Crofton Park

CROFTON COLUMN

LOOKING BACK, LOOKING FORWARD 

Where do I begin? 2017 was another interesting/exciting year and certainly lots happened locally!!

On a personal level I sadly lost my amazing ‘Aunty Peggy’ in April at the grand old age of 94. She was an inspiration to me & my family and was one of the main reasons I came down to London 37years ago. She was an active community supporter and her zest for life and everything going on in the ‘big smoke’ has certainly been passed down to me!

I had wonderful adventures in Matlock/Blakeney/Iceland/Prague/Carnoustie (Edinburgh festival) & Porto-I personally love taking short breaks throughout the year rather than one big holiday. I was again involved in the organisation of the fantastic Brockley Max festival plus other smaller community events like Croftfest & Croftmas. I also started volunteering for Wildcat Wildnerness in September having finally visited this wonderful outdoor space in SE6 and really look forward to my Thursday visits there. Airbnb has been good throughout the year to earn me some money but sadly I think the market in our area is being saturated which is driving prices down and so bookings are not looking quite so promising for the year ahead! I have just started an adult education course in stained glass which I’m hoping will set me down the path of creating original pieces for our front door-there are 9 panes of glass so this may take a while, however it is something I have always wanted to do!

Politically things really have not improved over the year and I think have sadly only deteriorated. Brexit looks to be the most disastrous decision this country has seen for generations & Trump, just a year in office, is THE most  disastrous leader the world has seen for generations!! I have become rather obsessed with news, reading articles daily and continually despairing. With both Brexit & Trump inevitably dominating politics during 2018 it is going to be a tough year. However locally we are lucky to have our amazing ‘Community’ for sanity and to escape the political madness around us. This is our strength in SE London and will be even more important over the coming months/years.

Anyway enough of politics this blog is mainly to look back at what has happened in our wonderful area over the past year and then to look forward to what is planned in the coming months. I will try and detail which businesses opened/closed/re-invented themselves and perhaps more importantly which businesses are due to appear on our high streets in the next year. Events/festivals will be acknowledged and this year’s dates will be given if known. 2018 looks to be another exciting year ahead and I think will prove how fortunate we are to live in a part of London where so much happens and where we have such great independent local businesses. Let us continue to celebrate this and SUPPORT them!

I will look back by covering each area in turn so here goes…………..

CATFORD

I have chosen to cover this area first as in my opinion it was the pocket of SE London that saw SO much happen!! There is a team in Catford that has been assigned to help regenerate the area and 2017 was the start of many good things. ‘So Last Century’ kick-started the year by appearing at St. Dunstan’s college in February and was such a success that the event was repeated in May and October. This vintage and retro fair has been a big hit and is a very welcome addition to SE6. February also saw a permanent Little Nan’s bar open to much anticipation in the beautiful surroundings of the Catford Broadway art deco bar area. It has become a firm favourite drinking hole for the area, serving cocktails in teapots in their unique kitsch style. In March the Catford Bridge Tavern opened its doors after the awful fire & being closed for over 3 years. It is a beautiful big space and another very welcome addition. The end of June saw Fayrooz, a delicious Lebanese restaurant open on the Broadway and there was also the very welcome return of the pop up marquee ‘Catford Canteen’ on the Broadway featuring the delicious Indian street food from Raastawala in the same month. This was followed by a very successful 3 day Catford Beer festival at the Catford Tavern in July, featuring the popular Catford cat own label bottle. Magarita Pratacan also performed for one night only at Little Nan’s in July to much excitement.

September was a big month for SE6 with both the Catford film festival and the Catford Arts Trail happening again, following on from their huge successes in their inaugural year in 2016. I attended both events and can confirm they were fantastic and so well organised, showcasing the creative talents of the local area. To note Catford film have also been showing FREE quality films throughout the year and continue to do so.

Perhaps the individual highlight for me was the ‘Catford Gin Festival’ held on the first weekend of October. Who knew that such an amazing event could take place in an empty shop unit in the Riverdale shopping centre! Lots of independent gin distillers had signed up to attend and provide samples of their delicious gin to the very willing people of SE6 and surrounds. There was a fantastic atmosphere on the Saturday eve at this very special sell out weekend festival. I hope it will be repeated again this year and even a ‘rum festival’ is rumoured. Watch this space.

Another highlight that took place in Catford in 2017 and I think everyone will have appreciated if they live/work or travel through the area is the wonderful art work that has appeared on the streets of SE6. We now have butterflies/moths, running greyhounds, a mouse, 2 amazing CATFORD street signs by the legendary Lionel Stanhope, a mosaic beer drinking cat and the alley under the bridge linking to Halfords car park has been transformed by a group of local artists who worked over many weekends to create a beautiful outdoor nature landscape. HUGE thanks to all the talented people who have worked tirelessly to improve the environment of the area and bring a smile to everyone!

