The 2010 Telegraph Hill Festival

The details of the 2010 Telegraph Hill Festival are now live on the festival website. The programme runs between March 12th and 28th and the box office opens on March 4th.

The organisers say:

Starting with a bunch of mothers at the school gate getting together with their children to stage The Pied Piper of Hamelin the Telegraph Hill Festival is in its 16th Year. From those small beginnings it is now a buzz of non-stop activity with over 60 events packed into ten days and a handful of venues.

The Festival has nevertheless remained true to its community roots. The performers and organisers of all this activity are local people donating their time and talents for free and the Festival is proud to be entirely self sufficient with no public money, just the valued support of a few local businesses.

There is always a community show with a cast of about 100 – this year Sweeney Todd – and other perennial favourites, Comedy Night, a Classical Concert (with international class performers), Strawberry Thieves (SE London’s Socialist Choir) and a local history walk. Other items come and go.

New this year we have a street closed for 4xB (Boards, Blades, Bikes and Buses), workshops ranging from music theory, via storytelling, to Thai fruit carving (amazing what you can do with a water-melon), an Elizabethan Cabaret (bold and sassy, exquisite and lovely) and political discussion in the upper room of The Telegraph, Dennetts Road, a talk by comedian and broadcaster, Barrie Hall, being (for once) deadly serious on “Democracy – it was good while it lasted”.

Thanks to Tamsin for providing the info.

Guided walks in Crystal Palace and Forest Hill this weekend

Walking tour company London Walks are offering a south London double-bill this Sunday, with a guided walk of Crystal Palace in the morning, and Forest Hill in the afternoon. This could be the excuse you need to nose round those stops just down the train line.

There's no need to book, just turn up, but you do have to pay £7 (per walk, we assume). Full details are on their blog. We wonder whether Brockley could be next on the list?

The Crystal Palace
Couldn't resist posting this wonderful postcard of the Crystal Palace

Knife crime in Lewisham

The other day, we set out our policy on reporting crime, arguing that crime statistics were one of the useful things we could report. So, reader Rob called our bluff - you like crime statistics, do you? Well here's a wodge of data about stabbings across London to wade through.

The data he sent us was a table of ambulance call outs in London for knife injuries over the last two years (Jan 08 - Dec 09) and broken down on a ward-by-ward basis.

As Rob pointed out, Lewisham's stats are relatively high, compared to many other boroughs (although inner London boroughs suffer a higher average rate than outer London boroughs). In Lewisham's case, the problem is particularly acute in the north of the borough, in wards like Evelyn, Lewisham Central and New Cross, which is in the top 10 wards in London, with 29 incidents over the two year period measured.

Telegraph Hill and Brockley fare better, but are still 53rd (16 incidents) and 72nd (14 incidents) out of 649 wards, respectively.

Downham (11 incidents), Sydenham and Whitefoot (both 10), Ladywell (9), Bellingham, Forest Hill, Grove Park, Perry Vale, Rushey Green (all 8), Crofton Park (7) and Blackheath (6) all perform relatively well for inner London, while Lewisham's best performing wards are Catford South and Lee Green (4 each).

Thanks to Rob for sending the data. Sort of.

Organic gardening sessions at Frendsbury Gardens

Brockley Central has had enough of winter. The snow wasn't snowy enough to earn us a day off work but more than enough to double our commuting time, the cold has been incessant and there have hardly been any blue sky days to break the gloom. We think we may have killed a houseplant by exposing it to the open air for 12 hours too.

So we're pleased to see that Frendsbury Gardens is gearing up for spring with a new calendar of free gardening classes, from 11am – 2pm. They are:

Sat 27 Feb: Sowing seeds - start organic gardening
Organic gardening - Q&A. Tools identification, safe use and care.
Seed sowing practical. What are you going to grow? (6 less common vegetables). How are you going to grow? (6 ways). Questions

Sat 6 Mar: Design an organic garden - everything you need to know
Aspect, water conservation, lawn care (practical), composting (practical). Questions.

Sat 13 Mar: Pond and wild flower planting (family friendly, drop-in session) 11am – 4pm
Pop in during the day when we will be planting up the new pond with aquatic plants such as Soft rush and Arrowhead. We will also plant the surrounding area with wildflower seed and plug plants such as Ragged Robin and Wild Carrot.

Thurs 18 Mar: Weeds - tackle them the organic way
Integrated Pest Management (IPM) - biological, cultural and chemical. Weed identification (practical) - bring in a weed from your garden (root as well).

Thurs 1 Apr: Garden pests & diseases - deal with them the organic way. Grow your own floral bouquets. Integrated Pest Management (IPM). Pest & disease identification. Flowers for cutting.

Sat 24 Apr: Make a hanging basket with a difference (family friendly)
A mixed edible and non-edible plants. All materials provided. Booking essential.

Please call Gareth on 020 8314 2071 or email for more information or to book a place.

A new cafe for Tyrwhitt Road? You decide.

Reader Tim is thinking about opening a new cafe at the north east corner of town, to revive a site that's been empty for too long. When he got in touch about his idea, we gave him the benefit of our wisdom, but for some reason that wasn't enough for him. He'd like you all to help him decide whether to go ahead. Here's his message:

Many Brockley Central readers will have already met me - I work part-time at The Brockley Mess (I'm the most handsome one).

When I found out last year that Moonbow Jakes had shut it reignited a long-held ambition: to open and run my own cafe. Of course, upon doing a bit of digging I discovered that Ray and Mel (them of Royal Teas) had dibs on it. Jaded with my full-time voluntary sector job I got in touch with Ray, who offered me a couple of days a week, and I have been there from the start.

I joined the Mess after a long break from catering to re-learn the trade, with the intention of at some point opening something up myself. The Talbot opening and being successful got me wondering about the derelict grocers at the end of my road as a potential site. There's a dearth of cafe-type eateries in the area, save for the College Cafe on Lewisham Way and a few chicken shops further down the hill, if that's your thing. Neither of these fit the bill tremendously well for me, and I suspect the same can be said for a lot of other local people.
Cycling past one day I chanced upon a guy inside the building doing some clearance, so I stopped and quizzed him a bit. He works for the owners and they are starting to think about doing it up with a view to renting it (anyone who has seen the building will know that this will be quite a task!). I presented my seed of an idea and he seemed to think they might be receptive to this; I hope to be put in touch with them when they return from a holiday.

Really I am no further along than that. It will be a while before anything happens - if it happens at all - but it struck me that the first step might be a bit of very basic market research with the readers of the blog.
To these ends I have created a simplistic questionnaire to get the ball rolling. I would be grateful to anyone who can spare literally one minute to answer the six questions, and grateful, too, for the more expansive comments I'm sure this post will elicit.

Please complete the questionnaire here.

Lewisham teen pregnancy rate drops

The number of pregnancies for 15-17 year-old girls in Lewisham fell from 72 conceptions per 1,000 (2003-05) to 69.2 per 1,000 (2006-08).

According to the Guardian's data blog, which takes its figures from the Office of National Statistics, the borough is still ranked third in London, after Lambeth and Southwark.

The figures are broadly in line with the nationwide trend, but the drop falls short of the rate of decline needed to achieve the government's national target of halving the teenage pregnancy rate by 2010.

Sport Billy

Musician, songwriter, Hilly Fields bowls club impresario, humanist funeral ceremony celebrant. Billy Jenkins is a Brockley renaissance man who has paid tribute to his home with his latest album "I am a man from Lewisham".

