The rise of Peckham actor David Ajao
Aiwan Obinyanâ€™s fascinating film
Meet renowned local artist Lou Smith
A free newspaper for Peckham and Nunhead
Issue 31 February/March 2019
PECKHAM PECULIAR A PECKHAM VISIONARY
The unstoppable Eileen Conn Page 10
DECEMBER 2018/JANUARY 2019
DEAR READER, WELCOME TO ISSUE 31 OF THE PECKHAM PECULIAR, A FREE NEWSPAPER FOR PECKHAM AND NUNHEAD. This issue of the paper marks five years since The Peckham Peculiar was first launched back in January 2014. To mark this milestone, this issue features a special fifth anniversary section, starting with a four-page photo essay of some of our former cover stars. Also featured is Tom Szekeres, the very first person to back our crowdfunding campaign to get the paper off the ground; and artist Lou Smith, one of our first advertisers who was
interviewed about The Peckham Peculiar by BBC Breakfast on the day of our launch. Turn to pages 17-26 to read the special anniversary section in full. The Peckham Peculiar wouldn’t be in existence if it wasn’t for our 148 generous Kickstarter backers and also the brilliant local businesses who have supported us through advertising over the years. We would like to say a massive thanks to each and every one of you for keeping SE15’s
community paper in print – it’s thanks to you that we’ve been able to share hundreds of stories about the people of Peckham and Nunhead since we began. The next issue of The Peckham Peculiar will be the April/May edition, which is published in early April. As ever, it will be available to pick up and read in more than 130 stockists across Peckham, Nunhead, Camberwell and East Dulwich, with every single copy personally hand-delivered by us.
If you’re a reader responding to an advert in the paper or online, we would be very grateful if you could let the relevant business know where you heard about them. And if you run a business and are interested in advertising with us, please drop us a line via firstname.lastname@example.org to find out more. We hope you enjoy this special birthday edition. Here’s to the next five years in print! Mark McGinlay and Kate White
Peckham resident Guy Thompson will be heading to Hollywood this month after the film Black Sheep, which he worked on as a production designer, was nominated for an Oscar for best short documentary, writes Luke G Williams. Directed by award-winning documentary-maker Ed Perkins, Black Sheep tells the remarkable and harrowing story of Cornelius Walker, a black 11-yearold boy from Peckham. In the wake of the murder of Damilola Taylor in 2000, Cornelius’s mother, fearing for her son’s safety, moved the family out of London to a predominantly white council estate in Essex. After initially becoming a victim of verbal and physical racist abuse, Walker then sought to assimilate himself with the local gang who had been bullying him. The 27-minute film explores issues surrounding ethnicity and identity and the compromises that people make in order to fit in. Speaking about how he came to be involved with Black Sheep, Guy, 36, said: “The cameraman Michael Paleodimos and I worked on another film together called Oksijan, about eight months before. He got me into the project.” Although the majority of the real-life events that are recreated in the film take place in Essex, Guy said that some of the film’s exteriors were filmed in Peckham, including along Rye Lane. “It was great to be filming on my doorstep and for Peckham to be a part of the overall film,” he said. “Peckham is a key part of the story so I’m quite proud that people in Hollywood might know where Peckham is now.” One of the main challenges Guy faced in his role as production designer was ensuring the realism of the recreated sections of the film, which were set nearly 20 years ago. “In my role I have to oversee the set design and the props and the stylistic look of the film,” he explained. “The year 2000 isn’t very long ago but it’s still a ‘period piece’ – we had to be very careful with the stereos in people’s rooms, the clothes, the posters on people’s walls and so on. That was quite a fun challenge for me and my team. The
PHOTO BY PAUL STAFFORD
Peckham resident’s Hollywood hopes
beer cans even had to be designed to fit in with that time period.” Guy admits that being part of an Academy award-nominated project is somewhat surreal. “It’s incredibly exciting and hard to comprehend,” he said. “For such a small film, that was very low budget, to be recognised globally as being among the best work of the year is very humbling. “We’re very proud that we could get Cornelius’s story to such a wide audience, because it’s such a special story.”
Black Sheep was produced by award-winning duo Simon Chinn and Jonathan Chinn, founders of Lightbox, and was funded by the Guardian newspaper’s short films programme. Come Oscars night on February 24, Guy will be in Los Angeles, along with several other members of the production team. “I don’t think I’ll get a ceremony ticket, as they are literally the hottest tickets in town and I think the film will probably only be allocated three or four,” he said.
“But there are a lot of parties and events around the ceremony that I will go to. It would be very special to be in town if we win – I have to be there to celebrate with Ed and Cornelius and the team if that happens.” Guy isn’t the only Peckham resident whose film is up for an Oscar this month. Olivia Colman, who won a Bafta in February for her performance as Queen Anne in 18th century comedy The Favourite, is also hotly tipped to collect the coveted gong for best actress.
THE PECKHAM PECULIAR Editors Mark McGinlay, Kate White | Production Tammy Kerr | Photographer Lima Charlie | Features editor Emma Finamore | Sub-editor Jack Aston Contributors Helen Graves, Derek Kinrade, Anviksha Patel, Tim Richards, Colin Richardson, Paul Stafford, Rebecca Thomson, Luke G Williams, John Yabrifa Marketing and social media Mark McGinlay For editorial and advertising enquiries, please email email@example.com peckhampeculiar.tumblr.com | @peckhampeculiar | @peckhampeculiar | @peckhampeculiar
THE PECKHAM PECULIAR / 3
The Southwark Day Centre for Asylum Seekers and Refugees (SDCAS) is on a drive to find more volunteers and donations after losing thousands of pounds in council funding over the last five years, writes Rebecca Thomson. The day centre is one of south London’s only remaining safety nets for some of the area’s most vulnerable people, including families and young children, victims of torture seeking refuge in the UK and asylum seekers who have been unable to work for years because of Home Office delays in processing their cases. The centre is hoping that local residents will sign up to its Friends of SDCAS scheme at its website sdcas.org.uk. It is also looking for local volunteers to help it run its services. The charity runs day centres in Peckham at the Copleston Centre on Tuesdays and Peckham Park Road Baptist Church on Wednesdays, plus a centre at St Mary’s Newington in Kennington on Thursdays. It also holds a popular fundraising book sale at the Copleston Centre on the first Saturday of every month, which has raised more than £10,000 over the last three years. SDCAS provides asylum seekers and refugees with a holistic service, which includes advice and advocacy – including legal advice – hot meals, English classes, storytelling and art sessions, counselling, and the chance to connect socially with people. There are also “garden for wellbeing” projects that take place at Peckham Park Road Baptist Church and at the Copleston Centre.
SDCAS coordinator Pauline Nandoo said the centres provide crucial support for vulnerable people. “It’s a lifeline for people,” she said. “It’s one of the few hot meals they get a week. These people are not getting any financial support whatsoever, so when we can we provide food parcels, toiletries and clothes.” She added that around 30 per cent of clients are homeless or without fixed addresses, and said: “They have fallen through the cracks. People remain off the radar of mainstream society and pretty much invisible.” There is also a big social aspect to the centres – many of the charity’s clients come because they are isolated and lonely. SDCAS’ centres are currently run by a handful of staff and 42 volunteers. It is hoping more people in the area will be interested in helping to support and run them. “It’s just about welcoming people,” Pauline said. “We are looking for people who can help with a range of tasks.” She said the Home Office’s hostile environment is making it harder for people to access the services they are entitled to. “The asylum process is still unfair. People are living in the country for years without receiving any decision on their application, and they can’t work. They’re usually living in really bad accommodation or are homeless. This can go on for quite a long time until the cases are resolved.” Councillor Rebecca Lury, Southwark’s cabinet member for culture, leisure, equalities and
PHOTO BY ALEXANDER MCBRIDE WILSON
Peckham refugee charity calls for local volunteers
communities, said: “As we continue to have to manage a decreasing council budget with increasing demands for our services, we have had to change the way we look at funding these important community organisations. “While funding to SDCAS has been reduced over the last few years, we have worked hard to protect as much of it as possible, with longer term grants designed to support longer term planning and allowing them to use this as a base
to attract more funding from other sources. We recognise the excellent work they do across the borough to meet the needs of our communities that are either specifically disadvantaged or at risk of social isolation, and we echo their call for volunteers to help them deliver these important services.” To join the Friends of SDCAS scheme or enquire about volunteering, visit sdcas.org.uk
186 Bellenden Road
www.formse15.com DECEMBER 2018/JANUARY 2019
Nunhead says no to new supermarket More than 200 people have objected to Co-op Food’s plans to open a supermarket in Nunhead. The Co-op applied for a premises licence on the large unit at 86-96 Evelina Road in December last year. The space is currently home to MKK plumbing and heating, whose owner will soon be retiring after three decades in business. If the licence request is approved by Southwark Council, it will allow the Co-op to open seven days a week selling “groceries, sundry items and alcohol for consumption off the premises”. But the Co-op’s plans have been met with concern from some residents and businesses, in part due to fears that a new supermarket will have a detrimental effect on a high street that is renowned for its independent shops. Muchloved local food businesses on the street include Beaumont fruit and veg, Ayres bakery and fishmonger FC Soper among others. One shopkeeper, who did not wish to be named, told us: “The simple fact is Nunhead doesn’t need a supermarket. There isn’t anything a supermarket will sell that isn’t available already from the independent shops. “All a supermarket will do is take from the shops that are here already, which will invariably lead to closures. We have a unique situation here with the shops we have and it would be a shame to see it go.” The council has received 207 letters of objection to the application. One said: “The opening of this store will directly affect nearby businesses which
cannot compete with the pricing structure of such a large corporation.” A second objector said: “Many people are attracted to the shops here because they are not the same as other high streets. They are mostly locally owned and run and they are different from the identikit shops in other shopping parades. If the Co-op undercuts their prices, they will close.” A third person, also against the plans, said: “The Nunhead shopping parade on Evelina Road is almost unique and much valued for its high proportion of local (and locally owned) shops. “By their very nature such shops are poorly placed to compete with large chains, so [they] would be placed at risk by the introduction of a supermarket.” Asked if the Co-op would like to respond to the community’s concerns, a spokesman told The Peckham Peculiar: “Nunhead is an area we are looking at for a possible location for a new store, alongside other sites throughout London. However, it’s too early to discuss specific plans at this stage.” When we pointed out that the Co-op has already lodged a licensing application for a store at 86-96 Evelina Road, and asked if they would like to give any further comment, we received no reply. Council officers were originally due to make a decision on the application at a sub-committee hearing on February 7, but the meeting has now been postponed until March 15.
