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Issue 25 February/March 2018
The extraordinary life of Vi Marriott Page 10
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DEAR READER, WELCOME TO ISSUE 25 OF THE PECKHAM PECULIAR, A FREE LOCAL NEWSPAPER FOR PECKHAM AND NUNHEAD. This edition marks four years since the first issue of The Peckham Peculiar was printed back in January 2014. We hope you’ve enjoyed reading the hundreds of interviews with the people of Peckham and Nunhead that we’ve published along the way. When we launched the paper, one of our aims was to shine a spotlight on the interesting and diverse people who live and work in SE15, whose stories might otherwise never have been told. Not long afterwards, we met Vi Marriott. A Peckham resident since 1965, she was a legend of the theatre world, who lived
a truly remarkable life. She worked at the Old Vic alongside Laurence Olivier and was instrumental in setting up the Young Vic. By the time we interviewed her for our third issue at her tiny Choumert Square cottage, over a glass or three of her favourite “pink plonk”, she was well into her 90s – but sharp as a tack with a wicked sense of humour. Vi, who saw her favourite play Hamlet 42 times (including once in Greek), could quote from her beloved Shakespeare and TS Eliot at length and was immensely knowledgeable about a mindboggling array of subjects. She sadly passed away in December last
year at the grand old age of 97, and will be greatly missed by all who knew her. As her friend and neighbour Rebecca Wilmshurst said: “Borrowing from the Bard, ‘We shall not look upon her like again.’” Turn to page 10 to read our tribute. This issue features a special section on Walworth, with a photo essay of the street and a profile on the legendary tailor George Dyer. Following our interview with George, we were emailed by a woman who had contacted him about a dressmaking project she was setting up. “I will never forget the generosity of spirit this man conveyed,” she told us.
“[Or] his selflessness in giving his time and expertise to someone he’d never met. I think he’s a star and as you are featuring him this week, I just thought I’d like to write to tell you the kind of guy he is.” Read our interview with George on page 15. The next issue of The Peckham Peculiar will be the April/May edition, which is published in early April. If you have a story you’d like to share with us or are interested in advertising, please email email@example.com. We hope you enjoy the issue! Mark McGinlay and Kate White
Residents say no to 20-storey tower Thousands of people have signed a petition calling on Southwark Council to block any future proposals to build a “luxury” 20-storey tower on Rye Lane. Community action group Peckham Citizens began the online petition, which had attracted almost 4,200 signatures by the time this issue went to press. It calls for 35-50 per cent “genuinely affordable homes” on the landmark site and a building of no more than nine storeys tall. It came as Southwark Council earmarked the Aylesham Centre site for a 20-storey tower in the final draft of its New Southwark Plan. Private company Tiger Developments, which owns the land, also began a public consultation on the future of the centre last year. Local resident Joan Brown said: “I moved to Peckham with my mum in 1972, when I was eight years old. We lived on the now-demolished Wood Dene Estate. Peckham is where I raised my family, it’s where I brought up my children. It’s my home. “My daughter has recently moved to Bradford, where she doesn’t know anyone. I have to make a 10-hour round trip by coach to see her and my grandchildren. The council told her she had to move out of her home here, and move up there. “The cost of housing round here means she couldn’t afford to move out into private accommodation. Peckham needs real affordable homes for local people, not a luxury tower where apartments will be sold for over £1 million.” Local campaigner Winifred Obese-Bempong said: “I’ve lived in Peckham for years, and recently started working with local people who have fallen into debt. Many of them are having to choose between getting into debt to pay the costs of their homes, or leaving the area for good. “We want to see genuinely and permanently affordable homes built in this area. We are not against new homes – we know that local people are in desperate need of affordable housing and have been campaigning for it for years. What we don’t want are luxury flats.” Peckham Citizens said that a tower is “entirely wrong” for Peckham town centre, where almost
all buildings are low or medium height. They are also concerned that overpriced flats could “tower over the people of Peckham” and make the streets below dark and windy. They said that such a tower would become a “symbol of the area’s gentrification and harm social integration”; that views such as those from Frank’s Café and the Bussey Building would be ruined; and that the Jones & Higgins clock tower – a local landmark – would be dwarfed. They also said that given the tragedy at Grenfell last year and at Lakanal House in 2009, the vast majority of the 1,000 local people they spoke to about the development are not in favour of another tall building being built in the area. Asked to comment on these concerns, a spokesman for the developer said: “Tiger Developments Ltd are currently reviewing their proposals for the redevelopment of the Aylesham Centre following consultation workshops and
exhibition events held during 2017. “Moving forward, Tiger will continue to listen to and work with local residents, stakeholder groups and the council as they look to formulate future proposals for the site and work towards delivering community benefits such as 35 per cent affordable homes on-site. “Tiger hope to be in a position to consult local communities again later in the year and to present updated proposals for the site.” Councillor Mark Williams, cabinet member for regeneration and new homes, said: “The New Southwark Plan (NSP) is a great opportunity for us to map out potential future development in Peckham that will enhance and build on Peckham’s reputation as a creative, vibrant heart of the borough while delivering much-needed new homes, including affordable homes, jobs and opportunities for local businesses. “As well as consulting on the NSP, much of
the development in Peckham is based on the Peckham and Nunhead Area Action Plan, which was also consulted on for many years and has been approved. “The council will look at any development individually and will want to know what local people think whenever those plans are consulted on. “On this site taller buildings may be needed to deliver new homes while increasing the amount of public space at ground level and delivering a range of shops and better connections to Peckham. “We will be looking to ensure that any taller elements are located in suitable areas of the site to protect views from popular points like the Bussey Building – this change has already been made in planning policy.” To view the petition, go to tiny.cc/towerpetition
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Save our space A local residents’ group is calling for community space to be provided in a new council office building that is proposed for Queen’s Road. Southwark Council is planning to demolish the Queen’s Road Day Centre at 133-137 Queen’s Road and build a new office block for council staff in its place. A council spokesman told The Peckham Peculiar previously that the current building, which was constructed in the 1970s, would require “significant investment” to bring it up to modern-day standards – and said that thanks to “huge pressure” on council budgets, the cost is one it “can’t justify”. But the nearby Astbury Road Area Residents’ Association (ARARA), which has held its regular monthly meetings at the centre for many years, has warned that it will have nowhere to go if a community room is not included in the plans. The Camden Society, a charity that offers support to 160 adults with mental health needs, learning and physical disabilities, was also asked to vacate the building after 10 years there, and left the day centre at the end of last month. A spokesman for the Society said that in the run-up to January 31, the charity has moved as many of its clients as possible to its other base – the Riverside Day Centre in Bermondsey – and will offer community-based activities for those who are unable to travel. But local resident and ARARA member Caroline Platt said: “Why can’t the council develop the site but keep the ground floor for easy access for the Camden Society during the day and community groups at all other times? The council offices could be on the first and second floor above.
“It seems like a waste of space to have the building on this site empty outside office hours when it could be used for the benefit of the community it serves. “ARARA needs a room available to continue with our community-strengthening meetings. Our association seeks to unify residents and combat criminal activity in our area. “To these ends, we arrange inclusive social activities, such as quizzes, tea parties, street parties, football tournaments, arts and crafts workshops, fun days, coach trips, Peckham history walks and an ARARA bake-off and junior bake-off competition. “Community groups such as ours build and strengthen community spirit; promote and nurture social cohesion and actively tackle loneliness and isolation. “They motivate local residents to improve our environment and encourage them to support and endorse local businesses, inspiring the revitalisation of Queen’s Road and increasing general safety in our area. Community groups need council-funded provision to continue their invaluable work.” But asked if Southwark Council would consider providing a community meeting room in the new building, Fiona Colley, cabinet member for finance, modernisation and performance, said: “We recognise that our plans for a new office on Queen’s Road will have an impact on the ARARA, and we are working with them to help them find a suitable alternative space in the local area to hold their meetings.” Pictured: members of ARARA on Astbury Road.
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Rye Lane residents left in the dark Residents from Cooperative House on Rye Lane have branded the local planning process a “pantomime”, after Southwark Council green-lit a new development of ﬂats which they say will block light to their homes. Londonnewcastle won planning permission at the end of last year to build 29 ﬂats on a derelict strip of land next to Cooperative House at the southern end of Rye Lane. It has stood empty for more than a decade after suﬀering ﬁre damage. The scheme comprises three buildings ranging from two to six storeys, with commercial space that could be used as an oﬀice, shop or co-working hub. Of the 29 ﬂats, nine will be “intermediate aﬀordable” and none will be social rented. Cooperative House resident Rebecca Fisher said: “Although we are all for development of the empty land, these plans will block out light to our ﬂats, gardens and balconies. We will lose sky and space and will be left feeling closed in and claustrophobic. “The developers’ lighting report says that because our building has balconies, they limit light into our ﬂats and therefore, the light that their planned ﬂats will block will have minimal eﬀect. “This has been worked out on a computer programme and the ﬁndings simply do not match what we experience day to day. We have large ﬂoor to ceiling windows with a wonderful amount of light coming in.” Michelle Delgado, who also lives in the block, criticised the planning process, which she said is “stacked in favour of the developer and the council”. She added: “I just thought the whole thing was a pantomime and a complete waste of eﬀort on our part.”
She said that residents were given just three minutes to sum up their concerns at the planning meeting and said: “There is no point in the council asking us to get involved when they take absolutely no notice of our concerns.” However, a spokesman for Londonnewcastle said the developer was “delighted” by the council’s decision, adding: “The scheme not only provides 29 homes but includes much-needed employment space which will support local jobs and local businesses.
“The development will bring in investment to a currently neglected site and regenerate the street frontage. The site has been largely derelict for a number of years and is ideal for development as it is a brownﬁeld site. “Londonewcastle worked extensively with the council amending the application following residents’ comments to improve the scheme. Key changes have included amendments to the design, scale, massing and aﬀordable housing provision.”
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Responding to residents’ concerns about the planning process, a spokesman for Southwark Council said: “The planning committee will have received any objections in full before they are heard at the meeting, and if they do not understand any points, or would like the objectors to expand on a point, they will ask. “Any decision is made taking into account all concerns and objections but in this case the committee felt that there was no basis in planning to refuse the application.”
Empowering others A charity that aims to empower girls and young women is holding a festival at Peckham Levels this month. BelEve was founded by sisters Marsha and Chyloe Powell in 2012 following the sudden death of their mother. To honour her legacy, they decided to set up an organisation that equips girls with the right support, skills and confidence to make informed choices about their future and realise their dreams, with the help of positive role models. It aims to help the youngsters build selfawareness, self-esteem and relationship skills and develop social and emotional intelligence. After finally securing its charity status, BelEve, which works with many schools and colleges in south London, is holding the Peckham event to spread the word about what it does and to raise funds. Hosted by 1Xtra DJ Melody Kane, the event will have a “festival feel”, with an array of stalls along with free workshops, manicures, makeup sessions and science experiments. A raffle will feature prizes including tickets to London Fashion Week. X Factor 2017 contestant Rae-Elle is set to perform and there will be talks from inspiring women including film director Sophia Olins and businesswoman Anne Timpany, founder of On Tap Plumbers. Join BelEve on February 15, 4-8pm (doors open from 3pm) at Peckham Levels. Tickets are available from beleveuk.org or on the door, and all proceeds go to the charity.