The last major 2017 opening in Catford happened right at the end of the year but was by no means least! The BOTTLE bar & shop opened at No 2 Catford Broadway at the beginning of December and was perfect timing as their handmade bottled cocktails and bottled infusions made great, unique Xmas presents. It is also a relaxed bar where you can drink from the quality wine and beer selection plus try out the cocktails. Certainly a great addition to the area and so creating a very attractive local bar crawl from Little Nan’s to the Catford Constitional to the Bottle bar, the Catford Bridge Tavern and ending up with a 10 minute walk up the south circular to the wonderful traditional Blythe Hill tavern. All very different drinking establishments! Also in December a big free arts and craft session took place for children in Catford and was very successful.

CROFTON PARK

There were various comings and goings in Crofton Park during 2017, mostly good. We had a major business opening on the High Street with Gently Home, the adult sister shop from the popular children’s shop Gently Elephant in Brockley in July. It is a beautiful shop open 7 days a week selling a variety of quality homeware/books/gifts and cards. Meanwhile we had a closure as Benedict’s coffee shop shut in July for a long break, hopefully re-opening again in September. Bianca got married during the summer but she sadly decided not to open again on her return. Not sure what is to become of the empty unit but I don’t think it is going to become available for another business unfortunately.

Jam Circus had a minor re-vamp & relaunch-the toilets are much improved and there is an interesting new menu with more events being held during the evenings/weekends so people need to support it.

Crofton Books in the library continued to expand with an ever increasing collection of new/second hand/vintage books for sale and all profits go towards funding the Crofton Park library. Just before Xmas Crofton Vinyl was launched which is an offshoot of the bookshop and sells records/LP’s which over the last few years are certainly increasing in popularity, particularly the old classics. I understand they have a turntable and headphones so you can try before you buy! Sounds a great addition to what is already available in the library.

The other main business news was that Budgen’s, owned by the lovely Jay, Patrick and family had a major refurbishment over a number of weeks with it finally being unveiled in November. It has been an incredible transformation and well worth the wait during the disruption. It has expanded with an increased range of goods and fresh produce from their value items to the luxury COOK kitchen meals. The frontage has been totally opened up with the main paying counter now to the side allowing much more light and space into the area. They have certainly invested in the shop and so this great community minded business needs to be similarly supported by us, the local residents.

Our two local gems, the Rivoli Ballroom and the Brockley Jack theatre, continued to put on shows and events to delight us. The theatre ended a great year with a five week run of their sell out Xmas show ‘The Wolves of Willoughby Hall’ I always pinch myself after seeing a show here that it is only 5 minutes walk back to my house and feel very lucky that this fringe theatre is on my doorstep! The Rivoli ballroom meanwhile offered the popular monthly jive nights/Jacky’s Jukebox with their legendary 70s/80s disco nights being held every few months. However 2017 saw them really expand their movie nights ‘croftonparkpictures.com’ with popular classics being screened around themes such as 7 nights of ‘Halloween’ specials. I went along to a couple of films and was very impressed with the set up-the screen and sound was excellent, with popcorn, sweets and hot-dogs all for sale. Again I feel very lucky to live only five minutes from this stunning ballroom.

To finish there were many community events that happened in Crofton Park during last year. We had 3 separate Croftfests, which are one day family festivals in conjunction with the local businesses, St Hilda’s church, the library and Beecroft Garden school and were all a great success. To conclude an act that epitomises the great community we live in happened around decorating the Xmas tree that was provided by the council. Friends from Manwood Road transformed the rather bare tree & ugly health and safety barriers into a thing of beauty with a collective effort one night to much applause from everyone-great festive spirit!

LADYWELL

Activities in Ladywell were relatively quiet in 2017. The lovely businesses of the village continued to do well with the Ladywell Tavern firmly establishing itself as the core of the community after re-opening in December 2016 with new owners. An ever increasing number of events are put on by the pub and this is welcomed & is reflected in its popularity. Staff are friendly and the food is decent-finally owners that seem to have got it right!

Sadly Zenubian closed in April as Michelle needed bigger premises. I loved this small shop and everything within it but understood the rationale for leaving. Luckily for us Zenubian was re-born in July one mile away on Hither Green Lane in a much larger shop with extra space for therapy/counselling rooms and one large gallery space for art exhibitions/yoga classes/workshops plus other exciting events. The other main closure was the large convenience shop on the corner of Marnock road & the High Street and it sadly still remains empty. It finally shut after being broken into a number of times which I think was the last straw as they incurred significant losses.