The Multiple States of One
by Hayrettin Kozanoglu, an exhibition of Ebru Art
23 Feb - 13 April 2019 Open Tuesday 4pm-8pm and Saturday 10am-4pm Adult Art Classes available every week. Painting, Life Drawing and Ebru Marbeling. See website for details and to book. Gerald Moore Gallery, Mottingham Lane, London, SE9 4RW www.geraldmooregallery.org @GeraldMooreGall
A wall to unite, not divide
From grassroots to glory
The fascinating story of a Derbyshire hill is coming to Peckham this month, with an exhibition that will explore one Derbyshire hill through photos, moving image, sculpture, poetry and sound. It will showcase work by Kate Bellis, an awardwinning photographer who has spent the last 20 years documenting the relationships between rural communities and the land around them. Kate’s images capture the working life of the hill – farming and quarrying – as well as the people who live in the shelter of the hill. Alongside Kate’s photographs, there will be a 20-foot Derbyshire Longcliffe limestone wall on display, built by quarryman and farmer Nick Wilson and his partner Emma Alsop, a shepherd. The wall will be partially finished by the launch, and during the exhibition, visitors will be given a unique opportunity to help build it. It is hoped the wall will bring a strong rural community and an equally strong urban community together; a non-divisive wall, a rare thing. The show will also feature a full-sized model of a Friesian dairy cow, made by acclaimed sculptor Sally Matthews using Longcliffe limestone from the hill itself. Writer Matthew Parris said: “This is not artsyfartsy stuff, not sweet, sometimes brutal, fitfully tender, showing birth and death on the hill’s surface and the long, hard history of mining and quarrying beneath it. I was tremendously moved.”
The spirit of the FA Cup is captured in a brilliant new book by a Peckham-based photographer. Que Sera, Sera, a 108-page photo-book by Orlando Gili and his friend Joseph Fox, is named after the familiar chant that reverberates around the terraces during Cup games. “In today’s big-money football industry, the focus is typically on star players and managers,” Orlando said. “We saw the FA Cup as an opportunity to reverse the camera and capture fan culture from the top teams down to the grassroots, taking you on a footballing rite of passage from the perspective of the fans.” The duo documented the 2016-17 FA Cup, starting with semi-professional side the London Tigers’ match against amateur team Sun Sports FC, with a crowd of half-a-dozen people watching on a ground alongside the A40 motorway. They then followed the winners from each round, on a journey that saw them travel 3,000 miles over the course of 10 months.
Hill is on display at Copeland Gallery from February 21 to March 3, 10am-6pm. To find out more about it, go to hillproject.uk
Leanne’s inspiring story A medicine graduate from Peckham delivered a powerful speech in the Houses of Parliament at the Baton Awards, which inspire BAME women by celebrating female pioneers and innovators. Leanne Armitage (pictured above) spoke about making strides in industries that BAME women are struggling to access at the awards, which aim to shine a spotlight on BAME female executives, entrepreneurs, scientists, creatives and activists. Leanne, who grew up on a council estate in Peckham, decided at a young age that she wanted to be a trauma surgeon, in order to gain a platform from which she could help young men affected by knife and gun crime. However, she studied at a secondary school where she saw just one student receive an offer to study medicine during the five years she was there. No one in her family had any background in medicine and she struggled with her own self-doubt. Despite these challenges, she went on to achieve 10 A-stars at GCSE and was awarded a 100 per cent bursary to attend sixth form at a boarding school in north London. But she faced a setback when, after applying to medical school, she was rejected by every single one before reaching interview stage.
Peckham sitcom turns 30 Theatre Peckham celebrated the 30th anniversary of Desmond’s last month – by recreating the very first episode of the much-loved show. Desmond’s first aired in January 1989 and was broadcast for a total of 71 episodes over six years, becoming Channel 4’s longest running sitcom in terms of episodes. The comedy follows the everyday lives of Desmond Ambrose (played by Norman Beaton), his family and their Peckham barbershop, where the patrons come in more for the conversation than the haircuts. Trix Worrell, creator of Desmond’s, grew up in Peckham and went to Peckham Manor School. He was inspired to write the show when he happened to glance down from the top deck of the 36 bus and spotted Fair Deal barbers on Queen’s Road, where a group of barbers were stood at a window ogling young women while their customers sat at the back of the shop, abandoned. 6 / THE PECKHAM PECULIAR
To gain further inspiration for Desmond’s, he then spent hours sitting in Lloyd’s, his local barbershop on Bellenden Road. “A haircut,” he recalled, “could take forever and a day”, with all the chat about music and sport, particularly boxing. The character of Porkpie was inspired by a Lloyd’s regular, who was often sent on errands and to place bets. Theatre Peckham’s artistic director Suzann McLean said: “Theatre Peckham is a learning theatre committed to the creative development of young people. Together with Trix Worrell, we celebrate and champion legacy, excellence and aspiration. “Each one of the outstanding actors who were part of this event believe, as I do, in the importance of celebrating the presence and impact that Desmond’s had and continues to have in the creation of a diverse range of arts leaders.”
Disappointed but undeterred, she remained committed to her vision and embarked on a gap year before reapplying to medical school. This time she received three offers and took up a place at St George’s, University of London. Determined to help other young people in a similar position to her, Leanne set up LAM (Leanne’s Amazing Medics) to offer inspiration and support to students from disadvantaged backgrounds who want to study medicine. The scheme focuses on providing students with mentoring as well as giving them the guidance and skills to help them achieve their ambition of applying to medical school. Last year her work on LAM was recognised with a Queen’s Young Leaders award, which was presented to her by the monarch in front of an audience that included the Duke and Duchess of Sussex and David Beckham. Addressing Leanne in a speech he gave at the event, Prince Harry said: “You are the hope and optimism that the world needs and we will do everything that we can to support you.” Speaking of her inspiring achievements, Leanne said: “It just shows, your background doesn’t have to limit your aspirations. If you stay focused and persevere, you can reach your goals.”
Que Sera, Sera, published by Bluecoat Press, costs £25 and is out now
Empowering exhibition The UK’s first all-black female cancer portrait exhibition is opening in Peckham’s Copeland Park next month. Black Women Rising – The Untold Cancer Stories, aims to get more black female cancer patients connecting and talking about their cancer experiences, to aid their recovery and spread some cancer awareness among their communities. The free exhibition will feature portraits of 14 incredibly brave black female cancer patients and survivors, showcasing the scars left on their bodies. There will also be a live panel talk with the ladies, addressing their individual experiences, fears and hopes for the future. The project is the brainchild of awardwinning community entrepreneur, blogger and breast cancer survivor Leanne Pero. The public exhibition and live panel talk will take place on March 28 at Copeland Gallery. Follow @blackwomenrisinguk on Instagram for more information
A class act Pupils and staff are celebrating after their school was declared outstanding by Ofsted. St Thomas the Apostle College (STAC) was once again awarded the highest accolade by inspectors, who rated it outstanding in all categories. The boys’ secondary school with mixed sixth form, based on Hollydale Road in Nunhead, won praise for maintaining “exceptionally high standards of pupils’ progress every year”. Inspectors said staff “go the extra mile to make sure pupils achieve, feel cared for and thrive within a supportive and productive learning environment”. The school was also praised for promoting pupils’ personal development and for its high quality support and guidance.
The study programmes for 16- to 19-year-olds were inspected for the first time and were also graded outstanding. STAC said the success of its sixth form is exemplified by the number of students going on to further training or study and achieving offers from top universities. Proud headteacher Eamon Connolly said: “From the moment the inspectors walked through the gate they were blown away by our students, their engagement, their determination to achieve, their high aspirations and how respectful and polite they are. “I feel very honoured to work in a school with such incredible students, inspiring teachers and supportive parents.”
Opera and outlaws
Interesting installations The team behind Peckham Levels has revealed a colourful new artistic programme that will see Levels members create temporary exhibitions and interactive installations in the multistorey space. Make Shift wants to ensure the series, called MS Works, makes Peckham Levels a constantly changing space that allows local artists and makers to take ownership of their home. The first members to unveil their projects are AO Architecture and Playdate Office. AO has created a skyscape of mirrors and lights called MeScape (pictured below), which is designed to dramatically change the way the space in Peckham Levels looks and feels, and the way people interact with it.
MeScape consists of 636 individual sections of acrylic mirror in a wide variety of colours, which have been installed to create multiple, fragmented reflections that allow people to see themselves from a “different perspective”, while providing the potential for playful interactions. AO co-founder James Owen Webster said: “MeScape is a site-specific installation centred around the concept of wellbeing, which merges art, architecture and placemaking.” AO Architecture is an award-winning design studio and creative agency that is located in Peckham Levels. Founded by friends Richard Alexander Bridges and James Owen Webster, it strives to “enhance daily life through great design”.
