Local new year's honours

Reverend Barry Edward Carter of St Andrew's Church, Brockley Road has been awarded an MBE for services to the community in Brockley in today's New Year honours list.

Other local people to be honoured include John Skinner, Director of Music at Haberdashers' Aske's, Telegraph Hill and Van Cuong Truong, headteacher at the Lewisham Indo-Chinese Community School, Clyde Street, Deptford. Both men received an MBE.

Thisislocallondon has a good round-up, but congratulations to all three.

Previously, in Brockley: 2009 in review

In some ways, 2009 was a period of recovery for Brockley, with new businesses filling the gaps left by recession in 2008. However, it’s better described as a period of renewal. The Orchard and The Talbot were dramatic improvements on the businesses they replaced while the entrepreneurs behind the Brockley Mess and Browns of Brockley brought fresh enthusiasm and ideas to the area. The exceptional Jam Circus continued to set the standard by which all new businesses are judged.

This confidence and enthusiasm was mirrored by established local institutions, which expanded, diversified and experimented, marketing themselves to the local community with increasing vigour. From Tank Gallery’s life drawing classes, the Tea Leaf Arts team’s advent windows and Geddes’ charity challenge to the Broca’s new chill-out area and Magi’s expanded premises, the area burst with optimism and ideas.

The spirit of enterprise wasn’t confined to our high streets. From locally-produced honey to children’s comedy classes and start-up arts and crafts fairs, Brockley Central struggled to keep track of all the new ideas. On Remembrance Day, the former owner of Moonbow Jakes pulled off a spectacular ceremony in Brockley and Ladywell Cemetery, which underlined the wealth of local creative talent.

Nothing captured the feeling of renewal better than the resurgent Brockley MAX festival, which came back from a quiet 2008 with its biggest and best year yet. Brockley Central played its own small part in 2009 and the Ladywell Tavern felt the full force of the BC Army – as did The Talbot, later in the year.

But if there was one force more implacable than the BC Army it was that of Brockley’s children. Earlier in the year, a bitter battle was fought over whether Manor Avenue should get a new children’s nursery. While sympathising with many of the opposition’s points, the one line of argument we hotly disputed was the suggestion that there wasn’t much local demand. As parents who struggled to get their kid in to a school a stone’s throw from our house, we knew how many kids live locally. Then the Brockley Mess opened and the argument was settled. Whatever you think of the standard of local parenting is irrelevant – the area is teeming with young families and this is something that local businesses need to be prepared for – if you still doubt it, ask the guys at Geddes how many children’s haircuts they do these days.

Although the year's biggest disappointment was the shambolic, protracted botch-job performed on Brockley Common, 2009 saw encouraging progress on all of the major projects which promise to reshape the area for the better.

Brockley Cross finally reached the top of the Council’s to-do list and got measured up for a new look, while the Council agreed to consult with local people early in the new year about what shape the development should take.

The Hilly Fields Users Group secured national funding that will provide some of the money it needs for its wonderful plans for a new playground, while Brockley Central learned that the Council is seriously considering the possibility of replacing the depressing toilet block with a new café. Meanwhile, Lewisham Council bagged £2m from the LDA to complete the improvements to Ladywell Fields.

The developers behind Martins Yard presented the results of their public consultation to the Council, suggesting that the project is back on track.

The East London Line remained on-course to open in early 2010, with the first test voyage of the new trains taking place in October. Phase two of the East London Line, which will run to Clapham Junction, was also given the go-ahead this year. A campaign supported by Lewisham Council to include a new station at Surrey Canal looks like it will be successful. Unfortunately, improvements to Brockley Station, to accompany the ELL opening were deferred by TfL until 2015, although Cllr Johnson is campaigning to have this decision reversed.

The excitement surrounding the arrival of the tube in Brockley was tarnished when Southern revealed changes to the timetable which resulted in cuts to evening services and the end of direct trains to Charing X. A ridiculous bout of buck-passing between the DfT, TfL and Southern ensued. Crofton Park Station users also learned that TfL regarded earlier plans to create a new route which would have served their station as having no practical or economic merit.

In Deptford, the Convoys Wharf redevelopment that many had assumed dead-in-the-water resurfaced with new backers and a largely-unchanged master plan. Another moribund scheme sprang to life in even more dramatic fashion, with builders adding the sixth storey to the Distillery Apartments by the end of the year. Deptford’s status as one of London’s most important centres for the arts was celebrated by the New York Times and ridiculed by the Daily Mail, suggesting the area was doing something right - the launch of the Deptford Arts Map proved it.

Visitors to Lewisham in 2009 were again greeted by boarded-up windows on the journey from the station to Lewisham shopping centre, a place even Burger King has abandoned. But Lewisham Market continued to provide hope that the area has a vibrant future while behind the scenes, a range of major proposals – most importantly the Loampit Vale masterplan – suggest that the inertia will be overcome at last. The heritage listing of Lewisham Bridge school threw the Council’s education plans in to chaos, while Lewisham College learned that the funding it had been promised to help it relocate from Brockley to Deptford was cancelled.

From small shops to billion pound infrastructure projects, 2009 was a year in which Brockley made steady and positive progress. The summary above, dear reader, isn't even the half of it. Excitingly, the stories that trickled through in the final days of the year – from a new restaurant to a place in the tea factory where you’ll actually be able to get a cup of tea – suggests that 2010 will continue the trend.

Happy New Year.

We got 99 problems but the rich ain't one

The Jonathan Swift of Brockley graffiti artists strikes again, with this bit of Christmas cheer, courtesy of Deptford blogger Marmoset.

New Year's Eve in Brockley

If, for some reason, you don't fancy fighting your way in to central London, to stand, frozen, by the banks of the Thames, watching the same (admittedly impressive) fireworks display they've staged for the last decade, then check out the local options.

The Rivoli Ballroom

Brockley's most stunning venue hosts its New Year's Eve party. Call 0208 692 5130 to book tickets. Tickets £25 in advance, £30 on door.

Jam Circus

JC will be throwing a freaks & fairytales costume party (costume not compulsory, but strongly encouraged), with the infamous DJ Saffrolla spinning records way into 2010. The team also promise some exciting bonus pre-DJ entertainment. Tickets are £10 in advance, including a glass of sparkly white stuff on arrival. Call 020 8692 3320 to book tickets.

The Talbot

If you fancy dinner on New Year's Eve, the Talbot is offering a "three course sit down meal with a complimentary glass of champagne and cheese for £40." (Presumably the cheese doesn't come in the same glass).

The menu will be prepared by Manu Lallier, the head chef of the Prince Regent, who is now the executive head chef overseeing both establishments.

Anyone wishing to book a table can call 0208 692 2665.

The Talbot will also be letting everybody in free for a drink before 10pm if they wish, after that they will be charging a fiver.

