Diana: What happens when the numbers run out? 
- Knowing

2012 was the year of the pop-up. From supper clubs, pizza nights and running clubs to cinemasstreet theatre and galleries, local spaces were reimagined. Pop-ups are as on-trend as a skitcher wearing a vintage onesie but they're also a continuation of the area's DIY tradition - in lieu of actual cinemas, restaurants and galleries, people have always had to improvise. Most importantly, the splurge of pop-ups this year reflects the fact that this is also the year when Brockley filled-up.

For the last five years of Brockley Central's life, the story of Brockley has been about filling in the gaps. New businesses haven't had to displace established ones, they've usually done one of three things: Taken over an empty or moribund location (eg: The Talbot, Degustation, The Orchard and Gently Elephant); Replaced departing entrepreneurs (eg: The Gantry, The Brockley Mess, Brown's, Arlo & Moe) or moved-in somewhere entirely new (eg: Pistachios, Brockley Market, Bohemia Hair). Those who complained about gentrification have been fighting a phony war. It hasn't been a zero-sum game.

There have been plenty of departures this year, including U Gosi, Engedi, Tea Dance for Little People, Mr Lawrence's wine shop, the dubious Alby's Place, the risible Come the Revolution and its replacement, Cafe 465, which closed before it began. All had reasons for shutting that had little to do with the competition.

New arrivals have brought new footfall for incumbents and have served demand that was previously unmet. That's about to change. The low-hanging fruit has gone - few empty units remain, although the Tea Factory still struggles. This year, businesses like Gently Elephant and The Gantry have raised the bar again and established businesses have responded. Magi embraced Twitter and Gulen's pulled off the most unlikely coup of the year, reopening as a cocktail bar and luring Jakki Degg to DJ. Even after-hours favourite Duke gave itself a new lick of paint.

Local competition is going to get tougher, at least until the new developments proposed for Brockley Road and Mantle Road this year, appear. Sainsbury's supplanting of Nisa and The Walpole's closure to make way for a new hotel are both a taste of what's to come.

The trade-offs and negotiation will extend beyond the high street. In 2012, our residential streets also experienced infill. As The Standard claimed that the East London Line's effects were most visible in Brockley, residential schemes that have been idling for years got underway, including a high quality scheme on Geoffrey Road, some slightly disappointing pastiches on Tyrwhitt Road and Malpas Road and a great refurbishment of a dilapidated building on Lewisham Way. Best of all, an old garage is being turned into a microbrewery. Construction work on Brockley's biggest mixed-use scheme - Martin's Yard - has crawled along, but this year has seen similarly ambitious schemes unveiled for Crofton Park and, more controversially, one of Brockley's mews.

An incumbent population, which has got used to rattling around in a relatively sleepy part of zone 2, faces a period of adjustment. The successful integration of a skate park in Telegraph Hill and a cricket pitch in Hilly Fields shows that change can be managed.

One way to manage change is to prevent it and this year, Lewisham Council woke up to the risk that more pubs could be lost to developers - many were listed to grant them an extra layer of protection and we all got to play Jimmy Stewart, glimpsing the horror of a possible Christmas future as two of the area's best pubs were temporarily closed in December.

A more muscular policing strategy emptied a few other local units. Raidsarrests and closure orders meant that historic crime and public disorder hotspots like Brockley Cross and Upper Brockley Road played host to fewer businesses in 2012, but correspondingly fewer violent incidents. The summer passed off without its usual spate of incidents, as serious crime occurred later in the year and further south than usual.

And public sector cuts promised to free up some more space. A depressing pattern emerged in 2012, as almost every month another local service was threatened with closure. Worst of all, the solvent A&E department of Lewisham Hospital was recommended for closure to save insolvent (and less well-run) hospitals elsewhere in South East London. The Council's plans to fill a Ladywell site with Travellers and relocate a drug rehab centre to Brockley were undone by their own flaws and cancelled this year.

Which is not to say that the public sector was entirely in retreat in 2012. The East London Line gave us a Clapham link, Forest Hill got a great new swimming pool and Portas Pilot status and local train stations were tinkered with incessantly.

Brockley Cross's normalisation was aided by the improvements granted by the world's slowest roadworks (one junction, two roundabouts, nine months and counting) and the departure of old friends D&M Van Hire. It's never going to be pretty, but it's already infinitely better than it was a year ago.

Ladywell enjoyed a relatively quiet 2012 as Mason's remained resolutely shut. Although some new takeaways and a bike shop have helped to keep the high street full and the Playtower's return to use and planned improvements to the village streetscape promise a busier 2013.

This year marked the end of the beginning of Brockley's post-ELL development. We've done the easy bit - got ourselves a supermarket, some places to drink and a free cash machine or four. We've gained this without losing any of the good things about Brockley. Next year, the difficult stuff begins. We'll address what we think that means in our predictions for 2013, coming shortly.


Sally said...

Thanks for the round-up! Here's a shameless plug for a special parkrun on New Year's Day, starting @ 10am by Pistachio's in Hilly Fields - come and run off previous evening's excesses & get 2013 off to a good start.

Anonymous said...

That is quite perceptive I think. The easy fill-in opportunities are starting to go (hooray!) While I can think of one or two places I'd like to see coming up against a bit of competition when it comes to rent reviews (betting shops among them), I suspect they won't be the ones actually faced with difficult choices. And sites for new-build will be more controversial than ever.

A big question will be the fate of the post office depot site, if it really is to go. That could determine the character for the BX area quite a bit - architecturally, socially, economically. Or maybe it'll just be some flats.

Osh said...

I said this last year, but A LOT has happened in 2012! Compared with when BC started, there is a lot more stuff to talk about.

Anonymous said...

Oh and of course one of the best things about Brockley is it continues to have an absolutely brilliant blog!

Big thanks to Nick and Kate, Jon and everyone else. We love you for it.

Sanjit Chudha said...

To echo Anonymous (27th Dec at 10.40am) - thanks for a brilliant blog and a perceptive roundup too.

Aricana said...

Many thanks to Nick and all the BC contributors for a great local blog.

Brockley Michael said...


Brockley Central is great. Thanks for all the updates during 2012, and here's hoping for more of the same - with some more drinkies - in 2013.

Richard Elliot said...

Great recap Nick, there really has been a lot going on this year.

The effort you and the team continue to put into the site never ceases to amaze me. Thank you!

Anonymous said...

Out of interest - how did last years predictions go?

Brockley Nick said...

Thanks all - Anon, that's coming up.

HFM said...

To all the honest foodies out there, thank you for your commitment to our cause.

Stay strong, 2013 will be the "year of fare."

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