The Ladywell Xmas market in the heart of the village was another great success with businesses and market traders coming together to produce a lovely day. Perhaps the biggest news however also came towards the end of the year with the announcement that FINALLY the long standing empty unit between Le Delice and Geddes is being refurbished and opening very soon as a pizza restaurant with another branch of the highly popular Mamma Dough, the nearest branch being in Honor Oak. This is fantastic news as it serves delicious pizzas and will bring more people to the area and create a much needed extra option for a night time economy to thrive in the village. Hopefully this addition will be a boost for the other businesses and can only be a good thing. I haven’t managed to get an opening date yet but I’m sure it will be in the next month-all very exciting!

Over the bridge, towards Lewisham, the other MAJOR Ladywell news last year was that the beautiful but long empty & neglected Grade ll listed playtower and associated buildings, owned by the council, was being put out to tender to be refurbished. Four bidders were shortlisted and each presented their plans to a packed meeting in the summer and it then went out for public consultation. Each scheme was interesting ranging from Goldsmiths university to Picture House cinemas but the final project chosen by Lewisham and going forward this year to be worked up for planning permission is with Curzon cinemas and the developer Guildmore. It will be a good few years before we see the building works come to fruition but it should then have a major impact, hopefully all for the good, to the area.

Finally I should mention The Place, Ladywell, that really became an established part of the area in 2017, after having opened towards the end of 2016. The Good Hope charity cafe, run by the Jimmy Mizen foundation is at the heart of the ‘creative hub with a community cinema, workspace for start-ups, indoor market and independent shop units.

BROCKLEY

I will cover the main area around the station first and then the parade further south, often termed ‘Midtown Brockley’. There were three major business additions to Brockley all featuring in the top 3 newcomers poll by the local forum ‘Brockley Central’ The winner was Bite Mi, an ‘authentic Vietnamese restaurant that opened in February and has attracted a big following. I finally got round to visit it a couple of weeks ago and wasn’t disappointed. It served very fresh tasty food by friendly staff with free BYOB! It also completes a trio of fantastic businesses by Brockley Cross with Masala Wala cafe next door and the Brockley Deli opposite- all now able to claim the worthy winners title of Brockley Central best newcomers award and together have transformed this previously neglected area of SE4.

Saka Maka was the next new business opening in mid March. This was where the Essence of India had been previously on the High Street but never really attracted enough punters to make it viable. The new owners seem to have got it right as it is always busy, offering good quality very reasonably priced Indian food. The bell by the door which they ask you to ring on your way out if you are happy is frequently in use! I would certainly recommend it.

Perhaps the major new business to appear in Brockley, in the heart of SE4 (coming out of the barriers at the station you virtually fall into it!) was the opening of Parlez in July. It has been a fantastic addition and with the already established Brocca and Browns cafe society is alive and kicking along Coulgate street! The owners Matt and Louis wanted to create a relaxed cafe/bar/restaurant where locals could come together and feel part of the neighbourhood. I personally feel this has totally been achieved and always love the atmosphere in there whether having a coffee/lunch or drink in the evening. The staff are all SO friendly and make everyone feel very welcome. They are continually looking to get involved in local projects and since September they donate to the fantastic Foodcycle project, accept the Lewisham Local card and the Lee Green veg bags project can be collected from their community wall!

Whilst I am mentioning Coulgate Street I would confidently say that the annual Brockley Christmas market, was the best one yet! The street gets totally closed off to traffic for the day and stalls spread themselves out along the road with a stage at one end continually providing us with great entertainment throughout. Whilst it was a cold day there was a very warm atmosphere (the hot mulled wine helped) It was very busy and certainly showcased our great community-congratulations to the brilliant organisers, the Brockley Cross Action Group

Our wonderful local bakers ‘Coopersbake’ based in Dragonfly Place crowdfunded in the summer for some of the costs for a new oven and the community responded (I wouldn’t expect anything less!) The spanking new shiny oven ‘Sophia’ was up and running in October and is producing even better bread and breakfast goods. I always buy their granary loaf for my Airbnb guests and everyone from around the globe thinks it is delicious!

Luckily there weren’t too many closures in Brockley with only Mo Pho in July being the permanent restaurant to shut. Noak, on the westside has been temporarily closed since the beginning of November last year but I can announce that it is looking to re-open again in the next month for breakfast and lunch with a new management team. This is great news and will be such a welcome return to that part of SE4. Next door Waterintobeer have gone from strength to strength and have hosted popular music, home-brewing and games evenings.

In midtown Brockley there hasn’t been as much progress to report as one would of hoped with that parade as sadly there are still empty boarded up shop units. However the wonderful Brickfields bar opened right at the end of 2016 and just over a year on has been an amazing addition to the area. I love the dark, sultry atmosphere with the cool background music-however the highlight of this elegant bar are their delicious cocktails with the chilli Martini being my firm favourite. They now do brunch at the weekends with a bottomless option!! Watch this space as I think they only want to expand on the events on offer.