Brockley Central Zeitgeist 2009

We’re back from wi-fi-free Cornwall, itching to get started on 2009 retrospectives. Here is the first – the 2009 Brockley Central Zeitgeist.

In 2009, 132,589 visitors trawled the pages of Brockley Central, reading 535,435 pages and spending an average of 4 minutes 8 seconds each time. The perennial favourite destinations are the reviews, photos, map and suggest a topic tabs, but the individual articles that proved most popular this year, were this piece about the demise of the Rotherhithe – Canary Wharf bridge that got picked up by quite a few other London websites and this one about the reopening of the Brockley Mess, which generated delight and praise from many, before descending in to a ‘lively’ discussion about whether the Victorians had the right idea about the place of children in society. The Geddes thread occupies third spot.

The busiest day on the site was November 16th, when Southwark’s alleged Nightstalker was arrested and everyone, including us, frantically googled Brockley Mews.

But what were you all looking for from Brockley Central? Here is the list of search terms that brought you here in 2009, courtesy of Google Analytics. We’ve removed the obvious terms Brockley, Brockley Central, Brockley Blog and so on – what’s left is a more coherent list than last year’s, although god knows why Gil Scott Heron features so prominently:

1. brockley mess
2. betting shop
3. moonbow jakes
4. talbot
5. le querce brockley
6. "god help us" brockley
7. jam circus brockley
8. travel agent
9. browns of brockley
10. lap dancing
11. fred
12. twitter
13. gil scott heron
14. martins yard
15. nick woolley brockley
16. reclad
17. mclarens
18. toads mouth too
19. cafe creme
20. catford
21. royal albert new cross
22. yoga st andrews brockley
23. getliffe
24. little stars nursery lewisham way
25. footpath brockley pavement
26. stencils
27. doctor
28. tea leaf arts opening hours
29. the telegraph pub dennetts road
30. geddes ladywell

Perhaps the most telling stat of all is that there were 31,027 different search terms which took people to Brockley Central in 2009 - underlining the eclectic range of topics people are interested in, in relation to the area.

If we sometimes seem hung up on food and drink and the shock of the new, we apologise, we strive to reflect life in Brockley in all its glory and we hope 2010 will see us broaden our coverage even more.

I Spy: Gothic Edition

We're encroaching on Brockley Kate's territory here, but whereabouts in Brockley is this splendid beast?

The Orchard - Best Brockley Newcomer 2009 [UPDATED]

Congratulations to The Orchard bar and kitchen, which fought off tough competition and a late burst of enthusiasm from the flock of the Redeemed Christian Church of God to scoop the coveted Brockley Central award for the most exciting newcomer 2009.

This has been an exceptional year for Brockley start-ups and the Harefield Road venue was up against businesses that have raised the bar for local eating, drinking and shopping, winning plenty of loyal customers and critical praise from BC readers in the process. The Orchard is a place that locals can enjoy in it's own right without having to sacrifice anything in terms of atmosphere, service or quality in order to support a local option.

The achievement is all the more impressive given the short time it's been open. Its early success bodes well for the wave of new places we can look forward to in 2010.

If you'd like to see what all the fuss is about for yourself, you might like to know that it has a late license for Christmas Eve.


Emily and Ed write in response:

Thank you to everyone for your support with our new venture The Orchard and to those who voted for us in the best newcomer poll- we are thrilled you picked us as the most exciting new business in 2009, especially as we were up against some great competition.

It's been a busy couple of months getting the bar up and running and we wanted to take this opportunity to thank you all for being so patient with us. We have had a few teething problems and we probably won't be completely happy with everything for another month or so until we really iron everything out, but so far we are really pleased with our first month.

We will keep on listening to suggestions as well as learning from mistakes so please do keep on giving us feedback.

We look forward to seeing those of you who have bought tickets to our New Years Eve party (which is sold out!) and look forward to seeing many more of you in 2010.

Finally, we hope you all had a wonderful Christmas and that you all have a fantastic New Year

Community consultation planned for Brockley Cross future

As Brockley Central revealed last month, Lewisham Council is pushing ahead with its plans to redevelop Brockley Cross. Cllr Darren Johnson has now been able to confirm that Lewisham Council will meet with local community groups and traders in January to listen to their priorities for the area.

We've argued plenty of times before Brockley Cross is the Gordian Knot that needs untying to unlock the regenerative potential of the East London Line, to improve the quality of life for people living nearby and to improve safety for road users and pedestrians alike. So we're delighted that the Council has agreed to the meeting, which will be chaired by the Deputy Mayor, Heidi Alexander (who has been exposed to the full horror of the area in the past).

We hope that it will prove to be a real working meeting and that the suggestions and solutions offered will be properly considered by Lewisham. The Council will only have one chance to get it right, so they may as well be ambitious and try to do it properly.

Brockley Central will be at the meeting, so if you have any constructive comments or suggestions that you'd like us to make, please post them here.

Brockley room rental prices

Brockley (circled in red) remains one of London's most affordable areas.

The Mayor of London's website now features a rent map of the capital, which tells you the average cost of renting on a postcode-by-postcode basis.

Brockley, like most of south east London, with the exception of Greenwich and Blackeath, is in the lowest price category, with the average cost of a one-bed flat ranging between £127-177 a week.

Interestingly, the median cost of a single room is £2 below the Lewisham average and £11 pounds below the London average. For larger properties, Brockley becomes more expensive than the Lewisham average (but still below the London average), with two-bed properties costing £6 a week more.

Southern reveals 2010 timetable

Southern Railways have confirmed their plans for the new timetable which will come in to effect in May 2010, which will see evening peak services from London to Norwood Junction become "fast" trains, no-longer stopping at Brockely and the other stations in-between. Morning peak services will increase, however.

Here are the pertinent parts of the document:
South London Metro services

The opening of the East London Line with extensions to Dalston, Crystal Palace and West Croydon together with Southern services will provide a significant overall increase in capacity between New Cross Gate and West Croydon. It also necessitates changes to Southern services operating across London. In some cases we are able to provide additional or faster services. There are also instances where services are to be removed or diverted.
AM peak

The morning peak service is revised to provide Southern trains at reasonably regular intervals and to allow East London Line services from West Croydon and Crystal Palace to run additionally. These include additional AM peak services to be introduced from London Bridge to London Victoria via Crystal Palace serving New Cross Gate, Brockley, Honor Oak Park, Forest Hill and Sydenham.
Departure times from Brockley for the central London stations will be as follows:

London Bridge 0647
London Bridge 0655
London Bridge 0702
London Bridge 0717
London Bridge 0725
London Bridge 0732
London Bridge 0747
London Bridge 0755
London Bridge 0803
London Bridge 0817
London Bridge 0826
London Bridge 0835
London Bridge 0847
London Bridge 0855
London Bridge 0902
London Bridge 0917
London Bridge 0925
London Bridge 0932
London Bridge 0950
London Bridge 1002

London Victoria 0627
London Victoria 0659
London Victoria 0729
London Victoria 0759
London Victoria 0829
London Victoria 0900
London Victoria 0930

Off peak
The service patterns below are revised to be compatible with the extended East London services. The planned changes in summary are:

• Off peak London Bridge - Sutton via Sydenham services to be withdrawn.
• Off peak half hourly London Victoria - West Croydon via Crystal Palace services to be extended to Sutton. This will maintain a direct Norwood Junction to Sutton service. It will have connections at Norwood Junction with six fast London Bridge services each hour provided by services to/from Tattenham Corner, Horsham and Reigate/Tonbridge.
• Off peak London Bridge - Tattenham Corner services to call additionally at Norwood Junction.

