Brockley Open Studios

June in Brockley comes to a close with the Brockley Open Studios weekend.

Brockley Open Studios was founded in 1992 by a group of local artists in conjunction with the biannual East London Open Studios event organised by the Whitechapel Gallery. The London wide publicity that came with the Whitechapel link in the early years helped to establish the Brockley event. In 1998, the Gallery withdrew, but Brockley carried on regardless.

Open Studios is unconnected to Brockley Max, but the two events share a common purpose - to showcase the wealth of local creative talent and provide a focus for the artistic community which flourishes here.

This year, more than 39 artists in 30 home studios scattered across the Conservation Area will throw open their doors to the public between Saturday and Monday. Neighbours, regulars and newcomers are all welcome to meet the artists and view their work. Admission is free and many of the works are for sale.

Among the highlights this year is an opportunity to see the mural at Prendegast School - not normally accessible to the public. Ruth de Monchaux has served as coordinator for the event since 1994 and is assisted by Biddy Bunzl.

For full details of the event, including a map of the studios and examples of the artists' work, please visit the website

Morris Dance Fever

Having added Christians to the list of minority groups we have provoked (together with Plumsteaders) we are not about to pass comment on this lot, other to let everyone know that they're on their way to Brockley...

The Blackheath Morris Men are touring Brockley tonight, with a whirlwind trip to The Talbot and the Wickham Arms. Intriguingly, they promise a night of "pork chops, cauliflower and mashed potato" - we're not sure if this is a metaphor for something.

Brown era could herald go-ahead for Thameslink

Gordon Brown's accession is strongly rumoured to mean that the long-awaited Thameslink project could finally be given the funding it needs for work to begin.

With London's over-worked transport infrastructure now threatening to limit economic growth in the city, it is believed that both Crossrail and Thameslink could get the go-ahead as part of a raft of "good news" announcements at the start of his premiership.

While most attention has been focused on the Crossrail project, Thameslink is arguably just as important and will lead to major benefits for Brockley commuters.

At a comparatively modest cost of £3 billion, the Thameslink extension would involve upgrading the current Thameslink route, reducing the bottlenecks that restrict the number of trains that can travel along the south-north route through London Bridge and Kings Cross.

For Brockley residents, this means that the crumbling London Bridge station would be rebuilt (see the image above) providing better facilities and pedestrian access. More importantly, 3 more platforms would be converted to allow a dramatic increase in "through" services to the north and a reduction in those infuriating occasions when trains hang around outside London Bridge during rush hour for no apparent reason. A new bus station will also replace the grotty overhang that currently serves as an interchange.

Planning permission was granted last year. The scheme was originally known as Thameslink 2000 - the year originally envisaged for completion.

New development planned for Mantle Road

The Bridge House at Number 4 Mantle Road is the subject of a planning application that would create 34 new apartments at Brockley Cross.

Brockley Cross Action Group news reports that:

"The scheme for London and Quadrant Housing Group and designed by architects, MDR Associates consists of commercial premises to the ground floor with 34 apartments, consisting of, 1, 2 and 3 bedrooms to the upper floors within a 5 storey building. The scheme has evolved through consultations with the London Borough of Lewisham over a two year period and has now reached the stage of a planning application. the current programme is for a start on site around the end of this year with a completion in 2009."

The development would neighbour the Tea Factory and this building, which despite our early optimism, currently looks like a badly assembled Airfix model of a battleship.

Lewisham Council have confirmed that Bridge House represents one of the largest development opportunities in the area (there are 14 key sites in Brockley, but they are mostly small-scale). The scale of the development means that the developers will have to commit to include affordable housing, while the Brockley Cross Action Group are hoping that a condition for planning approval will be a contribution towards the Brockley Common project, as part of a Section 106 agreement.

A contribution could make good make business sense too, as the Brockley Common project will hugely enhance Brockley Cross and could add value to the planned apartments.

Thinly disguised church recruitment exercise on Sunday!

This weekend will be a Brockley double-header, with the Hilly Fields Summer Fayre on Saturday followed by the the "Healthy Brockley" event on Sunday.

The leaflet to promote the day features a big picture of a juicy red pepper - no doubt locally sourced. Who could possibly object to any event that encourages people to eat more vegetables?