A night at the opera A new opera coming to Peckham in March takes two familiar fairytales and gives them a very dark twist. Goldilocks and the Three Little Pigs is the second production by The Opera Story, a musical charity that works with talented young musicians and composers to create exciting contemporary opera. It also aims to attract new audiences to the genre. The new opera is a mash-up of Goldilocks and The Three Bears and The Three Little Pigs. It combines the two tales to create a new, macabre version that is “extremely dark, bloody and gory”, according to The Opera Story co-founder and artistic director Hamish Mackay. “Goldilocks’ experiences through the opera switch between Goldilocks and the wolf [from The Three Little Pigs],” he said. “At the start she has both of these characters inside her, and then, because of what happens to her, she completely turns into the wolf by the end. “It’s very much based on food, because in the tale of Goldilocks she’s looking for food and shelter. She comes across this house and meets the three bear-pigs and how they react to her is very interesting.” The contemporary production will feature “minimal” scenery, with one giant piece of set
that will cover most of the stage. The costumes will combine elements of bears, pigs and humans. Goldilocks is the second opera from the charity, which wowed audiences at the Bussey Building last year with its inaugural production, Snow – which told the story of Snow White but from a fresher, darker perspective. Asked why they have chosen to focus on fairytales for the first two productions, Hamish said: “Fairytales are amazing – they’re still relevant today and they always will be, because they comment on human nature.” He said the performance is “not opera as most people know it”, adding: “Most people think about opera as being a very loud and impressive noise but something where they might not be able to understand the words, or view as unrelatable in today’s society. “But this opera is in English, the text is at the forefront of how it’s been written and the music is much more cinematic than you’d expect an opera to be. People will very much be able to relate to what they are hearing.” Goldilocks and The Three Little Pigs will be performed at Copeland Gallery on February 26 and 28, March 2-3, 6 and 8. To book, go to theoperastory.com/tickets
Children from a Peckham primary are looking forward to moving into their “lifechanging” new school this month. Kids from Bellenden Primary School on Reedham Street are set to relocate into a state-of-the-art, £10 million building on Dewar Street on February 19. The site was previously occupied by Wilkinson House, a 62-bedroom residential home for the elderly that was operated by Cherry Croft Care Home. It sold the lease back to Southwark Council, which owns the freehold, in 2013. Bellenden Primary School said its Reedham Street site is no longer fit for purpose and that the new school will allow it to expand on specialist areas such as its “superb” music and sports provision. It will have a standalone library to help children develop a love of reading, an “amazing” playground plus rooftop play areas and a music room. The school said it plans to become a “hub” for local people, offering space for various community groups. Headteacher Gregory Doey said: “It is no exaggeration to say that the new school building and site will offer life-changing opportunities for many members of our community and especially for the children who attend our school. “We are very proud of the relationship that we have with our community and the new school will help to maintain this. All communities deserve the very best and I am beyond thrilled that Bellenden will have the very best.” Southwark Council is planning to build up to 25 homes of mixed tenure on the Reedham Street site.
Take a bough A local resident has criticised Southwark Council over plans to cut down four “magnificent” plane trees in Camberwell. The impressive boughs are located outside Denmark Hill Station and are thought to date back to Victorian times. But last month notices appeared on the trees stating that the council is planning to chop them down in February. Francesca Ryan, who lives in Peckham, said: “All over London, trees planted in the Victorian era are being taken out and replaced by weedy street trees that don’t offer the same canopy or wildlife haven. “This is one of the most polluted parts of Camberwell, and these large street trees not only 6 / THE PECKHAM PECULIAR
create a much greener environment, they also absorb so much more carbon dioxide than the smaller street trees the council will choose to replace them with. “So many [trees] have been cut down in Holly Grove too – how long will it take them before they get to Camberwell Grove and Grove Lane? Those huge plane trees add such character to the area, and are pretty irreplaceable.” But councillor Barrie Hargrove, Southwark’s cabinet member for communities, safety and leisure, defended the decision. “Trees are a vital element of our parks and streets and the council doesn’t remove any of them lightly,” he said.
“Sadly in this case the trees have very poor and declining health and this creates a risk of, for example, dead branches falling onto passersby. “We looked at every option, including keeping the trees where they are, but taking them down and replacing them with new trees with full canopies that will continue to grow and bring benefits year on year, was the best solution.” Asked why there was no public consultation into the plans, a spokesperson said that the council does not consult on day-to-day maintenance of its tree stock, especially when dealing with safety issues. She said that it did provide a long notice period to ensure residents were aware of the situation. february/march 2018
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Peckham painter’s work to be made into a book A local resident is launching a book of her late husband’s art. Jaqui Benjamins met her husband Paul while they were both studying at Camberwell School of Arts and Crafts (now Camberwell College of Arts) in the early 1970s. He then attended the Royal College of Art to do an MA. The couple were able to buy a large Victorian house in the days when property in Peckham was relatively aﬀordable. Paul, a renowned ﬁne artist, used the entire ground ﬂoor as his workspace, while Jaqui, a textile designer, had a studio in the basement. They married in 1976 at Camberwell registry oﬀice and had two children: Dan, who owns The Habit restaurants in Nunhead and at the South London Gallery, and Rebecca, a deputy head teacher at Bessemer Grange Primary School in Dulwich. Speaking of Paul’s work, Jaqui, who also has three young grandchildren, said: “Paul painted abstract landscapes. I think he’d call them ‘lyrical landscapes’. Towards the end of his life he said he was trying to paint like Turner.” Tragically Paul was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer in 2014 and passed away the following year aged 65. During the last 14 months of his life he kept a visual diary, ﬁlling a series of large, almost A2-sized sketchbooks with about 220 drawings. “It was almost daily to begin with,” Jaqui said, “and I kept buying him sketchbooks. It was very much about noting what he did each day, how he felt, what was happening. I think it was very helpful to him.
“Paul was always incredibly forward looking and really optimistic; he loved people. The drawings are about meeting friends, going for a drink and going to the match – he was a fanatical Chelsea fan.” Jaqui is having the book printed with ﬁne art publisher the Hurtwood Press. She will then sell copies of the book to recoup her costs and will donate all proﬁts to St Christopher’s Hospice, which looked after Paul during his illness. “I think they [the sketches] are fascinating and not that many people have seen them,” she said. “Paul was quite keen to publish things and
Spotlight on LGBT history A free exhibition on the history of LGBTQ+ people and communities is coming to Peckham during LGBT History Month. QueerStory will delve into the Southwark Archives to uncover a world of queer culture and forgotten histories, such as female husband James Allen, who was born a woman but spent his life living as a man with his wife in Bermondsey. Also on display will be 1930s photographs by Southwark man Ralph Hall, which depict a life of domestic happiness with his lover Monty, along with the love letters they wrote when Ralph was posted oﬀ to war. Other photos will show the glorious pub drag culture of the 1960s, the emergence of the gay disco scene pioneered by DJ Tricky Dicky in 70s Camberwell and the saucy drag shows and boozy dancing at the Ship & Whale. Moving into the 1980s, the exhibition will look at the work of forgotten local groups like the Southwark Sappho Sisters, Peckham Black Women’s Centre Lesbians, Gay Men In
Southwark and the Black Gay & Lesbian Centre. It will show how Southwark’s LGBTQ+ community confronted key issues of the time, campaigning against Section 28 and ﬁghting for rights that were ﬁnally realised in the 1990s and 2000s. Councillor Johnson Situ, cabinet member for business, culture and social regeneration, said: “This is a wonderful opportunity for people to learn about, and celebrate, the long and important history of the LGBTQ+ communities in Southwark and the impact they had on the national stage, paving the way for LGBT equality.” The exhibition is curated by Southwark Council heritage oﬀicer Chris Scales, with production assistance from local musician Rina Mushonga. It is supported by the Southwark LGBT Network. QueerStory is on display at Peckham Levels from February 15-28, 10am-11pm. Pictured: Pride 1984, © Pam Isherwood.
we talked about publishing them. Friends who have seen them thought they were just beautiful drawings.” All Peckham Peculiar readers are welcome to attend the book launch on March 18, 2-4pm at M2
gallery, 2c King’s Grove. About six drawings will then go on show at the gallery (by appointment only) until April 22. Paul’s work will also be on display during Dulwich Open House on the weekend of May 12-13 – pick up a programme in local shops for details.
Let us play Plans to build “one of the best play areas in Southwark” in Peckham Rye Park have been delayed after asbestos was discovered in the ground, writes Kate Graham-Shaw. The scheme is part of a Southwark Council initiative to revitalise the park and was granted planning permission in January last year. It will feature a playground, changing rooms and activity centre built by Neilcott Construction Group. The play area design was inspired by the Tumbling Bay Playground in the Olympic Park and will include a “water play zone” full of “pumps, streams and damns” throughout the summer months, as well as a climbing frame with tunnel slides and swings. The council said the main development visions for the project are “to design and build one of the best play areas in Southwark” and “to create a ﬂexible and sustainable children’s playroom”, among others. However, the scheme has now been delayed
due to asbestos found in the ground of the former car park site. It allegedly came from the old prisoner of war buildings that used to stand on the spot where the café is now located. The asbestos is said to be low grade, not airborne and concentrated to one area. The council said it is unlikely to discover traces of the potentially dangerous material in other areas of the park and that the new play area is now set to open in June this year. Councillor Barrie Hargrove, cabinet member for communities, leisure and safety, said: “Aside from an unavoidable delay, due to the discovery and professional removal of asbestos in the new play area, works have progressed like clockwork.” Work is also set to begin on Leyton Square playground in north Peckham this spring, which has been closed for several years due to “safety fears”. A council spokesman said Southwark is “committed to providing a top-quality play area in every local area”.
