South East London's Digital Divide

No wonder Brockley is ‘undiscovered’.

In our line of work, we often hear the phrase “The Digital Divide”, which refers to the haves and the have-nots of the online society. Victims of this divide are those without access to or the basic skills to operate the internet and therefore can’t enjoy the benefits of online discounts, internet-only services and Brockley Central talkbacks.

But there is another Digital Divide and it is much more serious. Because it affects us! In essence the problem is that, while you can watch an almost infinite number of funny cat videos and access research papers on the most complex scientific issues, you are screwed if you want to find a reliable guide to eating, drinking or playing in South East London.

We’re well used to never reading a review of anywhere or anything in South East London in the mainstream media, but even online, with a plethora of “comprehensive” guides to local life, the coverage is still abject. And it was partly in despair at this sorry lot that we decided to start this blog.

Here is a snapshot of the Digital Divide in action. We have deliberately not linked to any of these sites, as we don’t want to give them the Google-ranking satisfaction.

LondonTown – The Number One Internet Site for London

Two entries, compared to, say, Hackney’s 20+ mentions or Tooting’s nine.

And Brockley’s two entries are? The train station and the Brockley Barge.

AllinLondon – Your London Guide

The restaurants section is a little disappointing, with only four places getting a mention. Perhaps redemption will be found in the events section, with things like the MAX or the Summer Fayre getting some recognition? “Unfortunately we don't have any events listed for this region at present.”

Whereas, Brixton’s 'Relics of the Bottom Drawer' print works by Sarah Mellor exhibition is one of the many listed events from elsewhere in London.

SouthLondonGuide – the definitive guide to South East and South West London

A pretty poor site all round but to its credit, it manages to acknowledge Moonbow Jakes, The Talbot and Toads Mouth, but it misses dozens of other venues, still lists Homeview and its entry for “Takeaways” is as follows: * (Chinese) * Brockley Road, (020) 8*

London Eating – the definitive guide to eating in London

Take your pick from: The Brockley Balti House, Brockley Cross Café & Burgerhouse, Cinnamon, Foxberry Café, La Lanterna, Meze Mangal, Nass and Natt Café and Ozzie’s Café.

UpMyStreet

A restaurant search suggests Pizza Hut (doesn’t mention it’s takeaway only) on Lewisham Way, Taste of India and La Lanterna.

ViewLondon – The Londoners’ Guide to London

Brockley’s 3 entries compares to, say, Acton’s 14 or Cricklewood’s 15.

Time Out

The Londoner’s bible, stuffed with articles about every conceivable aspect of city life.

Taking The Brockley Jack as our centre point, it searches its database of 2,500 restaurants for any place within a mile. And comes back with?

A Nando’s and a Japanese place, both in Catford.

Shepherd’s Bush, on the other hand, scores a respectable 13 entries. All of which seem to have the advantage of being in Shepherd’s bush.

In fact, Time Out doesn’t even have a category for Brockley or Crofton Park, although it does, have Lee (nothing in it, mind). Go looking for pubs in only New Cross and you’ll be presented with only three options.

Google

The world’s most powerful search engine’s blind spot not only covers China, but also Brockley.

Type in “Brockley” and the first entry you get is Wikipedia. Fair enough. The second is a site, which says The Brockley Community Website is now closed as of 12th November 2003, which is hardly likely to inspire outsiders. The top 10 sites also includes the good old “South London Guide” and “AllinLondon”.


The internet black hole does have serious implications. It means that visitors and residents alike are often unaware of what areas like Brockley have to offer, with a resulting impact on business and local life. It means that even motivated people often struggle to understand how they can get involved in their local community. And it means when desk-bound journalists decide to write about Brockley, the best they can recommend in terms of eating and drinking is Fishy Business.

23 comments:

chap said...

Whenever soemone asks where I live I say Brockley, near Greenwich so at least they can get their bearings on SOMEWHERE they may have heard off.

Headhunter said...

I mentioned Time Out before on thise site. They reviewed some act on at the Amersham Arms a couple of months ago and although they liked the act and the venue their comments regarding New Cross were something on the lines of "trekking" to SE London and that New Cross had worse transport links than Baghdad! What a load of rubbish!

On the other hand, they did do a few articles last year heralding New Cross as the new arts and music centre of London. However as you say, they just about NEVER mention Brockley, I thought last year that they would at least mention the Open Studios event, which seems right up their street, but not a mention, however they did do a small article on the Rivoli getting listed status.

Generally though, Time Out is vastly weighted towards north of the river venues with some Brixton and very occasionally Lordship Lane being about as far south east as they come.

But I suppose that's what makes Brockley that little "hidden" gem we al know an love!

ElijahBailey said...

I say "Brockley, just south of New Cross" which suffices for most.

I'm not too bothered about it being unheard of. We seems to be doing rather well as it is.

And at least the name isn't connected to anything actively negative. Not like we have a Ferrier on our doorstep or owt.

jon s said...

My view is it will take 5 more years for Brockers to get there and be "discovered", post ELL, Tea Factory, Lewisham Town Centre, O2 Arena embedded, Shard of Glass........

We must also consider the time lag from guerrilla marketing (like this website) leading to second tier market penetration to first tier market penetration.

Perhaps the effervescent Kate can speed things up with her contacts...............

ElijahBailey said...

The Shard of Glass is going to be mental.

