The Future of The Ladywell Playtower

Four potential bidders for the Ladywell Playtower - including two cinema chains, a cultural consortium and Goldsmiths - have been shortlisted by Lewisham Council, who have launched a public consultation about the future of the iconic building.

The Grade II-listed Playtower has lain dormant for years, but now four exciting concepts have been identified, including:


"Goldsmiths propose to locate the University’s established and internationally renowned post‐graduate Art courses solely at the redeveloped Playtower site, in a dedicated and purpose‐built centre for the growing Masters programme on offer.

"Primarily this would see the sensitive restoration of the main pool hall, and the reinstatement of the part‐demolished rear pool over two storeys, to provide three large flexible studio spaces. This model would replicate the under graduate facilities currently provided from the similarly constructed Grade II listed Laurie Grove Baths at the Goldsmiths main campus in New Cross."

Guildmore and Curzon

"Our vision is to reimagine the Ladywell Playtower as a publicly accessible leisure destination for the Borough of Lewisham.
"In response to strong local demand and drawing upon the original concept for the building which saw the First Class Pool Hall seasonally decked over for use as an entertainment venue, we propose to reopen the Playtower as a three screen cinema, complete with freely accessible public events foyer and complementary café, bar and restaurant uses."


"Our proposal seeks to enhance and preserve it by finding a new use which will enable it to play an active part in the community for many years to come. We propose to refurbish the main building and to use the theatrical pool hall space for one large cinema screen - the remainder of the existing building will provide ancillary spaces with a cafe, bar, event room, exhibition space and community rooms. To the rear of the site on the footprint of the demolished second pool hall - we will construct a further four cinema screens in a new extension.
"Alongside this will be a thorough landscaping proposal for the whole site including a new route
which will link Ladywell Fields with Ladywell Road, placing the Playtower at the heart of what could become a new cultural quarter for Ladywell."

RJK/Copeland Park and Hillman

"Our vision for the Playtower is to create an exciting and dynamic cultural quarter for Ladywell, while transforming a building that was originally designed to separate people by class into a thriving site that brings people together and encourages them to interact and create.
"We see the Playtower housing a rich mix of performances, events, artist/maker studios, cafes, creative business offices, art galleries, a communal garden-courtyard, restaurants, health and well-being studios, a small cinema and community organizations. The jewel in the crown will be transforming the incredible former first-class pool area into a dynamic performance and event space.

"This space could become one of the most unique and intriguing performance venues in London and we will work with our partners at the Albany Theatre in Deptford to programme a range of commercial and community performances by everyone from leading arts organizations to local people.

"We are proposing to build, subject to planning permission, three new buildings on the site, all sensitively designed to fit in with the Playtower and other surrounding heritage buildings. This new ‘family’ of buildings will include a block of twenty rentable flats, a modest building with four rentable live/work units and ‘The Pavilion’ - a commercial building we will rent out to multiple tenants in the same way as the Playtower."

For a site that has been so neglected for so long, it is exciting to see such ambitious visions being presented by organisations with the means to realise them. You have until August 17th to complete the questionnaire.

Full disclosure, I am a member of the Goldsmiths body that approved this exploratory work on their part.

Lost silver bracelet

Anju writes:

I've lost a precious bracelet from my family, and I believe it may have been on June 17 at either Frendsbury Gardens, St. Hilda's, or Hilly Fields.

The bracelet is two silver bangles joined with a silver ring around them. It is engraved with 'Ava 11.12.15' on one, 'Om Mani Padme Hum' on another and the ring says 'ML & AA'. It looks similar to this.

If it's been found, I would be most grateful if you could contact me by email or mobile, 07979 2041 79. Thank you.

Yes, Let's

Could this be the most measured and accurate account of Brockley ever to appear in a national newspaper? The Guardian's Let's Move To column has covered Brockley and says that while the case against it is a lack of a proper town centre (although Coulgate Street is doing its best) the case for it is as follows:

 "I like Brockley. Gentrification advances, but has yet to overwhelm the place. Duck down the odd back alley, squint and you might have slipped down a wormhole to 1978 when it was full of sociology students from Goldsmiths, bohemians and the scent of wacky baccy and rosebay willow herb.

