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arch splits opinion Discussions on how to breathe new life into Peckham Square are moving forward – but opinion is divided over the future of the arch. Southwark Council has commissioned a co-design exercise for the square and is looking at building new housing and commercial, gallery and café space. The terraced properties at 91 and 93 Peckham High Street will also be refurbished. Other options include sprucing up the back of Shard’s Terrace, better lighting and cycling routes, temporary shipping containers with affordable workspaces, a pop-up pod café under the library canopy and a performance area. The arch could either be left where it is, removed entirely or relocated to form a gateway to the Surrey Canal walk. Architect Carl Turner, who is leading the co-design, said: “Removing the arch will allow the square to breathe. “There’s a coffee stall underneath it most mornings, but it’s also used for a lot of direct marketing. Vans and other vehicles often park under it, and it creates a blockage to moving easily from Rye Lane into the square. “We think overall, it’s quite an insensitive, brutish, modern thing that was dropped into a historic streetscape. We also discovered that about six Georgian buildings were knocked down to build it. “Putting a small building either side of where the arch is now would basically be putting back those buildings that were demolished. We could wrap an art gallery, community or commercial space round into the square and focus activity back to the centre of the space. “On the other hand, if everybody decides that it’s really important for Peckham, there will be options on how to work round it – but in a way I feel we’d be missing an opportunity to make the square a place where people really want to be.” However, Peckham architect Benedict O’Looney said the arch is an important local landmark. “While I really welcome improvements to Peckham Square, I think the removal of the ‘Peckham Arch’ would

be a great shame,” he said. “The arch creates a cheerful, covered public space for all the people of Peckham to enjoy. It is a great public amenity, used by individuals, the farmers’ market, a much-loved coffee stand and other pop-up traders and events. “The arch frames the view of Peckham’s historic village centre, creating a raised, protected space that looks out onto the old timberframed houses on the south side of Peckham High Street and the mighty clock tower of the former Jones & Higgins department store. “It’s a really attractive work of contemporary architecture created by the award-winning practice John McAslan + Partners, who have gone on to design many great London landmarks including the refurbished King’s Cross Station and the Roundhouse in Camden.” At a community council meeting in March, attendees were asked for a show of hands on the arch. Those in favour of keeping it in the square significantly outnumbered those who wanted to remove it. Councillor Mark Williams, Southwark’s cabinet member for regeneration, planning and transport, said all discussions are “part of the consultation process and no final decisions have been made”. The council is set to produce a brief for the site in April.

a cut above A new barber shop has opened at Peckham Rye Station. Owner Adam Mizou is from Algeria and moved to the UK in 2010. “When I turned 18 I started travelling the world just by my comb and scissors,” he said. “I worked in Marseille, I went to Naples, to Belgium, to Greece and now London – I’ve been to a lot of places.” Mizou, who lives on Queen’s Road, worked for a barber in Finsbury Park for two years before setting up his own shop, called the Station Barber, in Peckham. He cuts all types of hair and offers wet shaves, beard trims, hair wash, waxing, gelling and grooming.

Students from Peckham were given an insight into economic and cultural life on Rye Lane last month at a university-led workshop. Dr Suzanne Hall, assistant sociology professor at LSE, used the street as a lens to explore issues of social change, migration and urbanisation with pupils from the Harris Academies in Peckham and East Dulwich. Dr Hall introduced the year 12 students to her research project Ordinary Streets, which found that Rye Lane is home to independent traders from over 20 different countries. More than a quarter of traders speak four languages or more. The students heard how Peckham town centre hosts 2,100 formal businesses and 13,400 formal jobs. Trade on Rye Lane is diverse and intense, with some sub-divided shops having the same rental value per square metre as shops in Knightsbridge. Dr Hall said: “Not only was it great to access the students’ insights about an area they know well, but as curious and intelligent young people, they offer important perspectives on how the world is changing. “High streets such as Rye Lane are the seemingly ordinary but vital worlds that are within a five-minute walk of two-thirds of Londoners’ homes. However, their real value is often ‘invisible’ to April/May 2015

Catarina Heeckt photo

life on the lane

those responsible for urban planning.” She stressed the importance of understanding streets culturally and economically so they can be properly valued in the planning and regeneration processes, adding: “If we fail to do this, we risk losing what makes ethnically diverse streets so successful to ‘cappuccino urbanism’.” Kaniya Abubakar, head girl at Harris Academy Peckham, said of the workshop: “It was a really thought-provoking insight into our community. Dr Hall’s research into the immense complexity of Rye Lane’s commercial and cultural identity was particularly fascinating.”

coffee with a conscience A new coffee-roasting company and café that provides jobs and housing for homeless people has just taken on its first member of staff. The Old Spike Roastery at 54 Peckham Rye offers rehabilitation, mental health support, occupation therapy and education through its charity arm Change Please. It also provides housing to employees who work a certain number of hours per week. “We’re immediately lifting people out of homelessness,” explained co-founder Cemal Ezel, who set up the notfor-profit, community interest company with his friend Richard Robinson. “For six months we provide people with a job here, and during that time we support them through the charity to find out where their natural abilities lie. We then give them direct training in that particular field to help them find longer-term work.” Ezel met Lucy, his first employee, while he was studying at the School of Social Entrepreneurs (SSE) in Tooley Street. “Lucy was selling the Big Issue outside Tesco,” he said. “When we decided we were going ahead with the Old Spike, I took her into the SSE and had a chat with her about her background. She’s got great natural skills but she can’t speak English, so we use Google Translate to communicate with her.” Staff spend weekdays roasting coffee, which is sold to businesses including one of the UK’s top four accountancy firms. At weekends it opens to the public, selling coffee, brownies from South-East Cakery and sourdough from Breaking Bread. Any surplus cash made is reinvested back into wages and buying top-quality beans. While the shop is limited by the amount of people it can take on, the plan is to roll out coffee carts across London with two or three staff each. Ezel’s family are originally from Cyprus and have a long history in Peckham. His granddad ran a fish and chip shop on Queen’s Road, and his parents owned a chippy in Peckham Rye and a homeware store in Nunhead, which was “basically another Khan’s”. After leaving university, Ezel set up a commodity-trading business, but soon wanted a change of direction. “I went to Vietnam and visited a silent tea house in Hoi An that’s run by deaf people. I was like, I want to do something like this in London. “I have properties of my own, and I’ve always rented them out to councils. I thought, I can provide housing, I’m doing that already. But if we can give people jobs too, it’s an instant, real-life solution to homelessness.” Pictured: Richard, Lucy and Cemal. For more on this story, visit


Issue 8 of The Peckham Peculiar  

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