Bella Nova opened in May last year and has been a welcome cafe addition to the midtown parade. With Brockley Mess reducing its hours of opening it has quickly filled a gap for local caffeine needs and the owner is very friendly, providing good quality food. This is a few doors down from the Co-op that has now been opened for just over a year.

The stalwart of the parade is the wonderful Brockley’s Rock that has been serving award winning fish and chips to the area since July 2011. A few weeks ago it closed for a couple of days so that a new enlarged frying area could be installed. This has allowed a vegan menu to be provided plus gluten free fish for 5 days a week. They epitomise what a local independent business should be-continually provide what their customers want whilst also being fantastic community supporters.

The big closure on the parade during 2017 was Turners, the hardware shop, which shut its doors in May last year after being decades open and supplying everything you ever wanted. I don’t think I ever went in there for something and they didn’t have it! Only a month earlier one of the brothers had been sadly attacked whilst in the shop (the community rallied and showed their support via crowdfunding) but the decision of the twins had already been made to shut the shop and take well deserved retirements. They are missed. This however provided an empty shop unit that has seen lots of work go on inside for the last 6 months. I have had sneaky peeks when the door is open and major structural refurbishment is taking place-hopefully the business will finally open its doors this year. I can’t say what it will be yet but watch this space-it should be a very interesting/exciting addition to the area.

The other unknown on the parade is what is to happen to Brockley Mess. It went up for sale last year and I am not sure what interest they had. It is still open and I believe will continue to remain so until a buyer is secured. Let’s hope someone takes it over and really turns it into a great new business, ideally open in the evenings so that the options for a night time economy in Midtown Brockley are expanded!

HONOR OAK

The Honor Oak main parade didn’t see that much action last year but continues to be an interesting destination to eat, drink and shop. At the beginning of 2017 in February the cafe that was formerly ‘Hopscotch’ rebranded itself as ‘Two Spoons’. The owners Luca and Rosie outlined their philosophy of a relaxed coffee and food house during the day whilst in the evenings becoming a sophisticated cocktail and drinks bar. I love this place and they always make everyone feel very welcome. Wine and gin tasting evenings frequently take place and they bring in interesting food caterers at the weekends to provide pop-ups. Justifiably they are continually building up trade and getting very busy. Meanwhile talking of busy a shop that sadly isn’t drawing in the punters, mainly because there is very little to buy, is the Honor Oak Provender. I am not too sure what the plan is for this deli as I think there is a demand for a good quality grocers/delicatessen on the parade but don’t think the current owner is interested in developing it-perhaps something will happen this year-watch this space!

Sad news at the end of October was that the long standing popular Spanish tapas bar, DONDE, finally closed its doors after 11 years on the block. As I saw some-one write on social media they must have eaten 100’s of delicious patatas bravas at this popular restaurant and believe me they were tasty. All good things have to come to an end sometime but everyone was relieved to hear that Jason the owner was refurbishing it for 5 weeks and it re-opened at the beginning of December with a whole new look and branding as the ‘The Clumsy Mole’. The best news was that central heating was finally installed and the place is now warm! There is a very attractive bar area with an emphasis on traditional wholesome food all at reasonable prices. Sunday roasts are being served. Pop in and try it.

Meanwhile only a few weeks after giving us the Clumsy Mole the cafe/bar next door FINALLY opened. Grounds and Grapes had been promised to us for over 18months but whatever the issues it did not disappoint when it was unveiled. It is very tastefully decorated with a simple design interior and serves excellent wines and beers. I understand the coffee element is gradually being introduced and it is now open from 4pm to midnight. I hope it does well as it is quite small so needs people through the door to make it a viable business. Check it out

Hattush, the Mediterranean restaurant is continuing to draw in the crowds, particularly at the weekends when there is live singing from the owner, Sezar. It has been a great addition to SE23 since it opened over 18 months ago. I believe there are exciting plans for the business over the coming year!

Perhaps the saddest news on the parade is that the long established Honor Oak chippy is shutting down this year, taking a well-deserved break after years of frying. However the even sadder news is that Dominos, the delivery pizza chain, is set to take over the shop unit. The planning department at Lewisham has been swamped with objections from local residents/businesses and a petition formed. However it looks very unlikely that they can prevent it opening as a Dominos even though local opposition succeeded many years ago when it was proposed at what is now the Mamma Dough’s site.

Moving off the parade the wonderful upcycling shop Muck n Brass moved round the corner from Brockley Rise to much larger premises in Codrington Hill to enable the talented Lady Zoe to expand her business. I LOVE this shop and you need to check out the upcycling workshops she has planned over the next few months. She has also designed/developed her own paint and wallpaper range. I have been inspired to transform my own bits of furniture since seeing what can be produced and have got to say I have been very impressed with my results! Meanwhile I think Zoe has finally got the recognition she so deserves and we could be seeing her on the small screen this year on various TV shows! A star in the making and I think there is much more to come from this zany lady!