The tale of Robin Hood, the legendary medieval outlaw who stole from the rich and gave to the poor, is ingrained into English folklore – and now it’s set to be performed as an opera in Peckham, writes Colin Richardson. Pioneering opera company The Opera Story is returning to SE15 for the third year running with the world premiere of a new work based on the legend. “We generally want to work with familiar stories,” said the company’s executive director Manuel Fajardo. “The themes of the story of Robin Hood are timeless – justice, equality – and they are resonating right now.” The opera, an immersive and contemporary reimagining of the time-honoured tale, will be sung in English. The six opera singers, who include a pupil from a school in Dulwich, will be accompanied by a 10-piece orchestra. “We have found that 10 to 12 musicians is the sweet spot,” said Manuel, “because it allows
the composer to take risks, to give the music a certain depth that you wouldn’t have if it was just a quartet.” The company’s young creative team reflects its ethos of encouraging new and emerging talent. It also aims to bring opera out of the concert hall and into “intimate and unusual venues”. Robin Hood will be staged over three floors at the Bussey, with performers and the audience moving down one floor after each act. There will be surprises, too. “There is a twist in the tale,” said Manuel; “a dark secret.” Robin Hood will be performed on February 27 and March 1, 2, 5, 8 and 9 from 7.30pm. Book tickets via theoperastory.com using code “SE15” for a Peckham Peculiar readers’ discount. Friday and Saturday are club nights at the Bussey; for an extra £5, your opera ticket will let you stay for the party. Above: the company’s 2018 opera, Goldilocks and the Three Little Pigs, at Copeland Gallery
Have a fabulous February Get set for an unmissable February at the Prince of Peckham, which is celebrating LGBT history month with a jam-packed programme of events hosted by Jay Jay Revlon. Jay Jay (pictured right), a Peckham resident, community activist and local events curator, is celebrating diversity and queer culture at the Clayton Road boozer, with a line-up of exciting events held in partnership with LGBTQ+ charities. They include Stonewall Housing and The Outside Project – the UK’s first LGBTIQ+ crisis shelter and community centre. Highlights include Queer Island Discussions in collaboration with Foundation FM, which will see Lagoon Fem Shayma host a panel discussion with queer artists about queerness in performance on February 17 from 5-7pm. The event is free to attend, with donations to charity welcomed. Next up is Mind, Body, Booty – an evening of three, 45-minute fitness classes on February 20. Waack and Vogue, a cardio class led by Jay Jay, will mix the late-1970s dance forms of waacking and voguing with a music playlist you won’t want to miss. The Core Conditioning class will focus on the core, back muscles and glutes, aiming to improve posture and flexibility for all fitness levels; while
the POC Do Yoga session is a place for people of all levels to practise yoga and unite. Wear comfy clothes and bring a mat. The classes run from 6-6.45pm, 7-7.45pm and 8-8.45pm and cost £5.50 per session or £11 for three. Book via tinyurl.com/mbbclasses. Last but definitely not least, don’t miss Jay Jay’s Let’s Have a Kiki x PoP Cabaret night on February 23. The community-centred club night promises kiki with a twist, bringing the pioneering dance movement of the 1980s and 90s into the present day with special live cabaret performances. The night runs from 9pm-2.30am and tickets cost £6 from tinyurl.com/popcabaret. THE PECKHAM PECULIAR / 9
Come on Eileen
PECKHAM VISION FOUNDER EILEEN CONN HAS CAMPAIGNED TIRELESSLY TO PROTECT AND ENHANCE PECKHAM TOWN CENTRE. The extraordinary local resident and community activist discusses what drives her quest to encourage citizen action and bring people together WORDS LUKE G WILLIAMS PHOTO PAUL STAFFORD
In the world in which we live, the theoretical and the practical are often mutually exclusive. Individuals who view the world through a theoretical prism can often diagnose the flaws in our society, but struggle to remedy them. The reverse also often holds true: namely that those of a practical bent struggle to underpin their actions with a coherent view of the mechanics of human existence. Eileen Conn – founder and coordinator of local community action group Peckham Vision – is one of that rare breed of human beings who combines a formidable theoretical intelligence with the practical ability to mobilise, engage and inspire social change at a grassroots level. She is also one of the most remarkable and intellectually stimulating people I have ever encountered. Eileen and I meet on the second floor of the Bussey Building on Rye Lane, on a grim winter’s evening on which rain is being emptied from the sky as though from buckets. 10 / THE PECKHAM PECULIAR
It’s here that Peckham Vision is based, an apt location if ever there was one, considering Eileen’s key role in the 2005-09 campaign to save the Bussey Building from being demolished and replaced by a tram depot. The fact the Bussey is now such a hub of vibrant community activity is due in no small part to her. Eileen greets me warmly with the welcome offer of a cup of tea but beyond that, superficial pleasantries are not the order of the day. Instead our one-and-a-half-hour chat ends up resembling an exhilarating combination of a life lesson and a university lecture. Eileen speaks throughout with conviction and passion, but always underpins her theories and ideas with a keen sense of humanity. It’s rare that an encounter with another human being can challenge the way you view the world, but meeting Eileen was just such an experience for me. Despite Peckham Vision’s many achievements, Eileen is initially disappointed to hear that – although I have lived locally for many years – I am
not particularly familiar with Peckham Vision’s work. “That’s so frustrating!” she sighs. “At Peckham Vision, like most organised community action groups, we’re often written out of the story, and so it’s as if things just happened. “That’s why we have this on the wall,” she adds, gesturing towards a sign upon which is written four simple but profound words: ‘Things don’t just happen.’” The path that eventually led Eileen to Peckham – where she has made more things happen than most – began in Tyneside, where she was born in 1941. “I’m a Geordie,” she says. “I grew up in a provincial town, left school at 16 and went into the civil service in a very junior administrative and clerical role. “I came to London in my 20s as the first step in a planned trip around the world, because I needed to understand the world from a different perspective.
“I didn’t get beyond London, to start with anyway. Instead I went to evening classes, not because I wanted to pass exams, but because I was lonely and needed to find some way of getting to know people. “As a consequence of that I ended up going to Oxford University at the age of 25 because I had a thirst for understanding the world. “Why did I need to understand the world? Two things drove me: one was because I grew up as a proselytiser of a Protestant Christian sect, but I then realised the world wasn’t as black and white as I’d been taught. “The other thing that influenced me was that the job I had involved contact with people who were financially unable to look after themselves. I watched people fall into debt, lose their houses and eventually end up in prison, and thought there was something very odd about the way in which this happened. Why had people come together to create such a crazy system that kept people in debt? FEBRUARY/MARCH 2019
PECKHAM PEOPLE “After university I went back into the civil service, this time in Whitehall. By this time I understood more and I thought I could change things. “It was the late 1960s and the civil service was undergoing great reforms under Harold Wilson. My job was mainly concerned with the way government operates, and reforming the civil service so it was fit for the 20th century.” In the mid-1980s Eileen fell in with the Business Network, working for a holistic approach to business and “stumbled into lots of new thinking about the human species and the planet”. However, she admits that her quest for human understanding has never – and will never – be complete. “I’ve answered a lot of the questions I formed in my teens and 20s but it’s been a slow, long process,” she says. “It’s a bit like getting to the pot of gold at the end of a rainbow, only to discover there are more rainbows with pots of gold to look for.” As for Eileen’s connection with Peckham, that began in 1973 when a promotion in the civil service enabled her to buy a house. With her office in Whitehall being located on the number 12 bus route, Peckham was a perfect place for her to settle and she has been here ever since. “I felt really attracted by Peckham,” she recalls. “I liked the size of the houses and the fact that unlike Hampstead, where I had a bedsit, the streets weren’t full of cars. Of course it’s very different now. “Peckham also had a human scale, which really appealed to me. I wanted my own space, with no one above or below me, where I could have my own garden and a cat. And I found it in Peckham in the house I still live in today.”
Eileen has been fascinated to observe the changes in the topography and demography of Peckham over the last few decades. “What we see in Peckham today is a microcosm of the global community,” she says. “Many of the people who live here have come from countries with terrible conflicts, or places with economic and environmental problems. So Peckham is an extremely rich place [in which] to understand the 21st century dynamic of human society.” Eileen’s entry point into community activism in Peckham came in 1975, when she teamed up with a group of neighbours to express concern about the noise and disruption caused by a local industrial site. “We went to see our then MP, Sam Silkin, who earnestly told us that what we should do was to set up a residents’ association,” she recalls. “One night not long after, a knock came on my door from a man called Bob Smyth, and I was invited to join The Peckham Society. I attended meetings every month for about two years – that proved a huge education in civic affairs.” It’s an education that Eileen has put to good use, with Peckham Vision being one of the direct results of her community work and activism. A resident-led group of local citizens who live, work or run businesses in Peckham, the organisation’s stated aims are to promote and encourage citizen action to help Peckham town centre become thriving and sustainable, as well as to create and nurture ways of connecting people in Peckham who want the area to realise its potential. “The roots of Peckham Vision started when I discovered how exciting email was as a way of connecting people,” Eileen says. “I’m instinctively interested in connecting people. Then I began to take an interest in how the council was planning
Architecture + design www.studio-BAM.com
on turning this vast area of land in Peckham town centre into a tram depot. “Soon I had a network of contacts and people and email addresses which I could put to good use. Our strapline since the beginning has been ‘for an integrated town centre’ – that has never changed and all our work is informed by that idea.” Over the years, Eileen and other members of Peckham Vision have been involved in countless community campaigns and activities that are too numerous to list in full here. Some of the group’s most high-profile work has seen it helping to save the Bussey Building and its surrounding area from demolition and challenging redevelopment plans around Peckham Rye Station, Peckhamplex and the multistorey car park. “In each of our big campaigns, we relentlessly exposed and publicised the potential of these spaces in a way that the big institution [ie Southwark Council] in the end could not ignore,” Eileen explains proudly. “I think we have achieved something through several of our campaigns by enabling spaces we inherited from our predecessors – I get emotional about this – to show their life again. “And how much better is that than these soulless and expensive 21st century buildings that we otherwise would have been left with? “Peckham town centre is like a living museum, we’ve got buildings from the end of the 17th century right through to now and it’s beautiful. If you look up in Peckham, it’s amazing what you see above the noise and bustle and shopfronts.” If one quality of Eileen’s burns brightest, it is undoubtedly her passion, most significantly her passion for changing the way the world works, and improving the outcomes of interactions between large institutions and local communities.