• Off peak London Bridge - Caterham services to call additionally at Penge West and Anerley.

PM Peak

The service pattern remains broadly similar to the December 2009 timetable though the London Bridge - Sutton, Epsom, Guildford or Dorking services will run non-stop between London Bridge and Norwood Junction, therefore not calling at New Cross Gate, Brockley, Honor Oak Park, Forest Hill and Sydenham.

Evening Off Peak

Some South London metro services in the evening off peak (after 1900) currently operate at different times than during the daytime off peak. The opportunity arises in May 2010 to revise certain departure times to better reflect the daytime off peak pattern as follows.

• London Bridge to London Victoria via Crystal Palace at xx22 and xx52
• London Victoria to Sutton via Norbury at xx00 and xx30
• London Victoria to Epsom or Epsom Downs via Crystal Palace at xx06 and xx36
• London Victoria to London Bridge via Crystal Palace at xx22 and xx52

Thanks to Cllr Dean Walton for the information.

The Great Transport Armageddon

BC made it home last night on Shanks' Pony. Our all-seeing intelligence sources tell us that London Bridge Station was chaos, with trains at a standstill nearly all evening. The roads were nearly gridlocked, so bus transport took hours.

How did everyone else get on?

Brockley's Day of Reckoning

Oh, my wife says, well, you're not a poor man. You know, why don't you go online and buy a hundred envelopes and put them in the closet? And so I pretend not to hear her. And go out to get an envelope because I'm going to have a hell of a good time in the process of buying one envelope. I meet a lot of people. And, see some great looking babes. And a fire engine goes by. And I give them the thumbs up. And, and ask a woman what kind of dog that is. And, and I don't know. The moral of the story is, is we're here on Earth to fart around. And, of course, the computers will do us out of that. And, what the computer people don't realize, or they don't care, is we're dancing animals. You know, we love to move around. And, we're not supposed to dance at all anymore.
- Kurt Vonnegut

The Guardian is about to turn Brockley its merciless, reductive eye on our home. As spotted by reader M, "Let's Move To" columnist Tom Dyckhoff is asking Guardian readers to send him their views on the area, for next week's Saturday magazine. Dyckhoff is to house prices what the man from Del Monte is to the organge juice futures market, his verdicts pored over by right thinking liberals like us.

We're pleased to see that the paper has acknowledged the wisdom of the "greater Brockley" worldview, lumping together Brockley, Ladywell, Honor Oak and Nunhead, but then they also bundled Westcombe Park with Shooters Hill, which suggests perhaps Dyckhoff's grasp of South East London is not what it could be.

The column tends to revolve around transport links, schools and shops - all things this blog is concerned with of course, but we'd also like to offer a quick word for a few things about Brockley that are unlikely to make the cut:

1. The arcade game hidden away at the back of Brown's of Brockley because the owner's mate had nowhere else to put it

2. The flat bit at the bottom of Hilly Fields, which people cram on to during almost every daylight hour to play sport

3. The 9 volunteers from the Brockley Cross Action Group who decided to do something themselves about the weeds growing on Brockley Common one rainy weekend, so that it can be properly planted in the new year, despite it being abandoned by the contractors

4. The imposing view of the Brockley Jack when you travel north in to Crofton Park

5. The manager of Geddes, whose response, when we asked if they were planning any special offers for Christmas, invented this one for BC readers

6. The fact barely a weekend has gone by since we started this blog, without some kind of community event taking place

Please send the Guardian your recommendations here.

Do The Funky Chicken

At this time of year BC likes to bring its readers some heart-warming tales of joy and happy endings, and here is one such story ...

It seems that Brockley is fast becoming a haven for rescued ex-battery hens. Local vet John Hankinson is becoming a bit of an expert as chickens become the area's latest pets.

Kate Hinze, a Brockley Society stalwart, recently joined the chicken-keepers' club by acquiring three hens named Bertha, Peeper and Atilla. Through the auspices of a charity which helps to re-home battery hens that are en route to the slaughterhouse, they were rescued from sudden death thanks to an early-morning roadside assignation with the farm lorry.

Contrary to many people's first impressions, chickens can get by perfectly well in the average suburban garden (as long as it's well-fenced to ensure they don't invade the neighbours' grounds). And modern hen-houses include a secure night-time inner compartment which should keep them safe, even from the predations of Brockley's tooled-up urban foxes. The main downside is that they will rip up small bedding plants, Kate warns - so don't expect to have a perfect garden. Another minor negative is the need to get up early in order to let them out - this could be a problem for those who are fond of their beds.

As hens are pack animals, it's not recommended to have fewer than three at a time. On average, three hens will produce 7-8 eggs a week. Sadly, ex-battery hens tend to have short lifespans because their bodies have been exhausted by the industrial farming process.

Kate says her three have very distinct personalities, and as a consequence she has become passionate about using non-intensively farmed eggs.

Kate is happy to talk to anyone who's interested in getting chickens; you can contact her via BrocSoc.

Ladywell Conservation Area Consultation

Ladywell Village Improvement Group report that Lewisham Council has launched a public consultation over whether to create a new conservation area, which would include the station, the Victorian streets nearby and possibly Ladywell high street. If commercial areas are included, it raises the question of how the Council will enforce the rules, given the disregard shown by many businesses on Brockley Road.

The survey can be found here and the Council is holding a workshop and exhibition on Saturday 9 January 2010, 12noon-3pm, at Lewisham Library.

Music, magic, make & do

St Peter's Church on Wickham Road is hosting an evening of "mulled wine and mince pies, juice and gingerbread, songs and stories" on Saturday, December 19th, 5-7pm.

Kids will be able to make their own Christmas cards and decorations and there will also be a raffle of Christmas hampers and present swapping.

All proceeds go towards repairing the clock tower.

Mega God v Giant Mammon

Visuals have been released for a proposed redevelopment of Thurston Road Industrial Estate in Lewisham, another key plank in Lewisham Council's vision for the redevelopment of the town centre.

There are currently few more miserable stretches of road than this one and the light industrial units on the estate are currently occupied almost exclusively by evangelical churches like these guys.