THE PECKHAM PECULIAR / 9
All the world was her stage VI MARRIOTT WAS A LEGEND OF THE THEATRE WORLD, WHOSE LONG AND DISTINGUISHED CAREER INCLUDED HELPING TO SET UP THE YOUNG VIC. Here, friends share their memories of the extraordinary Peckham resident, who passed away in December last year aged 97 WORDS KATE WHITE PHOTOS LIMA CHARLIE
Vi Marriott was born in Hackney in 1920. On a school trip to see John Gielgud in Richard of Bordeaux, she became enthralled by the world of theatre, and decided that she would work in the industry one day. However, her dreams of becoming an actress were dashed by her father, an East End boy who had worked his way up in a City firm and was determined for his two daughters to get “proper jobs”. Vi duly went to commercial school to learn typing and bookkeeping, before joining a typing pool at a firm on Oxford Street. She endured the tedium by spending most of her wages watching West End shows. During the war she was drafted in to work for Frank Whittle, inventor of the jet engine, and after peace was declared in 1945, she decided to follow her heart and wrote to dozens of theatres looking for work. She was invited to interview for the role of administrator at the Old Vic, and landed the job – which she described as “the holy grail” – after informing the interviewer that she had seen John Burrell’s production of Henry IV “about 30 times”. During her time at the theatre she worked with stage greats such as Laurence Olivier, whom she described as “madly attractive” and “ravishingly handsome”. Gielgud, however, remained her favourite thesp. “I adored Gielgud”, she would say. “To me, as an actor, Gielgud was God.” After eight years at the Old Vic, Vi travelled to Australia with theatre director Hugh Hunt to set up the Elizabethan Theatre Trust. She later returned to London and in 1965 bought a cottage in Choumert Square in Peckham, where she lived for the rest of her life. She took a job at the theatrical agency Talent Artists, where she met the entertainer Tommy Steele and ran his fan club. Another client of the agency was Frank Dunlop, who was then the administrative director of the National Theatre. Olivier had asked him to set up a theatre for younger audiences and Dunlop’s vision was for a radical new type of theatre, with high quality but affordable plays that were accessible to all. “Frank called it paperback theatre,” Vi told The Peckham Peculiar in an interview in 2014. “It was as good as the National Theatre, well-cast, welldirected, but cheaply done.” In 1970 Vi helped Dunlop launch the Young Vic in an old butcher’s shop on The Cut. Initially intended to last five years, there were no finishes or carpets and the shows were simply produced, with sparse sets and costumes that were often bought from C&A. It was at the Young Vic that Andrew Visnevski first met Vi, when she gave him his first job in theatre in 1976. The pair became close friends and he later founded The Cherub theatre company, for which Vi was administrator and company manager on overseas tours. Andrew said: “Vi and I worked, laughed, argued, drank (she always accused me of turning her from a one-glass ‘lady’ into a onebottle ‘lady’) and travelled together, from Iraq, Pakistan, Ethiopia and Sudan to Zimbabwe – and that was just work with The Cherub Company. 10 / THE PECKHAM PECULIAR
“Apart from that we also sailed down the Nile on a cheapo trip, but our boat turned out to be the private yacht of the last king of Egypt and Vi behaved like the wife of a pharaoh. For 25 years we were together almost every day and then we saw each other at least twice a week for the next 16. “Vi was very proud of being a part of the genesis of the Young Vic in 1970. The word ‘young’ here is particularly important, as Vi had dedicated so much of her life to supporting young struggling actors and theatre-makers. She fought tooth and nail for them and frequently she used the sort of language that would make a stevedore blush. “She was so proud that as a result of all this work she was awarded an MBE in 2009. I will never forget the balletic sweeping curtsy she gave to Prince Charles and he was obviously smitten. “As we left the palace, an elderly member of the retinue congratulated Vi and added, ‘Isn’t our Queen amazing and she’s 83.’ To which Vi haughtily retorted, ‘So bloody what! I’m 89!’ and swept out onto the courtyard as he retreated, probably reaching for his hipflask. She was, of course, dressed in mink and wearing violet kid gloves. “Vi was not just a theatre animal. Her obsession with teddy bears, owls, dragons, poetry and the arcane (she was a white witch and for many years belonged to a coven) fed her spirit and imagination. “Because of her insistence, I got my driving licence, which ended up in frequent excursions to ‘magic and mystical’ parts of Britain such as Stonehenge, Avebury and the Rollright Stones, looking for Merlin’s Mound in Carmarthen (in mud and rain) and Merlin’s Tomb in Brittany – where by the way, we also found the Spring of Eternal Youth, which may have been part of her secret. “At the other end of the spectrum, Vi liked to add to her list of the grandest hotels in Europe, in which we’d have a cocktail. To quote Vi: ‘I’ve peed in the best hotels in Europe.’ That was Vi – from the sublime to the ridiculous. “Greece was always her personal Mecca, and we travelled there many times. I have a vivid memory of Vi at Ancient Eleusis, which lies cradled in the most appallingly polluted and oiltanker ridden bay in Greece, but for Vi, despite the squalid surroundings, this was the navel of the worship of the Mother Goddess Demeter, an entrance to the Underworld and the centre of the ancient mysteries. “She’d brought a gift for Demeter from her coven, and my partner Colin and I left her alone to bury it secretly. We still laugh at the idea of archaeologists of the future discovering Vi’s gift and having to change their interpretation of the place. “From the mysteries of Ancient Greece to the tale of the secret treasure of Rennes-le-Château, which gripped the imagination of many who saw the 70s TV documentary and read The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail. “Vi and I went to Rennes-le-Château many times, she joined the Rennes-le-Château Society, contributed to their journal until her
death and made new friends. All this culminated in her book, The Fool’s Coat, which debunks the entire fable with typical Vi virtuosity, research and wit. “Vi had always been a balletomane. In later years, as she became increasingly deaf, going to the ballet became an obsession and a liberation, physically and spiritually. She lost a great deal of weight. Her close friends, particularly the actor Paul Brooke and his wife Di, organised tickets and transport. “Watching the ballet – not the ‘linoworshipping kind’, as she’d say – in her imagination she vicariously identified herself with the roles of the prima ballerinas: she was Aurora, Odette, Giselle, Coppélia. But always with an eye to the leading male dancer. “I like to think of her now, on points, using her colourful vocabulary and telling off those dancers who did not live up to what she deemed great. Because she was.” Choumert Square resident Rebecca Wilmshurst said: “Vi Marriott was my close neighbour for over 30 years, and someone I was fortunate to count among my special friends for the last 20. “In company she was a fascinating, wise and witty woman, with a memory belying her 98th year. She proved to us all that age was a time of enrichment, publishing her first book at 86 and receiving an MBE for services to theatre shortly afterwards. “As I closed my bedroom curtains at night, I’d look down into Vi’s living room where she’d be working at her computer – or her ‘dragon’, as she called it – into the small hours. “Her past life was a kaleidoscopic blend of science, theatre and the supernatural: she’s the only person I’ve ever known to have a mandrake growing on her windowsill. Her memory was prodigious – she was always ready with a line from her beloved Shakespeare or TS Eliot to suit a situation. “I’ll especially remember her for her generosity, love of white flowers, and her genuine reverence for every form of new life: her love of babies was legendary, and she would tease new parents by saying how delicious they’d be on a soft white roll. “It was she who first suggested the idea for a gourmet tombola at the Choumert Square NGS open day – and in recent years, whatever the weather, she never missed a stint on the gate, where she’d welcome our visitors. “When Vi came to tea, she’d enthral all present. She joined my family and friends for Christmas Day in 2015 and 2016, arriving armed with her favourite smoked salmon and ‘pink drink’ – and a moment I’ll never forget: just after pudding, she burst into tears. Concerned, we asked what was wrong. ‘I’m just so happy’, she replied.” Jackie Beecham and her husband Colin met Vi at a conference of the Sauniere Society at Newbattle Abbey about nine years ago, and hit it off immediately. Jackie said: “If Vi’s curiosity was piqued by something, despite being over 90, instead of sitting at home in Peckham and pushing buttons on a computer, she would take the train and go and see for herself.
“Vi had always been fascinated by patterns, from those traced by dancers in the ballet at Covent Garden to those traced by soccer players on the football pitch and even the pattern of bones on a skeleton. “Therefore when she heard about 400 mysterious prehistoric patterns carved into rocks on Ilkley Moor, famous in song, she could not resist. The section of the moor called Baildon Moor provided a cluster of rocks where examples of the most frequently carved patterns could be viewed. Although the paths were over rough moorland, they proved no obstacle to the indomitable Vi, who had always walked everywhere throughout her life. “Vi did not contribute to the 400 or so theories as to what these carvings represent – which range from the location of sacred cowpats to prehistoric Facebook pages – but she expressed the opinion that the stones must ‘go walkabout at night’ and was somewhat dismayed that they were being kept behind railings ‘in captivity’. “After returning to our house for a cup of tea and the warmth of the open fire, she asked about other stones in the area and insisted on going through our pictures of well over 300 different prehistoric carved stones.” Actor Paul Brooke was a close friend of Vi’s and knew her for more than 45 years. He said: “I first encountered Vi in 1971. I had joined Frank Dunlop’s Young Vic theatre company shortly after it had been formed, little knowing that one way or another I would be with them for over three years, in Waterloo of course but also at the Edinburgh Festival, Brooklyn, Broadway, the West End and tours to Switzerland, Belgium, Holland, Germany, Spain, Austria and Canada. “Vi was very striking from the start, with her scarlet hair, her energy, enthusiasm, hard work, unflappability and wonderful good humour. “Years later my wife and I moved to southeast London and found that Vi lived close by. We shared a love of dance and as she was beginning to find it difficult to get home after the show on public transport, we planned to go together and as we had a car, we could deliver her home. “We enjoyed, I would say, hundreds of shows together. Her passions were Roland Petit and Frederick Ashton as well as the classics. She was more difficult to convince about contemporary choreographers, but we had such enjoyment from our evenings together that I don’t think we were bothered. “After ballet her heroes were legion, chief among them John Gielgud, Paul Scofield and TS Eliot, whom she was quoting at length and from memory on her deathbed. “My overriding memory of her will be her curiosity, which lasted till a couple of weeks before her hospitalisation. She was immensely knowledgeable over a wide range of subjects and was always learning more. In that regard she was a lesson for us all. I miss her colossally. So does my son, his wife and my two-year-old granddaughter. God bless her.” Vi passed away on December 17, 2017 following a short illness. To read an interview with her that was printed in The Peckham Peculiar in 2014, go to tiny.cc/vimarriott February/March 2018
THE PECKHAM PECULIAR / 11
The reel deal HANNAN MAJID AND RICHARD YORK RUN THE RAINBOW COLLECTIVE – A FILM PRODUCTION AND TRAINING COMPANY THAT USES FILM TO BRING ABOUT SOCIAL CHANGE. They tell us about the brilliant work they do in Peckham, Nunhead and beyond WORDS EMMA FINAMORE PHOTO LIMA CHARLIE
If you watch a film screened at a cinema in Leicester Square, or at an international film festival, it’s usually adults who are listed during the credits. Sometimes, though, it could be the names of Southwark schoolchildren running down the screen, and they have probably made their work with Rainbow Collective. Hannan Majid and Richard York met at film school in Leeds in the early 2000s, and went on to found their production company in 2006, specialising in creating documentaries that highlight human rights issues. Hannan and Richard began making documentaries together in 2004, in South Africa and then in Bangladesh, creating films with a childhood angle. They have since worked in countries including Turkey, Jamaica and Iraq. “When we started in South Africa we were focused on children’s rights, their right to education,” says Hannan. “Then in Bangladesh we started doing documentaries looking at street children and child labour.” The team also focused on the garments industry, working with trade unions to create films like Udita (which means “arise”) in 2015 – a documentary about female garment workers in Bangladesh’s sweatshops. Rainbow Collective has also made films for 12 / THE PECKHAM PECULIAR
broadcasters like Al Jazeera, but always ensured anything that was filmed could be taken apart and used by campaigners like TRAID (which has a shop on Rye Lane). “It [Udita] was successful when it got broadcast, but what really inspired us was how it could be used as a campaign piece,” says Richard. “It was released at the same time as a report called Fashion Victims so could be used alongside it. “Not many people knew about garment workers, people knew about ‘fast fashion’ but not necessarily the people behind it and what it meant.” Unlike the usual, presenter-led pieces made by broadcasters, everything was told through the eyes of the subjects. Hannan says: “It opened our eyes, showed us that you can make a great film but it still has a practical use, a social impact.” Four years ago, with technology changing and becoming more accessible, the pair began to hand creative control and direction over to their subjects – “putting the artistic control into the hands of the communities”, explains Richard. They took equipment like little cameras and iPod touches – all small, relatively affordable and easy to use – to the street children in Bangladesh, working with LEEDO, a charity that aims to improve the lives of street children. Richard describes this as a creative revelation
for himself and the children. “They would come up with storyboards,” he says. “A lot of them couldn’t read or write, but they would tell a story in say, 10 images, about something important in their life.” Hannan and Richard would teach the children how to film according to their own storyboard. They’d get other children they knew to be in the films, and do voice-overs to go with the footage. “They’re neorealist,” says Hannan of the films. “The street kids are actual street kids, their surroundings are all real, but then they have a script. And that’s an old-fashioned technique that the masters of Bengali filmmaking were using in the 50s and 60s, which I think is really special.” The films were shown at conferences, to politicians and lawyers and at universities, and the children’s lives were changed. “They went from being street kids – basically seen as vermin – to being looked on as directors and ambassadors,” says Hannan. “There would be 50 to 60 people in a theatre, and a Q&A with the street kids. Journalists from Bangladesh and all over the world, sat on the floor listening to these kids. What does that do for a child’s confidence?” It was a sustainable, permanent project, too, and Richard and Hannan go back to visit regularly to see the films being made.
