2007 in review

2007: It was the year when Charley Uchea struck a blow for women’s rights, Steve McLaren put the pride back in to English football with victories over Andorra and Estonia and, on Hell's Kitchen, a young Jim Davidson taught us how to laugh.

But we will remember it best as the year of Brockley’s ascendancy...


Brockley Central didn’t exist in January, so we'll have to gloss over this bit.


We kicked off Brockley Central by writing about the Common project, the East London Line and Homeview. The world would never be the same again.


Thanks to people like Sue Luxton and Andrew Brown, people actually started reading what we were writing. We would have to be careful from now on!

To prove the point, we made the first of our enemies in March, when we wrote:

“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.”

This was enough to draw the wrath of Plumsteadshire readers. No matter, they would soon be joined by Christians, Max Galo, anti-Lewisham Gateway campaigners, ‘real nappy’ enthusiasts, the Brockley digicam lobby and Catford Ross.

More importantly, March was the month when Brockley began to change. We were tipped-off by Magi that a new café was planned for Coulgate Street. The Broca would become the standard bearer for a new wave of Brockley businesses (to join the likes of Toads Mouth, Ecosium and Moonbows) - high quality, engaged with the community, located near the station and, most importantly, successful. We also waved goodbye to the brick outhouse that used to form the gateway to Brockley on Coulgate Street. There were encouraging noises coming from The Talbot and Brockley Station’s west side.


In April, Brockley Central properly embraced user-generated content – the month when we stopped having to scrabble around for stories and they started to come to us. Luke gave us the heads up on the Gallery at the Tea Factory, Vikki updated us on The Talbot, John told us about his chats with the new management at the Wickham Arms and someone else panicked us when we thought our house might have burned down. All this was just in time for us to disappear on holiday for two weeks, without anyone noticing.


Give a thousand monkeys a thousand typewriters and they will eventually write a review of Brockley. The Evening Standard finally got round to mentioning South East London in its Homes & Property section, with Brockley meriting “understated gem” status. We’ve been scouring thelondonpaper’s weekly area guide ever since, but the free papers are run on such tight budgets that they have obviously cut back on monkeys and / or typewriters.

Brockley Central also revealed that Tesco would be opening in the area – would Brockley still exist in June?!


The summer season’s traditional trinity of the Brockley MAX, Open Studios and the Summer Fayre were joined by The White Stripes’ gig at the Rivoli. Oh, and Morris Dancers at the Wickham Arms.


If June showed SE4 at its best, July reminded us that there was a wider world outside. The Thameslink project, to improve overland connections between north and south London, was greenlit and new concept designs were released for the Lewisham Gateway project. Meanwhile, the Lock Tavern bought the Amersham Arms in New Cross, in a bid to breathe new life in to the area’s music scene, which had become best-known for the tribute acts playing the Venue, ad nauseum.


August brought proof that the “tipping point” that many, including us, believed that Brockley had reached, wasn’t simply a figment of our house price-fuelled imaginations. We received confirmation that Brockley would get its first proper deli. When we excitedly bashed out the news on Brockley Central, we couldn’t have dreamed that Dandelion Blue would eventually turn out to be the second of three fine-food shops to open in Brockley in 2007.


The plans for Brockley Station finally caught up with the developments starting to cluster around it: Funding was agreed for the Brockley Common project and the Mantle Road redevelopment secured improved (though still inadequate) access for the west side.

Meanwhile, Tesco opened on Lewisham Way, without causing the destruction of the fragile local commercial ecosystem. Despite local traders’ protests that they were all doomed, the same old shops are still there and the skip next to Meze Mangal gives the impression that it’s quite happy to stay put until it gradually becomes one with the landscape, like Gog and Magog.


Brockley Central got a brand new look, just in time to inadvertently cause some controversy, when we asked for reasons for the neutral to visit the west side of Brockley. Many felt that it was a needlessly divisive question, but events in November were to prove that local divisions were far deeper (and sillier) than we’d imagined…


November was a tale of two Brockleys. The ward divided in to two tribes; the Crips (digicams) and the Bloods (trees) to argue over how £10,000 of public money should be spent locally. In the best traditions of Karl Rove, the digicam lobby brought out its base, alleging a ‘south Brockley’ conspiracy of childless, godless types who just wanted to spend money on trees. Fortunately, both sides got some money and we peace was restored. But for how long?

In a happier moment for local politics, some sort of closure was achieved in the long-running Homeview affair, when Lewisham’s Councillors thwarted the owners’ plans to turn it in to a betting shop. But for how long?

At the same time Brockley Central became a multi-channel media brand, when we wrote our first column for SE4U magazine, switching from stealing stories to generating them. But for how long?


Brockley’s year ended on a note of uncertainty, with a number of important questions hanging in the balance, including:

Will this year’s MAX be the last?
Will the Rivoli’s listed status provide proper protection?
Will the temporary closure of the East London Line put undue strain on commuter services to Brockley, New Cross and St Johns?
Will Phase 2 of Brockley Common be a success?
Will The Talbot, finally, definitely be renovated?
Will Moonbow Jakes keep its soul under new ownership?
Will the new gallery at The Tea Factory deliver on its potential?
Will the Christmas Market be a one-off?
Will Homeview’s fate become any clearer?
Will the new shops on the west side fill up?
Will the Brockley Jack’s revamp be a good or a bad thing?
Will Brockley Central be sued for false representation by all the people who’ve written to us in the last 11 months, to say they’ve decided to move in to the area as a result of learning about Brockley through the website?

Still, at least we can be confident that we’ll all have plenty to talk about next year. Coming up, our predictions for 2008…

Happy Christmas from Brockley Central

If we were working to the same yuletide calendar as the boy who's knocked, optimistically, on our door to sing carols several times already this year, we'd have posted this message in the last week of November and then at least once a week since.

As it is, we had a lovely Christmassy day yesterday, pottering around Brockley, making our final preparations. Even though getting the car MOT-ed, doing dry cleaning and buying six eggs from Costcutter are not, on the face of it, particularly festive, the sum of the experiences reminded us that It's a Wonderful Life in Brockley.

So from Brockley Jon and Brockley Nick, we'd like to wish you all a merry Christmas - we will be back just afterwards with our Brockley Central Review of the Year and our resolutions for 2008...

The Talbot: Breaking News

The Honor Oak pub's James Heaton has posted a comment on Brockley Central to update us on the veritable soap-opera that is the story of The Talbot pub, on Tyrwhitt Road. Brockley Nick is on the case as ever, hoping to bring you an exclusive interview, but until then, here's what James has told us:

Dear all,

I am posting to advise you that the arrangement detailed regarding The Talbot's redevelopment, has, as rumoured, in fact fallen through.

I am one of the owners of The Honor Oak on Brockley Rise, and we were first approached by Punch Taverns to take on The Talbot around six months ago.

Despite having had numerous meetings with Punch about the site, when The Talbot was advertised on the open market the owners of The Palmerston then put in a proposal which effectively outbid ours in terms of the returns to the landlords and we therefore lost it at the last hurdle, so to speak.

However my understanding is that this deal was then deemed unworkable to the owners of The Palmerston and they therefore pulled out at the last minute.

Punch then returned to us and asked if we were still interested in proceding with our original proposal. We were, and I am pleased to say that we yesterday signed the initial agreements relating to our lease and the investment / refurbishment works.

I will post more details of our plans for the site after Christmas, but in the meantime if any of you have any pressing queries please feel free to contact me via email to james@thehonoroak.com.

We are very excited about The Talbot and always have been. We very much hope that the re-invented pub will meet with your approval, and look forward to receiving your input into its future.

With best wishes,

James Heaton

Follow the money

A few days ago, we reported on the meeting to allocated Brockley's £10,000 locality fund, but we were a little hazy on the details of how the cash got divided. With thanks to Cllr Walton, here are the full details:

(1) Christmas lighting - Brockley Cross Action Group £250

(2) Benches outside Pitman House - Picnic benches where young people can socialise £1000

(3) Digicams project - Camera phones for young people to report graffiti etc to Love Lewisham, with monthly prize and end-of-year exhibition £1000

(4) Contribution to Brockley Fun Run - £1000

(5) Planting flower beds at Veronica House – project through Brockley Cross Action Group - £1000

(6) St Johns After School Club – contribution to storage facilities £1,000

(7) Contribution to Brockley weekend arts festival - Brockley Max (towards funding of children’s activities) £500

(8) Security light to illuminate the area adjacent to 1 Upper Brockley Road and thereby discourage antisocial activities £150

(9) Street trees at various locations around the ward £4,100

Which by our calculations, adds up to £10,000.

