"Brockley: understated gem"

The Evening Standard has discovered South East London.

Yesterday's Homes & Property section included a double page spread, examining the areas located along the East London Line extension.

Brockley was described as "an understated gem," with "a strong sense of community" and "a number of new coffee shops and restaurants."

Apparently, when the line opens, places like Brockley "will be no more difficult to commute to than Clapham, Wimbledon and Richmond."

Brockley Central always thought that Brockley was considerably easier to reach from the centre of town than any of those locations, which are further out and served by overcrowded tube lines which make the peak-time overland service to London Bridge look spacious, but overland-prejudice is a burden we have always carried as a South East Londoner.

An interview with Hilly Fields resident Oliver White helps to put the record straight (he claims to be able to get to Cannon Street in 12 minutes, so presumably sprints between platforms at London Bridge), but the whole feature prompts the question - do Brockley residents want the area to be "discovered"?

What do you think?

Brockley Max preview

With the third annual Brockley Max festival almost upon us, guest writer and enthusiastic local Jon Godsell takes a look at some of the forthcoming live music events that will be ringing throughout Brockley during festival week.

The opening night on Friday 1st June is an outdoor event at the Bob Marley Memorial by the station, from 4pm until 10. This will be a street party of the highest calibre, with plenty of up-and-coming local talent.

Acts in the line-up include emerging indie band Don't We Look Smart, talented and hotly-tipped singer/songwriter The Spotlight Kid and 7-piece funk outfit The Groove Diggerz. Keep your fingers crossed for the weather, but fear not, they have a gazebo!

Saturday 2nd, blues singer Earl Green takes to the floor in Moonbow Jake's with his band, The Right Time. This looks set to be a great performance from a man with many years of experience, and the intimate Moonbows lends itself well to this sort of music.

Sunday 3rd is a local showcase, also at Moonbows. Tuesday Heartbreak together with Alice Renouf and Honey Cube should all provide some very catchy indie tunes, whilst XFM's latest find Harold Fergus should turn the lights down low and take the crowd all acoustic.

On Tuesday 5th, regulars on the Shoreditch scene Masters Of Disguise play Moonbows (do you notice a theme here?), with their genre-hopping mix of indie, jazz, rock 'n' roll, and funk. Call it what you like, last year it was a fantastic show.

The Wickham Arms presents the unmistakable Cosmic Sausages on Wednesday 6th. One of the most popular bands at the festival, I won't attempt to pigeon-hole them but imagine Right Said Fred meets Harry Hill, with accordions (see below).

Expect sing-along tunes for all the family, great gags, and their Cornetto-ad style cover of Creep by Radiohead is an unforgettable experience. Recommended.

The Cosmic Sausages, of course!

Back at Moonbow Jakes on Friday 8th, net-label Audio Aubergine bring an electronic edge to the Max. Difficult to tell what the live sound will be like, but the artists featured online seem to share an intelligent sample-based sound, with an emphasis on minimal house and electronica. Nowt wrong with that. Expect mucho beard stroking and possibly some head nodding!

Saturday 9th brings a fitting end to the festival with Moonbow Jakes hosting their own marquee by the stone circle in Hilly Fields park, from noon til late, with an open air stage run by FHI promotions.

The line up at the 'Marquis of Moonbows', like the cafe, is eclectic, with acoustic artists, comedians and dance on the bill. Too many acts to list here, but young skate-rockers Diesel Sky will be back, and the brilliantly named Bacardiac Arrest look set to end the week with a blues-rock bang.

Things quieten down at 10pm, but make a Brockley friend or two, and, if past years are anything to go by, the hottest ticket of the whole festival will be an invite a very special after party.

These are just some of the many bands playing Brockley Max! The line-up for all events are subject to change at short notice. More info on the Brockley Max website.

The Brockley Max Festival: June 1st – 9th

The Brockley Central Interview – Moira Tait
As you may have noticed from the flyers and banners that keep popping up around Brockley, this year’s Brockley Max Festival is nearly upon us.

