Monthly Archives: May 2010

“Citizens'” Commission…

…is in fact made up of Cllr Steve Reed (Lambeth Council Leader), Cllr Paul McGlone and Cllr Jackie Meldrum (Deputy Leader of the Council). All Labour. All already advocates of the Lambeth co-operative council model. They met as the ‘Citizens’ Commission’ to consider the proposals last week. Not exactly your average ‘citizen’. This is what Lambeth Council posted on the Co-op Council Facebook page on Friday in response to a question about who sits on the Commission:

“Thanks for your query. To confirm, the commission members who met on Wednesday were Councillor Steve Reed, Councillor Paul McGlone and Councillor Jackie Meldrum. Future commission sessions will be attended by these three councillors and a range of other local and national stakeholders. We’ll update this facebook page, we will be tweeting and Councillor Reed will be updating his blog with more details of who will be attending as future commission sessions take place.”

Lord knows who ‘local and national stakeholders’ are – residents? businesses? more council members?  Will local residents be able to apply to take part in the next meeting? Can we see the minutes of the last meeting? … This is not a very promising start to the new ‘open’, co-operative council, is it?


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Friends of Brixton Market event – 1pm today

Friends of Brixton Market has asked everyone interested in the market to come down today at 1pm to the Vida Walsh Centre (Saltoun Rd) to help develop a ‘vision’ which they can then promote to the council, landlords and community.

The questions they are asking are:

  • How do you see the market?
  • What does it need?
  • What needs protecting?
  • Who should the council promote the market to? How?
  • What new kinds of services could be developed in the market?
  • What facilities are needed?
  • Do you want the market to go up market?

The responses to the last question will be especially interesting. See here for the Urban 75 forum debate on the market, sparked off by the Friends of Brixton Market post advertising the event.

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The Co-op Council

The front page of the White Paper, published yesterday

Lambeth Council finally published its draft White Paper on the co-operative council yesterday. You can download it here, read @Jason_Cobb‘s fine analysis here and contribute to the Lambeth wiki page here. There are still some questions to be cleared up, namely who on earth is on the Citizens’ Commission? Will it, as I first thought, include citizens or is it just a commission of council advisors who talk to citizens through so-called ‘community engagement’ events? Has it been chosen already? The announcement is somewhat confusing: “A Citizens’ Commission is being set up” – so a work in progress then? Oh no, it’s “meeting for the first time today”. What was the selection process? And what will its role actually be, since the White Paper seems to somewhat pre-empt the findings of any commission? The paper even comes up with the questions it thinks the Commission should consider.

Lambeth have embraced social media this time around, but although a wiki, twitter hashtag (#lambethcoop) and a Facebook group are all very well, only a small proportion of Lambeth residents are likely to log onto to Twitter, wiki or even Facebook in order to add their views to the mix. The ‘community engagement’ (what a terrible phrase) events will remain vital.

Whatever it may be, the Commission Report is due for October, in time for the launch of the Co-Operative Council in April 2011.


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These signs were plastered up on Sudbourne Rd this weekend. Forget missing cats, these poor souls have lost their rugs…

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The Go Game @ Brixton Market

Every Thursday, Spacemakers runs a themed ‘Night Market’ event in the Granville Arcade and some shops and restaurants stay open until 10pm. It’s proved good business, so much so that they are now campaigning for (and apparently likely to get) late opening on Saturdays and even daytime opening on Sundays.

This Thursday’s event was the ‘Go Game’ – a night of games and music around the Granville Arcade. I was pretty sceptical about the ‘Go Game’, a corporate company with over-enthusiastic employees who organise group games.  You link your internet phone up to a game that makes you do challenges around the market, such as “do five things you’ve never done before and take a photo of it”. Once we let ourselves go though, it wasn’t so bad after all.

Not a picture of us 'letting ourselves go', but rather of the super enthusiastic organisers, including a man dressed up as a cow. eek.

The best thing about the late night opening is that you can get fantastic meals on the cheap from restaurants usually only open during the day – the new pizza place in Granville Arcade, the Moroccan restaurant, Etta’s Seafood Kitchen, Bellantoni’s the Italian and Rosie’s Deli were all open.  We squeezed in at the end of one table at Cornercopia:

The sweetpea, potato and chickpea ‘Gateux’ was a little dry, but overall the food was inventive, fresh and incredibly reasonably priced. The pistachio and orange tart was especially good.

And so to the gaming. There were even makeshift games of Twister:

One group at the start of an impromptu game of Twister

@DJDanCook had organised a night of music too. “I found out about Spacemakers after I moved into the area and I approached them to organise something. My background is more electronic music and techno, but I thought I’d do something a bit different here. I’ve got a few mates who do MCing and poetry, so I got a load of people together to perform. I put some notices up on blogs and at universities and got quite a few taking part in the end.”

The final performers of the night - two hip hop MCs

As you can see, Granville Arcade wasn’t exactly heaving with excited punters, but for those who were there, it was a good thing to do of a balmy summer’s evening. We even ended up winning a free meal for two at Etta’s Seafood Kitchen … although I later found out that we only got 90 points to the overall winners’ 570.

Look here for next week’s Night Market event: a US-style block Party


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Lambeth Co-operative Council

Now the election’s over and the dust is settling, we can get into the swing of things. So look out next week for the publication of Lambeth’s proposals for a co-operative council on Wednesday 26 May. Apparently it will challenge Cameron’s ‘Big Society’…Steve Reed’s description of how they differ isn’t very enlightening though:

Our model differs from the Tories’ Big Society because while they want to roll back state, we want to change the role of the state, creating a new settlement between the citizen and public services with more power and control handed to local people.  Our model empowers people to get on and make the changes they want to see in their local area, building better services and a stronger civic society at the same time.”