Billy is the driving force for the Francis Drake Bowls Club and has performed at the Brockley MAX.

He appeared on Radio 4's Midweek today, describing "the wonder and beauty" that's on our doorstep and you can listen to him here.

Sweeney's Cafe, Ewhurst Road

Patrick1971 is a long-time member of the Brockley Central community and he's now stepped up to the plate with his own article - a review of Sweeney's Cafe. Enjoy:

Sweeney's Cafe is the latest addition to the Ewhurst Road parade of shops, featured recently on Brockley Central. It's been open for a few weeks now, serving breakfasts and lunch to a keen crowd of south Brockleyites. During the period prior to opening, locals weren't quite sure what was coming. Was it going to be another greasy spoon,or a more of a lunch and afternoon cafe? The answer is, it's both.

You enter into a light, open space, with attractive, solid wooden tables and the daily papers available to read with your breakfast.There are three standard breakfasts available, priced from £3.95 to £5.95. Although this may seem a smaller range than usual, you can of course mix and match as you please with the large extras menu. One of the big successes, though, has been the traditional pie and mash.

Owner Bill Walsh says:

"Pie and mash is what London was built on.It's something people will travel a long way for, and it's becoming harder and harder to get hold of. It's possible to feed a family off our healthily here for lunch for under £10."

The pie & mash is certainly proving popular; during my half-hour visit no fewer than four families came in to pick up an order, along with a number of diners eating in.

Bill is passionate about making Sweeney's Cafe a hub of the community. He and his business partner John have a background in upmarket mass catering; they've both worked at Michelin-starred establishments and also at venues such as Lord's. They became disillusioned with the conveyor-belt style of modern food production, and were keen to get back to real cooking. A friend mentioned to them that a location in Brockley was becoming available, and it quickly appealed.

"We were looking for somewhere with a community feel, where we could get good,reliable local produce, and away from the main road so people could sit outside," Bill says. "I wanted to come back to south London; I grew up in Bermondsey. This place felt right immediately." All the produce at Sweeney's is locally sourced, with the meat coming from Peter James opposite. Bill has also given lectures in food technology and hygiene at local schools, and organised tastings and lunch sessions with the students.

Coming in the summer will be outdoor seating both at the front and in the new kitchen garden at the rear, an alcohol licence, and special events for the World Cup. "I want this to be a place the community can come to enjoy the World Cup without the atmosphere you often get at pubs," Bill says. Sweeney's is also keen to set up a gallery space; there is a whole wall available for local artists to show and sell their work. The venue can be hired on Sundays for small functions such as christenings or birthdays. Afternoon tea is also soon to be available, with locally produced cakes and biscuits, and hot fruit pies and artisan breads are imminent.

Sweeney's is a great new addition to a quiet area of south Brockley,and we hope it becomes as much of a destination as Peter James is already.
"I see Sweeney's as sitting between a transport caff and the Brockley Mess," Bill says. "It's somewhere where both sets of customers can feel comfortable and find something that suits them. Afternoon tea is also soon to be available, with freshly baked in house cakes and biscuits and hot fruit pies and artisan breads are imminent."

Opening hours are 0730 to 1630 Monday to Friday, 0800 to 1530 Saturday and 0900 to 1400 Sunday.

The death of politics

The Lewisham Green Party has opened a new HQ on Brockley Road, ahead of the elections. Located at 252 Brockley Road, their pop-up venture was formerly Crowley Memorials (now relocated to Stanstead Road, Forest Hill) and will be open from 10am-7pm.

So is the Green Party the first to park its tanks on Lewisham's lawn? Are they going to be the most active campaigners in Brockley?

Please use this thread to let us know about any other political campaigning you see locally.

Aladdin's Cave, Brockley Road

There's always that one location, one store location that's constantly changing hands. Everybody has this in their neighborhood, it's a leather store, it's a yogurt shop, it's a pet supply. It's constantly changing and nobody can do business there. It's like some sort of Bermuda triangle of retail, you know? Stores open up and then they just disappear without a trace. Nobody knows what happened to 'em.
- Jerry Seinfeld, The Cafe

Aladdin's Cave is the new, wi-fi-enabled cafe in Crofton Park, taking the place of Barrio, which itself replaced Cafe Blanca. Both former venues earned decent feedback from BC readers, but didn't last long. Let's hope this incarnation is more successful.

Please post your comments and reviews here.

From Shiatsu to Tax Consultancy

The Brockley Central classifieds section now has local suppliers of everything from tax advice to photography classes, shiatsu to make-up consultancies, ironing and life drawing. If you haven't already, please check it out.

If it bleeds, it leads

We've been thinking about how we cover crime locally - about what gets covered and what doesn't. We've tried to codify our approach and we wanted to ask you whether you think we've got it right.

Firstly, the local papers are pretty comprehensive when it comes to crime. Brockley Central has always tried to fill in the gaps when it comes to local reporting, so we don't give a lot of space to the issue, about which we have little to add anyway.

Secondly, we try to write about stuff you can do something about - businesses you can try, events you can attend, causes you can support, behaviours you can change and so on. Trends are important - they tell you how good a job we're all doing at creating a safe community - which is why we report the crime figures, whenever they're published. We also report the really high-profile cases that make the national news agenda and relevant police appeals for witnesses.

But in the case of the sorts of violent crime that often dominate local news, there's relatively little that you can learn from the fact that one happened near you, except perhaps to be fearful. For example, the South London Press recently carried an interview with a woman who helped a boy stabbed on Dalrymple Road. The story she describes is indeed horrific and needed to be told. However, the interview also includes her analysis of "Broken Britain" - painting a picture of a society in terminal decline:

“This culture of anger, aggression, weaponry and anti-establishment on the streets of South London is horrifying. Our society has lost something. I am unsure what.

“These kids use the word ‘respect’ widely and in my opinion have little respect for anyone or anything other than their individual needs. Does anyone have any ideas as to what we all could do to restore some community spirit to our environment?

“Should our legal system be tougher, our schools stronger, our parenting more disciplined?

The quotes are reported without question but the reality is that society is becoming safer. The Economist has a brilliant analysis of the long-term trends in the UK. Violent crime peaked in 1995 and has been declining steadily since. True, it also says that "violence at the hands of strangers—the prospect that probably drives fear of crime more than anything else—has fallen by far less, and in fact rose in the most recent reporting period," but the trend is down.

Despite this, fear of crime doubled between 1997 and 2009. People refuse to believe the statistics or the picture they paint. Check out the most recent discussion of Lewisham's crime statistics for a local example of this phenomenon.

It also has something to say about the threat that young people pose (something to keep in mind while reading the outlandish fears expressed by some in response to a plan to install a skate ramp locally):

Children also seem to be committing fewer serious offences themselves. Martin Narey, a former Home Office big cheese who now runs Barnardo’s, a venerable children’s charity, points out that the number of under-16s being convicted of the gravest offences is at least a third lower than it was in the early 1990s.

And to what does the Economist attribute much of the disconnect between the reality and perception? Changing media consumption. Although ironically, it's the switch from local to national newspapers that gets some of the blame:

But there is one big change: a shift in readership from local papers to national ones. Mr Cameron’s comfortable Witney constituents are dropping the Oxford Mail in favour of national titles or the television, which report the most gruesome stories from across the country, not just the county. In this way local crises, such as an outbreak of teenage stabbings in London in 2007 and 2008, become national panics... And bad news travels best: the fact that London’s teenage-murder rate quietly halved last year was not widely reported outside the capital.

