news by kate white
DEAR READER, WELCOME TO THE FIRST ISSUE OF THE PECKHAM PECULIAR, A NEW LOCAL NEWSPAPER FOR PECKHAM AND NUNHEAD. Thanks to 150 very generous people who supported our Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign last year, we managed to raise more than £5,000 to write, design, print and distribute a newspaper all about our local area and the people and places that make it what it is. Those who donated their hard-earned cash to the project ranged from local residents and businesses to a guy from America (hope he didn’t get us mixed up with Peckham, Oklahoma). A massive thanks to all of you – we couldn’t have done it without you.
THE PECKHAM PECULIAR Editors Duncan Barrett, Nuala Calvi, Mark McGinlay, Kate White Designer Francesca Whiting
So, what are we all about? The Peckham Peculiar is a free (yes, free!) newspaper that will come out every other month to begin with, with a circulation of 8,000 copies in SE15 and a readership of tens of thousands. Our editorial will revolve around the local community, with an emphasis on real reporting and unique stories, rather than content driven by press releases and celebrity-led drivel. In other words, Kim Kardashian is unlikely to make the cut. If you live or work in SE15 and have an interesting tale to tell or a story that you think we should be writing about, we’d love to hear from you. Please drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photographer Luke Wolagiewicz
point of interest Peer through the windows onto the old staircase at Peckham Rye Station and you’ll see a mysterious-looking hand, pointing up the stairs to a billiard hall that no longer exists. According to author John Beasley, the old waiting room was turned into a billiard hall for local people in 1921. But while the green felt tables and red and white balls are long gone, the sign remains and is set to be restored to its former glory this year. Eileen Conn, coordinator for local community group Peckham Vision, said: “It is painted on a plaster wall and the paint is flaking away. The plan is to brush down the flaking paint and get a sign writer to restore what is lost.”
Thanks to Kickstarter we have enough cash to print our first two issues, but after that we will rely purely on advertising to fund our costs. If you’re a local business who is interested in placing an ad, please get in touch. As you can see from the first issue, you’ll be in good company.
Illustrator Anna Rice Sub-editor Anna Rice
Before signing off, we’d like to say a special thanks to illustrator and Peckham resident Jake Tilson, who designed our fantastic limited-edition cover (pictured top left) for 300 copies only.
Contributors Jon Brooks, Helen Graves, Ed Hall
A big thank you also to photographer Luke Wolagiewicz (http://wolagiewicz. com), who took some truly amazing pictures to go with the stories in this issue.
Marketing and social media Mark McGinlay For editorial and advertising enquiries, please email email@example.com Blog: peckhampeculiar.tumblr.com Twitter: @peckhampeculiar facebook.com/peckhampeculiar instagram.com/peckhampeculiar pinterest.com/peckhampeculiar
Finally, we are incredibly grateful to our hugely talented designer Francesca Whiting and sub-editor and illustrator Anna Rice. Guys, we definitely owe you a drink or three. We hope you enjoy the first issue.
Local newspaper The Peckham Flag was first printed exactly 100 years before this one, in January 1914. The publication came out monthly for two years
Duncan Barrett, Nuala Calvi, Mark McGinlay and Kate White
our amazing 150 backers: Barbara Pederson Juana María Quilez Perez Ciaran Logue Tobias Davis Ivan Nascimento Marc Atkinson Mel Stevens Maria Fergus Jackson Lizzie Unsworth Lisa Greensill Jane Rob Laura James Morag McGinn Social Flo Selina Firth Tom Butler John Baptiste-Kelly thingsmagazine.net Katie Maclean Josh Pappenheim Caroline O’Neill Gene Cooke Eleanor Murray Louise Armstrong
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Deborah Henry-Pollard Lucyoga Don Pawley janejeffersoncleaning.com James Jones Vivien Lambe Sumithra Appa Rao James Ketchell Lorraine Clarke Jeremy Crump Steve Curati Lydia Syson Emma Hutton Claire Sheppard Anna Galkina First Word Records General Store Random Tangent Anna Simpson sarahdoone.co.uk John Dicks Magnus Hultberg John Reiss Sarah Heyes Emily Hamilton Alex Hayton
Natalie Rachel Andrea Mason Julia Robinson Hannah Mably Rebecca Kong Dharmesh Makwana Michaela Ryan Owen Marriott Mark Dibley Nick Mortimer Eliza Barrow Alex Wybraniec Matt Soper Paula Mills Rosa & Clara Designs Katherine Clark Richard Knight Wayne Dale Thomas Keenes Jamie Nicola Cosgrove Zenufar Rinaldo Merlo James MacLeod Roberta Dickson
Joan Byrne roullierwhite.blogspot.com Harold Shiel Peter Schmitz Denize Kim Golson Lauren Mulholland Emma Hoyle Abi Poole Anneliese D Helen McTaggart Lady Peckham Yvonne Doolan Jack Kelly Vivienne Gamble Lily Ford Vikki Ross Marine Cabour Hannah Davies Philip Stone Jennie Olivier-Johnston Patrick Insole YogaBeez – Yoga for Children Captured on the Rye Marquez Sara Copleston Centre
Graham Brown Vasiliki Machaira cannon & cannon Will Christina Borsi Martin Brown Ollymation Ltd The Sugar Girls Simon Adler JG Williams Rosana McPhee Sally Pain Miriam Sigler Tom Shakhli Peter Wells Gaia Studio Philip Kassapian James Petrie Wendy Wong Rebecca Waite Helen Graves Simon de Glanville Marv Wigder Anne Bowers Alex Emma Ayech
Meskerem Berhane Jessica Cargill Thompson Andrea Regan Pete Jorgensen Maya Simonova Francesca White Ivan Cornell Vicky McGinlay Trish Beswick Victoria Bates Sarah Jones The Rushmer family Lauren Wright Nicholas Franklin Yula Andrews Lauren Walsh Sue Walker, Retiring the Ole Way David O’Connell GI Brides Tom Szekeres
news by kate white
station redevelopment ‘could kill creative scene’ Businesses next to Peckham Rye Station have told of their fears for the future as Network Rail prepares to submit a planning application for a £25 million overhaul of the site. Although there is strong public support for a new square in front of the station, small businesses fear that plans to redevelop the sides and rear of the site – branded a “brutal upheaval” by one gallery owner – mean they could be forced out. Network Rail’s preferred option includes new residential buildings fronting Blenheim Grove, located in the forecourts of the railway arches where businesses including Bar Story are based. Appointed architects Weston Williamson were set to present their own proposals, taking into account feedback from a public consultation, as this paper went to press. But small businesses based next to the station say that the large-scale redevelopment could see them forced out by extensive building work, disruption and a possible rise in rents once works are complete. Will Jarvis, co-founder of The Sunday Painter, a gallery and studio complex on Blenheim Grove, said his space currently houses more than 30 artists and small creative businesses. “Over the years we have provided affordable workspaces for hundreds of young graduates who would not be able to stay within the area without such a provision,” he said. “Within this swathe of Peckham resides two thirds of Peckham’s small creative scene. The knock-on effect of this brutal upheaval will dramatically reduce the allure of the area and drastically affect the long-term sustainability of its financial growth. “We will not survive unless the environment is spot on. Too few studios and we can’t afford to function, too many studios and we won’t be able to keep them filled. A slight increase in cost per square foot, or even being in a slightly more awkward location, can all lead to us having to leave the area completely. “The irony is that it is this creative community, including The Sunday Painter, Bar Story, Peckham Springs and Hannah Barry Gallery, that has been so essential in shaping the current positive view of Peckham, and actually lubricated the possibility of this regeneration.” Ben Sassoon, owner of Bar Story, added: “It took a lot of courage and a great leap of faith to set up the bar in the first place. Its presence here has had a domino effect within the immediate locality, which has since become a creative hub. “Assets like Bar Story are intricately bound up with this scene, and there