“The dominant experience of all the people who work in corporations and institutions is a form of organisational relationship that is very different from that in organised community action in groups like Peckham Vision,” she explains. “What has kept me going and motivated is the feeling that there is often something not right about decisions that have been made at a higher level. For example, the real, lived-in economy is being neglected across London. “I’m also passionate about organisation and good order. When people come together they’re more likely to achieve what they want. Helping that to be more effective drives me.” Given the wealth of her experiences and her long and unending journey towards human understanding, I wonder whether Eileen believes if the battle for more productive connections between local residents and their institutional overseers can be won. So I conclude with a simple question: “are you an optimist?” With a rebellious twinkle in her eye, Eileen says: “I don’t like the word optimist, I prefer to say ‘hopeful’. “I have no doubt whatsoever that many things are possible. I’m certainly hopeful that there can be change and I’m a great believer that we can change things if we understand them better. You might say I’m an emotional optimist and an intellectual pessimist!” Peckham Vision is seeking local volunteers to help with social media, basic graphics, IT, creative retail and fundraising, and also needs a treasurer. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org to find out more. Follow @peckhamvision on social media and pop into the shop in Holdron’s Arcade, 135a Rye Lane, every Saturday from 2-5pm, or on the first Thursday of each month from 7-9pm. peckhamvision.org
All the world’s his stage
SINCE FALLING INTO ACTING BY CHANCE AGED 16, DAVID AJAO’S CAREER HAS GONE FROM STRENGTH TO STRENGTH. Now the talented actor, who grew up just off Rye Lane, is set to star as the lead role in As You Like It for the Royal Shakespeare Company WORDS LUKE G WILLIAMS PHOTO TOPHER MCGRILLIS FOR THE RSC
Rising Shakespearean actor David Ajao admits that if it wasn’t for a Sliding Doors-style moment as a teenager, he probably wouldn’t have ended up as an actor. “After school at St Thomas the Apostle College I had a place at Christ The King [sixth form college],” the 30-year-old tells The Peckham Peculiar over a cup of tea at the flat off Rye Lane where he once shared a bedroom with his older brother and where his Nigerian mother still lives. “My GCSE results were crap and when I went along to register I asked, ‘Is there any way I can get in?’ A lady there told me, very politely, ‘I’m afraid not.’ “I thought, ‘What am I going to do? My mum’s going to kill me!’ A mate of mine was waiting outside and it just so happened that we got the 436 bus back towards Peckham, which goes right past Lewisham College. “My mate said, ‘I’m going in to see what’s going on.’ I picked up a leaflet in the theatre that said, ‘If 12 / THE PECKHAM PECULIAR
you audition for a place, this is what you have to learn.’ So I went back to my mum and said, ‘I’m not in yet but I’m going to learn this and see what happens.’ “I drilled this monologue every single day for a week, had the audition, got in and ended up doing a BTEC national diploma in drama. That saved me. I don’t think I’d be acting now if it wasn’t for that trip to Lewisham College.” David had always enjoyed drama but did not initially consider the possibility of a career in the arts. “I’d always been a performer,” he admits with an endearing chuckle. “I’d sit at the back of the class in school making jokes or playing around. “In year nine my drama teacher Mr Foster took the time to say to me, ‘You could do something in drama’, but I didn’t really know what. I ended up taking drama at GCSE, mostly because I thought I’d get to play around and do improvisations.” As befitting a man resolutely and refreshingly
free of pretension, David is able to look back on his earliest performances with a sense of humour. “The first time I was on stage at school was terrible!” he laughs. “We were a Catholic school and we did a play about Jesus going into the desert for 40 days and 40 nights. “I can’t remember much about the play but I was the devil. I remember standing up in front of the whole school, having come up from a platform. My first line was, ‘I’m the devil!’ and everyone pissed themselves laughing. “Then we did a production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream in which I played Helena, which was an interesting experience in an all-boys school,” he laughs. “I was hearing about that for the rest of the year.” Post-Lewisham College, David studied at the Rose Bruford drama school in Sidcup, an experience about which he speaks candidly. “I struggled in that environment. Being a young, black male from south-east London and going to
this place in Kent was hard. It was really close to where I’d grown up but it was also really different. “I didn’t really know how to act around all these actors from across the country. I tried to be myself but I wasn’t staying in student dorms, I was heading back home at the end of every day, which was difficult. I couldn’t always go to the parties and socialise as much as others.” Before drama school, David admits he existed in something of a south-east London bubble. “My mum’s Nigerian and growing up in Peckham was like being in Little Nigeria or Little Lagos. “A lot of my mum’s friends lived around here and there was a huge Nigerian community, which was evident along Rye Lane, all the markets and in the hair shops. I loved growing up in Peckham and having that sense of community.” Despite the ups and downs of drama school, David remains grateful for the support he received from his tutor (“Steven Dykes – he helped me out a lot”) and the fact his course gave FEBRUARY/MARCH 2019
him the opportunity to study in America for a year in Nacogdoches, Texas. He also left Rose Bruford with a greater sense of identity. “You learn more about yourself at drama school than you do about any acting techniques, which in some ways helps inform who you are as an actor. But it was a tough three years.” While at Rose Bruford, David also secured his first paid acting job, wearing a hoodie in an ESPN commercial and earning the princely sum of £100 (“more than my EMA [Educational Maintenance Allowance] at the time!”). By this point, the lighthearted joker of David’s teenage years had turned into a young man possessing a steely determination to succeed and a formidable dedication to his craft. “I had an agent but they weren’t very good,” David reveals of his early days as a jobbing actor. “I knew there wasn’t going to be a big break that skyrocketed me, so the first thing I did was to go on a website called Casting Call Pro. “Anything that matched my casting breakdown I applied for. A lot of the work was unpaid, some of it was expenses only. But I did every job I could, as I wanted to add to my experience. I learnt so much from fellow actors, probably more than I did from drama school. “Fortunately, I was never so long without an acting job that I thought, ‘I’m not supposed to be doing this’, even when I took on other things like working at Currys or in bars or hospitality.” David’s career soon gained momentum with an appearance in Otieno at Southwark Playhouse, a contemporary reworking of Othello that set it in Zimbabwe. Soon after, he was cast as Romeo by the Box Clever Theatre Company in a production that toured schools for several months. “Kids are the most honest audience – if they don’t like you that’s it, you know it straight away! It
I want anyone reading this interview to be encouraged that they can find their own way David Ajao
was some of the most rewarding work I’ve done.” Ironically, David had never really seen himself as a potential Shakespearean actor, but being cast as Romeo set him on a path that would see his career often intersect with the Bard’s work. “I’d done two Shakespeare plays in secondary school like everyone else. But I was always like, ‘Hmm, I’m never going to properly understand it.’ “The artistic director of Box Clever, Michael Wicherek, took a chance on me. He said, ‘I want to give you this opportunity to play and understand Shakespeare, I think you’re a great actor and you need this.’ I never thought it would work out this way but I’ve done a lot of Shakespeare.” A further performance as Romeo for Box Clever followed, this time directed by Iqbal Khan, who has become an important figure in David’s career. “Iqbal and I clicked straight away,” says David. “I think he really understood me. I’ve since worked with him four or five times and my first RSC [Royal Shakespeare Company] job was directed by him.” The job David mentions was a role in Iqbal’s acclaimed and groundbreaking production of
Othello in 2015, in which the title role was played by Hugh Quarshie, alongside Lucian Msamati – the first black actor to play Iago at the RSC. David understudied for Msamati while also playing Montano. During the same Stratford season he also appeared in The Merchant of Venice and Hecuba. “I think there’s often a stigma around Shakespeare where people think they have to present it in a certain way with an RP accent,” David says. “Fortunately for me, with a lot of these productions I’ve had the privilege of having a director who has wanted to hear the Shakespeare in my voice, to hear the south-east London in it, to hear me speaking naturally.” Post-Othello, David picked up some major TV work, including a chance to flex his comic muscles in Dane Baptiste’s uproarious BBC sitcom Sunny D, and a six-month stint in Holby City alongside former Othello colleague Hugh Quarshie. “Doing TV was really exciting and helped raise my profile somewhat,” he says. “There were sort of opportunities to go back to the RSC but I had
always said that if I went back I’d like to have a really substantial part.” And so it came to pass when David was cast in the lead role of Orlando in As You Like It, in the RSC’s forthcoming Stratford-upon-Avon season. Rehearsals are well under way, with the curtain due to rise for the first time on February 14, while David will also appear later in the year as Pompey in Measure for Measure. “I’d wanted it for so long but there was still some anxiety attached to it,” he says of auditioning for the role of Orlando. “Part of it still hasn’t hit me – the fact I’m taking on a lead at the RSC. It’s somewhat daunting but also really exciting. “We started rehearsing at the end of November and the director Kimberley Sykes has set up a room where everyone’s opinion is valid. We are creating this world as a team, which makes me so much more comfortable. “I’m feeling really good and I’ll hopefully be bringing something new to the character. We all know As You Like It is a comedy, but I think within it, comedy and tragedy sit side by side. I think you’ll see a lot of that in Orlando.” David also hopes that his success will inspire other young people from working-class urban backgrounds to follow his lead. “I want anyone reading this interview to be encouraged that they can find their own way,” he says. “There’s no linear path in acting – you may have to go left, right or all over the place but there’s so many people out there who are doing great things, including loads of people from Peckham. “I’ve been inspired by so many people, so I hope people will look to me and gain some inspiration and see that Shakespeare can be for kids from Peckham, and that you don’t have to put on an act while acting it.”
Fabric of society AIWAN OBINYAN’S FASCINATING NEW FILM TELLS THE STORY OF WAX PRINT. She explains how the project led her to some unexpected places WORDS EMMA FINAMORE PHOTO MARCOS AVLONITIS
The bold, bright colours and beautiful, intricate batik patterns of wax print can be seen all over London, but they’re a visual symbol of somewhere else: Africa. From village to cotton field, from mill to market, a new film traces the story of how this fabric came to epitomise a whole continent – and it goes to some surprising places. The documentary, titled Wax Print, explores this extraordinary material’s relationship to Africa and its people, as well as its journey. Peckhambased Aiwan Obinyan wrote the film – as well as directing it, producing it, and even composing its soundtrack – after being inspired by something her Nigerian grandmother said. “I grew up with the prints,” she explains. “But when I heard my grandma call it ‘Hollandaise’, I was like, ‘How is it Hollandaise? What does that mean?’ I noted it and got on with my life, but later I began making clothes and wanted to use the fabric. I thought it would be nice to show my customers where the fabric comes from.” Telling this story took Aiwan to Ghana, Nigeria, the Netherlands, even to Manchester: “Wax print was made in Manchester for over 100 years, at ABC Wax, from 1908.” That’s because, while it’s seen very much as “African” fabric, wax print’s story is one of colonisation, international trade (including the slave trade) and industrialisation, across multiple nations, continents and cultures. During the Dutch colonisation of Indonesia in the 1800s, Dutch merchants became familiar with the nation’s batik technique. “They took it from 14 / THE PECKHAM PECULIAR
Indonesia and figured if they could mechanise it, they could sell loads of it,” explains Aiwan. Textile factories based in the Netherlands began developing machine-printing processes that could imitate batik, hoping their far cheaper, machine-made versions could outcompete the handmade batiks in the Indonesian market. West Africans recruited from 1831-72 to serve in the Dutch colonising army in Indonesia would have seen the prints, and when retiring to Elmina, in modern Ghana, they may have provided an early market for the imitation batik. That’s one theory, but what we do know is that demand for the fabric grew in African ports and across West Africa, leading the British and Swiss to follow the Dutch in producing and selling wax print. The fabric quickly became part of African apparel and of society: women used it as a form of expression and communication, with certain patterns used as a shared language with widely understood meanings. It was used as formalwear by leaders, diplomats and the wealthy. Aiwan’s telling of this story begins with her own relationship with wax print. “It was growing up in south-east London, being bullied for being African – it wasn’t cool to be African in the 90s – and wanting to hide my identity,” she says. “And one of the most immediate, physical symbols of Africa is wax print. So you kind of wanted to push it to one side, and not be associated with it.” This has changed though, for her and many other people with African heritage. “I think it’s
being reclaimed by black people worldwide as a symbol of Africa and African-ness,” says Aiwan. “And as something to be proud of.” Part of the documentary is filmed at Hub and Culture in Peckham, where customers can buy shoes, kimonos, capes, handbags and head wraps in wax print, in every colour of the rainbow. Sales figures show its popularity too. In Sub-Saharan Africa, wax print boasts an annual sales volume of 2.1 billion yards, with an average production cost of $2.6 billion and retail value of $4 billion. But it’s more than just a product to be bought and sold. “The film is kind of like the fabric,” says Aiwan. “It’s woven, it’s many-stranded. But the bottom line is about identity. When someone’s wearing wax print they’re wearing it with intention. It’s a statement: ‘This is who I am.’” This extends to places as well as people, as Aiwan discovered. “In Congo their colourways are very bright, almost fluorescent pinks and yellows,” she says. “Whereas in Ghana they are a bit more muted, more burgundies and olive greens. And in Nigeria the prints are more strong yellows, strong oranges, really intense blues.” Another part of the story Aiwan unearthed was a group of pioneering, formidable women called the “Nana Benz”, who played a pivotal role in the wax print industry from the 1930s to the 1970s. “They were very powerful women who became millionaires through trading in wax print – they were the gatekeepers,” says Aiwan. “They were in touch with the local women so they knew what
they liked, and they fed that back to the European merchants, who then made the cloth according to those specifications. They had economic power, political power, social power. They were so wealthy that they owned luxury cars like Mercedes Benz – hence the name, Nana Benz. Then I made the connection between the Nana Benz and my grandma.” Aiwan’s grandmother was an entrepreneur who ran a sewing school and tailoring business in Ekpoma in Edo State, Nigeria. “There’s a picture in the film of my grandma in the most amazing outfit,” Aiwan says, “standing next to a bright-red BMW sports car. She was a Nana Benz!” This big story calls for a big audience, and this month Aiwan is taking her film on the road. It has been accepted into the Pan African Film Festival in LA, and there will be screenings in Japan and Ghana – poignantly on Juneteenth, a celebration of the abolition of slavery in Texas and the emancipation of enslaved African Americans across the former Confederate States of America. “In the film I talk about how slavery was a big factor in wax print,” says Aiwan, “so it’ll be nice to celebrate the abolition of slavery in Ghana where slaves were taken, while showing a film that is about our identity as a people.” On making Wax Print, she adds: “I’m glad I went on that journey, and that I was given the honour of telling this story. Often when people write about wax print it’s almost analytical and academic. I’m glad the story of wax print has been recentred.” FEBRUARY/MARCH 2019
Chance4Charlie is fundraising £60,000 for life-saving Neurosurgery in Barcelona for Charlie, a young woman with Cervical Medullary Syndrome, a rare and life-threatening complication of Hypermobile Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (EDS). Charlie needs surgery urgently that is not available in the UK. To learn more about Chance4Charlie and to find out how you can help visit
chance4charlie.com email: email@example.com
As a previous member of staff, Charlie’s campaign is supported by Ganapati Restaurant + Ganapati Takeaway.