While the objective of helping people try to live healthier lives is laudable, the event is driven by the Brockley Community Church, which means that dance classes and dietary advice sit alongside "Healing Sessions" as the path to a healthier and happier life.

Brockley Central doesn't want to be a grumpy, atheist party pooper, but it wishes that Church and State (it's taking place at Brockley Primary School and Green Council members will be taking part) and science and faith could be kept a little more separate. It's also possible that the thought of being set-upon by recruiters for the church might put some people off attending.

There's still time for a Gherkin

This article about the Lewisham Gateway scheme generated quite a lot of reaction, most of it cautiously welcoming of the masterplan that's being developed.

One of the main reservations expressed, however, was that the architecture was bland and uninspiring and that this represented a missed opportunity to create something genuinely distinctive, such as Future Systems' Selfridges store, which has been so successful in the redevelopment of Birmingham's city centre.

Arguably, Lewisham lacks a distinctive public face - it boasts few icons or landmarks, particularly in comparison to neighbouring Greenwich and Southwark. The existing masterplan looked as though it would do little to change this.

However, following the article's publication, Brockley Central was contacted by the developers of the scheme to point out that:

"Our current application is in 'outline' and none of the buildings has been designed yet. All the images that we show are indicative and are just intended to give an impression. We will be commissioning a range of architects to design the individual buildings and, through their skills, our objective is for Lewisham Gateway to be architecturally fantastic!"

So there is still time for a design of genuine quality, that reflects the character of the local area and delivers the iconic status that many local people seem to want.

Buildings designed with the sole purpose of being icons usually fail, but the best designs, such as Foster's Gherkin or Future Systems' Selfridges, combine form and function to create something that enhances the urban landscape. Hopefully, the developers and the Council will remain true to this ambition and follow the precedent set in Lewisham by the Laban Centre. If we get another Lewisham Police Station, it will be a disaster.

It's also worth bearing in mind that the website for campaign against the scheme relies heavily on the existing images of the scheme, presumably in the belief that the images will shock some residents. Since these images are unrepresentative of the final scheme, we hope that the campaign will acknowledge that properly.

Brockley Central: LIVE

According to Google, there are 200 of you who have visited the site 1o times or more in the last week - a population that can't consist entirely of angry Plumsteaders, eager White Stripes fans and Brockley Central's family. In fact, we're pretty sure our family hears quite enough from us already and doesn't feel the need to bother with a website.

So that means it might be the right time to organise a Brockley Central get-together for a few regular readers, which was originally suggested, here

But, just to be doubly-sure, we have already roped-in four of Brockley Central's most prolific contributors, who've all promised to come along.

We've chosen a date of July 19th but there's no particular plan for the evening, other than to put some names to faces and have a drink and a chat. We will probably try and discuss the future of the site for at least five minutes.

This might be laughably optimistic, but, on the offchance that we get too many responses, we might have to limit numbers to the first people to reply.

If you'd be interested in coming along, please email us at the address on the side. We'll decide on a venue later on.

Brockley to the West End by bike - alternative route

A couple of months ago, we posted this route from Brockley to Soho. But over recent weeks we've decided we prefer this route, via Southwark Park and London Bridge.
  • Direct (ie: shorter)
  • Lots of bus lanes to insulate you from the traffic
  • Southwark Park is lovely
  • The stretch through Millwall and Surrey Quays ain't pretty
  • The return journey of course involves a steep climb over Telegraph Hill, just at the end

The Tea Factory update

The steelwork for the distinctive box structure that will jut-out from the Tea Factory building at Brockley Cross is now complete.

Despite some concerns that the structure would loom over the pavement and make the already-cramped walkway feel more claustrophobic, the overhang is actually relatively modest and shouldn't be too imposing.

The Tea Factory website is now up-and-running and promises that work will be completed by Spring 2008.

Lewisham Council have confirmed that a gallery will be created as part of the development. While they have not yet determined who will run the gallery, it is most likely that a partner will be sought from the local community, through the "Creative Lewisham" agency.

Farmers Markets

There are two local Farmers Markets (Hilly Fields and Telegraph Hill) and Brockley Central has been waiting until it had the chance to visit both before writing about them.

As it turns out, we needn't have bothered, since they are, essentially, the same thing on different weekends.

