ToBrixton Rec! …on Sunday afternoon for the b-ball game between the high-flying Topcats and the barely leaving the ground Arrows.
Dontcha just LOVE reverse nominal determinism?
I also LOVE the best seats in the house. The main court at the Rec makes watching a basketball game all the more exciting, without the banks of seats along the side.
EVERY seat in the house is the best, to be honest. A courtside up close and personal. No need to apologies fella when the beads of sweat added an extra layer of reality to my matchday experience.
This is a young Topcats team that is setting a superb example for all within the Brixton basketball family. Even younger Yoof watched on from the sidelines, hopeful that they could soon make the progression to playing with the big boys.
The game itself was never really in any doubt as soon as the Topcats started ticking over the scoreboard in the first quarter. The game plan was simple: take your 3-pointers and defend down the other end.
Simple game, really.
It worked to perfection for the Topcats. A 46-29 home lead going into the break led to the Arrows receiving a centre court roasting from the Coach. It might have worked for Phil Brown at Hull City, but the Falcons were to find it harder still in the third and fourth quarters.
The Topcats’ chant of DE-FENCE at the end of each Time Out told you all you needed to know about the game. The 3-pointers continued to flow down at the other end of the court, leading to a comfortable 88-54 home win for the Topcats come the final buzzer.
No reverse nominal determinism in the name of the TOPcats.
ToGoldsmiths! …on Saturday morning for the inaugural meeting of the South London People’s Assembly. This was the Transpontine gathering of the wider social movement looking at how to fight back against savage Tory cuts, and how to mobilise on a hyperlocal level.
*some* may split hairs over the South East location. But we’re all in this together, Comrades – Lambeth, Southwark and Wandsworth folk were well represented for the early morning start.
The setting of the Lewisham surrounds was fitting for a campaign that aims to cut through the austerity crap and show what is possible when you take direct action. The Lewisham A and E victory remains the proudest achievement yet in the post-2010 Transpontine struggle.
Entering the grand hall at Goldsmith’s resembled walking back into a glorious past of badges, banners and slogans. Or maybe this is the future? It wasn’t too far removed from the #forfuturefootball celebration of activism that is growing by the game down at Champion Hill.
Delegates [oh yes] were given an agenda for the day ahead. It included a quote from Tony Benn, taken from the first People’s Assembly back in June of this year:
“We have a plain and simple goal: to make the government abandon its austerity programme and if it will not, to replace it with one that will.”
There’s always been a DIY ethos to my campaigning, Comrades…
The opening plenary saw various platform speakers address the issue of where do we go from here?
An easy question to ask, but somewhat trickier to answer. The perennial problem of the Left – whatever that might mean in the fag end days of 2013 – has been to overcome the divisions. Only last weekend and Left Unity was forming under the banner of a unified alternative to austerity.
We heard from Kevin Courtney of the NUT on how the People’s Assembly needs to have confidence in what we stand for. The mainstream media fails at every opportunity to report objectively on the struggle.
Warm applause, but a few whispers of descent from the floor, concerned that the Union leadership doesn’t exactly have a decent track record on walking it like they talk it. Pumping your fist from the privilege of an amplified platform is the easy part. Taking people on board with you is a different political plan altogether.
Owen Jones was as articulate as ever. Style, and possibly substance. Yer man Owen is growing as a leading figure of the Left, and one that is capable of setting up these events with a near perfect plenary opening address.
He was the warm-up man ahead of the main show; the pocket warmer before the big freeze. The cheekily little swig from a hip flask before taking on the world.
How the Labour party would love to have the spokesperson of his generation [arf] back on board.
Steph Newton argued that it is wrong to simply dismiss students as not being angry anymore. Some useful background listening comes via @novaramedia and a discussion on whatever happened to the mass student protests around Millbank in 2010.
Delegates were then invited to add contributions or ask questions. Performance related pay for teachers, Academy betrayals and endless testing for students all featured.
“There has to be a better model”
…as one delegate put it.
“Put the pupil at the centre of education.”
This wasn’t a self-congratulatory smug discussion. Criticism came the way of panel member and NUT Leader Kevin Courtney, and the perception that his Union has a right wing agenda and doesn’t do enough to support its members.
There was an agreement that mainstream media has an agenda of portraying industrial action as a simple pay and conditions issue.
“We need to communicate the message that this is an attack on the whole ethos of education.”