take away kitchen
“Extraordinary that with only 10 musicians there should be such orchestral richness… a swinish pearl of an opera”
The Observer on Goldilocks “If you don’t see it, you’re missing out. This production is a contemporary, gritty and exciting new work that dares to be different”
Candid on Goldilocks
CUNNING. courteous. cruel.
The Opera Story returns to Peckham with a new opera: February 27 • March 1,2,5,8,9 at the CLF ART CAFE / bussey building, se15 4st tickets are only £25 peckham peculiar readers: use discount code se15 and get £5 off each ticket more information and tickets: www.theoperastory.com
AN OPERA IN THREE COURSES.
FIFTH ANNIVERSARY SPECIAL
Celebrating our community PHOTOS LORNA ALLAN, LIMA CHARLIE, ALEXANDER MCBRIDE WILSON, KATIE WAGGETT, JOHN YABRIFA
When we launched The Peckham Peculiar back in January 2014, we hoped it would shine a spotlight on the people of Peckham and Nunhead whose stories had never before been told. We wanted the paper to reflect the incredible diversity and community spirit that are the heart and soul of this amazing area. We may be biased, but there really is nowhere else quite like it. Since the paper started up, we have been lucky enough to meet and interview hundreds of local people and give them a platform on our pages. We hope you’ve enjoyed reading their stories as much as we’ve enjoyed telling them. Over the past five years we’ve seen people come and people go, we’ve seen businesses thrive and we’ve seen other much-loved businesses close. We’ve attended weddings of interviewees and sadly also funerals. We’ve been seriously inspired by the trailblazing talent of the many young people we’ve featured, from musicians, spoken word artists, actors and filmmakers to fashion designers, businesspeople and entrepreneurs – and we hope you have too. We’ve written about people and places old and new, and have highlighted countless good causes and community-minded residents and businesses doing great things in SE15. We’ve witnessed and reported on many local campaigns, where people have come together and have fought tirelessly to improve and protect the area we all love. As CLF Art Cafe founder and former cover star Mickey Smith said when we interviewed him for the famous five feature on page 23 of this issue: “Peckham is no pushover”. FEBRUARY/MARCH 2019
We’ve also seen vast amounts of change in the area during the five years we’ve been in print. But one thing that has never wavered is the incredibly strong sense of community in SE15, which is apparent everywhere you turn. The Peckham Peculiar is all about people, and our front page has featured a diverse array of cover stars from our local community over the years – some who will be familiar faces to readers, others less so. Those who have appeared on page one include musicians, MCs, shopkeepers, schoolkids, community heroes and heroines, filmmakers, activists, entrepreneurs, BMX riders, playwrights, pubgoers and poets. They have ranged in age from primary school pupils to nonagenarians. This special four-page photo essay for our fifth birthday edition features a selection of original images of some of these cover stars from previous editions of the paper. We’d like to say a big thank you to our talented team of photographers – a handful of whom are named above – who bring the stories in the paper to life with their brilliant camera skills. A special mention goes to Lima Charlie, who we’ve been fortunate enough to work with since we began putting issue one together back in 2013. The paper wouldn’t be what it is without his immense talent, creativity and energy. We didn’t have space to feature all of our cover stars in this issue, as we’ve published more than 30 front pages to date. But if you’d like to view the full set online and read the stories behind them, please go to issuu.com/peckhampeculiar. THE PECKHAM PECULIAR / 17
FIFTH ANNIVERSARY SPECIAL
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THE PECKHAM PECULIAR / 19
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FIFTH ANNIVERSARY SPECIAL
The famous five WE’VE PUBLISHED MORE THAN 30 FRONT PAGES SINCE THE PECKHAM PECULIAR FIRST LAUNCHED IN JANUARY 2014. For our fifth anniversary issue, we caught up with five former cover stars to find out what they’ve been up to since WORDS LUKE G WILLIAMS PHOTOS LIMA CHARLIE
SALLY BUTCHER Sally Butcher, who co-owns Persepolis with her husband Jamshid, was our issue 11 cover star and remains as passionate as ever about her life and work in Peckham. Persepolis defies easy categorisation. A corner shop, restaurant and exotic emporium all at once, it specialises in Persian and Middle Eastern food and groceries as well as other esoteric delights. Two-and-a-bit years since we spoke to her, Sally’s passion for Persepolis and Peckham still burns. “My love for Peckham is unabated,” she says. “I truly love Peckham and everything it brings to my life. “You should never count your blessings, but we’re still doing well. We’re full most evenings, which is lovely, and customers still seem to like our quirky blend of good food and chaos. The shop’s nearly 20 years old now and the restaurant’s nearly six years old.” Sally believes Persepolis’ reasonable prices and relaxed ethos have helped them weather a tough economic climate and the uncertainties of Brexit. “In times of economic downturn our customers still find our menu attractive. People think, ‘Yes, we can afford to eat there’, and they continue to do so.” The passion with which Sally and Jamshid nurture the business is – Sally says – key to its success. “We’re one of a kind really. We maintain Persepolis with a lot of love and really enjoy what we do.” Since Persepolis opened on Peckham High Street nearly 20 years ago, the area has witnessed dramatic changes and regeneration. Sally largely views these changes with enthusiasm, as well as a sense of vindication. “We’ve been banging the
drum for Peckham long before many other people jumped on the bandwagon!” she points out. “Not that I have any problem with the bandwagon, it’s a great place to be. But yes, I’m proud that we’ve been loving Peckham for a long time.
“Generally regeneration has been good. I don’t think you’ll ever get total gentrification because the very essence of the area is that it is so mixed. The high house prices are regrettable but apart from that, I haven’t noticed any adverse changes.”
On being a Peckham Peculiar cover star, Sally says: “It was a great honour! We’re huge fans of The Peckham Peculiar so the fact they stuck us on the cover was a great privilege. Lots of people who hadn’t heard of us saw the paper and came in.”
CHISARA AGOR When The Peckham Peculiar caught up with Chisara Agor – our cover star from issue 21 back in June 2017 – the talented singer-songwriter and actress had just finished an acclaimed run playing Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz at Birmingham Rep. “Since I featured in The Peckham Peculiar I’ve finished my master’s and appeared in several shows,” she says. “[Among others] I’ve been in West Side Story, a play about social housing and protest and a musical called Bring It On at Southwark Playhouse. “The Wizard of Oz started rehearsals in October and I only just got back to London. It was produced in a way that was so fresh, new and exciting. I didn’t have to play Dorothy in any set way and we got some amazing reviews.” With so many strings to her bow, and with her talents in such demand, Chisara admits it is often impossible to plan her career choices too far in advance. “It’s quite difficult. I try to have a strategy but then things come up and if it’s a good project I go with the flow. “Each year there are things I’m determined to do. Last year I knew the one thing I really wanted music-wise was to release a single I was happy
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with and proud of. I did that [the single was named Divine], it got played on the radio and it got some good attention so I thought, ‘Yes! Something ticked off the to-do list!’” In 2019, Chisara is determined to get back into the studio as soon as possible and “record some more songs”. She also has three major gigs approaching on March 25-27 at the Jazz Cafe in Camden, when she will be opening for Blackstreet. It is important to Chisara to stay connected to Peckham, where she still lives and works “when time allows” with Theatre Peckham. “I could never separate myself from Peckham. I never want to lose that. Everything I do is connected in some way to where I’m from. It was weird to be away in Birmingham for such a long time. Peckham always energises and inspires me.” And what of her experience as a Peckham Peculiar cover star? “It was a bit weird being on the cover,” she laughs. “I’ve since got used to that kind of thing a bit more as The Wizard of Oz featured in quite a few publications. But it’s always nice being part of something local.”
FIFTH ANNIVERSARY SPECIAL
BEATRICE NEWMAN “Gosh! It doesn’t feel like it was that long ago,” says acclaimed fashion designer Beatrice Newman when we mention that it was nearly three years ago that she starred on the cover of our 15th issue, published in June 2016. “It was a major boost for me,” Beatrice says of her feature in The Peckham Peculiar. “And when I got the cover I was ecstatic – it made me feel good that somebody wanted to hear my story and that my story might inspire others in Peckham who are trying to do similar things.” Beatrice is still working on her fashion brand Korlekie, while exploring some other “exciting new ventures and collaborations”. She has completed a highly successful twoyear studio residency with the London Youth Support Trust in north Peckham. “I’m really grateful for the residency,” she says. “It did so much for me, I was able to be experimental and also expand and take on bigger clients and become more professional and creative.”
Peckham legend Mickey Smith, owner of the CLF Art Cafe and Rye Wax and creator of the hugely successful club night South London Soul Train, was cover star of issue six in December 2014. The following year the CLF came under threat from plans to build 11 flats next to the Bussey Building. When we reported that the developer had backed down after a heartfelt community campaign led by Mickey and Peckham Vision, it became the biggest story ever on our blog, achieving almost 12,000 hits. Fast-forward to 2019 and the inspirational entrepreneur is on the brink of launching two more exciting venues. The first, the CLF Art Lounge above Jenny’s Cafe in Peckham Rye Station arcade, will open this spring. “It will be music, cabaret and food,” Mickey says, “a place where people can go and embrace being an adult, have real conversations at a table, listen to really good music, have 10 bourbons to choose from at the bar, different champagnes and cognacs. So it’s the finer things in life, but keeping it real simple as well.”
