Monthly Archives: March 2011

Breakaway Brixton: Design your own Brixton flag

Neil Arun and Will Aspinall want to bring Brixton together – by getting people to design a Brixton flag. Today is the deadline for submissions and Brixton Blog interviews Neil Arun about the project

Documentary-makers Neil Arun and Will Aspinall together make up Breakaway Brixton. They want people to sketch designs for a Brixton flag. Why? Because they ‘believe making a flag is the best way to bring people together’ and thereby ‘make Brixton better’. The winning design will be unfurled on April 11, the thirtieth anniversary of the Brixton Riots. Aspinall and Arun are making a documentary along the way to explore concepts of identity and secession.

What’s the motivation behind Breakaway Brixton?

We’re making a documentary, so we’re coming at it as journalists. Why this subject? We’ve both lived in Brixton for a long time and like it a lot and we both have a sense it gets a bad deal. One way of rectifying that is to make Brixtonians themselves more conscious of the neighbourhood they live in. The best way to do that is to make a flag – it’s an excuse to get people talking.

There’s a broader motivation too – I’m very interested in secession movements. I’m a journalist and I’ve reported from a lot of places that have had separatist movements. I’d like to look at how that sense of identity works on a purely emotional level. What is the smallest unit of place someone can feel loyal to? It’s a very relevant question at the moment of course, if you look at what is happening in the Middle East. The idea isn’t to have tanks rolling onto the streets of Brixton, but to play with the idea of revolutionary methods and identity. It’s about having a voice and not being apathetic. If people ask me where I’m from when I’m travelling, I often say ‘’London’ and then if they know London, I say ‘Brixton’ –  I took the Brixton Pound to Iraq and of course it’s completely useless there. I couldn’t exchange it! But it had a far greater value. It made me feel like I belonged somewhere. I could show the Brixton Pound and feel for the first time a sense of pride. Regardless of how effective it is as a currency, it’s very effective as a symbol of Brixton. That was really the inspiration behind Breakaway Brixton.

How does the thirty year anniversary of the riots fit into this?

The riots occupy a strange place in Brixton’s collective memory. They paint a negative picture of Brixton, especially to those who’ve never been there. But people don’t ask whether the factors that caused it have really been eliminated. Thirty years down the line, we should be able to talk about it properly.

How have you been getting people to enter designs?

We’ve been stopping people on the street and asking them on camera to do quick designs. We’ve also worked at a primary school and have got local pubs and businesses interested. So far the response has been really good. At first we were worried that people wouldn’t get the idea, but actually when you stop them they do get it very quickly. You don’t have to live in Brixton to take part, but you do have to have an opinion about Brixton which you can share.

What will happen to the designs once they’ve been submitted?

They will be published online and on Facebook. There’s also talk of getting some of them displayed in a Brixton venue.

If you fancy entering a last-minute design, you can go to the Breakaway Brixton website or Facebook page for more details.

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Ladies Football – players needed

If it had come through earlier, this would have been part of the Sporty Spring post. For women only of course, but @footballerslegs has tweeted that she is looking for new players for a ‘friendly ladies football 5 aside’ at Brixton Rec, every Monday at 9pm.

You can direct message her on Twitter for details or, if you don’t have Twitter, you could post your interest on our facebook wall.

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Brixton Riots on Radio 4

Have a listen to this week’s episode of ‘The Reunion’ on Radio 4, in which novelist Alex Wheatle, former Lambeth Council leader Ted Knight, Darcus Howe and Brian Paddick discuss the Brixton Riots. It’s very timely – the thirty year anniversary of the riots is in April. The programme can be heard here on iPlayer.

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The Elm Park Tavern re-opens

Brixton photographer Neil Young reports on the return of the Elm Park Tavern

Like a battered pugilist making a comeback after a long and inglorious decline, Elm Park Tavern is back on its feet and looking sprightly.  Previously notable for its state of dilapidated splendour, the three hundred-year-old pub on the west side of Brockwell Park has been given some much-needed love since changing hands earlier this year. New landlord Gary has had the exterior repainted and the first stage of an internal refurbishment was completed late last week. Ravaged black vinyl has been sanded back to reveal handsome floorboards. A number of leather armchairs and a couch have taken up residence. The quizzical, faintly disgruntled mien of the place’s patron, a nameless “playwright, cad and actor” circa 1700 or so, still looks down from its familiar place on the wall. The pub is now open for business again. “It’s always going to be a traditional pub,” says Gary — “a nice place to come and have a drink.” More works are planned for later in the year, which will see the rear bar extended and the addition of a pool table, as well as seating and a barbecue for the beer garden. And Thursday night is quiz night, FYI.