The luncheon entertainment consisted of the screening of an ACE trailer for a forthcoming film documenting the Miner’s Strike, plus what I think was some pop-up Comrade-ly acapella music, with a charming picket line for hire gracing the Goldsmiths main hall for a sing-a-long.
Any old iron…
I skipped the Banner and Placard Making workshop in the afternoon. My Dulwich Hamlet masterpiece in the making will just have to wait.
Instead I opted for an incredibly thoughtful session entitled: Challenging the Austerity Story.
Entertainment for the afternoon: Challenging the Austerity Story @pplsassembly. TELL IT LIKE IT IS.
Students of semantics would have loved this. You say tomato, I say tomatoe; you say Workfair, I say Welfare etc.
Sounds trivial, but how can you construct a rational debate about the economy when it is constantly framed with the language of productivity and profit, as so beloved by the BBC and others from The Establishment?
“The public political discussion in this country is catastrophically narrow. We can choose what type of TV to buy, or if we can afford it, where to take a holiday. But we can’t choose the type of political system that we want.”
Ballot boxes, blah, blah, blah and all that bollocks.
The Kilburn Manifesto woman had half-decent a point thought.
“We need to change the terms of the debate. There is an assumption that markets are natural – we are all competitive as individuals. This isn’t true.”
Ahhh – but how to change the direction of the debate, Doreen?
Language and semantics was the answer:
“What exactly is the economy? What do we want it to achieve? Why are taxes talked about as though they are bad? They offer us a collective responsibility.”
@MsJackMonroe then delivered an incredibly moving discussion, taking the challenging of austerity argument down to the personal political level. Jack unwillingly found herself having to respond to right wing arsewipe Richard Littlejohn, who attempted to demonise Jack in a horrid, horrid smear piece in his poxy newspaper.
Thank the chuffers for the power of the modern interweb.
Jack was able to respond via her blog, pulling apart every single argument that Littlejohn had so crudely attempted to construct about a lifestyle that he doesn’t like, let alone understand.
We are all journalists now…
Austerity is actually poverty, was the key message in Jack’s presentation. Having picked up a platform in which to speak after putting down Littlejohn so eloquently, Jack is now bravely continuing to try and personally change the POVERTY debate.
"Food banks are not a photo opp for MP's" explains @MsJackMonroe.
An online petition was published last week, calling for a Parliamentary debate on the scandal of Food Banks. Over 150,000 signatures have been collected in less than a week – more than the number of members that the Nasty Party is able to boast.
This has led to a debate being triggered in Parliament, scheduled to take place just before Christmas.
Dontcha just LOVE the modern interweb?
Solutions were searched for come the end of the session. How do we shift this mainstream media misguided message about the rhetoric of austerity, as pushed down from the politicians?
Hyperlocal media and telling your own story was a strong theme. Plus the power of face-to-face conversation.
The personal became the political for me a couple of weeks ago whilst I was sitting in an Essex spa (c’mon – you’ve all been there, Comrades.)
Two ‘good old Essex boys’ [yeah, right...] were banging on about those ‘bloody foreigners.’
I was getting pretty tired of their complete lack of facts and knowledge. Plus I was getting slightly over-cooked in the spa. I politely pointed out the absolute folly of their argument and pointed them in the direction of recent research that shows that immigrants contribute more than they take.
Just wait until I hit the Essex steam rooms.
The penultimate session for the South London People’s Assembly concentrated on breakout groups along borough boundaries. The Lambeth Comrades had the pleasure of the Goldsmiths cinema as the location for plotting the Glorious Day.
But sadly there was to be no happy ending.
Pay Day Loans had been suggested by the group leaders as a cause in which to take the fight back to Brixton. To be fair on my *cough* Comrades of Lambeth Labour, this is something that the Nu Labour luvvies are actually doing rather well.
What followed was a classic Left split, where the arse didn’t know its elbow. Or even it’s funny bone.
Ha, bloody ha.
Oh dear. We have a major SPLIT in the #Lambeth breakout session @pplsassembly. 'Aint it always the case, Comrades.
Green Party Leader Natalie Ben confronted the myth of a ‘radical’ Left agenda, giving evidence as to how there is widespread support for re-nationalisation policies.
A South London day of action has been called for next Saturday. A *shhh* silent protest [Mmmm...] is being organised outside The Ritzy in Brixton.
