Issue 22 of The Peckham Peculiar

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By George, we think he’s got it

Natalie Wo’s sartorial success

Creating a buzz in SE15

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A free newspaper for Peckham and Nunhead


Issue 22 August/September 2017



Meet Peckham’s legendary architect Page 14

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DEAR READER, WELCOME TO ISSUE 22 OF THE PECKHAM PECULIAR, A FREE LOCAL NEWSPAPER FOR PECKHAM AND NUNHEAD. The Peckham Festival is back for a second year from September 14-17 and we’re proud to be the media partner for this year’s event. This edition of the paper is a festival special, featuring everything you need to know about the four-day extravaganza. There’s a festival pull-out with listings of this year’s line-up in the centre pages, along with a photo essay on three talented local artists who are taking part in Open Studios. There’s also a big interview with esteemed Peckham architect Benedict O’Looney, who will be leading two unmissable architectural

tours of the area that are supported by The Peckham Peculiar. Turn to page 14 to find out more. In the run-up to the festival, organisers will stage a takeover of our social media channels, sharing news, sneak peeks and other snippets of what residents and visitors can expect over the long weekend. During the event itself, graphic designer Dan Harder from The Creativity Club will be running a drop-in workshop on newspaper design at studio B4K in the Bussey Building, giving visitors a behind-the-scenes glimpse of what

goes into creating The Peckham Peculiar. A photography exhibition featuring every cover star since the paper launched in January 2014 will be on show at Copeland Gallery. The diverse images on display will offer viewers a unique snapshot of local life. Meanwhile our photographer Lima Charlie will be capturing the festival action on camera and a selection of his images will be published in our October issue so readers can relive all the highlights. We rely solely on advertising to keep printing The Peckham Peculiar and it’s entirely down

to the amazing businesses who generously support us that we have managed to publish 22 issues of the paper so far. If you’re a business who is interested in advertising in our October/November edition, please get in touch by emailing and check out for 11 very good reasons to advertise in The Peckham Peculiar. Thanks for reading and we hope you enjoy the issue! Mark McGinlay and Kate White

Homeowners battle council over eye-watering bills Leaseholders from two blocks of flats in Peckham and Nunhead have told of the gut-wrenching moment they were hit with enormous major works bills by freeholder Southwark Council. Michael Royce from Carlton Grove and Charlie Johnson from Hawkslade Road were told they will be liable for around £14,000 and £36,000 respectively, while one of Charlie’s neighbours could have to pay £54,000. Michael, whose flat is part of the Acorn Estate, said: “My first heart-in-my-mouth moment was in August last year when the council said, ‘This is how much we’ll be charging you.’ For a while I put my head in the sand because I thought, ‘This can’t be true, it’s ridiculous.’” The council said the cash is needed to install a new central boiler and replace the underground mains, both of which serve the whole estate. It said that leaseholders are given various payment options including spreading repayments over 48 months interest free. But Michael said: “I don’t earn that much, which is why I live here. My rainy day fund is nowhere near that figure and even if it were I wouldn’t use it on this. What if the washing machine breaks down or something else happens? “I’ve been distributing leaflets to other flats and giving out my email. I’ve heard from people saying, ‘My elderly mum can’t do emails so please give her a call.’ Those are the type of people who are being attacked, for want of a better word, by the council.” Charlie Johnson and other leaseholders from the council-owned blocks on Hawkslade and Stuart roads in Nunhead received section 20 notices from Southwark in June for works including replacing roofs, windows and balconies. He said that one couple who have been ordered to pay £42,000 are retired and close to retirement, meaning they may be forced to move. Another neighbour has been hit with a bill of £54,000. The four blocks house about 24 flats, of which approximately half are privately owned. “When we bought the place we understood our obligations as leaseholders and that’s never been an issue,” Charlie said. “This is our house too and

we need the roof to work and the balconies to be safe, but the costs are outrageous and terrible value for money.” Charlie said the council’s itemised bill for the 34-week job includes 10 mobile phones for £4,000 and parking charges for £550, despite the fact there are no parking restrictions within half a mile of the blocks. A council spokesman said the charges are a standard part of a contract and when work is complete figures may change in the final costings if, for example, parking charges are not needed. Councillor Stephanie Cryan, Southwark’s cabinet member for housing, said: “As with many of our housing estates, the homes on Carlton Grove and Hawkslade Road require significant

investment to bring them up to a decent standard for our residents and maintain the heating and hot water systems. “This does mean that, as per the lease they signed when they took on the property, leaseholders will be required to pay for their share of the works, which we know can be significant. “I would like to reassure leaseholders that no work is undertaken that isn’t absolutely necessary and consulted on with residents beforehand, and the council works hard to get the best possible value for contracts. “I do appreciate this is a very worrying time for leaseholders as the scale of work needed can result in very high bills. This is why we have a wide range of repayment options in place,

which we hope will help go a long way to reduce the financial impact and provide peace of mind. I would encourage every leaseholder to meet individually with the housing team to talk through the available options and what would work best for them. “Ultimately, if leaseholders do not pay the bills that they are responsible for then costs are unfairly placed on tenants who are already paying through their rents.” The news follows our report earlier this year on leaseholders from the Brayards Road estate, who have been billed £24,000 each for major works. They are contesting the sum with the council. Pictured: Charlie Johnson with his neighbours.

THE PECKHAM PECULIAR Editors Mark McGinlay, Kate White | Production The Creativity Club ( | Photographer Alexander McBride Wilson Features editor Emma Finamore | Sub-editor Jack Aston | Marketing and social media Mark McGinlay Contributors Lorna Allan, Tristan Bejawn, Andrew Cryan, Lawrence Diamond, Orlando Gili, Helen Graves, Dan Harder, Naomi Knill, Joe Lo, Yosola Olorunshola, Tim Richards, Luke G Williams For editorial and advertising enquiries, please email | @peckhampeculiar | | @peckhampeculiar

August/September 2017



Wise words Children from Lyndhurst Primary School in Camberwell were asked what they’d do if they were prime minister for a day – and they came up with some inspired ideas. Marley said: “I want to give people who don’t have money or a house some money to help them,” while Dylan said: “I would take all the bad guys out of the world and throw them in a pond.” The children, who are in reception year at the Grove Lane school, took part in a podcast on the topic for Grove FM, the school’s in-house radio station. Their ideas were also displayed on the school gates.

Peckham institution Tops Caribbean takeaway is holding a carnival warm-up party in August – and everyone is invited. Sharon and Paul Simpson opened Tops on Queen’s Road in 1994, the same year their daughter Olivia was born. Today Olivia runs the takeaway, ensuring it has remained a Simpson family business through and through. Olivia said: “The Tops team and I love Peckham and always will. Even with the big changes in the area in the past few years, you won’t find the diversity of people in Peckham anywhere else. “At Tops we believe that inclusive gentrification is key and we want to create a space where Peckham residents new and old can eat, meet and feel the Tops good vibes, which we pride ourselves on. “Tops has been a community hub for years, with loyal customers coming to us for over a decade and some travelling from as far as Kent and Surrey to get their taste of the Islands in sunny south London.” Tops is renowned for its freshly made Caribbean food, with a menu including favourites such as jerk chicken and curried goat with rice and peas, ackee and saltfish, fried escovitch and Guinness punch. It is hosting a pre-carnival event in August to celebrate more than 20 years on Queen’s Road, to pay homage to the Notting Hill Carnival and to give back to the strong Afro-Caribbean community in Peckham which has supported the shop for all these years. The launch of Tops’ new website will coincide with the party, which will take place at the shop


Tops takeaway hosts carnival warm-up party

on August 25 from noon till late. There will be Caribbean cocktails and food including Tops’ legendary jerk pork and jerk chicken. Music provided by DJs from Brixtonbased youth radio station Reprezent will ensure

partygoers’ carnival weekend gets off to a funfilled start. Tops is based at 173 Queen’s Road. Pictured above: Sharon Simpson with her daughter Olivia.

SUMMER SALE 1st August - 2nd September 2017

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Seabass Cycles is an independent bike shop with premises in Camberwell and Peckham, South-East London. This summer we are holding a month-long sale with deals on bikes, frames, wheel builds, merch and more. With a showroom of bikes and a gallery wall of frames to choose from there is something for everyone, come in while stocks last.


Southwark Council is reviewing plans that could see Nunhead Cemetery become off-limits to dogs. Council officers are considering the introduction of a Public Space Protection Order (PSPO) – dubbed “dog ASBOs” by critics – that could require dogs to be kept on leads at all times in the cemetery or even excluded from it altogether. Further borough-wide measures could limit dog walkers to a maximum of four dogs at any one time and could give authorised officers the power to instruct owners to put their pets on a lead. Breaching a PSPO is a criminal offence and if plans go ahead, council officials will have the right to issue on-the-spot fines of £100, rising to £1,000 if they want to pursue the matter in the courts. The council said: “The majority of dog owners and walkers in Southwark behave responsibly, but dog-related antisocial behaviour is still a concern for residents and is one of the greatest sources of complaints. “Residents have reported being attacked and frightened by ‘packs of dogs’, dogs knocking over children, disrupting funeral services and attacks on animals.” But Victoria Peel from Southwark Loves Dogs, an online group with 400 members, said: “I’ve been here long enough to remember when [Nunhead Cemetery] was a bit of a no-go area, with people using drugs and whatever. It wasn’t somewhere that as a woman I felt particularly safe. Dog walkers have been responsible for making it much safer. “[Dogs have] a positive impact on our local green spaces. For many dog owners and their families, they are an important part of daily exercise, benefiting physical and mental health.


Council considers canine crackdown

“Most responsible dog owners keep our green spaces tidy of dog poo, clean up rubbish and syringes, deter vandalism and antisocial behaviour from humans and generally provide a presence that makes most people using the spaces feel safe.

“Like anything else we are hugely aware that some owners are not so responsible, but suspect that the introduction of these blanket orders will not change the behaviour of those who are not responsible but will penalise those who are.”

The group’s Matt Davies said it’s unlikely the council could legally ban dogs from the cemetery entirely, but that requiring dogs to be on leads at all times was akin to an outright ban. The council is expected to make a decision in the autumn.