We believe that events like the Hilly Fields Summer Fayre are a better indicator of Brockley's social cohesion than the terrible crimes that occasionally take place on our streets and we believe that we should challenge the bleak picture occasionally painted by local news.

Brockley Bites - other blogs

Exchange Coffee heads to final

Lewisham Coffee outlet Exchange Coffee followed their Time Out commendation by winning first and third at the UK Latte Art Championship this weekend and are now on their way to the UK Barista Championship finals in June.

Sayes Court Park

The park is part of Convoys Wharf in Deptford, once the house and garden of John Evelyn, contemporary of Samuel Pepys.

It's subject to a very gloomy entry on Wikipedia, which describes it as run-down and vandalised and shows a picture of a damaged oak tree, to illustrate the contemporary park.

It's now got a dedicated blog, which hopes to uncover its history, although its first entry suggests it has its work cut out:

But the park, despite bearing the name of Sayes Court, initially appeared to be just a rather run-down, reduced-to-low-maintenance relic of the nineteen-fifties. A few ubiquitous plane trees and shrubs and predictable rows of roses, but otherwise, sadly, not much apart from concrete paths and grass.

Brockley Mess applies for license

For some time, The Brockley Mess has been flirting with the idea of opening later in the evenings and is now applying for a license to serve alcohol.

The move makes sense, particularly as its growing its reputation as a gallery space.

The site operated as a bar / cafe until 2009, when Moonbow Jakes closed and the residents of midtown Brockley are currently without a drinking option on their doorstep, so it should be an uncontroversial application.

Specifically, here's what they're hoping for:

  • Sale of alcohol on the premises 1200 – 0000 Monday – Saturday 1200 – 2230 Sunday.
  • Regulated entertainment films & recorded music 0900 – 0000 Monday – Saturday 1000 -2230 Sunday.
  • Live music 1200 – 0000 Monday – Saturday 1200 – 2230 Sunday.
  • Provision for dancing 1800 – 0000 Monday – Saturday 1800 – 2230 Sunday.

TfL to investigate Brockley Station overcrowding

Well, I would say this - I've been working here for 18 years, and in 1975 no one died. In 1976, no one died. In 1977, no one died. In 1978, no one died. In 1979, no-one died. In 1980... someone died. In 1981, no one died. In 1982 there was the incident with the pigeon. In 1983, no one died. In 1984, no one died. In 1985, no one died. In 1986... I mean, I could go on.
- Keith Mandement, The Day Today

Following concerns raised by Brockley Central readers on this thread, about potentially dangerous levels of overcrowding during the evening peak time at Brockley Station, TfL has confirmed that it will investigate the issue.

We sent them your comments and in response, a TfL spokesman said:

“The gates at Brockley station were introduced by Southern, and we inherited this system in September 2009. Since then LOROL has been operating the station on TfL London Rail’s behalf, and no accidents have been reported at the station. However, our stations team is due to go on site at Brockley in the next few weeks to observe passenger flows and determine whether action is required there.”

Thanks for your helpful feedback and to TfL for responding so promptly.

Brockley's gene pool under scrutiny

The producers of the JLC show at the Rivoli are looking for local talent.

They say:

We’re looking for up-for-it single girls and boys to take part in our fun dating segment with a twist, where you get to star alongside Justin Lee Collins in front of a live audience.

They're also:

Looking for people who love to sing and dance to take part in performance-based games, where you get to star alongside Justin Lee Collins in front of a live audience. You don’t need experience, just bags of enthusiasm, and a passion for performing.

Email us with your name, age, occupation and contact telephone number to

Fresh drive for Coulgate Street part-pedestrianisation

The Brockley Cross Action Group have asked us to promote the Coulgate Street petition again.

The petition is in support of Coulgate Street being part-pedestrianised, to make the access to the station safer and more attractive.

The plans would need to allow for residents to continue to park on the street but they would not require a CPZ to be introduced - the measure would be highly-localised and could be relaxed in the evenings. There would also be allowance made for passenger drop-offs and for the fact that Speedicars taxis operate from the street.

The Brockley Assembly is pushing for this issue to be looked at in more detail and Lewisham Council has already raised the idea with TfL, although the reality is that funding will take some time to secure, even in the most optimistic scenario.

But if you'd like to see Coulgate Street be improved, please sign here now.

The initial ambition for the petition was to raise 200 signatures, a target we breezed through. Now at 259 signatures, BXAG want to get 1,000 signatures, which is the sort of size we need, to really get noticed by the Council.

Browns of Brockley makes Time Out's Best Coffee Map

Time Out has just released its exhaustive study of London's coffee outlets, with Browns of Brockley and Exchange Coffee in Lewisham the only listed options further south east than London Bridge. The overall winner for the southern region was Monmouth, in Borough. But here's what they said about Lewisham's champions:

Browns of Brockley
A special treat in the form of espresso brewed from San Francisco-based Bluebottle Company beans is a change from the usual... We would have liked its flat white to have had equal verve – it didn’t discern itself much from a regular latte, lacking slightly in body. We give barista Ross extra points for bringing out the deliciously addictive butterscotch and hazelnut flavours in the blend.

Exchange Coffee
This coffee stall, pitched on Saturdays at Lewisham’s chaotic street market, is the area’s source of gloriously crafted Monmouth coffees (owners Lynsey Harley and Neil Le Bihan both used to work at Monmouth). The espresso is meticulously extracted, with strong malty-chocolatey notes typical of the Monmouth house, and a latte is creamy and topped with a perfect rosetta. These two are fanatical about latte art (Neil recently took first place at the UK Latte Art championships, with Lynsey collecting bronze).

Given south east London's consistently low-profile on London's culinary radar, it's good to see Brockley building a growing reputation for quality food and drink.

The Time Out London Coffee Map:

View in Google Maps

343 bus route consultation - frequency increase proposed

Transport for London is currently conducting a consultation about the future of the 343 and N343 bus routes, which runs from New Cross Gate to London Bridge via Brockley and Telegraph Hill. A new franchise will be awarded in 2011 and a small increase in frequency is proposed.

The Telegraph Hill Society Chairman Malcom Bacchus sets out their feedback on TheHill forum:

We have questioned whether Pepys and Jerningham Road are even appropriate as a double-decker bus route given the social and environmental impact on residents. We have made proposals to change the 343 route (or stop it earlier) to avoid the Hill and replace the service across the Hill with a modification to one of the single decker routes.

We have also suggested that a number of the buses are turned at an earlier point to reduce the frequency on this part of the route, which is under-utilised. Lewisham Council has tried to support us in dealing with the antisocial issues of speeding and the bus stand. We have tried to have meetings with TfL to show them the vibration problems and the issues with the bus stand.

If you'd like to have your say on the route, the xontact email address is and the subject ref is MH/T335/Stage2/R/0110. The deadline is February 26th.

With thanks to Emily.

The Blythe Hill Festival - be part of it

The organisers of this year's Blythe Hill Festival, which will take place on Saturday, July 3rd, 11am-4pm, are asking for local performers interested in taking part.

Molly writes:

I help to organise our little festival by programming the main stage. I already have a fair few local legends confirmed but would love to have some new blood so wondered if you could help get the message out there.

The line up already includes the Brockley Rise Singers, Frank and Annie, Sid Sings, Andy Hankdog, Sucker and the Irish session band from the Blythe Hill Tavern. So it has a kind of family folky and punky feel but the programming is eclectic so anything goes. We would also love to hear from any dance acts that might like to perform.