Such an approach often reminds me of the end of assembly time back in the day job when the kids are asked to close their eyes, and then ponder silently for a few seconds about what the main assembly message has just been.
I tried to remember the last time that I attended #tuttle as I cycled through the backstreets of Kennington mid-morning on Friday, all bound for the fifth floor glory of the Royal Festival Hall.
Three years ago? Possibly four?
What I do remember is that I cycled on the BONKERSMoulton, through Trafalgar Square and then rolled up outside The ICA to make my own bicycling artistic statement.
Heads didn’t turn; London continued to go about the business of whatever it is that London does these days.
Which isn’t too dissimilar to the conversation at Tuttle on Friday morning.
Originally pitched as a social space to explore ideas about collaboration in an online and offline array of networks, Tuttle 2013 is still as informal, still as relaxed, yet a very different gathering to three / four years ago.
Tech comes and goes, and so do people. Three of us had an entertaining conversation on Friday morning against the backdrop of the magnificent view of over the RFH balcony and out towards a sunlit Thames.
The trio of Tuttlers had our backs facing the Old Father. We didn’t turn around once to admire the view during our debate. You can take a horse to water, or something. Probably best not to bring Trigger along to Tuttle though.
Who needs numbers anyway? The ICA was always a little crowded. Tuttle at times could be slightly exhausting. There’s no way that you could get to speak to all the people in the room that you wanted to tap into.
I confess that at times I used various social channels to try and confirm Tuttle face-to-face conversations earlier in the week, rather than go with the general ethos of ANY conversation has to be right.
I arrived on Friday morning and was welcomed instantly into an exploration of the Zombification Cultural Theory.
That’s the Zombification Cultural Theory, and NOT the Zombification OF Cultural Theory.
That debate can wait for another blog post, Comrades.
@LloydDavis and @TonyHall were thinking rather hard for a Friday morning about The Shard as a totemic symbol for all that is wrong with contemporary London.
We then explored ideas about the failure of contemporary protest movements, and the parallel failure to set any tangible goals. Ideology was missing from the conversation – probably not deliberately, but possibly with the view that all this post-modern bollocks has made it rather difficult to rebel against THE MAN when THE MAN is now an anonymous stockpile of capital sitting on the other side of the world.
The uber-geekness of past-Tuttles was also missing. We did end up bemoaning bloody blip.tv though, and the piss-poor customer model of encouraging content creation, and then wiping out overnight five years of school based content for cultural reasons.
It would be rude at this point not to plug Lloyd’s incredibly engaging new podcast. Questions are asked, answers are sometimes given. It’s perfectly OK that the answer might be “I haven’t really thought about that…” – it invites the listener to then think about it and form their own view.
We also touched on the randomness of simply creating content, such as the podcast, for no other reason than creating a podcast per se, and then simply putting it out there.
I admire Lloyd’s online DIY ethos of creating, not criticising. It’s a useful starting point in then starting an online or offline conversation. I know that Lloyd would welcome any input.
And then just as the midday zombie procession was about to start across the water in the City, Tuttle came to a close. There was no grand clocking off or signing out. Three blokes that had met in a very loose network on a lazy Friday morning decided to get up and go and do something else.
Lloyd and Tony had plans for an audio walking tour. I had plans to capture the magic of the school Winter Fair, Somewhere in SE17.
I’ll be back at Tuttle when the time and work tide allows.
But to be honest, once you have allowed the chilled waters of the lovely lido to penetrate your every pore [Oooh], then a cold shower is the least of your worries.
I’m not the type of man that smuggles a thermometer down the inside leg of my wetsuit, but I’d wager that the tepid temperature in the gents was significantly greater than the 6.2 degrees measured poolside as the Transpontine dawn did the early morning wake up thing.
This was an ACE lovely lido swim.
Is there ever anything else?
I timed my fashionably late (ish) arrival to perfection. The Selfishness of the Cold Water Swimmer – a winter novel that is a work in progress – dictates that the BEST lido days are when you have the glory of the 55 yard stretch all to yourself.
It was standing room only in the gents as I got my kit off, just as the other male Icicles were getting their strides back on again.
Always the Bridesmaid, never the Bride, or something.
The Brockwell blue water bruisers had been and done their thing. The lido was mine for the taking.
A dashing half-cut wetsuit to match the dashing half-cut hangover, and soon I was away. TWO caps, the silly webbed finger gloves and even the new addition of a pair of rubber swimming shoes.