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Sporty Spring


Spring is here! And so, to embrace the good weather and blooming of nature, here are some tips for outdoor sport in Brockwell Park:

Tai Chi in the Park: Starting in May, Brixton resident Pete Blake will be leading Tai Chi classes in Brockwell Park.  He already leads Tai Chi for Beginners at Yoga Haven in Clapham – as well as teaching tai chi in Brixton primary schools – and is expanding to London parks in time for the good weather. Joyful. See here for more details and here for his tai chi tweets.

Brockwell Park Run: Fed up of aimlessly jogging around Brockwell Park for a paltry half hour? Well here’s something to give a bit more motivation to a morning run. The Park Run is a free 5k timed run every Saturday at 9am – simply register here before 6pm on a Friday. If you don’t fancy the exercise, you can help out by volunteering.

Tennis: Courts in the park cost £4/hr and can be booked through GLL on 0845 130 8998

Bowls: The bowling green at Brockwell is free to use and no booking is required. A nice game of bowls and a cup of tea at Brockwell Hall – what could be nicer?

The Lido: The swimming season has been extended and will start on 2 April with a free open weekend – no payment for swimming and taster classes in the studios. Here’s hoping this season won’t be plagued by the same problems that caused multiple closures last year.



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Battle Acts! at The Dogstar

Two teams of comics will battle through a series of improvising games tomorrow at 8pm at the Dogstar. Here, Corinne Furness from Write by Numbers theatre company, reviews the last Battle Acts! show – a taster for what might come tomorrow

“Give me a place two people might meet” Christopher Bailey, the compere of tonight’s BattleActs! demands.

“A cloakroom” someone shouts. “A morgue” someone else in the darkness of the upstairs room at the Dogstar offers.

“A cloakroom in a morgue” Bailey declares and so, once we’ve given them the opening and closing lines of the scene for good measure (“You didn’t call me” and “I think he’s alive” if you were wondering) the two teams set about improvising this scenario, only with a few more added complications because this is supposed to be a battle after all. It’s ridiculous and grotesque and, most of all, funny. Very funny.

BattleActs! takes two improv teams, plunges them into a set of games, mixes in a whole raft of audience suggestions and oddities and challenges each to come up with quickest, the cleverest or the funniest response (or ideally all three) in order to win points for their team. At the end of the night the winning team is showered with respect, applause and the love of the audience (possibly).

If the scoring is somewhat arbitrary, subject to the whims of both the audience and its misanthropic compere, then the rules of the games – and the eccentricity of the audience’s suggestions – aren’t. This is where the real challenge of BattleActs! lies; it’s the difficulty that compels.

Thus we get a “Greek-Gothic-Epic” about an Alchemist seeing a swan for the first time, a job interview for a Sociopath which features a scene stealing turn from a leek (with a leak) whilst, as punishment for “being a smartass”, one performer is forced to recite Hamlet’s “To be or not to be” speech from memory and without using the letter ‘e’ (which, to the audience’s obvious delight, he almost manages). It’s not just about the words though; the physicality of the performances stand up to the verbal dexterity on display. Over the course of the evening we get human plasters, elaborately gruesome deaths involving mimed chainsaws and spurting blood and a precarious trip across a rainbow (and the heads of the audience).

It’s almost inevitable in such a format that not everything quite hits the mark and some games (and indeed audience suggestions) work better than others. Yet the pace and the sheer invention of the performers mean that the energy never drops for too long. If you’re looking for something gloriously unexpected and laugh-out-loud entertaining then the Dogstar on the third Thursday of every month is where you should head. Just make sure you’ve got a better suggestion to offer than “spatula” when you’re asked to name a kitchen implement.



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Market trader parking permit price increases ninefold

An important Urban 75 forum thread to draw your attention to – Trader’s parking permits have increased ninefold in price. What with hikes in rent at Granville Arcade and the closure of the Pope’s Rd Car Park pending a new ice rink, Brixton Market traders are having rather a hard time of it at the moment…

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OPINION: Compulsory recycling? Thank God.

In a riposte to the opinion piece below, another tweeter Glenn Guest defends the policy to hand out fines to those who don’t recycle

Recycling is now compulsory. And rightly so. As with everything that is mandatory, there needs to be some kind of penalty attached. In this case, a fine of up to £1000.

According to the letter we all received, recycling waste costs half that of disposing by incineration or landfill. In this period of austerity, such a simple, pragmatic way to reduce costs helps channel much needed funds into other crucial areas –  schools, care for the elderly, or ambulance services, for example.

Recyclable waste has commercial value too. Councils can sell on recyclable items, if they are clean and correctly sorted. Putting extra effort into recycling can help lessen the pinch of budgetary cuts, which will only be a good thing.