The blurb says:

The scheme comprises of a 2 - 17 storey high-density mixed-use development accommodating non-food retail units and flexible retail/commercial live work units arranged around internal centralised parking areas within a two-storey podium structure and residential accommodation above, along with associated parking and servicing. The residential element above the podium level is arranged ‘U' shaped around a large central courtyard providing amenity space for residents. The scheme is left open at the southwest point to maximise sunlight into the courtyard.

That equates to:

406 new homes (62 social rented)

118 parking spaces

4 new retail outlets

Johnson discovers how deep the rabbit hole goes

Is Darren Johnson the new Van Jones? Is News Shopper the new Fox News?
First, Fox managed to oust Jones, Obama's "Green Jobs Czar", by constructing an elaborate series of "scandals" about him. Now Brockley's Green representative on the London Assembly is facing calls to go from the Licensed Taxi Drivers Association for Tweeting a confession that he took an unlicensed taxi home one evening. All this, on the eve of the Copenhagen climate change summit. Coincidence!?!

The News Shopper carries a rather OTT apology from from Johnson, which is still not enough to placate the taxi lobby:

Writing on his Twitter page after the party, Mr Johnson wrote: “Ten pound tip for first cabbie to find me” and “Illegal minicab will do if you get me home”.

He later wrote: “Well im in some dodgy minicab paying an exhorbitant rip-off rate but at least getting home”.

Spokesman for the Licensed Taxi Drivers Association, Steve Mcnamara, said: “The man’s arrogance is astounding. He has encouraged a criminal act, he has been a party to a criminal act and then he brags about it on Twitter.”

Mr Mcnamara added: “He has embarrassed himself, the Mayor, the GLA and London, he needs to go.”

End of the line for Charing X services

Brockley Central has heard it said by some pseud or other that the quality of a people's television has an inverse relationship with their quality of life - with Italy and the UK used as case studies. If so, it would explain why Sydenham has its own 'television station' while you lot are stuck with the written word.

Sydenham TV has broadcast the final voyage of the direct service to Charing X, which took place last Saturday and which was accompanied by protesters, marking the occasion with a miniature coffin. It was an impressively organised PR stunt, which managed to generate a lot of coverage to highlight the campaign to have the route reinstated and prevent reductions in service frequencies.

You can watch the video here. You can also sign the petition here.

Props to Tamsin for sending the link.


After all our gnashing and wailing about the shoddy workmanship on the Brockley Common project, it's great to see something done properly. The pavement outside the Brockley Barge has been replaced by some fetching cobbles, which have dramatically improved this spot.

Even better, the traditional grey metal barriers around the Christmas tree, haven't made an appearance this year, meaning the tree actually looks festive and we've all got the chance to prove that we can pass a barrier-less tree without injuring ourselves.

Surprise Kitty

Sleek black cat (probably female) with red collar found in Arica Road, SE4.

She is v friendly and is currently living in our outdoor cat hutch but it's getting very cold and may even snow, but we can't bring in her in as have 2 cats of our own.

Urgently need to find owner as Celia Hammond Cat Rescue Centre is full. If anyone would be willing to foster her until the owner is found please let us know.

I've posted up 30 messages around Brockley this evening and I'm desperate to try all that i can before the weather deteriorates further.

Many thanks, Ilona
Contact number: 07960 728464

Won't somebody think of the children?!

Bruce Wayne: I knew the mob wouldn't go down without a fight, but this is different. They crossed the line.
Alfred: You crossed the line first, sir. You squeezed and hammered them to the point of desperation. And in their desperation they turned to a man they didn't fully understand.

- The Dark Knight

The Christmas decoration turf-war continues to escalate, with Transpontine reporting that the Brockley Mess has responded to the Jam Circus balloon salvo with an installation of padded snowmen.

Gordonbrock School plans approved

Gordonbrock School's application to redevelop some of its school buildings were approved by a Lewisham Council planning committee last Thursday.

The plans had met with some fierce opposition due to a range of concerns, including the loss of some historic buildings, the loss of playground space, a possible increase in noise for some neighbouring homes, dissatisfaction with the quality and sustainability of the new design and, of course, the inevitable disruption for pupils during the construction phase.

Robert Park, from the Brockley Society (which was opposed to the plans), attended the hearing and provided this report:

Four councillors turned up to adjudicate on this, Paul Bentley (Lib Dem of Lee Green) was chair, then we had Ian Page (Socialist, Telegraph Hill), Andrew Milton (Lib Dem, Lewisham Central) and Alan Smith (Labour, Catford South). Vice chair Mike Keogh (Green, Ladywell) did not turn up. Perhaps Sue can inform us why this was? It may just have been logistical.

The case for the application was put forward by Mark Burgess, Lewisham's appointed project manager. One thing that became apparent earlier on was that the scheme is not PFI, as we all originally thought, and that the money for the development has been sourced from the Primary Capital Programme, which is a traditional Design & Build contract. This means that the school facilities will not fall to the ownership of Bouygues as is the case at Prenderghast Ladywell Fields. Mark was also very keen to point out that this was simply the re-submission of an existing planning consent, and that if this application was rejected, then they will plough on with the previously consented designs regardless.

The councillors' primary concern at this stage was over the quality of the drawings. Only plans and elevations were submitted, and these did not convey at all the proposals adequately - in the view of those councillors present who wanted to see a good quality CGI. Also, at this stage, it was clear that both Ian Page and Andrew Milton were of the opinion that the design of the building was not quite up to scratch.

Geoffrey Thurley of the Ladywell Society then spoke for five minutes in opposition to the proposals. He focused on the conservation issues, as well as the loss of playground space. Andrew Milton asked to be convinced of the viability of a refurbishment option, and Geoffrey informed him of the Victorian Society's conference and report on the improvements to heritage schools that have been promoted by other local authorities, such as Hampshire.

Sue Luxton then volunteered to speak from the floor. She highlighted neighbours concerns over possible noise pollution from the new ball court to the south-west of the site. She also put forward the view that although the new proposals were an improvement in sustainability terms than the previous application, that in her opinion it did not go far enough, and she would like to see more done to improve the heat insulation of the retained buildings.

In summation, Alan Smith stated that despite his reservations over the quality of the design, in his opinion a school that was unfit for purpose should be replaced, and he proposed the motion for granting permission. He also stated that he would like to recommend that if possible, the bulldozers move in tomorrow to start work. Andrew Milton, however, was still not sure, and decided to abstain based on the fact that the building had already been granted permission in 2005. Ian Page then seconded the motion, Paul Bentley took the vote, and in voting himself, delivered the verdict for consent - three for the proposals, with one abstention.

- With thanks to Robert for the report.