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Visionary volunteers wanted Peckham Vision is calling for volunteers to help its vital work continue. The community group plays an invaluable role in Peckham life, keeping people informed of changes and developments in the area and showing them how they can take action when needed. Currently it is campaigning to protect Peckham’s spectacular rooftop views after Southwark Council earmarked the Aylesham Centre site for a 20-storey tower block (for more on that story, turn to page 12). It is lobbying the council to halt plans for a comprehensive redevelopment of the Rye Lane multistorey car park once Peckham Levels ends in 2023 and is asking it to review options for the site with local people and stakeholders before a final decision on its future is made. Elsewhere it is working to develop community uses for the old waiting room at Peckham Rye Station after teaming up with Peckham architect Benedict O’Looney to make the beautiful space accessible to the public.

It also made a proposal to the Heritage Lottery Fund that resulted in a successful council application for a Townscape Heritage Initiative (THI), with £2.3 million to spend on restoring old buildings in Peckham town centre. The THI aims to conserve, enhance and regenerate some of the historic buildings along Peckham High Street and Rye Lane by repairing and reinstating traditional features and bringing vacant upper floors back into use. Volunteering with Peckham Vision allows a unique insight into one of London’s most exciting town centres and a chance to play an important role in protecting and shaping its future. If you can offer a few hours a month or more to help with office organising, book-keeping, web and graphics work or anything else, Eileen Conn and Corinne Turner would be delighted to hear from you. For more details or to get involved, please email Pictured right: Peckham Vision coordinator Eileen Conn on the top floor of the Bussey Building.

Raising the roof

Marvellous murals Children from a Nunhead school teamed up with a local artist to design two large murals celebrating school life. Rotherhithe-based painter Ed Gray joined forces with children from St Mary Magdalene primary school on Brayards Road to create the murals, which depict a day in the life of the school. The colourful works are intended to reflect the values of the school: trust, honesty, love,

peace, forgiveness, wonder, thankfulness, compassion, hope and the individuality of each child. Ed described the murals as a “joyous celebration of school life”, while head teacher Jennifer Parris said: “The arts have an important place in our creative curriculum and it’s been such a wonderful experience for the children to work with Ed on this project. We are really proud of what they have achieved.”

The Bussey Building could be fitted with an enormous glass roof to allow the bar, cinema and events space to open to the public all year round. Peckham-based architect Kennedy Woods has submitted plans for the retractable roof to Southwark Council on behalf of owner Copeland Park. If permission is granted it will enclose more than 10,000 square feet of space without disrupting the building’s panoramic skyline views. Half the roof will slide back to provide large areas of open air space during the warmer months and the central staircase used to access the top floor will be extended to create an elevated viewing platform. The roof will measure about 16 feet tall at its highest point. Speaking of the plans, Tim Wilson from Copeland Park said: “Here at Copeland Park,

we are always looking at ways to enhance how the site is used, for the benefit of both visitors and tenants. “The rooftop bar and cinema are currently operated on a seasonal basis to avoid poor weather conditions. However, the proposed rooftop enclosure will allow the existing flexible space to operate all year round and enable improvements to the existing facilities. “Copeland Park always tries to provide flexible space to allow things to adapt and be used in different ways. We have taken the same approach with our iconic rooftop and our proposal should allow for lots of different communities to use the space.” Pictured below: how the proposed roof could look when open. Image © Kennedy Woods.

Residents quiz council over fire fears Peckham residents quizzed council officials last month over the safety of their blocks following the Grenfell Tower disaster in June, writes Joe Lo. The public meeting took place at Bells Gardens Community Centre on Buller Close and was organised by the Southwark Group of Tenants Organisations (SGTO), an independent voluntary group representing tenants’ rights across the borough. Councillor Stephanie Cryan, Southwark’s cabinet member for housing, reassured residents that none of the council’s 174 tower blocks have Grenfell-style aluminium composite material cladding. But they also heard that low-rise Medina House, a six-storey block located between August/September 2017

Peckham Rye Park and Nunhead Cemetery (pictured right) could catch alight if there were holes in the cladding. Following an investigation, a few repairs were carried out and the council is now satisfied the building is safe. It said the insulation or cladding could still be replaced, not out of necessity but to offer as much reassurance to residents as possible. At the other end of SE15, residents of the fourblock Ledbury Estate near the Old Kent Road are worried for their safety. Tenants have lived with large cracks in their walls for years and are concerned they could allow a blaze to spread from room to room in the event of a fire. The council is currently paying fire wardens to

sit in the blocks 24 hours a day. It has commissioned a review of fire safety on the estate, which is expected to be published in August. Housing associations have also been made to test cladding on buildings higher than 18 metres. Cladding will be removed from several buildings in the borough including the Aylesbury Estate’s Marsh Court, where it will be replaced with a material that meets updated safety requirements. A spokesman for L&Q, the housing association that runs the block, said a 24-hour on-site security presence will remain in place until the works are complete.

SGTO also presented its members’ list of demands to the council, which were accepted by council staff present. It included a demand that the council campaigns alongside the community for central government funding for fire safety and public services. Councillor Cryan said: “The leader of the council and I wrote to Sajid Javid, secretary of state for communities and local government, saying that Grenfell has changed everything and that local authorities need to be funded for the work that’s going to be needed in the aftermath.” THE PECKHAM PECULIAR / 7


First Peckham Levels members revealed

The final resting place of Jack the Ripper suspect Thomas Cutbush has been found in Nunhead Cemetery. According to newspaper reports at the time, the Kennington-born medical student worked in Whitechapel shortly before the murders in 1888. He was said to have lived an idle life, wandering the streets late at night and returning with mud and blood on his clothing. He suffered delusions thought to have been caused by syphilis. He once tried to cut his mother’s throat and was later committed to Broadmoor after stabbing a young woman in the buttocks and attempting to knife another. He remained there until his death in 1903. Author David Bullock discovered Cutbush’s grave while working on his book The Man Who Would Be Jack, which presents new evidence that Cutbush – who matched eyewitness descriptions of the Ripper – was the notorious serial killer. Bullock said: “Cutbush’s grave is in a section of Nunhead Cemetery which is now a nature reserve and is off limits to the public as well as staff. “There is a track that snakes through the cemetery and it is from there that I took the photo of the spot where Cutbush is buried. The foliage is very wild and only certain tombstones remain visible. It is very much a woodland grave.” The Man Who Would Be Jack (Thistle Publishing) costs £10 in paperback.

Her neighbours will include wood-carving and gilding specialist Anastasya Martynova; and galdem (pictured above), a magazine and creative collective comprised of more than 70 women and non-binary people of colour. Andreas Hudelmayer, who makes violins, violas and cellos will also be moving into the space; along with art and design studio Intoart, which works with artists with learning disabilities to ensure they are visible, equal and recognised.

Luds Van Den Belt from Peckham Levels said: “Our members are the heart and soul of Peckham Levels and we couldn’t be more excited about the inspiring group of people we’ll be working and playing alongside over the coming years. “It’s a huge milestone to finally begin telling the world who they are. We cannot wait to open our doors, and harness the energy and talent in this area to help Peckham Levels grow into one of the most exciting cultural destinations in London.”

New deli for Queen’s Road A well-known local trader is opening a deli in a former hair salon on Queen’s Road, writes Yosola Olorunshola. Valerio Traquandi has spent six years working below Peckham Arch from his fruit and veg stall at the Sunday farmers’ market and from the booth of his popular Dew Drop coffee van. Despite significant public opposition, the arch is now set to be demolished and Valerio is pursuing a new, permanent venture called The Stillroom, a deli launching at 115 Queen’s Road in early September. The Stillroom will offer fresh, simple British produce at reasonable prices, including sourdough bread and quality fruit and

vegetables. Much of the produce will be sourced from Sussex farms specialising in biodynamic principles. Valerio will also bring his Italian heritage to The Stillroom, serving up a select range of cheeses, meats and wine from his home country. And for loyal fans of Dew Drop, the deli will continue to sell its blends of Clapton-based Mission Coffee. Valerio also launched a survey asking local residents what else they’d like to see on The Stillroom’s shelves. He said that through inviting people to shape the deli’s range of produce, he hopes to “build up something that is more communal”.


A chilling discovery

Peckham Levels has announced the names of its first 12 members – giving a glimpse of how the Rye Lane multistorey car park turned cultural hub will look when it opens in October. The seven-level grassroots creative space will house more than 100 artists, entrepreneurs and independent businesses from the worlds of design, craft, food, fashion and music, offering much-needed affordable workspace. The first five floors will be occupied by emerging artists, designers, makers, creative entrepreneurs and charities, while the two upper levels will be a food, drink and events destination. The space will be open until 2023. Food and drink traders announced so far include family-run Kurdish restaurant Nandine, which is based in Camberwell; chicken wings specialists Drums & Flats; and Hao Hao Chi, which serves handmade regional Chinese street food. All-day California-inspired wine bar and kitchen West will offer coffee, natural wines and juices; while Other Side Fried, which began from the back of a converted ambulance, will serve fried chicken and burgers with sides and shakes. Other members include Peckham resident and hair stylist Tracey Cahoon, who has worked with stars including Amy Winehouse and Sienna Miller. She will be launching the Cahoonas Hair Hub, which will offer training and workshops to the local community, help stylists build their skillsets and host masterclasses and events.

Battle of the bridge A group of Peckham residents are demanding that Camberwell Grove bridge is reopened as soon as possible following a sharp rise in traffic on their streets. The bridge, which carries Camberwell Grove over the railway tracks between Peckham Rye and Denmark Hill stations, was shut in October last year after owner Network Rail warned that a cracked beam meant it could no longer support traffic. Drivers using the street to travel from Camberwell to East Dulwich must now turn left onto McNeil Road and Lyndhurst Grove, before negotiating busy Bellenden Road to get to East Dulwich. The move has cut traffic in the southern half of Camberwell Grove significantly and some of its residents have asked Southwark Council to make the closure permanent. But Peckhamites from the Lyndhurst area said the increased levels of traffic on their streets is unacceptable. 8 / THE PECKHAM PECULIAR

Lyndhurst Grove resident Gün Akyuz said: “I am simply amazed that Southwark Council is even considering not repairing the bridge and not reopening the upper part of Camberwell Grove. “Lyndhurst Grove is, for the most part, a narrow road and cannot absorb the weight of traffic, speeding and gridlock in peak hours of the day. It is dangerous and toxic for anyone living on Lyndhurst Grove and the adjacent streets that are conduits to other parts of the borough. “Closing Camberwell Grove has added to the overall pollution. Those who have to bypass Camberwell Grove add up to another mile to their journey, with Lyndhurst Grove bearing the main brunt of the closure.” Lisa Grainger, who also lives on Lyndhurst Grove, said: “Camberwell Grove is a big wide road. It’s got traffic lights in the middle to modulate it and it’s the most sensible route from Peckham Road to East Dulwich. It’s the main route that everyone takes.