Among all their other projects – focusing on subjects like women’s centres and screening their work all over the world – Rainbow Collective started using a stop-motion animation app with the Bangladeshi children. They made animated films about how a lot of young people don’t have a birth certificate in Bangladesh as they’re so expensive, which means they don’t have access to schools or hospitals and basically become undocumented people. The films showed in India, Europe and America, and the team did similar projects in other countries such as Cambodia and Jamaica. Then they brought the project to the UK, holding a session at a community hall in Camberwell over the summer holidays. The animation the children made was named Film of the Month by the Into Film scheme run by the BFI, which encourages watching, making and critical understanding of film for youngsters. Richard and Hannan then visited tenants’ and community groups in Peckham, Nunhead, Camberwell, Elephant and Castle, Borough and Bermondsey to let people know what they could offer to local young people. “It was a great experience,” says Hannan. “We met some really interesting people, but also found communities fighting demolition, surrounded by gentrification.” February/March 2018
They saw how useful projects like theirs could be, how many stories there are to tell and issues to highlight. “One of the main things about moving our work back to England is that for years we’d been working on issues like the right to education in the so-called ‘developing world’, and the disparity between here and there is closing so fast,” says Richard. “We only started realising recently that a lot of the issues, from workers’ rights to the rich/poor divide – which we’ve been campaigning against and highlighting abroad – are happening right here in London, in Southwark. It’s incredibly messed up.” The short films they’ve helped children make in places like Peckham and Nunhead are impressive. They’re aesthetically reminiscent of The Magic Roundabout and feature the children’s voices. They cover difficult subject matters, such as families using food banks, the pressures of playground life and bullying. Another film focused on the closure of a much-loved public playground in Peckham’s Leyton Square, which the council is finally set to rebuild this spring. Hannan and Richard have just held a community conference when we meet, with more than 100 residents’ groups in attendance, organised in conjunction with Southwark Council and the community. The children’s films were presented there. “It’s important to do things like that so the community can see what the children have done and say, ‘Keep our community centres open, so our children have a safe space to come and be creative,’” says Hannan. “And to say to the council, ‘You’ve got to support them in doing this!’ Whether it’s film, music, sports, the arts… the council have to make sure they are funding these types of things, so
Keep our community centres open, so our children have a safe space to come and be creative Hannan Majid
the tenant and residents’ associations are in a position to keep things open.” But it doesn’t stop there. “Doing activities in the community centre is great, and showing the work in the community centre is great,” says Richard. “But in terms of the aspirations of these young people – their stuff has to go further into the world.” They are both passionate about addressing representation in filmmaking and the media, especially behind the camera: producers, directors and camera crew. “It’s still rich, white and super-educated – very elite,” says Richard. “It had started shifting, but now it’s closing ranks again.” Rainbow Collective can help to counter this by getting kids’ films shown at Films for Food events (where movie-goers give food bank donations rather than cash for tickets), the Barbican, the House of Commons and the BFI. They’ve also organised screenings at Odeon cinemas, Tate Britain and the Equality and
Human Rights Commission, as well as museums, universities, film festivals (including those in Peckham, Nunhead and Camberwell) and schools around the world. The children’s work has been played alongside productions by Bafta-winning directors and award-winning films from Tribeca film festival, and it has been watched by “high-brow” directors, critics and audiences. “It’s on a level, one is presented alongside the other,” says Richard. “It’s looking at their stuff and giving it that respect, saying, ‘People around the world want to watch this’.” This all builds towards something that young, aspirational filmmakers can use to further their careers, despite not necessarily coming from the affluent background that can make a creative career seem more realistic. “In the end, what we get to is that when these kids are 16, their showreel and the places they’ve shown their films will outstrip any super-rich kid who’s done their A-levels,” says Richard. “They
might have loads of fancy kit their parents have bought them, but have they shown their films in the States, or India?” It’s wider than that too, says Hannan: “It’s not just a great showreel – it’s a confidence thing as well. Going into a university environment, young people from very different types of backgrounds and who look very different, can still be confident, with experience and expertise.” The aim is to create a generation of young people from Southwark who aren’t phased by the technical language of academic and professional film institutions, who are confident in their own skills and in communicating, thinking up and executing ideas. One of the children at a Southwark workshop recreated Peckham High Street in animation form. “They’re all proud of where they’re from – they love Peckham,” says Hannan. “But Peckham’s changing so much, and those of us who have been here for a long time – kids and their families – they can see it changing and as it changes we know how gentrification works. People get edged out, and how do you combat that?” The next topic children at the Peckham workshop will be looking at is presenting their own version of Peckham: what makes them feel proud about being here, happy about where they’re from and growing up here. “It’s a nice sentiment,” says Hannan. “But like the other animations it will also have a bit of social commentary. It’s got something to say.” With projects in the pipeline linking up young people all over Southwark, work with older people exploring issues that affect them, and a documentary film looking at the battle to save the Ledbury Estate, you can be sure that whatever Rainbow Collective do next, it will have something to say.
THE PEOPLE OF
“Peckham Levels is unique in bringing people of all walks of life together under one roof.” -
NICHOLAS OKWULU TENPOINT5 GALLERY
“Wholesome Kurdish food, just like we make back home. Peckham Levels has amazing variety and opportunities all under one roof!” -
PARY BABAN NANDINE
“Peckham Levels will allow us to collaborate and help grow the awareness of screen printing in London from this amazing transformed car-park.” -
HOLLY CLARKE 3RD RAIL PRINT SPACE Bringing new life to the once empty levels of the multi-storey carpark, Peckham Levels exists to showcase the cultural talent at work in Peckham. Peckham Levels has created aﬀordable workspaces for many of the people who are part of Peckham’s identity. Step inside for amazing food and drink from independent traders, regular events and exhibitions, and to discover some of South London’s most exciting independent artists and businesses working across design, lifestyle, fashion and music.
