You'll probably know 172 best as a repdigit in base 6, but 172 is also a bus, and a very handy way of getting home from New Cross if the trains to Brockley are in trouble.

Combined with the the 171, it offers a pretty reliable service in our experience.

But local resident Paul Bell is less impressed and has launched a "Better 172 Now" campaign, highlighting problems ranging from an ageing fleet to surly drivers.

He says:

“After a long day working and a commute home of over an hour, the last thing you want is to be thrown off the bus half way between your destination, because the doors won’t work or the someone in an office decides the bus is running late and will look bad on their reported punctuality figures. They can get away with this poor service because we the customer says nothing.”

Visit his site now to find out more.

Love Your Local

At Brockley Central, we try to keep business and blogging separate. We may spend more time than is strictly advisable from a career development point of view blogging at work and infuriating our colleagues with lengthy diatribes about why everyone should move to South East London but we try to keep our clients off this blog.

However, in this case, it's highly relevant.

Lately, our colleagues on the Stella Artois account have been putting the rest of us to shame. From launching airships to 4% beers, they've been busy. Now, they're helping to save London's pub culture:

Stella Artois is proud to announce the launch of its exciting new community awards scheme, ‘Love Your Local’. The competition, which is being spearheaded by Jason Flemyng aims to celebrate the role that pubs play in being a key part of their local communities and supporting responsible drinking.

The competition will run throughout London for the next three months. Pub goers will get the chance to nominate their favourite London pubs for the new Stella Artois award of “London’s Best Loved Local” The competition will celebrate the role pubs play in their local communities.
Jason Flemyng, actor and London landlord, says, “Love Your Local is a really positive campaign for pubs and communities which can demonstrate how pubs reach out to their customers and play an important role in promoting responsible drinking. I am excited to be part of this celebration of ‘the local,’ and keeping it where it belongs, in the heart of a community.

Stuart MacFarlane, President of InBev UK that produces Stella Artois, says: “Stella Artois is proud to support this major new award for London pubs. The competition will recognize and reward pubs that are the lynchpins of their local communities, offer a welcoming atmosphere for their customers to relax in and socialize and of course support responsible drinking.”

The prize is worth winning - as well as some guaranteed exposure in the Evening Standard the winning pub will get some money for venue improvements and a lovely plaque to put on their wall.


Now, given our connection to this promotion, we can't suggest which pubs readers might like to nominate, but it seems to us that there are some obvious candidates around here. Despite the dramatic loss of pubs in Lewisham, there are still places that have gone out of their way to work with local people to create great community pubs. And one or two that haven't.

It takes a couple of minutes to nominate a pub and it would be great to see some support for our best locals.

Speedicars sign: End of Days

The Speedicars sign is terminated. Cllr Alexander has confirmed that Speedicars have agreed to take it down within two weeks and replace it with something better. Which goes to show what can be achieved with the application of a little Red Heat from local people.

The old sign represented a Raw Deal for the local streetscape and we can now expect a Junior version, hopefully at relatively little cost to the business.

Thanks to the Council for taking action and we hope that the resulting sign will be a big improvement.

Oscars, Ladywell Road

A new cafe called "Oscars" on Ladywell Road has just opened. The website is still under construction, but in-between the Lorem Ipsum you can find some work-in-progress photos, which give an idea of what the cafe now looks like. Here's a shot of the garden - stray ladders indicating that the photo dates back to when it was a building site.

The BC review will follow soon, but please post your comments and reviews here. BC reader Pete says:

"I went with my wife on Saturday and it was really nice. They do a good range of sandwiches, quiches and pastries whilst also having some very nice looking ice creams."

Which is a good start.

Brockley Christmas Market will be back

One tidbit we learned on our walkabout is that, following the success of the 2007 Christmas Market on Coulgate Street, the Council and Brockley Cross Action Group have confirmed that it will be repeated this December.

It was a lovely little event last year and, with more shops open in the area this time, we can hope that it will get even more support from local traders - as well as the other community groups that took part last year.

Wednesday deadline for White Hart Stripclub application

As reported in the South London Press the landlord of the White Hart "Hotel" in New Cross has lodged an application with the Council in the hope that he will be allowed to introduce strippers to turn around the pub's ailing fortunes.

The matter will go before Lewisham Council's Licensing Committee on August 14th and the deadline to register your views with Lewisham Licensing (licensing@lewisham.gov.uk) is tomorrow.

Hilly Fields Summer Sport for Kids

Throughout the summer school holiday, Hilly Fields is playing host to a range of sports classes for young children, run by Lewisham Council.

From July 28th to August 22nd, every weekday, there will be free fun sport and games activities for under-5s.

Head to the playground between 11am and 4pm to get involved.

Or visit www.teachsport.org for more details.

Atomised: Lewisham Crime Figures Released

The latest recorded crime figures for Lewisham have been released and an easy-to-use crime map of Lewisham is available here. The map allows a comparison of reported crime figures between the last 12 months and the previous 12 months.

Looking across incidences of crimes against the person or personal property, the four wards primarily covered by Brockley Central - Brockley, Ladywell, Telegraph Hill and Crofton Park the key headlines appear to be:

  1. Overall, crime in these wards has reduced
  2. The main exception is violent crime, which has risen in every ward
  3. Criminals seem to have deserted Crofton Park en-masse. It has seen dramatic reductions in burglary, robbery, sexual offences, theft and criminal damage. Only a small rise of 0.6% in recorded cases of violent crime blotted its copy book
  4. Brockley ward performed least well, managing a reduction in burglary and robbery, but increases in criminal damage, theft, violence and sexual offences
  5. Theft in Ladywell rose by 8.5%, compared with falls in Crofton Park and Telegraph Hill and a rise of 2.5% in Brockley
  6. Telegraph Hill registered the biggest fall in sexual offences, 34.4%

Drug offences rose by more than 50% across the Borough and 102.9% in Crofton Park in particular. Brockley registered a comparatively small 3.3%.