“By closing the bridge they’re routing people through residential roads that are tiny. The Villa School is also on our street and there are dozens of children walking up and down. They’re little, they’re on scooters, they’re racing around and someone could get hit. “Then there’s the rows. There are quite a lot of parked cars on Lyndhurst Grove and it doesn’t allow for two-way traffic. “Cars come speeding down the road in opposite directions, neither of them will give way and then the drivers start to row. I’ve seen someone rip off another driver’s wing mirror and smash it into their window.” Network Rail is planning to replace the cracked beam to protect passing trains and the council intends to carry out strengthening works at the same time to raise the bridge’s weight limit to three tonnes. It will cost the council £17,000 to strengthen the bridge plus extra money to enforce the three-tonne

limit. It said increasing the bridge’s capacity to its previous seven-and-half-tonne limit would cost more than £1 million due to complex structural issues and so this option has been ruled out. Once the work is complete the council will either reopen the bridge to traffic under three tonnes or maintain the closure. A final decision will be made after consultation with residents at the Camberwell and Peckham & Nunhead community council meetings on September 20. Councillor Ian Wingfield, Southwark’s cabinet member for environment and public realm, said: “We want to hear from everyone in our consultation in September, so we can get a complete picture of the issues and come up with the right long-term solution. “In the meantime we apologise to local residents for the inconvenience but the bridge closure is a necessary safety precaution and works are essential. We hope to be able to move forward with the project as soon as possible.” August/September 2017


Free film festival returns A screening of cult 1970s film Deep End is just one of the films that will be showing in SE15 as part of the 2017 Peckham and Nunhead Free Film Festival. Now in its eighth year, the community-led event is run by volunteers and puts on a multitude of movies in a vast variety of settings, from libraries, churches and parks to pubs, bars and shops. The 10-day festival begins on September 1 on Peckham Rye Common, with a bike-powered screening of Singin’ in the Rain in collaboration with Electric Pedals. The following night Werner Herzog’s 1979 horror flick Nosferatu the Vampyre will be shown in Nunhead Cemetery. Audiences can watch Goodfellas over a pizza on board the Crust Conductor pizza bus in Copeland Park on September 6; and see a spine-tingling screening of Night of the Living Dead at Safehouse 1, a derelict house turned arts venue on Copeland Road on September 8. Other highlights include a Persian afternoon tea and a screening of Raving Iran at Persepolis on September 8; and Shadow World, an investigation into the multibillion-dollar arms trade that will be shown at the Montague Arms on September 4. Cult 1970s film Deep End (pictured right) is coming to the Ivy House on September 6. “One of the greatest overlooked films of the 70s” according to the BFI, it tells the story of 15-yearold dropout Mike, who becomes obsessed with his co-worker at a north London swimming pool. Documentary A Plastic Ocean, which explores the consequences of our global disposable lifestyle, will be screened at appropriate location the Southwark Integrated Waste Management

Facility on Devon Street on September 7. Other films that highlight the links between humans and the environment will be shown in community gardens. Look out for Flicker + Pulse in Glengall Wharf Garden on September 3 and Hunt for the Wilderpeople at Northfield House on September 10.

The Afrikans on Film festival will be returning to the Bussey Building on September 9. The one-day event celebrates African creativity in all its forms, including film, live music, poetry, theatre and storytelling. Last but not least, on September 10 there will be an exciting link-up with Rye Lane cinema

Peckhamplex for the festival’s grand finale – full details will be announced on the festival website soon. All events are walk-in and free to attend. For full details and timings, go to filmfestival/peckham-nunhead

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New dining destinations open their doors Five new restaurants are set to open in Peckham over the next three months. Coal Rooms will occupy the Grade-II listed former ticket office in the north wing of Peckham Rye Station from late August. It is owned by the team behind Peckham’s Old Spike Roastery, who also run Camberwell’s Spike + Earl, Peckham restaurant Aside and coffee-based charity Change Please. Coal Rooms will feature a 24-seater café that transforms into a bar in the evenings; 13 counter seats around a large, sunken, open-plan kitchen; a main restaurant space with 30 covers and a private dining room for up to 14 guests. The menu will make use of the restaurant’s onsite butchery, focusing on a variety of meats and unusual cuts. Head chef Sam Bryant (previously of Smokehouse and The Dabbling Duck) and his team will cook over charcoal using a Robata grill and coal ovens. Breakfasts will include a coffee-cured bacon sandwich and scrambled eggs with sriracha mayonnaise, cheese, chives and hot dog onions. Lunch will focus on flatbreads from the coal oven. Dinner will feature dishes such as dry-aged duck breasts, Mangalitsa cowboy steaks and 40-day aged Dexter sirloin and rib served with an imaginative list of house sauces such as jerk caramel and greengage and mead ketchup. Also opening in August is Taco Queen, which is moving from its home in Rye Wax to a permanent spot at 191 Rye Lane. The site was previously derelict after former occupant Greggs was burnt down in the 2011 London riots.

Taco Queen’s imaginative offering includes a steak mulita taco, featuring organic flank steak, house marinade, grilled cheese and chimichurri. It also serves the veggie lone star, made with black beans, feta and fried egg. Just down the road, the team behind Seven in Brixton Market and Three Eight Four on Coldharbour Lane (pictured above) are opening a new place at 200 Rye Lane, which was previously Lerryn’s Café. Seven is a tapas and cocktail bar, while its sister restaurant Three Eight Four serves small plates and cocktails. Bartenders use

experimental techniques and boutique spirits to create an interesting and seasonal drinks menu. On the other side of Rye Lane, Voodoo Ray’s is launching a pizza joint at number 285 in September. The large space was previously occupied by London Tile Warehouse and was later squatted for a time. Voodoo Ray’s runs restaurants in Dalston, Shoreditch and Camden but the Peckham site will be its biggest yet with around 80 covers. It will serve 22” New York-style pizzas whole and by the slice along with a new brunch menu. Cocktails will include a house negroni for £4.50.

Installation, Maintenance & Testing E: T: 020 8068 7061

Over on Queen’s Road, couple Patrick Williams (formerly chef at The Manor in Clapham) and Amy Corbin, whose father is one of London’s leading restaurateurs, are realising a long-held dream of opening a restaurant together. Kudu will offer modern European food with South African influences, with diners typically choosing three plates plus dessert. Expect dishes such as pappardelle, pig’s head, onion and egg yolk; mussel and clam potjie pot with gnocchi; and braai lamb rump with courgette purée and walnuts. Kudu is set to open in October at 119 Queen’s Road.


Consultation into Aylesham site continues More than 200 people attended a series of workshops and exhibitions exploring groundfloor uses for the Aylesham Centre site once it is redeveloped – but the issue of whether a 20-storey tower block could form part of the scheme is yet to be discussed. Southwark Council controversially earmarked the site as suitable for a 20-storey tower in the Peckham and Nunhead Area Action Plan, a 150page document that sets out its planning strategy for the area. Groups including Peckham Vision have campaigned against a tower, arguing it would disrupt the panoramic views from Rye Lane’s multistorey car park, which boosts the local economy by attracting thousands of visitors to Peckham each year. The Aylesham Centre’s owner Tiger Developments said at ground floor level it aims to create a “pedestrian-friendly part of the town centre, which will open up this large site and help stitch it back into the surrounding streets”. The consultation focused on how to achieve a good mix of shops, businesses, community uses, open space and day and nighttime activities to ensure the site “celebrates the best of Peckham”. Morrisons will continue to operate until a new branch of the supermarket is built next door. Tiger said it was important to focus on groundfloor uses before looking upwards, adding: “The

ground level will be how 95 per cent of people experience the Aylesham Centre site on a day-today basis, so it’s very important that we get this right.” The next stage of public consultation will include further workshops and exhibitions later in the year, which will consider potential new buildings on the site, how they are designed and what they might look like. Asked whether Tiger could build a 20-storey tower on the site and how many homes it might include, a spokesman told The Peckham Peculiar: “Once the team has a better understanding of how the ground level will work we can then work up more developed designs. “At this stage we will be able to provide figures for the number of homes and proposed height. Tiger Developments Ltd has already publicly announced its intention to meet the council’s affordable homes target of 35 per cent. “We are committed to holding further consultation events where we will show more detailed proposals and are aiming to host these in the autumn. It is expected that a planning application will be submitted in spring 2018.” Comments on the site are open until August 31. Visit to have your say and keep up-to-date with the next stages of the consultation.

All about art Nunhead Art Trail is back for the fifth year in September and with more than 90 artists taking part, it promises to be the biggest event yet. The two-day creative celebration sees artists and craftspeople across Nunhead invite the public into their homes and studios. Others display their work in public spaces including pubs and cafés. There’s always a huge variety of art on show, from paintings, drawings and collage to photography, ceramics, sculpture and installations. Visitors will have a chance to chat to the artists and buy original works of art to take home.

A class above A Nunhead school that was once the lowest ranked in Southwark has been named secondary school of the year at the TES Schools Awards. St Thomas the Apostle College (STAC) scooped the prestigious prize after receiving unanimous praise from judges, who said: “This outstanding school manages to nurture the unique talents of its students alongside rigorous teaching and high expectations.” Head teacher Eamon Connolly joined STAC in September 2012. It was then bottom of the Southwark secondary school league table and on the brink of being put into special measures. Just 42 per cent of students achieved five A* to C grades with English and maths at GCSE. In 2014 Ofsted recognised a remarkable turnaround in the school and declared it outstanding in all categories. Two years later STAC scored its highest ever exam results, with 82 per cent of GCSE students achieving five A* to C grades including English and maths.