Hilly Fields farmers market takes place on the second Saturday of every month, while Telegraph Hill is every third Saturday. The stalls are run by the same people with the only noticeable difference being that Telegraph Hill boasts a pie stall and Hilly Fields sometimes features a Moroccan stall. Telegraph Hill seems to be slightly better attended and also has a number of other stalls bolted on, including second-hand books.

So, what can you buy there? The range is fairly limited, dominated by cheese, bread, juices, pastries, coffee and vegetables. The quality is good but, like most London farmers markets, it can be pricey. The Polish Rye bread, for example, is delicious (there can never be enough rye bread in the world, as far as we're concerned) but costs about £2.50.

In total, there are only about 10 food stalls and there is plenty of room for growth at the Hilly Fields site in particular, although numbers of customers are still fairly low.

Borough Market is, of course, easily accessible from Brockley and is on a completely different scale but the local options are worth exploring if you haven't already.

Brockley Max in pictures

Moira Tait has sent through some pictures which capture the diversity of the Brockley Max Festival. Here are some of our favourites.

Opening night, by the Brockley Barge...

Audio Aubergine...
Children's Day at Hilly Fields...

Closing night at Hilly Fields...

Hilly Fields Midsummer Fayre details

The Brockley Society website has details of this year's Midsummer Fayre at Hilly Fields, on June 23rd.

Sandwiched between Brockley Max and Brockley Open Studios (about which, more shortly), it is a key part of the Brockley summer calendar.

The entertainment's primarily aimed at children and the event runs between 12pm and 5pm.

The White Stripes: a review

For Brockley Central, the sound of the White Stripes' Brockley gig is the sound of several different kinds of engaged tone, followed by ringing off the hook.

But another blogger did manage to get through on the ticket line and here's what they thought of the gig and the venue.

And these too:

The Rivoli Review
Brockley Earns Its Stripes
The White Stuff

Brockley tennis update

Between the posts on the site and emails we received in response to this article about tennis in Brockley, we now have enough players to form a doubles match. We're going to start a circular email to try and co-ordinate a few games.

If you'd like to be on that email, please post your details or email us directly, to let us know. Wimbledon is nearly upon us...

Lewisham Gateway

Brockley Central received a request to highlight a campaign against the long-awaited Lewisham Gateway scheme - which would lead to the replacement of the main roundabout in Lewisham centre with an h-shaped road system that would free up land for new homes, retail units and offices.

The documentation put together to criticise the plans is certainly comprehensive - the objection runs to 45 pages.

They're concerned that the development will ruin the unique charm of Lewisham Roundabout, reduce the green spaces in which locals reguarly frolic (in preference to neighbouring Blackheath, presumably), impair the unspoiled views of Citibank tower from Hilly Fields and replace the good-as-gold, local, wealth-creating shopkeepers with evil chain stores, who will suck money out of the prosperous streets of Lewisham.

Some of their criticisms of the scheme are valid, of course - better cycle access would be good, the failure to do more with the rivers is a missed opportunity and more affordable housing would be desirable - it's the job of the Council to squeeze the best deal possible from the developers and we hope it does. The developers' website is poor and by releasing only massings of what the new buildings will look like from strategic views (ie: just outlines of the buildings, not realistic pictures) they do nothing to allay the fears of those for whom tall automatically means bad.

Some of the campaigners' criticisms are silly. They claim that there is a "net loss of green space" as a result of this development, but gloss over the fact that the quality of the 'green space' currently on offer is very poor and that the development will create more public space, even if it isn't technically "green". They describe the architecture as though 'high-rise' and 'glass and steel' were innately pejorative terms.

Some of their criticisms are just plain wrong, such as the claim that the development will lead to increased demand for public transport with no increase in supply. This ignores the fact that capacity on the DLR service from Lewisham to Bank will be expanded by 50% with the introduction of 3 car trains by 2009.

Most of their criticism stems from the idea that many of the claims made for Lewisham Gateway are "unproven". The traffic system will cope: "unproven". The development will bring regeneration and employment to the area: "unproven". Improvements to the high street: "a speculative, nebulous and subjective concept."

We find this attitude pretty depressing. It's the nature of all such developments that many aspects remain unproven until they are built. What's required is conviction, money, an element of risk-taking and vision.