Though I don't have the same positive feelings towards the future of Lewisham Town Centre. I reckon it could go really wrong - overbudget, intensely disruptive, and damaging to the local community.

JPM said...

Great report, and a remarkable piece of journalism.

Does anyone know how we can up the profile on the Net, and perhaps make the publications you speak of aware of the changes in Brockley?

Brockley Nick said...

@Jon - there's a definite irony that a great many of BC's readers appear to work in the media one way or another.

I don't really care about the area getting rave reviews (although of course, it's always nice when people say nice things) but it does bug me that so much of the basic information about the area is so patchy and out-of-date. Mind you, on that note, I need to ask Brockley Jon to remove Cafe Neu from the map :(

Tom said...

what to do ... well, some of these places rely on individuals to provide feedback, ie getting us to do the legwork (the much-vaunted web two-point-zero!).

I've started telling Urban Path about good places, such as Mr Lawrence. They have WH Wellbeloved there but nada in Brockley.

Tom said...

Ah, there might be a lot of bad, but there is some good, and you've missed the best one.

As part of my little adventure in localism, I came across welovelocal.

They've got lots of stuff on there in Brockley, and have even said nice things about this site!

Check their Brockley restaurant page, as an example.

jon s said...

@ nick - We do seem to have a lot of people involved in media, PR or marketing. Well - if you want to form a Brockley promotion committee, I can do strategy......

As for external recognition, the only reason I care is to bring more money into the area, creating some bars, cafe's galleries, etc. I don't want it to be discovered too quickly so I can buy a bigger place.

Kate said...

"Perhaps the effervescent Kate can speed things up with her contacts..............."


Strange you should mention that, just the other day I was telling the chief exec of one of the country's largest property developers how great Brockley is. Prepare for Hilly Fields to become covered in modern shoe-boxes ...

Brockley Nick said...

@Jon S - I don't think we need to consider anything quite that drastic, however, I do personally want to help promote local events, eg: BrockleyMAX and the Fun Run (assuming either happens this year), which ought to merit Time Out's attention.

@Tom - yes, WeLoveLocal is not bad and the user-generated sites are often the best bets for local information, but the trouble is that there are SO MANY of these, all trying to establish themselves as the Facebook of neighbourhood information, that I don't know how well used any one of them is.

@JPM - thanks!

ElijahBailey said...

Kate any chance of finding how many tower blocks they are planning to fling up in Lewisham? It seems really hard to get any clear idea of what exactly they are planning. As with the Elephant plans I know there is this trend for more high density, but Lord knows where they are going to put them.

jon s said...

@nick - I think this site is doing a good job of promoting local events. What I want to do is expose professional twentysometings and thirtysomethings to what the area offers, with a guest bedroom and friends staying over. It all adds up.

The reality of any commitee would be chatting over drinks once in a blue moon anyway. Humor get garbled sometimes in this medium.

@ Kate - can we push your friend towards the derelict sites / old sidings around the station and boxes on only half of hill fields?

Brockley Nick said...

@Jon - I hope BC drinks can become a regular phenomenon (every two months) so happy to talk tactics then!

@Elijah - I think the massing depicted in the visuals already released will likely be close to the final plans. The Council have agreed upper limits for number of residential units and size of retail and other spaces, so the development can't get bigger, they can only jiggle stuff around (I believe that's the technical term)

spincat said...

I also quite like being 'unheard of' though I do find it offensive when journalist use phrases like "unfortunately you have to trek out to south east london to enjoy this place." The unfortunate thing, more like, is that the idiot who wrote the thing foisted themselves on us for a night.

Anonymous said...

@Elijah
Depends if you just mean Lewisham Gateway or include the tower blocks at Loampit Vale where the new leisure centre will be.

Another tall tower with satellite blocks on the Thurston Road Industrial site. Also on Thurston Road a MacDonald Egan development.

By Tescos Lewisham, Silkworks is already under development and I think there's a similar sized site being developed next to that one.

There was a proposal to turn the top part of Peacocks into flats.

A block of flats has gone up behind Johnsons Furniture store near Morley Road.

The buildings opposite Riley's snooker are being demolished to be replaced by a 5-6 storey block of flats.

The old police station Ladywell Road still awaits to be converted into flats.

The Art Deco style building in Ladywell Road may be another development.

With F&H Heating gone from Molesworth Street and CitiTower empty, would regenerating the southern part of town centre be an option?

ElijahBailey said...

I want that building on Ladywell road. It is very cool. Your entrance would be suspended over eveything else like a drawbridge.

Anonymous said...

@elijah
In the 1960's the 'Glasshouse' was a private nursing home attached to...err C19 a department in the Ministry of Defence. Recently released documents reveal a secret basement used for scientific developments. There is a Doctor Who over time has been involved in numerous regenerations and may have further information, maybe Kate is his assistant?

andy pandy pudding & pie said...

i found that more and more people are beginning to know of brockley at my work, which is encouraging.

I keep telling my colleagues about how great it is to not live in a flat and actually own a nice victorian house, they soon get the message that brockley is the location to move too!

Betamatt said...

Talking of 'PR' for Brockley - I was in Moonbow Jakes the other day and the barmaid (barista?) was wearing an 'I heart Brockley' badge. Where would I purchase such an item? Good advertising...

andy pandy pudding & pie said...

They were giving them out for free at the Brockley xmas market.

spincat said...

I've seen them in Lewisham libraries and they were being given out at Lewisham People's Day.

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