open audition process online. The play’s website emphasised that nonprofessionally shot audition tapes were fine, even if filmed on a humble mobile phone – and that the leading role was open to “any age, gender, ethnicity, nationality or disability”. The response was staggering. “We had 2,500 people contact us and received 2,200 audition tapes and videos,” Green says. “We joyfully watched them all, because every person who auditioned was someone for whom this was an opportunity. “Eventually around half of our cast came out of that process. Last time we concentrated on young talent, but this time, it was just talent. Our only criterion was talent and our bottom line was talent.” Creeger further expands on the philosophy behind the casting process. “When you have an

open audition you’re looking for somebody who has the potential to be special as opposed to just capable,” she emphasises. “We were looking for people who could bring something different emotionally to the characters. Their age or sex was irrelevant – what mattered was, could they create a connection with the audience and convey the journey of that character?” In the end three actors were cast as Hamlet – two women and a man – with the role being divided, as Green explains it, into “beginning Hamlet, middle Hamlet and end Hamlet”. The cast as a whole ranges in age from 22 to 78. If the reception afforded to Othello is anything to go by, then this trio of Hamlets will soon be facing a lively and reactive audience quite unlike the staid and respectfully silent crowds who attend most West End shows – and Green and Creeger say they wouldn’t have it any other way. “What I love about Peckham,” Green emphasises, “is that we have a diverse audience that the National Theatre would die for.” “The audience we got last time for Othello were human beings, not ‘theatregoers’ if you like,” Creeger adds. “I’m not disparaging theatregoers, but we loved the fact that people reacted to the play in such a visceral way. “Shakespeare is about relationships and current issues and theatre is meant to involve engagement with the audience, who are living and breathing human beings after all. People in this area are very forthright and will tell you what they think, and having such a reactive audience is a privilege.” In order to attract such an audience, Green views it as essential that tickets are as affordable

as possible. “We keep the ticket prices low because we want to give a West End quality – or a better than West End quality – performance at an affordable price,” he stresses. “Having said that, we’ve got to balance the books, so we’ve also got other experiences that people can get involved in – for example, you can make a donation and join the production team for a day of rehearsal or even the dress rehearsal. There are also other events, including a master class for actors, all of which help to keep the ticket prices down.” Green’s description of the artistic focus of the production, which will be set in the 21st century with a set that is “simple and modern”, hints at a performance that might very well revolutionise the traditional definition of the play as a tragedy. “The world doesn’t need another boring Hamlet,” he explains. “We see Hamlet as a story about someone becoming the person they need to be so they can do what they need to do. We think that’s a great metaphor for all our lives.” So why Hamlet? And why now? “Well, if Shakespeare is done well it doesn’t only entertain – it can also energise people,” says Green. “It can make us reflect on our own lives, so we can say, ‘Yes this story is tragic, but we can now go off and change our lives for the better.’” “Shakespeare presents us with these massive problems, but shows people getting out of them. The character of Hamlet grows and does what he needs to do. Finding the hope in Shakespeare is what we’re all about.” Shakespeare Peckham’s Hamlet runs from February 1-27 in the CLF Theatre at the Bussey Building. To book tickets, visit hamletpeckham.com THE PECKHAM PECULIAR / 23


FILM

a snapshot in time

CONCERNED BY THE FAST PACE OF CHANGE IN PECKHAM, LOCAL MAN MARCUS HESSENBERG DECIDED TO MAKE A DOCUMENTARY ABOUT THE AREA AS IT IS TODAY. He has recorded dozens of residents and workers on film, and is looking for more people to speak to WORDS EMMA FINAMORE PHOTO LIMA CHARLIE

If you’ve spotted someone filming and interviewing local people on the streets of Peckham over the last few months, it’s highly likely that the person you saw was Marcus Hessenberg. Marcus is working on a documentary about our town; specifically the changes it’s going through right now. The idea is that viewers will be able to see Peckham shifting in front of their eyes as the action unfolds. “I’m seeing the film as at least a year-long project,” Marcus says. “It needs to be long enough to show the changes that are only just on the horizon now. You’ll be able to watch it and say, ‘What? Is that even the same place?’” A framer by trade, Marcus fell into his latest project almost by accident. “I was always into photography, I never meant to be a filmmaker,” he laughs. “I guess I just really like documenting things. “When I first moved to London I’d always write diaries, keep a record of every conversation I had, because I would talk to people all day and not want to forget anything.” I suggest the Peckham film sounds a bit like a time capsule, a way to remember the area as it is today. Marcus nods: “In 20 years’ time, if someone is standing on Rye Lane looking at all the shops, will there be any hint of what they’re like now? “Will they know that this place had been an African food shop, for example, or that the one next door was once a busy hair salon? Or will people just think, ‘Well, there was nothing here before.’ “Take Shoreditch and Brick Lane. I think some people believe they’re the first ones to use it. But 24 / THE PECKHAM PECULIAR