DEPTFORD

There continues to be a flurry of activity and new business openings in downtown Deptford. As it’s an area I’m not totally familiar with I may miss things out but I try to pop down to SE8 at least every few months as I think it is an exciting area with lots of interesting developments. Deptford Market Yard really came to life in the summer with the lovely outside cobbled space that allows events to be put on such as the wonderful swing patrol evening and the fashion show. This area I hope will further flourish with the opening of the Taproom SE8 at the beginning of December last year. I have popped in to see it but not ate or drank there yet but it certainly is pulling in the crowds and it is a great large space serving sourdough pizza with a bar serving craft beers (and other beverages) What not to like!

At the end of May Marcella opened on the High Street, an Italian restaurant and bar. Nearly 8 months on it is the place to eat and receiving excellent reviews. I felt the family had to try it out so we went a few weeks ago for my husband’s birthday and have got to say it was ALL exquisite! I can certainly recommend it, particularly for that special occasion. Gin and Beer opened along Resolution Way, in October and it sells exactly what it says on the tin! It is next door to the wonderful Buster Mantis so 2 good reasons to visit this part of SE8. 

Deptford Squire was the next major opening in Deptford towards the end of October and is the collaboration between two major local entrepreneurs, Tristan from Little Nan’s bar and Saima from Masala Wala cafe. It was billed as Lahore meets London with craft beers and small plates. It only opened on Friday and Saturdays and initially a pop up. However great news it is now permanent and has extended its evenings from Wednesday to Saturdays. I just didn’t get time to pop in before Xmas so now there is now no excuse!

Virtually opposite Deptford Squire is Deptford does Art which opened on the 1st December to much excitement. I popped in briefly over the holidays and loved the space/light and ethos of this cafe/bar/shop/gallery but certainly want to go back to fully appreciate it. There was lots of fantastic artwork for sale both in the basement gallery but also on the walls of the upstairs area. It’s great to see such a business on the High Street actively promoting local artists. Pop in next time you are in SE8 and support.

LEWISHAM

Generally, besides Model Market in the summer, there hasn’t been that much to go into Lewisham for during the evening however 2 new openings in 2017 have changed that! Sparrow was the first to appear at the end of March and has been busy from the moment it opened with booking highly recommended to avoid disappointment. It is located on a very busy part of the new traffic system in SE13 but people don’t go for the view but the FOOD. I have only been the once so far for my birthday in September and it was all delicious. If haven’t been I would highly recommend for that treat/special occasion. Be warned don’t leave it too long-it will only get busier and busier.

Lewisham also saw the opening of another Antic pub ‘Suttons Radio’ (so named I believe after discovering a ghost sign whilst doing the refurbishment) in the heart of Lewisham-in fact conveniently right by my bus-stop. It finally opened at the end of November and is a great addition to the rather limited supply of watering holes in the area. I love the quirky décor and this year promises to only add to the excitement as the kitchen is opening with Sunday roasts coming this month. They are very keen to put on lots of different events and are kicking off on the weekend of the 2nd to 4th February with live music on the Friday evening and a quiz night on the Sunday. They are open to any suggestions on what people would like to see happen. So next time you are waiting for the P4, 185 or 122 pop in for a swift pint/glass of wine.

I will now look back to EVENTS/HAPPENINGS in 2017 although inevitably there is an overlap with what I’ve written above for each area as for example under Catford I have included lots of events that happened.

The main festival that really kick starts each year in the area is the Telegraph Hill festival up in SE14 which takes place over a fortnight in March and then closely followed by the New Cross & Deptford Free film festival in April. Both festivals were once again a fantastic success last year and whilst I always try and get to as many events as possible I wish I had been able to go to more. The creative and artistic talents of these areas in the north of the borough were certainly showcased! Lots of amazing and diverse events and can’t wait to go along to both festivals again this year. The wonderful community show for 2018 is the very popular ‘West Side Story’ so it is bound to be a great hit.

For me though perhaps the highlight of the year was the wonderful Brockley Max festival. This took place in the first week of June and was even bigger and better than ever (94 events!) It was 9 days of fantastic art/theatre and music and much more-I think my personal favourite event was a packed evening at the Brockley Brewing listening to local poetry/spoken word. I have now been involved in the organisation of Brockley Max for the past four years and have been given the grand title of ‘Operations Manager’ and I love being part of this great community festival. It kicks off on a Friday evening with the opening night at Foxberry road, outside the Brockley Barge. Despite the heavens opening at around 5pm, after a brief cessation, the show continued until late and was very successful. It all culminates in the ever popular Art in the Park family event up at Hillyfields where once again huge numbers turned out. We are already beginning to work on this year’s festival and have a few new team members with new energy/ideas. It’s all very exciting with funky new branding and our aim is to actually reduce the number of events but going for ‘quality not quantity’. Watch this space!