Now it's just a question of actually spending it properly...

Brockley Bites - housekeeping

Brockley Central - latest upgrade

The site's latest iteration is now live, with a dedicated place for reviews (all one and a half of them) and a permanent home for the map.

Internet cafes in Brockley?

We recently received an email from someone in the US, planning on visiting SE4 for a while. She needed somewhere she could work during the day, locally, which offered internet access. Aside from Cafe Neu, which is another place which rarely gets a mention on these pages, are there any other options? And can anyone used the service in Cafe Neu?

Hillaballoo 2
Hillaballoo, the Telegraph Hill summer festival, has been given the go-ahead for 2008. Hopefully, they can build on the good ideas they had last time around, to create an event which will draw the wider audience it needs to have a long-term future.

The Shop on the Hill opens
The Shop on the Hill (next door to Ecosium on Harefield Road) opened on Saturday. We've not-yet had a chance to check it out, but if you have, please let us know what you thought.

TfL plans to swap Victoria service for Phase 2 of East London Line

Yesterday, Transport for London released this media briefing:

TfL examines Thameslink East London Line 2 plan

Phase two of the East London Line extension could be built and financed as part of the Thameslink Programme, according to minutes from a recent Transport for London board meeting.

Senior figures from the Department of Transport and TfL are discussing the possibility of funding ELL phase two as enabling works for the Thameslink scheme in order to mitigate against service difficulties posed by the remodelling of London Bridge station. The situation has arisen following the disclosure by Network Rail that capacity for the current half-hourly stopping service between London Bridge and London Victoria will no longer be available once London Bridge station has been remodelled to provide additional through platforms for Thameslink services. Network Rail has proposed that the current trains could be replaced by a half-hourly Victoria to Bellingham service but this would mean stations between Wandsworth Road and Peckham Rye would lose their rail connection to the City while Queen's Road Peckham and South Bermondsey stations would see a reduction of two trains an hour, directly conflicting with the Mayor of London's aspiration to increase metro service frequencies.

However, TfL argues that bringing forward ELL phase two would provide a better solution. This would see the current London Bridge to Victoria service replaced by four trains an hour running from Clapham Junction and the core ELL route with its connection to the City and Docklands, via stations between Wandsworth Town and Queen's Road Peckham. It also provides an opportunity for TfL to secure the cash it needs for the currently unfunded ELL phase two project. Construction powers have already been secured under the ELL phase one scheme, which is scheduled for completion in June 2010. London Bridge station is due to be rebuilt with additional through platforms by 2015.

So, a direct swap - Victoria service for East London Line 2, which will run from Surrey Quays to Clapham Junction, serving the likes of Peckham Rye and Denmark Hill, but not Victoria itself.

Our understanding of this issue is that the extension would cost only £75 million, which is a relative pittance in rail infrastructure terms and it would form the final part of the London Overground loop around London, so it's almost certain to go ahead, one way or another.

2015 is a long way away, but how do you feel about this? If anyone from Forest Hill is reading this - what's your reaction?

The Rivoli Ballroom timeline

November 1st, 2007

Brockley Central reports that the Rivoli Ballroom is up for sale at £10m

November 11th, 2007

Transpontine reports that the Rivoli ad has mysteriously disappeared.

November 12th, 2007

Brockley Central rings the estate agents and asks what's happened to the ad. We are told that the ad was withdrawn from the site at the request of the Rivoli's owners, but that it is still on the market, just "in a more low-key way."

November 13th, 2007 (ish)

Brockley Central rings the owners of the Rivoli, to seek clarification.

Rivoli: "Oh, you wrote that. It should never have been leaked!"

BC: "It wasn't leaked, it was advertised."

Rivoli: "Yes, but the ad should never have been published it's not really up for sale, we're still considering our options."

BC: "OK, so do you want us to publish a clarification?"

Rivoli: "No, it's OK thanks."

December 7th, 2007

The Independent: "Is it the last dance for London's Rivoli Ballroom?"

Bill Mannix told local newspaper, The Mercury, "We love this place and Jeanie is so passionate about it. For us it is all about glamour, sophistication, etiquette and beautiful dancing. But ballroom dancing is dying out. The Rivoli was really well used but times and cultures have changed and now we have to import an audience to fill the place."

Mr Mannix added: "It is really my health that is moving me on. The long hours become antisocial. You are working and worrying while people are having fun all around you. I am always running out of money for repairs and always praying for a good function. We have to do maintenance all the time. We have two offers of £10m for the place. I'm sad about the whole situation. Jeannie will shed a tear when we leave and we will both miss all the stars.

What should the map be for?

Behind the scenes, Brockley Central's Jon and Nick have been discussing what the interactive map should be for. Should it be a Yellow Pages of Brockley, documenting every place of interest in the area, or should it only feature places that meet our impeccable standards? If we're selective, what should the criteria be and should it be based on our recommendations or yours?

What do you think?

Diplomacy brings peace to SE4

We think it is now safe to let you know who won the battle of the Brockley millions.

After the great trees v digicams debate of November, we are happy to report that skilful diplomacy by Brockley's councillors found a way through that impasse. Everyone must have prizes. There will be trees and mobile phones for all!

At the meeting itself, the attendees were predominantly - blissfully - ignorant of the furore that had preceded it. A slightly defensive presentation about the digicams idea by Jackie Millar and a nervous smile from Cllr Walton, who stressed to the room a number of times that the poll had been an interesting experiment, were the only clues.

Approximately 30 people attended the meeting (significantly more than the previous year, we are told) and it was a great opportunity to hear about some of the other projects, which had got lost among the blood and thunder of the online debate. The fun run sounds as though it will become a really exciting part of the Brockley calendar and some of the projects for local estates will make a big difference for a relatively small investment.

It has to be said, despite our enduring reservations about the 'digicams' programme, that Jackie Millar's passion and direct experience convinced those in attendance of the project's merits and there was an overwhelming vote in favour of supporting the project, together with money to buy trees for the streets most in need of some love and attention.

The back-of-an-envelope calculation done on the night, suggested that as many as 60 trees could be planted, using the money allocated, although a number of people with experience in this area, warned that the logistics of siting that many trees would not be straightforward. It was also agreed that, where planters were used, they should not be so ugly that they would negate the beauty of the trees themselves - exhibit a) the horrible railings surrounding the base of Brockley's communal Christmas Tree. One guy in the room suggested Brockley should set itself the long-term goal of becoming Lewisham's 'Garden Ward', which we thought was a lovely idea.

We've asked Cllr Walton for a precise breakdown of how the money has been allocated, which we will publish on the site.

Brockley's Wings of Desire

A necessarily anonymous friend writes...

For the past few months, a guardian angel has been watching over our streets, making Brockley a safer, better place for us all. We can't tell you what he's been up to, but be reassured that he has been there for us all, in our darkest hours.

Like Wim Wenders' angels, he eventually grew tired of always observing, never experiencing and decided to sample the best that Brockley and New Cross had to offer. Here are his idiosyncratic highlights from his tireless plodding of Lewisham's mean streets:

Hi Nick

I've been doing a lot of work in the area recently and it really surprised me - I'd never thought much of New Cross before, but there are some great streets and some nice local businesses. I was stunned by the houses in Brockley too. Anyway, here are some places your readers might like to know about.

New Cross

  • 257 New Cross Road - its a little shop just on the left before the enty to Sainsbury's, next door to thesecond hand furniture store. It's a Lithianian shop selling all thing Russian, some really unusual alcohol and food, great for christmas presents with a difference, its also a barbers!
  • 175 New Cross Road a hairdresser and gift shop owned by an Italian woman called Laura
  • 193 New Cross Road - "Curl up and Dry" ladies hairdressers - has been in business for 25 years!
  • 316 New Cross Road - The Goldsmiths Tavern, new chef just started!
  • 306 New Cross Road - Cafe Crema organic type cafe, live entertainment, bohemian feel.
  • 272 New Cross Road - The Hobgoblin, friendly Aussie manager and discounts for students.
  • 258 New Cross Road - La Boulangeries nice ambience ,run by Jemal French Algerian lightsnacks. Opposite New Cross Gate Station.
  • 301 New Cross Road - S & A Video Mr Hoquethe owner says that they cater for customers that wantsomething different.