“I believe the rich mixture of people and businesses gives Peckham Levels a unique edge.” MARKLAND WILLIAMS SANTIAGO SOUNDS
Man of the cloth GEORGE DYER IS KNOWN FAR AND WIDE FOR HIS IMMACULATE BESPOKE SUITS, WHICH HAVE GRACED THE LIKES OF BOB HOSKINS, RAY WINSTONE AND PAUL WELLER. We met the legendary tailor at his Walworth Road shop WORDS GARTH CARTWRIGHT PHOTOS LIMA CHARLIE
Jamaica born and Peckham raised, George Dyer is a south-east London legend and one of the few bespoke tailors still sewing. His fame comes from his skill in shaping beautiful suits. When I enter Threadneedleman, his small tailoring shop just up from East Street Market on the Walworth Road, I note an array of autographed photos: it appears Bob Hoskins, Paul Weller, Suggs, David Haye, Ray Winstone and Martin Freeman are all satisfied customers. “I’m happy to make a suit for anyone, male or female,” says George. “But a bespoke suit is not cheap. If I make one for you, you won’t have much change from a grand. But if you cross the river and go to the City or Savile Row, you’re looking at three grand. So I’m still good value.” The beauty of a bespoke suit, of course, is that it’s entirely unique. “The customer comes to the tailor and requests specifics on their suits; the tailor is making the garment on behalf of the customer’s needs,” George says. “You have a standard cut of a two-button jacket with a two-and-a-half inch lapel, but my customer February/March 2018
could request a four-button jacket and a five-inch lapel. The customer could also want various other modifications. “They might request an inverted pleat in the back of the jacket rather than a spike. The bespoke tailor works on behalf of the customer, compared with a made-to-measure tailor who takes your measurements and offers you, say, five different designs.” George was born in St Elizabeth, Jamaica. His parents left for London when he was a toddler and he followed aged four. “I arrived and, by this time, my father had already got himself on the property ladder, with a three-storey house with a basement and a 100 foot garden on Lyndhurst Grove. This was around 1962-3,” he recalls. “We occupied the middle of the house. There were tenants in the basement and at the top of the house. My dad was in the building trade so did quite a few adjustments. “I went to Lyndhurst Primary School and after that I went to Peckham Manor. I became friends
with Trix Worrell there, who went on to write Desmond’s. And I was a pupil when Johnny Nash and Bob Marley came and played a free, acoustic concert in 1972. “Being Jamaicans we knew of Bob even before we knew of Johnny Nash, but Bob wasn’t famous here yet. We all gathered around them, they were very friendly, and Bob looked into my eyes and said, ‘Me know-a’, which means ‘I understand’ as, like me, he was a lighter skin black man. “Peckham was a different place than what it is now. There wasn’t the mindset of it being a no-go area – none of that postcode lottery thing going on among the youth. Us kids didn’t have any fear of going to particular areas. “In primary school a West Indian or a black face wasn’t as predominant as it is now. I had friends of all nationalities. It wasn’t a segregated place. We morphed into the society and spoke like Cockneys too. And some of the white guys would emulate our West Indian sayings. It was more inclusive. “Us kids who were growing up, we didn’t take too much notice of prejudice as we had white
friends – but there were some black guys who made a thing of it. “In secondary school, when the West Indians got a bit more into the society and people got upset that their parents weren’t being treated with respect, well, things got a bit more militant. Not me, I realised that you had to bite the bullet and get a trade.” After leaving school, George initially worked at Tesco as a shelf stacker, but liked the idea of being a tailor. “I got a job at a tailor on Fleet Street, Dombey & Son, one of 38 shops. The owners of the chain were two brothers, Jerry and Sam Roseman. Jerry had two sons, Leslie and Andrew, so a few of the other shops were called Leslie Andrew. “About three months into me being there, Mr Jerry came along and said, ‘Young man, I’ve had good reports on you – would you like to learn more at London College of Fashion?’ So that was the beginning of my apprenticeship. “After 18 months I was ready to go to other shops in the chain – they sent me to shops where THE PECKHAM PECULIAR / 15
the West Indian trade was. It’s logical. The first shop they sent me to was Brixton and I worked all over. “Their Leslie Andrew shop in Peckham was opposite the huge Jones & Higgins department store on Rye Lane. I was working there with Jimmy Nash, an Italian Cockney. He’d started in Peckham with [tailor] Sidney Fox and when Mr Drake, who was running Sidney Fox, died, Jimmy took over, hiring me to run the floor. “Sidney Fox was on the first floor above where Boots is. I went straight into running that shop – opening up, making sure that the customers got their orders taken. We had names like Henry Cooper. At that time Rye Lane was known as the Golden Mile. “We then took over a menswear shop on Bournemouth Road. I served there for 12 years but then Jimmy wanted to move into the City – he thought everyone wore suits so it was easy work. 16 / THE PECKHAM PECULIAR
I’d started in Fleet Street, knew the mindset and didn’t like it. “The bloke who owned this shop [on Walworth Road] wanted to retire so I took it on. I’m the fourth tailor here. Suits have been made here for at least a century. It gives me a sense of its history. “I started at one of the worst times [for the economy] and it took me three years before I was given my first bespoke suit. I had to rely on my skills to do shortening trousers, altering jackets, etcetera. “It was a hard few years, but I knew that if I could do it for those companies I could do it for me. I had that leap of faith. People knew I was good and the people who supplied fabric to Jimmy were willing to supply me. I have had good times but the good don’t outweigh the bad. Thing is, failure is not in my vocabulary.” Just a few doors along from George’s shop is a large Sports Direct. Does he despair at the
popularity of cheap casual wear and the poor working conditions that are often associated with it? “Well, let’s go back to the very beginning. It must have been 35 years ago. I’m in the trade and working for a senior man and he asks me, ‘Why on earth have you got into trade? It’s finished!’ What he meant was, he’d seen a lot of trade in his day and it had dwindled. “The advent of jeans and people being more casual-minded meant they didn’t embrace the suits as they once did. So, to answer your question, the trade has been affected a long time before the likes of Sports Direct came along.” George has been a Listed Londoner on Robert Elms’ BBC London radio show, painted by the artist Ed Gray and, being a master of the mod suit, profiled in various publications. He’s one of the last of the old-school bespoke tailors and is proud of it.
“I still don’t regard the off-the-peg suit as a suit, as I learnt the craft of making the bespoke suit. It’s the craft – that’s what constitutes a good suit. “The majority of heads of state from around the world, whatever their national garment is, they will come to London and get a Savile Row suit. They recognise it as the height of tailoring. “The type of tailoring the Savile Row tailors do is the sort of work that I do. There is a certain amount of traditional work that goes into the suit and the Savile Row tailors and I are trying to keep that alive.” Being a south-east London fixture might not have made George wealthy, but he’s proud of his roots and loves the community he serves. “A customer once said to me, ‘Who’s the latest celebrity you’re making a suit for?’ and I said, ‘You are’. All my customers are celebrities. Whoever likes what I do and the services I provide, it’s for them.” February/March 2018
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WALWORTH IN PICTURES
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WALWORTH IN PICTURES
The Walworth Road WORDS KATE WHITE PHOTOS SYLVIE GOY
A local resident has published a book of photographs of the Walworth Road. Sylvie Goy, who lives in East Dulwich, photographed the south London street between 2005-07 for her final year project at Central St Martins, where she studied for a postgrad in photography. The book, titled The Walworth Road, aims to capture “the idiosyncratic character of the place, its disappearing customs, shopkeepers in their last days of trading and quirky locals, with their stories and their memories”. Sylvie took her first photograph of the area on a visit to East Street Market in spring 2005. Writing in the foreword to the book, she said of the shot: “A microcosm of local life, these were some of the characters I wanted to record, some of the faces that told a story. “Over the next two years I ventured down the Walworth Road regularly, aiming to capture the spirit of the place and celebrate its unassuming authenticity – something that is increasingly rare in this age of growing globalisation and gentrification.” She met many traders in the area, including Helen and Michael, the two elderly owners of Sea Breeze fish bar on Westmoreland Road. Swiss-born Helen came to the UK as an au pair in the 1940s and met Michael, a Greek Cypriot. Over the years the couple owned several fish and February/March 2018
chips shops across south London. Sea Breeze, which they opened in 1967, was their last, and closed in 2011. An online review for the popular shop described the owners as the “kindliest” of couples. Another said: “Best things are down the side streets! Pop into the Red Lion for a pint, then turn the corner and order dinner. If the elderly gentleman is there, then a friendly ‘Yia sas’ should see you right.” Sylvie said: “When I was shooting initially in 2007, I was thinking, ‘I’m kind of recording an area on its way out.’ I know it sounds really negative and it hasn’t really happened, because it still has its character, but I was trying to seize it while it was still there.” About a decade after completing the original project, Sylvie revisited the road. “One thing I felt was missing from that series were some details of the road itself. I really wanted to have an imprint of the road, of the street,” she explained. “I wanted to complement the portraits I’d already taken with some images of the street and things that, to me, represent the area. It’s what I call ‘street poetry’ – little details that are often overlooked or even totally disregarded.” The Walworth Road by Sylvie Goy is a limited edition book of 50 copies. It costs £13 and is available to buy from sylviegoy.com THE PECKHAM PECULIAR / 19
WALWORTH IN PICTURES
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Why gal-dem is a game changer GAL-DEM IS A CREATIVE COLLECTIVE, WEBSITE AND PUBLICATION PUT TOGETHER BY MORE THAN 70 WOMEN AND NON-BINARY PEOPLE OF COLOUR. Charlie Brinkhurst-Cuff tells us more about the magazine’s mission
WORDS EMMA FINAMORE PHOTO KIRAN GIDDA
A groundbreaking website, magazine and creative collective has just moved into its first offices. But the team’s not based in Soho or Shoreditch – they’re right here, in Peckham. gal-dem – run by women and non-binary people of colour, for everyone – was established in 2015, when editor-in-chief Liv Little was a university student in Bristol. She felt isolated in a less diverse community than she was accustomed to (she was born and raised in south-east London), so decided to create her own community from scratch and run a project with others like her. It would take the form of an online magazine, produced by and reflecting the people Liv felt were missing from her direct surroundings. Charlie Brinkhurst-Cuff is gal-dem’s deputy editor, and is also weekend editor at Dazed, a Guardian freelancer and a regular contributor to Vice, the New Statesman and the Financial Times, among others. Liv put a call-out online about making a magazine and after an initial meeting in Bristol with those who’d expressed an interest locally, the newly mobilised team started reaching out to potential contributors all over the UK. Charlie was one of these, after the team read her first ever paid-for article. “This is what it’s like to be a mixed-race girl on Tinder” was published on Vice, and her insightful unpicking of the issues faced by black and mixed-race women dating online made her a writer that gal-dem must have been eager to have on board. The team decided to write a certain number of articles and get them up on the website, and went from there. “It was natural, very organic,” Charlie says. “The only vision was that this would help people like us have a voice, and improve diversity in the media. That was the vision, but it wasn’t like we had this massive plan like how it would turn out, or how it would look, or what our ‘voice’ was going to be.” Since then, gal-dem has evolved into something huge and exciting, managing to join the national mainstream conversation (even appearing on mainstream establishment stalwart, Newsnight) while maintaining its original position as an alternative voice in a white and male-dominated media industry. 22 / THE PECKHAM PECULIAR
In late 2016, the collective ran the Friday Late session at the V&A, featuring an all-female lineup, with activities ranging from spoken word pieces in the library space and dancing in among the old marble statues, to a fashion parade and performances from top female London MCs. Charlie says this felt like a significant point for gal-dem: “It was magical – I was on the door most of the night letting people in and there were just queues around the block. It was insane. It felt great – it’s when we realised this was something big. “One of the Guardian journalists who came down described it as being ‘historic’, which felt really good, obviously. That was really the point where we realised it [gal-dem] was having a
massive impact. It was a big moment.” Charlie recalls museum staff members telling her they’d never seen that many people of colour in the building. “That for me was a big deal.” It was also a prominent moment for the galdem team because it showed them in a tangible way how much progress they were already starting to make, in terms of increasing diversity in the media and creative spaces. Another of these moments, Charlie tells me, was receiving an email from her former programme manager on the Guardian positive action scheme she took part in a few years before joining gal-dem. “He said that almost every single woman who’d
applied for the scheme this year had written for gal-dem, it’s on all their CVs. That’s brilliant, to be that first point of call for young women who are interested in going into the media, and that we can support them.” Events have become a big part of the team’s mission, bringing people together in real life as well as online. They run storytelling events, selfhelp sessions, political talks and comedy nights, as well as their very own gal-dem Sugar club. The next instalment of Sugar will be held in east London to celebrate Valentine’s Day (go to the Eventbrite website to get your tickets). There’s even a gal-dem editorial “take over” planned at a major media outlet. February/March 2018
The team are not the types to rest on their laurels, though. Charlie says they are constantly learning and reassessing their own attitudes and what they can do to increase their own diversity further. “I’ve learnt so much from the women that I work with at gal-dem about colourism and intersectionality, and being a good ally – or trying to be a good ally,” she says. “There’s still so much work to do and improvements we can make. Most of us are university educated, for example, things like that. We really think about it all the time, it’s a topic of conversation at all of our meetings. We’re a work in progress.” Members of the team will often meet up – for work but also because they’re good friends – but the whole of gal-dem only gets together about once a month; they’re hoping this will be made easier with their new base in Peckham Levels. “Just to stress, everyone on the team is so hardworking, no one gets paid for this – this is voluntary,” says Charlie. “I think it’s a testament to how hardworking everyone is that people assume it’s paid.” Most do not work in journalism in their everyday jobs either, which range from radio producers and youth workers to workshop facilitators and charity campaigners – and Charlie thinks this brings a broader range of perspectives to the collective. This diversity of viewpoints means the galdem output is of an extremely high quality, which has garnered the collective plenty of national attention. As well as the numerous radio and television appearances, Charlie (on behalf of gal-dem) won the Georgina Henry Award for innovation in journalism at last year’s Press Awards. They have also contributed to national conversations around issues such as skin-
We’ve given over 400 women of colour, non-binary people of colour and trans people of colour a voice through our website and through our publication Charlie Brinkhurst-Cuff
lightening, notions of “wokeness”, and even the recent engagement of Prince Harry to Meghan Markle. But their biggest achievement so far, Charlie says, is rooted closer to home in their founding principles, which are to support people in finding and projecting their voices. “We’ve given over 400 women of colour, nonbinary people of colour and trans people of colour a voice through the website and through our print publication, and we bring people together,” says Charlie. “People have been waiting for a place like this. It’s not like there haven’t been black beauty magazines, or newspapers, but not something that caters to all women of colour in the UK – black, Asian, and other ethnic minority women – and with the same slant that we have.” gal-dem is part of a wider community too, one of progressive magazines and websites that are giving a voice to often overlooked demographics, subject matters and points of view.