would be a reverse tipping point if no accommodation were made to retain these Network Rail assets within this locality.” Eileen Conn, coordinator of local community group Peckham Vision, said: “These businesses are all significant illustrations of how the natural development of the market in Peckham is creating jobs and economic activity with links at grassroots level, below the radar of the big authorities. “Once destroyed, it can’t be restored by relocation. It is either living and nurtured where it is, or dead. Anything located there after demolition and rebuild would be something different, and may not be so successful – and would in any case be after several years’ destruction and non-business activity.” But councillor Fiona Colley, Southwark Council’s cabinet member for regeneration and corporate strategy, said: “At the moment, we’re seeing plenty of people moving to the area, which we welcome, and we want to ensure that there is greater interaction between those heading towards Bellenden Road and those who turn into Rye Lane. “We want to work with businesses to open out and smarten up retail and public spaces, to make them more cohesive and to benefit everyone in the area. We certainly don’t want to drive businesses out – quite the reverse. We hope that businesses will equally benefit with a greater footfall and the potential to increase their profits as more people choose to shop in Peckham.” A spokesman for Network Rail added: “Network Rail, Southwark Council and the Greater London Authority are working together to bring the area around Peckham Rye Station back to life, investing £25 million to deliver improvements. “These will include a new square at the front of the building, revealing its frontage for the first time in many years, and the aim will be to make the buildings and spaces that surround the station cleaner, safer and more useful for passengers, residents and businesses. “This will help to drive regeneration and support existing and new local businesses. Network Rail is the UK’s largest landlord for SMEs (small and medium sized enterprises) and we take that responsibility seriously. “Hence, we will be working closely with current tenants to understand how the new plans will affect them. If tenants need to find alternative premises while the station is redeveloped, we will work with them to find suitable alternatives. We are confident this scheme will benefit the people of Peckham and its business community.” A planning application is expected to be submitted this spring. Pictured is Bar Story owner Ben Sassoon
all change at queens road Improvements to Queens Road Station that promise to “revive” the area are set to complete in March, writes Jon Brooks. The works will see a lift from road to platform level, new ticket barriers and the refurbishment of the station’s railway arches to include a new shop or café that will open onto a plaza. The recently demolished London & Brighton pub is set to be replaced with a block of flats directly overlooking the plaza, with plans including a retail space on the ground floor. Southwark Council will also complete its move into three offices on Queen’s Road this spring, with 320 staff moving into offices opposite the station to join the 320 council workers already there. There are plans to give shopfronts on Queen’s Road and Meeting House Lane a facelift, and work will begin this year on a new cycle superhighway linking New Cross to Oval. The Wooddene Estate to the west of the station, dubbed the “estate on stilts”, was demolished in 2007, and Notting Hill Housing is planning to build 333 new homes, pocket parks and retail space on the site. Southwark councillor Fiona Colley said the changes would “revive the whole area”. She added: “The work to Queens Road Peckham Station will enhance and greatly improve a major entrance into the borough.” For more Queen’s Road news, follow Jon on Twitter: @queensrdpeckham
mountain drive From a distance it appears to be a blue tent on wheels, careering crazily along a suburban street. But look a little closer, and all is not as it seems. Artist Nicky Hodge took an ordinary photograph of a car driving down a road and painted a mountain shape over the top of it, lending the image a surreal, absurd quality. It’s one of a set of customised Polaroids by the Nunhead resident, who was inspired to create the series, called Mountains out of Molehills, when her partner returned from a trip to Alaska with lots of scenic mountain pictures. Hodge said: “It started off being more about adding images of mountains to landscapes and maybe prettifying the landscapes – and then it just became more and more mad.” Nicky’s Polaroids are on display at Cafe Viva, 44 Choumert Road, until March 30.
peculiar fact Baked beans company Heinz opened its first ever UK factory in Peckham in 1905
new chapter for peckham space Peckham Space is set to relaunch at the end of January with a new name and a new mission to let local people “take ownership” of the venue. The Peckham High Street gallery, which opened in 2010, will change its name to Peckham Platform and become independent from its founding institution, the University of the Arts London. It will continue to host exhibitions in the same space at the heart of the local community, but will also gain charitable status, allowing it to provide a platform for different voices, discussions and debates. Emily Druiff, executive director of Peckham Platform, said: “Our mission has always been to create projects of real social relevance to this area. We will still be doing that but in a variety of different ways, including conferences and discussions. “We work with lots of different local groups and we want to be a resource that people can use, engaging with schools and encouraging group visits. We want people to take ownership of the space.” Being accessible to the community is important, she said. “The fact that we’re on the high street and at street level is hyper-important to us. Art galleries should be accessible, not just in terms of leaving the door open but by actively engaging with the community. “Homeless people sleep on the back steps here, children wait here to be picked up from school and people come in and ask directions. It’s an opportunity for us to say, ‘Have you seen what’s going on in here?’” Peckham Platform’s first exhibition is by local artist Ruth Beale, who will explore learning, imagination and the symbol of the book in a show called Bookbed. It runs until March 23 and will feature oversized books, a small library and a self-publishing station where visitors can turn their written words into print. Beale is working with Peckham Library, the gallery’s next-door neighbour, on a series of creative-writing workshops for young people. The outcomes will be published on different platforms during the exhibition, including as 140-character short stories on Twitter. Peckham Platform launches on January 31. All are invited to drop in from 6-8pm for the opening.
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news by kate white
raise a glass to new boozers
Two new drinking dens, The Montague Arms and Beer Rebellion, are set to open on Queen’s Road this year. Legendary boozer The Montague Arms closed in late 2011 after Stan and Bet Pownall, who had run the pub with owner Peter Hoyle since 1967, passed away. The pub was famed for its eclectic entertainment, ranging from music to comedy nights. Outside, a huge sign declared “coach parties welcome”, while the inside was packed with weird and wonderful artefacts, including stuffed animals, pirate ship memorabilia, a diver’s helmet and a penny-farthing. Now Noel Gale, owner of The Brown Derby pub in Oval, is set to reopen the pub in March. It will have a steampunk theme, with lots of odd-looking copper contraptions akin to Doc Brown’s refrigerator in Back to the Future Part III. “He builds that great big contraption and all it produces is a tiny little ice cube,” said Gale. “It’s just ridiculous machinery with cogs and wheels and lots of copper piping and gauges.” The pub will brew its own beer on-site and will serve food. It will also host regular music nights. “There’s an amazing back room and a huge stage, so once a month we want to get quite a big act playing here on a Saturday night,” said Gale. Meanwhile, Beer Rebellion will take over the old E Coomes bookmaker’s shop at 129 Queen’s Road. It will be run by Late Knights Brewery, which is based in Penge. The first Beer Rebellion opened in Gipsy Hill in 2013, serving Late Knights’ own beers and other guest ales. Late Knights also plans to open permanent venues in Gipsy Hill and Brockley early this year. The Queen’s Road Beer Rebellion is expected to be up and running this summer.
your community centre needs you! Local people interested in holding classes or clubs at Nunhead’s new community centre are being invited to a pop-up event in January. Southwark Council and AOC architects are working with community group Nunhead’s Voice to provide a new centre for the area, which will be located on the site of the former nursery next to Nunhead Green. Work is set to begin this spring and will take around 26 weeks to complete, according to a spokeswoman for Southwark Council. “It will be a real centre for the community and a central resource that is useful and accessible to everyone,” she added. The centre will be managed by Nunhead’s Voice, and local people will be able to rent space to run clubs and classes, from sewing to singing, and musical instruments to mah-jong. Nunhead’s Voice would like to meet anyone who wants to get involved at the pop-up shop at Nunhead Corner from January 20-26. For more information, email Nunhead’s Voice secretary Cris Claridge on email@example.com.
peculiar fact New film The Invisible Woman, out February 7, tells the story of Charles Dickens’s mistress Nelly Ternan. The author rented a house for himself and Nelly on Linden Grove in Nunhead
are you old school?
grave business Over the years, graves like this one in Nunhead Cemetery have turned green with mould as nature has taken its course. But now, the cemetery’s handful of headstones for men who died in the First World War are set to be given a clean by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, 100 years after fighting broke out. This headstone bears the name of Thomas Davies, a chief stoker in the Royal Navy. Stokers worked in ferociously hot conditions aboard ships, shovelling tons of coal into furnaces to keep the propellers turning. Davies was killed in action aged 42 in February 1916, leaving behind his widow Marion, of 39 Cambridge Street, Camberwell.