  • 259 Malpas Road - Tony's Plaice, nice fish and chips
  • 257 Malpas Road - Paul's Hairdresser, been in business 45 yrs, has photos of Paul Merson, KevinCampbell and Ian Wright he has cut them all.
  • 181 Brockley Road - City Noodle, run by Sally, nice Vietnamese Food
  • Tanners Hill - The Royal George, good old fashioned boozer
  • 5 Harefield Road - Chez Ecosium, French/Algerian, manager has a good knowledge of football, on leaving overheard two customers say "that was delicious"
  • 317 Brockley Road - The Gourmet Inn, Chinese takeaway owner Mr Choy. In the shop on the right wall is a photo of Mr Choy receiving an award from Lord Lichfield in1994.
  • 8/9 Coulgate Street - NU Spice, nice lady running it, nice looking food.
  • 258 Brockley Road - Brockley Kitchen, shop is dominated by a huge white fridge does a nice line in take away vegetarian food.

That's all for now, I enjoy reading the blog and if I ever won the lottery I'd re-open all the empty shops in Upper Brockley road.

Thanks to our mysterious protector for highlighting so many places which this site has relatively little coverage to. Jon - some more for the map?

The Shop on The Hill - coming soon...

At the recent Christmas Market, there seemed to be two main topics of conversation - the state of Widow Twanky and The Shop on the Hill; the leaflets for which appeared everywhere that afternoon.

Like "Cloverfield" The Shop on the Hill gave little away in its initial marketing push, choosing instead to tease us with an opaque name (it's not even really on a hill - more a slight incline). Just as Jaws was made all the more scary by the fact we saw so little of the shark for the first half, so The Shop on the Hill was all the more exciting due to the fact that we couldn't work out exactly what it was. We were determined to get to the bottom of the mystery, we were just hoping that it wouldn't turn out to be a rubbery monster with bendy teeth.

The good news is, it sounds more "Fresh and Wild" than Amity Island.

We spoke to the new shop's manager, Nicola, today and this is what she told us:

"The Shop on the Hill will be a wholefoods shop, which also sells health and wellness products for adults and babies as well as a limited range of fresh produce.

"Located next to Chez Ecosium on Harefield Road, The Shop on the Hill will be open between 10am and 8pm on weekdays and 9am and 6pm at weekends.

"My aim is to create a parent-friendly shop that complements other local businesses in the area and offer something new [Nicola told us that a lot of people have asked her if it's going to be 'yet another deli', which in itself is an extraordinary indicator of just how far Brockley's come in a short time]. As much as possible, the products I sell will be locally sourced, organic and fair-trade, with a strong emphasis on ecologically-friendly options.

"I've lived in Brockley for 12 years and I've always wanted to do something like this locally. A couple of years ago, my life changed completely, when I took care of a young child. My experience bringing them up, meeting parents in the local area and having to travel to places like Stoke Newington to find the things I wanted, convinced me that there is a need locally for something like this.

"I've worked for a number of local businesses in my time including Homeview [RIP] and Toads Mouth and I have a lot of friends in the area - the Brockley Mummy network - who've been really supportive.

"Like a lot of people, I've noticed the way that Brockley's changing. There's no doubt that there are more young families in the area than there were a few years ago. I think a lot of people who moved in to the area as students and young professionals have fallen in love with the place, stayed on and many have now started young families. I've even started bumping in to people I used to know, who've moved back to Brockley to start families.

"Even though it will offer a specialist range of products, I hope it will be affordable and versatile enough to become an 'everyday' shop too."

Brockley Central can vouch (based on the time it's taken to find time for an interview) for the fact that Nicola's been working very hard getting ready for the big opening, which she hopes will be this weekend. We look forward to reporting on the finished product, in a few days' time.

Putting Brockley on the map

Come one, come all, to see our latest creation, the Brockley Central Guide to Brockley! We hope this map will help existing residents discover new places that we love, and help newcomers see just what Brockley and the wider area has to offer, when you look a bit deeper!

We've tried to pick the cream of the crop - there was no way every cafe and takeaway of Brockley was going to feature here. We expect what is (and more likely what isn't) featured here to generate some debate from you lot, so this is an ongoing project that we'll be adding to as Brockley blooms!

Use the buttons to move around the map and zoom in or out. Click the drawing pins to see more information and links where appropriate. Click here to view the Brockley map in full (opens in new window).

Brockley Bites - Bumper Xmas Edition

Raise the roof at Rivoli

Muireann emailed us today to tell us about an event she'll be part of next week:
I have an event that may (or may not!) be of interest to other Brockley people. I'm in the Raise the Roof Singers - we rehearse and perform at the Horniman in Forest Hill but next Tuesday we're venturing into Brockley territory at the Rivoli Ballroom:

Singing and Salsa Celebration, Tuesday 11th December.
The Rivoli Ballroom. 350 Brockley Road, London SE4.

Come and hear us sing come and see us dance. Then hit the dance floor and party!!
Doors open at 8pm. Tickets on the door £10 concessions £8
It'll be a short set from us, and a demonstration from the Horniman's salsa evening class and then salsa 'til late. We are also doing a couple of free concerts (Sunday 9th at the Horniman, Saturday 15th at St Augustine's, One Tree Hill, both at 2.30).

Brockley recognised by culinary establishment

Darren emailed us to let us know that two of Brockley's finest have made it in to "the UK's most authoritative restaurant guide":

"Last week I received my new copy of the 2008 Hardens London and UK restaurants Guide. I was pleased to see that both Le Querce and the Babur are included. The Le Querce review states that it is "the best Italian food you will find for the money", giving it 1 out of 5 for food, 2 for service and a 4 for ambiance. Babur has been in for the last couple of years and scores 1 for food, 1 for service, and 2 for ambiance. In the London wide overall survey of meals of £34 or less, it comes second. "

The scores sound pretty stingy, but then we used to think that only having one Michelin star was rubbish. And if you're Hugh, it probably is.

Save Catford

Anonymous local man fears Catford turning in to Islington and argues against redevelopment because it won't stop crime on estates and could lead to the closure of some pound shops.
So if you think Catford is great just as it is, click here

Social Housing office opens on Mantle Road

Residents of Brockley's stock of social housing now have a one-stop-shop to access all their housing maintenance and estate services needs since Regenter B3 opened its new offices on Mantle Road, simultaneously kickstarting the take-up of commercial space on the west side of the station.

Regenter was awarded the £165m project to refurbish and manage over 1,200 local authority homes in Brockley by Lewisham Council in June 2007. The project consists of two phases: a refurbishment phase currently being carried out by Higgins Construction Plc with completion due in 2010; and then an operational phase with its delivery partners Pinnacle and Equipe, who will provide neighbourhood and estate services, repairs, maintenance and life cycle replacement throughout the remaining 17 years of the concession period.

Thanks to Kate (who knows a thing or two about this subject) for the tip-off.

New cycle lane for Brockley Rise

According to the News Shopper, Transport for London has pledged "£578,000 for the London Cycle Network. Also more cycle lanes, including in Brockley Rise and Whitburn Road, and better facilities for cyclists."

Thanks to James, who spotted that one and is soon-to-be-resident in the area. Our daily chatter helped to win him round to Brockley's charms and not even the great £10,000 voting scandal of 2007 could put him off. Remarkably, he says he wants to get involved in local community activities, despite the fact that his email address clearly indicates that he works in financial services!

Brockley Jack Theatre fear

We've tried to cover the planned developments to the Brockley Jack but have met with a rather guarded response from the management and Greene King (the parent company). This note, we received today from The Brockley Jack Theatre Co. may go some way to explaining it:

From today we have learnt that the Brockley Jack Pub is to be refurbished in the New Year. In principle, this is something that the theatre is keen to embrace and we have always wanted to work with the brewery – Greene King – on any plans for redevelopment.

However, the current plans for refurbishment mean the following:

  • the theatre will be relocated upstairs – via a stone staircase with NO provision for disabled access. This will affect many members of our audience as well as future participants. We have been informed by the brewery’s representative that they will not address this issue and provide reasonable access.
  • the pub’s toilets are to be relocated in the current theatre space – with the new performance space directly above this. (We have no written reassurance on sound proofing).
  • we have also been advised that any relocation costs of the theatre to the upstairs room will have to be met by the theatre company itself– this is simply not possible! This involves sound proofing, relocation of electrical supplies, refitting the room for theatre use, installation of load bearing rig etc.
With the lack of access for all, and the prohibitive costs of the move, the theatre’s future is incredibly uncertain. We have also been advised that if these issues become a problem for the brewery’s plans for refurbishment of the pub, we can be given notice.