Charlie rates Skin Deep – a London-based multimedia platform that amplifies voices of colour through the discussion of race and culture; and quarterly magazine and outreach team Consented: “They really go in for their race theory, and do lots of work around consent, love and relationships in POC [people of colour] communities, they’re just great – I have massive respect for them, and they’ve been doing their thing as long as we have. It’s really cool.” She also talks about Sad Girls Club, which supports young women with mental health struggles, BBZ – a south-east London duo who have a show on Peckham’s Balamii radio station and throw club nights for queer people of colour, and Black Ballad – an online platform that seeks to tell the human experience through the eyes of black British women. Peckham is a community they’re looking forward to being a part of too. Many of the team already have strong links with south-east London – Charlie studied for her undergraduate degree at
Goldsmiths and lived in New Cross before moving here, for example. In addition, the prize money from the Press Award came with the condition that it would go towards an office, so moving into a Peckham space was perfect timing in an ideal area. The team aims to do lots of positive work for local young people, and will be offering opportunities like mentoring, internships and placements through the Community Investment Scheme, which encourages investment in disadvantaged communities by giving tax relief to investors backing businesses and other enterprises. “I think because we are all so young and still very much at the beginnings of our careers – some of us are still interning ourselves – we know how shit it can be to be an intern,” says Charlie. “And how little you can learn. It can be not a nice place to be.” The team is also mindful of working towards being a positive force in Peckham in a wider sense. “There’s always the worry that we will be just as bad as any other gentrifying force, but we’re really going to try and do some cool stuff,” says Charlie. “I think – and not in a messed up way – but purely the fact that we’re not white will make a difference. If you see people that don’t look like you then you assume it’s not for you, so hopefully we’ll be different.” Whatever the future looks like for gal-dem, you can be sure it will be out of the ordinary. gal-dem is always looking to welcome more women of colour and non-binary people of colour to the team. If you are interested or simply want to know more about them, please visit gal-dem.com to read their FAQs and get in touch via the contact page with any pitches or ideas.
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Long live print QUICK PRINT BEGAN MORE THAN 50 YEARS AGO IN A PECKHAM GARAGE AND SOON BECAME A CORNERSTONE OF THE COMMUNITY. Founder Victor Farr and his daughter Jacqueline tell us more about their much-loved business WORDS SEAMUS HASSON PHOTO LIMA CHARLIE
What began in a small garage just off Lyndhurst Way some 55 years ago has gone on to leave an indelible mark on south London – quite literally. If you pick up any business card, wedding invitation or flyer bearing the word “Peckham”, there’s a good chance it has been through the press at Quick Print. Today, as well as catering for south London’s printing needs, the business also attracts a worldwide clientele. “The first time I got a call from an international business I thought it was a joke,” laughs Jacqueline. “They were a large company from Chicago and were holding a board meeting for their shareholders in the City. They had been let down by their suppliers and needed a job done quickly. “It was a big production and it was all hands on deck, but we got there and delivered it to them on time.” Jacqueline now runs Quick Print with her husband Raymond, having first started working there aged 17. The couple took over in 2005 from Jacqueline’s father and mother, Victor Farr and his wife Loretta. Victor came to England from Jamaica when he was 22 after an uncle returning from the RAF told him he’d do well there. Already an accomplished printer following an apprenticeship in Jamaica, he completed a four-year City & Guilds course at the London College of Printing. “I got a letter from the printing union in Jamaica and was told, ‘Son, you don’t stand a chance there,’” he explains. “In those days in the printing industry you had to have an uncle or a relative who could get you in, regardless of what qualifications you might have.” In spite of the obstacles the young Victor faced, he managed to find work at a box factory, February/March 2018
designing and printing labels, and became the company’s first black employee. “A lot of rude things were said, you know, but I stood up to them and said, ‘I don’t see why you shouldn’t give me a break,’” he says. When the company relocated to Manchester nine years later, he decided to stay in London and set up his own business, which offered a sameday printing service – a concept that has served the company well ever since. “He basically had a little hand press,” Jacqueline recalls. “His thing was that he would drum up interest by knocking on doors of local businesses around Peckham and Lordship Lane. “Even though the technology didn’t allow for it as such at the time, he was still able to produce quality printing on the same day.” Dressed in a green North Face beanie, green jumper and purple scarf neatly tied in a French knot, Victor cuts a youthful figure despite being just shy of his 84th birthday. He’s showing me a copy of Joffa – a monthly magazine for the West Indian community living in south London in the 1960s. On the front cover is a picture of the Jamaican reggae singer, Desmond Dekker. “It was started by a gentleman who owned a travel service in Brixton, and we printed it here on these premises,” he tells me, flicking through the pages. “It was paid for mostly by advertising and was sold in newsagents for two shillings and sixpence. “Peckham was like a print village at the time we started. There were lots of big printers on this street and around the corner. I’m talking about big printing firms, they were all over Peckham – including one at the Bussey Building. “They were doing work for companies like British Airways and if someone went to one of
them and asked for 100 business cards, they would say, ‘Go and see Victor,’” Jacqueline adds. “Likewise, if someone came with a really big job that we couldn’t handle, we sent them over there. It was a two-way street.” One of Victor’s shrewdest decisions in those early days was a five-year deal he secured with Crystal Palace football club to advertise at the ground. At the time the team were languishing in the lower echelons of the football league, but swift promotions to the top flight meant that before long, his advert was being seen in homes across the country on Match of the Day every Saturday night. “It started to generate a lot of business,” he says. “After two years they tried to buy it back from me but I said, ‘No, you keep it running.’ My bank manager even asked, ‘How can you afford that?’” he laughs. “It was great – we started getting business from all over London.” It isn’t until I ask Victor about his proudest achievements in business that I discover what truly motivates him. “I would have to say it’s the number of young men who I’ve managed to help,” he says. Jacqueline adds: “Because my father became well known for running the business, when boys were having problems at school, their mothers would come and say, ‘Oh Mr Farr, my boy isn’t doing well, he’s getting into trouble.’ “My father would say, ‘Let him come here on a Saturday.’ Some of them would come and do leafletting and others would do their apprenticeships here. They didn’t necessarily all go on to do printing, but they became settled.” It’s an ethos that Jacqueline herself continues today and between them, the family have had quite a few success stories. One former Saturday
employee is now a director of South East Gas, while another has recently qualified as a social worker. “There are four or five who came through here who went on and started their own printing business,” Victor adds. “When you’re here you learn everything – bookbinding, setting, the whole process.” Since retiring from the business full time, Victor has kept himself busy by taking regular trips back to Jamaica. He is involved in an outreach programme mentoring and encouraging young men to take up pursuits like spear fishing, where they can earn a decent living selling their catch. “It started through my church activities, outreach programmes,” he says. “My wife and I are known as returnees – people who emigrated to England and then came back.” Throughout our interview Victor regularly refers to a photograph on the wall of Sister Mary Ignatius, his inspirational teacher at the Alpha Boys School he attended in St Catherine Parish in Jamaica. The school had a strong tradition of music and Sister Mary is credited with inspiring some of the biggest jazz and reggae stars of the 1960s, including ska band The Skatalites. For Victor however, she is the lady who instilled in him the values that he holds today. “I always try to help people,” he says. “A lot of young boys in particular I find have kind of lost their way, but if they see that someone has got a bit of faith in them, they come good.” When so many other Peckham printers have long since closed down, what is the secret to Quick Print’s success? “Hard work and determination – I was determined to see it through,” he says. “We had setbacks, but we got through.” THE PECKHAM PECULIAR / 25
All revved up ROCK BAND REV ARE MAKING A NAME FOR THEMSELVES WITH A SEDUCTIVE SOUND THAT’S REMINISCENT OF GROUPS INCLUDING THE STONE ROSES AND THE ARCTIC MONKEYS. Our writer finds out why 2018 is promising to be their biggest year yet WORDS ROSARIO BLUE PHOTOS JOE MAGOWAN
REV are a four-piece independent rock band from Paris and Preston, who possess a sound somewhere in between the guitar bands of the noughties and the breezy, chilled guitar sound of The Stone Roses, with vocals reminiscent of Alex Turner of the Arctic Monkeys. Listening to REV you are transported into a sonic reverie of seductive rock, funk and soul grooves that match their beautifully diverse heritage – they are Vietnamese and German, French and British. Last year saw REV make their mark in south-east London, while 2018 looks set to stay firmly in their grip. I met up with Dorian and Julian Tran (guitar, vocals), Jonathan Quiot (drums) and Jonny Haze (bass) at their rehearsal room just over the Peckham border in Bermondsey. “It started with Julian, me, and Jonathan – so, back in Paris,” Dorian says. “We started playing together at 12 or 13, something like that.” “I wasn’t really into it, to be honest,” Julian recalls, amused. “It was more like they were 26 / THE PECKHAM PECULIAR
starting to play and Dad was like, ‘Alright, take your brother to rehearsal with you’.” “A bit like that,” Dorian laughs. “That’s basically where it started from. We used to do lots of different covers at the time, like...” “AC/DC,” the band say in unison. “And Lynyrd Skynyrd,” Dorian adds. “That kind of thing. And, yeah, as time went by it became something we really wanted to do professionally. We really couldn’t see ourselves doing something else.” They decided they would wait till they finished school, after turning 18. “After we finished school I went to London,” says Dorian. “I spent a year there and then Jonathan and Julian arrived as well and then we got our stuff together, made a little studio in there and started making music together and writing our own songs. “That was our plan all along; it was always to come to England, especially because we were fascinated by so many great bands. It was really