With thanks to Andrew Brown.


We'll hopefully get around to writing-up the Brockley Cross Walkabout with Cllr Alexander shortly, but the tour did throw up one little piece of information, relevant to this story about changes to Brockley Station.

Once the changes come in to effect, access via Platform 2 will normally be closed, forcing people through the gates in the statiom. This much we knew. But one bit of good news is that the gate will be open between 3pm and 8pm, with a member of staff present to check tickets.

At other times, direct access to platform 2 for wheelchairs and pushchairs will be possible via an intercom, though it seems doubtful this system will work well during busy times.

Are we hot or not?

What's the average totty rating of the denizens of Brockley? BC's observations suggest there are clear hotspots for booty-bagging - but there are also definite no-go zones.

For starters, any shop selling fried food is definitely out of bounds. The best date you'll get here is a can of cider on a park bench.

Speaking of the park, that's got to be our top tip. Hilly Fields is positively bursting with talent on a sunny summer evening, albeit often of the sweaty and wheezing kind (aka joggers). BC's experiments haven't yet discovered a foolproof way of breaking the ice, though we can reveal that tripping up the object of your affection definitely doesn't work.

Most local pubs are fairly low in the likelihood stakes, with the honourable exception of Jam Circus, the headquarters of Brockley's beautiful people. Hopefully the re-vamped Talbot (if it ever happens) will also become a totty-farm.

The delis are both worth a try, although hang around for too long here and you'll find your expanding waistline may put off potential candidates.

The station can be a good chance to get up close and personal with someone tasty as you cram onto those overcrowded trains - thanks, Southern! - but do you really look your best first thing in the morning?

And yes, we do have an ulterior motive - BrockleyCentral (or at least those sections of it which are single) thought it was about time we used the blog for a shameless date-search. All offers to the usual email address, please.

Pet Cemetery

A nascent discussion is taking place on another thread about this, so we've decided it's time to get round to covering the mutt-free mortuary debate that's been threatening to cross over in to our world for some time.

Regular correspondent Barry LS copied us on his recent letter to the Mercury:

Whilst applauding the work of FOBLC, as a local resident and dog owner I feel the organisation is being rather selfish in hording a huge area of land at Brockley and Ladywell Cemeteries for its own pleasure.

The Brockley and Ladywell Cemeteries dominate the Crofton Park area, and whilst it is a valuable addition to the local landscape, I feel it is only fair to make this available to other people in the community.

One thing is for sure - the cemeteries truly are deserted most of the time, even with the occasional dogwalker it should still be able to support wildlife.

Dogwalkers are often undervalued as the eyes and ears of the community, and they prize the environment just as much as anyone else. Lets's share the green spaces in our city for everyone's enjoyment.

But it’s not just dogs under threat – the long-tailed tits are also in trouble… Barry's email followed another letter that we received, from Lou, which took issue with another aspect of the FOBLC's work, namely its attempts to tidy up. We include the most relevant section here:

The combined ‘Brockley and Ladywell Cemetery has been an oasis of calm, a place of richly divergent habitats for species and one of the last few important wild areas in Lewisham. It is a place to watch the seasons – the flaming of blackthorn in the autumn, the brilliant red of rosehips and haws, the purples and blacks of blackberries and elderberries, lime blossoms in June, red clover and acorns. The cemetery is home to wolf spiders, cantharidae beetles, lacewings, lesser spotted wood butterflies and commas. Jays nest there, and crows and green finches, as well as long tailed tits.

On the 17th Feb, whilst walking in the cemetery I came across a group of men from FOBLC ( the Friends of Brockley and Ladywell Cemetery). They were cutting down or splintering off young trees.Since about September last year I had seen attempts to tidy the cemetery particularly on the wilder Brockley side by removing brambles, ivy, clover and saplings from the tombstones. Additionally, the old Victorian weathered signs at the Brockley road side of the cemetery gates, which referred to the cemetery as being Deptford have been removed, eradicating a bit of seminal, but probably too ‘untidy’ history.

I argued with them about what they were doing - the cemetery is Borough grade 1 listed as a habitat for wildlife and is listed on Wild Web as a cemetery coming to the end of its working life. It became apparent to me that they did not know a) what species they were destroying b) there was no plan for the destruction c) they had also been removing ground cover and ivy from the tombstones regardless of their age or state of preservation.

I contacted Cllr Sue Luxton, the local Green councillor and in the course of email correspondance she admitted that this group has been working with cemeteries management and that they have been removing trees in a Borough grade 1 conservation area without planning permission. The cemetery is listed under its Borough grade 1 status as :

Acid grassland ; Amenity grassland ; Planted shrubbery ; Scattered trees ; Semi-improved neutral grassland ; Vegetated wall/tombstones –

However, whilst we were in correspondence the destruction has continued – 2 weeks later I went back to the cemetery. Nearly 50% of the tombstones on the Brockley side have been denuded of any vegetation (destroying many beetle, bird, spider and other habitats) and the grass has been shorn within an inch of its life. If this continues, the Brockley side will only be bare gray tombstones and very short grass with a few really big trees (but no young ones.)This includes denuding tombstones that are so old there is no inscription on them.

There’s no doubt that the FOBLC are passionate about their work – it’s hard to imagine someone joining a cemetery fan club for any other reason. It’s also true that they have actively tried to to involve more local people in their hobby and the FOBLC website documents their work in brilliant detail. We also know that FOBLC members are regular readers of Brockley Central, so hopefully they will respond to the issues raised.