Christmas art in Brockley

Arthouse Winter Fair

Artists and makers gather to offer seasonal gifts of art, craft and design for purchase. If you haven't been to the old Deptford library its well worth a treat. The Arthouse is a beautiful grade II listed building - the front of house, 2 galleries and lobby room will be transformed into a delightful and magical winter marketplace. Alongside this our café always offers tasty and affordable selection of spicy warming treats to consume...

Lewisham Arthouse 13th December 11am – 6pm
140 Lewisham Way

Christmas Open House

Some of the best artists from Brockley's annual summer open studios come together for a special event tomorrow and Monday. Enjoy Mulled wine and a mince pie while Christmas shopping.

98 Manor Avenue
13th December 2pm-8pm, 14th December 5pm-8pm

I Spy: Literary Heritage Edition

In a slightly similar vein to a previous edition of I Spy, whereabouts in Brockley is this plaque?

Jam Circus Christmas Balloons

You wanna know how you do it? Here's how, they pull a knife, you pull a gun. He sends one of yours to the hospital, you send one of his to the morgue. That's the Chicago way, and that's how you get Capone! Now do you want to do that? Are you ready to do that?
- Malone, The Untouchables

Jam Circus have responded to the arrival of new kids on the block like The Orchard and The Talbot by raising the bar for Christmas decorations in Brockley with some amazing creations from Miss Ballooniverse. These are just a couple - check out the Flickr stream for more - or better still, go for a drink.

Brockley Bites: A Christmas Carol

The Ghost of Christmas Past

The Brockley Jack Theatre is staging a production of the classic tale A Christmas Carol, "presented by the same company behind the sell-out productions of Jane Eyre, Great Expectations and Hound of the Baskervilles." The show runs until January 3rd, tickets are £12, £9 concessions or £36 for a family ticket £36. Click here for details.

The Ghost of Christmas Presents

The Brockley Cross Action Group are celebrating the fact that this year's Christmas market will be the biggest ever. They've been deluged with requests from stall holders and have added five more stalls to tomorrow's event. They'll be handing out flyers at Brockley station this evening.

The Ghost of Christmas Future?

You may recall that earlier this year we reported that a new deli was being planned for Ladywell, called El's Kitchen. Unfortunately, Eleanor has not yet been able to find the right premises in order to open a store, but she will be bringing El's Kitchen to Ladywell Christmas Market this weekend, with a stall that will be selling the kind of stuff she hopes one day will fill the shelves in her shop - from cheese to charcuterie, panettone to preserves and cakes to chocolate.

The Train Gang

The campaign against cuts to Brockley's train service continues apace, with both the Brockley Cross Action Group and the Brockley Society throwing their weight behind it in recent weeks. The online petition has now topped 2,800 signatures, plus a further 400 on the paper copy (which will be available at the Brockley Christmas Market tomorrow, for those of you planning to attend).

Campaigners will be stepping up their work this weekend, with a theatrical protest planned to take place at Charing Cross Station at 2pm tomorrow.

The campaign has also undertaken some research which effectively counters the train companies' claim that the opening of the East London Line will mitigate the impact of the cuts in their services ...

'At the moment there are 6 trains an hour from London Bridge in the afternoon peak. Between 1730 and 1830, these consist of 46 coaches, with 3482 seats and carry 4203 passengers (121%). 910 of these passengers use stations beyond West Croydon and so are not expected to use the stopping service in May, meaning that 3293 commute to our stations.
'The average loading is 91.4 passengers per coach.

'The new stopping service proposed from May 2010 will consist of four trains an hour made up of 32 coaches in total. The campaign's figures (and TfL's models) show that roughly 30% of the current passengers will transfer onto the East London Line services, however they also expect the number of passengers using the line to increase by 30% due to the suppressed demand.
'We will therefore end up with roughly the same number of commuters using the London Bridge service as at present.

'The average number of commuters per coach, if the proposed changes are implemented, will be 102.9 passengers per coach; an increase of 1/8th on an already excessively congested service.

'A train is defined as being overcrowded if 40% of the passengers are standing. A typical coach has 84 seats in 18 rows, so would only be classified as overcrowded when 34 passengers were standing. If you get ten passengers into each vestibule, you would require 14 people standing between the seats.'

The Albany Midwifery Practice

Having vicariously experienced a number of them, we have never been convinced of "the magic of child birth". The end product is magical enough, but the process itself has more to do with offal, excrement and agony than it does fairy dust and whale music. Our advice is always take the drugs and make sure you're in a place with lots of doctors in case of complication.

However, we know that plenty of people would vehemently disagree with us and we've been contacted by a couple of people who've asked us to highlight a campaign to save the Albany Midwifery Practice in Peckham, which is threatened with closure.

As this article says, the likely closure is a result of London's King's College Hospital terminating its contract, alleging that a disproportionate number of the babies it delivered suffered damage during the birth, although supporters of the Albany dispute the claims and say it provides genuine choice for local mothers.

Late night shopping in Brockley

Four of Brockley's best businesses have joined together to organise a special late-night opening, to encourage us to do as much of our Christmas shopping as possible locally.

Degustation, The Shop on the Hill, Browns of Brockley and Toads Mouth Too will all be opening until 10pm tonight and next Thursday.

It's a great initiative and it's great to see local businesses working together like this, to make life easier for customers. Browns of Brockley recently changed its opening hours, shutting between 12pm and 5pm during the week, so that it open until 8pm for returning commuters. We understand from Ross that it's an approach which has been working well.

Ode to a badger

Howard, creator of Brockley's comic hero, Badger, has asked various people to contribute to an online advent calendar celebrating the life of this character. Our effort was a short poem.

We've always liked to imagine him has Brockley Central's muse, so we swapped him with Ted Hughes' Thought Fox and swapped the forest for Brockley.

The original poem is about the author's own writing process, but given that Brockley Central is a collaborative effort between the editors and the users, we've tried to inject a little more ambiguity in to the poem, about who is actually doing the writing. Is it Brockley Nick or anonymous? Maybe, in keeping, with BC tradition, we should have changed the "I" to "We". We couldn't decide.

You can read the result here, if you so wish.

Can you beat Brockley Central in the Visit London Christmas quiz?

Here are the questions from last night's Visit London Christmas Pub Quiz

Obviously, with Google, Twitter and Wikipedia, any old fool can crack the Da Vinci code in 20 minutes these days, but see how you do unaided and whether you'll be able to beat the score racked up by the combined might of the south east London bloggerati.

Answers tomorrow.

Quick Fire Warm Up Round

(Total points available for this round: 8)

1. What tube line is Grange Hill station on?

2. By 2011 there will be two Westfield Shopping centres in London – where are they?

3. Which famous architect designed the glass covering of The Great Court in the British Museum?

4. Which famous London department story has green and gold as its trademark colours?

5. Keira Knightly stars in what play which opened for previews this week?

6. Where is Big Ben’s little brother?

7. Inside which London Landmark can you find the Whispering Gallery?

8. What is the oldest surviving Indian restaurant in London?

Section One: London Olympics

(Total points available for this round: 8)

1. Which famous sports venue will host the archery competition in 2012?

2. Name the five 2012 Olympic host boroughs. (One point for all five, half a point for four)
3. Who is the president of the International Olympic Committee?

