LOOKING BACK /LOOKING FORWARD
What a brilliant year 2015 has been! This is reflected in the annual competition Brockley Central have just ran for ‘Best Newcomer of the year’ The list of local businesses was pretty impressive and that doesn’t include some of the areas I cover in my blogs like Honor Oak. The winner ‘Masala Wala’ cafe is certainly well deserved with Jones of Brockley being one of the runner ups. Both these businesses exemplify quality with excellent service with many of the others on the shortlist having similar attributes. Things are certainly looking up in the area.
I personally had a very eventful year. In March we ditched our car and so have spent the past 9 months travelling round the area mainly on foot but also bus, train and more recently using Zipcar. I won’t say much more as I intend doing a blog post on my experiences but in summary it has been very positive and certainly cheaper!
I also had major building works during the summer months but the 5 months of disruption were well worth it when in October the kitchen extension was finally finished. I absolutely love the new space and can honestly say it has enhanced my life and so my tip would be if you are tempted to expand do it NOW (okay you need to have the finance in place!)
Our son Joe went off to Birmingham university in September and our 25 year old daughter Alex finally had that permanent ‘dream’ job and enough savings to move out in November to rent with her boyfriend. Most people downsize when their children finally leave home but this is not the case for us! As we love the area so much we plan on going nowhere until circumstances force us otherwise! (hopefully that won’t be for many years ahead)
Anyway enough of me – Firstly let me start the blog to highlight the CLOSURES IN 2015.
Easily the saddest for me personally and Crofton Park generally was Stacie shutting Pat-a-Cakes. The doors to this cafe, serving delicious cakes and coffee, were finally closed in early November after 4 years. Stacie was a stalwart of the community and led the way in many great initiatives in the area and I have written a separate blog post about her on this website bit.ly/1UBvGGj. She is certainly missed.
Another stalwart of the Ladywell community also shut his doors in 2015 after nearly 4 years on the block. In August Jason of the wonderful ‘Slater & King’ gift shop in SE13 said goodbye and has moved up to the Midlands. He organised many things in the village and I for one miss popping in and catching up on local gossip! Within days Petra, owner of the unique cafe next door to Jason, Oscars, also ceased trading and again she is sorely missed. Luckily both of these businesses were taken over by local people who have continued trading-more will be mentioned later under ‘new openings’
Coming back to Crofton Park Nicki at the White Room decided to close in December and move to smaller premises in Greenwich. She provided a very different business to the norm and her clothes, sewing classes and other workshops will be missed. I’m not sure what will be happening to that shop unit but let’s hope it will be let again soon as it is in a prime location next to the Rivoli ballroom and opposite the station.
Finally the other main business that I’m aware of that closed in the area is Hills & Parkes, the scrumptious delicatessen in Honor Oak. It had been winding down for many months and the owners Jaquie and Emma had been waiting to sell it to the right owners. This they finally did in the Autumn and it re-opened as Provender in the past month with Tony as the new owner. It is certainly worth popping in as it is stocking lots of delicious goodies.
All of the above businesses shut down for different reasons rather than they were unsuccessful but it also proves what hard work and endless hours you need to devote to running your own business. I wish everyone lots of luck in the future.
The first major opening in the area was the wonderful Masala Wala cafe in Brockley Cross serving home-cooked Pakistani food. Saima and her family opened in mid-March to immediate rave reviews and these have continued ever since! I think the only criticism that could be levied is that it isn’t big enough to house everyone but they do take-away and also have linked well with Brockley Deli across the road so you can get a drink there and will be called when ready. The food is DELICIOUS and they are all so friendly and welcoming. Local resident Hibah wrote a wonderful blog post that sums it up perfectly bit.ly/1TJ3GAB. It has just won ‘Best Newcomer business in 2015 run by Brockley Central which is so well deserved. I try and pop in every couple of months and have never been disappointed.