Barrio, Brockley Road

(Formerly Cafe Blanca)

BC review to follow, please post your comments and reviews here.

Accelerated timetable for ELL 2

This is Local London reports today that the plans to extend the East London Line to Clapham Junction could happen quicker than the most optimistic projections:

Clapham Junction could be on the Tube in time for the London Olympics and save taxpayers £10million in the process - if officials can agree funding for the project by September.

Department of Transport (DfT) is expected to fund the majority of the £100million phase two of the East London Line extension - connecting Clapham Junction to Docklands on the London Overground network - and is in "ongoing" talks with Transport for London (TfL) and Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London.

The talks are aimed at allowing builders to "roll-on" to phase two when phase one is completed in 2009.

As well as being a welcome new transport option for Brockley, it suggests that the transport authorities are confident that there will be no delays to the completion of phase 1.

Always double down

"A malt Glen Gari for me and my friend here. And, if you tell the bartender to go extra easy on the water, then this fifty cent piece has your name on it."
Trent Walker

Those purveyors of harmless good fun at Portland Bookmakers have submitted their plans to bring their own brand of high-class razzle-dazzle to Brockley Road.

Having won their appeal, they will be opening soon and have filed two planning applications with Lewisham Council for a new shop front and signage. You can see the plans yourself by clicking here and checking out applications DC/08/69209/FT and DC/08/69211/FT .

Although the design looks like something straight out of the 80s and they will inevitably block all their windows with posters, so no-one can see in or out, we can't see anything wrong with the plans, but we do of course hope that, having been defeated in the courts, Lewisham's planning department enforces the strict conservation area guidelines to the letter.

Thanks for the tip-off to Barry, who is so money and he doesn't even know it.

Brockley Station: Chaos looms?

BC is sure many readers have noted the recent changes at Brockley Station - including the installation of ticket barriers in the ticket office, and a mysterious Tardis-like box appearing by the gate to platform 2. The ticket machine has moved to the ramp outside the station, and it looks as though power cables are being installed on the patch of grass outside platform 2 for another machine.
Workmen have been spotted loitering suspiciously on several occasions, and yesterday morning trees were being cut down at the southern end of platform 2.
All in all, it looks rather exciting.

However, a cautionary tale emerges from the experiences of some of our neighbouring districts. Residents of Sydenham have been suffering greatly in recent weeks after Southern Trains decided to permanently close the gate to platform 1, funnelling massive crowds through the small ticket hall and greatly diminishing disabled access. Lewisham Mayor Steve Bullock stepped in last week, demanding a meeting with Southern managers at the station during the rush hour in order to show them the chaos that has ensued. (A video of the event is viewable on the Sydenham Town Forum website).
Mr Bullock said: 'The installation of barriers is causing delays and inconvenience of a large scale as well as putting individuals who have mobility problems of any kind in a very difficult position.'

We understand the same steps are being taken at Forest Hill.

An obvious question arises - is this what's planned for Brockley? There's been very little information available at the station about the changes that are being made. Given the number of commuters who use the station at peak hours, BC hopes Southern sees sense as a result of the Sydenham debacle and doesn't try to impose any such measures on the train users of Brockley.

Edit: Here's some more info on what's happening at Forest Hill.
'The southbound platform no longer has a direct entrance or exit before 3pm, forcing all passengers to cross over the footbridge. For customers with limited mobility living on the east side of the station they are now forced to use 4 sets of stairs (under the underpass and then over the footbridge) rather than the single set of stairs which they needed to negotiate until June 2008.'
And here's some debate on the Forest Hill situation.

Who watches the Watchmen?

Final word on the BIG YELLOW SIGNS that adorned Brockley's streets a while back. Like Ozymandias their creators figured that bringing fear to the streets of a major city was a small price to pay in pursuit of a greater good - in this case, reduction of street crime.

The Council has produced a report on the effectiveness of this strategy.

The Council apparently conducted focus group research about people's response to the signs. Here's what people said about the signs:

"Several participants... believed that the number of yellow signs signified the volume of crime in the area. They also reported feeling uneasy when they saw a sign in a location that they often visited or passed through."

But, was their use justified by the crime figures? Well, the report states, triumphantly, that:

"Personal robbery offences decreased by 50% during the dates the signs were in place, they then increased by 50% after the signs were removed."

However, if you look at the figures themselves, what happened is that there were a total of two muggings (on all of the streets included in the initiative) in the six weeks prior to the signs being put up. This figure reduced to one for the "six weeks" that they claim the signs were up. For the six weeks thereafter, there were two muggings.

Ignoring for the fact that the period they claim the signs were in place in Brockley bears no relation to reality, the variation is statistically insignificant and the very low level of muggings on those streets suggest that the whole exercise was a little OTT in first place. The report also ignores the fact that their own figures show that over the same three periods, the number of burglaries rose from 6 to 8 while the signs were in place and then fell back to two.

All of which means relatively little except for the following conclusions we can draw:

  1. It wasn't only the precious middle classes of the Conservation Area who felt more uncomfortable walking their own streets as a result of the initiative
  2. There wasn't much of a recorded street crime problem in the first place
  3. The trial provides no good evidence to suggest the exercise should be repeated

PFI Leaseholder Central

The Brockley PFI Leaseholder's Assocation has created a new website. The Leaseholder's group is now offically recognised and the site is going to a focal point for leaseholders to gain advice and get the latest news.

The address is www.brockleypfileaseholdersassoc.org

Ladywell Pool re-opens

From Lewisham Council:

Ladywell Leisure Centre will re-open on Tuesday, 22 July. Remedial work to the plumbing system has been completed and further tests and disinfection has been carried out to ensure the Centre is safe for public use.