The situation is now urgent as plans are going to Lewisham Council, with a possible planning meeting tomorrow night - so we do need your support now.

Please can you email reasons for objections to the plans to the following three email addresses. Please can you email asap – by Thursday midday latest. Thank you.

In your email please could you mention the following, and in addition include any other comments that you feel applicable about the value of the current theatre space to the community, to the local and London wide theatre scene.


The current application does not mention the change of the site of the theatre, and the access issues this would entail.

Click here if you wish to view the planning application.

Planning meeting:
There is a potential planning meeting tomorrow night. The details are below. Unless we make personal representation and objections, the plans may be approved. We will only know if this is happening by tomorrow – hopefully midday. If anyone can attend, we would be most grateful for your support. At this moment we are not sure what this would meeting would entail - but planning have advised us that if it is relevant to the theatre we should be there.

If the meeting is deferred, the next planning meeting would be January.


Meeting details.
6 December 2007 7:30pm
Committee Rooms 1 and 2, Civic Suite, Lewisham Town Hall, Catford, SE6 4RU Telephone No. 020 8314 9786
If the meeting goes ahead we will all meet there at 7.20pm.
If there is anything else, please come back to us.

best to all
Brockley Jack Theatre.

We don't know the Brockley Jack well enough to comment on the desirability of moving the theatre upstairs, although of course, there are many successful precedents for this. But we do find the issue of disabled access exrtaordinary, particularly given that Greene King is a major PLC that ought to consider access to its properties a priority. Lewisham Council ought to be mindful too that one of the legacies of the 2012 Olympics and Paralympics for London was supposed to be greater empahsis on disabled access in the capital. [Full disclosure: we do some work for the Paralympics on a pro-bono basis]. As a Borough that wants to capitalise on the impact of the Games, it needs to treat such issues as a priority.

Given that there is also some doubt about the long-term future of the Rivoli Ballroom, the demise of the Theatre would be a major blow to Brockley's cultural landscape.

Strangers on a train

We had the good fortune to bump in to Brockley Central regular Kate on the train this morning.

We were both surprised that sort of thing didn't happen more often, given what a small world Brockley essentially is. We mentioned to Kate that one local businessman recently told us that they believed that, all the businesses in Brockley were chasing after the same limited pool of customers - no more than 1,000 by his estimate. Brockley Central's not sure that's true anymore and, conversely, we are constantly surprised by how many people in Brockley we expect to know one another, don't.

But the question of how many people there are to support the shops and cafes that are springing up led us to do a bit of soul searching about whether we both "did our bit" for the local scene. Kate confessed she met people in London Bridge for drinks after work. We owned up to the fact that we still haven't been to places like Meze Mangal.

But should we all feel a sense of duty to the local shops and businesses?

We feel about "shopping local" campaigns a bit like we do about buying the Big Issue. Bear with us... The whole idea of the Big Issue is that it gives people an alternative to begging - an opportunity to gain money and self-respect doing a job, when few other opportunities are open to them. But some people buy the Big Issue out of a sense of guilt or duty, without ever actually reading the thing. But if you don't really want the product, then isn't that just another form of begging, with some added environmental waste tacked on for good measure? Similarly, local businesses ought to be able to compete on equal terms with what's on offer in other areas, otherwise "shop local" is as forlorn a campaign as the "Buy British" campaign of the 1960s. If people shop out of duty, rather than preference, then there is no incentive for local places to raise their standards.

Fortunately, we believe there is a long and growing list of places that could hold their heads high in any area. So long as we all know what they are and share our recommendations, then there's no need for any of us to beat ourselves up if we stop off at M&S at London Bridge from time to time...

The Post of Christmas Markets Past and Future

A belated congraulations to the team behind Saturday's Christmas Market.

We don't really have a great deal to "report", other than that we had some mulled wine, a mince pie and our son refused to have his picture taken with a highly photogenic green Father Christmas at the Broca (no grubby, Dan Ackroyd / Billy Bob Thornton-style beard on this one), but gladly accepted a lolly.

The market was a test-case for future events and the sheer number of people who attended on a rain-affected Saturday afternoon speaks volumes for the local appetite for this kind of thing. There were relatively few stalls but they were complemented very nicely by the neighbouring shops, helping to create the atmosphere and critical mass which street markets need to succeed. It won't signal the beginning of regular markets on Coulgate Street - but has hopefully made the argument for future Christmas (and maybe summer) events.

Congratulations too should go to the Community Church, an organisation we have given a bit of a hard time over Healthy Brockley, but which organised a great lantern workship and parade. At one point, the whole of the market was a sea of coloured lights, melting our Grinch-like heart, which was subsequently reduced to a puddle by seeing "the must-see movie this Christmas", Enchanted.

Moonbow Jakes - shock news

A couple of years ago, when we started looking for a new place to live, we didn't give Brockley a second thought. We only knew it as "those two roundabouts" on the way to other places. However, in desperation, we went to visit a place on Upper Brockley Road, and discovered a whole new world hidden away. Then, we found Moonbow Jakes and decided that Brockley was more than just some nice houses, it was a place to live.

So, it came as a shock when we started hearing rumours that it was up for sale. Today, however, we received this confirmation from John, the current owner:

Nick, in answer to the rumours of my imminent departure from Moonbow Jakes, I can confirm I am in the final throws of passing on the business to four musicians who, I believe, plan to keep the fundamentals the same while making some minor improvements. As with all sales, there is a possibility that something outside our control may scupper the deal, although this appears unlikely.

Taking that things all go to plan, we are holding a series of events over December including a poetry evening, which kicks off with Brockley resident and one of the UK's most prominent pianist, Julian Jacobson, trying out some new material on Monday evening (3rd December). I would like to thank everyone who have loyally supported Moonbow Jakes in Brockley, New Cross and Catford over the last ten years and invite them to write any comments in a special book in Brockley, on our blog at www.moonbowjakes.co.uk or they can record a message of how Moonbow Jakes has impacted on their life or community by visiting the shop. People wishing to take a photographic record are also asked to share their pictures by posting copies to our site.

Thanks to Brockley Central for your unstinting support and I wish you all well for the future.

John and Moonbow Jakes Coffee Bar x

John added that the new owners plan to preserve the character of the bar, although of course, they're bound to want to stamp their ideas on the place in some ways. He also said that they've enjoyed a record year this year and that it had always been his plan to move on at some point - so it's reassuring to hear that Brockley is capable of sustaining places like Moonbows - his account certainly tallies with the fact that it seems to be full whatever time of night or day we pass.

John will be a loss to the area and, before he goes, we hope to persuade him to share his unique perspective on Brockley.

The Talbot: Still on track

The Talbot pub
We recently received a post from one reader, who'd heard that the plans to overhaul the Talbot might be somewhat delayed. However, we're pleased to report that we spoke this week to the prospective landlords who confirmed that, although the refurbishment was going to be more complicated than originally thought, due to the poor-quality of some of the infrastructure of the building, their plans are still on track.

The Talbot's transformation should be complete by late spring 2008.

More details of the refurbishment, here.

We attended last night's meeting to discuss the fate of the Localities Fund and will report on it soon...

Normal service will resume shortly

Phew, the vote's over and we can go back to talking about things like pubs and what famous people live in Brockley...

Although the Brockley Central troll was a late entry for this year's Brockzilla, we have found some of the debate genuinely enlightening and we are pleased to say we have had our opinion changed on one or two of the ideas (and reinforced in one other).

Thanks to everyone who cast their vote and spoke their mind, we will be summarising the results and sending them to the Councillors who, and we must stress this will take them on board, but not base their final decisions solelely on them.

Today, has been so busy from a personal and Brockley Central point of view, that we haven't had time to update you on the news about The Talbot, but we'll hopefully get round to that very shortly...

We'd like to end with a quick word on this blog.

1. This blog is not aligned to any organisation or political party - it is run by two blokes, for fun and to improve the quality of local information and debate. It is not, nor has it ever been, "official". If it was, it would probably look something like this and no-one would use it (although we stress, that's not official either!).

2. Although this blog does occasionally take an editorial stance on issues, we always try to respect those with whom we disagree. They also reflect our personal opinions, rather than any vested interests, and as you may have noticed, Nick and Jon don't agree on everything anyway. As someone has already said, we should all recognise that we essentially want the same thing: Brockley to be a better place.