Muck n Brass was the next business to open on the 22nd March in Honor Oak. It has certainly brightened up Brockley Rise and is a wonderful addition to the area. Lady Zoe upcycles furniture and other interesting accessories with beautiful, exciting prints. You can buy direct from the shop or etsy or take in your own furniture to have it personally upcycled. She also has some great affordable vases/glassware and has linked in with local boy Dan to house ‘Funky Pug’ pictures on the wall. If you haven’t popped in yet I really recommend you do as Zoe is so friendly and there really is no pressure to buy.
A month later in April ‘The Workshop’ opened at the bottom of my road on the corner of Ewhurst Rd. The wonderful Donna and Lucy who had been working out of the White Room decided to join forces and open their own business. They compliment each other really well as Lucy mainly does pattern cutting and creating the outfits using digital technology whilst Donna does most of the alterations and traditional pattern cutting. Basically between them they can do anything you want in relation to designing/making/altering clothes and like most of our new businesses they are wonderfully welcoming for you to go down and discuss your needs. They also have made beautiful scarves to sell plus great sewing kits. Pop in and say hello.
We had to wait over 4 months for the next new openings and then in August there were four, three of them being in Ladywell. Honeybourne’s, Oscars and then Heckstall & Smith all opened within a few weeks of each other. Honeybourne’s was re-decorated with a pretty baby pink exterior and the interior and layout was changed from Jason’s Slater & King. The owner, Hannah, has certainly placed her own stamp on the shop whilst still selling local favourites and using many local suppliers.
Meanwhile local caterer Saner re-opened the cafe ‘Oscars’ within a couple of days of Petra leaving and so far has not changed that much inside but has plans for 2016 which hopefully will have the cafe open in the early evenings which would be great and capitalise on the beautiful garden area.
Lastly Ladywell finally got a butchers in August with Callum opening ‘Heckstall & Smith’ in the corner unit of what was the old laundrette. It appears to be gaining in customers/popularity with many locals using it for their Xmas meat supplies. It came joint runner up with Jones of Brockley in the ‘Best new business’ competition. All of these new Ladywell businesses have totally embraced being part of the community and really engaged with the village, throwing themselves into fully participating in the Ladywell Christmas market.
On the 21st of August ‘Jones of Brockley’ opened its doors and this is the best addition to Crofton Park I would say for a long time. Michael, the owner, is passionate about good quality food and drink and has stocked his grocers shop accordingly. I personally love his cheese selection which changes regularly and is excellent. His relishes/chutneys/jams are also a favourite of mine at really reasonable prices. If you haven’t walked in yet don’t be frightened to do so as Michael loves to chat/discuss his stock and be willing to consider sourcing requests.
Only 10 days later Longhorns, a family run, Italian/American diner opened a few doors along Brockley road in Crofton Park. It has a big menu selection of burgers/ribs/hotdogs etc with surprisingly good vegetarian options. The food was great when I visited and I would particularly recommend it to a family for an early evening meal as all tastes would be catered for. The owners/staff are really friendly and very keen to be part of the community. A good addition to the area.
There were a few months gap before more businesses opened up but there has been a flurry just before Xmas. The first was Noak Bakehouse in Brockley in November. I have got to admit to rarely going this side of the tracks until now but it is certainly worth a trip. Our family went for coffee and pastries over the holidays and were all very impressed. I also went in for lunch today and can confirm the sandwiches were delicious. There is a definite Danish influence with everything cooked/baked on the premises and I can’t wait to try it in the evening as they do pizzas and other platters. They have an alcohol licence and it has a laid back atmosphere. I think it will do very well in a pocket of Brockley slightly bereft of alternatives.
Meanwhile back in Crofton Park Bianca opened Benedict’s Coffee in December at 359 Brockley Road and helped somewhat offset the closure of Pat-a-Cakes in providing coffee, cakes, pastries and sandwiches. I really like the industrial look of the place with the bare brick walls and wooden tables. Pop in and say hello if you’ve not already checked it
Ana and Teresa, the 2 women behind the highly successful Spanish importing business ‘Flavours of Spain’ ,which is weekly at Brockley market, had a very popular pop up at no 57 Loampit Hill in the summer and it became a permanent space just a few weeks before Xmas. L’Oculto is small but very beautiful serving delicious tapas with their excellent wine selection. This is well worth a visit if you haven’t yet been and a great addition to the range of eateries in the area.