The Centre was recently affected by Legionella bacteria which was found in the water system after a routine regular check designed to ensure public safety. The Council has been working closely with the Health Protection Agency, Lewisham’s Primary Care Trust and the Centre’s contracted management company, Parkwood Leisure, to ensure it is safe for public use. Regular monitoring will continue at the Centre to ensure it remains safe for public use.

On hearing the news, the Mayor of Lewisham, Sir Steve Bullock, said:

“This is great news and will be welcomed by everyone – not least of all by all those children about to break up from school.

“Everyone involved in working to get the Centre open for the summer deserves our thanks. Not only has the necessary remedial work been completed but July’s maintenance work has been finished ahead of schedule too.

“I know the Centre’s closure has caused inconvenience and the Council greatly regrets this – but public safety has to be our primary concern.

“I hope all those young people under 16 will now take full advantage of our Free Swim programme which starts on 24 July and runs till the end of the schools’ summer holiday.”

Tyrwhitt Road update

Friend of Brockley Central, Kirsty, frightened herself and then us, when she read a letter from the Council, informing her that planning permission was being sought at 2a Tyrwhitt Road for a single story building - comprising six 2 bed flats, two 2 bed maisonettes and parking for 7 cars.

Fearing that this meant the demolition of The Talbot, she emailed us and dashed round to the pub to get the story for herself. In doing so, she has been able to provide two interesting updates:

1. The application is for "The Pretoria Parade", not The Talbot.

2. Work to The Talbot is still going ahead, but "the credit crunch" set their plans back a bit, meaning work will now begin in October, with the new-look pub opening in the new year.

Thanks to Kirsty for her frenetic work.

Brockley Road to Recovery?

Brockley Central made a short, sweaty presentation at the Brockley Society meeting last night. They kindly invited us to talk about the site to their members and we discussed how we can help them engage a wider audience via the site. Hopefully, this will lead to some more stuff from them on here in the near future.

We also touched briefly on the question of what role BrocSoc could play on encouraging improvements along Brockley Road, which was much-discussed here.

There was a clear appetite from the room to support some sort of campaign, but they felt (and we think they're right) that it would work best as a single-issue campaign team, supported by a range of local groups, including them, rather than as a BrocSoc campaign.

It felt as though we were at the start of something quite exciting and the plan is to organise a community meeting about the specific question of Brockley Road, involving as many different groups as possible. Not sure how any of this is going to be done, but watch this space...

Don't worry - be happy

The cheery folk at Healthy Brockley were at Brockley train station last night offering commuters their new 'Happiness Manifesto'. For the benefit of BC readers, here are their top tips ...

Count your blessings
Each day record at least 3 things for which you are grateful

Do something creative
Experiment and find something you enjoy

Enjoy nature
Take time each day to enjoy nature

Get involved
Volunteer to help others and make a difference

Get physical
Exercise for half an hour, three times a week

Have a good laugh
At least once a day

Lend a helping hand
Practice kindness daily; reach out and help those in need

Nurture your relationships
Be sure to spend quality time with friends and family

Relax, take time to unwind
Read, listen to music, pray, go for a walk

Share your positive attitude
A smile can be contagious; compliment and encourage others

They've also conducted a happiness survey, the results of which they'll be publishing soon. So - how happy are BC readers? And will you be taking Healthy Brockley's advice?

Brockley Cross walkabout with the Deputy Mayor

Gordon Brown isn't the only leading politician listening-and-learning in Brockley.

Following our recent interview with Cllr Heidi Alexander, Lewisham's Deputy Mayor offered to meet us and some Brockley Central readers for a tour of Brockley Cross (East and West!), to discuss the issues about our physical environment that matter most to us: from the dreaded roundabout to the pock-marked pavements. The visit will be an opportunity to highlight the worst of Brockley Cross and discuss what can be done.

There is no promise of immediate action, but any opportunity to put Brockley issues higher-up the local political agenda is to be welcomed.

The walkabout will take place at 4pm on Friday, July 25th. If you are interested in coming on the tour, please email us at the usual address. Otherwise, please use this thread to list the things that are most pressing as far as you're concerned and we'll endeavour to highlight the issues by proxy.

Gordon Brown discovers crime-free utopia in Brockley

Prime Ministers used to disappear to the USA whenever they were in the political doldrums. In a clear sign that the geopolitical balance of power has shifted on its axis, Gordon Brown chose to visit Brockley to begin his political fightback.

We've been dreading the prospect of Brockley hitting the headlines in relation to knife crime. Peckham, New Cross and Lee are just a few of our neighbours that have witnessed horrific deaths recently. It will only take one incident for anonymous posters to creep out of the woodwork and pronounce the Brockley dream dead. Brockley had bad people in it ten years ago, they will say, therefore there must be bad people here now and forever more. The world will never get better, according to some.

So it's with great delight that Brockley's first headline-grabbing foray in to the knife crime debate was a visit by the PM to a "The Reparation Project", an initiative that works with young offenders to encourage them to consider alternatives to stabbing each other.

You can see a short video of the project here.

If you have had any involvement with the project, we'd love to hear from you.

Hawaiian Tropic at the Wickham Arms

On July 26th, from 2pm, The Wickham Arms will be having a Hawaiian party.

As well as cocktails, a BBQ and beach games, there will be a prize for the best beachwear, which means (if this review is anything to go by), the party should best-resemble an episode of Baywatch.

There will also be live music from 8pm.

The party is part of The Wickham's longer-term plan to introduce new events throughout the calendar, building upon the succes of its music and quiz nights.

UPDATE: We've been asked by the organisers to clarify that, despite the reference to Baywatch, this will be a kid-friendly event, with a bouncy castle and face-painting too. We're happy to do this, though also happy to point out that Baywatch was a children's programme.