"A glance in an estate agent’s window might break the spell, but the geography of hills, valleys and crisscrossing railway lines is complex enough to keep hidden wormholes to a past long disappeared in inner London, like a wee nature reserve off terraced streets, or Hilly Fields park, its stone circle glowering over London’s thrusting skyline, the glorious Rivoli Ballroom, and the shaggy mews of overgrown flora behind the town houses on Wickham Road.

"It feels like London used to feel, only with decent coffee. And a lovely Saturday market. The past wasn’t always so great."

 Click here for the full piece

MOT garage closes to make way for more homes

The Geoffrey Road MOT garage is closed
The MOT garage on Geoffrey Road has been closed and boarded up, to make way for a new housing development, which is yet to earn planning permission. 

The garage has lived with the Sword of Damocles hanging over its head for years and the development has gone through a number of iterations, with the last version having been rejected earlier this year. The latest proposals are for:

"Demolition of existing buildings and the construction of a three story plus basement building comprising 4 two bedroom and 2 one bedroom, self-contained flats/maisonettes and one 89.9sqm Class B1(a) Office Unit at ground and basement level with pedestrian access from Geoffrey Road, together with the provision of bicycle and refuse/recycling storage and front and rear gardens."
The latest design proposal
The changes to the roof line and Upper Brockley Road elevation represent an improvement on the previous effort.

The neighbouring garage operating from Ashby Mews is still open.

Gently, 405 Brockley Road

Open seven days a week in Crofton Park, selling homewares and gifts, Gently Elephant now has a sibling.

South Circular to move south

At a meeting this week, Lewisham Council decided to move the stretch of the South Circular that snarls up Catford approximately 50 metres further south. The News Shopper reports:

The road will be moved to the south of Laurence House on Catford Road (through the car and lorry park).

The gyratory will also be removed to create a simpler road layout at the junction of the A21 and A205. The works will take place in 2020 and 2021.

Steve Bullock, Mayor of Lewisham, said: “Moving the South Circular road will transform Catford and make the town centre a better place to live, work and visit.

“Our decision ends 50 years of uncertainty over the route of the South Circular road and the benefits will be felt for generations.

“The simplified road layout will make it easier for pedestrians, cyclists and drivers to travel by removing the gyratory."

The decision was based on a report that has been kept confidential and no maps have been released. Anything that alleviates congestion and enhances the public realm at this end of Catford has to be worthwhile, but it would be good to see the detail.

oBike arrives in Lewisham, immediately ends up on DLR track

Where the Mayor of London has fails us, Singaporean capitalism rushes in.

TfL may not have brought bike hire to Lewisham, but oBike, the Uber-for-bikes system that was defeated by Mancunian cussedness, is putting the civic attitude of residents to the test.

The system promises to do wonders for local fitness levels. From this pick-up location, the only directions of travel are either up steep hills or towards Catford and Lee.

oBike's deeply flawed model has prompted complaints about the way bikes are abandoned and clutter up public places. In Lewisham, one has already been chucked on to the DLR track.

Lewisham Live crowdfunder

The Lewisham Live organisers are crowdfunding to pay for next year's event. They say:

Lewisham Live Festival will be back in 2018, providing many more unique performance and development opportunities for local children and young people.

Programmed and run by a consortium of top-class arts organisations in the borough, the festival in 2017 saw 16 performances, in 9 prestigious venues and included well over 2000 young participants.

Partners provide their time and use of venues often at little or no cost to ensure funds go to where they are needed most; development opportunities for young people, however against the current financial climate, keeping the festival affordable is always an uphill challenge.

Lewisham Live has launched a crowdfunder campaign to raise funds helping to ensure that ticket prices for the Live Voices and Live Dance events, held at The Broadway Theatre Catford, remain affordable for families.

"So many young people state year after year how much of an incredible experience it is to perform somewhere as prestigious as the Broadway Theatre and that seeing their mums, dads, siblings and grandparents in the audience is something they will never forget. It’s a real honour to be able to provide such exceptional opportunities for Lewisham's young people, but it is increasingly more expensive. We are hoping individuals, group and businesses will support our crowdfunding campaign so we can make sure as many young people have the chance to perform in this iconic local treasure and see their loved ones cheering them on." Natalie Clarke, Festival Coordinator

Lewisham Live is working to raise £3000 from their crowdfunding campaign, which will be used as matched funding for an arts council application helping to secure the festival activity and costs for 2018. There are various 'pledges' offering marketing credits, event tickets and promotion in exchange for donations, but any support however big or small is a great help.