Lots of our other established businesses in the area expanded, swopped ownership or just made some changes in how they operate. Sodo Pizza was the first to frighten us at the beginning of the year with a sudden name change to Mamma Dough-however our fears that it had totally changed ownership were ill-founded and it is continuing to serve quality sour dough pizzas in SE23 whilst also expanding to an outlet in Brixton. Only 2 doors down Hopscotch changed hands early in the year but it has largely retained its look and serving similar food, drink and live music on Saturdays.
The Ladywell Tavern in the village changed ownership in 2015 with Darren taking it over from Monty. There is lots going on during the week and Darren is very open to new ideas and looking to make improvements all the time so pop in and support this community pub. Another pub changing managers has been at the Chandos on Brockley Rise. I haven’t spent an evening there yet but many people I know are regulars and give very good feedback.
Our award winning fish and chip shop, Brockley’s Rock, took the plunge and expanded over to Brixton which I understand is proving just as popular as midtown Brockley. Also the ever popular Arlo & Moe had been looking to expand the business and finally opened their doors with a new cafe in Hither Green in October. I have visited a couple of times and love it! There are all the hallmarks of the Crofton Park branch but with more space and the lovely Jamie!
Top Chef, next to Brockley’s Rock shut for a couple of weeks in September and re-opened next month as Pistachios. I personally haven’t been in yet but I can see is having positive reviews. The popular cafe Brockley Mess, only 3 doors down, is now open in the evenings Tuesdays to Fridays with great food and great house wine for only £11 a bottle! I have been a number of times in the eves and found it to be excellent value for money so why not pop in and try it.
The ever popular Brockley Brewing company opens its doors for takeaway beer at the weekend but you can also now sip a pint inside the brewery on Saturdays from 12-6pm as they provide a few tables/benches and offer a very pleasant atmosphere with the smell of the hops all around you.
Final mention goes to the wonderful local butchers ‘Proud Sow’ who this year have really expanded their offerings. Beside the usual high quality meat and veg and daily bread from Coopersbake they obtained a licence in the summer to sell wine and beers and this has proved very popular. They also sell delicious pies and smoked salmon along with great deli items such as olive oil, dressings etc. Great for me that they are only 2 minutes walk from my house!
I now plan to look back to EVENTS/HAPPENINGS in the area during 2015.
Let’s start with perhaps my favourite local venue, the wonderful Brockley Jack theatre. It puts on lots of shows throughout the year, all very different and always excellent. My highlights were the Write now season, Elephant Man, Side by Side (Sondheim) and only a few days ago the Xmas show ‘The Haunting’ Sondheim needs a special mention as I went to see it twice in 10 days which is not something I would normally do but it was so uplifting I decided I needed to go again. I say this quite often but if you live local (and I assume most reading this blog will do) and NOT yet been to our local fringe theatre then make a point to visit in 2016. The ticket prices are normally £14 and the quality of performance is always amazing. I can see that six productions are already booked in for the year ahead, up until June with a great variety of genres covered.
If you follow me on twitter you may know that I set up a community netball team ‘OnTheRise’ and 2 years on it has been a great success. There is a squad of over 20 women of all ages ( I am easily the oldest with my daughter the youngest) We have played local matches and entered tournaments where we have done very well. Besides enabling us to keep fit and active it has created some great local friendships with many women with children meeting up outside of the netball court. We may enter into a league in 2016 – a great community initiative!
For me perhaps the highlight of the year in the community was at the end of May/first week in June. The Brockley Max festival this year was held in conjunction with the ‘Brockley Street Art Festival’ and it was 9 days of fantastic art, music, theatre and workshops in the area. This was the second year I got involved in the organisation of Brockley Max and gave myself the title of ‘Operations Manager’ I loved being part of this great festival and helping make it happen. It was certainly a success with over 70 events taking place ranging from an outdoor film night to Piano bar evening to a community production in the cemetery. Art in the Park, held on Hillyfields, was our final big family arts and music day and huge numbers turned out. An even bigger and better festival is planned for 2106.