A former pupil of a local school is appealing for his classmates from the 1950s to get in touch. David Reeves, 72, was a student at Oliver Goldsmith school on Peckham Road between 1950 and 1953. He lived in a flat on Peckham High Street that was later demolished to widen the road. Reeves and his little sister Maureen walked to and from school every day, catching a tram if they had any spare change. The last tram ran through Peckham in July 1952, and ended at New Cross Depot, said Reeves. “I saw it go past full of people hanging off the sides with lots of cheering and lights flashing,” he recalled. In May 1953 the whole school went to Denmark Hill to see Queen Elizabeth before her coronation. Every pupil was given an apple or an orange and a mug to mark the occasion. The same year, Reeves was one of 50 pupils and teachers who took a trip to the Isle of Wight, where they stayed at the former Whitecliff Bay Country Club. The trip cost each pupil £8, which Reeves’s mother paid in monthly instalments.
The group took a train from Waterloo Station to Portsmouth Harbour, where they caught a paddle steamer. During the trip they visited sights including Alum Bay, Osborne House and Carisbrooke Castle. “The camp was spacious, with lots of tennis courts and a large sports field with a path at the end that went down to a private beach,” said Reeves. “On the beach there was an old submarine buried in the sand and we were warned not to go near it.” As a boy, Reeves belonged to a cub group on Rye Lane and had a pair of roller skates that he loved. “I went everywhere on them, from the bomb sites down by the old Millwall Docks to Peckham Rye Park,” he said. Reeves, who now lives near Portsmouth with his wife Dianne, is asking anyone who shares his memories to get in touch. He said: “Looking at the photo of the kids who went on the school journey, I thought: where are they all now?” Do you recognise yourself in this photo? If so, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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ace of clubs
MANY PEOPLE WALK PAST THE PECKHAM LIBERAL CLUB EVERY DAY, UNAWARE OF ITS VAST INTERIORS AND RICH SOCIAL HISTORY. Now the venue is being used in new ways, in an attempt to save it from the fate of other working men’s clubs WORDS KATE WHITE PHOTOS LUKE WOLAGIEWICZ
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It’s a place that has become so little known that many people living on the same street are barely aware of its existence. Yet on Elm Grove, moments from Peckham Rye Station, is a working men’s club that houses a magnificent hall with a sprung dance floor and stage, two bars, four full-sized snooker tables, a pool table, a darts room and a garden. The Peckham Liberal Club is a private members’ venue that has been based in the former Quaker’s hall at 24 Elm Grove since 1905. Step through the front door of the unassuming façade and you’ll find yourself in a long, narrow corridor with 1970s wood-panelled walls, vinyl flooring, green fabric noticeboards and a phone box. Its enormous hall, with wooden tables, red chairs and a stage with velvet curtains and a sparkly gold backdrop, is the kind of place you could imagine Ian Curtis playing a gig. It’s all beautifully preserved and wonderfully nostalgic. In the bar on a Friday night there will be people of all generations – from children to those in their eighties – having a drink and a chat, or playing snooker, darts or bingo (“Danny La Rue, 72!”). Many of the regulars have been visiting for decades, and their parents – and even their grandparents – were members before them. As a result, the club has a special, close-knit feel and a true sense of community that is becoming increasingly rare in 21st century London. Maggie the barmaid has worked there since 1988, while Phil, who also works behind the bar, remembers visiting as a kid. Club president Charles Coote has been a regular for nearly three decades. Working men’s clubs started opening in the mid-1800s as places for Victorian men to socialise and drink. They became integral to towns and cities across Britain, offering people a welcoming place to meet their neighbours and have a pint of beer at an affordable price.
But fast-forward 150 years and these bastions of local community are disappearing fast. The number of working men’s clubs in Britain has halved in the last three decades, with just over 2,000 left. Many of them are struggling to survive – and the Peckham Liberal Club is no exception. The club owes about £40,000 in debts and narrowly avoided being sold off to a developer last year. Local community group Peckham Vision successfully campaigned to have it listed as a community asset in the same way the Ivy House pub in Nunhead was in 2012. The listing means that if there is any move to sell the club in the next five years, the local community must be alerted. If they wish to buy it – as the Ivy House campaign group did – they are then given a six-month window to raise the funds and submit an offer. Local resident Simon Beresford, who fell in love with the club the moment he stepped through the doors, believes the magnificent space can pay off its debts and once again become a thriving part of the local community. “I moved onto Elm Grove three years ago and walked past the club every day on my way to the station,” he says. “I thought, ‘That looks like an interesting place.’ I got on the internet and looked it up, but there was nothing online at all. “Then one afternoon as I was walking past I spotted someone going into the club, so I snuck in behind them and stepped into this other world. I asked if I could have a look around, was given a tour, and thought, ‘This is blooming great.’” Beresford, a former jazz musician who runs his own events production company, persuaded the club’s committee members to let him put on a jazz night called Peckham Pandemonium, which he named after a jazz movement that thrived in Peckham during the 1930s and ’40s.
He assembled a group of top jazz musicians including guitarist Francesco Lo Castro, saxophonist Roberto Manzin and singer Karen Lane. Calling themselves The Peckham All Stars, they fixed a Tuesday night to play their first gig so that they didn’t disturb the members’ activities. They advertised the event on Facebook and all 250 tickets, costing £5 each, promptly sold out. “The hall was packed – I couldn’t believe it,” says Beresford. “A lot of members came along to listen too, and it was just a really great, inspiring, exciting evening.” Heineken donated free beer for the event – which was a “major help”, says Beresford – and the night raised a good amount of money for the club. A month later The Peckham All Stars put on another jazz night, and once again it was a sell-out. Since then, word has spread and events at the club have become more and more popular. A spectacular Bowie night in December saw supergroup Holy Holy, which includes Spiders from Mars drummer Woody Woodmansey, playing the hits of David Bowie from 1969 to 1973. Beresford, who called in his contacts for the Bowie night – including a lighting designer who has worked with The Killers and Katy Perry – is not short on other ideas to get people through the door. Local yoga groups have started holding sessions at the club, while Pexmas Christmas market took place there last month. Movie nights, including silent-film screenings, as well as mother-and-baby sessions and exhibitions by local artists, are other possibilities. Photographer David Moore, a senior lecturer on the MA Photography course at Central Saint Martins College, has been working on a project at the club over the last few months, and the venue has teamed up with Film Fixer to to be used as a film location. Beresford, who grew up in Yorkshire, spent a lot of time in working men’s clubs as a child. “My grandparents were miners and I was there throughout the miners’ strike,” he says. “The whole community revolved around the local working men’s club and they were an incredibly important place for everybody, from kids to older people.” Similarly, the Peckham Liberal Club’s roots in the local community run deep. “There’s a huge amount of history about the club and a lot of emotion,” says Beresford. “It’s played a part in births, marriages, deaths. People’s lives have happened in this place. “The older members have been coming here their whole lives, and so did their parents and their parents’ parents. There’s a lot of pride here. Members come in on a Saturday night and they dress up. People are smart in suits and ties and they dance. It’s important. “I’ve had some of the most wonderful, extraordinary conversations with some of the members here – they’re just brilliant. Some people who come here have lived in this area their whole lives, and you get an incredible insight into the past, into London and Peckham. It’s fascinating. “People say there isn’t the place for these kinds of clubs in a big metropolitan city like London, but that’s absolute rubbish. Up until