before, there were French polishers, Pakistanis, the Huguenots, the Jews, the leather markets. They’ve somehow got lost. “Chatsworth Road in Clapton is another example. People moved there because it was cheap, and the shops and businesses stayed the same. Then a few years later the leases started coming up for renewal, rents went up, and people were forced out.” He also points to Notting Hill: “If you took someone there now, apart from over Carnival weekend, they’d struggle to believe it was once – not that long ago – a working class area with a large Caribbean community.” He talks about Brixton too, where last year Network Rail announced plans to “regenerate” more than 30 railway arches around the station. Campaigners say the inevitable rent increases will mean that small businesses, many of which have traded there for decades, will be unable to return. Marcus reiterates throughout our conversation that he’s not completely against change. “I’m not anti-gentrification,” he says. “It just shouldn’t be at the expense of services for the local community.” Speaking of the plans to demolish the 1930s arcade in front of Peckham Rye Station to create a new public square, he says: “I really love that arcade. There’s no need to pull it down. “The arcade is a functioning building containing many businesses. We should just clean it up a bit and sort out the lighting in the walkways. If you can make Old Street [Tube station] look pretty, you can do it anywhere. “There’s no real reason to displace businesses.

We need shops where people can buy cheap basics – DIY stuff, food. We’ve got to recognise that as well as being a desirable part of London, we’re in one of the poorest boroughs in the country.” He is frustrated too with what he views as an obsession with preserving Victorian architecture above all else. “I love Victorian features, but there’s so much more here,” he says. “There are a lot of 1930s Art Deco buildings in and around Peckham for example. Also, when you walk down some of the streets coming off Rye Lane, you feel like you could be in Ghana or somewhere.” Marcus feels the co-design process for the station forecourt scheme was a fairly inflexible, ineffectual exercise. There was, he says, an expectation on traders – such as the hairdressers in Blenheim Grove – to attend meetings during business hours. “The information should have been taken to them,” he suggests. “Meetings should have been held in their shops and hair salons. Why not just have a meeting in the street? A lot of local businesses don’t seem represented in any way.” Part of the reason for making the Peckham documentary, he says, is to fill in those gaps – to give a platform to all members of our community and allow their voices to be heard. One person who will feature is George Major, the Pearly King of Peckham. “He was talking about his fundraising for various cancer charities and reminiscing about Peckham and the good old days.” Peter Frost from the Peckham Society will also appear. “One of the main things Peter likes about

Peckham is the cultural mix. He says there’s a lack of diversity at their meetings, but he’s so keen for people from all backgrounds to come along.” Rastamouse creator Michael de Souza is also interviewed at his shop All Tings Rastamouse in Rye Lane Market. He speaks about the need for more diversity in children’s books, and about preserving Patois as a language. Many younger people Marcus has spoken to like the fact that Peckham is full of independent shops and cafés; while another woman held the opposite view: “She wants all the major high street shops to come to Peckham.” Marcus is keen to film as many people as possible. “I really want more African interviewees, and older people, people who have lived here for a long time. They’re the ones who can take a long view and give me the biggest insights into Peckham.” Despite his fears about the fast pace of change in the area, the overwhelming sense I get from Marcus is that he wants his film not just to document Peckham but to celebrate it: the different, sometimes conflicting, voices of our unique community. When I met Marcus, Vogue magazine had just published a 14-page special on Peckham. There’s no doubt that the area is on the verge of major change; and documenting our corner of London has never been more vital. If you have strong opinions about Peckham (positive or negative), or just memories and thoughts you’d like to share, email Marcus at marcushessenberg@ gmail.com. February/March 2016


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NEW YEAR, NEW SPACE

Community space available for hire most weekday evenings. Ideal for group exercise classes, rehearsals, auditions, pop ups and community meetings. Reduced rates available for new users throughout January