The more recycling we do, the better. We are running out of landfill space and, besides that, the 1500 landfill sites in the UK produce a quarter of our methane emissions – a huge, unwanted contribution to the greenhouse effect.

Under the new rules, bulky items – I’ve seen wardrobes left out for the bin men – won’t see out their days rotting in some landfill site, impacting on climate change.

Now we will have to see if they can be donated to someone who can reuse them, be it through charities or websites like Freecycle. Reusing is even more green and cost effective than recycling, and allows those less fortunate to benefit from stuff you no longer need.

I do feel passionately about recycling: I used to live with two guys, in Tower Hamlets – which, incidentally, has the lowest ratio of recycling in London, due to it’s ‘more cost effective’ communal recycling facilities – who didn’t think  recycling applied to them. Grown men who were just too damn lazy, arrogant and ignorant to walk 30 yards to the pink dumpster, preferring to chuck perfectly recyclable stuff down the rubbish chute.

Luckily, we have kerbside collections in Lambeth. Under the new rules, that’s exactly where our waste must be presented. This is to aid timely collection of our detritus, allowing extra time for the ‘collection crew to check for contamination.’ Is the right stuff in the right bag? Get this wrong, and you might receive a stern letter or two…get it wrong consistently and you could get fined £1000.

This could be difficult to police: our ‘house’ is actually 4 ‘households,’ so how would they know whose was whose? Also, the ruling on garden waste being banned from wheelie bins, now a subscription-only service, conjures imagines of gardeners creeping on tippy-toes, fly-tipping into a neighbouring subscriber’s brown bin…

From what I can gather, if the bin men do identify you as persistently flouting the rules, your rubbish will be analysed for three weeks in a row, and if you don’t sharpen up, you will receive letters, then visits from council officers. If you still don’t improve, that’s when you get fined. So it needn’t come to a fine, for any of us.

There certainly needs to be more education – the new rule “plastic pots, tubs and trays (food packaging) will be accepted” surprised me. Our household was recycling them already, apparently this was wrong. So, yes, I agree with Clare Richardson that there needs to be more ‘hand-holding’ but it’s the ‘hand scolding’ that gets people talking and brings gravitas to the situation.


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OPINION: Enough of the trash talk – more group hugs

Twitterer and Brixton resident, Clare Richardson, gives her view on the new recycling rules

This morning I got the ‘CHANGES TO YOUR RECYCLING AND REFUSE SERVICES’ letter from the Council, along with most Lambeth residents. I think it’s a step too far. Don’t get me wrong, I have always thought that as a borough, Lambeth has done a good job of looking after us when it comes to rubbish and I am all for recycling. How could anyone argue against it? It is better for our environment. Simple fact.

And I don’t want to do down the people who do the week in, week out job of collecting our rubbish. They probably don’t get enough thanks. I’m pleased about new reuse services such as the one opening up next to the Western Riverside Waste Authority. And I am all for the new electronic collection banks that they are introducing too.  There is a lot I like.

And while I’m not thrilled at the prospect of bumping my way through an army of wheelie bins down my road on a Monday night, or tripping over orange bags now that all residents all have to put their own rubbish on the pavement as opposed to just outside the house – I kind of get how that makes refuse collection a more efficient process.

But Mr Doug Perry, Head of Environmental Services and Highways at London Borough of Lambeth (huh? How do highways and the environment go together in a job title?!) I think ‘compulsory recycling charges’ is a little bit…well..rubbish. People need to be encouraged to recycle, not have a great big £1,000 fine imposed on them if they don’t. I still think there is often misconception and misunderstanding about what can and can’t be recycled. As more and more things become recyclable (great news), how about a bit more help?  I don’t think slapping a big scary fine on anyone is going to incentivise us to recycle more.

I understand times are tough and budgets are tight but come on Lambeth, how about a little bit more hand-holding as opposed to hand-scolding?

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Lambeth Council’s recycling fines


Pamphlets were posted through Lambeth letter boxes today announcing new rules for recycling, including fines for those who don’t separate their rubbish.

From April 4 2011, households will be monitored and fined up to £1000 by Lambeth Council if they fail to recycle. Refuse collectors will no longer collect bins from inside the boundary of houses. Instead, wheelie bins and orange bags must be put on the pavement by 6am on the day of collection.

The pamplet reads: “Our aim is to help change behaviour…As a borough we spend over £15  million each year on disposing of waste, but recycling waste costs half the amount of disposal.”

If residents do not use their orange bags (available from here), they will receive a series of warnings and could face fines if they continue to ignore these warnings.


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