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…