Meanwhile the street art festival came about after Brockley won a competition in conjunction with the Londonist and Global Street arts. Over the period 20 plus murals were painted on walls/hoardings and shop shutters and the area came alive with colour. Perhaps the biggest publicity was around the ‘Bring back Bob’ mural painted by Dale Grimshaw on the Brockley Barge that attracted crowd funding. Top name artists were seen with their spray cans and paint. Local artist/illustrator Lionel Stanhope has continued the work from the festival and organised local street artists to collaborate and paint hoardings around the area. We have enjoyed the Crofton Park pink hoardings opposite the Brockley Jack getting a makeover and more recently the hoardings in Ladywell. Huge thanks to Lionel and all the other artists for brightening up our streets!
Another very significant day in the life of the area was the wonderful ‘Brockley Community Photograph’ Organised by the Brockley Society they aimed to recreate a photo taken nearly 100 years ago on Hillyfields. The community was encouraged to come together one afternoon in July. Thousands of people/families in the area turned out and a beautiful photograph was produced that many houses in the area now have on their wall. It was estimated 5,000 took part and for me this just illustrates what an amazing area we live in and how lucky we are!
Throughout the year there were some great film festivals across the area and these have become an established part of the year’s calendar. The New Cross and Deptford film festival is the one I have participated in the most and takes place in April/May and had a very varied programme ranging from Paddington Bear to Saturday Night Fever to an outdoor, pedal powered showing of the Wizard of Oz in Telegraph Hill. All the films are free and the amazing volunteers are already working on this year’s festival which is from the 22nd April to the 1st May.
Another growing trend in the area that totally reflects our burgeoning art scene are gallery openings/shows and open studios. The wonderful Havelock Walk in Forest Hill now have 2 major weekends of open studios with food and music whilst the Brockley Open Studios, Lee Green Open Studios and Lewisham Arthouse open weekends are established events in the area along with the highly popular Deptford X festival in September. These are a great opportunity to nose around in galleries or people’s houses (let’s be honest here!) whilst also appreciating some great art/ceramics/sculpture often at very affordable prices. Last year I bought quite a few pictures from local artists at their open studios and am delighted with them.
A quick mention should be made for the advent of the ‘South East Journal’ that first rolled off the press early last year. Four issues later it is proving very popular and is a wonderful printed publication with local features/articles and lots of beautiful photographs. It certainly proves that the physical written word is not dead!
A great local initiative that took place in the area during the autumn of last year was the introduction of the Lewisham Card. Two enterprising young men obtained discounts/offers from many local businesses and for £10 you can buy the card that entitles you to these reductions. I for one have easily covered my capital outlay and more businesses are coming into the scheme all the time. Check it out here http://www.lewishamcard.co.uk/membership-card/
I nearly missed this item off my round up of the year but was reminded yesterday on twitter and Brockley Central about the Brockley Cat! Back in November he became an internet sensation as the ginger moggie was photographed on the shelves of the Mantle Road local Sainsbury’s. He proved hard to remove from the store and was back with a vengeance this week and caught on camera again on the top shelf. He certainly has attracted much attention and amusement!
I feel I can’t do this review without mentioning the general election that took place in May 2015. Many of us were optimistic that Labour would do well and at least increase its numbers to be able to challenge the Tories. However we woke up on a Friday morning to very disappointing results One of the only bits of good news was that our local candidate Vicky Foxcroft had been elected with an increased majority from the outgoing Joan Ruddock. Also Heidi Alexander, member for Lewisham East was later named as shadow Health secretary.
To round off the year I want to finish with the brilliant news that our fab local Lewisham NHS choir got their record ‘A Bridge over You’ to Christmas No.1. It was a great campaign with ‘I love the NHS’ at its core but also a beautiful song. Big congratulations to all those involved and beating Justin Bieber to this coveted slot.
LOOKING FORWARD -2016
The only business that I’m aware of that is definitely opening in the next few months is ‘Chaplin’s, next to Jones of Brockley. It is to be a men’s barbers/grooming shop and already the owners have another successful branch in Deptford. Also next door to that works are going on to where Pat-a-Cakes used to be and I understand it is to be a coffee/sandwich cafe but until it opens its doors I hold my breath. There certainly is now an empty shop unit along that stretch with the White room closing and it is a very large unit so could be turned into something very interesting!