For more information about our services you can visit our website at www.coplestoncentre.org.uk, call us on 020 7732 3435 or e-mail administrator@coplestoncentre.org.uk www.facebook.com/coplestoncentre www.twitter.com/coplestoncentre

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PECKHAM FOCUS

hitting the right note SOUTH LONDON CARES’ NEW PECKHAM CHOIR AIMS TO GET PEOPLE OF ALL AGES SINGING AND SOCIALISING TOGETHER. Our reporter (pictured second from left), who volunteers with the charity, reveals how it hopes to tackle transient city life through the power of song WORDS EMMA FINAMORE

Walk around Peckham on a Sunday and you’ll often hear an uplifting sound floating down from above the shopfronts: the voices of worshippers gathered together, singing. Now some new voices have been added to that mix, but rather than bridging the gap between believers and their god, this choir hopes to lessen the divide between old and young. South London Cares is a community network, connecting young professionals with their older neighbours by using a combination of social clubs and one-to-one relationship building. Now it has set up a new group right in the heart of Peckham: a choir that meets fortnightly at Peckham Library, open to people of all ages and abilities, with a goal of creating meaningful friendships rather than note-perfect harmonies. “We aim to reduce loneliness and isolation,” explains Tess Young, programme coordinator at South London Cares. “And that’s for both older and younger people alike. “It plugs into the idea that in all parts of London we often have quite polarised societies, due to gentrification, digitisation, and migration within London as well as outside of it. Change can be an isolating thing for some people.” Tess tells me that young people who move to the capital from elsewhere often find themselves with thousands of “connections”, through work and social media, but with no actual roots. On the other hand, older people in London – whose identities and lives have often been shaped by the area in which they’ve lived for many years – can find themselves with deep roots but no social contact. With the new Peckham choir, South London Cares hopes to attract older locals and those in their 20s and 30s to fill these gaps. “Older people have so many stories and so much to give, but can have fewer and fewer connections,” says Tess. February/March 2016

“Younger people move here because London’s the biggest party there is, and of course for work. They often spend lots of time travelling across the city for friends and jobs, but not much meaningful time in their direct community where they live.” Soaring property prices have also led to populations becoming more transient. “People often leave and go somewhere else after 12 months because of rent increases,” says Tess. “We see that in places like Brixton and Peckham especially.” Rosa Friend, volunteer and outreach officer at South London Cares, agrees. “I’ve lived everywhere in London – east, south, I even managed central for a while – but I never got to know my neighbours. “When I started working here I got everyone in my building together for drinks and it was great – all it took was a bit of effort. South London Cares is all about meeting people you normally wouldn’t.” Rosa has always sung, and this gave her the idea for a new social club, in a part of London the organisation wanted to move into: Peckham. “I’ve always found that singing is a great way to meet people, and it always lifts my spirits,” she says. “I’m not an amazing singer, and this new choir isn’t at all about creating a group of amazing singers; it’s more about how singing together makes you feel.” This isn’t just a romantic idea – as she points out, there are statistics to back it up. Psychologists at Oxford University have found that singing creates “bonding behaviour” among adults, acting as an ice-breaker and making it easier for people to forge new friendships. Another study published in the Royal Society’s Open Science journal observed three groups of

strangers taking part in creative writing, craft and singing classes over several months – and found the singers made friends the fastest. The Peckham choir will be led by a different professional every two months, so that people who come along will get the chance to sing a wide variety of musical styles. Choir leaders will include people from institutions such as the Old Vic, the Royal Opera House and Goldsmiths, with music ranging from classical songs to mash-ups of 60s and 70s tunes. Rosa is looking for someone to lead gospel sessions too. South London Cares is also hoping to win funding to take the new group to other parts of Peckham – such as cafés, arts and cultural venues they might not have visited – and even to musical shows in other parts of London. As for the choir club sessions, there will be 10 minutes of singing, then coffee for half-an-hour, then more singing, and a performance at the end of the year; so it’s low on pressure and big on fun. “It’s all about coming along, building confidence and meeting people from the local area,” says Rosa. “I really want the club to be very Peckham-centric. If people have suggestions for songs they’d like to sing, or local tunes, that will be incorporated. “Really though the singing is a means to an end – it’s about creating a group who can get together regularly and catch up.” Tess says that is the best part of South London Cares’ social clubs; not the activity they’re doing but the relationships that form. Joining the choir will bring benefits to young and old alike, she believes. “It’s a mutual friendship that both age-groups can enjoy. It’s about valuing the differences between us, and finding the common ground. “The thing we hear all the time from the