For the uninitiated, the Festival is a week long celebration of Brockley’s creative life, consisting of a programme of music, theatre and arts events that will be staged across all of Brockley’s main public spaces and venues, including Hilly Fields, Moonbow Jakes, The Brockley Jack, Toads Mouth Too, Café Neu, and more.

There is a full calendar of events on the Brockley Max website but this year kicks off with an open-air concert, between 4pm and 10pm on Friday night, featuring a range of Brockley musicians playing in front of the mural, by Brockley Station. Elsewhere on Friday, there will be performance art and an art exhibition at Café Orange, near Telegraph Hill.

In the six years since it was first established, the Max has become an institution and provides a focus for the artistic spirit which helps to make Brockley unique.

We recently met up with Moira Tait, founder and organiser of Brockley Max, at Moonbow Jakes, the spiritual home of Brockley Max and a key supporter of this years’ festival.

Before the interview really got going, a whole host of people turned up for a meeting to put the finishing touches to the programme. It was an eclectic and inspiring bunch: firework and outdoor event organisers, artists and musicians and Moira herself is an ex-TV producer who can “turn my hand to anything.” The Festival runs on their passion.

While we talked, a guy at the next table (who modestly declined to be named but whose anonymity was undermined by the fact that Brockley probably has relatively few natives of Detroit living in its midst), was enjoying a coffee, caught a few of our questions and was moved to interject:

“I’d like to say that what I love about the Brockley Max is what I love about the area – it feels like a community, coming together. It’s like a village.”

This community spirit was something referred to time and again by the team of organisers. There was an overwhelming desire that the Brockley Max should be inclusive and give an opportunity for local talent to shine.

Moira, who has lived in Brockley for twenty years, explained:

“The festival has grown enormously over the years and we now have a database of more than 400 people on our mailing list for planning the festival. That means we’re in a situation where people come to us, asking to get involved – last year we even had two musicians from New York who came to play at the Festival. However, while it’s a really fortunate position to be in, the focus is always on promoting local artists.”

In fact, Moira explained that this was the initial inspiration behind Brockley Max:

“One of the things that makes Brockley special – one of the things that many people enjoy about this area – is that is home to such a large artistic community. But before Brockley Max, there was no opportunity for local people to enjoy and celebrate their work in Brockley.

“I went to a meeting of the Brockley Cross Action Group some years back. Everyone was saying that they’d love the chance to celebrate Brockley creativity – so the Max was born.”

So what events is Moira looking forward to most this year?

“Last year, opening night was the biggest night. This year, I expect closing night to be a real highlight. I will start off with events for children during the day, including arts, crafts and songs and then morph in to an event for grown-ups, ending with some beautiful pyrotechnics.

“But my personal favourite will be a show called “Looking Behind” at the Brockley Jack Theatre on June 8th. It’s a celebration of a woman called Sara Baartman, the ‘Hottentot Venus’ who played an important role in the abolition of slavery. There will be spoken word, song and dance. It should be great!

“Last year, the Festival attracted more than 2,500 people, many from outside Brockley. This year, we’ve been supported by a fantastic PR woman, who’s helped us to get wider coverage in advance of this year’s festival. I’m expecting it to be the biggest Max ever."

The first Max consisted of 12 events, centred around Moonbows. Now, it has spilled out in to the streets and parks and is supported by Lewisham Council, in recognition of its status as a jewel in the Borough’s cultural landscape.

So how big does Moira think it can get?

“I believe it will continue to grow. There are more venues in Brockley now than when we started and more people involved, producing a more diverse range of events. In five years’ time, I hope that someone else will be running it! I love doing it of course, but it needs to take on a life of its own. Long-term, it will need fresh ideas and energy.”

For now though, the team behind Brockley Max have ideas and energy by the bucket load.

For more details, visit http://www.brockleymax.co.uk/

Brockley Central will be covering the Max over the coming days.

Tesco comes to Brockley

Be careful what you wish for...

In the early days of Brockley Central, motivated by disdain for Costcutter and inspired by the example of Forest Hill's Sainsbury, we wrote that one of the things Brockley could do with was a proper supermarket.