very much of the time when indie music was very in, and we listened to the Arctic Monkeys and all of that. It was very inspiring and we thought, ‘Well, England is the place to be.’” Finding their bass player was “fateful”, they say. “We were supposed to see a lot of different bass players and [Jonny] was the first one we saw,” Julian says. “It went so well that we cancelled everything else.” “‘This is the one. The chosen one,” he says and everyone laughs. When recalling what it was like trying to decide which part of London the band would settle in, Julian says it was a case of, “Do we move southeast or north-east? I had a lot of friends who had bands that were based around Shoreditch and Hoxton, but in the end we didn’t find anything there. “I didn’t really know Peckham, but Jonny is from south-east and we had a bunch of friends going out in Peckham. I didn’t really know what artists were there, but I knew there was a big
scene. We thought afterwards, ‘It’s a great place to do music.’” After first hearing REV, when they performed at The Nines as part of Coal Line Vibez, a fundraising event for the Peckham Coal Line project, I was blown away. Fast-forward to today, where I am treated to a live set of old-but-updated songs as well as a couple of exclusive tracks that still maintain their refreshing sound. What I see is a band evolving fast. “After we played at The Nines we thought, ‘Well that was good, but we could do it a lot better’,” Jonny explains. “We thought, ‘We’re not going to do a gig for a month or two and we came in twice a week and just absolutely hammered on those songs. “I really think that by examining what we were doing and listening to it, we came up with a sound, rather than just a mish-mash, so it’s more coherent and together now. As a result of that the songs have changed and we’re looking to re-record a couple of them.” February/March 2018
Dorian goes a little further. “That’s also because it took us a while to adapt and comprehend that there’s a difference between a live situation and a studio situation – I think we didn’t quite think at first about how you perceive a gig. If we had to watch ourselves, would we want to hear six minutes of that?” “Now, we’re more structured,” says Julian. “[We] go to the studio and have maybe a verse and a chorus and then we build things around that; we have a listen together and then it’s, ‘What can we do now, what can we do better?’ We have an open talk and everyone throws in ideas.” This leads us to talking more generally about their creative process. “Sometimes it’s just going through one idea and then building a track on top of it,” says Jonathan. “Sometimes it’s just us jamming in the studio and coming up with a good riff. It
really depends. We don’t settle on one way to do it, we just find out every way to do it.” Jonny adds: “By taking away, you know what you need. If you can take it out and it still sounds good, you don’t need it. They say that if you write a good song you should be able to play it on an acoustic guitar.” The band recently supported number oneselling, multi award-winning, TaiwaneseAmerican singer-songwriter Joanna Wang at a special intimate gig at the Amersham Arms in New Cross. It was undoubtedly a career highlight for them and one that would prove to be crucial in cementing their name as a band to watch, even piquing the interest of a few very important industry heads. REV feel that they owe a lot of their success to DJ and musician Genie Graham, who has believed in them from the beginning. “Genie’s
helped the band a lot and she’s also a great musician, as we found out lately,” says Julian. “I think she’s part of the band really.” “Yeah, she’s really helped and really made a lot of things possible for us,” Dorian adds. REV are an indie band in every sense of the word. They write and produce their own music, play their own instruments and work out of their self-made studio as well as their rehearsal space, where they can be found at least twice a week while balancing part-time jobs to help make their dreams a reality. The band is everything to them and they hope the love that they put into their music is felt by those who listen to it. Julian says: “One thing I would like the band to do, is that when people come to see our shows, they feel love and have a good time.” Dorian adds: “I hope that whenever someone listens to our songs they retain one thing,
that they get emotions out of it, that they feel something. That’s why I started to do music, because when I listened to certain songs, they would make me feel in a way that nothing else could.” The year ahead is looking bright for REV, and with the boost that 2017 gave their collective confidence, they have been even more determined to get new projects out and expand their body of work. “Once we’ve done all our recording and mixing, we’ll formally be on iTunes and Spotify – and there’s going to be a website coming out as well,” Julian says. And they are not stopping there. “We launched a label,” Jonathan says. “Also, we are doing music on our own – different stuff, aside from the band, separately – and we’ve launched a separate SoundCloud and will have a separate website which will feature artists from the label.” “It’s called the REV Collective,” Dorian adds. In terms of the band itself, Jonny says: “I feel like this time next year, I’d probably like to have 30 gigs under our belt.” “Oh yeah definitely,” Julian agrees. “Now that we’re finally satisfied with our live set and we feel like when we play it’s working out and all the songs are done and the recording is done, we’re going to gig as much as possible.” In 2018 we’re set to see an even more improved and self-assured REV, with new material, a new label, solo projects and many more live shows. The world is REV’s oyster. Be ready to take a bite. REV’s new EP is due for release early 2018 and will be available on iTunes and Spotify. Follow REV and keep up-to-date with their shows and music on Facebook and Instagram @revsounds. For bookings, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
LOST, ALONE AND STARVING... HOW FAR WOULD YOU GO TO
SURVIVE? The Opera Story returns to Peckham for their second production, ‘Goldilocks and The Three Little Pigs’, a tale on the light and dark sides of human nature. Come and discover these stories like you have never experienced them before! Six performances at the Copeland Gallery (SE15 3SN): Feb. 26 and 28, and March 2, 3, 6 and 8.
Tickets at www.theoperastory.com/tickets Peckham Peculiar readers: use discount code SE15 and get £5 off each ticket!
On the trail of Dougal Douglas
IN MURIEL SPARK’S NOVEL THE BALLAD OF PECKHAM RYE, SCOTSMAN DOUGAL DOUGLAS MOVES TO PECKHAM AND WREAKS HAVOC ON THE LIVES OF ITS RESIDENTS. Here, on the centenary of Spark’s birth, one writer follows in the infamous character’s footsteps WORDS GAYLE LAZDA
Welcome to the second in an extremely sporadic series in which I make a doomed attempt at constructing a pub walk based on a book published in the 1960s. Taking The Ballad of Peckham Rye by Muriel Spark as my subject matter proved to be more problematic than that of my ﬁrst pub walk (Ian Nairn’s classic 1966 guide to London’s architecture), due to its being a work of ﬁction. While many of the places mentioned in the book are real, and would have been well known to Spark, who was living just down the road in Camberwell when she wrote it, many of them, alas, are not. The location where the majority of the pubbased action of the novel occurs – The Harbinger – doesn’t and never has existed. Ed Glinert suggests, in his book Literary London, that it may be based on the now demolished Golden Lion of Denmark Hill, due to the reference to the pub’s “vintage fame in the old Camberwell Palace days”. However, a location that would allow you to stop by the door to the saloon bar “to look into the darkness of the Rye beyond the swimming baths” suggests the King’s Arms – also now demolished, which stood on the corner of Peckham Rye and East Dulwich Road, facing out on to the (hopefully soon-to-be resurrected) Peckham Lido. Either way, you can’t drink there any more. Other important locations in the book that I failed to ﬁnd in reality: the Greek-owned café, Costa’s, which due to there now being a Costa February/March 2018
Coﬀee in Peckham is entirely impossible to google; and Findlater’s Ballroom. Should you wish to recreate Dougal Douglas’s dustbin lid-based dance routine for the entertainment/oﬀence of your companions, the Rivoli Ballroom in Crofton Park is your best bet locally for doing so. And so on to the actual pub walk, what there is of it. We start, as the book and Humphrey Place does, at The Rye. Known then as the Rye Hotel, it can no longer boast any rooms, but it does now have a pétanque pitch in the beer garden, which probably wasn’t there in Spark’s day. From here, cross the road and you’ll ﬁnd yourself almost immediately at the White Horse, where if you’re following the book closely, you should drink one bitter. I somehow imagine the White Horse would still be relatively recognisable to Humphrey: a comfortable half-timbered building, and inside a series of bars, with a pool table, darts board and open ﬁres. (Half-price prosecco Thursdays might be less recognisable.) Turn left out of the White Horse, heading north to where Peckham Rye turns into Rye Lane. While crossing over the road, take a moment to salute the former site of the Heaton Arms, demolished a decade ago, and currently home to a branch of the Money Shop. Continue across the road and you’ll ﬁnd yourself at the ﬁnal stop on the sensible leg of our tour, the Nag’s Head (known as the Morning
Star until 2000). In temperament, it’s probably the most 1960s of the pubs still standing: no craft beer, no food beyond crisps, sport on the telly, a fruit machine blinking away in the corner. Dougal waits for his boss at “The Dragon” in Dulwich. I can’t ﬁnd any evidence of this existing, but should you wish to go for a “gin and peppermint” in Dulwich, the recently reopened Crown and Greyhound boasts a (non-Ballad related and fairly tenuous) Spark connection: it served as the home of the Dulwich Poetry Group, set up by Lionel Monteith in response to Spark’s controversial leadership of the Poetry Society. If you’re feeling energetic at this point, it’s a 40-odd minute walk to our next stop; if not, follow Dougal’s route and get the bus. Either way you’re heading for the, again, sadly demolished Rosemary Branch on Southampton Way. Of all the lost locations I’ve read about while researching this walk, the Rosemary Branch is the one I most deeply regret having been born too late to drink in. Established sometime in the 18th century, it boasted sporting grounds that hosted entertainments as varied as an experimental railway and a pony being ridden by a monkey jockey.
It’s now just a non-descript corner, with nothing much going for it, so if you’ve followed me this far, apologies. And it’s all downhill from here, so seriously, go home. Wind through the backstreets of Camberwell to the Camberwell Road, and you’ll come across what I assume to be the same Regal Cinema where Dixie works nights in the novel, although it’s gone through several reincarnations since then – as the ABC Cinema and a bingo hall – and is now home to the House of Praise Church. The most likely candidate for the unnamed pub opposite the cinema, outside which Dougal ﬁnds Nelly Mahone proclaiming, is what used to be the Father Redcap on the corner of the Green. (Yes, it’s now closed; no, you can’t have a drink.) But since you’ve come this far, you may as well head south, down into Camberwell proper and make a pilgrimage to the place where all this started: 13 Baldwin Crescent, home to one Muriel Spark from 1955-65, and where she wrote The Ballad of Peckham Rye. This piece is a slightly adapted version of Gayle’s post, The Ballad of Peckham Rye: A Pub Walk. It was ﬁrst published on the website of the London Review Bookshop in Bloomsbury, where she works. THE PECKHAM PECULIAR / 29
Set in stone PECKHAM RESIDENT AND PHOTOGRAPHER TIM RICHARDS HAS COME ACROSS SOME UNUSUAL LOCAL CHARACTERS RECENTLY. Can you guess where in Peckham, Nunhead and East Dulwich these faces are located, without checking the answers below? 1
ANSWERS 1 33 Trafalgar Avenue 2 3 Peckham Hill Street 3 45 Trafalgar Avenue 4 Corner of Brock Street/Nunhead Green 5 82 Danby Street 6 27 Trafalgar Avenue 7 29-31Meeting House Lane 8 Best Western Hotel, Lyndhurst Way 9 124 East Dulwich Road 10 65 East Dulwich Grove 30 / THE PECKHAM PECULIAR
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.