Lewisham Live’s 2018 crowdfunding page can be found at

Driver mugged by moped gang in Ladywell

Police have asked the public for help in catching a moped gang who robbed a driver on Ladywell Road on July 6. The Standard reports

"A gang of thieves on mopeds robbed a Porsche driver at knifepoint in broad daylight in south-east London.

"Shocking footage showed the gang of four, on two bikes, pulling up beside the car before one of them threatened the driver with a blade.

"One of the pillion passengers pointed the knife towards the victim, a man in his 30s, as he sat in traffic in Lewisham."

Anyone with information is asked to contact Lewisham CID via 101 or tweet information to @MetCC

Lewisham Gateway revisions rejected

Proposed changes to the Lewisham Gateway scheme, currently under construction in the centre of Lewisham, and intended to connect the station with the high street, have been rejected by the Council. South London Press reports:

The revised plans for phase two of the Lewisham Gateway development were unanimously rejected by Lewisham Council’s strategic planning committee.

There was widespread concern had been expressed over the lack of social housing in the plans and the council deferred the decision in March and requested further information from the developers.

Muse had highlighted that there was an overspend on its contribution towards reconfigurating the Lewisham roundabout. The subsequent presented financial appraisal concludes that the scheme is unable to support the delivery of affordable housing on viability grounds.

There has also been concern that the revisions included a hike in one of the towers from 25 to 34 storeys. 

The revised scheme reduces the space for education or office use at the bottom of one of the buildings... The new plans allow more space for the proposed hotel, shops and leisure space which could include a cinema.

Councillor Alan Hall said: “I moved the motion to oppose this application and my colleagues voted unanimously in support because there was no commitment to affordable housing. There was no social housing."

Thank you to Alistair for the link.

Summer of Love, July 22

Parlez, Coulgate Street

New Coulgate Street restaurant Parlez opened last night. If you've had a chance to try it, please post your reviews below.

Cat locked in suitcase found in Telegraph Hill

Gill writes:

My husband found this poor cat locked in a suitcase in Telegraph Hill this morning. We have it at home and are taking it to Celia Hammond, so if anyone wants to give it a home, you know where to go.

Coming soon: Gently

Gently is the sister shop of Gently Elephant and will be opening in Crofton Park soon. Owner Helen teased this shot today and promises a shop for grown ups.

The Ladywell Pétanque League

Ryan writes:

I was hoping that you may be able to help me try and gather together anyone who uses the Pétanque facilities in Ladywell fields behind the bowling greens.

I have been playing pétanque there for the last year but the courses are becoming unusably overgrown. I'd love to set up a local Pétanque group/league to regularly meet up to play and keep the courses in good order.

There is evidence that some boule activity does take place there (as well as local strong cider drinkers) so it would be very difficult for me to find out who these local boulesmen are without some local help.

If people are interested in joining Ryan's pétanque revolution, please email him here.

Grover Lady's Fun

Casilda's Nice Things is the latest addition to Place Ladywell, 261 Lewisham High Street. A gallery and gift shop, it will host a meetup with artist Martin Grover on July 28, from 6-8pm. They say:

Martin Grover is an established artist and a former student of the famous Royal Academy Schools.  A playful narrative thread runs through his work, at one moment a little dark and woebegone and the next humorous and whimsical but always alluring.

Working from life, sketches, memory and photographs he reconstructs ephemeral scenes from the passing world. Childhood recollections, minor street incidents, slightly surreal radio traffic bulletins, brief news items, poems, short stories, Brockwell Park landscapes, the enigmatic allure of sheds and shelters are all recalled and captured with clarity and wit.

On the evening, Martin Grover will be unveiling several new prints that capture the diversity of south London life, including landscapes and still life portraits.

On the night, art purchases over £250 will qualify for a 10% discount an
d served with a glass of wine.