This year’s Nunhead Art Trail takes place on September 23-24 from 11am-6pm. For full listings go to Pictured above: Nunhead artist Randy Klein.

Retro Rye Lane In a statement about the TES award, the school said: “The incredible turnaround of St Thomas the Apostle College is an inspirational tale of hard work and belief. “Turning around a school is difficult. The obstacles in your path when you are the lowest ranking school in your local area are numerous and complex – public perception, difficult recruitment and a legacy of underachievement are just a few of the issues that need to be addressed. “Quite how STAC managed to go from this difficult situation in 2012 to ranking 11th in the national league table for Progress 8 [the government’s accountability measure that assesses pupils’ progress across eight selected subjects] in 2016 intrigued the judges. “What has happened over the last four years at this unique school is a story of commitment, hard work and a steadfast belief in not just improving students academically, but personally.”

This newly discovered 1962 photograph of Rye Lane from Southwark Council’s Local History Library & Archive is just one of the fascinating images that will go on display in an unmissable two-day exhibition exploring Peckham’s past. The show, titled Peckham Streets, will be held in the old waiting room at Peckham Rye Station during Peckham Festival weekend. More than 100 historic and rare images of Peckham will be

on display, many of which have never been seen before. The exhibition is a collaboration between The Peckham Society and the council’s Local History Library & Archive, with support from Benedict O’ Looney Architects and Peckham Vision. Peckham Streets takes place on September 16-17 from 10am-6pm.

August/September 2017


Designs on Peckham BENEDICT O’LOONEY HAS MADE A PROFOUND IMPACT ON PECKHAM BY PAINSTAKINGLY RESTORING SOME OF ITS MOST TREASURED BUILDINGS. The work has taken him on many amazing adventures, including posing as a nightclubber to climb the Jones & Higgins clock tower WORDS LUKE G WILLIAMS PHOTO ORLANDO GILI


August/September 2017

Architect, historian and former punk musician Benedict O’Looney (or Benny to his friends, of which he has many) is something of a Peckham legend. I caught up with him one Friday afternoon recently for an interview with a difference, as he took me on a tour of some of the local projects he has been involved in since establishing his eponymous architecture firm in 2004. From his work on Peckham Rye Station and the Jones & Higgins clock tower to Choumert Grove mosque, Khan’s Bargain and many sites in between, few have done as much to ensure that Peckham’s architecture retains a link to its rich and fascinating past as he has. Oozing passion, bonhomie and schoolboyish enthusiasm throughout our two-hour meeting, Benny arrives on his somewhat rickety bicycle, clutching a set of keys that allow entry into some of the previously hidden and forgotten areas of Peckham Rye Station which he has helped liberate and transform. “I’ll have lived here in Peckham for 20 years in September,” he tells me as he parks his bike at the foot of a magnificent staircase in the station that he’s restoring and which sweeps up grandly to the old waiting room on the second floor. “The story begins here,” he says. “One of the contributions I’ve made to the area has been to try and open up this building. It was massively bricked up in the 1960s at the time of the Beeching cuts and the nadir of interest in Victorian architecture.” The iron and stone staircase, which is located in the station’s south wing, was completely hidden from view, along with the enormous old waiting room above, which today is visible through a door on platform three. The stairs now link directly to the waiting room thanks to a new connecting staircase on the first floor, meaning the vast space can finally be accessed without having to walk through the station itself. The waiting room floor has also been repaired. “We managed to connect the building with quite an important Victorian architect called Charles Henry Driver,” Benny explains. “That gave an extra nudge to English Heritage to list it. “The project started with seed money from Southwark Council and then an excellent pledge from the Railway Heritage Trust. Then Network Rail thankfully came in with the greatest share.” Benny’s philosophy is simple and stems from a steadfast belief in the power of art, architecture and history to coexist and complement each other for the public good. “I define myself by the work I do, by the architecture,” he explains emphatically. “We’re trying to learn from the past and be inspired by it. The driver for me is to work on arty buildings and to bring art into everyday life. Life needs to be joyous and architecture is such a great medium for doing joyous.” Much of Benny’s work can be defined as “conservation architecture”. “The regular approach to conservation architecture is that you make it clear where the new and the old are,” he says. “[At Peckham Rye Station] we wanted – from a tactile perspective – to keep things the same. “Our work here is much inspired by a fantastic Italian architect called Carlo Scarpa, who is well known for his exquisite interventions into ancient renaissance palazzos. He was a Venetian architect, working in Venice and Verona. The Castelvecchio was one of his great projects.” In addition to the staircase and waiting room, 23 windows and doors in the station building have been mended and the long-forgotten Art Deco toilets located in the north wing (which will soon be home to new restaurant the Coal Rooms) have been magnificently restored. Although Benny is clearly a major driving force in these projects, he is modest and unassuming enough to emphasise the collaborative and community aspects of the work that he does. August/September 2017


The history of Peckham’s buildings is still here – it’s just been covered up Benedict O’Looney

Indeed, throughout our interview he regularly reels off long lists of names and organisations – including The Peckham Society and Peckham Vision – who he collaborates with closely, and frequently tips his hat to his “chums” and the “local folk” who he works alongside. “One of my favourite things about doing architecture in Peckham is getting to know the local crew,” he emphasises. “The stair [at Peckham Rye Station] has been made by Tara, a well-known local steel fabricator. “It’s co-designed with a wonderful engineer called Structure Workshop from Walworth, so happily this job has seen a lot of local action. It’s not quite finished yet but it’s based around the idea of telling the story and the narrative of this old building as much as possible.” As well as helping shape the local landscape of Peckham, Benny has become part of the fabric of the area himself over the last two decades, although his journey to south London has taken in a few fascinating twists and turns along the way. Born in 1965 in Fulham to a “generous, gentle, sometime English teacher” father and an “art historian” mother, Benny moved to Brighton aged six after his mum went to work at the Brighton museum. “Then came quite a dramatic change,” he says. “We went to live in a big provincial city in the United States called Wilmington in Delaware. My stepfather was the curator of the local art museum, while my mum worked for the Philadelphia museum decorative arts department. “I was pretty hopeless at being an American kid – I was singularly unable to play football and baseball. I found my identity after about four years as a punk rocker in the late 70s. By that point I was old enough to move up to New York City where my [biological] father had thankfully moved – back to where he was born. “I used to work in a punk clothing shop on Saturday mornings and go and see some amazing music. I’d meet up with my punk chums, who were typically pretty smart New York City middle class kids whose parents were artists – quite a cool crew. At this point I thought, ‘Oh my God, my life is going to be music’ – which it totally was for quite some time.” However, while studying at Hunter College on the promptings of his stepfather (“who was like, come on, get your act together”), Benny had an epiphany. “The key threshold, if you were to point to one thing, was that Hunter had

a good grad programme where they would take the sophomores and the juniors to Rome for a month with a very dashing art history teacher and a drawing teacher. They would take us to these various sites, tell us about them and then we’d spend the afternoon drawing. “I thought, ‘Wow, this is fun, how about this?’ I used to go pounding around the streets of Rome looking at amazing things and sketching them. At that point the focus moved from music to architecture. On my return I started drawing New York City with vigour. I had also [by then] realised how hard it was going to be to be a jazz bass player in New York City. “I didn’t get into architecture school the first time I wanted to go, but then I reapplied two years later with a great stack of townscape drawings typically done from the rooftops of skyscrapers in Midtown. “I used to deliver packages for an architecture firm and I found that all of the old super skyscrapers you could get to the roof of. I spent one particular summer doing panoramas from up there and put together a fairly powerful portfolio which got me into Yale and Harvard. I went to Yale because there was a good art school there and I had a great time.” Since graduating from Yale in 1992 and returning to the UK, Benny has lectured and taught widely. He worked for Grimshaw Architects and Alsop Architects before setting up his own practice, which operates from the ground floor of his Peckham home and works on new builds as well as conservation architecture. “Some mates of mine were moving to Peckham and it was cheap,” he says when I ask why he moved here. “It was the last part of town where you could get a terraced three-bedroom house for 80 grand or something like that. “Now, of course, we have all these transport links. We didn’t then, but if you cycle – and I’m nuts about cycling – that doesn’t matter. That’s probably also why the houses were cheaper here. “My father died and left me enough money for a deposit on a house so I bought a place in the north part of Peckham and thought, ‘OK, I’m going to live here for a spell, let’s get to know the local folk.’ So I joined The Peckham Society and met some really interesting people, people who transformed my life in all sorts of different ways.” One of The Peckham Society’s great achievements in recent years has been the establishment of a conservation area, which

A magical mystery tour As part of Peckham Festival Benny is leading two special guided walks that will celebrate some of Peckham’s most impressive buildings and some hidden gems too. The walk on September 15 is now sold out but spots are available on September 17 from 5-6.30pm. Tickets are £5.90 each (including booking fee) and there are 30 places per tour – visit to book. The walks are supported by The Peckham Peculiar.