Budgens, Crofton Park

Proving that smaller, franchised, high street convenience stores don't have to be like Costcutters comes the new Budgens on Brockley Road, near-neighbour to the new Co-Op.

From the street, the new shop is a vast-improvement on what was there before. Inside the shop looks clean and well-kept and we got a friendly pat on the shoulder for no particular reason from the manager as we left. When we asked where something was, they not only knew what we were talking about, but where to find it.

As a result of this article, we also have a lovely new "Crofton Park" tag, which people have been asking for.

Max Power's Playtower

Guest columnist: Max Calo

At last, a break from your Brockley Central correspondents quibbling over brick work.

Regular reader, commenter, blogger, artist and swimming pool-campaigner - Max Calo - has done what many others have talked about doing and then not done. He has written an article for Brockley Central about a local issue he cares passionately about.

Max mentioned yesterday that, frustrated by the slow death of one of Lewisham's finest landmarks - The Ladywell Playtower - and he had an idea that could offer it a lifeline.

Rather than risk it being swamped with exchanges in Japanese, arguments about cats, recipe suggestions and all the other things that make Brockley Central special, we've given him his own guest column to share his idea:

Playtower future vision

I first had this idea a couple of years ago, just reflecting on the potential of the Playtower building when this thought for a business to be based there came.

What I see is a birthing clinic providing the comfort of the home birth experience to those women that for one reason or another can't have a home birth but don't fancy a hospital birth either and are prepared to pay something for a much better experience than what is on offer.

But I don't see only a place to give birth, I also imagine a variety of other birth related businesses, all based in the old Playtower building.

A one stop shop for the expecting woman and a place to look forward to give birth into. There must be a lot of women that don't feel comfortable with the idea of home birth and yet choose Hospital birth instead full knowing that they won't like that either. Maybe they don't live close enough to the hospital to feel really safe in case a complication arises whilst giving birth, this is the principal objection preventing women from choosing home birth and making them opt for the Hospital instead.

The Playtower is close enough to the Hospital to overcome this worry. That's what makes it suitable for this use. The old pool rooms could be divided into birthing suits, each with its birthing pool and with space for relatives to relax in comfort during the often very long wait. The woman could look up and see the sky through the Victorian skylight. Then there would be extra rooms where your mother or husband can go and sleep a couple of hours or even a full night. It would be a place that makes it the best possible experience for the woman and her family. And after giving birth, rather than being asked to leave, the woman would be allowed to rest as long as she wants, even days, together with her child, until she feels ready to go back home.

Alongside these features there could be prenatal courses, prenatal yoga, a shop, a library, counsel, all you can think of, as long as it's related to giving birth. And a cafe where food that's good for pregnant women is served and that would also serve food to the families there for the births. It has parking space, the bus stop is just outside, it's almost next door to Ladywell Station, the back of the building is very peaceful as it gives onto a very quite pedestrial alleyway and then the park.

This is a service that's missing and the Playtower is the ideal candidate for it. The location is perfect as is its solid period look. It is also a Council property that the Mayor said he wants to give back to the community. What do you think? Wouldn't this be a worthy addition to the local services or do you think that it would be better used as flats?

I think that all the services that could be hosted there would make it a very viable business even without big prices for the hire of the birthing suites. I think that the women of Lewisham deserve something like this. The business could be run as a non profit activity, paying well those that would work in it and reinvesting any surplus into the upkeep and enhancement of the centre so that after it starts activity it keeps on retaining the edge.

Eventual unused spaces could be rented to related businesses that would benefit from the trade that the centre itself would generate, again bringing in revenue to help run it.

Unfortunately the building is in a very bad shape and it needs millions to get to that point. But in the long run it could pay its ways, and if the Council would help in sourcing all the needed ingredients then it could be done. There are good reasons to do it, to revitalize the area, to bring an important historic building back into use, to add a missing service that would enhance the quality of life of many, to expand on the services already offered by the Hospital, to provide jobs.

This is only an idea, and it needs careful evaluation before thinking of trying it. That's why I'm happy to throw it into this den, to see it challenged by all that the distinguished inhabitants of this forum can throw at it. And if it manages to go through it with dignity then maybe it deserves to be acted upon.

What we like about this idea is that it would create something genuinely distinctive (and of course useful) - a centre of excellence in an area that has too few. It would build upon Lewisham Hospital's strengths as a teaching hospital (although the proximity argument could be undermined if the health service review recommends the labour ward's closure). Its ambition makes it very interesting, but also difficult. But it's certainly more interesting than suggesting we stick a cafe in it!

So what do you think?

Patchy brickwork

Further to the discussion about the Tea Factory's patchy brickwork, BC dropped an email to Lewisham Council's planning department asking their view on the matter and a chatty and helpful bloke called Chris Brodie has been in touch to elaborate.

The building was originally built in the post-War period for a company which had been bombed out of central London and decided to re-locate. Many similar buildings were constructed at the time, but they are becoming increasingly scarce, so, despite the fact that the materials used weren't of the highest standard, the council was keen to preserve the original historic fabric.

This is relevant when it comes to the choice of bricks for the contemporary extension because, unusually, lower quality materials were deliberately chosen in order to be as similar as possible to the existing brickwork.

Mr Brodie further added that, as the structure isn't a listed building, the council is limited in the extent to which it can specify materials and craft standards. Planners saw samples of the bricks before they were used and were satisfied that they would weather into a satisfactory shade over a period of years. This is also the view of the architect involved in the project, to whom Mr Brodie has spoken about our email.

Despite our initial concern, BC is willing to take the council and the architect on trust in their assertion that weathering should be satisfactory - time will tell! But what do our readers think?