What could possibly go wrong?
It’s all in the preparation; it’s all in the central cheating of the Ready Brek BEFORE you arrive at Lake Brockwell.
Ten lengths later and I was a spent force. I could have carried on for a couple more. My body was kicking to continue, whereas my mind was saying don’t be a silly so and so.
An ungracious stumble out of the water to match my earlier entry confirmed that I was fucked.
Falling over each time I exist the lido is becoming something of a Brockwell Icicles defining feature for this season.
It took me until past midday before I had warmed up again. I’m learning that the winter swim itself is not the problem; it is the tearful night before, and the uncontrollable shakes for the remainder of the morning that are a little unnerving.
If it's the sleep before a @BrockwellLido Icicles session then it must mean that I am crying. Catch you on the #drydiving cusp, Comrades.
Many thanks to @iciclepete for capturing boy and black bondage interacting in perfect harmony. His sprint from the lovely Lido Cafe after seeing me all set for a #drydive, was almost with the same speed in which he glides through Lake Brockwell.
Some might say that he was poised, waiting for a poolside accident waiting to happen.
If the Stockwell Christmas Tree is standing, then it must be time for the most anal onionbagblog post of the year. Nine years ago and this event almost signalledtheendofthisblog. I am a man of routine, and I was repeating what had already been said:
“Look, here’s the Stockwell Christmas Tree. I told you about this twelve months ago, and chances are that I will be telling you about it in twelve months time. This must mean the end of onionbagblog.”
But I had a change of heart, brought on once again by routine.
I work / I play / I blog about it.
And so here we are, blogging about the Sunny Stockwell Christmas Tree, which of course means blogging about the glorious routine of Transpontine living.
Same as it ever was, Comrades. Same as it ever was.
‘Aint life grand!
Work and play (and bits and bobs of blogging…) transported me back to my Transpontine roots at the tail end of August, leading to a semi-permanent Sunny Stockwell base. I took on an extra role Somewhere in SE17 (and gained a little recognition.)
I’m a great believer in deep level topography – people shape a place, but equally a place can shape people.
Coelum non animum mutant qui trans mare currunt.
But I’m forever melded to the Stockwell / Oval / Vauxhall Triangle, and all the magic and myth contained within.
Don’t forget those estuary train journeys back and forth though…
I played around a little with m’blog at the start of the year. Oh the woe of re-sizing images for a template specific WP theme, and then realising that the restrictions aren’t exactly great at highlighting your hit and miss photography interests.
A little bit of tinkering behind the blogging scenes, and I botched together a photoblog template.
I rather like the non-discipline of simply allowing the images do the talking. Sometimes it’s a load of twaddle, but there is a minimalist satisfaction [oh yes] in publishing photos per se and allowing them to succeed (or fail) as a stand-alone blog post.
Beware the Ides of March – beware the bloody cold Good Friday Meet at Herne Hill. The hyperlocal Transpontine microclimate was as buggered as my track legs. I felt a fraud buying up half the summer lycra collection at the BONKERS bicycling jumble sale.
…won’t you just take a look at those tree trunk thighs.
Brings tears to the eyes.
The old Olympic track has progressed with probably the most radical improvements during my three years away. A brand new track surface, an inner mini-circuit and even floodlights for out of season racing.
There’s talk of buying back a track bicycle for next spring.
@ukgovcamp in March was as exhausting as it was rewarding. A day spent on the South Bank discussing, learning and forming ideas as to what is possible in the online #localgov space. A momentum was built with ambitious local plans, which sadly couldn’t keep on rolling. Not in the direction that I had hoped for, anyway.
The estuary spring weather mirrored the Transpontine freeze yer testicles off conditions over at Mersea Island at the start of April. It was a ‘brave’ idea to cycle out to the Mersea Brewery Easter Beer Festival. It was even feistier talk to cycle back after a couple of halves of Yo Boy.
There is no more a sobering experience than allowing a minus chill factor to puncture the insides of your pants, if not your inner tube.
Seven days later and the Cols de Crystal Palace were being climbed back in Transpontonia as part of the South London Classic – SHORT-sleeved Brixton Cycles lycra livery as well.
Raced on the same day as the Paris-Roubaix, the cobbles of Folgate Street, Stepney Green and Wapping High Street were just the warm up ahead of climbing EVERY single ascent route back towards The Triangle.