Over in Honor Oak I believe Lady Zoe and Dan from Muck n Brass are getting together to reform HOPFEST and bring Brockley Rise into the frame. Watch this space as they are two people that have ideas and get things done so exciting times ahead.
The Rivoli ballroom is finally having more regular events and utilising this beautiful building for the community to get more involved. Monthly Comedy nights are planned this year starting on the 26th February with Reginald Hunter headlining. ‘Live at the Rivoli’ will hopefully become an established comedy destination.
In Brockley the big development (180 Brockley Rd) opposite the Barge should finally be completed and I believe Sainsbury’s are setting up one of their local stores in the ground floor. I think there is room for at least one more business so let’s wait and see. The opening night of Brockley Max is held here so we are hoping that it will still be able to go ahead in this location.
There are big plans for Catford and it could soon become one of the artistic hubs of the area. The educational arts charity, Bow Arts, have won the tender to create workspaces for between 35 & 60 emerging artists on the fourth floor of Catford Town Hall. This is planned for April. Also on the 5th floor space is being created to support creative start-ups. All very exciting!
Meanwhile in Ladywell there is potentially lots of developments afoot. The site of the old Ladywell swimming baths is being developed as temporary homes for homeless families with Ground floor units for community and enterprise space. The area is known as PLACE/Ladywell and on the Lewisham council website March is the planned opening. Watch this space!
The Ladywell Playtower has long been abandoned/neglected but this lovely Victorian building has been gaining attention and there is a petition locally to get the council to debate its future. To help try and safeguard it please sign the petition, link here bit.ly/1Ykoi8B
In Lewisham there are supposedly major works taking place to bring what was the Riverdale leisure centre back into use as a ‘food emporium’ with 2 large restaurants, bars, lounges and using the rooftop for street food with a garden etc. The people behind this development are London Union and this is also where the much rumoured branch of the Venetian cafe Polpo is to open. All very exciting and the success of Model Market has only proved that the area can sustain such culinary delights. It is unclear when exactly it will be finished but supposedly the works will only take 4 weeks so it could happen very quickly.
Meanwhile in the town centre the major roadworks resemble a grand priz circuit without any of the associated speed! I have been without a car for the large part of the disruption so have had little personal experience but can see it has had a significant impact on cars/buses/cyclists and pedestrians. I believe it is all set to finish this year but we wait to see!
Finally the Deptford Project or the ‘Deptford Market Yard’ as it is now called is due to be completed in early Spring this year. This is going to have a massive impact on the area with 2 major restaurants opening and lots of small cafes/business outlets under the small railway arches opening onto the cobbled walkway area that will be used for a market, entertainment and other outdoor activity. The restored Victorian carriageway ramp will take you up to the station with 7 retail shop units inside the large multi storey flat complex coming off it. I visit Deptford quite regularly and love the vibrancy of the area. This project appears on the face of it to be really exciting for SE8 but I do not profess to understand the history of the project and the effect on local existing businesses and those that were forced to close due to the massive development. It will certainly change the area and let’s hope only for the better.
Okay I’m finishing this blog as keep thinking of more things to add but it has become so long that I doubt many of you are still reading it! So much is happening in the area but also globally (the Olympics being the main event for me) so I think we can really look forward to 2016. As ever I apologise if things have been missed out but it is my personal reflections on events and I can’t begin to know/cover everything!
SOME DATES FOR YOUR DIARY
Telegraph Hill festival will take place from 5- 20th March
Brockley Max festival 27th May – 4th June
Hillyfields Fayre Saturday 18th June
HAPPY NEW YEAR EVERYONE – HOPE 2016 BRINGS YOU LOTS OF FUN!! Remember we are SOO lucky to live in this fantastic community.
DRINK/EAT/BUY/USE OUR WONDERFUL LOCAL BUSINESSES OR YOU MAY LOSE THEM!!
Bye for now
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