There’s a huge amount of history about the club and a lot of emotion... People’s lives have happened in this place
the early 1990s this place would have been absolutely packed with people. It’s a wonderful space and there should be stuff going on here every day. “We want to relaunch the club into the community, attract new members and get people in who want to do fabulous events and amazing things. There should be all sorts of amazing nights going on here, from music to comedy and theatre. Anything really.” And if people don’t start using the club? “Well, it’ll get sold and turned into apartments, which would be boring, because you would never, ever, ever get a facility built like this nowadays,” says Beresford. “What local council would build a hall with a stage like that, a snooker room like that? “They just wouldn’t, so if this goes, that’s it – you’ll never see it again. It’s part of the history of Peckham, it’s part of the history of London, it’s been on Elm Grove for more than 100 years. Let it go? No! Absolutely not. It survived the First World War, it survived the Blitz. It’s been through all that, so it can weather this storm.” Club president Charles Coote, 86, says he too would feel a great loss if the club ceased to exist. “As a social club it’s good fun,” he says. “It’s always been a good place for members to meet. “I don’t want the club to fold. The members that come here don’t want it to fold. Let’s hope we do see light at the end of the tunnel and get people back into the hall and using those snooker rooms.” What does the club mean to him? He thinks for a moment, before replying: “This place is a sanctuary to me. That’s what it is.” Membership costs £20 per year and includes benefits such as reducedprice drinks. To join, pick up a membership form from Charles Coote at the club and ask two existing members of 12 months or more to propose and second you. Tel: 020 7639 1093. @peckhamlibclub THE PECKHAM PECULIAR / 7
PECKHAM IN PICTURES
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THE HAIRDRESSERS OF RYE LANE WORDS NUALA CALVI PHOTOS LUKE WOLAGIEWICZ
Amidst the butchers and fishmongers, mobile phone shops and nail parlours, the hairdressers of Rye Lane reign supreme. Few places in London – or the world – can boast such a large number of salons in such a relatively small area. “I have no idea why there are so many businesses in one street,” admits Patricia Allen, owner of Me’Lange, just off the main thoroughfare on Blenheim Grove. “But I wouldn’t say I’m competing. My clients know I’m good, and they come to me.” Most of her customers travel from Wimbledon, where she previously worked; her colleagues along the street claim clients from Oxford, Milton Keynes and Southend, some of whom travel up to Peckham every month because they believe its hairdressers to be the best in the country. Loyalty between hairdressers and clients is strong, with customers following the stylists as they move from shop to shop. Chairs are rented by the hairdressers, who are all freelance. Adigo Abimaje pays £70 a week to rent her chair at Me’Lange’s other branch across the street. “Why would I work for someone else, for £5 an hour?” she asks. “I have the talent. I am self-employed. If I don’t like it somewhere, I can move to the next shop.” Clients find hairdressers by word of mouth, but such is the competition that if a woman goes into a shop in Peckham to buy a hair product she is accosted by people asking if she wants her hair done. For stylists who have children, the freelance nature of the job lets them choose the hours that suit them. However, it also means sometimes they come in and have nothing to do all day. Friday nights and Saturdays are the richest pickings, as ladies come in to get their hair done for the weekend. The salons become a riot of colour, noise and smells as customers pile in, bringing their children with them. It’s a very female environment, with very few male weavers. “Back home you get a few men who do it, but the African mentality is men shouldn’t do hair,” says Adigo. “But some of them are very good.” Peckham does have its barbers too – such as Moses Aifuwa, Me’Lange’s passionate men’s cutter. “What I love is the creativity of the job,” he says. “I learnt on the street and just started experimenting with a clipper. My clients have become my friends – I was best man for one of them.” Pictured clockwise from bottom left are Patricia Allen at Me’Lange, Olaronke Omiwole at Style, Moses Aifuwa at Me’Lange, Adigo Abimaje at Me’Lange and customer Faye Newton-Leslie at Style
THE PECKHAM PECULIAR / 9
homeless of nunhead AS TOLD TO NUALA CALVI
LET’S START WITH WHAT IT’S LIKE TO BE HOMELESS AROUND HERE. The people are actually quite friendly, quite accepting and quite generous. I don’t feel threatened or intimidated. Well, maybe by other people who are in the same situation, if you sit on the spot they want to sit on. I SIT THERE WITH MY SIGN SAYING: “FED UP” – and do you know how many people say to me, “Yeah, I’m really fed up too”? Everybody’s facing a situation where there are no jobs, so people looking for work can’t get work and people who are in work have had to take pay cuts. IN SOME WAYS, IT’S ACTUALLY MORE PLEASANT TO BE SITTING THERE THAN IT IS WORKING IN A DEAD-END JOB in a call centre, because I don’t have a boss on top of me and I can sit there reading my book and meeting interesting people. That’s not to say I wouldn’t accept a job if it came my way – I’d rather be working. WHAT ISN’T NICE IS ANYTHING IN A UNIFORM. The council will come along and say they’ve got services available for you, but if you try and use them, you need mental health issues, or to have children – all the things I don’t have because I’m a 25-year-old white male and I used to be middle class, believe it or not.
AS TO HOW I GOT HERE, WELL, ONE THING AFTER ANOTHER REALLY. I was studying down in Winchester, then I met this amazing person in London and fell in love with her. We moved as a couple to Nunhead. Somehow I thought I could commute back down there, do the work and come back up here. It was actually working, but then I got ill and couldn’t complete the final year. I MANAGED TO GET A JOB IN MARKET RESEARCH, but it was very erratic. It was a zero-hours contract, and the second their work runs out they fire you, so I was on and off Housing Benefit and Jobseeker’s Allowance, and as a result we were continuously broke. Because we were continuously broke, we just turned on one another. So, she moved out and I couldn’t afford to pay the rent. I GOT KICKED OUT OF THAT FLAT at the beginning of the summer, and then I spent a few months living on my friend’s sofa. It was getting too strained living there, so I moved into a tent in another friend of mine’s garden. I’m lucky because I have a mountaineering sleeping bag – but I’d rather be indoors and have creature comforts.