Character forming and friendship forming; Le Frenchie fixie rider who climbed Central Hill whilst casually tugging away on a jazz cigarette was the single FUCK OFF cool cycling memory of the past twelve months.
The plan was for a return trip to North Greenwich. But I ‘aint too great with heights. FOURregular commuters are currently using the Emirates Air Line [URGH] on a weekly basis. I’d wager that it is *possibly* something to do with dangling midway over the water with a fistful of sweaty palms.
Lovely view, mind.
The annual treat of a visit to the Art Deco toilets up at HQ didn’t disappoint. We even managed to squeeze in a half-decent afternoon of the ‘rrey Vs the ‘Sex whilst up at Lord’s.
The great threat of the white supremacist [not linking] was exposed at the start of June in Parliament Square as being a few creepy old men who still think that they are living in 1952.
All You Fascists Bound to Lose, etc.
The first Lovely Lido swim of the season soon followed. It’s also still going, with Brockwell Lido Icicle status currently braving temperatures of 6.9 degrees. Life-affirming, tearful and changing room bonding as you compare the damage down below.
GOLDEN DAYS, Comrades.
The Smithfield Nocturne was another annual return to form. The race continues to grow with some serious sponsorship and an impressive field of riders. As ever, it was the Penny Farthings that stole the show.
I blogged (endlessly) about my mid-summer meander around the ever changing Vauxhall, Battersea and Nine Elms development. There is nowhere in London that captures the pace of regeneration and quest for change better than VNEB – not even in downtown Brixton Vill-aaage.
A photo project with my local Resident’s Association should ensure regular returns to VNEB over the coming months. My fear is that I’ll keep on missing the major infrastructure changes as this part of South London transforms itself almost overnight.
Meanwhile, just around the corner and the brutality of housing was being played out once again on the streets of SW9.
It’s tempting to simply cut and paste the Lambeth Country Show blog post and put it up for the Stockwell Christmas Tree end of year wordy ramblings. For two days down in Brockwell Park, EVERYTHING that draws me back to Transpontonia is celebrated.
2013 was no different.
Sheep sheering, David Crowie and Chucklehead.
You can take the boy out of Brockwell Park, etc.
Urban Art around Josephine Avenue and the surrounds of SW9 soon followed. The full size artistic tube carriage was ACE.
My personal fave though was the tick tocking beer cans.
Wifey and I finally managed to take our honeymoon – an afternoon spent up The Shard.
Romance was EVERYWHERE – down the Walworth Road, Somewhere in SE17 and even the Sunny Stockwell flat.
All were visible from up above the brilliant viewing platform. Well worth a trip – or even a cheapo honeymoon.
A Friday night beer festival at The Oval probably wasn’t the best of ideas ahead of a 6am train the following morning and a week spent cycling around Norfolk.
Blame Red Maz. Or even the Surrey Fox.
Ahh – but which is which, etc?
A week spent in the saddle in Norfolk wasn’t without its ups and downs, so to speak. Beware the boastful bicyclist who believes that he knows the route before setting off on a six-hour hack, with only a back pocket banana for company.
Almost five seasons away from Champion Hill, but irresistible rise of The Rabble and the newly promoted team was a Transpontine pink ’n’ blue sexual / spiritual experience waiting to be re-born.
IT’S BLOODY BRILLIANT down at Edgar Kail Way right now.
The team play an uplifting style of football that encapsulates the hopes and beliefs of all the old South London anarchos and Commies that have come out to wave their big flags and banners at the cause.
And that cause is?
It’s all about the pink ’n’ blue football, stooopid.
Plus a glorious isolationist belief in all things South London and a totalitarian REJECTION of what passes as football in the mainstream media.
For South London solidarity and pink fingerless gloves.
Likewise there’s never no such thing as a bad exhibition at the BRILLIANTMuseum of London. Add in the subject matter of bicycles and you’re freewheelin’ with a ready-made blog post.
We are the City combined digital mapping, social art and an old Moulton suspended from the ceiling of the Museum. Art as the great inspirer was on display right in front of me.
I returned to the MoL later in the month for the Radio Times 90th birthday celebrations. As ever, the BEST Museum in London lived up to its name. The curators have a tremendous understanding in how to pass on London social history without the usual crappy artistic stuffiness.
Tell It Like It Is, etc.