younger people, especially with the social clubs like the Peckham choir, is that it doesn’t feel like volunteering, because they get so much out of it.” Since its inception in August 2014 – replicating the model of its slightly older sister, North London Cares – South London Cares has built up an incredible range of activities and opportunities for people to come together. The social clubs are all about new experiences, with film nights, pizza-making classes, brewery and distillery tours, art classes, pub clubs, and visits to cafés that people might not think are for them. The clubs are totally hassle-free to join, too: younger volunteers simply choose the ones that fit with their timetables on a month-by-month basis and go along to have some fun. The organisation also facilitates a scheme called Love Your Neighbour, which matches older neighbours and young professionals oneto-one. Volunteers meet up with their older neighbours on a regular basis for conversation, company or a bit of practical help. This could involve having a cup of tea and flicking through some photo albums, or helping someone figure out how to use their new iPad. South London Cares’ mission is “connecting people, building communities”, and they’re already having a really positive impact in our part of London. If you’re hoping to meet new people here in Peckham, then look no further than a good old sing-song. The Peckham choir social club meets up next on February 10 and 24 from 5.45-7.45pm at Peckham Library. For more about the choir and getting involved with South London Cares, contact Rosa Friend on rosa.friend@southlondoncares.org.uk or 07710 777233. THE PECKHAM PECULIAR / 27


PUBS

priming the pumps WHEN THE RED COW CLOSED DOWN LAST YEAR, DISHEARTENED DRINKERS FEARED YET ANOTHER PECKHAM BOOZER HAD BEEN CONSIGNED TO THE HISTORY BOOKS. But then local landlord Tom Smyth came to the rescue, and has just reopened the pub with a brand new name WORDS LOUISE KIMPTON-NYE

It’s a freezing cold day in January when I visit the pub formerly known as the Red Cow on Peckham High Street, but I receive the warmest of welcomes from new landlord Tom Smyth. Tom has spent the last couple of months refurbishing the space, which he says was in a bad state when he arrived. The original bar remains, but there’s fresh decor and, in the middle of it all, a gleaming copper tap that gives the pub its new name: the Copper Tap at the Red Cow. There has been a pub called the Red Cow on this site for at least 150 years. The name is a nod to Peckham’s past – when the area was still a village, it was the last stopping point for cattle drovers on their way to London. They would have stayed at local inns overnight while their livestock was held in pens. Today, a cluster of pubs on Peckham High Street recall this activity of yesteryear: the Red Cow, the Kentish Drovers and the (now closed) Red Bull. The Red Cow’s present incarnation was built in the 1960s at the bottom of the Consort Estate. It traded for half a century before shutting its doors just over a year ago. So why did Tom decide to reopen it? “Maybe it’s in my blood”, he says. “We have a family pub in Ireland, the Louth Arms in Tallanstown, County Louth. My brother owns it now and in two years’ time it will have been in the family for a century.” Tom is also landlord of the popular Joiners Arms in Camberwell, a music pub known for its live bands, and he has a long history of running drinking establishments in south-east London. “The first pub I had was the New Cross Inn,” he says. “It was a fantastic pub, a music house. 28 / THE PECKHAM PECULIAR

We also had the Walpole, the Paradise Bar, the Centurion, all in New Cross, as well as the Red Lion on the Walworth Road and two pubs in Norwood. “I got out of this game for four or five years and I’m getting back into it again now,” he adds. “The Red Cow came up, Peckham is on the way up, it’s a great opportunity, so I went for it.” Tom had previously semi-retired to Cyprus and, for a while, enjoyed the relaxed Mediterranean lifestyle. But what sounds like an idyllic existence soon wore thin and when the recession hit, the country’s main industry, tourism, was severely affected. “It was absolutely dead for six months of the year,” he says. “It was a beautiful place but that’s all it had to offer – beauty. You’d get up in the morning, go for a swim, have breakfast, go for a drive, and that was it. Groundhog Day.” By contrast, this part of Peckham is changing rapidly. It seems like nothing much has happened along this inauspicious stretch of the A202, where Peckham High Street turns into Queen’s Road, for years. But after long delays, work has finally begun to build several hundred homes on the former Wood Dene Estate, which was demolished in 2007. The five-acre site is directly opposite the Red Cow. Tom is confident that other pubs nearby will be great for his business. They include the recently opened Dolls House (formerly the Clayton Arms) and Beer Rebellion on Queen’s Road. There’s also the Duke of Sussex on Friary Road, which is run by his good friends the Hogans. They previously operated the White Horse on Peckham Rye. “One should hit off the other and bring the business”, Tom says.