The Brockley Street Art festival happened officially again last year with lots of exciting events and interesting walking tours around the existing art on the streets of SE4 and beyond, at the same time as the Brockley Max festival. More artwork was commissioned to brighten up the streets of Brockley & Honor Oak, with a few lovely pieces on the west side of the tracks. Perhaps the most iconic artwork was created by the highly talented Lionel Stanhope under the railway bridge near Brockley station. It is a big blue BROCKLEY sign and is much loved by us all. I believe there is some money and already new locations secured for further street art this year so hopefully there will be more art brightening up our area in June – hooray!

Speaking of art 2017 was another great year for our burgeoning art scene with gallery openings/shows and open studios. It started with the open studios weekend at the Telegraph Hill festival in March and continued a few months later with the wonderful Havelock Walk Studios open weekend in May (and also later in November). Brockley Open Studios and Lee Green open studios weekends are now established events in the area along with the highly popular Deptford X festival in September. The Catford Arts Trail has now become another established addition to the area which is great news and I’m sure after the success of all the street art in SE6, with a growing number of artists emerging, this years will be even bigger and better!

The Cinderella Line needs a specific mention in this blog under both ‘Looking Back and Looking forward’. This is a fantastic campaign pressure group set up in 2016 in response to the appalling and overcrowded train service serving Crofton Park and the surrounding stations on the Catford Loop. A group of brilliant local residents lead the group and together with our fab local MP, Vicky Foxcroft, organise open meetings in the Rivoli Ballroom. The April meeting last year was attended by over 100 people with Thameslink and South Eastern representatives also there. Significant changes have been achieved to date with a few additional trains stopping in rush hour going to Victoria. New waiting rooms have been created on each platform and the new longer trains have now been totally rolled out over the summer and are certainly helping ease the situation. However reliability and the number of trains per hour is still a major issue but after the Cinderella Line galvanised the community to respond to the 2018 new timetable plans we achieved the highest response rate across the region and it looks like this has paid dividends with the Catford Loop stations finally getting 3 or 4 trains an hour in May-we are waiting for confirmation of this. It is also hoped for further trains to Victoria and other improvements. An important meeting is planned for Saturday 3rd March at 2pm at the Rivoli when hopefully Thameslink will publically announce the new timetable. Whilst there is still a way to go a huge thanks to Vicky Foxcroft and all the team at Cinderella Line for all their hard work and commitment towards improving the transport in our area.

I want to finish the round-up of the year to include some information on LEWISHAM LOCAL as this is a great umbrella organisation that has their strapline ‘Connecting community through giving, to grow local pride, fairness, equality and opportunity’. The Lewisham Local card is a fantastic local initiative to thank volunteers in the borough for their community contribution. I have one of these cards by being part of Brockley Max and I can now use it in over 160 shops and businesses to get offers/discounts etc. They are continually looking for new businesses to sign up so if you would like to show you value volunteers/and are a community minded business get in touch with them. Another brilliant initiative is the Community Toilets scheme which now includes a network of 50 plus toilets that are clean, accessible and free to use across the borough-an invaluable resource for the elderly, families or let’s be honest anyone really! Lewisham Local are also part of the Mayor’s awards scheme to recognise local volunteers and organisations for their voluntary contribution to the community. Over 100 people were nominated and received awards in 2017.Young people’s volunteering began last year and more projects are planned this year plus in 2018 new opportunities include employee volunteering and financial giving-all very exciting!

LOOKING FORWARD 2018

I am not aware of too many new business openings in the year ahead and have already referred to a few of them already. To round up I think the new Mamma Dough in Ladywell will be the first significant opening with Noak also re-opening with new management in February hopefully. Catford has already had a new Romanian restaurant open a few weeks ago under Eros tower and ‘Factory’ is due to open on the corner of Rushey Green & Honley road,SE6 any day soon! Midtown Brockley should see the old Turners store open sometime during the year with a new business and possibly Brockley Mess change hands and so a new cafe/restaurant be created if we are lucky. In Crofton Park the new development opposite the Brockley Jack pub has 2 units on the ground floor. I understand one is to become Pedlars, estate agents, and I’m unsure what the other will become though rumour has it that it will also be a Pedlar!. We may unfortunately get a Domino’s on the Honor Oak parade. We heard great news last week that ‘Tales on Moon Lane’ is to open a sister bookshop on 300 Stansted road in April on the SE23, SE6 borders, near the Blythe Hill Tavern. This is largely a children’s bookshop, committed to a fully integrated range of books to reflect the diversity of London and sounds a fantastic addition to the South Circular road!  

One thing is for sure there will be new businesses open in the area that we were not expecting and us mere mortals do not know about yet and hopefully this news will surprise and delight us! Sadly there may also be some closures that happen unexpectedly as times are hard for independent businesses and many are struggling to stay afloat. It is therefore so important that we continue to go in and support LOCAL shops/bars/cafes/restaurants –use them or lose them is exactly what it says on the tin!

