Monthly Archives: February 2010

…and the Windrush Square is open! (take two)

On Friday afternoon, a small group collected together in the middle of Windrush Square.  Guarded by a bevvy of policeman, it included Mayor of London Boris Johnson, local MP Tessa Jowell, Mayor of Lambeth Christopher Wellbelove and veterans from the Windrush. With appropriate ceremony, they ‘unveiled’ the new square (not much unveiling to do unfortunately) accompanied by the Corpus Christi School Choir.

But who was there to watch them? Well, no one really. In a bizarre move, the community opening took place today, entirely separated from the rather more elitist TfL official opening.

What happened today, though, was much more fun. A belly dancer cheered up the lunchtime crowd, Brixton Village eateries had free tasters on offer and, in the late afternoon, the hip hop beats of the Illersapians got the dancers going.

Far removed from the formalities of the day before, this was one of those days that confirms the vibrancy of Brixton’s community. Sod the square itself, it’s the Brixtonites I love. In the words of Ros Griffiths below, “it’s not the Windrush Square that makes Brixton, it’s the people that make Brixton.”

Here’s what some of the community had to say:

Richard Gascoigne, Brixton

“I certainly like the idea of it. I live just up the road, so I’ve been coming past a lot when they’ve been doing it. I’m quite excited about it opening up finally and I hope it gets used. I always think that having public spaces is a good idea full stop. It would be nice to see lots of folk hanging around. I think there need to be more chairs though!”

Ros Griffiths, Brixton Splash, Brixton

“We’re happy that it’s improved, but it’s a bit sterile, it’s not personalised to Brixton, it looks very civic. It’s going to take some getting used to. This is Brixton and the square should reflect Brixton in terms of its culture, but it is no different from what we see in City Hall. It should have been more colourful to reflect the Brixton vibe. It’s not the Windrush Square that makes Brixton, it’s the people that make Brixton.”

Herman Morgan, Streatham

“It is an improvement. It wasn’t the best place to go and chill out before…except maybe for some! The drugdealers need places to go, but I think this gives the opportunity for so many more people to use the space that it might stop that from happening again. This can only be good.”

Natasha Smith, Brixton Splash, Brixton

“From what I can remember of Windrush Square, there was always a park place in one bit and then a waterfall, which I know a lot of the children will miss. You used to see a whole lot of children in the summer time playing in there. I remember my two brothers playing in it. There is a lot missing. It does look nice, but it’s a little simple.”

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

The new Windrush Square (the day before the opening ‘extravaganza’)

Finally opened up to pedestrians on the eve of the bonanza opening weekend :

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Triumph for Coldharbour Lane protestors

A new bus trundled down Brixton Hill yesterday – the white single-deck 545, running from Brixton to Camberwell.

Gas works on Coldharbour Lane have meant that the 45, 35 and 345 buses have been diverted through Herne Hill, leaving residents in the Coldharbour Lane area – especially older people – unable to access services or shops in either Brixton or Camberwell. The double-decker buses could not use a diversion route in Loughborough Junction itself because of low bridges.  In the past week, 700 people have signed a petition calling for restored bus services to the Coldharbour Lane area.

It’s great to see community action having such a direct and immediate impact. Val Shawcross, London Assembly Member for Lambeth and Southwark, presented the petition to the London Assembly this morning, but in fact she had already been in talks with TfL as a result of the complaints and they implemented the new shuttle service yesterday.

The bus is free of charge and will run five times an hour until the gas works are completed, provisionally in early March.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Wanna be a Brixton Pound Director?

For all those who have expressed their frustration with the Brixton Pound – and for those who absolutely love it – now’s your chance to make improvments. Brixton Pound Group will officially become a Community Interest Company after the aims and values consultation and they are calling for directors.

Simon Woolf of the Brixton Pound Group said, “our main aim is to attract a diverse selection of people, so that the directorship of the B£ reflects the local community. In order that we can best achieve this, we are keeping this as an open-ended process.”

A Brixton Pound announcement in its last newsletter stated: “Although there are some skills and experience that we feel would be particularly useful (e.g. business experience, community links, accountancy) essentially passion and commitment to making the Brixton Pound work are the most important qualities our directors need to have.”

There have been enough applications so far for some directors to be appointed and the CIC can now be established, but Woolf emphasised that “we would very much welcome additional applications, as it is quite possible that we will appoint additional directors in the future.”

You can learn about the duties here and apply here. Email for more info.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Interview: Chuka Umunna

Chuka Umunna on the campaign trail

Chuka Umunna arrives at Perfect Blend on Streatham High Street, slumps down in the chair and exclaims, “Oh God, I’m so tired!”  It is one of the only moments in the next 45 minutes when he reveals something more than just ‘Chuka , the up- and-coming new Labour candidate’.  He has just been at an estate in the Streatham constituency (which includes Brixton Hill ward) where he is hoping to become MP, meeting with residents and listening to their stories. As well as holding a part-time job as an employment lawyer at Rochman Landau, he attends tenants’ meetings, party strategy meetings, is a governor at Sunnyhill Primary School, sits on the boards of Sunnyhill Children’s Centre and Generation Next, twitters incessantly and, of course, goes doorstepping every week. He has a right to be tired.