Lewisham's Got Talent

Lewisham Council may have turned down funding applications from both the MAX and The Tea Factory community gallery, but to show they're no philistines, they're offering Brockley's neglected creative talents the chance to shine at this year's Country Fayre. Without further comment, here's their press release:

Lewisham is staging its very own contest to find the most talented people in the borough.
A search is on for talent of all ages – whether singers, dancers, buskers, comedians, variety acts … or any other hidden talent.

Any Lewisham resident who believes they have talent can register to audition. The winner of the show will receive a prize worth several hundred pounds as well as the opportunity to perform at the Lewisham Country Fayre on 14 September.

The event, organised in partnership between Lewisham Council and Lewisham Shopping Centre, aims to support local talent while managing unauthorised busking in Lewisham Town Centre.

Key Dates

Registration: Saturday 19 July (11am-4pm) at Lewisham Shopping Centre
Auditions: Saturday 2 August (1-3pm), Lewisham Shopping Centre
Finals: Saturday 30 August (1-3pm), Lewisham Shopping Centre

Local heritage 'at risk'

English Heritage has just published its Heritage At Risk directory of sites, buildings, monuments and so forth which are listed and yet remain un-cared for.

Fortunately for Brockley, EH hasn't found anything to worry about in SE4, but there are a few sites in the wider vicinity which might interest BC readers.

Perhaps the most prominent is the old swimming baths on Ladywell road, currently Grade II listed and in a 'poor' condition according to EH. The organisation adds the description:
'Public baths, consisting of first and second class swimming
pools constructed in 1884. Designed in the gothic style by
Wilson & Son and Thomas Aldwinkle. Currently unused, and new uses being sought.'

There are also a couple of sites in Deptford - a ramp at Deptford Station is Grade II listed, in 'poor' condition. It was 'built 1856 to the design of engineer Colonel Lordmann. A dog-leg ramp formed by a series of brick arches rising up from Deptford High Street to the level of the tracks. Listed building consent and planning permission granted for redevelopment of enclosed square, repair of ramp and occupation of arches.' BC suspects these comments relate to the Deptford Project re-development, as we've previously discussed.

The shop-front at 227 Deptford High St gives EH concern: 'House, shop and bakehouse built 1791-2 for Thomas Palmer, baker. Further modifications made 1801-2 and 1822-3. C19 shop front in disrepair.'

And the master shipwright's apartment in Convoy's Wharf also needs attention: 'Early C18 house built for Joseph Allan who became Master Shipwright of Deptford Dockyard in 1705. Brown brick with red dressings to front. Shown in a 1739 engraving by Samuel Platt. In residential and arts use. Listed building consent granted for refurbishment.'

(NB: Hat-tip to Diamond Geezer for his link to the EH At Risk register.)

Our friends in the north

Proving that northerners with chips on their shoulder are also a London phenomenon comes this travelogue from Euston-resident Skip.

In a recent article, he describes a visit to Brockley:

"I once had a friend who lived somewhere far-flung that began with B. You could reach him via an exhausting combination of tube, train and DLR. At the station were trees, fields and cows. This is not South London. This is simply a way of letting the good folk of Kent see Les Mis.

"Brockley was lovely. It has a few streets of Very Nice Houses that have been lovingly done up by people Who Wish They'd Bought In Kentish Town When They Had The Chance. It had a lot of trees (each decorated with a picture of a different lost cat), and a variety of 50s utility furniture and Christmas trees lining the pavements.

"It also has a Tesco. As Tescos go, it looked like those lonely outposts in Star Trek that are casually wiped out by marauding Klingons. Nervous staff stood behind a counter, ready to beam out at the first sign of trouble. The stock was almost entirely crisps and nappies. "It's really changed the area," said my friend Joe, "There's even a gay couple who shop in here sometimes. You never saw them at the 24-hour corner shop.""

Brockley Jon sent us this link in the hope that we'd pick a fight with Skip. But while it is news to us that anyone, anywhere wishes they'd bought in Kentish Town and it is worth pointing out that you only need an "exhausting combination of tube, train and DLR" if you start in the wrong place and come the wrong way, we don't think this article is worth a row. After all, Skip does skewer some of Brockley's best and worst qualities fairly neatly and living in a shoebox in soulless Euston is surely punishment enough.

Instead, this article prompts an interesting question. Many months after the furore that greeted Tesco's arrival on Lewisham Way - has it "really changed the area" for good or ill? No shops have been put out of business, we probably have a new Chinese Restaurant and a new step for a homeless guy to sit, but other than that, we can't see any of the ripple effect that we were warned about.

Have we missed something?

Brockley Cross in bloom

An application has been made to install a new shop front at the site of the former flower shop on Brockley Cross.

Peter Brimson Associates of Brockley Rise has made the application on behalf of the shop's Irish landlords.

Mr Brimson said today that the new shop front would be a "high quality timber shop front" to replace the current facade.

He was not able to confirm whether this work was purely speculative, or whether a potential tennant had been lined up. The shop interior has already been remodelled since the flower shop moved out.

Any investment in this currently pretty moribund part of Brockley is to be welcomed, so long as it complies with the conservation area regulations on appropriate signage and security screening is probably to be welcomed...

Brockley Open Studios 2008 round-up

As promised, here's a round-up of the Brockley Open Studios 2008, kindly penned by BC regular Brockley Sarah...

Lets get the confessions out of the way first - this is in fact our third year attending the Open Studios, and we have kept notes on each year's entrants! Dedicated to the cause, hey?!

We were certainly not disappointed with the standard of art on show. Don't forget that not only do the featured artists pay to exhibit, they allow complete strangers to roam freely about their studios and on many occasions their own homes!