incorporates Peckham High Street, Rye Lane and Peckham Hill Street. “The only way to protect these buildings was to create a conservation area,” Benny says. “We had a long campaign of about seven years and we finally got there. The idea is to celebrate the local scene and try to make some sense of it to ensure that modern Peckham still retains some of its best historic buildings. “We all have different skills that we can bring. As an enthusiast for architecture, that was something I could bring to the local crew and share with friends and wider folk. That has metamorphosed into these little projects around here. “One of the wonderful things in our shared life in south London is the way that you can have a career and fashion a life within a framework of initially voluntary stuff – so now I run a busy but small practice in the north part of Peckham. “All of the work we’ve got you could argue stemmed from working here on the railway station, because it helped me get to know the locals and the local politicians. I’ve got a lot to thank my comrades in The Peckham Society for. “I’ve enjoyed it of course. The work that we are trying to do is all about celebrating what’s already here basically, and to make sure that all of this hype about Peckham, which is great, doesn’t involve the loss of our local history. We keep moving on with our research – there’s always more to learn and more stories to tell.” Other projects Benny has been involved in include the completion of the Choumert Grove mosque, which was built in the 1990s and left unfinished for a decade. He created a new barrelvaulted prayer hall on the roof and completed the minarets. Among his many ongoing schemes is his work at Khan’s Bargain, a Rye Lane institution run by Akbar Khan and his family. It occupies a building that previously housed another great Peckham department store – Holdron’s. Benny and Akbar have taken down the false ceiling to reveal an enormous curved Art Deco roof above, complete with 1,000 painstakingly restored glass lenses that have allowed light to come flooding into the shop for the first time in years. “Through Peckham Vision I got to know Akbar,” Benny explains. “We saw some old drawings that showed there was an amazing Art Deco roof there, so we said, ‘Come on Akbar – we’ve got to see this roof!’ “We had seen some photographs of what it was like back in the 1930s. We got on a big ladder, removed some tiles and were like, ‘Woah!’ It’s the pièce de résistance – it’s amazing. One of the things we keep finding wherever we go is that the history of Peckham’s buildings is still here – it’s just been covered up.” Another iconic project, completed in 2015, saw Benny and his colleagues restore the clock tower on top of the old Jones & Higgins department store building at 1 Rye Lane. The timepiece began proclaiming the hours and minutes again for the first time in 35 years. The project saw Benny display admirable determination to sneak up to the clock tower during a secret recce when the building was occupied by Ezekiel nightclub. It’s an anecdote that aptly summarises his commitment to unveiling and restoring Peckham’s historic past. “I posed as a nightclubber,” he laughs. “I noticed it was free to get in before 11 o’clock. I was in the basement with this pounding music, slipped by [the bouncers] and went up the central staircase to find it strewn with rubbish bags. Eventually I got to the top – I was determined to see if the clock was still in there. “All these pigeons dived on me. I found my way up to the loft and didn’t find a clock but the hands were still there. It was an essential recce to get that project going. All of this stuff involves getting covered in dust basically.” THE PECKHAM PECULIAR / 15


Engineering success PECKHAM-BORN GEORGE IMAFIDON HAS JUST BEEN NAMED ONE OF THE UK’S TOP TEN BLACK STUDENTS FOR 2017. The aspiring engineer, who is currently interning at Rolls-Royce, tells us how he wants to give his community hope WORDS EMMA FINAMORE PHOTO TRISTAN BEJAWN

“I wanted to give my community hope. And I realised from a young age that if you want change you have to do it yourself,” says George Imafidon. At just 20 years old, this Peckham-born, awardwinning entrepreneur is already making progress on both these fronts, but things weren’t always so positive. George’s older brother Kenny was wrongfully charged with murder in 2011 and sent to a young offenders’ institution. It was during this hard time that George resolved to make sure his life would be one filled with purpose, and put affirmative change at the heart of everything he did. Now, he’s interning as a thermo-fluid engineer with Rolls-Royce, the founder of a successful app and has just been named one of 2017’s Rare Rising Stars – a national award that celebrates the achievements of the best black students in the UK. “It really is a blessing,” he says of his new title. “Not really for me but for those in the community who don’t have much hope. It’s amazing to share this with the community and defy all the odds.” He emphasises how he wants his achievements to inspire and give confidence to others like him. “Getting out of my comfort zone is important, and normalising success. And I always want to leave places better than how I found them.” George has put this into a very practical project, launching his first business – the Motivez app – in March 2016. The app contains up-to-date information on upcoming social and educational events in London, gathered from a diverse group of companies and organisers. It covers 10 interests ranging from entrepreneurship and technology to the arts, and aims to build a brighter future for young people through events. George and his co-founder Muizz Almaroof had the idea for the app while hanging out in Peckham. “It all started in Peckham Burger King,” George laughs. “The aim is to provide young people with a tailored experience in their careers and personal development.” The duo went on to raise more than £7,000 to get the business up and running, from private investors and institutions, and Motivez now has more than 2,000 users a month. George also has a team of six students working on the business across the UK, so it’s very much built by young people, for young people. It’s been quite a journey to get here though, and George has crammed more into the last few years than most of us manage in a lifetime. One of the pivotal points in this journey was being awarded an Amos Bursary as a teenager. The fund aims to inspire and develop talented British young men of African and Caribbean descent who have excelled at school: research has shown that even with very good grades, boys from the UK’s African and Caribbean communities face extreme difficulty getting into top universities and do not have the same career opportunities that are available to other students. For George, Baroness Amos symbolises his approach to getting out of one’s comfort zone and normalising success. “She is a person who defies the odds wherever she goes,” he says. Everyone in the programme had faced some sort of societal barrier to education and career success, but this meant they were even more 16 / THE PECKHAM PECULIAR

determined to succeed and active in pursuing their ambitions, George remembers. “Being in that environment is different to anywhere I’ve ever been before,” he says. The scholarship allowed him to immerse himself in academia, something which he wouldn’t have been able to do otherwise. He also became a youth leader active in the church and achieved three As at A-level, in maths, physics and chemistry, which secured him a place studying mechanical engineering at UCL. As well as his degree, George has taken part in work experience and mentoring programmes with companies like TfL, WSP (an engineering consultancy firm) and investment banks – even completing two internships in New York. “I didn’t want to go into banking but I wanted to be more rounded and build my knowledge,” he explains, demonstrating his capacity for foresight even at a young age. He co-founded the Aspire Education Group in the UK where he acted as a teaching assistant and mentor, and he also helped set up a school in Nigeria and developed an entrepreneurship programme for the school curriculum. On top of all this, George has found the time to act as venture capital fund director at UCL Entrepreneurs, a society that guides UCL students through the worlds of business, entrepreneurship and start-ups. He has secured more than £10,000 through sponsorship initiatives for use as seed capital for innovative and early-stage start-ups, and has interviewed more than 60 start-up founders. He has also organised events with huge names in business and tech, like Google, Microsoft Accelerator, Accel and Balderton Capital. Peckham was instrumental in all of this, George says. He talks about how seeing violence and poverty around him spurred him on, but that despite this it was a good place to grow up: “Peckham was great. And that’s where I got my hunger from.” His older brother Kenny also got this hunger. He won the same Rising Star award as George in 2014, and has gone on to become an influential social entrepreneur and activist. He is the co-founder and managing director of ClearView Research Ltd – a youth-led research company that specialises in research focusing on young people – and contributes to publications like the Guardian and Huffington Post. Now interning at Rolls-Royce, George’s horizons are still expanding. He’s working on a project which could save the company millions of pounds, and hopes to take his problem-solving, critical thinking skills to the next level. “I’m far from a conventional engineer,” he says. “I’m interested in innovation, trends and predictions.” He talks about finding solutions for broad global issues like clean air, and how technology can help solve social and economic problems. “I want to combine my love for engineering, technology and entrepreneurship to set up an engineering consultancy firm devoted to tackling bespoke problems,” he says when I ask him about future plans. Not bad for someone who had his first big idea in the Burger King on Peckham High Street. August/September 2017


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Dozens of artists are set to open their doors to the public during Peckham Festival weekend. A huge variety of art will be on display, from drawings, paintings and sculpture to pottery, collage and digital prints. Some artists work from their homes while others are located in railway arches and in former industrial spaces. Julian Sharples is based in The Galleria, a purpose-built block on Pennack Road that is home to 50 self-contained studios. About half of them will open to the public for Peckham Festival. Julian, a Goldsmiths alumnus, paints food, science icons and abstract imagery. “I mainly work with linen or MDF,” he said. “Linen if I’ve got money, because it’s expensive, and MDF from Whitten Timber, which is about 10 quid a sheet, if not.” His art also explores the concept of chance and he recently created an abstract work by taking pieces of composition and tossing a coin to put them together. The piece is currently on display in this year’s Royal Academy summer exhibition. Sculptor and pottery teacher Emma Fenelon is based in the Arches Studios – a cluster of creative workspaces housed under the railway arches at 48-50 Blenheim Grove. Most of the studios will be taking part in the festival weekend. Emma’s sculptures range in size from seven-


foot-tall ceramic towers to miniature rooms depicting various scenes. “They explore ideas of home, safety, travelling and people arriving and leaving,” she said. “When I was a kid we moved house every year because my father was in the foreign office. I went to eight different primary schools. We lived in Warsaw for a time when it was right behind the Iron Curtain and there were no Europeans allowed. “Somebody once said the embassy was there as a sort of cover for my father, so there was a layer of espionage to it too. My dad was obsessed with history so we visited catacombs, nuclear bunkers, everything as kids.” As a teenager Emma hoped to study art but she was “shipped off to teacher training college” instead. Many years later, after her children left home, she enrolled at Camberwell College of Arts, had a “fantastic” time and left with a first. “There’s a great community of artists here,” she said of the Arches Studios. “Some people make a living out of it, some of us would love to make a living out of it and some people aren’t bothered either way. We’re completely independent too, which is brilliant.” Shivinder’s studio is based in his home at 12 Highshore Road. He has loved drawing since he

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was three years old and went on to become a professional actor. He later had a cardiac arrest, a near-death experience which meant he could no longer act. As a result he began to focus more on his art again. The David Bowie fan has a vast and wideranging array of interests that inform and inspire his work. They include storytelling and narrative, science, transformation and metamorphosis to name but a few. As a trained architect, he’s also interested in the built form, architectural drawings and “finding a way into a process, a way of showing a process and exploring one too”. He will display works on aluminium and canvas along with some life drawings during Peckham Festival. “I love Peckham as a diverse community,” he said of the area. “There’s lots of creative stuff going on and lots of restaurants, bars, clubs and artists. It’s just really vibrant. We’ve fought for things here too, to keep it like that, to stop it being too gentrified. Peckham’s got a heart.” Most artists will open on September 15 from 6-9pm and September 16-17 from 12-6pm (The Galleria 12-5pm). Shivinder is open from 6-11pm on September 15 and 11am-6pm on September 16-17. For full listings visit

August/September 2017




August/September 2017

SAT 16 & SUN 17



“This course has rigour without feeling rigorous, and has stretched me as a writer. I delighted in hearing everyone’s writing voice in the group grow and develop in the supportive environment which quickly builds because of the skillfully facilitated safe space.” Deena Gornick, July 2016

BOOK NOW INFO@LITERARYKITCHEN.CO.UK 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.