So what's their alternative vision?

"An approach that would assert Lewisham's uniqueness, emphasise Lewisham's hills and valleys, its green spaces, its views, its historical buildings and its market and independent shops."

Blimey, sounds great! Just to remind you what that looks like, you can see it here - the greenery under threat is the stuff north of the river channel in the middle of the photo. And of the course, the unusual circular park in the top right, which contributes so much to the area's unique character.

Their vision glosses over the fact that a vibrant streetscape is compatible with new development (all those new people might inject some new life in to Lewisham, maybe?), historical buildings are not under threat. It also ignores the question of who would pay for their scheme.

In fact, though vague, their alternative plan boils down to something much more mundane:

"We believe that a cheaper scheme could improve the roundabout without blighting the area in such a permanent way."

In other words, do nothing that might disturb the traffic flow or bring more people in to the area. The vast majority of the objection seems pre-occupied with traffic flow, which jars somewhat with the new eden they envisage earlier in the document. The argument against the new road layout, reminds us of the opposition to the pedestrianisation of Trafalgar Square a few years ago - and look how badly that turned out.

It's great to hold developers and the Council to account, which is why we're happy to link to the campaign. Brockley Central was set up to celebrate community action and we believe it can be an incredible force for change. But too often, it's used as a means for reinforcing the status quo, even when the status quo is Lewisham roundabout.

Click here for the campaign website.

Anyway, that completes our axis-of-evil series of articles in which we've failed to condemn Tesco, Lewisham Council or property developers. We plan to write about something less controversial next time. Tennis, anyone?

Services - nominate the best of Brockley

The suggestions for places to eat and places to shop have been fantastic - so we thought we'd try and create a triumvirate, by asking for nominations for good tradespeople and services operating in Brockley. Our experience in this area is limited, so it's entirely down to you to nominate your favourites.

The Movethat forum for Brockley contains some suggestions, but they tend to disappear after a while, so it would be good to have a more permanent online resource.

Brockley Central's only contribution to this is to say that the launderette next to Costcutter on Brockley Road is good, but if you should be served by the lady with glasses who works there most days, be prepared to have the spring taken from your step as she tells you just what a bad day she's been having.

In the interests of full disclosure - we are currently trying to find a decorator to upgrade Brockley Central HQ, so this is not an entirely altruistic exercise.

The Brockley booby prize for customer service goes to...


Brazil's most famous department store is Daslu, which offers an extravagantly luxurious shopping experience, including women-only sections, in which customers are free to wander the aisles in their underwear, to avoid the inconvenience of changing rooms.

At the other end of the spectrum is Duke, the Brockley Cross store which redefines the word 'convenience'.

On the outside it looks like an office stationary shop but on the inside... well, it's impossible to get inside.

Duke is the survivalist's dream store, pegging customers behind an impenetrable metal grille and hoarding chocolate and cuppa soups beyond their reach - if the zombie apocalypse strikes Brockley, you know where to go (although of course, the guy in Duke wouldn't let you in).

Obviously, we appreciate that it's a late-night-only shop, which caters for a pre- and post-munchies crowd, but other late night shops somehow manage to survive without barring their customers from seeing half the things they have to sell. Pull back the bars Duke - let the love in.

Franks may as well be a hole in the wall

The White Stripes read the Evening Standard

Clearly encouraged by the imminent arrival of the East London Line, the White Stripes are playing a one-off gig at the Rivoli Ballroom on Tuesday, according to this.

Bit late for Brockley Max and no word whether the Cosmic Sausages will be the support act.

Wicked Whispers - Brockley edition

Which camp Canadian radio personality was recently spotted walking around Brockley?
You see what we mean? It could only be Richard Newman or David 'Kid' Jensen.

Help needed!

Brockley Celebdaq

A glance down the list of famous people from Brockley on Wikipedia tells a story of faded glories.

Kate Bush, Lilly Langtry, Emily Davidson and Shaun Wright-Phillips have all been resident in Brockley in the past. Today's collection is a pale imitation. Yes, we know about David Haig (actor) and Nick Nicely (musician), but for a long time we have hankered for a real celeb - you know, someone who's been on a reality tv show.