3. We always try to get our facts right. In the last 9 months that this site has been running, we struggle to recall a single complaint that someone has made about the factual accuracy of our articles, even if they regularly complain about the opinions expressed!

Brockley Bites - Festive Special

The Brockley Christmas Market, 2pm-7pm Saturday, December 1st

Brockley's Christmas Market will take place on Coulgate Street, by the station, this saturday. As well as the stalls, local businesses will be supporting the activities and, thanks to Magi, the Broca and Dandelion Blue, Brockley finally has a commercial street worthy of Christmas festivities. In addition to the market, Brockley Community Church will be organising a lantern workshop and procession from St Peter's Church, Wickham Road from 4pm - 5.30pm. The Christmas lights will be switched on by the cast of Broadway Theatre's Aladdin at 5.30pm.

Dandelion Blue official opening tonight

After a soft-launch yesterday, Dandelion Blue is officially opening its doors tonight. We've not had a chance to try it out, but the feedback so far has been very positive and the place itself looked stunning as we ran for the train this morning...

Jam Circus live music Sundays

Jam Circus, Brockley's liveliest local venue, has begun regular live music sessions on Sunday nights and have a new website, if you've never been to the venue before. Click here for more. We will carry more on their music programme in the coming weeks.

The Brockley Vote - don't forget to make your voice heard

The unofficial poll about how this year's £10,000 localities fund should be allocated has generated unprecedented interest in terms of number of votes cast, number of comments made and number of unique visitors reading the site in the last few days. That can only be a good thing for an initiative which is designed to encourage greater participation in local democracy in Brockley.

However, please keep the debate focused on the merits or flaws in the proposals, rather than personal abuse or allegations of skullduggery. It's perfectly legitimate for certain projects to try and mobilise their supporters to vote - that's campaigning, not conspiracy. It's also not fair to say that this site is biased towards the street trees on the basis that it is a "Brockley Cross Action Group project". It was not proposed by the BXAG, it was proposed by an individual resident from the north of the ward, who thought it would be a good way of improving the look and feel of the local area. And there is no reason why the trees could not be used to improve main streets in the north of the borough, they need not be confined to places like Brockley Road. There is no need for tribalism.

We have expressed a personal preference for the idea of street trees on the basis that we believe that it would be the most effective use of the money, but we encourage everybody to vote for their own personal favourite. This site tries to reflect life in all areas of the ward (and beyond) and the readership is diverse.

Finally, we would just like to reiterate that this is an unofficial poll, that merely forms part of the overall consultancy process by Brockley's councillors. The final decision will be taken by them, on the basis of a wide range of feedback and the poll only represents one part of that process. We urge anyone who passionately believes in one of the projects to attend the meeting tomorrow night:

Tuesday, 27th November, 8pm
George Lewis Room
St John’s Church
Lewisham Way

The cut-off point to register your vote on this site is 5pm tomorrow.

Brockley's £10,000 question

Tuesday, 27th November, 8pm
George Lewis Room
St John’s Church
Lewisham Way

Next Tuesday, Brockley councillors Dean Walton, Darren Johnson and Romayne Phoenix will hold a community meeting to discuss the allocation of the Brockley Locality Fund - £10,000 of public money, which can be allocated to good causes in the Brockley area.

A shortlist has been drawn up from ideas submitted by local residents, some of which had their merits hotly debated here.

Cllr Dean Walton has provided Brockley Central with an advanced look at the list of projects, which is below. We've also created a new poll so that readers unable to attend the meeting can register their views online. We must stress that this is an unofficial poll and while we will pass on the results of the vote to the councillors before the meeting, it is obviously an unscientific sampling of the Brockley population (highly skewed towards towards the bored and office based!). However, the councillors will take the results in to consideration as part of the wider consultation process.

Here's the list in full:

1. Digicams for young people to report graffiti etc to Love Lewisham, with monthly prize and end-of-year exhibition

2. Fixed sports equipment on Tanners Hill Estate for children

3. Youth worker for Tanners Hill one night per week for a year

4. Street trees with metal railing guards

5. Contribution to Brockley Common

6. Clean up and secure garages in Vulcan Terrace

7. Picnic benches where young people can socialise, Pitman House

8. Improvements to Lewisham Way memorial gardens

9. Improvements to Veronica House Gardens

10. Solar panels installed at another local primary school

11. Contribution to Myatt Gardens playground fund

12. Contribution to Brockley Fun Run

13. Contribution to Brockley weekend arts festival

14. Equipment / storage space for planned after-school club for 5-11s

15. Contribution to Healthy Brockley Community Awards

The poll is on the right-hand side of this site. Please register your votes before the closing deadline of 5pm on Tuesday, to make your voice heard.

Our own, personal, criteria for where the money should go would be that it should support a project which wouldn't happen without some public funding, that it should support projects which benefit the widest possible number of people and it should leave some sort of tangible, lasting legacy. On that basis, we'd plump for street trees in planters on Brockley Road over projects like the Fun Run (nice idea) or Healthy Brockley (conflates eating vegetables with 'spiritual health'), which could be delivered without the need for any public money.

And "digicams" for kids? Doesn't every child have a mobile phone before it gets its first tooth these days? And isn't the whole point of the Love Lewisham project is that it's made reporting graffiti and fly tipping really easy and quick for any one (yes, even adults) , without the need to spend council tax money on consumer electronics?

Anyway, to whomever came up with that idea, they will be pleased to know that (despite referring to ourselves in the plural) we only have one vote, same as everyone else.

Happy voting!

The Brockley Jack: The Astonishing Truth

When Brockley Central heard that the Brockley Jack was due for a refit, we wanted to know more. We wanted to get under the skin of this important story - to understand the fate of this historic building and the motivations of the men and women behind the plan. What were their hopes and fears? Where did they see the pub in ten years time? What epic challenges have they overcome to reach this point.

We went straight to the source to find answers - calling the landlord to get the real dirt. And, um, then we were referred to their PR agency, who gave us this bland response...

Claire Wood, manager at the Brockley Jack, said:

“We’re currently awaiting planning consent for a complete refurbishment of the pub interior and some minor alternations to the rear of the pub.”

So there it is - the full story we promised you yesterday. Sorry about that.

Dandelion Blue due to open within the week

Dandelion Blue, the much-anticipated deli that will neighbour the Broca on Coulgate Street, should be open within the next seven days, according to co-owner, Peter Foster.

The final touches are currently being made to the shop and we managed to grab a few minutes of Peter's time to ask him some questions...

What will you be selling?

We will sell a very broad range of produce, including cheeses, salamis, hams, sausages, oils, olives, antipasti, anchovies, fresh pastas, organic fruit and vegetables and easy-to-prepare meals.

We'll respond to our customers, so if there are certain things people tell us they want, we'll be happy to organise it. For example, at Christmas, we plan to order organic turkeys for our customers and we'll make fresh sandwiches on request. We hope people will think of Dandelion Blue as their deli, rather than ours.

What will your opening hours be?

9am - 8pm. We read people's comments about staying open late enough for commuters and recognise that it's very important to do so. We did initially consider opening earlier, but we watched people running for their trains every morning and decided there weren't that many people who were going to want to browse our antipasti at that time of day.

Was it important to open before Christmas?
We hope it will be a busy time and that's why we want to open as soon as possible, to give us a little time to get settled. We'll be supporting the Christmas Market on December 1st by running a raffle.

How will you differ from Degustation?

Obviously, Degustation is a specialist French shop and we're confident that our two businesses will compliment one another in terms of the range of produce that we offer. The more we've thought about it, the more we believe that we will benefit one another, by encouraging people to think local.

Why did you decide to open Dandelion Blue?

My business partner, Sandra, has lived in Brockley for a couple of years and was always disappointed with the quality of food available locally. While out locally, she overheard people with the same sorts of complaints and decided that it was the right time to go for it. My background is in film and commercials and Sandra's is primarily in marketing, so it was a big step for both of us. The messages of support we've had on Brockley Central and through our website have been very encouraging and kept us going when times got tough!

The Brockley Jack set for a makeover

It has been confirmed that (as reported by one BC reader) the Brockley Jack is to undergo a refurbishment soon.

Most comments about the Brockley Jack speak of faded glories and a disappointing atmosphere, so this is potentially very welcome news and we hope to have the story for you very shortly...

Brockley Bites

Brockley housing market: in pursuit of imperfection

Brockley is a doer-upper hotspot, according to The Sunday Telegraph. It claims:

"Fully renovated properties are not selling, as buyers seek out unmodernised homes to 'do up' as a way of adding value in a slow market. It's harder to sell properties which have been extended or have loft conversions as young buyers want to add this value themselves... areas of London with a good supply of renovation projects are Brockley, Telegraph Hill, Tooting and West Norwood."

