I recently came across this post on a Plumstead blog http://plumsteadshire.blogspot.com/2007/03/its-safe-innit.html , written by an ex-Brockley resident, Pangloss.
He claims to feel safer in Plumstead than he did when he lived here and a couple of patriotic Plumsteaders have pulled out some statistics to back that up.
But as someone who used to live in that direction and whose main experiences of Plumstead have been accidentally waking up there on the last train home and having to find my way back that claim simply doesn't feel right. Whereas Plumstead feels deserted after 11pm, Brockley has more of a 24-hour lifestyle. While not everything that goes on in Brockley at 2am is especially savoury, the presence of people makes it feel more secure.
My neighbour, who's been living in the area for many years, regards me as some kind of lunatic ingenue, who drifts through Brockley life without noticing its dark underbelly, but I think her perception is out of date. Indeed, I've met a number of former residents of Brockley who've held similar views to Pangloss and while it's often the case that ex-pats are the quickest to find fault with their former homes (eg: the stream of decliniste commentary from people living in places like the Philippines that you find at the bottom of any comment article on the Telegraph website), I think the fact that their perception seems so out of kilter with my own suggests that the area has become a "safer" place in recent years. Or maybe I'm just Dr Pangloss, myself.
What's your experience been?
I recently came across this post on a Plumstead blog http://plumsteadshire.blogspot.com/2007/03/its-safe-innit.html , written by an ex-Brockley resident, Pangloss.
Team Nice is a network of people brought together by a uniting philosophy: People are essentially nice, but sometimes, they just don’t know how to show it. The network has spread virally, as people given ‘niceties tokens’ to friends, family and strangers who’ve been nice to them. Only 100 tokens were originally produced, but they have been passed on many times, so that the network now reaches as far as New Zealand. If you get one, you simply register your details on a website and pass it on to someone nice.
Its creator, Liz Akers, works in the publishing industry and has been living in Brockley for four years. I thought she’d be a perfect interviewee for Brockley Central, so I contacted her to see if she’d agree to meet. And, being the nice person that she is, she said yes.
Naturally, we agreed to meet in one of Brockley’s nicest spots – Moonbow Jakes – and as I went up to order some coffee, the woman behind the counter spotted the word NICE written at the top of my pad.
“Is that Nice as in the place in France, or the adjective?” She asked.
“The adjective,” I said.
“Did you know, nice used to be a derogatory term?” She said, before proceeding to quote some of the less flattering ways in which Shakespeare used the word.
While she talked, I wondered whether this was the sort of thing people got niceties tokens for.
“There are no rules for who gets them,” said Liz, when I came back with my coffee.
“We don’t have a code of conduct. I wouldn’t like to get judgemental – it wouldn’t be against the spirit of what we’re trying to do.”
So what is it Team Nice are trying to do, exactly?
“Well that’s the hard part – describing what it’s for. It’s just about encouraging people to talk, to feel good about each other and to celebrate niceness in all its forms.
“Because people invite each other and there are no rules, I think the best people to describe what Team Nice is about are its members.
“That’s why we’re planning a short film project, where we’ll interview members and get them to share their experiences.”
But there’s no doubting that the idea is a powerful one and that Liz has been a fantastic ambassador. The media quickly embraced the concept and, since the story first appeared in Metro, Liz has been interviewed by everyone from the BBC to Mexican TV.
“Like a lot of my best ideas, it came from a drunken night out,” she said, a little embarrassed.
“The difference with this one was that I remembered it the next day and decided to do something about me. Luckily, I have great friends (like Pete, her friend who joined us for the interview and who runs the website) who believed in me enough to help me out. It’s was a collaborative project.”
Then, she produced a token – sadly only to show me, rather than give to me – and I noticed it was made of Fimo (the bake-in-the-oven modelling clay), which I remembered from my childhood.
“I can tell you’re a child of hippy parents,” she says, semi-accurately, “I think we all must have been given Fimo when we were younger.”
It’s a simple thing, with a unique combination of marks and colours, which sets it apart from its brothers and sisters. In the best traditions of Brockley’s creative cottage industries, the tokens are lovely little homemade objects. Liz says that their appeal has been a bit of a problem.
“People like them – they tell us they don’t want to give them away. But that means that the nice-trail dries up, so we have had to produce some more – 500 this time.”