Well now, Brockley Central's intrepid investigator, John Morgan, reports that Tesco have acquired a site on Lewisham Way.

He says:

"213-223 Lewisham Way is one block on from the Albertine pub (on the left). It's a corner property and used to be a furniture store styled "Mondital". It's been empty for quite a while, and there have been attempts to site a restaurant there, but with some oposition from tenants above. Tesco is to take 80% of the site, leaving the remainder to a worthy entrepeneur. "

On the plus side, this will provide a welcome alternative for many in Brockley to the hapless Costcutter and the pedestrian-unfriendly Sainsbury at New Cross.

It's also far-enough away from Brockley Station that it's unlikely to kill-off the renaissance that the more optimistic amongst us believe is heralded by the development of new local retail units (eg: The Tea Factory).

On the down-side it's Tesco, which for many represents the march of rampant commercialism in to Brockley, which has remained largely untouched (if you don't count Costcutter and Whetherspoons) until now.

It is believed that work will begin on site shortly.

Thanks to John, who now writes a blog of his own:

"Duke of Edinburgh" being redeveloped as apartments

The Duke of Edinburgh pub on Malpas Road is being redeveloped as apartments, primarily aimed at the first-time buyer.

The development is due to be completed later this year - we will bring you the full story in a few weeks' time.

In the mean time, if any readers recollect it being a functioning pub, we'd be interested to hear what it was like.

New community news blog for Deptford

The Seager Distillery, currently being redeveloped

Sometime poster on this site, Knit Nurse, has started a new blog for Deptford, which is handy, because there's a lot going on in Deptford at the moment that will benefit Brockley both directly and indirectly.

For example, Wavelengths Swimming Pool (equidistant with Ladywell for many in Brockley) is being expanded to incorporate a new pool. The Seager Distillery is also being redeveloped as a new set of apartments, which, while doing little for the local community (and is being developed by Galliard, whose name sends a shiver of fear down many architecture-lovers' spines) should improve the walk between Brockley and Greenwich.

Longer-term, Deptford will also be the home to Lewisham's biggest regeneration project, Convoys Wharf, a 16-hectare masterplan by Richard Rogers, which will create approximately 3,500 new homes (while controversially sacrificing some of the working dock).

Hopefully, The Deptford Dame will chronicle these developments for us.

Shopping - nominate the best of Brockley

This is probably a more ambitious challenge than finding the best places to eat in the area.

The high street is still Brockley's achilles heel and the local options are primarily confined to corner shops, places that never appear to be open and others that seem to exist on 'secondary' sources of income.

However, our recent discovery of The Cycle Team - a great bike repair shop in Brockley Cross Business Centre - convinced us that there must be others worth mentioning.

Here's two to start with:

Magi (Gifts) - Coulgate Street

Would deserve a nomination if only for the number of times that it has bailed out a forgetful Brockley Central when we need a card or present for some baby or other at the last minute.

The Cycle Team (Bikes) - Brockley Cross Business Centre

Hidden away behind security gates, once you get inside, the guys who run this place are incredibly helpful (one rode out on a mini-BMX to buzz me out) and knowledgable. Their main source of business is maintaining fleets of bikes for gyms and the police, but, with a day or two's notice, they can fix any bike problem. Please note, they don't actually sell bikes - only bike bits.

There must be others, so please feel free to suggest other recommendations...

Tennis in Brockley (updated)

While a little short of other sports facilities, Brockley is great for tennis.

Hilly Fields and Telegraph Hill both offer well-maintained courts with stunning views of London beneath them.

This might prove to be a self-defeating claim, but, no matter what time of the year you go for a game, there always seems to be one court free. The other courts, meanwhile, are occupied by a satisfyingly eclectic range of players.

One word of advice though - on windy days, avoid Telegraph Hill - it's pretty exposed and firing tennis balls against the wind can soon start to feel like a chore.

- If you are looking for a tennis partner in the area, please post below or email us and we will attempt to play match-maker. We'll need your contact details, the standard you play to (beginner, average, good) and what you're looking for (eg: singles or doubles opponents).

