Monthly Archives: July 2010

Reporting from the town hall…

Guest blogger Kaye Wiggins, journalist for Third Sector magazine, reports from last night’s co-operative council meeting

About 70 residents gathered in a warm, crowded room in Lambeth town hall last night to discuss the co-operative council plans.

During the two-and-a-half hour question and answer session with council leader Steve Reed, almost all of those that asked questions said they welcomed the idea, at least in theory. But they raised concerns about how it would work in practice.

One of the biggest concerns was how the council would make sure the whole local community had its say about the plans. “I know most of the faces here,” said a lady on the front row. “We’re always here; we’re always debating with the council. There are a lot of other people in the borough. We need to get to the grass roots.”

Reed said the public consultation on becoming a cooperative was the biggest the council had ever held. He said there would be surveys, roadshows, public meetings and – surprisingly – random vox pops outside tube stations during rush hours to ask local people what they thought.

He also said the co-operative idea was not just a way of coping with the 25 per cent cut the council will make to its overall spending in the next four years.

He said involving local people in providing public services would make the services more responsive to the community’s needs. He stopped short of saying which services would be provided in this way, but said housing would be “an extremely interesting area to look at”.

One resident voiced a concern that seems likely to be repeated as the consultation goes on. “I already co-operate with the council by paying my taxes,” she said.

But maybe we should take heart from a suggestion made by councillor Jackie Meldrum, who said there could be “some kind currency to be a reward system” for residents that helped the council to deliver its services.


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More co-op council

Lambeth council staff have been ‘on the road‘ in the past few weeks, spreading the gospel of the co-operative council. In each part of the borough, they set up stalls to provide information on the proposal and get residents’ views. But the effort to hear our views has so far seemed rather patronising – we had to put colourful plastic balls into differently labelled buckets and even stick pretty stickers underneath our favoured proposals, for goodness sake…

Colourful balls, plastic bins and labels that read, 'I'd like to be actively involved' and 'I am already actively involved'

Here’s hoping the public meeting on Wednesday will be a little more detailed and a little more demanding. See the event invitation on facebook or just read it here below:

The co-operative council commission will be holding a public meeting as part of its evidence-gathering exercise. It will give residents the opportunity to give their views about our proposal to create a co-operative council and ask questions directly to commissioners.

Please email if you are interested in attending.”

I wonder who will attend this meeting. Will it be the usual suspects who take part in lots of community events already, or will people who wouldn’t normally take part be encouraged to go? Are you going? This phase is a real test of the co-operative council idea, as locals and the community groups have to feel part of it from the very beginning. It’s potentially a very exciting project, and it would be sad to see it go to waste.


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The Brixton week ahead

You’d expect this weekend to be a bit of a comedown after the revels of the Lambeth Country Show. But tonight Brixton is buzzing – Erykah Badu is playing at the Academy, there’s an after-concert ‘jam’ at Plan B and the Alabama 3 are at Brixton Jamm with Outlaw, Acoustic and Unplugged and Alan Mcgee (DJ Set).

And there’s lots more to come this week:

Sunday 25: Set to be 26 degrees –  park, park, park, park. In the evening, enjoy the ‘Sunday Blues‘ music at Upstairs @ The Ritzy at 8pm.

Wednesday 28:  The Lido Cafe is holding the Summer Party, #2. There’ll be live flamenco guitar music and a BBQ. Nothing can bring back the dreamy BBQ parties of the pre-Fusion days – this is the next best.

Thursday 29: It’s the first public meeting to discuss the Co-op Council, from 6-8.30pm – see here for details and then go shout about what you want to happen. And at 7.30pm, a new zine is being launched at The Grosvenor Pub by the I Digress residency – it’s an illustration and short fiction zine put together by a group of local artists and authors who meet regularly at The Grosvenor. [UPDATE 27/7] And later in the evening, Gold Panda is playing at Rest is Noise – for free!

Friday 30: Six-piece reggae band, ‘The Drop’, are launching their EP at Hootananny, accompanied by Mr Benn and Serial Killaz.

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Prince Charles visits Brixton

Brixton Market and the Brixton Pound got a boost for publicity on Wednesday when Prince Charles and Camilla visited Electric Avenue, spent the pounds and were even presented with an ‘I Heart Brixton Bag’. The last time I saw Charles in Brixton was Nelson Mandela’s visit in July 1996, when he appeared on the steps of the Rec with Mandela. This time, Camilla bought a box of mangoes for a Brixton tenner – that’s a pretty expensive box of mangoes,  but if you were a market trader faced with the Duchess of Cornwall, wouldn’t you demand the same?