Please pass my email to anyone who may be interested in taking part. And if your readers haven't yet checked out Blythe Hill or don't know where it is then come on down - it is the green hill you can see if you face South from the top of Hilly Fields and I guarantee a lovely day out on 3rd July.

Damn the gods

"Have you seen what's happening out there? Have you even bothered to look?"

"They need to be reminded of the order of things. Turn them on eachother."

"One day, somebody's going to have to make a stand. One day, somebody's got to say enough."

Since we first began writing about the problems of soggy newspapers and absent cash machines, Brockley has made great strides, in many ways.

But one of the most aggravating, retrograde steps is also the most pointless.

The gate to the southbound platform of Brockley Station.

Why oh why oh why?!

Every night, half of the people on every train from London decant when it reaches Brockley. And every night they are forced to walk up the stairs and then down the stairs so they can be processed via the ticket office. Except when someone in the ticket office decides to listen to the desperate buzzing of commuters standing by the gate. Sometimes they open it. Sometimes they don't.

As we stand there, wondering whether we should just start walking to the stairs or hang on for one moment more in the hope they open the gate, we can't help imagining the ticket office as Mount Olympus and the staff, the gods who play with our fates. Will they push their button and let us through - or are they busy seducing Athenian chicks? Who knows?

Because the rules by which they decide to open the gate are seemingly so arbitrary that we never know quite when to give up waiting - which wastes even more time.

If you do throw in your lot with the ticket office, you'll often find commuters backed up down the stairs, as the office struggles to cope with the sheer weight of numbers, which means they throw open the gates anyway, thus rendering the whole exercise (designed to check people's tickets) futile.

Long-term, the station is due to be remodelled. Short-term, TfL, whose own figures predicted that the number of people using the station would treble due to the introduction of the East London Line, need an urgent rethink. The simplest solution would be to keep the gate open in the evenings.

We're going to contact TfL to make them aware of the issue. If you share our frustrations, please post your comments here. If not, then it's obviously just us and we apologise for wasting your time.

905 new homes planned at The Wharves in Deptford

Deptford Dame has trumped our own, comparatively pitiful, housing development story with this scoop about a proposal for a large chunk of Deptford, called 'The Wharves', which would occupy the land between Deptford Park and Pepys Park and reinstate the Surrey Canal.

Well played, Deptford. With thanks to Crofton Park Ranger.

Major new housing development proposed for west side

View Larger Map

A planning application has been made to build 32 new homes on the strip of brown field land between St Norbert Road and the railway line, right next to Brockley Station’s western entrance. The homes would be provided in two three-storey linear blocks.

Full details of the application are available here.

The designs look to be of reasonable quality and the new homes will rescue a derelict site, formerly occupied by light-industry, placing a buffer between the current homes and the noise of the railway line (which is about to get busier, thanks to the East London Line). However, it will also mean some homes’ gardens are overlooked, with some loss of sunlight in some cases. The project would join a long line of developments, clustered around the station, on the west side, including Bridge House, Glass House and Martin’s Yard.

Our Future's Orange: Shoreditch High Street

This is part three of our preview of the East London Line, profiling many of the stops along the new route, ahead of its opening in May.
Brutalist Shoreditch High Street station
The Albion

Marcos & Trump, Columbia Road

Agnes B, Spitalfields

A squirrel, off Redchurch Street

Brockley residents need never be further than this from a coffee house

Columbia Road flower market

Gaslight - Columbia Road
Ben: Who’s Wings?
Alan: They’re only the band the Beatles could have been.
- I’m Alan Partridge

The new Shoreditch High Street station has been built on the site of Bishopsgate Goods Yard, next to Bethnal Green Road. A brutalist concrete box, the station is designed to be built-over, in the expectation that the yard will be redeveloped. Its location on the eastern edge of the Square Mile, near the Broadgate estate, means that it’s likely to be a key destination for many Brockley commuters.

More importantly, it will plonk you down in one of London’s most exciting locations, within easy reach of Brick Lane, Spitalfields Market, Great Eastern Street, Redchurch Street and Columbia Road.

The area is what we’ve always wanted Camden to be, but isn’t: Crowded but charming, grotty and glamourous in equal measure, unremittingly urban but also human in scale. Whichever direction you walk in, you’ll find great shops, restaurants, bars and markets, filled with stuff you might actually want to buy. It's buzzy, but you can still move around, with plenty to explore around any turn.

We spent Valentine’s Day wandering around the area, ostensibly to buy some flowers but more importantly, to complete our compulsive mission to preview each of the new East London Line’s destinations. We headed off down Redchurch Street, home to boutiques like Caravan, the Conran hotel and restaurant the Boundary and the Albion (the former has a stunning roof-top restaurant) and the artist-run gallery Studio 1.1. Sandwiched between Redchurch Street and Bethnal Green Road is Shoreditch House, the private members club twinned with Soho House.

Redchurch intersects with Brick Lane, which has far more to offer than Indian restaurants of variable quality. The Brick House covered food market has a smaller range than – say – Borough Market, but offers among the stalls range from spaghetti pie to cupcakes and hog roast. The giant Truman Brewery, Vibe Bar, 93 Feet East and Casa Blue are among the eclectic venues that mingle with street markets at the weekend.

Head south and west and you’ll reach Spitalfields, which now rubs up against the City and a new mixed development that has inserted chains like Wagamamas and Las Iguanas into what until recently functioned as a grand flea market. Undoubtedly, Spitalfields has lost some of its character, thanks to a project , which was fiercely resisted on the grounds that it would cost the market precisely that. However, what remains is pretty successful on its own terms and the best of the historic architecture has been preserved. One of Hawksmoor's greatest creations, Christ Church, is just next door.

The market is not especially interesting, but there are some great shops like Agnes B, cafes like the Market Coffee House and restaurants like Canteen. The old market blends pretty well in to the new development, which caters to the city workers’ lunchtime break. Some quieter, pedestrian-friendly spots allow you to pause for breath as you walk around. The independent traders seem to have spread to the margins and back up and off Brick Lane.
The highlight of the area, however, is Columbia Road. The wonderful (and good value) flower market aside, it is an amazing slice of Victorian street life, built in the 1860s to cater for the Jesus Hospital Estate and once home to a thriving wood trade. Today, it’s home to artists like Rob Ryan and a range of furniture and gardening shops.

Tucked away just off Columbia Road are courtyards filled with fabric and craft shops, delis and even an antique shop on Ezra Road run by Degustation proprietor, Augustin, who also does a nice line in warm cider on cold days. It’s a beautiful and beautifully-preserved neighbourhood that still feels like a community.

We’re not going to suggest that its success is all about the lamp posts (pictured) but Columbia Road is one of the best examples in London of how an attention to detail can be transformative. Set against a backdrop of looming modern edifices, the street offers up the kind of contrast that London does brilliantly. In fewer than 100 days, it's going to feel like our local flower market.

More East London Line destinations:

Ken Loach at The Albany, March 10th

Celebrated Director Ken Loach will be taking part in a Q&A ahead of a screening of his outstanding film, Looking for Eric, at The Albany in Deptford, March 10th, from 7pm.

Eric Cantona's consistently poor performances at European level, season-after-season, may have exposed his limitations as a player, but many Manchester United supporters still rate him as the greatest player in their Club's history. This makes him the perfect subject for a film about a fanatical fan, turning to a fictional version of Eric, to help him cope as his life begins to break down.