Am I being stupid in not being able to recognise the clear differences yet? This is how ‘The Guardian’ explains the Con-Lib ‘Big Society:

The new Tory-Liberal Democrat coalition today unveiled a “big society” programme intended to “take power away from politicians and give it to the people”

[…] The plans include introducing a national citizen service programme for 16-year-olds, reforms to the planning system to give communities more control over developments, letting public sector workers form cooperatives and giving the public access to government data.”

And who will be in the new ‘Citizens’ Commission’? It will be set up this Wednesday to consult local people on the proposals already chosen by the council.  Steve Reed’s homepage announced earlier this year  that the Commission was to be set up way back in March “and give a final report no later than June”, but that deadline is unlikely to be met now.

Here’s hoping for some more detail on Wednesday, but I think this is going to be a matter of ‘wait and see’ over the much longer term.

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Honest Foods

Anyone know what’s happening to Honest Foods? It’s turned into a mini building site. A refurb? Or closure?

UPDATE [16 May]: The mystery continues…just seen this planning application/application for extension of hours outside Honest for a company called Burning Bread CIC…

UPDATE [22 May]: Looks like Dee (see comments below) was right. “An organic kinda deli by day and an organic cider bar by night”.

The sign reads 'Burning Bread' Food and Cider


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General Election 2010


After a long delay, the results for Streatham, Vauxhall and Dulwich & West Norwood finally came in at about 8am this morning. Labour won all three seats, though their majorities were cut in each.  The best news of the election thus far is  – for me at least – the significant increase in voter turnout.  66.2% in D&WN, 57.7% in Vauxhall and 62.8% in Streatham. That’s a remarkable turnaround, given what I wrote in February:

“In the last General Election, voter turnout in all three constituencies to which Brixton belongs was depressingly low. At its best in Dulwich and Norwood, it stood at 58.1% – still 3.3% below the 61.4% national average. At its worst in Vauxhall, it was just 46.9%. This year, voter apathy across the country is expected to increase even further.”

Here are the results in full:


Labour, Chuka Umunna: 20,037  (42.8% of the vote).

Liberal Democrat,  Chris Nicholson:   16,778 ( 35.8%)

Conservative, Rahoul Bhansali:  8,578 ( 18.3%)

Green, Rebecca Findlay: 861 (1.8%)

Christian Party, Geoffrey Macharia: 237  (0.5%)

English Democrats, Janus Polenceus: 229  (0.5%)

Workers Revolutionary Party, Paul Lepper: 117  (0.2%)


Labour, Kate Hoey:  21,498   (49.8) 

Liberal Democrat, Caroline Pidgeon:  10,847  (25.1)

Conservative, Glyn Chambers:  9,301   (21.5)

Green, Joseph Healy:  708  (1.6%)

English Democrats, Jose Navarro:  289  (0.7)

Christian Party, Lana Martin:    200  (0.5%)

Socialist Party of Great Britain, Daniel Lambert:  143  (0.3%)

Anticapitalists – Workers Power, Jeremy Drinkall:  109  (0.3%)

The Animal Protection Party, James Kapetanos: 96  (0.2% )

Dulwich and West Norwood

Labour, Tessa Jowell:  22,461  (46.6%)

Liberal Democrat, Jonathan Mitchell: 13,096  (27.2%)

Conservative, Kemi Adegoke: 10,684  (22.2%)

Green, Shane Collins: 1,266  (2.6%)

UKIP, Elizabeth Jones: 707  (1.5%)

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Clegg’s Battle Bus comes to Streatham

Miriam Gonzalez Durantez, Nick Clegg and Chris Nicholson

Nick Clegg and his Battle Bus lent support to the Nicholson campaign in Streatham today, visiting the Palace Road Community Centre in Coburg Rd as part of Clegg’s final campaign push. The visit has been interpreted in the national press as an attempt to undermine Labour heartlands. A Liberal Democrat victory in Streatham would be a remarkable steal, but it’s certainly looking closer in the constituency than it has done for years. Labour faithfuls turned up to protest against Nicholson and, not to be outdone, the Conservatives blocked the road with their campaign truck, beeping their horn on repeat until they were stopped by the police. Yes, politicians behave like children sometimes.

In the community centre itself, we were entertained by a gospel-reggae band singing songs about victory and God as we waited for Clegg to arrive. With lyrics such as “Jesus is a winner man” and “we’re on the winning side”, it wasn’t quite clear where Nick was supposed to fit in. Our favourite guest blogger, Ian Duncan, thinks he’s more of a Moses for the Lib Dems than a Jesus

Clegg’s speech was standard fare – suffice to say that ‘choice’ and ‘fairness’ made the starring appearances.  He made a little dig at Cameron having already measured his curtains for No.10, but he’d already done that earlier in the day at Blackheath. And then he disappeared under a maelstrom of reporters, photographers, newsreaders and campaign managers, reappearing only to make his way back to the Battle Bus and onto the next stop…

Here’s a clip from the start of his speech:

And some photos from the day:

In tune with the religious theme - praying for a win?

Floella Benjamin, the children's TV presenter, has endorsed the Lib Dems and introduced Nick Clegg to the crowd

Cute kid holding a big Lib Dem placard got a lot of attention from the press photographers

Wolfgang Moneypenny of Free South London caught the imagination of the national press

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The leaders come to South London

Share photos on twitter with Twitpic

Chuka Umunna – and Brixton – had some special visitors today. The young Labour PPC for Streatham accompanied Gordon and Sarah Brown to the Brixton New Testament Church of God on Lambert Rd.  And, in Dulwich, some lucky constituents even got doorstepped

Look out for Brixton blogging from tomorrow’s Nick Clegg visit.

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