Cricket was still being played [blimey] at The Oval at the end of September. Surrey had long since been relegated, but that didn’t stop young Dom Sibley from having a half-decent day in the Transpontine office.
I rolled up fashionably late for a freebie seat after day spent Somewhere in SE17. The plan was to down five pints before pissing off back to Essex. I barely managed to neck the first, such was the intensity of seeing the 18 year-old SMASH the county cricket record book.
Come stumps and yer man Dom was the youngest Surrey player to reach a first class county century; ditto for the double century, also becoming the youngest player to score a double century in the history of the county championship.
I felt old as I cried into what was left of my dodgy pint of lager.
I also felt slightly nostalgic for youth back in Soho and the pop-up [URGH] experience that was Black Market Clash.
The jumble sale for the Last Gang was everything that David Bowie Is… wasn’t.
The social history of The Clash – nay – of the late twentieth Century [GOSH] was laid out in front of you in a dodgy Soho basement. Much like the previous passing trade down in the Soho cellar, I was CREAMING my pants.
I started the LONG process of online unarchiving in October. Essentially I’m sorting and tagging a decade of digital content with a view to – well, with a view to unarchiving and sharing.
I’m uncovering many memories over the past ten years, plenty of smiles and not to mention a procession of school kids passing through SE17, some of who have now probably got children of their own.
I’m two months into the process of unarchiving a decade of digital memories, all squeezed into any available time when I’m still trying to create some new Transpontine memories.
Speaking of which, m’blog [sort of] hit the tenth anniversary in October.
Been blogging for 10 years. Blimey http://t.co/uQDNdLTPZ3 [hideous broken links / crap content ahoy! Same as it ever was, Comrades]
Nope – IT REALLY DID BECOME LAUGHABLE as you struggled to stay upright after leaving the waters of Lake Brockwell, and then had a fit of the giggles with the other Brockwell Icicles back in the gents.
Ha, bloody ha.
All good Sunny Stockwell Christmas Tree blog posts should end with a little more imagery from Dulwich. A return to Champion Hill in November became something more than simply a football match. This was a celebration of what is possible when folk come together with one aim.
#DHFC If I'm not at at the game today it's cos I've been arrested for trying to solve the housing crisis. Think of me, pink & blue comrades.
“The case has thrown a spotlight on a largely forgotten dead end in twentieth century radical leftist politics – British Maoism.”
@Transpontine on probably the best social historcial analysis so far following the Brixton ’slavery’ story:
“In the 1970s they stood candidates in a number of elections, including as the South London People’s Front in the 1978 Lambeth Central Byelection (they got 38 votes – as Ian Boneobserves, that election was also contested by Trotskyist groups the Workers Revolutionary Party, the Socialist Workers Party/Flame and Socialist Unity).”
Voting in Vassall on Thursday, Comrades. There’s still a strand of radicalism is some of the candidates. Probably not in the Nu Labour puppet though.
“The recent Lambeth news reads like a sad footnote to this late, and not particularly lamented, episode in London political life.”
To which you have to ask: is democracy best served by a right wing carve up between the three mainstream political parties, or by the dissenting voices of those that dare to question the Establishment consensus?
The Workers’ Institute of Marxism-Leninism-Mao Zedong Thought probably wouldn’t play out too well on the doorstep, mind.
“Given the length of time before the Northern Line Extension happens (if it is approved) and the indeterminate time-scale for completion of an uninterrupted linear park and Thames path, Nine Elms Lane should be made very cycle friendly as a priority in order to inculcate a cycling culture as soon as developments come on stream.”
You can’t condense the changing social structure of London in one three-hour broadcast; likewise attempting to summarise the complex pros and cons in a hit and miss blog post is sheer folly. But the overall theme of the broadcast was one of reflection with balanced optimism.
This is the personal stance that I am starting to form when looking around at the recent regeneration taking place around South London. I was present at #tuttle when spacemakers first stood up at The ICA and announced plans for what seemed at the time to be a micro-economic experiment at breathing some creative life [PDF] back into Brixton.
I remembered squirming at Tuttle when the phrase ‘gooseberry’ was used to describe Brixton Vill-aaage. This wasn’t a dedicated Tiger Economy Special Economic Zone, but a neighborhood that I had called home for the past fifteen years.
Still, I supported the idea of experimenting with some of the empty units at Granville Arcade and offering cheaper rents to the ‘creative community’ – whoever they may be.