Some politicians have a ‘line’ for the public; others are more honest  but subject to making life tricky for themselves by saying something out of ‘line’. Peter Mandelson might be said to emulate the first type; Ken Livingstone the second. Chuka Umunna is neither a Peter Mandelson nor a Ken Livingstone. “I don’t want to be one of those android politicians. I never have a ‘line’”, he says. Indeed, he is outspoken and, for many, even inspirational. But he is also a totally polished package. I’ve never met a smoother person. Even saying that he doesn’t want to be an ‘android’ – something he has repeated in other interviews – fits perfectly into the reputation he has built as a star of a new Labour generation offering something different in a climate of scandal and spin.

Chuka Umunna  grew up in Streatham and, if he is elected, he will be the first MP in the constituency to actually come from the constituency.  “I just love Streatham”, he enthuses.  It’s the second time he really breaks out of polished campaign mode and speaks with real gusto.  You can tell that he really cares about the people here – he has known many of them since childhood, he loves meeting new constituents and he embraces being out and about in his ‘patch’. What he loves most about Streatham, he says, is its diversity. “Not just the ethnic diversity, which is what everyone thinks of first, but the amount of different types of people from different backgrounds. Lots of people see Streatham Hill as just a road to go from A to B, but there is a lot going on here.”

Umunna is  taking over from Keith Hill, who retires this May after 18 years as Streatham MP. He and Hill come from very different Labour traditions. Hill’s voting record is overwhelmingly New Labour – he voted for the Iraq war, anti-terrorism laws and replacing Trident; he voted against an Iraq investigation. In an interview with the Guardian, Umunna claimed that 1997 was like a ‘birthday’. Now, 13 years later, he is vehemently anti-New Labour. “I’m just plain Labour”, he says.  How has he been able to stay Labour faithful at all? “There was a lot of soul-searching after the invasion of Iraq. I would never vote for an illegal war”. Yet he insists that Labour is not a one-trick pony and has members of many different persuasions. Umunna is part of what he calls the ‘soft’ left of Labour, a rising star in the leftwing pressure group Compass.

His policy ideas are certainly more progressive than we’ve come to expect from Brown and Co. He suggests that Trident should be the first to go in the round of public spending cuts to come after the general election, he is a fervent supporter of proportional representation and he has campaigned against higher student ‘top up’ fees. He cites flexible working times for parents of teenage children to encourage a more family-orientated community and prevent kids from areas like Lambeth finding a family-replacement in gang life.  For Chuka, we need to listen more to what young people say and he is critical of an approach – taking place under the Labour government of course – which has painted urban boys as hoodie-wearing thugs.

More specific to Streatham itself, Umunna has campaigned hard against Tesco’s provarications over the ‘Streatham Hub Project’. He is hazier about what exactly he has been doing in Brixton Hill, but cites his support for Philippe Castaing’s ‘Brixton Green’ project and the Q&A session on climate change he organised with Ed Miliband in Brixton Town Hall.

Is he worried about not being able to fulfil his promises to the Streatham voter? “No, not really. If I win, I am making a contract with the voter.” He stresses that even with a Conservative majority, he would work with his opponents as much as possible to get the things he has promised into law. He adds the obligatory qualification – “obviously I don’t think the Conservatives are going to do a good job”.

A week after the interview, I realise what has confused me about Chuka – he’s outspoken, he’s progressive, but he’s not angry. That’s why he can be so smooth. He’s wearing red-for-Labour tie and cufflinks, for goodness sake. For some people the fact that he’s a positive politician is a fantastic thing, but what if it is anger that ultimately creates real change?


Filed under Uncategorized

We are Loughborough Junction

One of the photographs on Herne Hill Rd

The ‘We are Loughborough Junction’ photo project came to fruition this weekend with a two-day outdoor exhibition. Small crowds of south Londoners were taken on guided tours of the Coldharbour Lane area, where photographs of local residents were on show – tacked to railings, walls, windows and buildings.

What the shock of sitting in a window overlooking Coldharbour Lane does to you...

The project was started when Loughborough Junction residents Conor Masterson, Paul Adlam and Matt Matterson invited local friends and passers-by to be photographed in Masterson’s back garden. Then they organised a photo shoot in Ruskin Park and then one outside Loughborough Junction station.  The photos were all shot outdoors, in black and white with a white backdrop. “I wanted it to be completely about the people, so I didn’t want any colour or for it to be too contrived”, said photographer Masterson. Many of the participants are boxers from Miguel’s Boxing Club; others are model makers from a workshop under the arches; another woman works at a nail bar on Coldharbour Lane.