Meanwhile, those lucky so-and-so's in Forest Hill, mock us from upon high by rubbing our noses in Linda Barker.

So imagine our delight on discovering a bona fide A-lister in our midst - Richard Newman, the self-styled 'sexual terrorist' from Big Brother 7.

The outspoken Gaydar DJ chose no-lesser platform than the Bexley Times to declare that this year's housemates are nowhere near as fascinating as he was:

"No one in there makes me laugh... I just think - did you not watch previous series? It's not grabbing me."

This find prompts us to ask whether there are any other members of the glitterati lurking locally. We're pretty sure we once saw a former school mate recently at Brockley Station, who became famous as the 'Dancing Geek at the Bar' from the Lynx ads a few years ago. So that's a possible two.

We need to expand the celebrity gene pool, otherwise it would make a Brockley Central 'Wicked Whispers' column rather easy to decipher.

Do you know any other locals with a claim to fame? Please share.

Don’t save Ladywell Pool!

We’re anticipating that this may not be a very popular position…

As the Save Ladywell Pool campaigners admit, their bid to stop the Council shutting the pool before a replacement has been built has now been won. It’s our understanding that that in no circumstances will the Council shut Ladywell until an alternative at Loampit Vale (next to Lewisham Station) has been built. Great.

The original aims of the campaign were very sensible. Lewisham is already poorly served with community pools, compared with, for example, Greenwich. With Forest Hill closed until an unspecified point in the future and Wavelengths undergoing major works, closing the pool for a period of several years would have been a travesty.

However, that argument having been won, the campaigners have branched out…

"Unfortunately the Council has now come public with the plan for the Leisure Centre that is supposed to replace Ladywell Pool in a few years time and this plan is unacceptably poor.
We are now fighting for a decent centre to replace Ladywell Pool. With the current offer we are better off with Ladywell."

Maddeningly, though, they don’t specify what their objections are, and the website is so dense with links and information, that, it's impossible to actually find anything - if greater detail of their concerns is provided, we’ve not found it.

What we do know is that what the Council is promising is as follows:

The proposals for Loampit Vale are to provide a new:

8 lane 25 metre competition pool
20 metre teaching pool with moveable floor
Dance, exercise and aerobics studio
100 station fitness suite
Health spa

Brockley Central has nothing against Ladywell Pool, but neither does it hold it in much affection – our childhood memories having been scarred by trips there to compete for our swimming club and generally being on the losing side.

The centre itself seemed pretty shabby 25 years ago and time has been even less kind to it than it has to our speedo-physique. The pool is still impressive but as a whole it doesn’t meet modern standards and doesn’t offer the kind of multi-sport, mixed-use experience which is widely recognised as being the key to successful community leisure centres. In short, it’s a bit grim.

Of course, Ladywell has its regular users who enjoy it, but the most powerful argument on the side of the campaigners has always been that Lewisham should seek to widen community sport participation. That being the case, then sentiment has to make way for progress and we have to build a centre that will appeal to young people and the wider public who don’t fancy a trip to Ladywell’s dank changing rooms.

The Council presents a convincing case that refurbishment of Ladywell is not economically efficient over the long-term. It seems that energy would be better spent They also make the very sensible point that Loampit Vale is far-more accessible for the majority of Lewisham people:

“Although the transport links at Ladywell are good, those at Loampit Vale are much better providing a variety of choice. There are 9 bus routes (2 at night) to Ladywell compared to 25 (4 at night) to Lewisham town centre. 10 trains a hour stop at Ladywell at peak compared to 25 at Lewisham. In addition the DLR terminates at Lewisham with at peak 20 trains an hour. The site is also on the Waterlink Way providing good access for walkers and cyclists.”

Given these arguments, the planned facilities already represent an improvement on Ladywell. To say that Ladywell should stay open in preference to what’s on offer, sounds wrong. although of course, it would be great if a way could be found to include diving or squash facilities at Loampit Vale, for example.

We’d welcome a contribution from a campaigner against the Loampit Vale scheme, to better-understand their current objections.

A consultation period is currently under way.

Brockley Max highlights: open thread

They say if you can remember the Max, you weren't really there...

This thread is for people to share their favourite moments from the 2007 festival - reviews and anecdotes welcome.