“Everyone got in to the spirit of things,” said Pete, “and we somehow ended up with a mish-mash of themes, ranging from mask-ball through pirate adventure to circus clown!”
As for the future, Liz says there’s no masterplan:
"I'm happy to let it grow organically. It's spread through word of mouth and that means it has taken on a life of its own. My role is to help encourage a sense of community.
“Having said that, I would like to get some celebrity members – my dream team would include Kylie, the Dalai Lama, Simon Cowell and Ann Robinson. Like I say, I believe there’s something nice in nearly everyone…”
Liz on Brockley
What first brought you to Brockley?
"I moved here to be with family, near Hilly Fields. I arrived at the same time as Jam Circus and haven’t ever thought about leaving. It’s perpetually “up and coming” but it doesn’t really seem to have changed since I’ve been here."
What's the nicest thing about Brockley?
“The sense of community. The fact that it still feels a bit cut-off from the rest of London, even though it isn’t.”
What would make it nicer?
“At the risk of contradicting myself, I’d like it if there was less… segregation. There are a lot of different classes, ethnic communities and generations living together here, it would be nice if there were more ways in which we interacted.”
Would you every throw a Team Nice party in Brockley?
"It would be a great place for a party – if people can work out how to get here."
For more information, visit www.team-nice.co.uk
Brockley is the new Oxford Street, judging by the number of new shops popping up at the moment - I'm tempted to take back my bid for a replacement for Costcutter - we're not going to need it at this rate.
Speedicars' smaller office, just a couple of doors down from Magi on Coulgate Street, and next door to the new shop that we reported a couple of weeks ago, has gone. It is being replaced by another new shop. All the shops on that street are owned by the same landlord, according to the helpful woman in Magi, who also confirmed that the shop next door will become a takeaway coffee place. She said that the replacement for Speedicars wouldn't be known until work is completed in a few weeks' time, where upon it will be put up for rent.
Combined with two places which are being refitted on Geoffrey Road, near the florists, and the other new developments which have been reported and things are looking very positive. Of course, it remains to be seen what the finished articles will be like...
As has been covered before, Brockley can sometimes seem to be a nation divided against itself. The railway line bisects Brockley in to east and west – and the easterners sometimes seem to regard themselves as the “haves” as opposed to the westerners’ “have nots”, sometimes writing off the "other side" of the tracks as 'not proper Brockley'.
But recently, I’ve noticed that estate agents are marketing houses as being in Brockley, even when they’re as far afield as Ladywell, St John’s and Honor Oak. I guess it’s because there’s a buzz about Brockley in the property market (the most recent evidence being the arrival of the estate agents James Johnston, whose only other offices are in central Greenwich and Blackheath) that the Brockley catchment area is being redefined.
So how do you define Brockley? My definition would be the area bounded by Lewisham Way, Tyrwhitt Road, Malpas Road, Nunhead Cemetary and the Brockley Jack pub (I always used to think of Crofton Park as a seperate place, but I wouldn't want to lose out on Jam Circus and that wine shop). I might also make a land-grab for Telegraph Hill, since it feels like Brockley, and St John’s as it would also be a little bit lonely without the Brockley conservation area beside it.
Ladywell, Honor Oak and all the rest seem to be perfectly distinct areas.
What's your definition?
Andrew Brown's "Someday I will treat you good blog" has some more insight on the development of The Talbot, including his views on Punch Taverns.
Personally, I've no problem with the development being led by Punch, which is such a big operation that you can pick positive or negative precedents from their portfolio, to suit your mood and your attitude to big business.
Anyway, to the subject of the headline. As far as I can discern, developers Olivanna are currently building a new mixed-use block, a stone's throw from Brockley Station, on the west side of the tracks. The building, which is five storeys high at its zenith, will comprise two shops and thirteen flats and has been designed by Greenwich practice Architecture Limited. The timetable for completion was 60 weeks from February 2006, but completion still looks a long way off - the exterior cladding and interior fit out have not yet begun. The design is described in the planning application to Lewisham Council and sounds alright to me:
"A simple, logical form is proposed for the façade of the building, with the materials to the main Foxwell Street frontage comprising glazed aluminium framed windows to the ground floor commercial element, with glazing to the windows and doors, and infill panels of cedar tongue and groove and galvanised steel balconies to the three floors of residential above. The fifth storey would have a galvanised steel balustrade with an ochre coloured rendered façade and lead flashing to the roof perimeter.