Fire at London Bridge - trains disrupted

Sorry it's been a bit quiet at Brockley Central lately, sometimes work gets in the way...

However, as a public service to those reading this in their office, we're publishing this news from TfL:

Due to a major fire involving gas cylinders at a premises in Blue Anchor Lane in South-East London this morning, all railway lines between New Cross, New Cross Gate and London Bridge have been closed to train services.

This is likely to cause major disruption to mainline and suburban services in and out of London Bridge, London Cannon Street, London Charing Cross and London Waterloo East.

Arrangements are being made to divert as many trains as possible into London Victoria and London Blackfriars stations, and Southeastern ticket holders will be allowed to use all reasonable bus, tube and Docklands Light Railway routes to help complete their journeys.

Tuesday night is quiz night at the Wickham

If you like pub quizzes with a Master of Ceremonies who commands his audience like he's treading the boards at The Globe Theatre, a warm atmosphere and free sandwiches, then make your way to the Wickham Arms on Tuesday nights.

As long as these nights aren't lost when the refurbishment happens (and there's no sign that they will), the Wickham Arms could become the perfect pub.

Gotham comes to South East London

London's eastward development has taken another step forward with the news that work has begun on a 147-metre high tower, which will serve as the dramatic centrepiece for the regeneration of the Elephant & Castle.

Demolition of the existing building on site has begun, paving the way for builders Multiplex to begin construction.

The Elephant & Castle is being transformed through a major construction programme which will create hundreds of new homes and offices. Together with the redevelopment work currently underway at London Bridge station, the scheme will help to reshape South East London and make the overland connection to London Bridge Station even more important.

The missing LINK

This is where the Link website claims the nearest cash machine to Brockley Station can be found (circled in red). We've gone and investigated and have been unable to find it. Even more confusingly, the site gives its address as 383 Brockley Rd (which is the one in Crofton Park that readers have described).

We've contacted LINK to raise this issue and press Brockley Road's case for a free cash machine.

We also hold out the vain hope that if we write the word LINK enough, some keen-eyed soul in the LINK press office will stumble across this site and do something about it...

Some nice pictures of Brockley

For a site which is supposed to celebrate the area, Brockley Central has had a poor photographic track record. While plenty of beaten up cars and derelict spots have been lovingly captured for posterity, the more attractive local sights have been conspicuous by their absence.

This situation became worse recently, when we dropped our camera in the sea.

Fortunately, two residents (Jonathan and Lawrence) have volunteered their photographs, which do a far better job than we ever have of explaining why Brockley's a nice place.

We'll be publishing Lawrence's soon, but for now and for your viewing pleasure, here are some of Jonathan's recent efforts.

Hilly Fields
Hilly Fields again, but this time, with some big stones in it
The view of Canary Wharf from Tyrwhitt Road
Upper Brockley Road (near the Wickham Arms)
Brockley's foremost sporting venue, the Bowling Green
If you have a favourite view that you think would be good for the site, please let us know.

Brockley's Trial of the Century - Day 2: The Shocking Conclusion...

Will have to wait for another day. Yesterday's session failed to bring the hearing to a conclusion and a new date to enable it to continue has yet to be set.

Brockley's Trial of the Century - Day 1

The hearing to consider the application to open a betting shop on Brockley Road began today and is expected to conclude tomorrow.

Local resident, Fiona Schofield, attended today's session along with a number of other residents opposed to the bookies.

The plans by Portland Bookmakers for the site of the old Homeview video shop have met with record levels of opposition - 137 individual letters of complaint were received by the magistrate.

However, according to Fiona, the only basis for rejecting the application was if it could be demonstrated that there was no demand for the service locally. Brockley Central always thought that it was impossible to prove a negative.

As a result, the hopes of residents (including those in Brockley Central Towers) who don't want yet-another bookies clogging up their high street, probably rest with the lawyers of Coral, who will argue that the local market simply doesn't justify the presence of a rival.

