The Hill Station - Inception








Jebediah Springfield: People, our search is over! On this site we shall build a new town where we can worship freely, govern justly, and grow vast fields of hemp for making rope and blankets.
Shelbyville Manhattan: Yes! And marry our cousins.
JS: I was- wha... what are you talking about, Shelbyville? Why would we want to marry our cousins?
SM: Because they're so attractive. I... I thought that was the whole point of this journey.
JS: Absolutely not!
SM: I tell you, I won't live in a town that robs men of the right to marry their cousins!
- The Simpsons , Lemon of Troy

We once went skiing in Livigno, a duty-free resort in the Italian Alps. During the transfer, the guide told us that its remoteness and inaccessibility during the winter meant that the town’s population enjoyed a disproportionately high number of genetic mutations, due to inbreeding.

We’re not suggesting for one moment that everyone in Telegraph Hill is related, but a trek up to the top can feel like a visit to The Lost World. An idyll untouched by the concerns of outsiders and a place so altitudinous, that even the TV signal struggles with the climb, forcing people to make their own programmes. Residents of The Hill are fiercely tribal, quicker to slap us down if we suggest it’s basically Brockley than RMT members are when we call the ELL a tube line.

If you lived in one of the streets surrounding the Telegraph Hill parks, there are very few reasons why you’d need to come down. Green space, great views, excellent schools, a decent pub, your own festivals - The Hill has it all. One of the few remaining ties they had to the wider world was the need to climb down the hill to go to a cafe. But no more.

The Hill Station cafe formally opened on Sunday as part of the Big Lunch street party on Kitto Road. It’s the result of hard work by local people, who’ve taken over an unpromising site, underneath the former Cafe Orange and turned it in to something wonderful.More communal living room than cafe, it feels like a lighter, roomier version of former Brockley favourite Moonbow Jakes.

Food and drink were served from a barbecue and tables outside, so it’s too early to comment on what it will be like to order on a normal day. What we can say is that it’s very jolly – sliding wooden doors which open out towards the park, touches of humour in the furnishing and decoration and lots of light and space, which will lend itself to community activities, rather than just eating and drinking.

The event drew hundreds of people and the sense of pride in what the community had achieved was palpable.

As we walked around the dream world populated by 1950s bunting, mass participation clay sculptures and bring-and-buy stalls run by young children, we felt like Leonardo DiCaprio wrestling with the unreal in Inception. Like him, and like the people of Telegraph Hill, we had to ask ourselves; does it matter if the top stops spinning?

27 comments:

Bridget McKenzie said...

Thanks for your coverage of Hill Station. One thing we need to work on is making sure people know this isn't just a cafe, but a centre for a community vision. We plan to run exchanges of home-grown food, skills sharing sessions, cookery training, and more. There will be an 'art wall', a mini museum installation for artists to show their work. Another thing we're very keen to do is to ensure that everyone across the ward is part of it, not just people living round the lovely park. We've made a lot of effort to come down off the hill, for example, proactively requesting ways we can contribute to the New Cross Gate developments, though it's such a lovely spot it makes sense to have a lot of our gatherings and resources there. Please come and join us here.

Monkeyboy. said...

Christ, don't tell cameron. He'll be sticking the 'Big Society' label on it.

Any word on the provenance of the coffee beans? Only beans collected by trained squirrels in Mexico meet the SE4 test.

Looks good though, I remember house hunting up telegraph hill when I moved here. It is like steping into another place after turning left off the A2.

Anonymous said...

To a certain extent I think what T.Hill has in terms of 'community' is what wider Brockley aspires to. (indirectly) You will have probably noticed yesterday that most people knew each other and their relationships are connected through multiple channels. Parents whose children share the nursery, park users, neighbours, community groups. If you look at the 'soap opera' that was made last year - the sheer amount of contributors from around the community was staggering. Telegraph Hill is a great neighbourhood and has every right to be proud.

Brockley Nick said...

MB - although it's reasonable to be suspcious of some of the motives behind the Big Society, this does illustrate the potential for communities to solve some of their own problems, if they work within a constructive public sector framework. And it does possibly point to what could be done in the case of Crofton Park Library.

Brockley Nick said...

@Anon - I think Brockley has the same sense of community, but it's arguably a bit broader. Still, you are quite right that TH has something to be proud of. The article was trying to say that.

Mb said...