Hi! You’ve might have walked past us many times and not known what goes on. Let us introduce ourselves: At the Copleston Centre we provide the community with lots of valuable services, many of them for free or for a reduced fee! A flavour of what goes on here: o Zumba o Pilates/Yoga o Counselling o Cooking o Parent and toddler group
o o o o
Youth clubs Music and art Reading group Copleston Church
There are also spaces for hire for private functions e.g. -Large hall for parties with table and chairs if needed. -Small meeting and therapy rooms. We are always looking for people to help out, use our services and join in with our activities. Find out more on Twitter: @coplestoncentre Facebook: www.facebook.com/coplestoncentre t: 020 7732 3435 e: email@example.com w: www.coplestoncentre.org.uk Copleston Centre, Copleston Road, Peckham, SE15 4AN (between Danby Street and Avondale Rise) 10 / THE PECKHAM PECULIAR
I WOULD TURN TO MY PARENTS, but my mum has just been made redundant. My dad can’t take me in – he has terminal cancer, and his wife has just been diagnosed with cancer as well. JOBSEEKER’S ALLOWANCE IS £70 A WEEK, which is utterly impossible to live on. At the moment they’re giving me nothing because I missed an appointment at the Jobcentre because I was ill. The sanction started four weeks ago and it will be in place for another month. I’VE LOST COUNT OF THE NUMBER OF JOBS I’VE APPLIED FOR. Because I have A-Levels and stuff, I’m overqualified to work in a bar, and the serious recruiters won’t look at me as I don’t have a degree. So what can I do? I’m trapped in this weird grey area and I’m not sure how to get out of it. I’D LIKE TO TELL PEOPLE WHO WALK PAST AND SEE ME that I’m trying. I don’t want anyone to think that this is something I’m doing just because I’m lazy. It’s important for people to know that no one chooses this life. Tell us about your life: firstname.lastname@example.org
open house THERE ARE 380,000 HOUSEHOLDS ON COUNCIL WAITING LISTS IN LONDON, YET IN SOUTHWARK ALONE MORE THAN 2,000 PRIVATELY OWNED HOMES LIE EMPTY. A Peckham charity is mustering an army of volunteers to help renovate run-down vacant properties and offer them to those in need
WORDS NUALA CALVI
On a cold winter’s day, a house on King’s Grove is thronging with visitors. Walking up the stairs of the pretty Victorian façade and through a smart wrought-iron gate, I’m ushered into a front room with tall sash windows, an original marble fireplace and magnolia walls with period coving. It’s an enviably large, attractive room, and it’s full of people with glasses of wine in their hands, talking animatedly. But the crowd attending this party are not well-heeled friends at the housewarming of someone lucky enough to be able to afford a sizeable period property in Peckham. Instead, they are a mixture of local craftsmen, unskilled volunteers and construction workers, celebrating their success in transforming what used to be an empty, decaying wreck into the first real home for two families who have been rescued by the charity Housing For Women, which helps women fleeing domestic violence and trafficking. The unique concept is the brainchild of Peckham charity Southwark Habitat for Humanity, which since 2010 has been finding empty, derelict buildings and turning them back into liveable homes for those in housing need. “This is what it used to look like,” says site manager Chris Thomas, showing me the grim “before” pictures. “It’s a 19th century building, and it was in a terrible state. Basically it’d been left for five or six years and it’d got really down at heel and unloved. The walls in the back addition all had to be replaced – they had a curve in them as big as my belly – and we had to deal with some damp problems in the back there and replace the roof up here…” It sounds like a job for the experts – but many of the people who have been ripping up floors, knocking down walls, clambering about on the roof and hacking at the jungle of weeds in the garden are anything but. They include accountants, IT professionals, healthcare workers and fund managers. HR professional Joanne Perry-Spinks, of PineBridge Investments, was among their number. “We had to sort out all the bricks, so all the ones that weren’t broken we piled in the back room ready for them to be used on the outside of the house, and then the broken ones we had to take down in buckets to the tip, two by two,” she says, proudly. “It was very physical – lots of heavy work. I was really tired when I got home – I just wanted to go to bed!” So why are they doing it? “There’s a lot of volunteering that goes on elsewhere, and a lot of charity giving that goes on elsewhere, but to actually do something a bit closer to home is more meaningful,” replies her colleague Kathy Wade. “And… it’s nice to get out of the office.” “If you were stuck staring at a computer screen all day – which you probably are – you’d want to get away and drive a few nails in,” adds Chris – who, with the rest of the Southwark Habitat for Humanity construction team, had the job of managing the army of 350 volunteers who came streaming in over the course of seven
months. “We try to get them to do the actual work – paint the walls or do the demolition. They all love the demolition.” As well as the volunteers, well-known interior designer Cassandra Ellis offered her services pro bono, while the charity used local tradesmen wherever possible. “Ian Butcher is one – he’s a local electrician,” says Chris. “Then there’s Laz, the local plumber. Even yesterday, a local painter just came along and said, ‘Do you need a hand?’ and volunteered to paint the front. This is how it works.” It sounds simple, but behind the scenes a lot of time has been spent laying the groundwork for this, Southwark Habitat for Humanity’s first Empty Houses to Homes project in Peckham. It begins at Southwark Council, where Celia Esimaje and her Empty Homes team do the job of detectives, scoping out uninhabited properties. According to Celia, there are around 2,100 empty private homes in Southwark, some of which are “rolling empty” – empty most of the time, but tenanted on and off. “The longer-term empty properties, we estimate there are about 300, and some of those are hidden,” she says. “Literally, you could walk down the street and you wouldn’t know, until you go in and you find it’s been empty for 20 years. The owners might come and maintain the façade, they’ll collect the mail, talk to the neighbours, but no one has been living there.” The majority of such “hidden” empty homes are in Peckham and Nunhead, Celia says, and once she’s identified them, she then has the difficult task of tracking down the owner and untangling what’s going on. “People may see a property and think, ‘Oh, why is that empty?’, but each one has a history behind it. It could be sibling rivalry, families not getting on with each other, charges on the property which stop them doing anything – often a myriad of things we have to try and sort out and unravel before we can even get to this stage.” To sort out family disputes and find a way of bringing properties back into use, Celia finds herself playing a mixture of “psychologist, parent and construction supervisor”. It was her department that alerted Southwark Habitat for Humanity to the property on King’s Grove, having got a phone call from Monetta Williams, the daughter of its 87-year-old owner. “My mum bought the house in 1959 and it was the family home – I grew up here,” says Monetta. “But then we all moved out, and Mum now lives in Jamaica, so there was nobody living here and the property was getting cold and damp and run down. She didn’t want to sell it because she wanted to hand it down to us eventually, but she couldn’t afford the renovation costs – she just didn’t have that kind of capital.” Thanks to Southwark Habitat for Humanity, Monetta’s mother got a £100,000 renovation of her property, turning it into a smart two-storey maisonette and a one-bedroom basement flat. In return, she leases the building to the charity for free for several years, during which time it is inhabited by social housing tenants, with the money from their Housing Benefit going back to the charity
to help pay off the cost of the renovation. Further funding for the project comes from Southwark Council, which has a grant stream to help do up homes, from the government, and from fundraising – including donations from the companies who supply many of the volunteers. With so many empty houses in the area, it seems incredible that more property owners aren’t jumping on board, but many don’t know such a scheme exists. “We should have people queuing up at our door, but we haven’t been out there telling people – we’re only a small team of six,” says Southwark Habitat for Humanity’s corporate relations manager, Diane Regan. The charity has renovated 29 other empty homes since the scheme started, including two flats above a shop on Nunhead Green. “We’d love to do more in Peckham, because we started off here,” says Diane. “We were so close to clinching a deal with another homeowner, but he got cold feet. People think they can do it all themselves, but not being building experts they don’t put the money in the right place. They might get a brand-new boiler, but they don’t know the ceiling’s about to fall apart, and then it does fall apart and they’ve got no money left.” Monetta and her family, however, seem almost as thrilled by the results at King’s Grove as the women and children whose home it will soon be. “I’m so happy it’s been restored,” she says. “These kind of old houses that still exist in Peckham are quite precious, and to let them go is such a shame. It’s really good to bring them into the 21st century – and to help other people at the same time.” www.habitatforhumanity.org.uk Pictured are volunteers from Haskoll Architects outside the house they helped renovate on King’s Grove
The owners might come and maintain the façade and collect the mail, but no one has been living there