Portland's pitch is that they offer an altogether different experience from other bookmakers (and their potential rival, Coral, in particular), with "more sophisticated" punters relaxing in leather seats and enjoying a coffee while indulging in a personalised gambling service. We briefly imagined a cross between Moonbow Jakes and the Groucho with the odd horse race chucked in for good measure - a world away from the depressing, soulless stereotype. That fantasy lasted as long as it took us to download the photo gallery of their existing (Abbey Wood) branch on their website: http://www.portlandbookmakers.co.uk/1230/frames.php

Hats off to them for seeking to put their case directly to residents of Brockley but you'd have to be a pretty keen gambler to spot the difference between that and a normal bookie, in our opinion.

Fortunately for Portland, they were able to produce three such characters, who attended to endorse the proposal. Fiona reports that Portland claimed to have leafletted homes in Ladywell to identify supporters.

We are prepared to believe that there is a qualitative difference between Portland and a.n. other bookie (or gambling at home, online, for that matter) but the fact remains that the target market is a tiny fraction of the local population, which is already pretty well catered for with gambling opportunities. Meanwhile, the fragile rejuvenation of the High Street hangs in the balance.

The hearing will almost certainly conclude tomorrow, so this will likely be an academic exercise, but we would be genuinely interested to hear from any readers who support Portland's plans other than on libertarian grounds.

Upcoming events

Thanks to Moira Tait for the following round-up...

Clean Up:

Lewisham Council and the BCAG are undertaking a clean up at Brockley Station on Tuesday May 15th, 2.30 pm onwards. Please feel free to pass this message on to people - the more support the better. Sam Kirkland from Lewisham Council will be arranging for the fence panel to be removed to allow entry and following the clean up for the rubbish to be taken away. Gloves, bags and litter pickers will be provided but people should wear appropriate footwear and old clothes. Please meet at 2.30pm on the Mantle Road side of Brockley Station, although I'm sure we will be there a little later should people wish to join us then.

Celebration of Creativity Craft Fair

St Peter's Church in Wickham Road on Saturday 19 May 11.00am to 3.00 pm in case anyone wants a table. For more info contact Uli Jaeger on (work) 020-8676 3853 or (mobile) 07930-414 014

Healthy Brockley event

24 June 12-3:30 at Brockley Primary School. If you're interested in having a stall email jill@martinconnell.co.uk

Brockley and the curse of the phantom Co-Op

One of Brockley Central's earliest posts complained about the lack of a free cash machine near to Brockley Station. We believe that, as well as being annoying, it hinders the development of the local economy, because people have less ready cash for impulse purchases in local shops, cafes and bars.

We contacted the industry body responsible for cash machines but received no reply, so our attention drifted to other critical issues, such as soggy newspapers and nature walks.

However, an email from John Morgan reignited the issue for us, when he pointed out that HSBC are currently looking for 200 sites for new cash machines. Fortunately, Brockley Central knows a very nice man at HSBC who agreed to help us by putting Brockley's case to the people in charge.

To their credit, HSBC did agree to analyse Brockley and ran a check on SE4.

Unfortunately, the LINK system which maps coverage of the country told them that Brockley is already served by a free cash machine, thanks to the Co-Op Bank, a mere 250 metres up Brockley Road.

Brockley Central was stunned by this and cursed its stupidity for continuing to slog up to Crofton Park when free money was available on its doorstep. We felt like silly indolent slobs for demanding a new cash machine when a short walk would do the trick. However, we'd never seen the Co-Op and a quick web search didn't turn anything up. Our limited experience of Co-Op supermarkets came in the late 90s, when our local branch still hadn't adopted the use of bar-codes, so perhaps the Co-Op Bank simply hadn't embraced the internet? We rang the Co-Op customer service line - they said the nearest branch was in Lewisham.

Frightened and confused, we sought a second opinion from the one person we could trust:

"What Co-op Bank free machine?" said John Morgan. "The nearest free cashpoint for me is Goldsmith's College."