I am suspicious by nature.

Brockley does seem to lack a center of gravity, coulgate street would be an obvious place. Pedestrianisation could help that process.

Brockley Nick said...

Where was TH's centre of gravity before this? The park? Brockley has Hilly Fields.

Brockley is a much larger area than TH, stretching from Crofton Park to the edges of New Cross and Telegraph Hill itself.

Go to the opening night of the MAX or the Open Studios and you'll get much the same sense of community as you did yesterday. What I found interesting is that the Telegraph Hill population seemed about a decade older than the crowd one would expect at similar Brockley events. I guess that's partly because Brockley has a slightly more "first time buyer" population and has a few more amenities on its doorstep.

Brockley Nick said...

@Bridget, thanks for clairfying and well done again on a brilliant achievement.

Anonymous said...

Nick - I'd say you're right - T. Hill has a large population of slightly ex-hippish people who moved to the area when prices were dirt cheap and nobody wanted to live there other than people of irregular incomes. Now of course those house are all 700 grand upwards, thus ruling out younger buyers.

Anonymous said...

There was never a natural focal point really - that is why the cafe is so important, it provides a natural focal point.

Tamsin said...

There's always a lot of different stuff going on at the Centre and the Centre is the main venue for Festival events. But it did not function as a focal point because, except for big Festival events, different people would be coming along at different times.

What we hoped Cafe Orange would supply (but the way it was set up did not enable it to do so) is a place open and available for longer hours where these different groups can overlap. The Hill Station and all the extra actvities that can be fitted in round it will provide that.

Anonymous said...

I like those Chess Board Pattern covered seats.

Welcome to 2010 said...

I've now seen inception and understand the last line. Nice.

Anonymous said...

So..... is this place for the 'community' as defined by the mums and kids and buggie brigade?

Anonymous said...

Oh shut your pie hole. I don't think having a babie strapped to your torso is compulsory in order to buy a cup of coffee.

Lou Baker said...

Telegraph Hill needs a cafe - and as a resident I hope it's a huge success.

It's in a good location and I hope it'll be well supported.

But it'll only be a success if it's a decent cafe. That absolutely has to be priority one.

If its main aim is to be a 'centre for community vision' or any other such spurious nonsense I fear for its future - even in an area like Telegraph Hill where sandal wearing is the norm.

Anti Lou said...

It's a cafe and a center for community events so if it only works as a cafe it will be, to an extent, a failure. Let me know if you want me to prepare a venn diagram.

Lou Baker said...

Yeah - you see a decent small business, which I hope it is, wouldn't feel the need to faff around with a Venn diagram.

A 'community project' with a very limited future and fuzzy intentions would.

Hence my fear it won't be a very long-lived experiment.

I hope I'm wrong - but I'm probably not.

tj said...

I think it is true about having a similar atmos at events in Brockley. You usually can't get away from people you know from school or down the street etc.

You could have also bowled me over that a girl I know from work came from another area of London to have coffee in Brockley the other day. Amazing!

TJ the 1st said...

now there's two tj's

+ said...

Thanks for the warning, I'll avoid the park from now seeing as it will now be frequented by sad posers.

What is it with you bourgeoisie?
You see a green space and want to build a café on it

- said...

Oh no! What will we do without you - you're so radical and alternative.

Anonymous said...

The Mona Lisa was a sad poser - discuss.

Anonymous said...

Just to clarify, the cafe isn't in the park, it's on Kitto Road.

Anonymous said...

Neighbourhood Wanda questions... Why call it The Hill Station? This name is very reminiscent of The Raj & it's colonial rulers. Do I detect a touch of nostalgia for Empire?

Anonymous said...

Just come back from Ootacamund in Southern India a HillStation town formally known as Snooty Ooty. Guess what, its now full of Indian families taking a break from the heat and its still called a Hill Station. If its ok with them .............

Tamsin said...

The name was actually chosen by an on-line ballot - rather to the distress of those bringing the whole thing together who had just these PC concerns and also would rather have had the word "cafe" appearing in the title so that people would know what was in the tin.

They are, by the way, celebrating their first birthday with a barbeque and evening opening this Friday (tomorrow). BYO as the licence hasn't been processed yet.
link

Latest Tweets

Brockley Central Label Cloud

Click one of the labels below to see all posts on that subject. The bigger the label, the more posts there are!