THE PECKHAM PECULIAR / 11
designs on the derelict
FOR LOCAL ARTIST JO DENNIS, BEHIND EVEN THE MOST DECREPIT AND DECAYED OF BUILDINGS LIES POSSIBILITY. Her new project sees her turn a former squat into an art space WORDS DUNCAN BARRETT PHOTOS LUKE WOLAGIEWICZ
On the edge of the Copeland Industrial Park, a stone’s throw from Peckham Rye Station, stand a pair of Victorian houses. From the outside they could almost be normal homes, aside from the graffiti-covered boarding that hides the ground floor from the street. But within, they are a testament to the ravages of time and decay, a picture of scenic dilapidation. One wall has a cavernous hole in the middle of it, another has been stripped back to the wooden slats beneath, while upstairs the floor of a room has been ripped out altogether, leaving only the beams that once supported it. Originally, the two houses were part of a trio, but the third in the set burned to the ground. The remaining pair are currently under the care of local artist Jo Dennis, who along with her longtime collaborator Dido Hallett, has taken out a two-year lease on the buildings. Their plan is to turn them into a thriving exhibition space, as the half-ironically named Safehouse 1 and Safehouse 2. Jo has been based at a studio in the nearby Bussey Building for the last seven years, and has long had an eye on the derelict buildings. “They were obviously squats,” she recalls. “There were metal grates on the front but I saw people climbing in and out of windows. Whoever lived there, they were clearly in need of a penny or two because they stripped all the copper piping out – so at the moment there’s no water supply to the building.” No water means no water closets either, but fortunately the caff next door is happy to oblige, providing Jo and Dido with not only toilet facilities but somewhere to warm themselves up between stints at the Safehouses. In any case, the pair are used to inhospitable spaces. Three years ago they founded Asylum, a non-profit arts organization based at a derelict chapel in Caroline Gardens, near Queens Road Peckham Station. Originally, the chapel belonged to the almshouses built there for retired local publicans, but it had been empty for over 15 years and had long since fallen into disrepair. Jo and Dido 12 / THE PECKHAM PECULIAR
persuaded the council to let them take it over, but it was a big effort getting the building fit for public use. “The worst thing was the dust,” Jo recalls. “Because the walls crumble they constantly produce a sandy dust, so Dido and I spent weeks in masks and boiler suits sweeping and hoovering.” The result of their labours is a venue that, while relatively dustfree, has lost none of its decrepit charm. In between art exhibitions at the chapel, it is rented out for fashion shoots and music videos, with an eclectic list of visitors ranging from Professor Green to the Royal Shakespeare Company. “I knew from the experience I had working in an ad agency that we could use it for shoots,” Jo explains, “so that meant we would be able to pay the rent.” She hopes to use the same model at the Safehouses, alternating between commercial bookings and art exhibitions. Although Jo had long been aware of the Safehouses, it wasn’t until December 2011 that she first got a look inside the buildings, when they were opened up temporarily by Frank Boxer (of Frank’s rooftop café fame) as The Peckham Hotel. In that incarnation the houses served as a bar and pop-up restaurant, offering parties and music nights. It was at one of these events that Jo fell in love with the space. “I brought my brother here and we spent the evening drinking cheap cocktails in front of an open fire,” she recalls. “I just thought, ‘What’s not to love?’” But converting the buildings from a party venue to a gallery space has brought its own challenges. Jo has had to get several holes in the roof fixed, and attempt to dry out the walls by blasting them non-stop with infrared heaters, for fear that damp might damage artworks. Then there was the structural engineer who had to be called to take a look at a tree root pushing its way inside the building, to ensure there was no danger of collapse. For the launch event in February, the Safehouses will host a film
It’s not really the architecture that interests me, it’s the humans that have inhabited it
all about evie
LOCAL AUTHOR AND COSTA BOOK AWARDS NOMINEE EVIE WYLD RUNS REVIEW BOOKSHOP ON BELLENDEN ROAD
AS TOLD TO MARK MCGINLAY PHOTO ROELOF BAKKER
ON PECKHAM We came to Peckham when I was nine. I love the differences, all so close together – I grew up using the shops on Rye Lane and now there’s the added dimension with Bellenden Road. The market on Choumert Road is special to me, because it feels the most unchanged. So far, I haven’t really written about Peckham. It’s been my home for such a long time and perhaps that makes it a little bit off-limits to me, imaginatively. I find it hard to write about things that are right in front of me.
installation by Dominic Murphy, director of award-winning indie thriller White Lightnin’. What exactly Murphy has shot for the new show remains top secret, but the plans involve several different screens throughout the building and a room made up to look like a hotel bedroom, as well as a working café and bar. As well as hosting the work of other artists, Jo hopes the Safehouses will inspire her own work. In her series of “invisible” paintings, she recreated the colour and texture of the Asylum chapel on canvas, hanging the pictures on top of the areas of wall that they depicted. A recent residency at Monticello d’Alba Castle near Turin has seen her increasingly drawn to the layers of history that are embedded in the walls of old buildings, resulting in her filling the magnificent rooms of the castle with helium balloons inscribed with the imagined words of their now-dead inhabitants. “A place like the Safehouses is completely desolate and destroyed, but it gives me the same feeling that I had in this ancient castle which was not ruined at all – that there is so much gone before you,” she says. “It’s not really the architecture that interests me, it’s the humans that have inhabited it, and the imprint of the person who was there before but is now invisible.” She is currently working on a series called If Walls Could Talk. For Jo, the more ramshackle the property the better – and in the Safehouses she has found the perfect home for her work: “I find it incredibly beautiful – the distressed walls, the places where the plaster is coming down, the peeling paint, the different textures.” But she knows that not everybody shares her love of the derelict and decaying. “At the Asylum, there are always a small handful of people who come along and say, ‘Oh right, so when are you going to do it up then?’” she says. “I can’t really respond to that, it just makes me laugh.” Safehouse 1 and Safehouse 2 launch on February 28. For more information, see maverickprojects.co.uk.
ON REVIEW Nearly seven years ago, I wandered in off the street, more or less, and was lucky enough that Roz was looking for staff – not something that happens very often. Now I run the shop, with a lot of input from Roz. I think being an author you can feel quite impotent when faced with the idea of bookselling, so it’s a great feeling to shift books that feel under-appreciated, and to introduce people to new authors. It gives me a feeling of having some kind of power. I get a lot of odd requests – one lady wanted to know whether, if she read a book, she could bring it back and exchange it for another. ON WRITING No one thing inspired me to write. I was always a quiet, daydreamy kid – I always enjoyed spending time alone. Writing can feel like an extension of that. I try to do a couple of hours before work, either in local cafés or my study at home, if I’m there. My style of writing is sort of slow and quiet. My latest novel, All the Birds, Singing, is about a female Australian sheep farmer living on an island off the coast of England. In the night something comes and kills her sheep. ON THE COSTA PRIZE It’s a huge honour to be nominated for the Costa Prize and to be associated with the other writers, who are huge deals. The announcement came while I was in the middle of the Peckham Literary Festival, so to be honest it slightly passed me by. I might take myself out for a drink to say well done, though. ON THE FUTURE I have a graphic memoir coming out in 2015, which I’m just finishing up. Joseph Sumner, who lives in Peckham too and who draws our Eggpigeon greetings cards in the shop (you’ll know them when you see them), has done the drawing. It’s about growing up between Peckham and Australia, and sharks. But I’m not going to give up the day job – realistically, it’s very hard to make a living from literary fiction. And if I’m going to have a day job, I think working in Review is about as close to perfect as I can get. All the Birds, Singing is published by Jonathan Cape, priced £16.99. Review bookshop is at 131 Bellenden Road. Tel: 020 7639 7400.
THE PECKHAM PECULIAR / 13
3 5 6
Age: 27 9
Favourite shops: Charity shops, mainly, and there’s a little bit of H&M involved in there as well. This outfit: The top is from a charity shop, the trousers are H&M, the shirt might have been from River Island and the shoes are from Topman. The coin necklace was something I found in Greece and put on a string. Favourite places to strut your stuff: Canavan’s, the Bussey Building, The Montpelier. My favourite pub is probably The Victoria Inn – it’s got a really nice feel about it. Have you got Peckham Style? Email us: email@example.com
RYE HUMOUR “During World War Two, there was a prisoner-of-war camp in Peckham Rye where they kept Italian prisoners. They had to have 20ft-high fences to keep the English women out.” Lewis Schaffer, comedian and presenter of Nunhead American Radio (Mondays from 6.30pm on Resonance 104.4 FM). Lewis Schaffer: American in London runs on Sundays from February 2 at the Leicester Square Theatre.