The event is being organised by a group called Urban Screen, whose main aim is to provide a platform for new film talent – especially those coming from an urban environment. They receive some funding by Film London. They have been running events at The Albany since last summer.

To accompany Looking for Eric, they will also be showing Goldsmith’s graduation film 'N25' and also a short film that was finished by the Maya Vision finishing fund, called 'Bale'.

Little London at the Brockley Mess

The Brockley Mess' cueB gallery will be showcasing the work of Brockley photographer Toby Allen, from March 3rd - April 8th 2010. They say:

Little London is Toby Allen’s first public exhibition of his unique street photography project . Drawing inspiration from the sights and scenes of London, this project uses a tilt and shift style of photography. His innovative use of this method transforms images of everyday London into a toy town state. All the images on show are printed directly onto acrylic, using the latest techniques and ink technology.

During the project, he has found himself shooting from some of the most iconic buildings in London, from the Tower 42 to City Hall, St Paul’s, the Barbican and Wembley Stadium.

20% of all sales from the exhibition will go towards The National Autistic Society (NAS).

The Telegraph Pub - Under New Management

The Telegraph at the Earl of Denby, the under-appreciated pub on Dennetts Road, Telegraph Hill, is holding a party tonight to celebrate the fact that it's now under new management.

The party starts from 6.30pm tonight, with free cassoulet and a free drink for customers.

With thanks to Harry for reminding us, after we lost the flyer.

Work underway on new Hilly Fields playground

Here are a couple of shots of the top of Hilly Fields, which is currently a construction site, as the playground is rebuilt to create a vastly improved facility, combining natural elements with new equipment.

The Friends of Hilly Fields report that work is expected to finish in late Spring.

With thanks to Fintan for the pictures.

Guest column: Tommy Franzen - the legend continues

By Emma Coombes, local resident

Last Friday, I posted an article promoting local dancer Tommy Franzen and an emphatic plea for Brockleyites to lend him their support in BBC1’s current Saturday night show So You Think You Can Dance….and it worked!

Tommy stormed through last Saturday night’s semi-final gaining the largest public vote amongst the men. This was a phenomenal achievement. Tommy started off as a dark horse in the competition, overshadowed by other competitors who had stronger instant public ‘local’ appeal and, early in the series, faced elimination. However, his dance credentials have always shone through and this was recognised by the judges, who elected to keep him in.

Since then, Tommy has dazzled with some spectacular dancing, mastering all styles from hip hop (his chosen discipline) to the quick-step and in addition, choreographing his own inspirational solos – last week described by the judges as ‘outstanding’.

His ability to master, mix and combine such a variety of dance styles has led him to become the judges favourite, the bookies’ favourite and judging by last week’s vote, one of the public’s favourites too.

As I said last week, I think Tommy is a great reflection of the artistic talent in the Brockley and Lewisham area. He is an inspired and creative dancer and a great role model for youngsters in the area. Last week many of you voted for him – mention of the Brockley Community’s support even appearing on his official Facebook fanpage. Hell, even Ainsley Harriot has posted a public message of support for him on You Tube, and what better endorsement can be achieved than that….(!)

This week Councillor Heidi Alexander officially lent Tommy the Mayor’s backing, stating "Tommy is a fantastic ambassador for a borough overflowing with creative talent. His amazing performances speak for themselves and I'm sure the whole of Lewisham will be right behind their local hero in the final on Saturday night."

So, as our Mayor likes to state, ‘Lewisham’s Got Talent’… so let’s vote for Tommy on Saturday night and prove it!

Harefield Road fills up

It looks like the first of our predictions for 2010 is coming to pass. We foretold that the last of the three new units on Harefield Road would at last find an occupant, after years of lying vacant. A small property, its potential uses are limited, and it's more likely to become an office than a shop.

We believed that, given the great setting, the upswing in the economy and the arrival of the ELL, it was only a matter of time before someone swooped, even given the constraints.

Now, estate agents John Payne say that the property is under offer and The Orchard and The Shop on the Hill could soon have new neighbours.

Locality, locality, there's nothing like locality

BC has just stumbled across a rather interesting debate in the 'suggest topic' thread, and we thought it was worthy of a wider airing. The topic is locality funding, and the issue is inter-ward collaboration.

For those who aren't up on local government funding streams, here's some background:
A couple of years back (perhaps - can one of our resident experts confirm?), Lewisham Council set up a Locality Fund with the aim of 'supporting community engagement and initiatives in each [council] ward'.
The funding is worth £10,000 per ward per year, and is allocated based on ward councillors' recommendations after consultation with the local assemblies and through public meetings, surgeries and contact with local community groups and individuals.

This is, of course, a wonderful opportunity to address many of the relatively minor local issues which struggle to win the council's attention in the face of wider strategic priorities. It's also great to give local communities input into how their money is used.

The idea also raises some issues about notions of community and collaboration which BC thought were interesting.

The discussion on the 'Suggest Topic' thread focussed around the Brockley Max festival's attempts to fundraise through the Locality Fund. The organisers applied to three wards - Crofton Park, Ladywell and Brockley - and were turned down by Crofton Park on the basis that the event did not take place within the ward (according to the account on the thread - if anyone would like to provide BC with further detail on this, please do!). This is despite the fact that Jam Circus, a stalwart Max supporter and regular Max event host, lies well within the ward.

There are two issues to contemplate here - firstly, the extent to which wards could or should collaborate in funding cross-boundary priorities, and secondly, the question of where boundaries lie.
Tamsin made the point during the previous discussion that the Telegraph Hill ward, for example, is rather invidiously drawn up, spanning several distinct areas and lacking a clear high street or other focal point.

BC would also venture to suggest that sometimes it can be better to focus on developing one area as a 'destination', rather than trying to achieve the same thing in several areas and simply spreading the money and effort too thinly to create a critical level of momentum.

Edit: BC would be very interested to hear the views of local councillors and others involved in the allocation of locality funding, and those who have bid for locality funding. Please post in the comments section, below.

New season at the Brockley Jack Theatre - Write Now

The Brockley Jack theatre is launching a new season of plays written by local writers, called Write Now. In September 2009, the theatre invited playwrights with a connection to south east London to submit unperformed plays to the venue.

Here are the three chosen:

Compression by Joy Wilkinson
Tuesday 16 - Saturday 20 February at 7.45pm

Go for a spacewalk in Piccadilly. Scubadive down the South Bank. Think you're thinking about anything... except you.

Ever since he was born, a terrible gift has cut Robin off from those around him. Today that may change. This is Robin's last chance to propose to the woman he loves, but he has to get to Machu Picchu to do it. And how can he cross the world, when he can't even get out of his bedsit?

Compression is a funny and moving new play about the voices in our heads that hold us back, and how one singular man talked them around.

Fighting by Tom Green
Tuesday 23 - Saturday 27 February at 7.45pm

Will we fight back? Without any weapons. What are we going to do? Throw stones? Call them names?

Two soldiers flee from an ambush in the middle of the night. They think it's just a military exercise but the arrival of a wounded colleague suggests that the fighting is for real. So who is behind it? And are they out there still, hunting them down?

Fighting is a provocative drama that questions what we can rely on and whose account of the truth we should believe.

The Bitch From Brixton by Kate Gallon and Kate-Lynn Hocking
Tuesday 2 - Saturday 6 March at 7.45pm

It's obvious when I shot him I intended to kill him...