1-10 September 2017 WE ARE NOW IN OUR 8TH YEAR! Come and join us and enjoy over a week of FREE film events across Peckham and Nunhead. This year’s venues will include Nunhead Cemetery, The Ivy House, The Bussey Building and Peckham Rye Common…and many more in between!

Don’t Miss out on our Annual Pub Quiz Sunday 20th August at the Old Nun’s Head, Nunhead Green, SE15 3QQ Visit our pages below to find out more, and keep your eyes peeled for our printed programme appearing around Peckham and Nunhead SOON! @freefilmfest





You might not associate high fashion with social consciousness, but local fashion blogger Natalie Wo – founder of Natalie Blags Fashion blog – combines a passion for high-end labels and haute couture with projects looking at diversity and gentrification. Despite gaining a degree in retail management from LCC, Natalie struggled to find a job that would allow her to use her newly acquired skills. But that all changed in 2012 when she met legendary stylist Lauraine Bailey, who took her under her wing, gave her advice and showed encouragement and understanding. Natalie soon started working as a fashion assistant, organising the fashion closet on photo shoots, arranging messengers to pick up and deliver clothing and accessory samples, liaising with public relations agencies, logging in credits for editorial stories and assisting fashion editors. She founded her blog – Natalie Blags Fashion – in 2013, and found work with Paul Smith, House of Cuoco, Fashion Scout, London Fashion Week and Armani for Vogue’s Fashion Night Out. “I believe you learn a lot more behind the scenes,” she says, recalling glamorous parties with the likes of Dolce & Gabbana at glittering London venues such as Claridge’s. The work became higher profile too: last year Natalie gave 10 designers the opportunity to showcase for free, with one designer going on to be featured in Vogue Italia. She also styled Miss Universe Great Britain recently and was endorsed by Burberry to cover their first ever London Fashion Week live stream. August/September 2017

All this exclusive living hasn’t changed Natalie though, and she stays loyal to her south-east London neighbourhood. “I’ve been living in Peckham for 15 years now and I love it,” she says. “I never understood why others didn’t like my ends – it was and still is home to me.” She draws fashion inspiration from the area too. “It’s always been interesting – the melting pot of people, the colourful food stalls, the many fashions of different cultures, from African women to Muslim men all dressed in white on Fridays going to pray,” she says. “You have African tailors on Choumert Road and African fabric stores selling the best and brightest African prints.” Natalie’s blog demonstrates her love for diversity and culture clashing. She writes on a range of subjects, from the relationship between streetwear, hip hop and high fashion (such as RunDMC and Adidas) to All Walks Beyond The Catwalk, which promotes greater diversity in the fashion industry. There are posts on fashion icons such as Dapper Dan – the notorious 1980s Harlem fashion hustler who famously made clothes from knock-off Louis Vuitton prints and dressed everyone from LL Cool J and Salt-N-Pepa to Bobby Brown. The blog also embraces pro-body confidence brands like Sadia Sisay’s lingerie line beingU, celebrating body image and diversity within fashion and addressing the underrepresentation of different skin tones in the fashion and advertising worlds. As well as writing (she has worked as a magazine editor on top of her blogging), Natalie has worked

on projects like the All Walks initiative, heads up art direction and PR at Peckham-based luxury women’s label Korlekie and has her own weekly radio show specialising in fashion on Real Buzz Radio 103.8. “I play my own tracks, talk fashion trends and what’s in my shopping bag, call friends and listeners to ask, ‘What’s on your phone?’ and share tricks I use when shopping,” she says. “I share content from events I attend and work at, especially London Fashion Week, with guests including designers, artists, stylists and bloggers. I’m currently doing DJ practice with my mentor DJ Supa D and I practice a lot in my garden – so the neighbours catch my vibes!” In 2016 Natalie founded Fvshion Dvting Group: an organisation set up to promote and support emerging designers. Fvshion Dvting helps designers by creatively supporting and developing their ideas through visual and unique content forms. She also interviews designers like jeweller Lynn Ban, whose timeless pieces made from black rhodium, pearls, silver and diamonds have been worn by A-listers including Rihanna, Beyoncé, Nicki Minaj and Lady Gaga. Ban has also worked on high-end collaborations such as Rihanna’s Fenty Puma line. Recently Natalie also launched a new photography project focusing on the fashionable females of her neighbourhood: Girls About Peckham. “I started calling myself ‘Girl About Peckham’ just for fun really on Twitter,” she explains.

“I started noticing the changes in girls venturing in and out of Peckham and my eye caught the different sense of dressing. Kind of like how I dress – I go from boyish to girlish as and when I feel. I’m comfortable like that.” But Girls About Peckham is about more than just fashion. It’s about the changing face of Peckham and about what can be lost during rapid gentrification. “I don’t want to forget the original girls of Peckham, who lived in the area like myself when no one loved Peckham,” says Natalie. “We still loved our area, and now the media wants everyone to love Peckham. It’s easy for others to be pushed out, so I want to celebrate the ‘then and now’ element of girls in Peckham.” With many new faces pouring into Peckham, the project asks: who are the original girls of Peckham and who are the girls of Peckham now? What do they stand for? Where do they eat and hang out? Natalie is working on the project as we speak and plans to show the results in an exhibition space as well as online. On Twitter, the hashtag #GirlsAboutPeckham already brings up shots of stylish women, posing on the street outside Bar Story, by the shopping arcades on Rye Lane or having coffee in Peckham Square. The project aims to document people and styles before they are gone, but one thing’s for sure in the rapidly changing local landscape: this is one girl about Peckham who’s not going anywhere. If you would like to be photographed as a Girl About Peckham and are happy to share a little about yourself, contact Natalie on Twitter @FashionBlag. THE PECKHAM PECULIAR / 23


On the run WHEN FOUR RUNNING ENTHUSIASTS GOT CHATTING AT A PARTY, THEY DECIDED TO SET UP A RUNNING CLUB WITH A DIFFERENCE. The result is Runhead, a free weekly running group that combines fitness, friendship and fun WORDS LUKE G WILLIAMS PHOTO ORLANDO GILI

If you’ve been to Nunhead Green or its renowned Beer Shop London on a Tuesday night, you might have noticed a group of friendly, energetic locals dashing past, clad in shorts, running vests and trainers. Runhead AC is a local running group whose popularity has soared in the year since it was formed. Founded by four running-mad locals – Camilla Swain, Anthony Matthews, Gregory Hills and Léonie Hope – Runhead began after the quartet got chatting at a party in 2016. One balmy Tuesday evening before their latest run – across Peckham Rye, up Barry Road and on to Sydenham Woods via Dulwich Park – I sat down with this passionate group to get the lowdown on how Runhead began. “Anthony had a party,” Camilla recalls. “We didn’t all know each other but we’d had a couple of drinks and got chatting about running. We all wanted to be part of a club, but something relaxed and friendly and a bit different to other options we’d come across. “We wanted a social running club – one that wasn’t caught up in tradition and, most importantly, that nobody would have to pay to be a part of. So we decided to form it ourselves.” Gregory adds: “For the first month or so it was just four or five of us running. Then we started posting photos on social media and all of a sudden people started turning up. Within two months we had about 25 people coming along every week.” Every Tuesday three groups run for about 45 minutes. One group runs four miles at 10-minute 24 / THE PECKHAM PECULIAR

mile pace, one runs five miles at nine-minute mile pace and the other runs six miles at eight-minute mile pace. “That way we set off together and all get back to the Beer Shop at roughly the same time,” Gregory explains. “When we get back we have a few beers and chat for an hour or so.” The club’s USP is its social emphasis and that it’s free to join. “The fact it’s free is a big plus,” says Gregory. “In London fitness facilities are expensive – you might pay £10 for a yoga class and if you join most running clubs it’ll cost £40 upfront and another couple of quid per run. We never charge anyone a penny.” Although the club does not have an official membership, there are about 170 members on its Facebook page and their Tuesday evening sessions, which always begin at 7.30pm at the Beer Shop with a pep talk from Anthony, regularly attract 25 to 30 runners a week. “We’ve got a solid core, a group who come every week, so it feels like a real club,” Léonie says. “One of the main reasons I live here is because there is so much green space around – we don’t have to spend much time running on the road.” Anthony adds: “We want to encourage people to see new places. From here we can run to Nunhead Cemetery, Brenchley Gardens, One Tree Hill, Dulwich Park, Brockwell Park, Sydenham Hill, Crystal Palace. It’s about exploring. “There’s so many good runs in this area. We’ve got about 15 routes now that we pick and choose from. Setting those up took a little bit of work at the beginning but we’ve all contributed.

“I’ve lived in the area for about three years now and I feel like I really know it well – the streets, the parks – because I run around, explore and get lost. Running connects you to the local area. “Another great thing about running is that there are no limits in terms of what you can achieve – you can always go further or faster. People can come along and run for fun or run to improve their times and fitness. “We make sure everyone feels comfortable – there’s always someone leading each group, who makes sure everyone is running together and no one gets left behind.” As someone with a lifelong dislike of running – bred by horrific memories of school crosscountry events – Runhead certainly does a good job of convincing me how enjoyable it can be, especially when you’re in the right company and part of a supportive group. “Running is an hour in my day of complete escapism, when in London so many things feel constrained – people are often packed on busy trains or rushing to meet work deadlines,” Camilla says. “The joy of running somewhere in a group and seeing somewhere new is immeasurable. It doesn’t matter whether you’re trying to improve your time or just want to get outside in the fresh air with lovely people.” Léonie concurs: “The attraction of running is the sense of freedom it gives. If you get on the treadmill you have to pay your gym fee and then you stare at a blank wall. There’s nothing better than running outside and discovering new places

you never knew existed.” Charlie De Grussa was one of Runhead’s earliest recruits and also oozes enthusiasm when speaking about what makes the club special. “It’s perfect for people who like running but don’t want to join a ‘serious’ running club,” he explains. “That’s where I was at. I was one of the first people to come along. I’d run for ages, I didn’t want to join another club because they all felt too competitive. This club is accessible and you can be sure you won’t get laughed at.” As well as their regular Tuesday evening runs, Runhead have also branched out into organising other events, including a recent run which took in five local breweries and a planned trip to Amsterdam later this year when 12 members will be running a half-marathon. “There’s a real community feel and as the group has grown it’s been great to see friendships form and grow too,” Camilla says. “People have brought their mates or got to know each other through the group. That’s part of the appeal, everyone is really welcoming and chatty. “It really helps that we’re based at the Beer Shop – they have been amazing at supporting us. They look after our stuff when we go running, make sure there’s water waiting on our return and they’ve put on events for us such as a fundraising quiz. “It’s like having our own clubhouse. People see us in here or outside as they pop in or walk past and they want to know what Runhead is about. It’s very easy for people to get involved – just approach us any time and have a chat.” August/September 2017

Bellenden Therapies Complementary and Alternative Health Are you feeling stuck, unhappy, depressed, anxious or angry? Are you struggling with your relationships or want to make changes in your life but don’t know where to start? Why not talk to one of our Therapists. We offer many different therapies to support you on your journey.