So, it seems that Brockley is the victim of cruel administrative error, doomed forever to be without a free cash machine unless the LINK system agrees to strike the Co-Op from its map. Meanwhile, the Postal Sorting Office, which seems like an ideal site, remains cashpoint-less.

We have replied to the kind people at HSBC, fallen on their mercy and await their response.

Do YOU know the whereabouts of the phantom Co-Op? Better still, do you know anyone who works for LINK? Please let us know.

The Broca, Coulgate Street

Brockley's newest cafe. the Broca, opened for business this weekend, with a special promotion offering customers any drink or pastry for £1, for the rest of the week.

The Broca is a jolly place, with staff to match, and has made a brave attempt to establish pavement-cafe culture on Coulgate Street - something that won't be easy, given that cars considerably less picturesque than a Morris Minor are generally to be found crowding the street.

The area is already reasonably well-served for coffee shops and the Broca has direct competition for the commuter crowd in the form of the recent arrival that's opened on the southbound platform.

Brockley Central is no coffee afficianado and hasn't tried either place's stuff, but it can vouch for the apple juice served by the Broca. If anyone who cares about their coffee wants to compare the two, please post your views.

Plans for the Wickham Arms revealed

The new management of the Wickham Arms has announced its plans to modernise the pub on Upper Brockley Road. In a message to customers published a few days ago, they described a range of improvements that should significantly improve the pub, which has always had massive potential.

The plans seem to strike the right balance between tradition and modernity that the majority of contributors to this site were asking for and the note even thanks John Morgan for his feedback on behalf of local customers. John has been actively lobbying for change for some time and the comments from readers of this site formed an important part of his case. It is encouraging to see such a positive response from the management and it looks as though we could finally get a pub of real charm in the conservation area.

While we wait for news about when the refurbishment of The Talbot might happen, it's exciting to learn that the Wickham Arms hopes to be complete by Christmas:

Dear Customers

We would like to update you on our future plans for The Wickham Arms.

Our previous manager Tom has recently retired and our son Paul has decided to take over the running of the pub.

We have not personally had any input over the past three years and the pub is now in need of some serious refurbishment works.

We have already had discussions with John, a regular customer from The Brockley Society and other customers who all gave us valuable feed back on things that they would like to see improved or changed.

We have also held meetings with a design team and formulated a plan of action. However, all these proposed works would have to be passed by the Planning and Conservation committee’s of Lewisham Council and will take some time. If they are passed we would like to carry out the following:

• Replace all windows with double glazed clear units thus letting in more natural light and enabling people to see inside
• Create new entrance leading out onto the front patio with an inner lobby
• Brick up existing entrance and create window, thus helping to improve noise levels to No 71
• Brick up existing side entrance door (over delivery trap)
• Open up original side (arched) door
• Remove existing bar and re-site new bar along back wall between ladies toilets thus freeing up a larger trading area
• Refurbish ladies toilets allowing for No2 cubicles
• Ventilate gent’s toilets
• Take up existing carpets and replace with natural wood flooring to complete internal area
• Complete replacement of all internal furniture and furnishings
• Non smoking comes into effect on July 1st and we will also need to keep windows and doors closed by 11pm therefore we will be installing air conditioning units. Provisional installation date is 2/6/07
• Front patio and fence to be replaced
• New Wickham Arms sign to front of pub
• Complete redecoration to interior and exterior of the pub
• Install a catering kitchen
• Numerous other works to be carried out in conjunction with the main works

As you can see from our commitment of approximately £180,000.00 it is our intention to bring the pub into the 21st century and more in tune with the local area, while at the same time preserving the traditional feel and ambience of the old Wickham Arms and creating a warm and welcoming environment for all. We have already had a good spring clean, freshened up the upholstery and repainted the toilets and pool room. This is an interim measure until the works are completed and hopefully will show our commitment to improving the pub in all areas.

Our works programme is due to commence late September and be completed in time for Christmas. Drawings will hopefully be available by the 30th May and we will pin these up so customers can mull them over at their leisure.

If anyone has any constructive comments then please do not hesitate to contact either myself or Paul at the Wickham. We will be creating a website in the near future to keep everyone updated.