4. Who won Britain’s only athletics gold at the 2008 Olympics?

5. The new Olympic stadium will host the athletics in 2012. Which stadia held the athletics in 1908 and which in 1948? (half a point for each)

6. Who was chair of the London 2012 Olympic bid before Seb Coe?

7. London hosted the 1908 Olympics. But we only stepped in when, at the last minute, Italy had to pull out. Why did Italy withdraw?

a) The Olympic stadium was not completed in time.

b) A general strike was called to coincide with the games.

c) Mount Vesuvius erupted.

8. In which event did Seb Coe win Olympic gold?

a) 400 metres

b) 800 metres

c) 1500 metres

Section Two: Famous Londoners

(Total points available for this round: 8)

1. Which famous woman was born at 17 Bruton Street, W1?

a) The Queen

b) Florence Nightingale

c) Virginia Woolf

2. Michael Caine is one of the capital’s favourite sons. One of his most famous roles was in 1969’s The Italian Job. But what was the name of the character he played?

3. What was the title of Lily Allen’s first album?

4. Although born in Essex, Russell Brand is a bit of an honourary Londoner. But what is the title of his autobiography?

5. Which famous 18th century London writer had a cat called "Hodge"?

6. One of the capital’s most infamous figures is Jack the Ripper. In which decade did he carry out his murders?

a) 1870s

b) 1880s

c) 1890s

7. Jude Law, born in Lewisham, is another world-famous Londoner. But how many biological children does he have?

8. In cabbie lingo, what is a "Churchill"?

a) A meal

b) A traffic jam

c) A trip to the loo

Section Three: Picture London

(Total points available for this round: 8)

All the questions in this round are based on the numbered pictures above. Click to enlarge.

1. On which west London building which is now a purveyor of organic food can you find this clock?

2. This south London memorial commemorates which event of 1988?

3. This trio of lovelies, England, Ireland and Scotland, now stand at near Speakers' Corner in Hyde Park, at the western end of Oxford Street. What was their original location?

4. By what name is this Islington establishment better known these days?

5. Which premier league football team plays at this London ground?

6. What building along the Thames is topped by this weather vane?

a) County Hall

b) Somerset House

c) Glaziers Hall

7. These are attached to the Bank of England but what are they?

a) Parish boundary markers

b) Flood Level markers

c) Milestone markers

8. Which major South London tourist attraction is pictured here?

Section Four: Undercover London

(Total points available for this round: 8)

1. According to myth, under which historic London building was the head of the giant ‘Bran’ buried as a guardian against invasion of these islands?

2. What was the name of the road on which the Great Fire of London started?

3. Where in London were the conspirators of 'The Babbington Plot' hung, drawn and quartered?

a) Lincoln’s Inn Field

b) Trafalgar Square

c) Parliament Hill

4. What was the proposed location of the first serious attempt to build a channel tunnel back in 1899? (Clue: It’s one of the main stops on the Bakerloo line)

5. Which building, one of the tallest in London, was used to broadcast new microwave messages to other NATO intelligence agencies, whilst undercover of a normal business?

6. What Government building are Cardinal Wolsey's wine cellars now under?

7. Which London Underground Station, which opened in 1999, has the shortest escalator across the tube network, with a vertical rise of 4.1 metres?

8. Out of the 287 underground stations, which one doesn't have any letters from the
word 'mackerel' in it?

Section Five: Future London

(Total points available for this round: 8)

1. The East London Line will re-open in 2010. Name three of the new stops that it will feature. (1 point for three, ½ point for two)

2. What is the full name of the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson who is in office until 2012?

3. Construction is underway on “the Shard”, which will be London’s tallest building when it opens in 2012. But what is London’s current tallest building?

4. The mayor of Newham recently launched a campaign to offer traditional cockney food like pie and mash with liquor to athletes at the 2012 Olympics. But liquor is made with which herb?

5. The Jewish Museum will reopen in London in 2010. Where?

6. In what year is the UEFA Champions League due to be staged at Wembley?

d) 2010

e) 2011

f) 2012

7. From 2012, the London Array will provide enough energy for ¼ of London homes. What is it?

8. Next February, how many years will Eastenders have been running for?

Geddes' Christmas offer to Brockley Central readers

We'll be plugging some of the ways you can spend your money locally this Christmas over the coming days and we're starting this series with a great offer from Geddes: a £10 discount voucher for BC readers. Enjoy!

South East wins battle of the London bloggers at Visit London annual pub quiz

Last night, Brockley Central teamed up with 853Blog, Tory Troll, Gin and Crumpets and Food and Drink in London (another Brockley-based blogger) to take part in the first annual Visit London Christmas Pub Quiz.

Forming a hyperlocal supergroup called South by South East, we took on the best that north London could offer - a contest in which there could only be one winner. We weren't the actual winners of course, that honour went to the team of London cab drivers, who beat us by one point, putting us second. But we saw off the threat from our northern counterparts, a team of Londonist writers, London bus tour guides and a team of "odds and sods".

The cabbies celebrate victory

We had two weapons up our sleeves - the encyclopedic knowledge of Darryl from 853blog and the fact that none of the other teams knew anything about south London. There were howls of protest from the cabbies' table when asked to identify a picture of a south London landmark: "We don't go south of the river."

We'll be publishing the questions shortly, so that BC readers can have a go and see if they can beat our score...

[Full disclosure: As part of our day job with Edelman, we do some work for Visit London]

Create a community garden in Brockley

Lewisham Council has signed up to the Capital Growth scheme, which aims to get 2,012 new community food growing spaces for London by 2012. For Lewisham that equates to 60 community gardens across the borough.

There is total funding of £75,000 available and small grants of between £200-£1,500 will be made available. The deadline for entries is: 11 January 2010.

Anyone can apply to create one and you can download the how-to guide here - pleasingly, Brockley's community orchard project and the St Saviour's church project are both namechecked.

The catch is, however, that you have to have found a suitable piece of land in the first place. And there's no guide to where those patches may be - in that respect, you're on your own. As the guide says:

So, if you know of a piece of derelict, run-down or underused land in the borough, and think it would benefit from a transformation into a pleasant, public open space, then you should consider starting your own community garden.

It may well be that groups like Brockley Cross Action Group, Transition Brockley, Ladywell Village Improvement Group and the Brockley Society are all over this like a rash already, but please feel free to use this thread to share ideas about possible sites for a community garden. We'd also love to hear from any groups already planning something.