“You couldn’t ask for better than to have all those pubs in one small area. People will say, ‘What’s the craic at such and such a pub, let’s go and find out.’ There’s always somewhere to move on to.” The Copper Tap has two bars and a cosy feel. The main bar offers a choice of 16 beers and five hand-pumps serving local craft beers from breweries in Peckham, Brixton and Tulse Hill. There’s also a cocktail bar at the back of the pub. There will be a DJ at the weekend playing vinyl, which will be mainly “old stuff from the 60s and 70s, nothing too loud or rocky”, says Tom, who wants people to be able to chat without being drowned out by loud music. It’s also good news for sports-lovers: there’s a big TV screen for those crucial games such as the Premiership and the Six Nations. A pub quiz and charity fundraising nights are planned too. Although the Copper Tap will be run by a manager, Tom will, he says, be hands on and involved in the business on a day-to-day basis. He’s very excited by the prospect of running his own pub again, free of any ties. He is scathing of the big pub companies which, he believes, have played a big part in pubs closing. Historically, landlords renting premises from pub companies (pubcos) did so for below market rate but had to buy all their beer from the pubco in exchange. They were forced to pay much higher prices for the beer than if they bought it on the open market, inflating the cost to publicans and impacting hugely on what drinkers pay for a pint at the pumps. Now though, thanks to a 10-year campaign by

CAMRA, reform of the 400-year-old “beer tie” is set to dramatically change the landscape of pubs in Britain, with the aim of a fairer deal for landlords and customers alike. “With a pubco contract, you’re tied to everything”, explains Tom. “Here it’s a full repair lease, so I have to do all the work on the building, but it’s OK because I can do what I like. As long as the owner gets his rent we’re both happy.” With a lifetime’s experience running pubs, Tom really knows his stuff and listening to him is an education. Whereas other publicans of his generation are starting to think about calling time on their careers, Tom isn’t planning to quit any day soon. “I don’t want to retire,” he says. “My dad died last year. He retired at 65 and handed the family pub over to my brother, except he still called the shots and carried on pretty much until he died at the age of 91. He never left Ireland and worked hard all his life. “There were seven of us children and mum died when she was 43. I’m the eldest and was 19 or 20 when she died, and the youngest was four. My dad reared us with a bit of help from his sisters. He was an amazing man.” It’s now sleeting outside and I can hardly bear to leave the warm and friendly Copper Tap. It’s heartening to see this landmark local pub in such good hands – and it might not end here. “Once I get this one going I’ll be looking for something else, you know, at what’s available down the road,” says Tom. “I’d like to have three, maybe four pubs again.” One thing’s certain: it won’t be last orders for this landlord any time soon. February/March 2016


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FOOD

caring café LUMBERJACK IS A NEW CAFÉ SERVING COFFEE FROM PECKHAM’S OLD SPIKE ROASTERY WHILE PROVIDING YOUNG PEOPLE WITH JOB OPPORTUNITIES. Manager Ann-Marie Yiannis explains how the concept is based on three Cs: coffee, craftsmanship and community WORDS JACK ASTON

PHOTO SEQUOIA ZIFF

When Lumberjack launched on Camberwell Church Street last month, it didn’t get off to the easiest of starts. “Our window was smashed the first night after we opened, and then we were broken into the following night,” says manager Ann-Marie Yiannis. Now the glass is fixed and the café has launched a crowdfunding campaign to raise enough cash to fit new shutters. It’s worth donating if you can, because this is a place that is already doing great things in the community. Lumberjack is a social enterprise that serves coffee from Old Spike Roastery in Peckham. Its mission is to help 16- to 25-year-olds from the local area develop employment skills and gain qualifications. The project is a joint venture between a church in nearby Wells Way, which owns the building, and London Reclaimed, the Bermondsey-based woodwork and youth employment charity that has donated all the furniture. Nunhead resident Ann-Marie previously managed community organisation the Peckham Settlement on Goldsmith Road, which went into administration almost four years ago and is about to relaunch as a local grant giver. When London Reclaimed approached her to ask if she’d be up for running a café, she leapt at the chance – despite having no barista training. “We had a three month turnaround between taking on the building and opening, so it’s been an interesting ride,” she laughs. Lumberjack’s team work 16 hours per week for 12 months and are paid the living wage.