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Brixton films on British Pathe

What a find. British Pathe has opened up an online archive of 90,000 videos including newsreel, sports footage and social history documentaries from 1896-1976.  There are endless wonderful videos here, but since this is a Brixton blog we’re going to concentrate on the Brixton ones. Just enter the search term ‘Brixton’ and you’ll find…

A piggyback race in a Brixton street from 1937, complete with commentary

A Dogs Tea Party in 1958, exclusively for members of the Brixton and District Dog’s Training Club

Shots of diverse Brixton in 1956 under a typical 1950s title – ‘English girls married to Jamaicans live happily in Brixton’

A newsreel about Brixton market in the 1960s – a place, apparently, for “housewives from Barnsley to Beirut”… “For the unfeeling husband who constantly complains, ‘Can’t we have something different?’, here you can buy sweet potatoes, okra, sweetcorn and mangos.”

This is a real treasure trove, so any links to the best videos are welcome in the comments section below.


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Endymion Rd Street Party

There were two street parties in Brixton yesterday and there’s one next Sunday on Sudbourne Rd too.  Endymion Rd’s celebration had it all – soundsystem, face painting, beer and even some capoeira. Here’s a taste of the fun:

Drums and Capoeira

Seeking respite from the sun...

Face painting

and food

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Shooting in St James’s Crescent

Sad news for Brixton today – Five young men were injured in a “pre-planned” shooting last night in St James’s Crescent. Two of them, aged 23 and 24, are still in hospital while the other three, aged 16,21 and 22 have been discharged. The Metropolitan Police Operation Trident team are investigating what they have called an “apparently pre-planned attack”. See here and here for news coverage.


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The Co-op Council comes to you

Lambeth Council are going on a road trip this week – staff have been out and about in Lambeth talking to residents about what they think of the plans for a co-op council. And on Sunday they’re coming to Brixton…if you can bear to miss the World Cup/the build-up/the aftermath then here’s your chance to finally ‘have your say’.

From 10-4 today they’ll be in Norwood:

10am-12.15pm Norwood Rd – near Tulse Hill station
12.45-6pm Norwood Rd – near Tesco

And from 10-6 on Sunday they’ll be in Brixton:

10am-12.15pm Brixton tube
12.45-3pm Brockwell Park
3.30-6pm Brixton – Windrush Square

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This weekend in Brixton

It’s party time in Brixton this weekend…

Saturday: It would of course be nice to go to the Lido in this heat, but uh-oh it’s closed today because of “chlorine issues”…again. (Check on the website tomorrow for updates).

Embrace the heat instead and take part in the *two* street parties happening tomorrow.   The Poets Corner Street Party starts at 1pm on Regent Rd (Brixton? Herne Hill?), while the Endymion Rd party gets going at 2pm, with music from 4-10pm.

In the evening, it’s a new favourite – the monthly Globo Loco World Music Party at Mango Landin. The only time I’ve actually danced at Mango.


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Interview: Philippe Castaing on Brixton Green

Architects drawings for the 'creative hub' on Somerleyton Rd/Coldharbour Lane

Philippe Castaing, owner of Opus Café, was interviewed in The Guardian last year about his plans for a community hub on Somerleyton Rd. Since then, the name of his project – Brixton Green – has been on the lips of many an eco-friendly local.

But for a long time I haven’t been able to grasp what Brixton Green actually is, or whether it will ever get off the ground. Seemingly nothing has happened to the project since that one celebratory article in The Guardian. I went to the man himself – Philippe Castaing. We meet at Opus on Acre Lane, which Philippe opened in 2001 after he moved here from La Rochelle in France.

The Brixton Green plan is to create a Community Land Trust in Somerleyton Rd – a space with residential housing and public facilities owned and run by the people who live there. London Citizens are trying to do the same in East London.

In the past year, Philippe and his business partner Brad Carroll have been working behind the scenes to convince Lambeth Council that it’s the right thing to do and to make their plans a little more detailed. “Now we know where we’re going”, said Philippe. “We’ve had a proper site survey and got designs from architects”.

Their architects Feildon, Clegg and Bradley have re-imagined the site to include street-facing sustainable housing, a ‘creative hub’ with a theatre space, a children’s centre and a community dental surgery. “The question is how you actually make a community site effective”, explains Philippe. “What is exciting about Brixton is the meeting of generations and backgrounds that happens here – but how do you do that in a new community space? We could, for instance, offer rent reductions if a student agrees work with an older person.”

None of this is confirmed yet – Brixton Green will be pitching for the lease of the site alongside anyone else who cares to. But they have persuaded the Lambeth Regeneration office to stipulate that mutual ownership be fulfilled in some form on Somerleyton Rd – as part of the Brixton Town Masterplan – even if Brixton Green doesn’t win the tender.

And Philippe says he wants to stop working ‘behind-the-scenes’ now. This summer they will launch a share offer and start publicising the initiative. Any member of the community will be able to buy shares in Brixton Green from just £1 and funds will contribute to the pre-planning and feasibility costs of the development. The target is 5,000 members, each of whom will have one vote.

They are looking to the long-term though – Castaing thinks it could be up to 10 years before the project would be fully realized.


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