"The commercial units would be located on Mantle Road, with entrances off of Mantle Road only; they would have a modern glazed shopfront with aluminium frames in RAL 9007 which would turn the corner onto Foxwell Street."
If anyone knows any more about it, please let me know. In the mean time, I will continue to make enquiries.
Luke suggested that a "most recent comments" feature be added to the site, so that readers can quickly see the most active discussion threads, which I think is a great idea and have updated the site accordingly.
Please feel free to let me know if you have any other suggestions along similar lines.
Posted by Brockley Nick on 26.3.07
The best of which, in my view, is the pre-school centre in Telegraph Hill. It's a pretty innocuous building beside the play area for young kids in Telegraph Hill's lower park (the black blob on the map above). If you've only visited the park on a weekend, you may have assumed, like I did, that it was some kind of storage shed, thanks to its dark shuttered windows and lack of signage.
I was led to it one day by my son, who spotted an array of plastic cars to play with, outside its front door. The cars led like a trail of sweeties, inside the building, which turned out to be a lovely play centre, as relaxing as any room full of toddlers fighting over a pretend microwave oven can be.
I think it's a degree nicer than St. Andrew's, particularly given its beautiful setting. The park itself was reopened in 2005 and boasts the best slide this side of Tate Modern.
Opening hours are 9.30 - 3.30pm Monday - Friday.
I'm somewhat conflicted posting this news, because www.badscience.net is one of my favourite sites, but if evidence-based medicine isn't your thing, then I'm doing my duty to the community by letting people know that the "complementary" therapy centre, is having an open day on Saturday 31st March, between 1.30pm and 5pm.
In addition to being able to speak with the practitioners, there will also be taster sessions and classes of various therapies. These will all be free of charge and a proportion are bookable in advance. Places are obviously limited; please let us know if you are not able to make it so that we can offer your place to someone else.
There will be taster one to ones in Aromatherapy, Massage Therapy, Reflexology and group tasters in Baby Massage, Sound Healing, Pilates class, Alexander Technique and Hypnotherapy.
The centre's on Tresillian Road, in the conservation area. More information on all of the above can be found by going to www.thesunflowercentre.co.uk and clicking on the "Open Day" button.
Posted by Brockley Nick on 23.3.07
The search for artists to perform at this year's BrockleyMAX opening concert has begun.
Moira Tait, the organiser of the BrockleyMAX festival, is inviting performers to send in their demos for the chance of taking part in the opening night of the Brockley Max Festival, June 1st.
The Festival is a collection of events, taking place in June, as a celebration of Brockley life. Events planned for this year include music nights, performance art, a children's day and more. Together with Brockley Open Studios it has helped to encourage one of the most vibrant local arts scenes in London.
If you'd like to perform you can send a demo to the following address:
Brockley Max Stage
c/o Immortals Gate
PO Box 47639
We'll feature more news from the Festival and the Open Studios event in the coming weeks or you can visit the BrockleyMAX website: www.brockleymax.co.uk
"The works that are currently on site involve the demolition of the old toilet and shop, plus the retaining walls along Coulgate St. They will regrade the bank, build a (lower) 3 foot retaining wall from sleepers and erect a new boundary fence. The works are being undertaken by Network Rail's contractor and are their contribution in kind to the Common project. The completed works should really open up the site and make quite a difference."
The huge increase that's forecast also lends weight to the campaign against any reduction to mainline services in to London Bridge. http://foresthillsociety.blogspot.com/
It's clear that the both services will be necessary to meet demand. How the tiny ticket office and cramped platforms will cope is another matter...
Sue Luxton has announced a new wildlife club for children will take place in Ladywell Fields monthly, from April.
Go to http://greenladywell.blogspot.com/2007/03/new-wildlife-club-for-children-in.html for more details.
They are hoping to run activities in Hilly Fields and Brockley Cemetary in the future.
Punch Taverns have submitted plans to Lewisham Council to enable them to convert The Talbot on Tyrwhitt Road in to a pub and restaurant.
Currently a place which can make you feel like you're walking in to a fight when you go through the front door even though there's never anyone else in there, The Talbot is an obvious candidate for investment and Punch have clearly recognised that the Conservation area is crying out for a pub that doesn't require bars on the windows.
Punch are the largest pub chain in the UK and specialise in running pubs with a 'traditional' or local feel. The plans include a refurbishment of both the interior and the exterior, including the pavement area.