The project was co-funded by Lambeth Council (good on ’em), Loughborough Junction Action Group, and the SE5 Forum. Masterson said of the motivation behind the event, “we just wanted to bring people together so that they can talk to each other and meet one another.” It was certainly a motley crowd who braved the icy winds to see the exhibition this Sunday. Here’s hoping we see more of We Are Loughborough Junction in the future…

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Crazy In Love @ Brixton Village (but no Beyoncé…)

Another weekend, another Spacemakers event at Brixton Village. Last Saturday was Culture Club, this Saturday was – wait for it – love-themed. Cornercopia launched the first of their Saturday lunches with a Valentine’s meal (it looked delicious, although I didn’t have the chance to try it), huge hearts were hanging in shop windows, pink cupcakes were being sold outside the sweet shop and – if you really, really wanted to – you could even sign up for speed dating. Here’s a mini photo tour of Brixton Village this weekend:

New shops in the Granville Arcade

Some awkward speed dating:

It’s not just about Valentine’s. As a result of the empty spaces projects, there are lots of new shops and projects opening up in Brixton Village:

A new permanent cafe for the market

Another shop in the process of creation:

What's it gonna be?

And, finally, I think this market stall did a better job than the pop-up shops with the over-the-top Valentine’s celebrations:

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

“Heavy-handed Southbank border control!”: Free South London on breaking the shackles of oppression


Free South London's experimental South London Crest

Twinterview? Tweeterview? Brixton Blog speaks to @FreeSouthLondon via Twitter about their plans for an independent South London

Y shld S.Ldn be free?

South London is a beautiful hemimetropolis that has for far too long been overlooked in favour of her northern twin

What R U trying to free S.Ldn from?

Prejudice. Lack of funding & development. Self-hatred… And a lack of Tube lines! SORT IT OUT TfL!!

Where does S.Ldn begin & end?

Good Q! Obv the Filthy Brown Thames is the nth border. But cities never end neatly. They sprawl on & on…

Can you just move south to become a part of our nation or do you need stronger ties and a decent blood line? 

A kid in Asia obsessed with CitizenSmith, RootsManuva & AFCWimbledon is more SL than a kid in New Cross who always goes out in Shoreditch

What kind of nation will we be – aggressive or peace-loving? Any invasions of N.Ldn on the cards?

Ha ha! Sadly the days of aggressive imperialistic expansion seem to be gone… Thus we SLers need to fight with culture – art, music etc.

What would the main policies in a free S.Ldn be?

Support all grassroot initiatives! i.e B£, AFC Wimbledon, Chateux Tooting. Stop gang violence. And heavy handed southbank border control!

Is there a S.Ldn national anthem?

National anthem? We need a public debate on this! Or maybe an open competition. Also need to choose a patron saint, a national flag etc.


Filed under Uncategorized

Another blow for Brixton Market traders

Diana Godwin with the traders' petition at her stall on Pope's Rd

Market traders have complained that the closure of the Pope’s Road Car Park has drastically cut business since Christmas, just when they thought they were emerging from the recession. The Pope’s Rd carpark was closed by Lambeth Council on December 19 for health and safety reasons.
A council press release in December said that a structural survey had found problems in the concrete walls and ceilings. It was scheduled to reopen in mid-February, but it is now uncertain how long it will have to stay closed.
The carpark served as an important facility for vehicle users coming to Brixton Market.  Diana Godwin, whose family runs a fruit and veg stall on Pope’s Rd, said, “on the weekend, trade is now probably down by about a third. Our customers are parking as far away as Shakespeare Rd and up past Tescos on Acre Lane. A lot of my customers who have signed the petition, especially my Saturday customers, are Croydon people who were probably born in Brixton and still come to shop here. They closed the carpark four days prior to Christmas with no warning to us or the general public and no alternative.”
At a meeting last week, says Godwin, the council stated it would not be able to offer help with alternative parking until mid-May. Godwin and other Brixton traders have set up a petition to protest against the closure and to ask for more immediate help. “We’re asking for them not to leave it for six months. Already two traders in this road have closed since Christmas. Whether it’s got something to do with the carpark, I couldn’t say, but I think it played a part.” The Market Trader’s Federation are proposing that the council establish an alternative carpark on the wasteland just behind the market in Codharbour Lane.
I am waiting on a comment from Lambeth Council, but you can read their statement in the South London Press here.


Filed under Uncategorized

Brixton £ consultation – one week to go

Olive Morris on the Brixton £1

There is just one more week until the end of a Brixton Pound consultation on its aims and values. Residents can add their opinions to the B£ wiki or email responses to I’m interested to see what comes out of this, although the wiki itself doesn’t look like much has changed from the original Transition Town aims and values. I like the suggestion that primary schools should change the way they teach economics (do they even teach it?).

This is a positive consultation more than a critical one. It’s great that groups like Brixton Pound and Spacemakers are working together to tackle Brixton’s economic weaknesses, but more helpful would have been a consultation on whether the Brixton Pound is really making a difference to the local economy and what needs to be done to make it work better. It might be too soon for a hard and fast conclusion, but it would be good to get a sense of the progress made and problems faced.


Filed under Uncategorized