Open and shut cases are rarely what they seem. Ruth Ellis, the so-called 'Bitch from Brixton', is hanged after being found guilty of the murder of her lover. Yet beyond the tabloid controversy lurks a seedy underbelly of espionage, power and betrayal in 1950's London.

Using court archives and biographical accounts this thrilling new play offers Ruth Ellis a powerful and contemporary voice.

Lords of Dogtown - A Skate Park for Telegraph Hill?

Lady: We at the network want a dog with attitude. He's edgy, he's "in your face." You've heard the expression "let's get busy"? Well, this is a dog who gets "biz-zay!" Consistently and thoroughly. Could we put him in more of a "hip-hop" context? I feel we should Rasta-fy him by... 10 percent or so.
- The creation of Poochie the skateboarding dog on The Simpsons

The Skate Park Action Group is a coalition of local parents and young people working to create a skate park in Telegraph Hill.

At a public event in the basketball court in Telegraph Hill lower park on February 27th, 11am-3pm, you'll be able to view their designs and find out about the potential sites in the area.

A skate park would not only be an important new sports facility for the area, it would address the problem of noise generated by skating on the streets. Together with the new cricket pitch being developed in Hilly Fields, it would provide a massive boost for local sport, which is currently poorly provided for.

The young people (aged 11-14) involved in the project have already presented their case to the Youth Opportunities Fund and are waiting to hear whether the application has been successful. Meanwhile, the funding for the public consultation has been provided by the Telegraph Hill Assembly.

Skateboarding, like football, has flourished as an urban sport, because it doesn't require a lot of space, just a few smooth surfaces, rails and ideally some ramps. A skate park could therefore be built without ruining the park. The park would double as a venue for BMX riders and in-line skaters. Organisations like Sport England have identified skateboarding as an important way to encourage more young people to live healthier lifestyles.

The idea already has the support of Sergeant Karl Parish of the Police Safer Neighbourhoods team, who says:

"At present the young people on Telegraph Hill are travelling great distances from their homes to enjoy these facilities in other areas. My team and I would welcome the development of a Skate Park on the ward.”

One of the event organisers, Sophie Beswick, explains:

"The purpose of the Consultation is to let local residents come and see for themselves what we hope to achieve and to meet the designers and comment on possible sites. We have had incredible support so far from within the community but of course there are a few people who are worried about the impact this would have on noise, views etc. We need these people to come along on Saturday so they can make the views known and hopefully we can allay some of their fears."

With thanks to Tamsin for her help with the story.

DLR upgrade works completed this weekend

This weekend is the last scheduled closure of the DLR service to Bank. Services have been disrupted by engineering works to upgrade the line to allow it to handle three-car trains, delivering a 50% increase in the line's capacity.

Transport for London explained in a recent press release:

Three-car operation will be introduced gradually on the Bank-Lewisham route following the completion of the engineering works. DLR has also used the Bank closure to enhance and improve the platforms, lighting and signage at the station.

The investment means that commuters from Lewisham should find their journeys a lot more comfortable and of course allows for greater density of housing in Lewisham, a crucial plank in the Council's regeneration plans.

In other DLR news, Greenwich Council has agreed to a feasibility study for an extension of the service to Kidbrooke and Eltham, although it's most likely that this would be from Woolwich, rather than Lewisham.

Is Boris waging war on us?

Simon Jenkins uses his Evening Standard column today to suggest that the Mayor is at war with South London. He says:

This spring no fewer than five crossings are to close, a sure sign of revolution in the air. South London must have had enough and is on the brink of independence. The Mayor, Boris Johnson, means to seal it off.

Odd that it's a few roadworks that have set him off, rather than the cancellation of the Thames Gateway bridge, the cross-river tram, the Greenwich Waterfront Transit scheme or the Rotherhithe bridge. But then these were all east London projects.

While he namechecks Greenwich, Blackheath, Woolwich, Dulwich and Crystal Palace as he goes, he's really thinking about south west London. The giveaway is that he complains about the cancellation of a project (which was never really on the cards) to link north london to Battersea by tube, arguing that the project was sacrificed in favour of things that did nothing for south London, like the DLR extension (to Lewisham), the Jubilee Line (to Greenwich) and Crossrail (to Woolwich). He forgets about the East London Line entirely.

Still, the overall narrative that north and south London are too disconnected is one that we agree with and one that we've written for South East London in the past.

But then when he says that the 'South' has lost its temper with Boris, does he mean us? Or the good people of Wimbledon?

With thanks to Darryl at 853.

Revitalising civic societies

Doing Civics in the 21st Century
February 18th, 8pm
Golden Lion Pub, 116 Sydenham Road, London SE26 5JX

We recently met with Tim Lund, the Chair of the Sydenham Society, who has just announced that he is stepping down after two years in the role. Listening to him talk about his experiences in the organisation, there were clear parallels with Brockley’s various civic societies.

Members are too few, the demand on time is high and the Society doesn’t always have access to the skill sets and experience that it needs to properly campaign on what can often be complex issues of planning and transport. Engagement with the wider public and local authorities is not all that it could be.

At least part of the solution has to be better and closer co-operation between different civic societies, who can share knowledge, skills and best-practice on issues that they often have in common.

In Lewisham, a perfect example is the Council’s Local Development Framework consultation. The LDF plays a major role in shaping the Borough’s future. It’s an area in which many local civic societies would find common ground and by providing a high-quality collective response they could expect their views to carry greater weight.

Tim is helping to organise a meeting designed to encourage closer co-operation between civic societies, not only in Lewisham but across the country. He writes:

A revitalised civic society movement can champion the millions of local people who care about where they live and want to make a difference.

Just over 50 years ago a grass roots movement was born, and hundreds of local groups across the country sprang up to help improve the general quality of urban life. Today, many Civic Societies have ageing and declining memberships, and their former umbrella body has been wound up.

Now established organisations such as the National Trust, Royal Institute of British Architects and CPRE want to help redevelop a national voice for such community activists, and Tony Burton, former Director of Strategy and External Affairs at the National Trust is leading this initiative. Will his ideas work? What do you think should be done?

Tony will be presenting his case at the Golden Lion pub, Sydenham High Street. All are welcome, admission is free.

Brockley Central assimilated by the Guardian

The Guardian has begun to aggregate stories from selected London blogs, ahead of this year's elections. Brockley Central is the first blog to succumb to the Guardian website's technological superiority.

The aim is to create a London blogging gestalt, which makes the Guardian the first port of call for London coverage and drives traffic out towards the individual sites.

We've written a few times about the contribution hyperlocal blogs can make towards local news coverage and political debate, so it's an honour to be the first blog included in the Guardian's experiment, even if our primacy is the result of nothing more than Brockley's place in the alphabet.

The Guardan's London blogger, Dave Hill, has written about the project here. Brockley Central will be doing its best to cover the Lewisham elections, especially now the Guardian has raised the stakes.

Railings contribute to Brockley cyclist's death

The South London Press reports that the tragic death of a Brockley woman has prompted Southwark Council to consider the removal of 'safety' railings in Rotherhithe.

It says Nga Diep was killed "when a skip lorry pushed her into railings at the junction of Ilderton Road and Rotherhithe New Road, Rotherhithe. After hitting the railings, the 33-year-old fell under the lorry’s back wheels and suffered massive head and chest injuries."

Local MP Simon Hughes is also quoted as saying:

“I hope the council is positive and speedy in doing something at this junction to remove this danger to cyclists. The railings should be moved to make sure cyclists can leave the road in emergencies.”