14 / THE PECKHAM PECULIAR
12 14 15
11) Triumph motorcycle designer of Peckham High Street fame (6) 13) First word in name of Rye Lane boozer; Del Boy’s local (4) 14) Band who wrote a song about Lyndhurst Grove; fronted by Jarvis (4) 15) You’d eat these at 9-down (4) 18) She wrote The Ballad of Peckham Rye (5) 19) __ in Bush Road (4) 21) Rye lane shop that sells everything; famed for bargains (5) 22) Road that is home to Peckham’s oldest building (5)
Down 1) Nunhead Cemetery’s former 17 name; no sinners allowed (3,6) 2) Blenheim Motors stocks these for 19 20 your car (5) 3) Caroline Gardens’ chapel is based on this road (see ‘Culture’) (6) 4) Lord __; former Peckham pub (9) 22 5) Sweet treat from Cinnamon Bakery (3) 6) Drink made at Brick Brewery (3) 9) Local eel and mash shop (6) 10) Result of drinking 6-down (4) 12) Poet who saw angels on the Rye (5) 15) Lost river under SE15 (4) Cockney rhyming slang for 16) Tumble dryers at Rex shilling (7) Launderette do this (4) 8) Vicar at Christ Church Peckham; 17) Brockwell Park has one; rhymes with pew (4) Peckham used to (4) 10) Built Peckham Manor House; 20) Informal name of TV’s famed “ancestor” of fictional spy (4) Peckham barber (3)
peckham puzzle GRID BY ED HALL Across 1) Peckham street at beginning of Greek alphabet (5) 5) Rye Lane cultural hub (6) 7) Peckham transport entrepreneur in 1800s; became
Down: 1 All Saints; 2 Parts; 3 Asylum; 4 Lyndhurst; 5 Bun; 6 Ale; 9 Manzes; 10 Burp; 12 Blake; 15 Peck; 16 Spin; 17 Lido; 20 Des.
Personal style: I really don’t know. You might say it’s eclectic. I don’t have a way to describe it.
ANSWERS: Across: 1 Alpha; 5 Bussey; 7 Tilling; 8 Hugh; 10 Bond; 11 Turner; 13 Nags; 14 Pulp; 15 Pies; 18 Spark; 19 Bird; 21 Khans; 22 Woods.
spice world THEY’VE HAD LOCALS HOOKED ON THEIR SPICY SOUTHERN INDIAN FOOD FOR TEN YEARS. Now the team behind Peckham institution Ganapati is launching a local café and takeaway WORDS KATE WHITE PHOTO LUKE WOLAGIEWICZ
In the mornings you can smell the kitchen at Ganapati from 50ft away – mouth-watering scents of simmering spices, pickles, mustard seeds, ginger and curry leaves. The chefs arrive early to peel the garlic, chop the onions and prepare the vegetables for the day ahead. They also hand-make about 70 Indian flatbreads called parathas every morning, which according to the restaurant’s manager Adrienne Woods is no easy task. “It’s a big job – it takes up a lot of space,” she says. “It’s very time consuming, and it definitely builds up your shoulders. I tried to make one once, and it was an absolute disaster. You need hours of practice.” The paratha is one of the most popular items on the menu at Ganapati, which opened ten years ago at 38 Holly Grove. All five chefs hail from Kerala and Tamil Nadu, the regions of Southern India that the restaurant’s menu is inspired by. Owner Claire Fisher fell in love with the food of South India after going travelling there. Following a stint cooking Southern Indian lunches with a friend at a pub in Islington, she decided the time was right to open her own place. “Peckham didn’t have that many restaurants then,” she says.
“When we opened, there was a following straight away. People just embraced it from the start.” Nunhead resident Adrienne, who has a background in catering, came on board five years ago after spotting an advert Claire posted on Gumtree. The food at Ganapati is very authentic, she says. “It’s something you would get if you went to somebody’s home in South India. It’s quite rustic, and it’s not dressed up for the English palate. “It’s very healthy, very fresh, everything’s cooked from scratch and cooked to order.” One of the restaurant’s most popular dishes is the Mahatma Thali, a vegetarian thali inspired by Gandhi’s research into the ideal diet for the Indian nation. It includes dal, rasam, thoran, paneer salad, roti and pappadoms. “A comment we get a lot from customers is how little oil there is in the food,” says Claire. “It’s a shame that people have come to associate Indian food with oil and grease, when it’s not about that.” Ganapati doesn’t shy away from spice, however. “Southern Indians love spicy food, and we find that people really like the hot dishes – there’s more demand for the spicy dishes than the mild.” In February, Claire and Adrienne will open the Ganapati Takeaway Kitchen on Maxted Road, which will deliver across SE15 and
neighbouring postcodes. Inside, it will resemble “an old-fashioned café with objects inspired by the Indian Coffee House,” says Claire. “It couldn’t look more different from Ganapati.” The Indian Coffee House chain is a worker’s cooperative with nearly 400 venues across India, and similarly Ganapati employees have been offered shares in the new venture. The venue will have some seating and will offer relaxed, café-style dining where customers order and pay at the counter. Eventually, Claire and Adrienne plan to offer South Indian breakfasts and brunch at the weekends. The takeaway will have a “small, concise menu that may grow as we get into our stride,” says Claire. “We won’t be changing it as often as we do at Ganapati, because I think the takeaway market is slightly different. People like to have their old favourites.” The Ganapati Takeaway Kitchen is at 4 Maxted Road. Tel: 020 7642 5566. www.ganapatirestaurant.com Pictured: Adrienne Woods and Claire Fisher with head chef Aboobacker Pallithodi Koya
do the funky chicken A BIT OF WU-TANG CLAN, HALF A CAN OF RED STRIPE, SOME UNPRONOUNCEABLE KOREAN CHILLI PASTE AND A WHOLE LOT OF LEWDNESS. Local food blogger Helen Graves shares her raunchy recipe for Peckham Fried Chicken
BEGIN BY PUTTING SOME WU TANG ON. Turn it up loud. NOW YOU CAN MARINATE YOUR CHICKEN WINGS. Start by vigorously pounding two cloves of garlic in a pestle and mortar. Stick this in a bowl and add one generous tablespoon of gojujang, which is Korean chilli paste. Immediately rename said chilli paste Kajagoogoo upon discovery that you cannot remember how to pronounce gojujang properly, because it is an unfamiliar word and you are hosed. COMPLETE THE MARINADE BY ADDING ENOUGH MILK TO COMFORTABLY SUBMERGE THE CHICKEN IN A SPICY BATH. Plunge your hands into the bowl and start rubbing and fondling the wings, while saying things like “horny”, “hubba” and “massage my meat”. Film your friend doing this. Both regularly fold in on yourselves in fits of giggles. Set the wings aside. TO MAKE THE BATTER FOR THE WINGS, PUT SOME K-POP ON. Turn it up loud. Next, harrumph a load of flour into a bowl (150g plain flour, 200g cornflour, 1.5 tsps baking powder and a pinch of salt), and set about making it sexy. You’re aiming to create a flavour bomb and drop it on batter city, yo. Boom! START BY TOASTING ONE LEVEL TBSP OF SESAME SEEDS, then pounding,
pounding, pounding them (vigorously) with a pestle and mortar along with two dried red chillies, one star anise, one tsp ground ginger and, er, a touch of Old Bay Seasoning (because you’re drunk and you’re thinking it’s a great idea at the time). Next, rain down a little chemical magic on that party by adding 1/4 tsp of MSG, just for shits and gigs. MIX THE BATTER WITH HALF THE CAN OF RED STRIPE YOU’RE HOLDING AT THE TIME PLUS AN EQUAL QUANTITY OF WATER. Aim for a thick slurry that gloops off the tip of each chicken wing in explicit, quivering ribbons. This should be outrageously funny, so if it isn’t, that means the texture is wrong. Add more flour or beer until you reach the uncontrollable, shouldershaking-like-Muttley stage of laughter.
USE A CHOPPED-UP PIECE OF CRUMPET TO TEST IF THE OIL IS HOT ENOUGH, because you don’t have any bread. When hot, slip each wing into the batter and pull it out slowly so that it looks kind of rude; give props to the comedy noises and visuals. LOWER INTO THE HOT OIL TWO WINGS AT A TIME, and let them fry for about four minutes (total stab in the dark on the timings). Drain on kitchen paper. Fry a second time until golden all over. Drain again. SLAP THE WINGS ABOUT IN THE KAJAGOOGOO SAUCE A BIT UNTIL THEY’RE MORE OR LESS COVERED. Pile onto a plate and garnish with chopped spring onion and sesame seeds.
TO MAKE THE SAUCE, PUT MILKSHAKE BY KELIS ON. Turn it up loud. Crush two cloves of garlic and cook them in a pan with one grated onion, some finely chopped ginger, one tbsp rock sugar pounded vigorously, and four tbsps Kajagoogoo. Set aside.