“The jobs market is very competitive and unless you’ve had the right start in life and know how to play the game, you’re on a losing side,” AnnMarie says. “It’s a catch-22 where if you haven’t got experience, you can’t get experience. We want to break that cycle by taking on people who need to get that first step on the ladder and help them learn valuable skills. “Our employees are in a real job situation – they have to work hard. But the café is also a supportive and encouraging environment and we understand if people have a chaotic life situation or a criminal record. “We help them get past that and walk out with skills and their heads held high, knowing what’s expected of them in a real working environment and knowing they’ve got the confidence to get into the next step of employment.” As well as coffee, Lumberjack serves cold drinks, teas, homemade soup, sandwiches and pastries. It acts as a platform for local craftspeople, who supply the café with ceramics, artwork and textiles that customers can buy. Future plans for the space, which is split over two levels, include maker workshops, supper clubs and venue hire. “We’ve got a lot of grand ideas,” says Ann-Marie. “It’s such a mixed area so we’re looking forward to having a real variety of different things going on.” Lumberjack,70 Camberwell Church Street, is open seven days a week. View the crowdfunding campaign at tiny.cc/lumberjack

a recipe for romance WITH VALENTINE’S DAY LOOMING, WE ASKED PECKHAM-BASED BLOGGERS PATRICK HANLON AND RUSSELL ALFORD – AKA THE GASTROGAYS – FOR A DISH TO IMPRESS YOUR OTHER HALF. Here’s their recipe for pasta carbonara, which is simple to cook but extremely tasty When looking to cook for someone and impress them, here’s a piece of advice: keep it simple. Don’t test yourself. Revert to basics and you’ll nail it. You’ve had carbonara at an Italian restaurant; you’ve had it from a jar; you’ve suffered through a horrific ready meal of the stuff. Nothing tastes quite like carbonara you’ve made from scratch. No cream. No onions. No herbs. Simply pasta, eggs, pancetta, garlic and cheese. Ultra simple yet so sensational. METHOD MASH THE GARLIC with a little coarse salt against a chopping board using the back of a knife until it’s a wet paste and shave the pecorino. You can use parmesan at a push, though pecorino is the sharper, zestier cousin of nutty, creamy parmesan. COOK A PORTION OF PASTA for two to packet instructions in a large pot of generously salted water. It needs to be as salty as the sea. Meanwhile, chop the pancetta into small

30 / THE PECKHAM PECULIAR

INGREDIENTS (serves two) Spaghetti pasta, dried 3 large eggs 2 cloves of garlic 125g pancetta (or very good streaky bacon) 50g freshly shaved pecorino 1/4 cup of starchy pasta cooking liquid Salt and pepper

cubes or thin slivers and fry from cold on a pan warmed to medium. You want the pork to render its fat but cooking too high will result in overly crisp, burnt slivers. After about five minutes, add the garlic and cook out for a further minute before decanting all to rest on kitchen paper. BY NOW YOUR PASTA SHOULD BE AL DENTE, just cooked but with a little bite (always be prepared to take it out up to two minutes before the instructions tell you). Reserve 1/4 cup of the starchy cooking water before draining.

REHEAT YOUR PAN ON HIGH and reintroduce the pancetta and garlic mix with the drained pasta. Slosh in the cooking water and allow to bubble and reduce for about a minute as you whisk the eggs, some black pepper and half the shaved cheese in a bowl nearby. TAKE THE PAN OFF THE HEAT and add in the egg mix whilst stirring and tossing vigorously through the pasta; work fast, as you don’t want to end up with scrambled egg-strewn pasta. You’ll be left with a slightly thickened, silky sauce that coats the pasta but doesn’t cling like double cream would. DIVIDE BETWEEN TWO BOWLS or lipped plates, top with a snowy layer of the spare pecorino and finish with a few cracks of freshly ground coarse black pepper. For more food and travel writing from Patrick and Russell, visit gastrogays.com. Find them on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat @GastroGays.

February/March 2016


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Profile for The Peckham Peculiar

Issue 13 of The Peckham Peculiar  

Issue 13 of The Peckham Peculiar  

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