For a while, we've thought that the disused entrance to the higher-level of Brockley Station on Brockley Road would make a good spot for a city garden. That part of the station is never going to be reopened (face it) and it has now been cleared of rubbish. An empty plot could be turned in to a great walled garden and the fences removed. The land will be owned by TfL but they might be happy to let it be used for this purpose.

Lewisham receives grant to rescue deserted shops

Spotted by BC stalwart Monkeyboy, The Press Association reports that Lewisham is one of five London councils to receive a £52,000 grant from the Department of Communities and Local Government to find new uses for empty local shops, to improve high streets in the run up to Christmas.

Our main high streets - Brockley Road and Lewisham Way - have relatively few completely empty shops (the biggest problem remains the number of limbo shops), but off the top of our heads, we can think of "Ask Toes" and the deserted holistic therapy centre would both qualify and we're sure BC readers can think of others that need rescuing. Perhaps they could spend some of the money to finally find a way to get rid of the sea container from outside Meze Mangal.

The other London Councils to benefit are Croydon, Greenwich, Lambeth, Lewisham and Wandsworth.

In a statement which underlines the vital need for local government to provide an environment that will encourage entrepreneurs to return to local high streets, Communities Secretary John Denham said:

"We know that the downturn has really hurt some English high streets, especially where there was already high deprivation. But the real help we are giving now is making a difference in keeping town centres vibrant.

"This money will mean councils can put their creative ideas to work and transform those boarded-up eyesores into attractions that bring the shoppers back to the high street."

We'll ask Lewisham Council to explain how they plan to spend the money and report back.

Gordonbrock School: Decision day approaches

Lewisham Council's planning committee is due to hear the Gordonbrock School planning application this Thursday, 10th December.

Anyone interested in the details of the plans can look here; the gist is that the school wants to demolish two of the original Victorian teaching blocks, and replace them with a new building which joins all the teaching spaces together, and extends the capacity of the school from 2.5 to 3-form entry.

The Victorian Society has spoken out strongly against the demolition, calling it 'an appalling waste of structurally sound historic buildings'. The society has urged Lewisham Council to 'view the historic school buildings in its care as an asset and not a burden'.

The Brockley Society is running a petition against the changes, arguing on the basis of sustainability (refurbishment being a more appropriate option), architectural heritage and lack of public consultation.

The proposals have also been discussed at length on local councillor Sue Luxton's blog. Sue is in favour of the re-build in principle, but has expressed reservations over the extent to which sustainability has been taken into account by the architects and contractors.

What do BC readers think?

Best newcomer

We're planning our review of the year - because we must - and it's already clear that after a relatively quiet 2008, in 2009 Brockley was a hive of activity, with plenty of new arrivals. But which one has been most exciting for you? Please take a moment to vote for your favourite newcomer on our new poll.

I Spy: Guest quizmaster edition

Thanks to a BC regular* for this picture - can readers guess whereabouts in Brockley it is?

(* = We won't mention their name til someone's given the right answer, as it could give the game away, location-wise)


It's easy when you got all the information
Inside help, no investigation

- The Pet Shop Boys, Shopping

More good news for people who live near Brockley Station - Brockley Road stalwart Costcutter is currently undergoing a refurbishment.
The works include new shelving and an altered store layout, and should take a few days to complete, BC understands.

The area has already benefitted from the opening of new bar The Orchard, as well as Magi's move from Coulgate St onto the high street, and the newly-laid cobblestones outside the Barge also contribute to the improvements. Along with the renovation works at the old Lanterna restaurant, this all adds up to positive news on a stretch of road which is crying out to be smartened up.

Feeling crafty?

Brockley-based accessories and stationery designer Barbara Wiggins has several days of sales coming up, which offer a great opportunity to stock up on presents before Christmas.

She'll be hosting sales at Peartree Studios, 53 Breakspears Rd, on Sunday 13th December from 10am to 5pm, and Monday 14th December from 12pm to 9pm.

Her products will also be on sale alongside those of other London artists and designers this Sunday, 5th December, at East Dulwich craft fair The Workshop, at St Thomas More Hall, 116a Lordship Lane, from 10am to 5pm. The event will feature over 30 exhibitors, and costs £2 entry. Free mince pies and mulled wine will be available for shoppers.

Oh. Jesus.

Blake: You see this watch? You see this watch?
Dave Moss: Yeah.
Blake: That watch costs more than your car. I made $970,000 last year. How much you make? You see pal, that's who I am, and you're nothing. Nice guy? I don't give a shit. Good father? Fuck you! Go home and play with your kids. You wanna work here - close! You think this is abuse? You think this is abuse, you cocksucker? You can't take this, how can you take the abuse you get on a sit? You don't like it, leave.
- Glengarry Glen Ross

There's a new church in Brockley and this one's sure to solve all your problems and turn you in to one of life's winners.

St Cyprian's Hall turns out not to have been bought to convert to residential use, but to house the Redeemed Christian Church of God, which is great news, because these guys "heal the sick free of charge." Not only that, but it turns out that:

As we moved into the Year, 2009, our great Father will watch over you, support you and enrich your life with Joy Unspeakable . Your time of promotion has come. The Lord from whom promotion comes will give you wisdom to work with your Divine Partner that will result into Joy Unspeakable for you and your family.

This particular church was described by the New York Times as "one of [Africa's] most vigorously expansionary religious movements, a homegrown Pentecostal denomination that is crusading to become a global faith." This vigorous expansion has obviously helped them outgrow their home on Thurston Road, Lewisham. Brockley is the logical base for any movement hoping to conquer the world, as Brockley Central has proven.

Thanks to Fintan for the shot.

Adventures in Catering: Opening Night at The Orchard

Brockley's newest bar, The Orchard, opened last night on Harefield Rd (next door to The Shop On The Hill), and your dedicated BC correspondent popped in undercover to scope the place out.

The decor is fresh and modern, without feeling cold, dominated by brickwork, wood and paintwork in shades of cream and green, with vases of flowers and candles scattered about and a few cosy leather sofas thrown in for good measure.
The kitchen is entirely open to view behind the bar - a brave move that's partly the result of financial necessity (due to the prohibitive cost of re-plumbing and re-fitting the units elsewhere), according to proprietor Ed. A set-up like this takes a lot of confidence in one's chef and serving staff (BC has worked in kitchens which definitely wouldn't prosper if exposed to the scrutiny of all and sundry), but from what BC could see, Ed's trust has been borne out so far.