CATFORD last year saw so much happening and I don’t think it is going to disappoint us this year. Only last Sunday there was a Catford ‘crumble’ competition the brainwave of James Walsh, a local councillor and over 30 people submitted delicious crumbles to be tasted by the judges and trophies awarded-an inspired community event held in the Catford Bridge Tavern. There is currently a ‘Catford Crush’ competition running for locals to indicate their favourite SE6 business and the one with the most love will be given a special prize-all relatively small ideas but together create a sense of identity/community. Supersets is another very exciting development in SE6. It is a TV film and scenery construction company that is currently developing a large derelict council warehouse on Thomas Lane and with the help of a successful crowdfunding campaign last year they not only will have more space to build their sets but will also be offering a large range community initiatives from drive-in movies with Catford film to working with the Lewisham Youth theatre to providing a skate park & urban beach-all very exciting!

 Another very exciting initiative is the ‘Catford Food Market’ which is returning to the Broadway on the last Sunday of every month, starting on Sunday 25th March and will be showcasing some of SE London’s premier street food entrepreneurs & crafters, including Van Dough, Raastawala, Brett & Bailey, Perlant & Press, Three Hounds Brewery and Catford Arts. There will also be live music, with art/children’s activities and so this will not only be a market but also an event-one not to be missed! There are also more events in the pipeline for 2018 which have not yet been finalised so can’t yet be announced but believe me they are potentially VERY exciting!

Bellingham is an area of the borough not often talked about but I think/know 2018 will be changing that. I had no idea really where/what the Fellowship Inn was but it is a large development that is currently being created by Phoenix Housing and should be opening this year, I believe as early as the summer. It was built in the 1920’s as an ‘improved public house’ and is a vast building right next door to Bellingham railway station which once served as a training base for the boxer Henry Cooper and hosted famous music artists such as Fleetwood Mac & Eric Clapton!  The building has fallen into disrepair but thanks to a £4.2 million Heritage lottery funding it is being restored to its former glory for future generations to enjoy. The plans include a cinema, live music and theatre venue, cafe, microbrewery and a refurbished pub all created in consultation with the local community. I realise that when this opens it will be less than 10 minutes away door to door from my house as is only 2 stops down on the Sevenoaks train line and I live only 5 minutes walk to Crofton Park station with the Fellowship Inn spitting distance from the station at the other end. I truly believe that this part of SE6 will be put firmly on the map this year. WATCH THIS SPACE!! Very exciting

I don’t know if people were aware but last year the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, announced a competition for boroughs in the capital to create a ‘Culture Bid’ as part of his plans to support the arts. The competition was for £1million of funding and at the beginning of December Lewisham, along with 21 other boroughs, submitted proposals to become the ‘London Borough of Culture’. The winners will be announced during February I believe. Obviously it would be amazing if Lewisham were to be one of the lucky winners for either 2019 or 2020 and help transform places through arts, heritage and culture. Fingers crossed!

Another very exciting happening for 2018 is that the borough is going to get its own free community printed newspaper, The Lewisham Ledger’ Two local journalists who are also the brains behind the highly successful ongoing papers ‘The Peckham Peculiar’ and ‘The Dulwich Diverter’ launched a crowdfunding campaign at the beginning of the year and soon reached the initial target of £5,000 to enable the first few editions to get printed and then hopefully they will become self-funded through advertising. As early as May we should see the first edition hit the streets and its focus is going to be on Catford, with subsequent areas covered being Deptford, New Cross, Forest Hill and then Brockley/Crofton Park. The emphasis is going to be about people and places whose stories have not necessarily been told. It will be at least 24 pages with a strong focus on design and lots of great photographs. Well I for one can’t wait to see The Lewisham Ledger’ come to fruition! 

Have you heard of the Lewisham Food festival? Well there is one planned for this year with provisional dates of 23rd June to 7th July. The two organisations of ‘Made in Lewisham’ and ‘GCDA are joining forces to create a community-led fortnight festival in celebration of Lewisham’s rich and exciting cultural food heritage and will champion local food & drink producers and suppliers plus create opportunities to discover fun, healthy & sustainable ways to engage with the food we eat. There are lots of ideas but it’s proposed to open with a weekend of Big Lunches across the borough, for neighbours and communities to share food. There will also be a Food Trail featuring Lewisham’s food producers, suppliers, markets, delis, restaurants & cafes with a community cook! A first brainstorming meeting is being held today with all interested parties/persons and I am sure lots more ideas will emerge as there already appears to be much engagement from all our amazing local culinary amateurs and experts! This all sounds fantastic and I can’t wait to take part in this festival.