Exactly when all this is due to happen is not clear and the bar staff are still in the dark. If anyone knows anything about the timings, please let me know.
Given that the problem of discarded newspapers outside Brockley Station is the subject that's generated most debate on this blog so far, I thought I'd better follow-up on the topic.
I carried out a simple survey over the last few days (walked past and had a look on my way to work) and each day, the bin was full to the point that the swing lid couldn't be opened and a growing pile of newspapers lay beside it. The people I saw chucking papers on to the pile didn't have the furtive demeanor of flytippers, they gave the impression that they were doing the right thing by contributing to the pile - the pile's proximity to the bin giving suggesting it was meant to be there as some sort of overflow facility.
This has strengthened my belief that the main weapon against this problem should be education. I believe that the council is doing its best to deal with an ever-growing tide of newsprint and I believe that the average commuter, throwing the paper is guilty of no more than ignorance. Emptying the bins is only half the battle.
Posted by Brockley Nick on 10.3.07
Brockley institution, Moonbow Jakes is banning smoking inside the cafe from Monday, March 12th, ahead of a nationwide ban on smoking in the work place, which comes in to effect later this year.
Smoking will still be allowed in the back "garden" and outside at the front, but the ban means that, the large table (presumably designed for a large, sociable group) at the front will no longer be occupied by a solitary smoker, determined to effect an exclusion zone around themselves by holding their fag as far away from their body as possible and blowing smoke in the direction of any children who might cross Jakes' threshold.
I've nothing against smokers per-se and Mooonbow Jake's relaxed atmosphere is something to be cherished, but most of the existing clientele appear to be non-smokers so the move should prove popular, without changing the feel of the place.
This Sunday morning, Rupert, of the Brockley Cross Action Group, is organising a walkabout of the local area, looking at sites in Brockley which could do with a bit of 'greening'. Rupert is the designer of the Brockley Common Phase 2 masterplan and has some great ideas about how our public spaces can be improved.
If you want to join him and other members of the Action Group, they will be meeting at Brockley Station at 11.00am before setting off on the tour. It will involve a fair bit of walking, but shouldn't be too strenuous and he promises not to press gang anyone in to taking part in any projects - it's entirely up to you!
For the more green-fingered among you, Rupert is also looking for some volunteers to help on Sunday afternoon with work on the planting bed by the station in preparation for the growing season. Please email me or leave a message on the blog if you'd like to help.
Before the deluge: at 8am, the newspapers have already begun to pile up.
As someone who can't stand a minute alone with his own thoughts, the explosion in free London newspapers has been a godsend: there's always one lying around to read if I'm stuck on a train without a book or my blackberry.
However, there is a darker side to the free newspaper phenomenon.
In Brockley, the specially-designed bins, placed outside the station for people to leave their newspapers at the end of their jouney have proven woefully inadequate for the task. Too small and hard to use, they are not emptied quickly enough, which means that they a constantly overflowing, and people are increasingly opting to chuck their papers beside the bins, creating Brockley's biggest piece of public sculpture: a monstrous papier-mache mountain of wet newspaper, that can't be recycled.
The problem has been raised with our local MP at the latest Brockley Commmon Partnership meeting and it's been agreed that it's a problem that needs addressing. However, in the mean time, please play your part and, if you find the bins overflowing, take your newspaper home with you.
A new shop is currently being fitted out, next door to Magi, on Coulgate Street, facing the conservation area side of Brockley Station.
The contractors were unable to confirm whether any tennant has been found for the new shop, but the fit-out of the shell is due for completion within a couple of weeks.
It's a prime location for a small shop or cafe - particularly looking forward to the arrival of the East London Line - and further demonstrates the need (if any further argument were necessary) for Phase 2 of the Brockley Common project to create a really nice public space on a currently-uncared-for street.
It's not for nothing that my son's first word was 'car'.
I'd bet that the car ownership per capita in Brockley is relatively low compared with the rest of London, given that parking never seems to be a problem and the local demographic seems to consist of young professionals, the low-paid and the 'artistic' family. And yet, an amazing proportion of the area seems to be given over to them.
On the short journey between Crofton Park Library and Geoffrey Road, I counted 10 car-related commercial properties, from MOT garages to car washes. The most mysterious are the second hand car lots that never seem to have customers, particularly B&M Motors on Geoffrey Road, which I've never once seen any human life in and whose signs still advertise a telephone number starting with 01 for London.