Which is one way of putting it.

DVD crackdown reaches Brockley

Lewisham Council is currently waging war on the snakemasters and you can play your part. Council officers are currently urging local businesses such as pubs, cafes and barbershops to refuse to allow pirate DVD sellers and posters have begun to appear in Brockley. The sellers are generally linked to organised crime gangs, operating in London.

The view from The Hill

We recently asked users of The Telegraph Hill website the following question:
"As a resident of Brockley Cross, I consider Telegraph Hill as much a part of my neighbourhood as Hilly Fields and try to cover news about the Hill whenever possible. However, the survey shows that very few of the people who visit the site hail from Telegraph Hill. So my question is... is that because TH is already so well served by this site or is it because people in TH don't consider TH to be part of the Brockley area?"

It prompted a few interesting responses, with the prevailing view that Telegraph Hill is very much New Cross and Brockley is simply a neighbour.

Parking in Lewisham

The Big Retort is unhappy about selfish parking and even less happy with Lewisham Council's response...

8pm, Brockley Road petrol station, last night

Evidence that "gentrification" is yet to destroy Brockley's unique charm #302

We popped in to the forecourt shop on the offchance that they might sell the vitamins that we needed. We want to stress at this point that we are not normally the kind of middle class neurotic that feels an urgent need for vitamins on a Saturday night - we take a degree of pride in the fact that we've never set foot in a Holland & Barrett. However, on this occasion, we needed to buy some.

We weren't actually expecting to find them in there, but we were surprised when the woman behind the counter asked: "What are vitamins?"

It seems Brockley's first biodynamic wholefood shop is still a mercifully distant prospect.

On the other hand, the Dandelion Blue deli's opening date is tantalisingly close and we will have the full story on the site shortly...

Brockley MAX doubt

The future of the Brockley MAX - the long-running arts festival that has served as an important focal point for the local creative community and a showcase for the Brockley area - is likely to go ahead in reduced form next year and there remains a possibility that it may not happen at all.

This summer Moira Tait, the organiser in previous years, announced that she was stepping down to let someone else take on the Festival, to bring new ideas and energy to the event.

In a recent email, Moira announced that the event will be taken on by a new organiser, who will be investigating the feasibility of a 2008 MAX, but that it will in all likelihood take place over a weekend, rather than a week.

We hope to speak to the new organiser in the coming weeks, to get a clearer picture of what volunteer support is needed and how people can help, but it would be a tragedy if the MAX was allowed to fizzle out, through lack of community energy, especially when we're all agreed that the sense of community is one of the things that we treasure most.

Brockleys Nick and Jon will be offering their services...

We hope to bring you a more detailed report soon.

Site tweak

Several people have asked for the "recent comments" section to be expanded, to help keep better track on all the conversations. Your wish is our command. It has been expanded from five to eight comments, which is hopefully the right balance.

We'll keep making changes as we go along, so please keep your suggestions coming.

Next stop Croydon

According to today's Guardian Brockley-residents will soon have a new reason to head south.

Croydon has unveiled plans to emulate the success of cities like Barcelona, with a radical transformation that according to Will Alsop, the master planner, will: hack back "a forest of car parks" choking the town centre, shut eight-lane highways to through traffic and build a pedestrian-friendly "emerald necklace" of parks.

Removing cars from the pavements? Remodelling traffic systems in favour of the pedestrian? Creating new green spaces? Sounds like a familiar agenda. Although so far, the new developments in Croydon are more like this effort, which doesn't exactly wear its Gaudi influences on its sleeve.

So, until we can all enjoy days out on the East London Line to see Croydon's answer to the Sagrada Familia, what are the best reasons for taking the train south?

We'd like to nominate the wonderful Horniman Museum and the slightly forlorn dinosaurs in Crystal Palace Park, for whom the march of paleontology has not been kind.

What are your recommendations?

La Lanterna, Brockley Road

La Lanterna, the Italian restaurant opposite Brockley Station, has had a modest makeover. Out go the photos of celebrity diners on the walls, to be replaced by black-and-white framed photos of jazz musicians or something. The changes stop there, however and happily, the jolly waiter on the roof (a piece of public art to treasure) remains.

The food itself is pretty reliable, though our group with stuck to conservative choices - risotto, pizza, pasta, pancakes and salads so we can't speak for the fish or meat options. Every dish was tasty and well-prepared, but nothing in particular lingers in the memory.

In our experience, service is the restaurant's strong point. It was a busy Saturday night, with most of the tables full, but we were well looked after by the friendly team and never felt that the kids in our group were an imposition.

This article will be moved to the "reviews" section when it's ready, so please use it to give your views on La Lanterna as the point of Brockley Central reviews isn't to learn what we (whose greatest regret about turning 30 is that we no longer feel able to eat Pot Noodles) think about a place, but to act as a repository for local wisdom.

Limbo shop watch

Brockley is cursed with far too many limbo shops: shops which are neither open nor closed, but somewhere in-between.

Limbo shops offer no goods or services, but they do a very effective job of stopping anyone else from coming along and opening something more useful.

To the casual observer, a limbo shop will appear as though it's just shut for five minutes while the manager's popped out for lunch. But the manager never returns.

In fact, they can often appear that they are just weeks away from a grand opening, with building work in progress and people coming and going. Lights go on behind shutters, shadows play across empty window displays.

Sometimes we like to play the game 'guess the business plan', where we try to work out how the owner ever expected to make a living. Was it supposed to be an internet cafe? A money changer? A newsagent? An office? A restaurant? All of the above?

Ask Toes is one of the most obvious examples, but there are many more scattered along the likes of Brockley Road and Lewisham Way.

Happily, we've recently been able to strike one from the list. Yana, on Geoffrey Road, is an Afro-Caribbean beauty salon that was for months nothing more than a sign in the window, inviting people to come upstairs (an invitation which few seemed willing to accept), while the actual shop bit lay dormant. Now, it's open and actually looks pretty good - with staff, equipment and furniture, it's a proper shop.

Together with a decent dry-cleaner and a nice florist, it has the makings of a functional parade of shops. Although inevitably Yana's neighbours still include a fast-food place that has been shut for a year, while builders intermittently come and go, installing and un-installing the same counter-top, teasing prospective customers with the prospect of food, but denying them for eternity as the Harpies robbed Phineas.

We'd like to compile the definitive list of Brockley's limbo shops, so please post your nominations below...

Coulgate Street, 10.20am today

We've written so much about Degustation lately that Max would no doubt accuse us of being in the pocket of 'big boulangerie'. However, we think it's such an interesting test case for Brockley's future that we have become a little obsessed with its fortunes.

This morning, for example, it was the setting for a perfect little Brockley vignette. An assortment of prospective customers hovered on the pavement, waiting for the shutters to rise: a twitchy-arty sort, a young couple and a scruffy blogger. Meanwhile, a guy in a hood over his baseball cap wandered past, mouth open, eyes fixed on the French word on the sign above the shop, aghast. He muttered, "what is happening to Brockley, man?"

The fact that the focus of his disappointment wasn't the line of overflowing commercial bins flanking the Brockley Barge to his left or the tatty view of the sorting office and Costcutter in front of him, but the small independent food shop, run by a guy who's been living in the area for years, speaks volumes for the depressing nature of the "we don't want gentrification" line of argument.

The Tea Factory Gallery Tour

Tonight, together with some of Brockley's finest creative minds, Brockley Central was taken on a guided tour of the unfinished Tea Factory, to see first-hand the new Gallery space that is being created as part of the development.

Twenty of us picked our way through the building site by torchlight, as though led by Derek Acorah. The space itself is surprisingly big, about 10 metres from front to back.

We had imagined a token space with room for no more than a couple of Picasso sketches but, while not quite Tate's Turbine Hall, it will offer plenty of flexibility. It will be glass fronted with exposed concrete beams.
The tour was part of the local consultation process designed to find an appropriate group to run the gallery - the decision will ultimately be the Council's. Brockley has a number of existing community groups and it's possible that one of those groups could be given the opportunity to run the gallery or a new body could be created, specifically for the job. Andrew Carmichael from Creative Lewisham suggested one possible model could be the Art in Perpetuity Trust , a charity set up to run the APT Gallery in Deptford. The advantage of this model would be that, in addition to having charitable status, it would ensure that proper focus is given to making the gallery a success and that membership is open to any artist.