Building Resilience Training

11 years in Peckham

(Anxiety, stress-related issues) Simon Pimenta Dip. Coaching, Hyp, NLP, BIH

Counselling for Parents Sarah Cavaliere PG Dip. MBACP

Hypnotherapy & Life Coaching Caroline Jago Dip. Hyp, LAPHP

Psychotherapy Monica Cabello BA Hons. MUKCP

Psychotherapy & Counselling for Adults and Children Monika McIntosh MA. MUKCP, MBACP Bellenden Therapies will also be taking part in the Peckham Festival on Saturday 16th September. We will be offering free and reduced priced workshops and therapy sessions on the day.

Fore more information, you’ll find us at: 147a Bellenden Road, London SE15 4DH (just above the photocopying shop) 020 7732 1417 BellendenTherapies



Would you help a Southwark child? If you are interested in helping children and young people fulfil their potential we would like to hear from you. Come and talk to us and see what you could do for a Southwark child.

We are looking for: •

Adopters we have a particular need for those who could adopt sibling groups of children. 0300 222 5936

Foster carers long-term, short-term and respite carers are needed. 0800 952 0707

Foster to adopt carers for both babies and older children. 0300 222 5936

Family link carers to provide short breaks for disabled children. 020 7525 5316

Come and find out more about adoption at one of our regular information meetings: Canada Water Library, 21 Surrey Quays Road, SE16 7AR, 11am-1pm. On the following dates: 9 Sept and 11 Nov. Please arrive promptly for an 11am start. We also hold twice weekly drop-in sessions if you just want to come along for a chat.


“The only place I feel 100% comfortable leaving my daughter” LEYF parent

Changing the world one child at a time. To arrange a visit or to find out more, contact our nursery team. Find out more at

INSPIRING BRAVE NURTURING FUN Burgess Park Nursery 183 - 185 Glengall Road London SE15 6RS

Adult Learning Lewisham

020 7834 8679

Nursery Group

of the Year

Day and evening courses

Enrol now for September Classes ten minutes from Grove Park, Lewisham and Honor Oak Park stations.

Adult Learning Lewisham





Once Paul Vagg had decided that the life of a beekeeper was the one for him, he wasn’t going to let his disability get in the way. “My disability is part of who I am, it does not in any way define me,” he says. The Nunhead resident, who is founder of Bee Naturals, began selling jars of his Peckham honey at FC Soper in Nunhead in 2014. This pure, raw honey, with nothing added and nothing taken away, was soon a hit with shoppers. Despite embarking on his venture into beekeeping just four years ago, Paul has already been recognised by the beekeeping community for his honey. He scooped the Best London Honey award following a public taste test at the 2016 London Honey Show. His contribution to beekeeping in the capital has also won him plaudits – he’s the only person to win the show’s London Beekeeper of the Year prize two years in a row. However, his journey into beekeeping and starting up his own business hasn’t been a smooth one. Paul came up against obstacles which, to his credit, have ultimately served to bolster, rather than impede his progress. By his own admission he is, and always has been, the wrong person to be told that he can’t achieve something. “My passion for beekeeping came about when I applied for a course and was told I couldn’t be a beekeeper due to my disabilities,” says Paul, who had to take early retirement due to mobility and hearing issues. He made sure he proved himself more than capable, securing a place on a beekeeping course and later standing as a valued member of the London Beekeepers Association committee. “Frankly, now you can’t stop me talking about bees or beekeeping,” he laughs. Sitting in Paul’s small back garden in Nunhead on a warm summer’s morning, I can hear the soft humming of bees and the birds overhead. It’s easy to imagine myself on the edge of a wildflower meadow surrounded by fields, but honey bees can be just as much city dwellers as we are. Where there are flowers there is nectar, and where there is nectar bees can make honey. And here is where it all began, with four hives tucked away in a gated corner of Paul’s green and flowering garden. Bees fly in and out of the hives, heading up and away in search of nectar. It all sounds simple when Paul, with his relaxed, matter-of-fact manner, explains the honey’s journey from hive to jar. “The honey is harvested from the hives and the frames placed into an extractor [about the size of a washing machine] which spins around,” he says. “The centrifugal force extracts the honey from the combs. The honey drains down through three filters and is ready to go into a honey bucket [a big plastic container with a lid and a valve tap]”. Yet the ease with which he describes the process belies the volume of routine work and technical knowledge required to be a beekeeper. Paul spent a year studying for his Bee Basics qualification (the minimum requirement for any beekeeper to obtain the necessary public liability insurance), which culminated in a practical exam with the British Beekeepers Association. Just a couple of years later, Paul is now coaching novice beekeepers. As mentor to two August/September 2017

apprentices each year, he shares his beekeeping skills and, in return, they help out with the manual labour involved with beekeeping, which he struggles to manage alone. With hives on Queen’s Road, the Old Kent Road, in Camberwell and in Dulwich, his students are never short of learning opportunities. And this is just one aspect of the strong community angle to Bee Naturals – the part of his work which Paul enjoys the most. His visits to residential care homes and schools to talk about beekeeping and teach practical skills are as enriching for him as they are for his pupils. Bee Naturals’ latest project will see a patch of overgrown wasteland next to Nunhead Station transformed into a vibrant pollinators’ haven. With the help of volunteers and donations of plants and money from individuals and organisations, Paul aims to transform the space into an urban garden perfect for all types of bees

and butterflies to forage all year round. The flavour of honey changes with the flow of the seasons as flowers come and go, and so the nectar collected by the bees evolves throughout the year. Paul’s favourite is spring honey because there are “so many different variations and subtle flavours. Fruits like apple, plum, strawberry and grape all contribute to delicious spring honey.” It’s the flavour of winter honey that is the most controversial and can be quite an acquired taste. “It’s kind of like Marmite – you either love it or you hate it”, says Paul. This is all down to ivy – often considered the gardener’s foe – which is vital for honey bees in search of food during the autumn. Research by the University of Sussex has shown that bee-foraging distances decrease in the autumn and, with ivy blooming mainly around that time, this suggests that the plant, which grows well in urban areas, is important for bees. Whether we enjoy the resulting honey or not,

it is good news for the bees as this high-quality supply of nectar improves their chances of making it through the winter. It’s not all about the honey though. Bee Naturals is making the most of the wax from its hives, producing 100 per cent natural beeswax products. Its polish is made from the beeswax which is left after the honey has been extracted and is a recipe that took them two years to perfect. This work ethic and desire to keep building on the skills he has already acquired saw Paul launch a range of SLS and paraben-free organic soaps and cosmetics, as well as scented candles, in July this year. The result? Yet more positive buzz for this inspiring Nunhead company. Bee Naturals’ SE15 stockists include FC Soper, Puzzle Organico, Rosie’s, Persepolis and AG Flowers. THE PECKHAM PECULIAR / 27


August/September 2017

ANSWERS 1 Faith Chapel, Bellenden Road 2 Prince of Peckham, Clayton Road 3 Peckham Rye Station 4 Bellenden Road 5 The almshouses, Nunhead Green 6 Café G, The Gardens 7 Goldsmith Road 8 Marmont Road 9 Asylum Road 10 Commercial Way 11 Choumert Road 12 The Bussey Building






12 9






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How do you use water, energy and food in your home? We are offering up to ÂŁ100 in supermarket vouchers for households to participate in University research on Water, Energy and Food in their homes. The research would involve daily activities of around 5 minutes (e.g. meter readings and collection of food receipts), and a weekly activity for around 20-30 minutes (e.g. a diary reflection). The research would also involve three estimated 60 minute interviews at the beginning, the middle and the end of the project. If you are interested in participating, or have any questions, then do please get in touch. Nicola Green 07976 791 345

SAT 26TH AUGUST / SUN 27TH AUGUST Gosnells Brewery - Unit 2, Print Village, Chadwick Road, Peckham, SE15 4PU To celebrate South East London’s great breweries we are gathering a few of our favourites for a celebration. Each brewery will be brewing and ageing a beer in an oak barrel to create five unique brews especially for the first South London Barrel Festival. For tickets and more details go to: For updates follow the breweries on social media #SELondonBarrel17



Caribbean cooking RIAZ PHILLIPS HAS SPENT TWO YEARS DOCUMENTING THE UK’S CARIBBEAN FOOD SHOPS AND THE PEOPLE WHO RUN THEM. Now he’s written and photographed a fascinating book on the subject, which includes several Peckham institutions WORDS HELEN GRAVES PHOTOS RIAZ PHILLIPS

Riaz Phillips is an inspiring man. The 27-year-old Peckham resident spent two years travelling up and down the country, recording the lives and history of the UK’s Caribbean community and the food they produce. He then self-published the work as a book, managing everything from decisions about the paper type and font right through to sales and promotion. Doing that and more importantly, doing it well, is no mean feat. The impressive tome, titled Belly Full: Caribbean food in the UK, features the stories of nearly 70 of the UK’s Caribbean food producers told through words and photos. So, what motivated him to make it? “Food was always something that was a big deal,” Riaz says. “On the weekends we’d have big parties like christenings, weddings, even funerals, and there was always a lot of excitement when there was a big cook going on. “All my family are from the Caribbean so I’ve spent a lot of time there over the years. Then I realised that with my older family, I didn’t know too much about them and their journey, where August/September 2017

the food came from, why it was so amazing and why it was important to them. “This is some of my favourite food in the world so I’d always be going round trying all the different places in Hackney, where I’m from. Then my friends were like, ‘You should take some pictures’, so I started putting them on a Tumblr blog.” Riaz quickly became aware that his project was starting to snowball. “As I started talking to people I realised it was a lot deeper and there was so much more meaning to it than I originally thought, so I tried to come at it from a proper angle. “People had so much to say so I started writing it down. Then one day my friends did a movie on Kickstarter and I was like, ‘What’s Kickstarter?’ I had a look and saw what people were doing and thought, ‘I can do that.’” Riaz quickly began to uncover a network of Caribbean people all around the UK. “Once I explained what I was doing, people were just happy to help someone who wanted to promote their culture and promote the food.”