We can't give all the artists involved a mention, as we'd be here for sometime, but here are some highlights:

A Toni McGreachan piece

Our first stop was Toni McGreachan with her Subbuteo inspired canvasses and local Lido studies. Her work showed such skill and surely found many admirers over the course of the weekend.

Martin Davidson's work is quite unique, as he prints on his own exquisitely handmade paper. Some might see paper making as being a little staid, but Martin's bold imagery and clever compositions will soon win you over.

Open Studios wouldn't be right without the usual suspects, such as Biddy Bunzl's candy coloured canvases that adorn her incredibly inspiring home.

No 42 & 94 Manor Ave always put on a fantastic show, especially Jeff Soan's hugely tactile wooden creatures, and we would have gladly given one of Julia Darke's beautifully crafted wooden dogs a home! Mimi Soan also deserves a mention with her kooky Tim Burton-esque portraits and knitted characters.

Julia Darke's work      Mimi Soan's art

Nobuo Okawa's studio is a real treat, as we were given a full tour and instructions on how his painfully intricate work is produced.

Ruth de Monchaux is an absolute must. We are now proud owners of two of her prints and every time we've been there her studio is bursting with visitors. And we know it isn't just the great selection of drinks and nibbles on offer that tempt the crowds!

Jolyon Dupuy's work
Finally we most certainly have saved the best 'til last! What a thrill to enter Jolyon Dupuy's garden on such a stunning summer's evening. Every inch of his house is adorned with fabulous 'beings' that have been constructed from found objects. The success of his art is that all of his pieces work so beautifully together. The best way to describe our experience was as if we'd snuck behind the stage of an exciting new theatre production, with all the props and costumes ready for action.

For more information on all the artists mentioned and links to their own websites, go to the Open Studios website.

Wonderwall: update

Not much of an update, this, but we thought it was worth following up our previous post about the parlous state of the wall on the corner of Wickham Road and Cranfield Road.

It's still collapsed, and it's still an eyesore - absolutely nothing has visibly changed. However, Cllr Darren Johnson - who has been making enquiries on BC's behalf - has wrestled the following information from the council's customer services department:

'Officers from Building Control carried out a site visit on 16 May 2008 to inspect the wall in question. The loose brickwork was subsequently taken down and we are advised that there is no structural danger at the present time. Building Control are also going to make contact with the owners of the wall and request that they facilitate the necessary repairs as the wall is unsightly and children can easily gain access.
'The Council will keep this situation under review, and take further action if and when deemed necessary.'

BC first wrote about this at the start of May - some weeks after the wall fell down - and it is now July. When we first enquired, we were told that responsibility for the wall fell to PFI contractor Pinnacle, so BC isn't sure why the council intends to contact the wall's owners - we thought they were the owners. Meanwhile two months on and it's still an eyesore.
BC fervently hopes that the council, Pinnacle, and (if relevant) any other organisations involved get their act together soon. It's only a wall, after all. Maybe BC readers could find a decent brickie for them?

Bin there, done that

Brockley's new bins are officially "launched"

Following a rather heated debate about the artistic merits of Brockley's new bins, we thought it would be pertinent to post this press release from Lewisham Council about the initiative. Perhaps this will lead to a reappraisal of the project, perhaps not! But in any case, congratulations to Millie:

New recycling bins, made to look like parcels, were launched yesterday at Brockley Cross, by the young designer who came up with the idea.

Millie Goslyn-Jones, aged 11, invented the design within 30 minutes after being set a design challenge at her school to find new ways of making recycling bins more interesting.

The new parcel bins follow on from the hugely successful “Moo Cross” cow bins (in New Cross) and calf bins placed in schools, which saw recycling in the area increase by 60% after being turned into ‘cows’.

Millie, from John Stainer Primary School in St Asaph Road in Brockley, said: “It’s really exciting to see my design on the bins, I walk pass them every day to go school and all my friends think it’s really cool and make the bins look much smarter than before.”

Councillor Susan Wise, Cabinet Member for Customer Service, said: “Well done to Millie for coming up with such a fun and exciting way to make recycling more interesting and noticeable.

“I want to encourage everyone to do their part by posting all paper, cardboard, glass, tin and plastic bottles into these new bins.”

Local artistic design company, Artmongers, turned Millie’s idea into a reality from her original design drawing. The company, formed by artists
Patricio Forrester and Julian Sharples, produces artistic interventions from customised wheelie bins, cars and clothes to large-scale murals and art-on-trees, specialising in colourful, approachable, comical artworks.

Artmongers collaborates with artists, designers and members of the public, to produce artworks that genuinely improve the urban environment and create a sense of pride and ownership.

There are 8 ‘parcel’ recycling bins at Harefield Road in Brockley.

The unveiling of the bins coincides with the introduction of timed collections, which has eliminated the need for a recreation of a Red Square victory parade on our high street pavements. A source at the Council explains:
"The timed collections began on 16th June and have made a real impact on the street scene in Brockley. As you will know there's usually fly tipping and dumped bags around the old bins and a lot of litter along the stretch of shops. Whenever I've passed it's looked much better (I'm a Brockley resident so pass frequently). Businesses and residents and all seem to be adhering to the new system."

The Eltham Centre

Yesterday, forced to look further afield for swimming options, Brockley Central visited the Eltham Centre, Greenwich's latest community pool.

The Eltham Centre replaces Eltham's old, urine-coloured baths that have now closed down. The pool is dedicated to proper swimming, with none of the slides and rapids to be found at Woolwich Waterfront.