He’s also transforming the Brookdale, a rundown former working men’s club in Catford, into a music venue, recording studios, bar, theatre and cultural destination. Artists will be invited to take up residence, play shows and work with young people. Peckham architect Benedict O’Looney is working on the renovations of the club, which is set to open this summer. Longer term, Mickey is exploring projects surrounding education. “Peckham’s problem is going to be that people will be priced out of the area and they’re going to have to leave,” he says. “The only way to resolve that is to give people the opportunity to be part of the wave and be empowered to be here.” He wants to help youngsters explore creativity, culture, marketing and business skills, so that by the time they’re 14, 15 or 16, “they’re already rolling and empowered enough to set up their own businesses in the local community. It’s about educating a whole layer of youth to understand they can do anything they want, but empowering them so they can really see it.”
Beatrice has also taken on two new roles within the fashion world. “I work freelance as a fashion consultant with a new startup concept store in Eccleston Yards in Victoria called 50m,” she says. ”I’m now head of their mentors programme, liaising with fashion professionals for up-andcoming designers who have been associated with the British Fashion Council and putting on fortnightly events. “I’ve also been appointed as the programme lead and senior lecturer in fashion design at UEL, which is going quite well too.” In terms of the future evolution of her work, she says: “I’m trying to focus more on knitwear, developing knitwear for all seasons. “I’m also a big advocate of sustainable and ethical fashion. We need to rethink how we do sustainability. I’m very big on the made-toorder model so you are making exactly what customers want, rather than a collection or lines that may not sell.”
CALEB FEMI Life has been non-stop for poet Caleb Femi since he featured on the cover of The Peckham Peculiar’s ninth issue back in June 2015. “Being in The Peckham Peculiar really gave me a boost,” he says. “There’s no way I’d be where I am now without it. Lots of people approached me who read that interview.” The 27-year-old now devotes all his energy to his artistic endeavours, having given up his former day job as an English teacher. “I’ve been busy”, he says. “I’ve been writing a lot and have a book coming out this year. I was the Young People’s Laureate for London for two years, and I had a play at the Roundhouse and Battersea Arts Centre [called Goldfish Bowl]. I’ve made a few poetry films, including for the BBC and Channel 4.” Being appointed Young People’s Laureate for London was a massive boost. “The role is yours to build how you see fit,” he says. “The only mandate is that you work in poetry with young people. “I wanted to work with young people who were disengaged or disenfranchised – people who didn’t see poetry as an art form for them. “I wanted to explore how poetry could be an avenue to help young people engage with the world and themselves and ask important questions about identity, sexuality and politics. FEBRUARY/MARCH 2019
“I worked with young people who are usually ignored by services in places like Stockwell, Newham, Beckton. I also travelled to Newcastle, Singapore and Nigeria. It was really rewarding. I always look at how poetry can be used to address life’s issues.” Although the decision to leave teaching – and a guaranteed monthly pay cheque – was a financial risk, Caleb found it an easy choice. “It was really simple,” he says. “I didn’t agree with the national curriculum and felt that teachers were severely overworked, under-funded and under-resourced. I felt I could make more of an impact through my poetry.” Caleb’s work spreads across film, photography and other artistic disciplines, but poetry remains his cornerstone. “I make sure everything feeds back to my poetry. It is my first love and at the heart of everything I do. I’m also interested in diversifying what we see as poetry and how we experience poetry. I want to see if we can infuse more technology into poetry. “At the moment I’m super into sci-fi. Everything I’m writing and putting together is sci-fi based. The endless possibilities of sci-fi appeal to me. It enables us to look at our dreams as something tangible, as well as examine how the world is right now.” THE PECKHAM PECULIAR / 23
FIFTH ANNIVERSARY SPECIAL
A CHANCE MEETING WITH THE FIRST BACKER OF OUR CROWDFUNDING CAMPAIGN LED US TO DISCOVER WHAT HAD HAPPENED TO HIM SINCE. Tom and Bryony Szekeres tell how their twins have survived against all the odds, thanks to the awe-inspiring work of King’s College Hospital WORDS HELEN GRAVES PHOTO PAUL STAFFORD
It’s a sad fact that many couples struggle to conceive, but Bryony and Tom Szekeres have had it so much harder than most. I meet with them on a significant day: Bryony has just returned from her first day back at work, marking the end of the maternity leave that followed her traumatic pregnancy and birth of identical twin daughters, Pia and Frida. We settle into their comfy sofas, twins asleep in another room, and they tell me the story of how it all so nearly didn’t happen. They’d been desperate to have children for a while, Bryony says, but when nothing was happening they saw a doctor who advised them to start IVF. “We tried the first round and it got cancelled straight away because I didn’t respond to the drugs,” she says. “They could tell I’d got a low ovarian reserve, which means my ovaries are like, 10 years older than my age. They put me on the maximum dose 24 / THE PECKHAM PECULIAR
of IVF drugs and although I did get pregnant I lost it the day after we got the positive test.” They decided to try again, as Tom explains. “I was always like, ‘Well, whatever we do, let’s just do three rounds of conventional IVF, because with one you can be unlucky, with two, maybe you can still be unlucky but with three you know there’s something wrong’.” So they persevered but after two attempts the doctors at King’s were realising something wasn’t right, and told them about a specialist clinic in Majorca. “They were like, ‘We’ve got this partner clinic and it’s out in a place called Palma’, and I said, ‘That’s where my sister lives’,” Tom recalls. “It turned out it was actually a 30-minute walk from where she lives.” Bryony adds: “So we thought, ‘Well, we know the place so it doesn’t feel too weird getting a donor egg from there’. We’d been there before and lots of people do go abroad to get donor
eggs. I was like, ‘I just want a baby, I’ll do anything to get that’.” They travelled to Majorca to meet the doctors, have a scan and generally check out the clinic. “I liked the feel of the clinic”, Bryony smiles, “so we decided to go for it, and King’s got my body prepared to receive the egg.” The clinic found a match for the couple very quickly. “I guess I’m short and brunette so it was easy to match someone Spanish,” Bryony laughs. “We got some good embryos, we went in and then you do the dreaded two-week wait for a pregnancy test, which we did and it was positive.” The couple were overjoyed yet cautious and despite a miscarriage scare at six weeks, they made it to their first scan, when a tiny heartbeat was detected. A couple of scans later and a doctor was telling them there were two heartbeats, not one. They’d gone from trying hard to conceive with no success to expecting twins. Tom laughs as
he tells me: “Two weeks before that I’d bought a pack of eggs and there were three double yolkers in it. I’ve never had so many double yolkers!” There was a serious side to the discovery however, which is that the two foetuses had been formed from one embryo, which they “knew was dangerous”. “It’s much more risky and that’s how we knew at an early stage they were identical twins”, Bryony explains. “The first trimester was really stressful but we got through it and I was still pregnant.” Then they received a letter from the Harris Birthright Centre, a pioneering clinical unit and research centre at King’s led by professor Kypros Nicolaides. “There’s this thing called TTTS,” Bryony says, referring to Twin-to-Twin Transfusion Syndrome, a rare and serious disorder that occurs when the blood vessels of the babies’ shared placenta are connected so that one baby receives more blood than the other. FEBRUARY/MARCH 2019
“I thought, ‘Well, we’ve had enough bad luck in this area so we’re not going to get it – but if we do we are right down the road from the specialist unit. We can just walk down the road and they’ll sort it out,’” she laughs. But at 16 weeks, the couple were no longer laughing. “My bump had suddenly got bigger and it went shiny, which is a sign you’ve got TTTS. It was tight and stretched, like a drum,” Bryony says. “We went to the Harris Birthright Centre for a sonograph, with loads of research doctors crowded around us all wearing suits. They called in this consultant, Dr Sarah Bauer, and she was like, ‘Yep, it’s stage three TTTS – we have to treat now or they [the babies] will be dead by the end of the week.’” The couple were immediately whisked off “to a pristine side room that looked like something out of [American medical drama] House”, Tom jokes. “We were obviously terrified,” Bryony adds, “and we were waiting in this room and I just felt sick, awful. They only do surgery for TTTS in six places in the UK and they had three other couples coming that day already. We had to fit in lastminute. We were lucky – if we had lived in Ipswich or something, who knows.” Professor Nicolaides pioneered fetoscopic laser treatment, which separates the twins by cauterising the blood vessels that connect them. The procedure uses a fetoscope (a tool used to listen to a baby’s heartbeat) with a fibre-tipped laser, which is inserted through a tube into the uterus. “It was amazing,” says Tom. “We got diagnosed at 11am and got surgery on the same day by the world expert. When the tube goes in it was like looking at this underwater world.” Bryony describes the torturous wait to find out if the procedure had worked. “You wait an hour,
We weren’t expecting Frida to survive more than a couple of days. She had 100 per cent oxygen, full ventilation, basically the maximum settings for keeping her alive Tom Szekeres
then go back in to see if the babies’ hearts are still beating. We went back in and both heartbeats were there and we were so relieved, but then they saw this big black third pocket had opened – a coelomic cavity. “Then the doctor said that because I was so young in my pregnancy, the gestation sack is coming away from the uterus wall and it’s probably going to lead to miscarriage.” The couple were determined not to give up. “It had taken three years and £15,000 to get to this point,” says Bryony. “I thought, ‘I can’t do it again’. I went home, fell straight asleep, then woke up three hours later and the whole bed was soaked with amniotic fluid [the protective liquid that acts like a cushion for growing babies].” Back at King’s they were told that the risk of infection was now serious. “We were basically quarantined from that point,” Tom says. “We
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wouldn’t let anyone in the house, we wouldn’t go on any public transport and if we went to the hospital we walked or we got an Uber.” Their other concern was that Bryony would go into labour. “The nurse said, ‘If they [the twins] make it to 24 weeks, they will be in intensive care for months’, so we started to look into what it’s like to have a baby in intensive care,” says Tom. “We kept focusing on this number, 24 weeks, but when we got to 23 weeks, Bryony started bleeding again.” They knew that if the babies were born at this point, there was only a one-in-100 chance they wouldn’t be left with life-changing disabilities. Bryony ended up spending the remainder of her pregnancy as an inpatient at King’s. “The only thing I could do was occasionally go for a walk around the car park”, she laughs. “But the staff were amazing.”
Eventually she contracted an infection and went into labour. “They pulled the emergency cord for a caesarean, rushed me down the corridor, got me into theatre and there were 20 people standing over me, with the anaesthetist reading me my rights.” In the end, both tiny babies were delivered and whisked away for urgent attention. “Pia was 864 grams and Frida was 800 grams,” says Tom. “We weren’t expecting Frida to survive more than a couple of days. “She had 100 per cent oxygen, full ventilation, basically the maximum settings for keeping her alive. They were due on January 19 but they were born on October 19, so exactly three months too soon.” The couple then had to deal with the reality of one baby at home and one in intensive care. “It was sleepless nights, feeding every couple of hours then getting up, getting showered and dressed and going to see your other baby in hospital every single day as well as looking after another one – that was the hardest time,” Bryony recalls. “We went every single day, seven days a week and I was pumping milk eight times a day. The whole thing was a living nightmare looking back, but we were just so willing to do it all because they’d survived.” Of course, the couple are now blissfully happy to have their twin girls, finally happy and healthy, albeit still under the care of King’s for regular necessary check-ups and treatments. “Some of this treatment literally didn’t exist five years ago. The NHS is absolutely amazing,” says Tom. “And King’s especially”, agrees Bryony. “We just can’t believe we’ve got babies that survived all that. It’s been an unconventional journey.”