It's clear that whichever group takes up the challenge will have to adopt a serious, commercial approach to running the gallery. Although the shell will come rent free, the fit-out costs will be significant, there will still be rates and utility charges to be paid and it will need to establish itself as a credible and viable business within two years, before commercial rents kick-in.

While conducting the tour the developer confirmed that the gallery would have a new cafe as its neighbour (there will be a small area at the front for people to sit outside, off the pavement) and that another unit had been let as office space, although some commercial space and apartments are still available.

Thanks to Andrew Carmichael from Creative Lewisham and the developer Colin Yeates for organising the visit.

Brockley Bites

A bubble burst

Last night’s Dispatches on Channel 4 [“The Housing Trap”] was essentially the tragic story of a young man’s thwarted dream of buying a flat in Brockley. It was heartbreaking to watch a fate that no one could deserve unfold. The programme featured all the usual debate about the housing market. Conclusions? None. And its credibility was shot to pieces early on, when the narrator described Brockley as “an unfashionable part of South London”.

Brockley Nappuccino

We were going to write a longer piece questioning the value of Lewisham's efforts to use tax payers' money to bribe and cajole less-well-off families to use 'real' nappies (aka old technology that has rightly gone the way of the mangle or the carpet beater as a symbol of the drudgery of the domestic family life that we have mercifully left behind), but work is getting in the way today, so suffice to repeat the press release from Cllr Sue Luxton, for those who disagree with us:

"Come along to Lewisham's First 'Nappuccino'! It is taking place from 10am-midday on Friday 9 November 2007 at the Toads Mouth Too Cafe, 188 Brockley Road, London, SE4 2RL. If you would like to attend please contact Vivienne Thomson, Real Nappy Officer (details below). Real nappies save money and waste and are easier than you think. Come to a friendly chat over coffee and find out more."

Vivienne Thomson
Real Nappy Officer
London Borough of Lewisham
Wearside Service Centre
Wearside Road
Lewisham SE13 7EZ
T: 07904 164496 F: 020 8314 2128 W: http://www.realnappiesforlondon.org.uk/

Brockley TownTalk now live

A new website has been launched by Lewisham Council to provide people with information about the Brockley area. Its best feature is the local business directory, which is pretty comprehensive. Visit it, enjoy it, but obviously please come back to Brockley Central!

Love @ Brockley

As we recently cautioned in our posting about the BC code of conduct a blog can be a powerful force for good or evil, depending on who wields it. Judge for yourself which side of the line Richard Elliot's blog falls, when he audaciously uses an interesting review of La Querce to retrospectively proposition a female diner, who he appreciated more than the ravioli.

We're happy to help spread the word for him, although we suggest that his romantic efforts are somewhat undermined by the photo below, in which he's pictured stripped to his black socks for a massage.

Good luck Richard, Brockley needs more young families.

The Talbot's future confirmed

Yes, we know we've written similar headlines in the past, but this time we have some detailed news that's confirmed at source and very exciting...

The Talbot is about to receive a major refurbishment from the people behind The Herne and The Palmerston - two outstanding south east London pubs.

Last week, we received an email from BC reader Michael, who told us that Palmerston Partners would be taking over as licensees in January. Coming on the same day that we learned that Portland's plans for Homeview were rejected, we were almost overcome with excitement. Still, we sat on the news until we had had it confirmed.

Fortunately, we spoke with Palmerston this morning, who gave us some details. The necessary caveat is that they are still agreeing terms and finalising their plans for the pub, but they were able to tell us the following:

  • The Talbot will remain "a proper pub" that they hope regulars will still enjoy
  • They want to reflect the character of the area and don't plan to copy either of their other pubs
  • However, it will be given a complete overhaul, including a new kitchen, a refit upstairs, new exterior front and back and work inside to open up the bar area
  • There is also a lot of work to be done on improving the building infrastructure, to bring it up to modern standards
  • The food will be "quality but simple" fare, locally sourced and cooked on the premises
  • They do hope to take over in January 2008, with the new-look pub open by the spring
  • At this point, they are still debating whether to keep the name. They are looking in to its history (if anyone can help here, it would be much appreciated) to see whether it's of any particular significance. The alternative is to rename it, to emphasise that it is a very different proposition from the current place
We sympathise to an extent with those people who currently enjoy The Talbot and worry that a revamp will compromise its appeal, but it will still serve beer (probably better beer, too), you will still be able to talk to your mates and it will still look and feel like a pub. But hopefully, it will be a pub that more than a handful of people will enjoy and one with a long-term future that doesn't involve terminal decline.
We think this is exactly what The Talbot and Brockley need. They didn't use the word gastropub, but that's clearly what the Herne and the Palmerston are and what The Talbot will become. For some, the term is anathema, but they are wrong. And there are plenty of alternatives for those who prefer their food delivered by the lorry load and reheated to order.
The prospective landlords have pledged to keep us up to speed as their plans progress.
Thanks to Michael and to the Palmerston.

Portland's plans for Homeview refused [updated]

Last night, as reported by an excited Cllr Dean Walton on the BC message boards, Lewisham's Licensing Committee rejected the application by Portland Bookmakers for a betting shop licence at the 'Homeview' video shop on the corner of Brockley Road & Adelaide Avenue.

There is little doubt that without the vociferous campaign by local people against the proposals, Brockley would by now have its umpteenth bookmaker, occupying one of the most important spots on the high street.

Portland's parent company still own the site and, as Dean suggests in his blog, there will almost certainly be an appeal, but who knows, maybe Portland will decide that they made a misjudgement and look elsewhere to expand. A good gambler knows when to cut their losses.

We dislike the use of the term "common sense" in political debate, because one person's version of common sense is often an other's blinkered belligerence, but Sue Luxton describes the result on her blog as a 'victory for common sense' and in this case, we can't think of a better way of putting it.

Update: We just received the following press release from Ute Michel, on behalf of Brockley's Green councillors.

A controversial plan to turn a former much-loved video shop into a bookmakers was thrown out by councillors on Lewisham’s licensing committee last night because it risked harming vulnerable residents.

The ruling – made after four hours of debate – sets a national precedent because it was the first to be judged under new rules brought in by the recent Gambling Act.

The applicants are thought likely to appeal the decision, but if magistrates uphold the decision of councillors it could mean communities throughout the country have a powerful voice over the siting of bookies’ offices in their neighbourhoods.

Birmingham City Council, among other major authorities, was known to be watching Lewisham as the first test case of the new law.

A near-identical decision was taken by councillors in Haringey, north London, last night, over a separate application there.

Lewisham’s licensing committee was concerned that the location of the premises meant people suffering from addictions could not be sufficiently protected from harm.

There are 210 residential units (places, not residences) for people with addictions within a mile of the premises at 329-331 Brockley Road. Objectors were also concerned about the effect on local children as there are a secondary school and several primary schools nearby.

Green Party councillor Ute Michel spoke against the application at last night’s public meeting, where she was quizzed by committee members.

She said afterwards:

“I am thrilled with this decision. There were huge concerns about a new betting shop, and I fully supported the local community in opposing the application. As this was the first application decided under the new legislation, Lewisham’s decision is not only good news for Brockley and Ladywell, it also sends a strong message to other local authorities across the country who are all faced with similar issues.

“The local community rose to the challenge and several residents also argued the case very forcefully and professionally at a well-attended meeting last night.”

For sale: The Rivoli Ballroom

Yours for a cool £10 million, the Rivoli Ballroom has gone up for sale. There's no doubt that the Rivoli has untapped potential as a unique and characterful venue (with a 24-hour drinking license), which a new owner might capitalise on. On the other hand, it's also vulnerable to developments that could compromise its 1930s splendour.

Thanks to Darren for letting us know, we hope to bring you more detail on the story in the coming days.

Homeview hearing tomorrow

Tomorrow night, Lewisham Councillors will meet to decide the fate of the former Homeview Video shop, which is currently targeted by Portland Bookmakers, who want to convert it in to yet another Brockley betting shop. The background to the application can be found here.

Unsurprisingly (given that the Magistrate for the first hearing received an "unprecedented" number of complaints), the letters of objection from local people were sufficient to trigger a licensing committee hearing where Councillors, rather than officers, will have the final say.

As we've said before, Brockley is beginning to prove that it has a future as a commercial centre beyond car dealerships, fried chicken and bookies. If an application on such a prime site is successful, it could be a major set back for Brockley Road's revitalisation. Sadly, the planning system seems to make little allowance for that kind of issue, although we hope that it matters to our elected representatives.