Brockley Central has argued for years that similar railings on Brockley Road should be removed after studies have shown that these safety measures can actually make our roads less safe, trapping cyclists and pedestrians, encouraging people to vault them and drivers to speed up because they send the signal 'this road belongs to you.' Across London, Councils are ripping out safety railings in response to the mounting evidence against their use in many situations.

When Council officers and the Deputy Mayor recced the area with us in 2008, they acknowledged that the railings wouldn't be installed today if they didn't already exist. On a recent follow-up visit with the Brockley Cross Action Group, the Deputy Mayor reiterated her view that the question of their removal should be a priority.

Our sincere condolences go to the family of Nga Diep. We hope that Lewisham Council takes action to improve the safety of the roads around Brockley Cross as soon as possible.

Our Future's Orange: Surrey Quays, Canada Water, Rotherhithe

This is part two of our preview of the East London Line, profiling many of the stops along the new route, ahead of its opening in May.

The course of the East London Line will carry us through Surrey Quays, Canada Water and Rotherhithe stations along the base of the Surrey Quays peninsula, an area of dockland that was redeveloped by the London Docklands Development Corporation in the 1980s. Many of the old docks were filled in and thousands of new homes built.

Today, the area is still littered with artefacts from its days as a working commercial dock and is home to the Brunel Museum, which commemorates Isambard Kingdom Brunel's first and last projects - the Thames Tunnel that the East London Line will run through and the Great Eastern steamship as the first modern ocean liner.

Like Canary Wharf, much of the early 80s development has aged badly. Surrey Quays shopping centre is a dismal spot, its scale and facilities too mean for teenies consumers. The neighbouring leisure park provokes an existential crisis in us every time we see it. But Surrey Quays rewards the persistent. Press on past the dross and you'll discover stunning waterside development and parkland, as well as one of London's greatest views from the top of Stave Hill.

Greenland Dock was one of the few to survive and is now one of London's most important centres for water sports, with sailing and kayaking among the sports played on the 1km-long expanse of water. The Surrey Docks Watersports Centre is undergoing the final stages of its refurbishment to include a gym and fitness studios.

Russia Dock enjoyed a different fate and became a woodland nature reserve after it was filled in. Home to a number of rare species, its beauty is captured in exquisite detail on this blog. The park is also home to a 30-feet-tall decapitated cone called Stave Hill, an artificial construct, made from rubble from the construction works. It serves as a unique viewing platform for the dockland on both sides of the river.

Perhaps in the mistaken belief that a 'Fatty Arbuckles' next to a bowling alley constituted all you could wish for from a good night out, the eighties master planners neglected to include much in the way of eating or drinking establishments and the area can sometimes feel spookily quiet as a result.

The Wibbly Wobbly, an eccentric little pub on a barge parked in Greenland Dock is about the only show in town. Even so, it's not as packed as the number of homes surrounding it ought to merit. Formerly owned by Up the Creek's Malcom Hardee, he drowned rowing back to his houseboat from it in 2005.

On the western bank, near Rotherhithe Station, The Mayflower pub stands on the site of the Shippe pub that dates back to around 1550. It was renamed in 1957 and it was from the nearby landing steps to this pub that the Pilgrim Fathers set sail. Today, its prices suggest that its target market is their more fortunate descendants.

Southwark is trying hard to inject more life in to the Surrey Quays waterside and the area is home to one of London's biggest regeneration programmes, including a major project underway at Canada Water. Centred around a major new library, designed by Piers Gough, the new development aims to create a waterside town centre, including 2,700 new homes (35% affordable) and new retail, office and leisure facilities arranged around a new civic square.

The Decathlon store (much loved by everyone we know because it has the distinction of being the only sports shop which gives priority to sports equipment rather than trainers and embraces natural light rather than fluorescent posters) is to be expanded and will become the company's headquarters in the UK. The site will provide 430 flats together with new retail and community space and café, restaurants, bars along the waterfront. It will also create a new "boulevard" connecting it to the Surrey Quays shopping centre.

Even the soul-crushing Surrey Quays Leisure Park has been given outline planning permission for 500 residential units and 123 units for students, a new cinema complex and leisure building that will include restaurants, commercial floor spaces and public and private open space.

Click here to read about Dalston.

I Spy: Architectural heritage edition

Yes, I Spy is back for 2010 and here's (hopefully) a puzzler to start you off. Whereabouts is this architectural detail?

Brockley MAX 2010 - help needed

The Brockley MAX arts festival is gearing up for 2010. Planning meetings take place on the following dates:

  • Feb 9th 8pm The Orchard, Harefield Road, SE4
  • March 9th 8pm The Ladywell Tavern, Ladywell Road, SE13
  • April 6th 8pm Brockley Social Club, 240 Brockley Road, SE4
MAX organiser Moira is also looking for some help with their website. She writes:

We are looking for a web designer to update the Brockley Max website. It’s in Wordpress, but if they would like to redo the site using something different, we don’t mind. No money of course, but it would be a great way to promote their skills and they’ll have a warm glow from helping the community.

If you're interested, please email them here.

Montage Theatre Arts

Little Shop of Horrors at Summer School

The Supertroupers

Montage Theatre Arts is Brockley’s largest local charity, running 33 weekly acting, dancing, singing classes in Brockley for 250 people aged between 3 and 87 years old.

Based at Prendergast School and Crossways Sixth Form, Montage is a low-cost alternative to stage schools and is always looking for new members to join in.

Artistic Director Judy Gordon says:

"The kids at Crossways are taking part in the Lewisham Schools Music Showcase at Blackheath Halls doing Bugsy Malone and Chicago, my over 60’s (Supertroupers) are performing in shows at the Albany and our Youth Theatre are performing at the Brockley Jack Theatre for 3 nights – all events in March! We hope to have our 3 – 7 yrs performing ballet and tap in Brockley Max this year and Montage young and old are also taking part in London’s Big Dance at Lewisham People’s Day on 10th July - so lots of events to choose from.

"Our Adult Musical Theatre course opens in the summer too – we want loads of people to join that! We're also hoping to reopen our breakdancing club soon. We need Brockley to celebrate how wonderfully talented their community is!"

Ladywell Social Assembly

Cllr Ute Michel wants us all to know about the Ladywell Social Assembly, taking place tomorrow at Prendergast School lower site, Adelaide Avenue, 1-3pm.

She says:

It is not an ordinary sit down Assembly – you can drop in and wander about the stalls and find out what’s happening locally. About 20 local groups, the organisations that received funding from the Assembly and some council services will have stalls to present their work and answer questions.

I am really excited about this Assembly for two reasons: Firstly, there is so much happening in the ward, and this is an opportunity to see it all in one place – literally from provision for young children and their parents to the history and wildlife of the cemeteries.

Secondly, this is the first opportunity after the funding decisions made by the Assembly meetings last year to catch up with the successful organisations and their projects – some ongoing, some just started, some waiting for better weather. A considerable part of the funding was allocated to activities for young people, but it also supports arts, local history, leisure activities for all ages, tackling anti-social behaviour and crime and a streetscape design project.

Book ‘em, Danno

Given the ongoing economic woes, many people are on the lookout to save a bit of money. So why buy new books, when you can borrow them for free from your local library. Lewisham’s library service does sterling work, as BC recently found out when we paid a visit to Crofton Park Library.