Training centre for self-build homes in Ladywell

Ted, a trustee of self-build group RUSS, writes:

A crowd funding initiative has been launched to help raise £57,000 to build London’s first training facility for would-be community self-builders. The innovative building will be constructed in Ladywell, Lewisham on part of the land set aside for a new 33 home affordable self-build housing project.

The project is being driven by RUSS, the Community Land Trust that has been set up to deliver the new homes. The project involves:

  • Designing and building a single-storey structure on the site in Church Grove, Ladywell. The building will be used during the main construction phase of the new homes – from 2018 onwards
  • The structure will host a series of workshops and build-days where anyone can come and learn about the construction of the new homes 
  • The building will also be available to local people as a community space 
  • RUSS will also run a programme of events and workshops with other community partners on the theme of self-building and community-led housing

RUSS chair Kareem Dayes said: “Lewisham has a history of self-building. In 1985 a group of council tenants with no previous building experience built their own homes on land provided by Lewisham Council. They were led by architect Water Segal who developed a simple and cost-effective building design that anyone could self-build.”

Megan Ancliffe is one of the team that has developed the early designs for the training facility. She said: “The project would offer people the opportunity to get hands-on experience of building. The structure will showcase different natural building techniques such as timber, straw bale and rammed earth”.

“Once built, the space would host RUSS’s School of Community-Led Housing with the goal of becoming a knowledge hub to share and inspire other communities in self-building and affordable housing projects”.

“We intend to source materials locally so that we support the local economy. We also aim to use as many reclaimed and recycled materials as we can and we’re interested in experimenting with off-grid technologies such as rain water collection.”

The building is estimated to cost £57,000. If enough people sign up to support it by the 10th of July, the Mayor of London’s initiative, Crowdfund London, is likely to provide top up funding to meet this target.

Anyone who wants to support the initiative can find out more here.

Please do not park your car in the middle of our park

The latest in an occasional series about people who park wherever they feel like in Brockley. Tom writes:

"I live near Hilly Fields and love the park. I went for my evening run yesterday and came across these guys. I'm not normally one to get involved in moaning on internet but thought this didn't seem right to me.

"I'm all for using the park for a picnic, drinks, general socialising, it's a fantastic spot for this but my main issue was the car on the they could play music. A bit of a liberty from my perspective and I'm guessing completely against park rules."

The BrocSoc BBQ, July 7

Tomorrow, from 7pm at the Stone Circle on Hilly Fields, BrocSoc will have be hosting a BBQ for Summer Fayre volunteers. Anyone interested in getting involved with the group is welcome.

Bring your own food to cook on their legendarily massive grill.

Open Air Concert, July 6

The Albany launches mission to give every Lewisham five year old a theatre experience

The Albany theatre in Deptford is a great local institution and this is a great campaign. Cassie from The Albany writes:

Lewisham Residents! Please help us support the next generation of leaders, artists and entrepreneurs in Lewisham by supporting this fantastic new campaign by the Albany, raising money to give a free theatre trip to every 5 year old child in the borough.

The aim is to crowdfund the first 1000 tickets, so please give whatever you can afford and share the campaign far and wide.

The campaign is being supported by Lewisham Council and the lovely Jude Law (yes, he's a Lewisham boy), so let's give more kids the chance to enjoy the fabulous experience of theatre.

Click here to support the campaign.

New Cross Night Tube from December

The current Night Tube service
It's been heavily teased, but TfL have now confirmed that a 'Night Tube' service will be coming to the East London Line, stopping tantalisingly-close to Brockley. Until now, Canada Water was the closest station on offer. The Standard reports:

The capital’s 24-hour transport network was expanded again today after it was announced the London Overground will run through the night from December.

The East London route will operate all night on Fridays and Saturdays between New Cross Gate and Dalston Junction, then extended to Highbury & Islington next year.

It means passengers will be able to travel across even wider swathes of the capital 24-hours a day as it will also connect with Canada Water station on the Jubilee line.

Cooper's Fundraiser

Brockley bakery Cooper's is fundraising to pay for a new oven. Founder Francis writes:

We're raising funds to replace our old, unreliable oven with a new oven to improve our ability to bake consistently and our capacity to expand delivery services in and around Brockley.

The details of the campaign can be found here.