Fortunately, there is also a perfectly good and legitimate reason to reject the application too. Namely, its near-neighbour, which happens to be a rehabilitation centre for people suffering from addictions. Portland's stated unique selling point is that they aim to create a 'luxurious' ambiance that caters for a different breed of punter, which they claim is not well served by the current range of local bookies. In other words, Portland would represent a new form of temptation for people struggling with gambling addictions. The guidelines say that if a new bookmaker would put vulnerable people at increased risk then that constitutes the basis to reject a license application.

So, given there are both valid technical grounds to reject it and that to do so would be widely welcomed by the community, we hope that the Council rejects the application tomorrow night. We will, of course, report the result.

Hallowe'en in Brockley

'Flying Brockzilla' - by Asad

Last year, we didn't get a single Trick or Treater. This year, we haven't had any of the premature visits from costumeless chancers that we used to expect in our old neighbourhood.

Is that a reflection of the fact that families have been crowded out by professional couples or that Brockley's yummy mummies are frightened to let their kids out after dark, lest they encounter kids who consider hoods normal daywear?

In any case, we're not complaining, just curious. In the absence of monstrous kids, the Brockzilla project has provided plenty of local scares, as a quick visit to Howard's site will show.

There's also an honorary contribution to the pantheon of Brockley horrors by the Deptford Dame, whose ungodly creation can be found here, if you dare...

Degustation, Coulgate Street

Dugustatin on champagne tasting evening!
12 Coulgate Street

Yes, we know it's not new news that Degustation is now open and there are lots of reader comments on here already, but soon, we will have a review section, where we will collect together information about local places to eat, drink and shop.

This story will be fleshed out when we've actually had a chance to shop there, but we wanted to create this now, so that any comments you have about the shop will get ported over to the new section, when it goes live.

So far, we understand that Augustin, the owner of Degustation, is very happy with the reception he's had from local people. Although we didn't doubt that would be the case for either this or Dandelion Blue, it's nice to have that confirmed. The shop has just received its license to serve alcohol, so there is now a selection of wines on sale and the range of produce is set to grow over the coming weeks.

Lewisham Safer Neighbourhoods Survey

The Met Police now have an online survey for residents of Lewisham to report local problems.

Oddly, the survey lumps together issues such as flytipping and poor streetlighting with crimes like sexual or racially-motivated assault. We'd hope that there are more appropriate vehicles for registering those kinds of problems than an internet survey, but the data will help the Safer Neighbourhood Teams in Lewisham, so worth doing if you have any ongoing concerns in your area.

Acceptable comment

To date, we have been incredibly impressed by the quality of posts that this blog generally receives and the responsible manner in which the vast majority of people have used the public platform that a blog gives them.

However, as the community of people using this site grows, it is important that we all continue to exercise this power sensibly. This issue is particularly important given the localised nature of the debate on this site - the people we discuss are often our friends and neighbours, rather than statesmen or celebrities.

We will apply the "Civility Enforced" standard, which is the closest thing that exists to a standard code of conduct for bloggers.

  • We strive to post high quality, acceptable content, and we will delete unacceptable comments
  • We define unacceptable comments as anything included (but not limited to) or linked to that is being used to abuse, harass, stalk, or threaten others is libelous or knowingly false, victimises an individual, infringes upon any copyright, trademark or trade secret of any third party, violates an obligation of confidentiality or violates the privacy of others
  • We define and determine what is "unacceptable content" on a case-by-case basis, and our definitions are not limited to this list. If we delete a comment or link, you may email us for an explanation
  • When someone who is publishing comments or blog postings that are offensive, we'll tell them so (privately, if possible) and ask them to publicly make amends, unless it is considered that doing so will only inflame or worsen the situation. If those published comments could be construed as a threat or of an illegal nature, and the perpetrator doesn't withdraw them and apologize, we will cooperate with local law enforcement regarding those comments and/or postings.
  • Comments or posts that are deemed offensive will result in a request - private, if possible - that the commenter or poster make public amends, if practical. If those published comments could reasonably be viewed as illegal (threat or otherwise), we will report the comments and commenter to police.
The rule of thumb should be: don't say anything on the blog that you wouldn't say in person to the people you're talking about.

There is also a forum available, South East Central.

Thanks for your continued support and co-operation.

Things we realised at 3am this morning, between Forest Hill and Brockley

  1. That it's actually a very long walk
  2. That there aren't very many night buses
  3. That the cliche about taxis not wanting to venture south of the river late at night still has some basis in fact
  4. That Gogis does sometimes shut

The Tea Factory Gallery [Updated]

The Tea Factory Gallery is perhaps the most exciting development planned locally. The planning agreement struck between the Council and the developer guarantees the creation of a gallery space, which will be given rent free to the community for two years.

So, Brockley has two years to make it work - to create a financially sustainable business model which will enable it to pay its own way as a permanent facility.

Yesterday, we spoke to Andrew Carmichael, Director of the Creative Lewisham Agency (responsible for promoting the growth of Lewisham's creative industries) for an interview we hope to publish next week.

However, he gave us one piece of news that demanded immediate airing:

The gallery space is due for completion in Spring 2008 (when the Tea Factory is completed), at which point it will be nothing but an empty shell. How that shell is ultimately used is currently up for discussion and there will be a meeting in the evening of November 8th in Brockley to debate the issues. Anyone with an active interest in the gallery (including artists or people interested in running the gallery) is welcome to attend.

If you'd like to go, please email Andrew in advance to request a place.

And now, here's the official version, just sent out by Creative Lewisham, with some interesting new details...

The disused 1940’s tea and coffee factory is being converted by Michael Trentham Architects into 1440m2 mixed use space, which will consist of 4 commercial units at ground level, one of which will be a café, and 13 residential units above. Of the commercial units, the largest will be made available for use as a gallery. As yet no person or organisation has been appointed to operate the space and the meeting will be about how that process will be taken forward. Although the space will be rent free for two years it will have other operating costs and a good business plan and management structure will need to be put in place.

The Tea Factory is situated right in the heart of Brockley, beside the station and minutes away from the café’s and restaurants of Brockley Road. This is a great opportunity for local artists, arts organisations or other consortia to explore how this project could operate. Andrew Carmichael from the Creative Lewisham Agency will facilitate the meeting and Colin Yeates of DPS Property who owns the building will be present to answer questions.

Brockley Bites - Democracy Special!

Councillor Sue Luxton APB:
"The Ladywell ward councillors are holding a Ladywell Ward meeting at St Andrew's Church this Thursday, to discuss suggestions for this year's £10,000 localities fund.

The time: Thu 25 October 2007, 7.30pm
The place: St Andrews Centre, Brockley Road, London SE4 2SA

"Over the last few weeks Ladywell residents and community groups have been coming up with ideas on how to spend £10,000 of Localities Fund set aside for projects in our neighbourhood. The best ideas will be presented at the meeting, where you are invited to ask questions and have your say on where the money should go. There will also be an opportunity for people to discuss other council-related issues they would like to raise with us.

"The Council budget for promoting the localities fund unfortunately didn't stretch to delivering a flyer through every door in the ward, but we've done what we can to promote the meeting with flyers and posters in shops, at the station etc, but please help to spread the word by telling others who may be
Councillor Darren Johnson asks the tough questions others shy from
In response to requests from local residents, Darren Johnson has tabled the following question for the next full Council meeting (we'll report on the response):

What efforts has the Council made to find resources to improve the Brockley Cross traffic junction and pedestrian environment since the four options put forward by consultants as part of the master-planning exercise were presented to officers?
Robo-Mayor Vows to take out Brockley's trash
Lewisham Mayor Sir Steve "Robocop" Bullock made Middlesbrough's zero-tolerance Mayor Ray Mallon look like a whimp, according to icsouthlondon that reports that he has vowed to "take control of the troubled street", by which he means Upper Brockley Road.
The site reports that "Drug-taking and dealing, drinking, shouting, partying and intimidating behaviour have been making residents' lives a misery for years," but that pressure from local people has forced Lewisham Mayor Sir Steve Bullock and police borough commander Alan Pughsley to act.
Sir Steve told the council on Wednesday: "The local authority has used its full range of powers in tackling antisocial behaviour in this area."
The report claims that the police and council will now introduce a drinking control zone in the small residential street.
We'd be interested to hear if this starts to make a tangible difference to something that has long been a problem for many of BC's readers.