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Foster to adopt carers for both babies and older children. www.southwark.gov.uk/fostertoadopt 0300 222 5936 Fostering information evenings – 2nd Tuesday of every month – 5.30pm Canada Water Library.
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:
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A dynamic duo JO AND JESS EDUN’S NIGERIAN COOKING WITH A TWIST IS GOING DOWN A STORM WITH CUSTOMERS AT THE OLD NUN’S HEAD. With plans to open restaurants in London and beyond, for these talented sisters, the sky’s the limit WORDS HELEN GRAVES PHOTO LIMA CHARLIE
Jo and Jess Edun are sisters on a mission to bring their unique style of Nigerian food to the people of south-east London. Currently, they’re cooking at The Old Nun’s Head pub every Wednesday, working the kitchen in their brightly coloured Dutch Wax aprons, music cranked up, pans bubbling and steaming. Their business is called The Garden of Edun (see what they did there), and their speciality is taking traditional Nigerian dishes and giving them a unique, often British, twist. The result is colourful food that feeds the soul, generously portioned and packed with big flavours. The sisters, too, have larger than life personalities, with an infectious enthusiasm and warmth. South London born and bred to Nigerian parents, they started out on different paths but never lost touch with their love of cooking. “I was studying law at university”, Jess says. “We were a very traditional Nigerian family, very much about education and I was pushed in that direction because my granddad was a barrister.” Jo, on the other hand, was an aspiring clinical psychologist. “I did an undergraduate degree in psychology and then I wanted to do a doctorate, but it’s literally an impossible course to get on to,” she says. “I’m studying occupational therapy parttime at the moment.” The sisters had long shared a passion for the Nigerian food they grew up with however, something that was passed on to them by their grandmother on their mum’s side, Mama Mary. “Growing up, grandma taught me and Jo to cook, so we’d been doing that since the age of nine,” Jess says. “It’s something we’ve always loved, just being in the kitchen, and we always February/March 2018
enjoyed cooking for parties and barbecues.” “There are eight of us: four brothers and four sisters. In the summer our mum would take us to our nan’s and say, ‘I’m just going out for a bit’ and then she’d leave us there for six weeks!” laughs Jo. “Our nan was a massive influence on us and she was the life and soul in terms of cooking. If she didn’t have it in the house, she’d go to the market at six o’clock in the morning and get it, she’d make it happen. We want to cater to other people just the way she catered to us.” Jess says: “When she passed we thought, ‘We’re just going to go for it’, and carry her legacy on with the food. We’d always wanted to own our own bar and restaurant anyway.” The duo take traditional dishes like jollof rice, fried rice and cassava, add different sauce and seasonings and make their own adaptations. “With the Nigerian food that’s out there, people tend to stick to the traditional ways, but this way reflects our dual British and Nigerian nationality,” says Jo. “We think that makes us stand out, rather than just doing the same Nigerian food as everyone else.” Their menu is packed with playful twists on Nigerian classics like jollof rice. This slow-cooked dish is prepared all over West Africa and hit the headlines in 2014 when Jamie Oliver had a disastrous bash at making it. The sisters both fall about laughing. “Do you remember?” Jo laughs. “It was basically tomato rice!” How should it be made? “So jollof rice is all different types of peppers – you’ve got bell peppers, dried peppers, hot peppers, then you’ve got tinned tomatoes, tomato purée, Maggi stock cubes, stuff like that; you’ve got bay leaves,
thyme, curry powder, a mixture of herbs blended together. You kind of just chuck everything in to your taste really. “Then there’s a slow cook. It’s just great if you want something nice and hearty to eat. It’s also good at your summer barbecues – Nigerians basically have jollof rice everywhere, honestly, it’s literally everywhere you go. “What we’re doing is bringing it to the masses – to people who might not have tried it before. You have to cook it as a stew first and then when it’s cooked, you add the rice. If you put it all in together it will just taste like tomatoes.” Jamie Oliver, take note. Other twists on Nigerian classics include their cassava chips. “We’ve taken the idea of a starchy vegetable like pounded yam and turned it into chips. So instead of having it like a mush, it’s turned into a chip version, so it’s like the best of British. We basically boil it up and then fry it so it’s crunchy but then all soft and gooey in the middle.” For dessert, it’s chinoffee pie, so called because it’s their own twist on banoffee, made with chin chin, a small crunchy fried doughnut. “We crush the biscuit and mix it into the base and then we add caramel, bananas and whipped cream and then some chocolate on top. Yum!” both say in unison, as they laugh. What’s clear is that Jess and Jo have a passion for people as well as food. They want to share their traditions with other people from different backgrounds. “We just want people to be interested in our food and our culture, try everything, let their hair down and have a good time,” says Jess. “What’s that line you always say Jo, which I love?”
“Food is life, life is food, so let’s eat!” Jo says. “There are people from different communities who have never tried this food so we want to get it out there. It’s all about engaging with people and just getting them to try it – go on, you might like it.” They have big ambitions for the business, too. “We want not just one restaurant but multiple restaurants in London, and hopefully worldwide, fingers crossed. We’d also love to become supermarket suppliers, because there aren’t many Nigerian products out there. We want to explore that gap.” It’s also hard to imagine the two women apart. They’re constantly saying phrases in unison followed by laughter and “snap!” They clearly spend a lot of time together. “We work together, live together – we shared a room until we were 18 and then when we went to uni I’d call her every night,” Jess says. “Then we moved in together. So we have the same house, same friends, same life, everything. People don’t call us Jess and Jo – they call us the Flygerians. We are just one person; we don’t have an individual name.” I suspect that much of their success – great food aside – is down to their personalities, which in turn will make them a successful brand. They got their initial break, for example, handing out Christmas cards at Waterloo Station, with the details of their crowdfunding campaign inside, just chatting to random commuters. They were spotted by a representative from a local radio station, and started to get some publicity. “We just like to speak to people and know what they’re looking for,” says Jess. “We’re basically chatterboxes anyway, as you can probably tell.” THE PECKHAM PECULIAR / 33
Food for thought MIGRATEFUL IS A SOCIAL ENTERPRISE THAT WORKS WITH REFUGEES AND ASYLUM SEEKERS TO OFFER A WEEKLY COOKERY CLASS AT ROSIE’S CAFÉ IN PECKHAM. Founder Jess Thompson tells us how the project is rebuilding lives, one recipe at a time WORDS KATE WHITE PHOTO BENOÎT GROGAN-AVIGNON
When she lived in Iran, Elahe would wake up to the smell of her grandmother’s cooking, and the beautiful aromas as she added the ingredients in the early mornings. When she arrived in the UK, one of her biggest barriers was not being able to communicate. But all that changed after she was introduced to Migrateful, a Walworth-based social enterprise that works with refugees and asylum seekers to offer cookery classes to the public. “Migrateful has helped me to improve my confidence and self-esteem and to believe in my capabilities,” says Elahe, who is one of nine chefs working with Migrateful – others come from Syria, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Nigeria, the Congo, Pakistan, Equador and Cuba. “I am cooking with love and passion again like in the old days,” she adds. “I would like to thank Migrateful for offering me this great opportunity to make friends, use my talents and to succeed.” Migrateful was founded seven months ago by Jess Thompson, a French and Spanish graduate who, after university, spent a year working with migrants in the town of Ceuta on the north African coast. She was also based in Dunkirk refugee camp for a while. Upon her return to London she did a course on social enterprise called the Year Here Fellowship, where participants work with communities and come up with solutions to the social problems they witness. Jess ran a time bank project at a refugee 34 / THE PECKHAM PECULIAR
charity in east London, where she taught about 10 refugee women English every week. “Part of the deal for them to come to my English class was that they had to give something back for an hour,” she explains. “All of them were highly qualified refugees from other countries but they couldn’t get employment, because of linguistic barriers or because of their legal status. So there was a lot of frustration. “One day they said they would really like to teach their traditional cuisines because that’s a skill they could offer the community. I thought, ‘There’s people who would definitely pay to learn this,’ so that’s how the idea started. “To begin with I would just invite friends to my house with one of the refugee chefs and they would try out teaching their cuisines. I started the company in June last year and since then we’ve run 45 cookery classes.” Each chef on Migrateful’s roster has a profile page on the website, so people can book a private cookery class in their homes. In addition, every Tuesday a Migrateful chef hosts an open class at Rosie’s Café on Peckham Rye, with eight places available per class. Jess also runs a weekly training session for the chefs at Pembroke House, which is based near to Burgess Park. The first half of the session consists of English therapeutic activities where chefs talk about how their asylum process is going or any difficulties they are experiencing.
The second half sees a different chef each week practising how to teach their cuisine, giving them an opportunity to try out the concept in an informal setting while gaining valuable feedback. One of the benefits of Migrateful is “the integration the chefs get”, says Jess. “Throughout the asylum process they’re asking for help and not feeling very valued or useful, so this is a way to empower them through skill-sharing. “It helps to boost their confidence when they are leading a class. It’s really good for their self esteem and it also allows them to practice their English and gives them employability training.” While asylum seekers have no state benefits and cannot legally work, Migrateful can help by teaching them new skills, which increases their sense of worth, and giving them access to a valuable support network. For refugees who can work, the scheme can pave the way towards accessing employment opportunities. “We’ve already been able to link some refugees up with employment through the network they’ve met,” Jess says. Members of the public help too, she says. “Anyone who comes to a cookery class can give a financial donation to the chef, or they can offer work to the refugees or a befriending service. We’re enabling the community to meet these people and help them set up their lives.” Migrateful provides chefs with references for jobs and although it’s still early days, Jess says she is also working towards being able to issue
qualification certificates that will further help boost their CVs. “We’re trying to get our model right before we expand it too much, because there is a lot of training,” Jess says. “All the chefs are really good cooks, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they are cookery teachers – that’s where the training comes in.” Jess works at Southwark-based homeless charity Housing Justice for three days a week and at Migrateful for the other two. “We need to be running four cookery classes per week for the business model to break even, so it’s just the beginning stages at the moment,” she says. Nevertheless, for the nine chefs involved so far, the project has been life-changing – and the diversity of the food they can offer is undoubtedly one of the project’s strengths. “That’s a really great part of it – every week I eat a different type of cuisine,” says Jess. “Food is such a universal thing that everyone can bond over – it’s really nice to have it at the centre of the project." The Migrateful team has also developed a close bond, she says. “It has become a very strong network and a community. All the chefs are my really good friends now – they’re coming to my birthday party tomorrow. It’s a really nice group to be a part of.” Pictured above: Migrateful chef Iqra. To find out more or to book a class, go to migrateful.org February/March 2018