A recent Panorama series titled “What Britain wants” in the run up to the election sets out four things we all need: someone to love, somewhere to live, somewhere to work and something to hope for. In Brixton today you can see how these four questions converge around the disputed arches in the centre of the community.
We often hear phrases about something being the “heart of a community”, and yet in this instance it’s a true reflection of the strength of feeling and level of anxiety that both shop holders and the wider public are carrying as they contemplate the loss of this historic shopping district.
The arches near Brixton station are owned by Network Rail and they’ve given initial notice that the arches are to be renovated in the coming year. While specific details are yet to be announced, the indication thus far is that current tenants will need to vacate the premises by early 2016 with rents to be revised following the refurbishment.
Many of these shops have been in the same families for generations, with L.S. Mash Fishmongers and A&C Continental Deli being just some vivid examples of businesses that are part of the community’s fabric.
“This is where Brixton comes to shop, walk and meet all through the week.”
These arches are the “heart” of the community not just because of their iconic location. This is where Brixton comes to shop and walk and meet all through the week. From fabric shops tocafes,fishmongers and the deli, the people who come each day are buying from their local shops and celebrating the incredible diversity on offer.
These shops too have been a bedrock in the community through Brixton’s darker days. The riots of the early 80s and the more recent struggles meant many people stayed away. For those who stayed, there is bitterness that they gave everything they could when times were hard. And now, when a season of prosperity and renewal has marked Brixton out as the next“place to be”, they’re no longer needed.
In places like this and times like these you can see the limitations of calculating which tenants should remain simply on the commercial assessment of £'s per square foot.
So many communities don’t have a heart. It would seem those that do should be nurtured, because their lasting value transcends simple business calculations. We must find better ways of measuring those things that bring unique value to our lives.
“THESE ARCHES ARE THE TRUE HEART OF BRIXTON, AND THEY WANT TO REPLACE IT WITH A DISNEY VERSION. OUR SHOPS HAVE BEEN HERE FOR GENERATIONS THROUGH GOOD TIMES AND BAD AND IT’S TIME WE STOOD UP TOGETHER TO DEFEND OUR LIVELIHOOD AND COMMUNITY.”
JOSE CARDOSO, A & C CONTINENTAL DELICATESSEN
“THIS ISN’T ONLY ABOUT OUR JOBS AND ALL THOSE WHO WORK IN THESE SHOPS. IT’S ABOUT OUR FAMILIES TOO. I’M 62 AND I REMORTGAGED OUR HOME TO HELP MY KIDS GET SET UP. I BOUGHT EQUIPMENT WE NEED AND NOW WHAT? I THINK PEOPLE MAKING THESE DECISIONS ABOUT OUR LIVES HAVE NO IDEA THE WEIGHT OF STRESS AND ANXIETY WE FEEL.”
LORNE MASH, FISHMONGER LS MASH & SONS