Talking of food this leads nicely on to my next item. SoleShare is a fresh fish box scheme that has recently been set up in the area and from February there are going to be 3 main participating businesses in the scheme, namely Jones of Brockley, the Ladywell Tavern and Parlez. SoleShare works directly with small-scale British fishermen who they know and trust and fish responsibly- there is no trawling, no bycatch and no damage to the seabed. The fish comes direct off the boat and then direct to the customer, via the pick-up points rather than the often conventional method of processors/distributors/delivery depot and finally the retailer. You can collect weekly or fortnightly, choose your portion size and whether you want it as a whole fish or oven ready and then your pick up hub. This flexible scheme sounds an excellent initiative and well worth checking out. See http://www.soleshare.net/ for further details.

As mentioned before in my blogs there are limitations to the areas I cover else they would just go on forever!-in this respect I haven’t included details of events/happenings in Hither Green as it is slightly out of my patch and I’m not that familiar with it myself though I can see there is a great community in SE13. However I do want to say that this year the ‘Hither Green Community Association’ is celebrating their tenth anniversary and have LOTS of very interesting and exciting events planned over the coming year, so if you want to find out more check out https://ourhithergreen.com/

SNIPPETS OF NEWS

Brockley Jack Theatre-Fear & Misery of the Third Reich by Brecht continues until Saturday 3rd February/Proud Sow now open on Sundays/Next Featured Fifteen evening Thursday 15th February at Signal pub, SE23/WeDoGoodDisco-celebrating anti-Valentines party Saturday 17th February with film ‘True Romance & disco at Brookmill pub/Comedy nights every Tuesday upstairs at the Honor Oak pub/St. Augustine’s church panto ‘Mother Goose-3rd & 4th February/Good Gym celebrated 2 years running and doing good this week-join them!/Wildcat Wilderness family wassail event Saturday 3rd February/Crofton Community Garden on Marnock road open twice monthly at weekends-always need willing volunteers/Crofton Park Assembly meeting tomorrow (Saturday) at Ewart Road Clubhouse 10-12am/Haven’t Stopped Dancing Yet-next disco party Saturday 3rd March at Trafalgar Tavern, SE10/Beecroft Garden primary school-art exhibition ‘Light, Flight and Air’-8th February to 2nd March/Crofton Park totes bags for sale designed by Betty Etiquette, in lots of local businesses/Check out Space 61 over in SE15-lots of workshops, networking events, supper clubs-Couscous Cousins Sri Lankan supper club Saturday 10th February-a few tickets left/Catford Wanderers tennis club will be holding family & a women’s open tournaments in the summer-watch this space/Parlez Lates-coming soon on Saturday eves -new cocktails & food menu, live music/Shannon’s Garden centre- open 7 days a week for all your gardening needs/Have you been over to SE15 and checked out Peckham Levels in the 6 storey car park?/2 local sisters ‘Kaki Lima’ serving Indonesian food at Old Nun’s Head, SE15 Thursday,Fridays until mid-February/Perlant & Press, local coffee suppliers are popping up at Blythe Hill Fields with their van 'Pearl' at weekends from the beginning of March-very exciting!/A few places still available at Brockley Brewery ‘brewschool’ Sunday 4th February

FINALLY… SOME KEY DATES FOR THE DIARY

So Last Century at St. Dunstan’s - Sunday 11th February

Telegraph Hill Festival - 10th March to 25th March

Catford Food Market on Catford Broadway – Sunday 25th March (and then the last Sunday of every month)

New Cross & Deptford Free Film Festival – 27th April to 6th May

Havelock Walk Open Studios – 12th/13th May and 19th/20th May

Hither Green Food & Crafts Fair - Saturday 12th May 

Brockley Max Festival – 1st to 9th June

Brockley Street Arts Festival – same dates as Brockley Max

Pre World Cup Catford Beer Festival at The Catford Bridge Tavern – 8th to 10th June

Lewisham Food Festival – 23rd June to 7th July (provisional)

Hillyfields Fayre – Saturday 23rd June

Blythe Hill Festival – Saturday 7th July

Okay I’m finally finishing this! I keep finding/thinking of more things to add but it has already become so long that if you are still reading it you deserve a medal! (it is actually over 8K words-my longest yet and nearly a full dissertation) I would always love to add photos to break up the rambling text but once again I’ve run out of time and energy so sorry no pretty pictures! (I’m also an absolute technophobe so inserting photos is quite a challenge)

Our area is so vibrant & 2018 only looks to be another exciting year (POLITICS aside!) As ever I apologise if things have been missed out but it is my personal reflections on businesses/events and I can’t begin to know/cover everything.

HAPPY NEW YEAR EVERYONE Hope 2018 brings you lots of fun, good health and happiness

DRINK/EAT/SHOP/USE OUR WONDERFUL LOCAL BUSINESSES

Bye for now

Jane x

 

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