FIFTH ANNIVERSARY SPECIAL
Master of the arts LOU SMITH WAS INTERVIEWED ABOUT THE PECKHAM PECULIAR BY BBC BREAKFAST ON THE DAY OUR FIRST ISSUE CAME OUT. The local artist and screenprinter, who is the man behind the famous “Made in Peckham” design, tells us more about his creative career WORDS COLIN RICHARDSON PHOTO PAUL STAFFORD
Lou Smith is one of those enviable people who seem to be able to turn their hand to anything and do very well indeed. Lou is an artist, jeweller, sculptor and screenprinter. He’s a photographer and videographer. He’s been a maker of bespoke, high-end furniture. And he’s a children’s party organiser, candyflossmaker and indoor pyrotechnist. What he’s not, though – and he is the first to admit it – is a self-promoter. “I’m a bit lackadaisical on the self-promotion front,” he admits, “so these things just seem to happen, not because I’ve promoted them. If I had promoted them, I don’t know what position I’d have been in.” Or to put it another way: “The thing is, I do too much stuff.” Lou was born in Leeds. “My father was a geologist,” he says. “He used to take us on regular outings into the wilds of Yorkshire, which instilled in me a deep love of nature. My mother was very artistic, but, as was so often the case in those days, she stayed home and looked after us. There were three of us, so it was pretty much full-time. “She’d always be doing something – painting for instance – and she taught me how to cook and sew, the things I would need later. My dad taught me all the hammering and sawing kind of skills.” When Lou was 14, his father’s job was relocated to London and the family upped sticks and moved to Uxbridge. “It was tough,” he recalls. “In London regional accents weren’t popular in those days.” He got on, though, achieving three science A-levels and going on to Imperial College to study 26 / THE PECKHAM PECULIAR
biochemistry. Then, halfway through his studies, he fell ill and was hospitalised. When he recovered, he went travelling before returning to college, but later dropped out. After abandoning his formal studies, Lou moved away from science and towards art and design. He rekindled his passion for nature, which is reflected in his photography and jewellery. He took up video-making. And then he got together with his friend Roy Middleton, who had trained at Camberwell Art College as a fine-art metalsmith. “For years, we worked together as a team doing really nice bespoke interiors for commercial premises and houses,” he says. They worked on three houses for Channel 4 series Grand Designs. But eventually, Lou reached the point where “I saw I didn’t want to be doing this in 10 years’ time.” In any case, the work was drying up as people tightened their belts in the face of economic austerity. So Lou cut loose. And having done so, he came up with a design classic that moved his career in yet another direction. “Made in Peckham” is one of those ideas that is so fiendishly clever that you wish you’d thought of it first. Indeed, many people seem to think they have. Lou has recently discovered that his iconic image has been appropriated by a wide range of businesses who use it to promote their enterprises without so much as a “by your leave”, never mind an “and here’s a little something for your trouble”. You’re sure to have seen the image yourself. It’s so much part of the culture of Peckham now that
it’s almost as though it has always been here. The image is of an SE15 street sign with the street name replaced with the words, “Made in Peckham”. And perching atop the sign, bending down as if to peck at Peckham, is a large black crow. To start with, Lou screenprinted the image onto T-shirts. A friend of his had opened a clothes shop on Bellenden Road and she offered to sell his T-shirts. “She sold hundreds of them,” Lou says. “I couldn’t print them fast enough.” Since then, the range has expanded to include mugs and, among other things, hotpants. Lou has produced lampshades screenprinted with images of creatures from his nature photography, which are also available as framed prints. He makes everything in his studio in one of the railway arches on Blenheim Grove. How long he’ll be able to continue doing that is a matter for conjecture. Last year, his rent was increased by 80 per cent, backdated for two years, and he anticipates further rises later this year. He laments the fact that once-affordable spaces are being priced out of the reach of many artists and craftspeople. “It’s killing experimental art,” he says. For several years, as well as selling through local shops, Lou sold his merchandise at street markets and events like Pexmas. At the moment, though, he doesn’t have any retail outlets and is keen to hear from anyone interested in stocking his wares. In the meantime, he welcomes enquiries via his website or through Captured on the Rye, the shop on Pellatt Road in East Dulwich that he co-
owns with his wife. It used to be Jack’s Cafe. The coffee machine is still in situ and “occasionally, the ghost of Jack’s can be seen from the original vinyl that they had on the window,” says Lou. “When it gets breathed on, it illuminates a crown with ‘Jack’s’ written on it. I started retailing my Made in Peckham stuff from the shop, but people didn’t really understand: why is it in East Dulwich?” Lou’s wife, Lorraine Liyanage, is founder of the Dulwich Music Festival and runs her SE22 Piano School from the shop. Between lessons, Lou turns it into a party venue for children. “I did some summer screenprinting workshops for the London Wildlife Trust,” he says. “It was then that I thought, ‘This could be a good business’, because children love to make their own T-shirts.” Lou runs two types of parties: artistic ones, focusing on screenprinting, and science ones, which involve explosions and white lab coats. “The kids come and dress up in them and wear specs and make slime and bath bombs and fire little cannons at one another. And we do spin-painting and pyrotechnics and candyfloss-making.” As if all that weren’t exciting enough, Lou says, casually, “I’m also a champion of the underground music scene in London. That’s one of my biggest things, actually. It doesn’t pay very much, though.” He has made videos for a number of bands and has an extensive collection of photos taken at gigs. One day, he hopes to stage an exhibition of them... So yes, Lou Smith probably does do too much stuff. But he does it damned well. FEBRUARY/MARCH 2019
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An inspired idea EUGENE OFOLIE CODJOE REALISED A LONG-HELD AMBITION WHEN HE OPENED ECAD, HIS GALLERY AND STUDIO IN SE15. The Peckham resident explains how he discovered a passion for photography – and what’s coming up next at the space WORDS COLIN RICHARDSON PHOTO BENJAMIN RICE
It has taken Peckham resident Eugene Ofolie Codjoe years of hard work to realise his dream of owning his own photography gallery. Now, just over a year since the dreaming stopped and reality kicked in, Eugene reckons it’s all been worth it. ECAD (Eugene Codjoe Architecture and Design) gallery and studio opened its doors in November 2017. It occupies a unit in the White Building, on the corner of Consort and Brayards roads, a short hop from Rye Lane. Eugene had been looking for the ideal space for quite some time, so when the unit became free, he snapped it up. Two months later, following a thorough fit-out of the space, ECAD announced its arrival on Peckham’s cultural scene. Eugene’s inspiration is The Photographers’ Gallery in central London, which became the first public gallery in the UK to be dedicated solely to photography when it opened. “It started me thinking, ‘I’d love to have a space like this’,” he says. But the real germ of the idea lies in the fertile (back)ground of his life in architecture. “The ambition to own a gallery came from my passion for and love of architectural spaces,” he says. “When I walk into a gallery, I don’t look at the artwork straightaway; I look at the space and what the space fills me with. It’s a lovely feeling. Then, when I’ve felt it, I go and look at the images.” FEBRUARY/MARCH 2019
It’s that sense of wonder that Eugene hopes his own gallery will inspire in others – and as a space, it’s just right. It’s small and intimate enough that you can get up close and personal with the work, but large enough to allow you to step back and take it all in. As well as the gallery, there’s a portrait studio behind the scenes. To date, the gallery has hosted nine exhibitions, starting in 2017 with a show of Eugene’s work. The 10th exhibition, Intimate Waters, by local artist Mark C Long, is open now and runs until February 24. Noel Clegg’s “beautiful fine-art, black-andwhite imagery of Venice” is on show in April. Eugene was born in Queen’s Park in north London. “At school I had a flair for drawing,” he says. “It was always in me. When I got to the end of the sixth form, ready to leave school and go into further education, I remember going to see my careers officer and telling him what I was about, what I had studied, and he instantly said, ‘I see you in the building industry’. And that’s how it started.” Eugene went on to study at Willesden College of Technology (now the College of North West London), where he learned to build as well as draw. “My technology tutor was a bricklayer by trade and he happened to be having a rear extension built on his house,” Eugene says. “He got me to do the drawings and then, because he
knew I had DIY skills, he asked me and a friend if we’d like to learn how to build an extension. He taught us how to lay bricks and we ended up building the whole thing from start to finish.” That experience stood him in good stead. From Willesden, he went to Kingston Polytechnic (now Kingston university) to study architectural technology for five years. Upon graduating, he could have gone on to complete his studies as an architect. Instead, he decided to get a job. “That was in 1987 and I’ve never looked back,” he says. “I’ve got a solid 30 years behind me of construction technology and design technology, planning, working on site – I can speak the lingo of the contractors. “My first job was at Baltic Quay at Surrey Quays. I did the drawings for it and was the site architect. That was when I started taking photographs. I started to record the evolution of the build. “I’ve never studied photography; I’m self-taught. I found it very rewarding. As well as photographing my projects I started photographing my mornings; what I call my ‘urban serenity’. When I worked fulltime as an architect, I was out of the door at five in the morning. At that time of the day, the city is yours. There’s no one else around.” Eugene resigned from full-time employment in 2016, when the architectural practice he was working for at the time underwent a restructuring.