The spacemakers pitch at Tuttle talked of artists, ‘makers’ and the sharing of social skills. It sounded like a genuine bottom up effort to kick start the local community into collaboration, even if the main creative driver didn’t quite have hyperlocal roots.
Anyone with a basic understanding of the economics of regeneration should have heard alarm bells ringing about what the wider consequences would be for Brixton. First you bring in the artists, and then the serious capital starts to flow. The space becomes sanitised and any perceived ‘edginess’ [URGH] has been diluted.
But when the chuffers did the first foodie tribe start to colonise SW9?
For the record, Granville Arcade wasn’t great, but it was far from empty pre-spacemakers. I remember an ACE army surplus store just up from Blacker Dred’s shop along Market Row. The periphery of the Arcade was busy, but the central space was lacking any economic life.
It was a little tawdry – possibly even gooseberry – but far from a South London ghost town.
Those first few weeks of the spacemakers social experiment were interesting, much in the same way that the kids back in the day job find the visit of a touring drama workshop interesting. It’s something that is different to the usual routine, but you wonder how long it will take for the novelty of the social experiment to wear a little thin, once all the creative avenues have been explored.
Anyone feeling hungry?
The mass foodie-fication [GEDDIN] of Brixton Vill-aaage has perhaps been the most unlikely, but most celebrated regeneration story in London for the past decade. Robert Elms seemed to agree with this opinion, remarking that this side of SW9 is now completely unrecognisable to what is was like just twelve months ago.
For the record, I’m far from a foodie. I eat to pick up energy, and then I move on. I couldn’t give a chuffers about taste and texture – I need to refill, and preferably at the cheapest price.
Brixton Vill-aaage shouldn’t be for me.
But I’ve found myself eating at the Vill-aaage whenever I’m free on a Saturday. It’s a convenient meeting place in the centre of town. The consumption of the food has also become a social act [ha!] with Granville Arcade now becoming the place to be seen.
I witnessed this at first hand last Saturday lunchtime when a young lady brazenly walked up to me and my dining partner outside Brixton Cornercopia, whipped out an iPhone and then Instagrammed me and my meat and two veg.
The image of me dribbling a quite delightful cauliflower soup down my goatee beard has probably already spawned a dozen crappy tumblrs. I’ll stick to Mr Di Lieto next time.
Brixton Vill-aaage probably went past its Best Before date when Jay Rayner started all of his eulogising. You can’t blame one man for foodie gentrification, but every scene needs a High Priest in which to judge.
My verdict is now one of an over-priced self-parody of what the ‘scene’ originally was. £10 was the going rate for a decent Saturday afternoon fill up until a few months ago. I’ve noticed that the prices have started to creep up – a £15 plus dining bill is now not uncommon.
This is still chicken feed when compared to Soho etc, but I choose to eat in Brixton because it is my home patch. Out-pricing locals isn’t great for the local economy, but maybe that is all part of the wider economic theory that is continuing to carve up Brixton at such an alarming rate?
You only need to look around the corner at Rushcroft Road to see that not everyone in Brixton has been brought up to speed with this Nu gentrification. Somerleyton Road looks like the next piece of public land that is ripe for regeneration, all under the rather cloaked guiding hand of the mysteriousBrixton Green.
A question continually asked in the Robert Elms broadcast was where does the existing community disappear to once regeneration wipes out a neighbourhood? For Brixton this has historically been West Norwood and the surrounds. But even this part of Transpontia is not resistance to the ridiculous property price wave that the gentrification of Brixton has pushed all the way out towards Crystal Palace.
Even the self-styled Triangle area is now an incredibly desirable location for young families to relocate to. The prices just about stack up, and the glorious green space of Crystal Palace Park are a large part of the attraction.
I have found that Stockwell appears to be gentrification resistant – and thank the chuffers for that.
Little has changed around SW8 in the past three years; little has changed in SW8 in the past thirteen years for that matter. Property prices have of course been inflated, but lovers of Cupcakes will be short-changed if they are looking for a food boutique along Stockwell Road.
We use to speculate that the Clap’ham-isation of this part of South London would soon creep into Sunny Stockwell. It seems to have sailed along a limp northerly breeze down Clap’ham Road, and then had all the air taken out of the sails when it reached the edges of Larkhall Park.