The chef is a local chap who previously worked at a restaurant in Mayfair but joined the Orchard team to avoid his daily commute - a wise move. The kitchen is open for lunch and dinner, and the menu provides plenty of variety, focussing on classic British and European dishes. They plan to do roasts on Sundays. On other days, the menu is subject to change, but here are last night's dishes:

King prawns
Goats cheese salad
Carpaccio of beef
Grilled calamari

Asparagus risotto
Italian sausages & lentils
Sea bass with spinach, cherry tomatoes & mushroom sauce
Sirloin steak with chips & grilled tomatoes
Rack of lamb with spinach & mashed potato
Tuna steak with mixed vegetables
Very slow-cooked belly pork with spinach, grilled tomatoes & apple sauce

Green beans
Rocket & parmesan salad
Mixed salad
Mashed potato
Roast potatoes

As for the vital subject of drinks, the Orchard has a decent selection of wines (including rose and fizz), and there should be something for everyone in the beer selection. On tap, they've got Aspall cider, Freedom organic lager, Staropramen, Becks, and Adnams Explorer - a light, citrussy ale. Among the bottled beer selection are Guinness, Leffe, Hoegaarden, Desperados and Corona. Ed is keen to stock a variety (it's a free house) and is open to customer suggestions. BC has already put in a plea for London Pride.

There were a couple of first-night teething problems - the extractor fan wasn't working, meaning that the room became smoky at one point and the large front windows had to be opened, which was somewhat chilly. And be warned - they were taking cash only while payment systems are set up. But the staff coped admirably and with courtesy.

All in all, this was a fantastic start for what is shaping up to be strong competition to local heroes Jam Circus and the newly-launched Talbot. Location-wise it fills a definite gap in the market, and we hope that the rest of Brockley welcomes it warmly. Best of luck Ed & Emily, and staff!

The Brockley Map

Brockley Jon has updated the Brockley Map, which has drastically altered since it was first created a couple of years ago.

But what have we missed?

Short Cuts

Here's a nice vignette that's nonetheless sure to enrage one or two.

While talking to Emily, the co-founder of The Orchard, last night, she mentioned that shortly after we ran this piece someone popped their head around the door, one day as they were renovating the bar.

They explained that they were moving to Brockley from East Dulwich and until a couple of days before had been tossing and turning over whether to take the plunge, worried that there wasn't a lot to do in the area. Then they read the article and that clinched it for them.

If you build it, the removal van will come.

The Orchard - opens tonight

A man is basically as faithful as his options.
- Chris Rock, Bigger and Blacker

Today marks the point at which Brockley's nightlife achieves critical mass. It will be possible to have a good night out in Brockley without having to think too hard or make too many compromises. If one place is packed, dead or shut, you will be able to head off in to the winter night in the confidence that Brockley now has a range of good options. Dismal pub crawls like this one are a thing of the past.

In Crofton Park, the consistently brilliant Jam Circus is complemented by the specialist Mr Lawrence and the refreshed Brockley Jack. In Ladywell, the Tavern hosts regular music nights. At the Lewisham end of the conservation area, the reborn Talbot is already picking up overwhelmingly positive reviews. The Wickham Arms has upped its game in the last year or two and in Telegraph Hill, Skehans has been joined by The Telegraph, while the delights of Honor Oak and New Cross are not far away, depending on which end of Brockley you live.

And now, right in the middle of all of that and in stark contrast to the Barge beerodrome, comes The Orchard - a new bar / kitchen on Harefield Road.

Last night, we met with the new owners of The Orchard, who were having a trial opening ahead of its formal debut, tonight.

Formerly Aquarium and, before that Ecosium, The Orchard is exactly what the area has always needed. A cosy, intimate place run by people who know what they're doing. We tried really hard to like the previous establishments and they always won points simply for existing, but they were deeply flawed - from the odd decor and the lumpy tables that you couldn't stand a wine glass on to the dodgy service and unhappy staff.
The team behind The Orchard (Emily and Ed) have taken the same space and without dramatically changing the layout, transformed its look and feel. Some of the original features remain, including the open kitchen and the fish tank (although it looks somewhat depopulated), but it feels entirely new.
For example, the entire back room used to be a dead zone - a place you would reluctantly go on the odd occasion that the front room tables were taken. With some redecoration, clever use of lighting and by removing the over-size wooden shelf that used to jut in to the room, it's been turned from a cold space in to a warm one. Where Aquarium stuffed the front room with awkward furniture, it's now clean and uncluttered. The blaring TVs are gone.
Emily and Ed both stressed that The Orchard is a bar first and a restaurant second. They want people to feel they can pop-in for a drink, rather than obligated to look at the food menu. Having said that, they've found a serious chef and the menu written up on the large chalk boards looks great.
Ed may look like Tom Cruise, circa Cocktail, but beneath his dashing exterior quivers the belly of a real-ale drinker. He was visibly excited about the fact that he was free to sell whatever beers he liked and, alongside Adnams, is planning to stock nut-brown exotica. He'll also be open to suggestions from regulars.

The Orchard opens this evening until 11pm. Brockley Kate will be going gonzo later tonight - her report will follow.

The Orchard - watch this space

The Orchard, Harefield Road's new bar / kitchen, is nearly ready for its formal opening night, having completed a remarkably quick re-fit.

We're hoping to organise a BC Drinks night before Christmas to celebrate its opening and will let you know the details very soon. We wouldn't normally dare to try and summon the might of the BC Army so soon after The Talbot drinks night, but then we are entering uncharted territory with a second bar-opening in such a short period of time.

Brockley Christmas Market

The Christmas Market returns to Coulgate Street on December 12th, from 12pm-6pm.

With 35 stalls, it promises to be the best yet. If the weather is kind, people will be able to double-up with Ladywell Christmas Market, taking place on the same day, ending up at the Ladywell Village Improvement Group's benefit gig at the Ladywell Tavern, featuring live music from The Grey Cats and Felix’s Rock Choir.

Christmas Trees

We know that buying a natural Christmas tree is akin to strangling a polar bear, but we're getting one anyway, this weekend. Our normal place is in Shooters Hill, but if anyone has any recommendations closer to home, please let us know.

Haha Superstar

This area has a rich seam of comedy writing and performing talent, from Michael Legge to Josie Long. Now, three local comedy writers have founded the Mini-Haha Club, for kids to try comedy performance and acting.
Morgan writes:
The club is brought to you by the professional comedy writer/performers Verity, Katie and Morgan from the award winning trio Trippplicate (School of Comedy- E4, Hotel Trubble - BBC, Comedy Shuffle - BBC, Green Wing - Channel 4, Catherine Tate Show - BBC).
With extensive experience in leading workshops with young people around the country, Trippplicate have taken up residency at The Honor Oak Pub to provide workshops in all things funny; including games, improvisation, sketches, comedy writing, character work and stand up.
At least two sessions will also be facilitated by special guest tutors from the comedy world.
Ages 6-11 Saturdays 10am - 11.30am
Ages 12-16 Saturdays 11.30am - 1pm
Term Dates:
9th Jan - 20th March
£100 per term.
There are only 20 places available per workshop so please contact us for more information about booking a place. Currently our website is under construction but for all enquiries and to book your place please email us at trippplicate@hotmail.com or call Katie on 07870 554598