Kind regardsTed & Paul O’Hara

P.S Smiling barmaids are top of our agenda!

The message appeared originally on Beerintheevening.com


Brockley Max line-up announced

1-9 June 2007

This year’s Brockley Max festival is set to be the biggest ever, with music, film, theatre and poetry events throughout the first week of June, along with art workshops and exhibitions, plus the ever-popular children’s day “Art in the Park” event on 9 June. The festival is a community event, run by local residents on a non-profit basis. Most of the events are free. The programme is so detailed that the festival website http://www.brockleymax.co.uk/ is the best place to see the full listings.

Brockley Max kicks off on June 1st with live music next to the station, in front of the mural. Many of Brockley's leading venues will be hosting events, including the Brockley Jack theatre, Moonbow Jakes, Toads Mouth Too, The Wickham Arms and Cafe Neu. The festival also includes "Open Studios", in which many of Brockley's leading artists throw open their doors to the public, to show off their work. Brockley Central feels a particular duty to promote this part of the festival, since it depleted the Open Festival programme by one, by moving in to the house of one of last year's exhibtors.

Moira Tait, founder and organiser says: “The festival is now in its fifth year and has become an established part of the local community. It’s a great opportunity for people to experience the wealth of talent and creativity of this part of south east London.”

The key to the [small part of the] city

The Brockley Central Interview

For some time, Brockley Central has been curious about the giant key that appears to stick out of the side of a house as you walk along Brockley Road from the station. It’s one of a handful of oddities in Brockley, which includes the Hilly Fields Stone Circle and that mysterious baroque house opposite Tyrwhitt Road.

Then, we found out that the key was part of a wider South East London public art project, and determined to find out more.

"It's actually a trompe l'oeil - a 2d image that's stretched so that, when you look at it from certain angles, it appears to be a 3d object,“ says its creator, Patricio Forrester. “The technique is called anamorphosis and the key is just a flat print on the wall."

Patricio's company, Artmongers, began the creation of a South East London Circuit of Public Art three years ago and are the team behind the famous wheelie bin / cow hybrids that populate the streets of New Cross.

The concept first began when Patricio attended a Brockley Cross Action Group meeting and became excited by the idea of doing something locally. It eventually came to fruition when funding was provided by the Brockley Max festival. But he admits that he had to suffer for Brockley’s art:

"The whole process was pretty protracted. Despite the support and enthusiasm of many for the project, it took about four years for it to happen - even though the production only took us about a week."

Eventually, they found a wall next to Toad's Mouth Too and the project got the go-ahead.

"The key resembles a B for Brockley. We wanted to create a local landmark."

When we tell him that our son is convinced that a giant mechanical robot lives in the house, with only his wind-up key poking through the walls, he seems delighted:

"That's exactly the kind of reaction we were hoping for. Something that makes you wonder. The key is a giant visual question mark - what is it there for?"

"We wanted to do something minimalist and conceptual, in contrast to the nearby mural, which is very vivid and colourful."

There’s no doubt that Artmonger’s projects have brought a little more joy to the streets of South East London and we asked Patricio what’s next:

"We're just finishing a project called 'Fabric of Society', which will be an image of a curtain made from a patchwork of the fabrics that have meant most to the local people who've contributed. We're planning an unveiling event in the summer, with a picnic at Telegraph Hill.”

Patricio is enthusiastic about the new opportunities for art that are planned for Brockley.

"I think art's place is in the street, but of course, I'd welcome a local gallery [planned for the Tea Factory development at Brockley Cross]. And of course, the Brockley Open House arts event is a great institution.”

He's also impressed with the progress that the Brockley Cross Action Group have made in rejuvenating Brockley Common.

"I've watched the changes that have taken place and I think it's impressive. Their plans for a public art commission for the common is a really nice idea.

"I live between Nunhead and Telegraph Hill and moved to the area when I came to Goldsmiths.

“While I was there, people told me that, as an artist, I would have to central London to make a life, but I wanted to stay in the area - it has so much space, so much potential. That's probably the best thing about living here."