Affluence and poverty have defined Stockwell since the post-War period. It’s not ideal, but the mix of council estates with millionaire mansions (Edwardian properties yet to be converted) seems to somehow work.
Stockwell manages to remain atypical in resisting the tosh of the artistic regeneration theory. We’ve always had an artistic community [URGH] around SW8. Somehow the folly of the flow of capital hasn’t happened. In fact the exact opposite seems to be taking place with the artists of Annie McCall Hospital now having been moved out.
Instead there appears to be a regeneration from within around Stockwell, rather than the ‘facilitators’ from the likes of spacemakers. Van Gough Walk is one such example. An otherwise anonymous back street off the main Clap’ham Road drag has been completely transformed into an artistic, safe, local neighbourhood space.
Questions have been asked about the concentration of funding by Lambeth Council on this one single project in the area, rather than other streets that are possibly more deserving of structural regeneration. But you can’t argue that Van Gough Walk is a remarkable example of local regeneration, enabling the existing community to remain and benefit from their hyperlocal space.
Perhaps the biggest loss in the great scramble to find more housing in South London is the disappearance of local boozers. The mighty Urban 75 has long since been documenting the lost pubs of Brixton. It makes for very sobering reading, and is one of the few similarities between the blatant regeneration of Brixton, and the regenerate from within approach to Stockwell.
A stroll down South Lambeth Road and the gentrification saga takes a new twist.
This was mentioned on BBC London with a sense of great excitement. I really can’t decide if I share the same enthusiasm. I’ve blogged before how the area around the proud four towers of Battersea need some form of regeneration. The ‘excitable’ manner in which this all appears to be Malaysian investment at the expense (or not) of the existing community is quite alarming.
It is also worth keeping an eye on the changing Vauxhall gay community. Some quite bold claims about the social cleansing of the area have been made. My local Cllr’s have wasted no time in trying to dismiss these allegations…
Out towards Elephant and the Heygate was another area touched upon by Robert Elms. This should stand as a textbook example of how not to go about regenerating a local community. The figures and data have been well documented. A local South London community has been forcefully ripped apart by Southwark Council, soon to be replaced by an altogether more affluent local population.
One can only sneer at the possible political consequences for the local Labour party in Southwark in allowing such affluence into their area.
And so that’s a random overview of some of the Transpontine themes coming out of the random Robert Elms broadcast. Do try and listen to the show if you get the chance before it drops off the back of the iPlayer.
No answers were given, but plenty of questions were raised. Housing remains the one key issue that needs to be balanced with regeneration. The reflection for what is lost in London can be balanced out with the optimism of being able to offer affordable housing to anyone who can’t keep up with the foreign investment pouring into VNEB, the Heygate et al.
The Third Way model that is so beloved in Lambeth may have delivered new leisure centres in Clap’ham and Streatham, but in return the community has to pay a price. For Clap’ham this is the construction of a private residential block, whereas up in Streatham it is a fuck off MEGA new Tesco.
Meanwhile, fine work from all those involved last weekend in celebrating a house warming party for a house that you will never be able to afford.
Affordable rents, social rents, mixed units, social housing – it’s all about COUNCIL HOSUING, isn’t it, Comrades?
And then there’s the personal. How do you position – or even justify – your own provision and role in all of this process?
With great difficulty.
We got lucky buying in 2000, taking on a South Lambeth Road flat that was barely affordable for us as a couple. It took five years or so to get back on an even financial footing.
Our neighbours use to mock us in a friendly way as to how we had paid FIVE times as much compared to their purchase a decade earlier. And here we are, over a decade later and the neighbours’ flat has just been bought for FOUR times our original buying price.
Much inner soul searching…
Robert Elms asked the question: who could afford to buy the house they now live in, given the current market conditions and their own income?
That’s me out.
Or hopefully *in* as you look around you and see how you can still exist in your ever-changing community and make it relevant to the type of lifestyle that you want to live in. It’s a fine line between bettering the conditions around you, and then a complete social cleansing of existing communities.
Do we really want to live in a Dickensian utopian myth of what Olde London should be like? A change in the infrastructure is exciting – it is what makes city living so special Along with the people, if they aren’t being pushed out…
Finally: Has there ever been a more suited name for a street than Bellenden Road?
Cycled to #dhfc and arrived in one piece. Comrades, I have seen things in Peckham's "Bellenden Village" I will never be able to unsee.