Squeezed just behind the high street, on to a site that, parking included, is probably equivalent to the Brockley Cross timber yard, it includes an 8 lane pool, a children's pool, a 100 station fitness centre, a creche and a spa, as well as the area's Citizen's Advice Bureau, a library and a coffee shop. By combining these facilities, the Council has created a genuine community centre that reduces the cost of providing these separate but vital functions:

  • The CAB and Library means that there are additional reasons for people who might not otherwise step inside a sports centre to give it a go.
  • The creche means that carers have the opportunity to take some exercise
  • The cafe makes it more likely that parents will be willing to hang around while their children take a swim.
In other words, it's designed to maximise usage and opportunity, while minimising the public cost.

For a variety of obvious reasons, we couldn't get a photo of the pool area, but it's light and includes a viewing gallery. The children's pool is a few feet from the main pool, so parents can move between the two easily. The changing rooms are large, with good facilities for families and baby-changing.

This hastily-grabbed shot is the central atrium, from which all of the facilities lead. It gives a good impression of the design aesthetic that runs throughout.

We visited the pool at 6pm on Wednesday, at which time it was well-used but not packed. There were swimming classes taking place in half the lanes, with a further four lanes for general use.
There's been a lot of discussion on this thread about sports facilities in Lewisham and what the Council should be aspiring to. In our view, The Eltham Centre is a good model for Lewisham to study while planning the new pool in Lewisham town centre. It even has an "active frontage" for - a decked sun terrace.

The Eltham Centre

2 Archery Road
020 8921 4344


BrocSoc barbecue

Fans of outdoor cooking will be thrilled to hear of an upcoming opportunity to scoff some sausages in the classy surroundings of Hilly Fields.
The Brockley Society are holding a barbecue by the stone circle in the park tomorrow (Friday) from 7.30pm and all locals are invited - so dig out your super-sized tub of ketchup and bring something to throw on the grill. Who knows, maybe you'll bump into some BCers there too!

The Crofton Park Local Assembly

Patrick1971 not only attended, but went to a lot of effort to write an account of the evening, dedication like that deserves its own thread:

The Crofton Park Assembly was on last night; were there any other BCers there?

There was a pretty good turnout, over 100 people I would have thought.

The format was that everyone was on a table of about eight people. You had to say two things you liked about the area and two things you didn't, then, from the resulting lists, select the main issue that you didn't like and discuss how it could be improved. Then each table presented its issue and solutions.

The two main issues in Crofton Park appear to be lack of stuff for kids to do (which I personally am fairly sceptical about, but there you go), and dog mess! One of the councillors there, Jackie Addison, is apparently spearheading an anti-dog poo initiative, and promised to let us know "how far in it" she was...

There was a paid facilitator for the evening, which I think worked really well; he kept things moving along and got attention back when the crowd started chattering. There was a good mix of people although not enough younger ones; at the age of 36 I was one of the youngest there. Not sure if the Crofton Park ward is demographically older or not.

It'll be interesting to see how these assemblies progress and how much actually gets done. What was quite striking was how much people didn't know; one chap on my table said he'd never seen any plans for Honor Oak Park station, when they're freely available online. Another woman claimed there was no disabled access to Crofton Park station, when there is. Someone else wanted free bags handed out to dog owners to clear up mess, and apparently Lewisham Council already offers this service. And so on.

The next one's on 13th October. We got a free shopping bag this time, so there's a free gift incentive to attend! Would be interesting to hear if anyone else was there and what they thought.

The Hillaballoo Two Interview

The Brockley Central Interview: Bridget McKenzie

Bridget McKenzie is a Telegraph Hill resident and the driving force behind Hillaballoo, the area's main summer event.
Last year, we went along and confessed to being a bit perplexed about what kind of a thing Hillaballoo was meant to be.
It turns out, that was the desired effect.
"Although it is loosely themed around Telegraph Hill's communications heritage [she cites the views from Telegraph Hill as the best thing about the area], it's not meant to be that structured. Originally, I just wanted to feel like a spontaneous picnic - the community coming together for a relaxed day out. I have some friends who organised a small-scale arts event for customers at Jam Circus - it was that kind of spirit I wanted to capture.
"But the process of applying for funding turned it in to something bigger. Last year, we didn't succeed in getting any money from the Localities Fund, so I decided to fund it myself. If I have to sum it up in one sentence, I'd say it's a community fete with a difference - an event that draws lots of different groups together to showcase local talent."
Although badly affected by rain last year, Bridget says it was successful enough that the people involved wanted to do it again. And this year, it raised £700 from the Localities Fund.
"This year, there are some really exciting things happening. The Camera Obscura, which was one of the successes of last year, will return. I hope there will be a big turn out for the Brief Encounter night, with everyone coming in 40s period costume. And I can't say too much, but during the day, there will be an unveiling of a giant mystery sculpture - it will be made and hoisted in to place on the day!"
When Bridget left her job two years ago to set up her own consultancy, Flow Associates, she began by meeting local freelancers and forming what she describes as a 'loose network' called Hill Business. She also played a key role in the Save the Livesey Museum campaign network and she explains that Hillaballoo too is network-driven:
"There are a lot of different groups involved this year. Each of those groups will bring something different to the day and will help to promote it and spread the word to their members.
"I'm pleased to say that Tea Leaf Arts will be involved this year, the artistic communities of Brockley and Telegraph Hill shouldn't regard themselves as separate - the area's not big enough to start drawing boundaries. I hope that a lot of people from Brockley and Ladywell will come this year."
Hillaballoo takes place on Saturday, July 19th. For full details of the programme, visit the Hillaballoo website.

Jerk Garden, 394 Brockley Road

BC review to follow, please post your reviews and comments here.

Chicken and Pizza?

"There are many options available for dangerously underweight individuals like yourself. Remember, if you're not sure about something, rub it against a piece of paper. If the paper turns clear, it's your window to weight gain."

Dr Nick Riviera

The owners of the shop at 95 Endwell Road are applying to convert the basement and ground floors for restaurant and takeaway use, according to this application.