It would be nice to think that at least one or two of these places might give up the ghost pretty soon and perhaps we could have something for people there in their place.
Anyway, this blog is at risk of turning in to a list of gripes, so the next post will be something positive, since it was started to celebrate the local community. And on that note, I can heartily recommend the tyre place on Geoffrey Road, who fixed my flat for a tenner, within an hour on a Saturday morning...
This question has been bugging me for a long time now - is this shop called "Ask Toes", or is it just vandalism?
It looks like graffiti, plain and simple. But I walked past the guys who were setting up the shop every day on my way to work, as they lovingly restored the shop, with good attention to detail. The "sign" sprang up at the same time as the shop opened, in which case, why didn't the houseproud owners clean it off and put up a proper sign? But if it's not graffiti, what on earth is the name supposed to be, especially, done in such an amateurish way.
Does anyone know? Please put my mind at rest.
I suppose I could just go and ask them myself, but I don't want to seem rude if it is deliberate - and anyway, who wants to go in a shop called Ask Toes?
Four new shops and fourteen new apartments are under construction on Endwell Road, facing the Brockley Cross roundabout "system".
Developers Acorn are converting a former light-industrial building in to new homes and small retail outlets, which will face out on to Endwell Road. Building work, which is already underway (with the existing structure being stripped out) should take another 18 months, approximately.
The nature of the shops and the price of the apartments is yet to be determined, but given their location, its unlikely that they'll be vying with Pan Peninsula for custom.
The site of Brockley Common "Phase 2" - it can't come too soon!
Following my earlier, more prosaic list of personal wishes for Brockley, here is a more noble list of ambitions for the area, compiled by Stuart, from the Brockley Cross Action Group.
Some good progress has been made with a number of these initiatives, but they're looking for champions for some of these individual projects, so please click on the BCAG link from this page if you wish to get in touch and help make a difference to your local area. Thanks.
Phase 1a – temporary replacement of Coulgate Street walls
Network Rail delay due to costs
Phase 2 – ramp and creation of new public space
Currently being designed and costed up for further fundraising
Estate Environments – Particularly Wickham Road and Clare Estates
£1,400. Need to find willing tenants to work with
Mantle Rd/ St Asaphs raised flower beds
£1,500 allocated from Telegraph Hill Ward Councillors locality fund. Need to find someone local to lead
Mantel Road/Endwell Rd Corner (opp Endwell Court). Land in front of and behind hoardings
Raised with Network Rail who are reluctant to lose advertising income. Needs someone to lead
Platform 1, Brockley Station, bank at back of platform,
Plant with bulbs. Needs permission, prior deep clean and a work day
Eternal café, Mantle Road, local eyesore,
Clear and plant up. Network Rail owned. No progress. Needs someone to lead
Brockley Sorting Office, Brockley Road
Agreed location for a Farmers Market, needs greening and ‘softening up’ through limited planting and half barrels etc. No one leading at present
Brockley Cross Junction and shops
New traffic arrangement and environmental improvements. Council leading, no progress for two years now
I know this isn't the most spiritually uplifting list, but nonetheless, I think they're all things that would make a big difference to the area.
1. A Sainsbury's Local (or even, a Tesco Metro). Some people will be horrified by the idea, and say that it will reduce Brockley's unique character or threaten local shopkeepers, but I'd swap Costcutter for a proper supermarket chain, with fresh food and a big range of products any day of the week. I can't think of any small local retailers who'd be threatened either. Forest Hill seems like a good model for Brockley - the Sainsbury's is nicely integrated in to the high street and there are a range of small shops, bars and cafes scattered around it.
2. A cash machine that doesn't charge. Brockley isn't a northern sink estate, it's a residential area in Zone 2. We're not supposed to be the financially disenfranchised! A proper cash dispenser might even stimulate the local economy a bit - if you have to trudge up to Crofton Park to get cash out, it's hardly conducive to spending locally.
3. A nice, proper pub. The Whetherspoons fails on both counts and is a magnet for swaying, toothless alcoholics. Nice from a distance, just don't look too closely. The Wickham Arms has potential, but is about as warm and welcoming as the Slaughtered Lamb. Except on Thursdays, when there's live music. Actually, a good pub should be number one...