For 5 years in the late 90s, my usual route to school involved taking the P13 from Old Kent Road to Peckham. Then switching to the 36 bus to finish my journey in Camberwell. Daily I made the journey from SE15 to SE5 and back again. For those not familiar with Peckham these are buses and postcodes.
There is a generation of people like me who have taken these buses and lived in these postcodes. For years people with African and Caribbean heritage lived, loudly, in harmony with working-class British people and families immigrating from China, India, Pakistan and beyond. Neighbouring the affluent, green and serene Dulwich, Peckham has always been the poorer, more energetic and vibrant sibling. However, in recent years, demographics have begun to change as Peckham receives huge investments.
Regeneration not Gentrification
Gentrification has got a bad name, and in many cases rightly so – pushing out residents and losing the unique culture and character of an area. However, Regeneration can bring about positive changes to an area. A good local authority will ensure change does not come at the expense of long-time residents and businesses.
Peckham is at an interesting crossroads. The influx of wealthier individuals into Peckham has brought about new opportunities for economic development, including the opening of new shops, restaurants, and cafes. CLF Art Lounge, Prince of Peckham, Zapoi, Kudu, and Funky Dori are fantastic additions to Peckham’s hospitality scene.
Alongside the influx of new people, Southwark, the local council has tried to ensure there is space and opportunities for the local African community.
The Council has done well?
Peckham Palms (established in 2013) and Peckham Levels (founded in 2017) are popular destinations for natives and visitors to the borough. They’re home to the Flygerians and Plantain Kitchen – Nigerian street food outlets run by British Nigerians. The Palms, Levels and Bussey building play important roles in the cultural life of Peckham helping to preserve the character and history of the area.
The Bussey building is a cultural and community centre located in Peckham, London. It is housed in a former industrial warehouse, and offers a range of activities and events, including music and arts festivals, exhibitions, and film screenings – it also hots Pexmas.
We love Peckham
For the last two years, Value Africa has traded at Pexmas, an annual two-day community Christmas market. Curated excellently, it is extremely well-attended and caters to students, parents and retired grandparents looking for new interesting and novel Christmas gifts. It is the perfect place to introduce our products to new customers. It allows us to meet Africans abroad and new customers not so familiar with African products. We love the mix and mark Pexmas in our calendar every year.
For Peckham it is important to manage the changing Peckham demographics alongside a regeneration program that offers incentives and obligations for developers to include affordable housing in their projects, ensuring that the African community can continue to live and work in the area. Additionally, support could be provided for African-owned businesses, providing training and access to finance to ensure their businesses also meet the needs of new residents of the borough.
Pexmas is an excellent example of how this can be done. Massive shout out to the organising team for putting on an excellent event which saw over 200 businesses provide a variety of products for Peckham’s new, existing, and ex-residents.
Value Africa looks forward to seeing you next year and being part of Peckham’s regeneration.