SERVE WITH A ROLL OF KITCHEN PAPER, a massively smug expression and an outfit that EXACTLY matches the colour of the Kajagoogoo. You’ll see. Revel in the funky fermented chilli heat and sticky sweetness, the filthy satisfaction at having double-deep-fried some meat (vigorously).
HEAT YOUR OIL FOR DEEP FRYING. This should be done with the utmost care and attention, ideally while not drunk and not holding a can of beer. One should definitely not walk away from the pan. In fact, just don’t ever do this unless you’re a complete and utter tool.
PKFC™ sounds like a chemical abbreviation and it may as well be, considering all the stuff that went into this recipe. www.helengraves.co.uk @foodstories
THE PECKHAM PECULIAR / 15
THE LAST TAKE There used to be eight cinemas in Peckham. Mainly built in the 1930s, they were regal picture palaces. But the last traditional one, Odeon Peckham, was demolished in 1985 and now there’s only Peckhamplex – or The Plex, as it’s called. This concrete fortress with its six-screen cinema is a bit of a hidden gem in Peckham’s crown, about three minutes away from Peckham Rye Station. It’s built on the site of a former Sainsbury’s, set back from the action on Rye Lane and approachable via a small square or piazza with illuminated brass and glass tiles flagging the way to the foyer like a zany red carpet. Inside, it is strictly retro. Lilac with pink! At any screening you might spot a famous face slipping in for a quick film: actors Olivia Colman or James Nesbitt, director Ken Loach, singers Junior Giscombe or Katy B, rapper Ashley Walters – possibly even the ghost of Boris Karloff, who was born locally in 1887. One of the few truly independent multiplexes in the country – and the cheapest cinema in London, with all tickets all day at £4.99 – Peckhamplex was taken over a few years ago by a trio of film-lovers. All passionate about film, they are John Reiss, chairman of the media PR company Premier, Simone Brown, the manager of Peckhamplex for nearly 20 years, and Marianne Gray, a film journalist with intentions to expand the programme and run celeb-led events. “I’ve loved cinema since I was a child in Leeds and used to go with friends to the Dominion Cinema for three (old) pence,” says John Reiss.
“I have been lucky to work in and around film for nearly 30 years, but to have control over our own cinema is the ultimate train set. Simone, Marianne and I, together with our dedicated team, are passionate about making Peckhamplex an affordable, enjoyable and stimulating place of entertainment and culture.” Peckhamplex has changed ownership a number of times since opening in 1994. “It has always been an independent cinema, previously concentrating on mainstream movies,” explains Simone Brown. “Our new team are all avid film fans and reflect this in the expansion of our alternative content. Peckhamplex is not just a commercial business but also a community cinema. “We’ve had great pleasure in showcasing the work of local film-makers who would not
otherwise have the opportunity to screen their films to the public. We work with many local groups. The Recycled Teenagers – a dance group for seniors – have held their annual dance showcase here. Southwark Youth Film Club, run for disadvantaged teens, have premiered their end-of-term film here for the last few years. It’s a wonderful evening with the teens all dressed up and walking down a specially laid red carpet! The films are written, produced, directed, filmed and acted by the teenagers, many of whom have pursued film as a career and now work as actors, directors and programme-makers for, among others, Channel 4 and the BBC.” Peckhamplex loves having events, like the annual Young Film-maker Competition during the Nunhead and Peckham Free Film Festival in September and the Consume Peckham annual show of shorts made by the graphic design students at Chelsea College of Art and Design, which focus on the diversity of businesses in Peckham. The cinema, which is fully digital, is also part of PAMI (Peckham Artist Moving Image festival), shows videos of local ballet troupes, lends its walls to exhibit art and has numerous charity and schoolchildren’s screenings. Perhaps the most popular special screenings are the Thursday morning Watch With Baby ones, where adults must be accompanied by a baby under one year old. Often there are Q&As after the film with the film-makers or members of the cast, like local star Olivia Colman for Tyrannosaur, Phil Davis and the cast of Borrowed Time, Togo Igawa for The Hedgehog and cinema’s hardman Danny Dyer for Vendetta.
Perhaps our most ambitious and most curious project was taking tea in (the late) director Derek Jarman’s “garden”, recreated on the roof of the multistorey car park behind the cinema (next to Frank’s pop-up bar), after having watched Jarman’s delicious docu-drama The Garden – starring Tilda Swinton and about the garden he created in the shadow of Dungeness power station. We also like running competitions linked to a film, like Skyfall, which ran house-full in two screens for the best part of three weeks, or simply weekly free tickets through Pecky’s twitter. Peckhamplex’s plans are to keep showing the best films, popular franchises, 3D kids’ adventures, thrillers, comedies, horrors, romances – every sort of film, including foreign ones and less-known independent films. Like everywhere else, the cinematic barrier between mainstream and art house is crumbling and the delights of the subtitle are being discovered at the Plex, especially now there’s more than the regular cinema-eats food counter and also a licensed bar with a great range of wine, beer and cider. “It’s still early days for us,” says Marianne Gray, “but we are building on our activities and repertoire. Our audience is growing and they are enthusiasts. We get loads of feedback and suggestions for films and activities. Increasingly people are remembering that a film is made to be seen on a big screen with big sound, shared with an audience and with no commercial breaks like on television. And, after all, two films for under a tenner can’t be bad!” If you would like to be put on the Friends of Peckhamplex weekly newsletter, please send your email address to firstname.lastname@example.org or give it to a member of staff at the cinema next time you visit.
Pictured above are Ken Loach at Peckhamplex after a screening of one of his films and Olivia Colman doing a Q&A after a screening of Tyrannosaur
Some upcoming New Year treats at Peckhamplex WOLF OF WALL STREET – Martin Scorsese’s latest masterpiece starring Leonardo DiCaprio. Just shy of three hours – but seems shorter! Based on the true story of Jordan Belfort, from his rise to a wealthy stockbroker living the high life to his fall involving crime, corruption and the US federal government. MANDELA: LONG WALK TO FREEDOM – a great film about a great man. Idris Elba (The Wire) and Naomie 16 / THE PECKHAM PECULIAR
Harris (Skyfall) are brilliant as Mandela and Winnie. What more can be said? LAST VEGAS – Last of the Summer Wine-ish – four 60/70-year-old friends on a stag weekend – set in Vegas and starring Robert De Niro, Michael Douglas, Morgan Freeman and Kevin Kline. AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY – an acting tour de force from Meryl Streep in an Oklahoma family drama with co-stars Dermot Mulroney, Julia Roberts, Ewan
McGregor, Sam Shepard, Chris Cooper, Juliette Lewis and Benedict Cumberbatch. LABOR DAY – Kate Winslet and Josh Brolin in an emotional drama involving a depressed mother and an escaped convict – an unlikely match with an intriguing outcome. LONE SURVIVOR – Breathtaking drama based on the failed US Navy SEALS operation Red Wings in Afghanistan on June 28, 2005. Mark Wahlberg, Ben Foster and Eric Bana star.
DALLAS BUYERS CLUB – Matthew McConaughey as we have never seen him before – incredible weight loss – as Ron Woodroof, who in 1985 worked around the system for US AIDS sufferers (including himself ) to get medication that was banned by the US government. And at half-term for the kids there’s MR PEABODY & SHERMAN – the latest cartoon feature from DreamWorks Animation Studios.
CONTACT US Peckhamplex: 95A Rye Lane, Peckham, London SE15 4ST Box office: 020 7732 1313 Website: www.peckhamplex.com Twitter: @peckhamplex Facebook: www.facebook.com/ peckhamplex
A free local community newspaper for Peckham and Nunhead launching in Jan '14. For more information and/or to advertise, email peckhampecu...
Published on Jan 6, 2014
A free local community newspaper for Peckham and Nunhead launching in Jan '14. For more information and/or to advertise, email peckhampecu...