Goodbye Cruson

Photo by Tom Leighton. Buy a print.

Well, it’s been a minute since I last wrote anything here, but I feel like I can’t let the end of a little piece of Camberwell history pass without recording it.

In case you haven’t heard, Aris and Maria of Cruson are retiring and the shop has been sold. They took over the shop in 1971—or at least, Aris think so, but nobody’s really sure. And they’ve been a pretty much permanent fixture on Church Street ever since.

When they came to Camberwell the area had a lot of Cypriot immigrants who’d moved over here in the 1960s—so many that the area was informally known as ‘Little Cyprus’. Even today there’s Sophocles bakery, Vineyard Greek Taverna, St Mary’s Greek Orthodox Cathedral; when I first moved here back in the mid‐90s there was also another Greek Taverna on the corner of Camberwell Grove, and Tadim cafe on Church Street, and Paul’s Continental Olive Shop. And there was Cruson.

Everybody knows Cruson. The shop with its green awning, and its racks of fruit, vegetables, flowers, and plants on the street, and its interior a time‐capsule of a high street long since gone. It’s a local landmark, appearing in much art and photography.

And everybody knows Aris and Maria—Aris especially, as he was the face of Cruson. In all the time I’ve lived here, every morning before 8am Aris opened up the shop, and every evening at 9pm he closed it again. You can read some of his life story in this piece from the Peckham Peculiar last year.

When I came to London I was trained as a hairdresser and I got a job working in a hairdressing salon on Old Compton Street in Soho. But times were difficult because everyone wanted to have long hair so you didn’t get the regular customers coming in like before. Just as I learnt how to be a barber I also learnt how to be a greengrocer.

He was also featured in a BBC article about the changing face of the high street—and, as always, just referred to as Aris.

It’s Aris, just Aris. No one knows my other name. If you say it, you write it down, everyone will say, ‘who is that man, I never heard of him’.

Tom Leighton, who took the iconic photo at the top of this post, has made a lovely short film about a day in the life of Cruson. Here’s a preview:

I wish Aris and Maria a very happy retirement. I’ll miss dropping in there to hear him say, in the Cypriot accent he never lost in almost 60 years, “hello, young man!”.

At 78, I think I should try out retirement. I am not sure how I will find it, but it’s now or never!

TfL say there’s no business case to reopen Camberwell station

TfL have released their business case for the reopening of Camberwell station, which says that despite the benefits it would bring to the area, it doesn’t justify the cost.

After a long delay, TfL have released their business case for reopening Camberwell station, and the verdict is:

A reinstated National Rail station at Camberwell would deliver local benefits but in overall terms would not be a good use of public funds at this time.

So that’s a no.

It seems that, despite being the best option of all proposed transport changes (including an enhanced bus service, better walking and cycling options, and a tram), the scheme would benefit Camberwell but not enough to justify the cost.

The decision would appear to hinge largely on: 1) that proposed redevelopment around the area wouldn’t bring enough new housing; and 2) the negative impact of an extra stop on the journey times of commuters to and from Kent. To which I would reply: 1) what about all the new homes that are currently being / have already been built around the Green; and 2) who cares?

Local politicians who campaigned for the station reopening are obviously disappointed. Harriet Harman MP said:

Deeply disappointed TfL not planning to reopen Camberwell Station! No tube, packed buses and very dangerous overcrowding at Denmark Hill & Nunhead stations. Solution urgently needed before an accident happens.

Harriet Harman MP

The point about overcrowding at Denmark Hill is very salient; with no solution expected until April of next year at the very earliest (and even that date has no degree of certainty), and recent news of reduced bus services, our transport links are worsening.

Councillor Kieron Williams picked up on this:

Very disappointing news, Camberwell needs better transport, rail has to be part of long‐term answer, as a council we will continue to work with local residents, hospitals, businesses, SE5 Forum to make that case.

Councillor Kieron Williams

One possible cause for hope is that the business case notably excludes the local hospitals, King’s and Maudsley, who employ thousands and help many, many more. Perhaps this could be used to persuade TfL to take a second look, and that’s certainly reflected in the reactions of Helen Hayes MP and Councillor Johnson Situ:

It is very disappointing that the business case does not appear to have given any weight to the critical transport issues facing staff at Kings and the Maudsley. This is a serious flaw in the government’s methodology which means that the business case for Camberwell Station must be reconsidered.