“There was definitely a glass ceiling,” he says of his time as an employee. “I chose to refuse that it was there for a long time. I worked for at least eight very established and well-revered architectural practices and I’ve been the only black person at every single one of them. I’ve held my ground, I’ve done a really good job at all of them, they know that. But I was the only one. So, if my experience is representative of black people in architecture, that’s a sad fact of life. “I didn’t use that as a chip on my shoulder, though. I’d just got to the point where I was tired of working hard and not really getting the recognition that I thought I deserved.” Eugene, a Peckham resident of 20 years, lives off Queen’s Road with his wife, a ceramicist who works for the nearby Kiln Rooms. He still works as an architect, fitting in freelance commissions around the demands of the gallery. He has to. It takes time to establish a gallery, especially one as out-of-the-way as ECAD. His friends think he’s mad. “They think I should be somewhere with more footfall,” he says. “I disagree. On holiday, isn’t it nice when you go off the beaten track and find a little place you didn’t know was there? That’s what I want this place to become. I want people to say, ‘I was in Peckham the other day and I came across this great gallery on Consort Road.’” THE PECKHAM PECULIAR / 29
Smile, you’re on camera PIONEERING CAMERA COMPANY GANDOLFI WAS RENOWNED FOR ITS CUTTING EDGE TECHNOLOGY AND EXACTING STANDARDS. Cameras made in the family’s Nunhead workshop captured some momentous moments of the 20th century, including the discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb WORDS DEREK KINRADE PHOTO KEN GRIFFITHS COURTESY OF MICHAEL HOPPEN
There is no mystery concerning the Gandolfis. The internet is replete with information acknowledging their historical status, recognising that the Gandolfi name is to cameras what Rolls-Royce is to cars. YouTube has a BBC documentary about them from 1974, and a film devoted to the business was brought out by photographer Ken Griffiths in 2003. Founded in 1885 by former cabinetmaker Louis Gandolfi, the company moved to 84 Hall Road (today called Cheltenham Road) in Nunhead in 1913, before relocating just around the corner to 2 Borland Road in 1928. Both premises still exist. The Gandolfi business was a supreme example of small, craft-based, high quality manufacture, often customised, using the best possible materials – predominantly wood and brass – fabricated to exacting standards and said to be “heavily built for trying climates”. Aligning the screw slots was typical of the care lavished on the Gandolfi products. They were not alone, but became and remained a byword for quality and cutting edge technology. With the advent of the 20th century, Louis won contracts to supply his cameras in the Far East, and is credited with introducing a long-lens camera for sporting events: the forerunner of the American Graflex telephoto range, so beloved of journalists. He served an elite and discerning customer base, not least supplying one of the cameras with which Herbert Ponting photographed Captain Scott’s illfated 1910-13 Terra Nova Antarctic expedition. And as aerial photography became so important to the conduct of World War One, he supplied the first cameras to the Royal Naval Air Service. The company, joined by Louis’ sons Thomas, Frederick and Arthur, who took over the business in 1928, continued to meet the individual needs of high-profile customers, alongside the provision of great numbers of a basic five-by-four-inch camera to schools and scientific institutions. And during World War Two they were again able to contribute their professional expertise to the allied cause. But their crowning glory undoubtedly came in November 1922, when Howard Carter discovered Tutankhamun’s tomb in Egypt’s Valley of the Kings. Recognising the importance of an accurate photographic record of this archaeological sensation, Carter realised he needed a professional photographer. He turned to Harry Burton, then working for the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art, who had already established a considerable reputation in Egypt. Margaret Mountford’s BBC4 programme The Man Who Shot Tutankhamun, screened in 2017, gave a gripping account of how Burton, using his Gandolfi camera, and working in the most arduous conditions, recorded the work of Carter’s team and the extraordinary artefacts found in the tomb. The resulting series of 1,400 black and white photographs, each painstakingly considered and amazingly unblemished, recorded for posterity one of the greatest discoveries of the 20th century. Yet the instrument for their creation, a supreme example of large-format precision, came from an unpretentious workshop and the skills of a very small team based in Nunhead. Louis died in 1932, and Thomas in 1965, but Arthur and Fred kept things going until 1982, when they were able to negotiate a sale to new owners, who moved the business out to Andover. In 1985 the brothers were awarded honorary life 30 / THE PECKHAM PECULIAR
membership of the British Institute of Professional Photography and the Royal Photographic Society. While cameras have become smaller and smaller and also built into smartphones, local photographer David Champion says the largeformat plate cameras, such as those used by the Gandolfis, had “distinct benefits”. “Recording detail on to coated glass plates gave better quality; a larger format negative gave a different ‘look’ to an image; and, for a professional photographer, having a single piece of film was a
distinct advantage because each exposure could be treated separately and developed differently,” he says. “Today that rule still applies, and there are many small companies around the world manufacturing large-format wooden cameras in much the same way that the Gandolfis had always done. “All the major film manufacturers still make large-format sheet film and analogue [film] technology has not vanished since the advent of digital imaging.
“Photography is a creative process and different techniques create different results in the same way that painting with oil or watercolour will produce a quite different atmosphere.” Gandolfi cameras are no longer made, but the new owners continue to repair them and sell parts via gandolficameras.com. Today, the large-format, glass-plate cameras are collectors’ items, and some early models command prices above £1,000. Pictured above: brothers Arthur and Fred Gandolfi FEBRUARY/MARCH 2019
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Face to face PECKHAM RESIDENT AND QUIZ MASTER TIM RICHARDS HAS BEEN PHOTOGRAPHING SOME LOCAL STREET ART THIS MONTH. Can you guess whereabouts in Peckham, Nunhead and East Dulwich these artworks are located, without checking the answers below? 1
ANSWERS 1 North Cross Road 2 Copeland Road 3 Me’Lange, Blenheim Grove 4 Tower Cinema building, Rye Lane 5 Copeland Park 6 Walmer Castle building, Peckham Road 7 115 Rye Lane (back of) 8 Kirkwood Road 9 Old Nun’s Head, Nunhead Green 10 Brimmington Park 11 Elm Grove FEBRUARY/MARCH 2019
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Good mixers ANNA FAIRHEAD AND SERGIO LEANZA, OWNERS OF FUNKIDORY, tell us how they came to open their small but perfectly formed bar in Peckham WORDS ANVIKSHA PATEL PHOTO PAUL STAFFORD
After living in Peckham for five years, it seemed only natural for Anna Fairhead and Sergio Leanza, both 32, to realise their dream of opening their own bar here. Both the Rye Lane residents worked in the drinks industry when they met. At the time, Anna was coordinating events for a bar consultancy business and brought Sergio on board to be part of the bar team. Sergio, a self-taught mixologist, was grateful that his work was taking him to places far and wide, but reminisced of a bar close to home. “There’s a bar in my hometown of Saronno, Italy,” he says. “It’s been open for 40 years and they have every generation in that bar. It’s a real community. “We imagined what it would be like if we could stop working for places where people are just passing through, and we could belong to somewhere. We realised that if that is what we wanted, we had to do it for ourselves.” With an idea in their pocket and their vast industry knowledge behind them, the couple came upon an empty unit at 42 Peckham Rye, which had been home to tailor Fashion House. Friends and family came together to help open Funkidory, which launched in October last year. Anna’s mother hand-sewed the cushion
seats, friends helped paint the outside sign, and illustrator and artist Samira Allaouat designed the artwork on the menus. Speaking of the drinks list, Anna describes how Sergio has full artistic licence when it comes to the cocktail creation. “He has all these big ideas and flits from one thing to another, and I try to grab them and turn them into something,” she laughs. Thanks to Sergio, all the cocktails pay homage to the rich mix of cultures that make up Peckham in an inventive and unique way. “We really love Peckham, and we wanted to offer something that represents the area and the different cultures here,” says Anna. The rum-based Kool Herc, for example, has a plantain-infused Supermalt reduction; while the Kalakuta Sour is inspired by Nigerian Afrobeat pioneer Fela Kuti. “I looked into Nigerian cuisine to see what ingredients are used the most, and I went around Rye Lane asking people how to use their ingredients. Some said I was crazy because I wanted to use bitter leaf in a drink,” jokes Sergio. Keeping it local is important to Funkidory, which stocks mead from Gosnells in Print Village on Chadwick Road and beer from Brick Brewery on Blenheim Grove.
The vibe and decor in the bar are very much based on the owners’ personalities and likes. A mix of funk and 70s music hums in the background, graffiti and comic-book art are displayed on the walls and the relaxed feel of the space is inviting to passersby. When I ask how they’d describe the atmosphere, Anna says that while it might sound like a cliché,
Funkidory truly is a neighbourhood cocktail bar at its heart. “It’s a comfortable space for people to hang out in, chat with us at the bar and enjoy some interesting drinks,” she explains. “Maybe you might discover something you’ve not tried before. Most of all though, it’s just that little bit of escapism.”
AS SOON AS THE WATER BEGINS TO BOIL, cover the pan and reduce the heat to low. Let it simmer for 10 minutes, then remove from the heat and let the rice rest for 30 minutes, or until the remainder of the water has been absorbed. Do not remove the lid at any point.
PREPARE THE SASHIMI. Using a very sharp knife, carefully cut the salmon into quarter-inch (5mm) pieces, slicing on a bias. Arrange the slices over one half of each rice bowl.
Something fishy JEN FERGUSON IS CO-FOUNDER OF EAST DULWICH ROAD BEER EMPORIUM HOP BURNS & BLACK. This recipe for salmon rice
In Japanese restaurants, donburi (rice bowls) can be served with toppings ranging from sea bass to sea urchin. This recipe for salmon rice bowls with soy-cured egg yolks is a home cook’s simpler, deconstructed take on sushi, with no rolling required. Jen recommends pairing this dish with a kölsch. Made with top-fermenting ale yeast, but stored at cold temperatures for long periods of time the way a lager would be, this hybrid style hails originally from Cologne and is known for its easy-drinking characteristics and crisp finish. Try the Früh kölsch or Mühlen kölsch, both from Germany, or the Sierra Nevada kölsch from the US. All three are available to buy from Hop Burns & Black at 38 East Dulwich Road.
INGREDIENTS (SERVES TWO): 250g sushi rice 330ml cold water 2½ tbsps rice vinegar 2 tbsps granulated sugar 1 tsp fine sea salt 200g sushi-grade salmon fillet, skin removed 100g salmon roe Nori, sliced into thin strips, to garnish For the soy-cured egg yolks: 3 tbsps soy sauce 1½ tbsps sake 1 tsp granulated sugar 2 eggs
METHOD PREPARE THE SOY-CURED EGG YOLKS about six hours before you plan to eat. Add the soy sauce, sake and granulated sugar to a ramekin or small bowl, and stir until the sugar dissolves. Over a separate bowl, carefully break open the first egg and let the white drain into the bowl. Once the egg is fully separated, gently place the yolk into the soy-sauce mixture. Repeat the process with the second egg, then cover
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the ramekin or bowl with clingfilm and chill in the fridge for six hours. RINSE THE SUSHI RICE with cold water through a fine-meshed sieve for three to four minutes, stirring gently with your hands, or until the water runs clear. Shake out any excess water. Place the rice in a medium-sized saucepan, add the water, and cook over medium-high heat.
PHOTO BY ALEX LUCK FOR DOG ’N’ BONE BOOKS
bowls with soy-cured egg yolks is from her new book, The Beer Lover's Table, which pairs tasty dishes with tempting beers
ADD THE RICE VINEGAR, SUGAR AND SEA SALT to a small bowl, and stir well until the sugar and salt begin dissolving. Pour over the rice and gently fold to combine with a spatula. Divide the rice between two bowls and let it cool to room temperature.
SPOON THE SALMON ROE to one side of the salmon in each bowl. Next, gently remove the egg yolks from the soy-sauce mixture and place one in the centre of each bowl. If you wish, drizzle some of the leftover soy-sauce mixture over the salmon. Garnish each bowl with the sliced nori.