He didn’t find it easy to communicate his idea straightaway, however. “I printed out pictures on A4 paper at the library and took that to some of the places, because a lot of them had no idea what I was talking about when I said I wanted to make this thing. “I just went around with these A4 print-outs and got the ball rolling. For example I met JB’s [Soulfood] in Peckham and they said they get their meat from Dennis’ Butchers on Peckham High Street. Then Dennis knew somebody else and they told me to go somewhere else…’” One of the biggest challenges Riaz faced when producing the book was arranging times to visit people, particularly without the weight of a publishing house behind him. “Food people are really busy – especially Caribbean food people! So trying to nail them down was really hard. “There was a long period in the middle of the process where I hit a plateau and it took ages to get anything done. When you’re self-published it takes ages to get a response from people.” Riaz has visited dozens of places across London, but there’s a common theme throughout

– and it’s that most of these businesses started out in someone’s home, simply cooking up some food and selling it to the public. “A lot of people started off in their own houses and that really surprised me, how so many people started off in their living rooms, garages, kitchens, as a small family unit,” he says. “This is in the 1960s when the only way you could get this food was through shipping, which took months, so a lot of the food was bad by the time it came over. Alternatively you could try and recreate it with what you could find. A lot of the early places were bakeries because all you needed was flour and water. “People like Horizon Foods in north London who do Trinidadian roti, and early bakeries like Old Trafford Bakery in Manchester, it’s 50 years later and they’re still going strong – that’s how much they mean to the community. “People sometimes just see them as takeaways but when you go in and spend some time as a fly on the wall, they’ll talk about someone they haven’t seen in ages or about something that’s happening in Jamaica or Trinidad. It’s a really THE PECKHAM PECULIAR / 31


fun environment and it’s a shame when those places end up not being around or if it doesn’t get documented.” He also learned a lot about Caribbean food along the way, of course. “Caribbean food has so many different influences, like Asian, European, American… I tried to show the breadth of Caribbean food, it’s not just chicken and rice and peas. “The umbrella of Caribbean food is quite contentious for some people because you’ve got Cuba and Jamaica up there and then Trinidad to the east, and the distance between those two places is like the difference between England and Estonia. So it’s like assuming that English and Estonian food is the same, you know. “In the UK they assume a collective identity so Trinidadian places will do jerk. It’s like talking about a country within Africa though, like with Ghanaian food – that’s a big place and for many people within it their tribal identity is more important than the country itself. It’s complicated.” He emphasises however that Belly Full was about much more than the food. “The food was usually the last thing we were talking about,” he says. “We talked about social places in the community. Food is important but music is a huge deal and they go hand in hand. The record shop is where they all hang out. So my next project is about the record shops.” Hearing so many family stories caused Riaz to draw parallels with his own family, and in particular his grandmother. “All of the stories resonated with me in some way because a few years ago my grandma passed away. “She came over from Jamaica and I never asked her too many questions; it’s your grandma and you just chat about TV, like Countdown or something. So it was hearing stories that were parallel to hers that I found really fascinating. “Jamaican Ways in Nottingham [the longest running Caribbean restaurant in the city], he had a similar story – he was from the countryside, the northern countryside of Jamaica where my family live. Even though it’s really beautiful, 32 / THE PECKHAM PECULIAR

people are still living in shacks in the village. “Hearing about him coming over here and setting up and growing from one unit to becoming the largest in the town… it’s this opportunity that food gives people. “I’m just fascinated by it now, and it’s not just Caribbean food but African food and food in general. You can move to somewhere thousands of miles away, maybe not even speak the same language but if you can do this food, you can build a life for yourself and other people from that community will gravitate towards you as well.” Riaz’s enthusiasm is infectious and his dedication to publishing the work admirable. He also seems constantly amazed that he’s pulled it off. “I mean, I did this off the back of 900 followers on Instagram,” he says. “Younger people know how to do this because they grew up with social media. They know the places to be and the markets to be at, what’s trendy, how to serve things. I’m not the most confident or even egotistical person but as soon as I saw that someone else had [crowdfunded] I was like, ‘Yeah maybe I can do that.’ “I thought Black History Month would be a good time to do it because really crudely, unfortunately that’s a time when interest is a bit higher. At first it was friends and family donating but then after a few weeks I started not recognising the names of the donations. “We live in a time where anyone can do anything and because these places are so much more than just the food it’s a shame that they’re closing and I needed to record them. I don’t go blaming gentrification or claiming this or that because it’s just the passing of time. I just wanted to make sure it lives on in some format. “There’s so few places left and when you visit them there’s this buzz you get you know? It’s a shame when that gets wiped out. Where do these people go when these places don’t exist anymore?” Belly Full: Caribbean food in the UK by Riaz Phillips is published by Tezeta Press and costs £23. It’s available to buy now from August/September 2017



When Babs Odeneye’s mum went to a property auction “for research” six years ago, she set in motion a chain of events that led to Peckham’s latest community focused gastro spot. Sitting in the light, airy space of Meet District on Queen’s Road, Lewisham-born Babs laughs when he recalls how he went from working as a facilities sales manager to a property developer and restaurateur in what seemed like a blink of an eye. “My mum wanted to make an investment for the family, so she said she was going to a property auction for research. She called me from the place and I could hear her bidding in the background. I was like, ‘Mum, what are you doing?!’” Mrs Odeneye ended up winning the auction and immediately handed the reins over to Babs. He quickly spotted the opportunity to develop what had been a Costcutter shop with a twobed flat above into a larger property with a new commercial unit below. But when he suggested knocking the whole thing down and rebuilding, his mother had other ideas. “My mum, being an old African lady, was like, ‘Why do you want to knock down a perfectly good building?’ But she got over the shock and

let me get on with it.” Five years down the line and he’s made his mother proud. The restaurant is another welcome addition to Queen’s Road, with a tasty

menu including steaks, burgers, salads and sides. The clientele, says Babs, is very mixed, which is just how he likes it. Meet District attracts a whole range of

customers, from people who’ve just moved to the area to local church groups coming in for the popular bottomless brunch at the weekend. “The plan was to create a space with something for everyone,” says Babs. When I ask him his favourite thing about running a restaurant in Peckham, top of his list are the people who he’s happy to call his regulars. “Everyone’s been so welcoming,” he says. “It’s such a diverse mix, but everyone’s friendly and everyone’s eager for us to succeed. “In the early days, when we got things wrong in the restaurant, rather than people posting negative things on Facebook or TripAdvisor, they’d actually reach out to me personally and give me feedback. “They’d say, ‘Look, we were in the restaurant, it has a great atmosphere, we want it to work, but this is our feedback.’ People took the time to get in contact and to do it privately. And that shows the community at work.” So what next, world domination and a Meet District on every street corner? “Right now I’m taking every day as it comes and making sure we can just continue doing what we’re doing,” says Babs. No doubt his regulars – and his mum – will be pleased to hear that.

Grandma’s Georgian stew MAKO ABASHIDZE GREW UP IN GEORGIA AND HAS LIVED IN PECKHAM SINCE 1998. Here she shares her grandmother’s recipe for chakapuli – a Georgian lamb stew

In Georgia most families eat home-cooked dinners. As a little girl I used to assist my grandmother in slow-cooking from scratch. All the ingredients were fragrant and colourful and bought from the local market. I remember her stories, our discussions. It was a very special experience. I relocated to London in the early 1990s and like to say that I am British with Georgian roots. London is my home now; I have spent most of my adult life here and could not imagine living anywhere else. I am a founder and director of the BritishGeorgian Chamber of Commerce – a nongovernment organisation that promotes trade and commerce between our countries. As part of our activities we launched the Georgian food, wine and cultural festival Taste Georgia. When I moved to Peckham in 1998 with my two young sons, all my friends in west London were worried about me, saying how rough and dangerous it was. But I immediately fell in love with the area and its diversity. The dish I have shared here is a traditional Georgian lamb stew called chakapuli. It’s normally prepared in spring/summer when the herbs are most fragrant and the small sour plums are in season. Of course, every family in Georgia has their own special recipe for chakapuli. This one is from my grandmother and is tried and tested


INGREDIENTS 1 kg lamb breast diced 150ml white wine 6 bunches of tarragon 4 bunches of coriander 100g watercress 1 bunch of parsley Several stems of dill and mint 1 green fresh chilli pepper (try to find one that’s not very hot) 4 bunches of leeks 500g fresh sour plums Salt and pepper

in Georgia and the UK. The dish is delicious and fresh and can be served with couscous or brown wild rice. The only tricky ingredient in the recipe is the sour plum. You can use any sort of plum, but preferably not the type that are sweet to taste. I have seen different varieties of small, round, sour plums in Peckham grocery stalls – Persian and Turkish stalls especially. METHOD TRY TO USE A PAN WITH A THICK BOTTOM (preferably a cast iron stew pot). Cut the lamb into small square pieces.

PLACE THE LAMB IN LAYERS into the cooking pot, covering each layer with chopped greens and leek as well as sprinkling it with salt and pepper. Leave some of the greens to cover the top layer. POUR THE WINE INTO THE PAN and lower the flame the moment it starts boiling. After the meat is half done, add the sour plums.

WHEN THE DISH IS ALMOST COOKED, “chop” all of it lightly with a wooden spoon and keep it boiling on a low flame for a few more minutes. THE SECRET OF THE SUCCESSFUL chakapuli is to cook it on a low heat, slowly, and to keep all the herbs fragrant. You'll know the dish is ready when the meat is soft and tender. ENJOY!

August/September 2017

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