Housed in a beautiful Victorian building, the library is small but well-stocked. There are around 10 computers for public use, which were very popular during our visit – mostly for internet use and word processing. The library also has a stand of national and local newspapers, a DVD lending service, and a fascinating set of local history pamphlets for sale at very reasonable prices.

As for the book selection, BC was favourably surprised. We’ll be honest – we were expecting a tattered set of Catherine Cookson novels, along with a few dusty Penguin Classics.
In fact, whoever buys Lewisham’s library stock is clearly up-to-date and has catholic taste – in fiction, there’s everything from Kerry Katona to Patrick Kavanagh, and the vast majority of titles are modern. Booker prize winners sit alongside chick lit and the latest detective novels. There’s also a substantial non-fiction section, two bookcases full of books aimed at the teen market, and a separate children’s area complete with reading mats and mini-tables and chairs. Other than internet users, young children and their parents seemed to be the biggest demographic while BC was there, although this may have something to do with going on a weekday.

Lewisham’s libraries are fairly accessible for commuters, though – another surprise to BC. Most open late – often up to 8 or 9pm – on some weeknights (see below), and some offer Sunday opening too. In another nod towards accessibility, you can renew your books and check the catalogue online. And, conveniently, you can return books to any library in the borough – so you’re not tied to one location.

Here’s full details of libraries in the borough – if you want to join, just take along proof of address, such as a council tax or utility bill, and away you go. Couldn’t be easier …

Public Libraries in & near Brockley

Central Lewisham:
199/201 Lewisham High St
(open til 8pm Tues & Thurs, and 1-4pm Sundays)

New Cross:
283/5 New Cross Road
(open til 8pm Tues & Thurs)

Crofton Park:
Brockley Rd (by Crofton Park train station)
(open til 8pm Tues & Thurs)

Laurence House
(open til 8pm Tues & Thurs)

Blackheath Village:
3-4 Blackheath Grove
(open til 8pm Tues & Thurs)

Forest Hill:
Dartmouth Road
(open til 8pm Tues & Thurs, and 10am-4pm Sundays)

Wavelengths Leisure Centre:
Griffin St, Deptford
(open til 8pm Tues & Thurs)

Guest Column: Vote Tommy Franzen this Saturday

By Emma Coombes, local resident

I’ve noticed over the past week or so there’s been a fair amount of discussion celebrating the strong artistic and dance community based in the Brockley area. So therefore I thought it would be of interest to all BC readers that a dancer who lives on Ladywell Road, Tommy Franzen, has made it to the semi-finals of BBC 1’s Saturday night show ‘So You Think You Can Dance’!

So far, he’s been a judge’s favourite and is strongly supported by the professional dance community and his friends at the Arch climbing wall in London Bridge, who have been working so hard to drum up support for him. But he’s now up against stiff competition as, unlike the other dancers, Tommy is from Sweden and has no UK-based family or roots.

With the climbing and dance communities rallying hard for him, as a Brockley resident I thought it might be good to alert BC readers to see if I can get a little bit of Brockley support going for him too!
Tommy is a professional dancer who has worked in a wide field ranging from hip-hop dance theatre and harness work to films and music videos.

He turned down the chance to appear in Cirque Du Soleil to appear as a dancer in Mamma Mia – The Movie as well as Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. At the Beijing Olympic and Paralympic Handover Ceremonies in 2008, Tommy not only danced but also assisted the choreographer.

Tommy is a truly amazing dancer, so, if you’re proud of Brockley’s artistic reputation, please vote for Tommy – BBC 1 Saturday night 7.05pm!


Roger: Actually it's, it's quite, y'know, typical behaviour when you have this kind of dysfunctional group dynamic. Y'know, this kind of co-dependant, emotionally stunted, sitting in your stupid coffee house with your stupid big cups which, I'm sorry, might as well have nipples on them, and you're like all 'Oh, define me! Define me! Love me, I need love!'.
- Friends

Those cats at The Times can't get enough of the Brockley good stuff.

Property columnist Anne Ashworth has followed this piece with a plug in her own column:

Brockley in south east London may be rarely, if ever, in the headlines. Even Londoners remark: “Where’s that then?” But there is a growing buzz about the space that you can acquire here, for less. Seven-bedroom homes can be had for under £750,000. A bargain for London, especially since Brockley will soon become an easy commute to Canary Wharf. Unlike Oxshott, this is a neighbourhood in which people have tended to live before they become famous. Could this status be about to change?

So is Brockley the new Hampstead or the new Oxshott? You decide.

The Times on Brockley: The Hampstead of the South East

The Times has followed the Guardian with a review of Brockley, getting in ahead of the East London Line opening in May.

It's a pretty glowing tribute to SE4 and it's nice to see some local favourites like Jam Circus and Degustation get a mention. Here's an excerpt:

Today, leafy and laced with quirky bars, the area is described as the “Hampstead of the South East” — and for the price of an indifferent apartment in the real Hampstead, buyers can secure grand, seven-bedroom family homes and a commute little more arduous. But the famously arty locals are braced: the East London line extension — to open within months — will alert buyers to this secret pocket in reach of the City Where is it?

The Mare of Lewisham

The BNP are hoping to field their own candidate for the Mayor of Lewisham, according to East London Lines.

We can't imagine what the appeal of a position which concentrates so much power in the hands of just one person would be to the BNP.

Thanks to Brockley Kate for spotting it.

Cutty Sark restored by 2011

The Department for Culture, Media and Sport has confirmed in a press release issued today that the Greenwich landmark will be restored by 2011, ahead of the London Olympics and the borough becoming 'Royal' in 2012.

They say:

The historic clipper Cutty Sark will be restored to its former glory following news today that the final parts of the £46 million funding package are now in place. Conservation of Cutty Sark will be finally completed at Greenwich next year... Final funding to finish the project in time for Olympic and Diamond Jubilee celebrations in 2012 has been provided by a £3 million grant from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.

[Full disclosure: DCMS is a client of Brockley Nick's in his day job]

HOP for better things - what Honor Oak can teach us

Whenever we're asked to defend our argument that vibrant high streets are not some liberal fantasy but a perfectly viable reality, we usually point to the relative success of Crofton Park, compared with the Brockley Cross end of Brockley Road or Lewisham Way. But there's another nearby example that's just as good - in Honor Oak Park, near the station.

HOP combines a few "up market" shops with some places to eat and drink as well as some shops and takeaways that suit smaller budgets. It's a mix that ought to keep all the warring factions of Brockley Central readers happy and it's supported by a catchment area that's similar to our own. In other words, it's a successful model and we could do worse than attempt to learn its lessons.

We learned something interesting in our discussions with the Brockley Cross Action Group the other day. During their tour of Brockley Cross with the Council, they discussed the parking problems suffered in Brockley Cross and Coulgate Street. The BXAG believe, as we do, that the lack of parking controls in what is supposed to be our town centre is a factor holding back its development.

The Council revealed that when parking was limited in Honor Oak Park, so that cars couldn't be parked on the main high street for more than 30 minutes at a time, there was an immediate increase in business for local shops.

The reason was simple, before the restrictions the parking was all being taken up by commuters and the owners of the businesses themselves. Potential customers couldn't park, discouraging footfall and trade. All of this was done without the need for a CPZ - just a highly-localised set of parking restrictions.

The implication is clear.

If the Council supports campaigners efforts to introduce some form of parking restrictions in Coulgate Street and Brockley Cross, it would not only dramatically improve the aesthetic quality of our main streets and create safer, more convenient routes for pedestrians, it would also be good for local business.