Helen Hayes MP

We firmly believe that including the use of the station by hospital visitors would make a significant difference to the outcome of the business model, and it should be reviewed.

Councillor Johnson Situ

What this means for Camberwell in terms of Southwark’s area vision is yet to be known; a large part of the regeneration of the area around Station Road seemed to be contingent upon the reopening of the station. Hopefully we can get some clarity on that, and even more hopefully perhaps the business case can be reassessed with our local hospitals and healthcare services in mind.

You can read more about this story on the website of the Southwark Community Action Network, who’ve been active in this campaign since the start.

Camberwell Fair is back on 1st September

The heatwave may be over, but Summer’s not finished yet in Camberwell. There are a couple of events coming up in the next few weeks.

First is the Brunswick Park Summer Fete, this Saturday the 18th. Surrey Docks farm will provide a petting zoo, and there will be games, competitions, and food and drink. It runs from 1pm to 4pm.

Then Camberwell Fair returns to the Green on Saturday 1st September from 12–9pm. Here’s their official press release:

Now in its 4th year, the Fair [is] a chance for all the community to come together and celebrate themselves, each other and the local area.

The fair will offer 3 music stages, 30 stalls showcasing local community organisations and independent traders, games, food, bars and a special daytime carnival led by street band Kinetika Bloco.

In addition to the Fair itself, this year Camberwell Fair offers a range of FREE activities in the local area in the run up to the Fair. More info on all of these below and on our website:

  • Carnival Costume Making Workshops on the Aylesbury Estate (in association with Latin American Multicultural Society)
  • Poetry workshops on the Aylesbury Estate (in association with Hammer and Tongue)
  • Artist Showcase at Louie Louie in Walworth – 17 August – a chance for aspiring artists to compete for a chance to perform at the festival – email oddmotionmedia@​gmail.​com to sign up
  • Rare Doings at Camberwell’ – a Heritage Lottery funded project to explore the roots of the Fair.

Tapete restaurant review

Tapete is a new tapas bar and restaurant which opened in June at 119 Grove Lane, the site of the former Buddha Jazz (and, some 13 or so years ago, another tapas restaurant the name of which escapes me). I’ve eaten there twice in the past month, and can recommend it.

The interior layout hasn’t changed drastically, but has been given a fittingly Spanish‐style redecoration. They’ve also refreshed the outdoor decking area which is perfect in this heatwave. Over all, Tapete feels modern, warm, and welcoming—and the staff match that description too.

I’d describe the food as classic, or typical, tapas; from albóndigas to boquerones to croquetas, all the dishes you know and love are on the menu. It’s all freshly cooked and really well made. They also serve paella made to order (with a 30‐or‐so minute wait), which seems very popular from my observations.

The wine list is entirely Spanish, and one of the few things I think would improve Tapete is if they offered more variety of wine by the glass—right now your choices are house red or white.

The other suggestion I’d make is for them to offer regular specials—the menu is fixed, and while that’s mostly not a problem it would be more of an incentive to return regularly if there were some seasonal variety.

But those are really just additions I’d like to see, not negative marks. In all, I’m very happy with this new addition to the area and wish it plenty of success.

Fire at the Grove House

On Saturday night at around 8.40pm a fire broke out in the kitchen of the Grove House pub, on Camberwell Grove. Fifty staff and punters were escorted out of the building when the alarm went off, so no‐one was hurt. A total of ten fire engines and 70 fire crew attended the blaze, which was finally extinguished some six hours later.

The full extent of the damage hasn’t been reported, but there is damage to the first and second floors, and the extraction system which goes to the roof. Personally speaking, I hope the damage isn’t too bad as the Grove is one of my favourite buildings in the area.

The cause of the fire has also not been reported. Update: an article in the Morning Advertiser says “fire officials believe the fire was caused by a thermostat failing on a deep fat fryer, causing the oil to catch alight”.

The pub will remain closed “until further notice”—here’s hoping they’re back on their feet soon.

You can see a couple of clips of the fire in these videos from Twitter user Rodnie Oro.