January Variety

Closures and sales of local businesses, brief reviews of The Sun and Cool Cats Cafe, a variety revival, and a public consultation on regeneration.

Almost three weeks into 2013 and this is my first post. I saw in the new year from the balcony of Grove Court, the flats that run between Grove Lane and Camberwell Grove, which have an enviable view of the London Eye and, hence, the fireworks. It was a nice way to start the year.

January is always a troublesome month for businesses, and we’ve seen the Wing Tai oriental supermarket on Denmark Hill close, Tadim has definitively shut now (the bailiffs have seized it), The Recreation Ground is up for sale (with rumours that it may become a hostel, or flats), and changes at the pub company Antic have seen a restructuring which could mean The Tiger is put up for sale (along with other properties), although due to some reorganisation The Sun doesn’t seem to face the same fate. Regardless, all of the pubs mentioned are still open for trading.

I’ve only been into The Sun once, just before Christmas. It was very busy, there was a private party in so no food was being served, so I had a drink and left. It seems unfinished, especially outside (that may have changed as I haven’t been past it for a few weeks), so I’ll reserve full judgement until it’s complete. But nice to have that space back, anyway; missed the garden a lot last year.

I also recently went to the Cool Cats Cafe on Southampton Way; they’ve done a beautiful job of it, very bright and open, and the brunch menu was very promising. Unfortunately, the food wasn’t up to scratch; it wasn’t terrible, but it just wasn’t all that well cooked. Good ingredients let down by poor cooking. I’ve chalked it down to an off-day, but it’s 10 minutes further from my house than No. 67 and doesn’t give that much incentive for the extra walk. They’re putting on plenty of events, however, if you do live nearby.

Speaking of events, the Camberwell Palace of Varieties is a new attempt to bring back the golden days of variety in Camberwell’s music halls, notably their namesake and inspiration. Their next event is on 2nd February at St Giles Church Hall and costs £12.50 for entry. I’ll hopefully have more to say about this soon.

Recently the inquest was opened into the fire at Lakanal House in 2009. Some tragic stories of the event have come to light.

Finally, a public consultation into the regeneration of Camberwell centre is to open on 21st January. The consultation will cover five key areas:

  1. A new library and public space in the plaza in front of the Magistrates Court
  2. A redesign of the Green
  3. Street improvements, including the new cycle superhighway
  4. Changes to ‘pocket spaces’ around the centre to make them part of a coherent whole
  5. A supplementary planning document to cover a general development plan

A total of £11million is earmarked for these projects, and this is likely to be the only chance we have in the near future to change things, so I would urge everyone to get involved with the consultation.

So much to discuss. I really should update more often, but am still short of time, so as always am actively looking for more people to contribute. If you can help, even with one post every month or two, please do get in touch.

Author: Peter

Long-time resident of Camberwell, author of this blog since July 2004.

46 thoughts on “January Variety”

  1. Your clarity is like spring water or sea air, Peter.

    The first consultation is on Saturday 12–3pm at the Leisure Centre. The artists amongst us — you know who thou art — can shamble along on Wednesday 6 February to the South London Gallery 6–8pm then collapse in a faint in the bushes outside afterwards.

    And so on — it’s all detailed in Peter’s links above.

    The Hermits is still going strong. There’s an old Camberwell saying, “If you’re tired of the Hermits, try Stormbird opposite.” No-one ever gets tired of the Hermits, though. They die before they can ever become disenchanted.

    The Cave is an enchanted place, full of all kinds of enchantments.

  2. I wonder if the ‘design options’ for the Green be published online soon or if we’ll need to get along to the consultation to see them. Or have I missed them somewhere?

  3. Oh Dagmar do come along to the Grand Opening of the Camberwell Baths’ Sports Hall, Warwick Hall and Youth Centre at 11.30 this Saturday 26 Jan. I am told the grand plans for the centre of Camberwell etc etc will be on display in the caff.

    The boring old Sports Hall will emerge fabulously to be known hereafter as the Jubilee Hall. You know my obsession with George Gissing and ’ The Year of Jubilee’ so my excitement knows no bounds at this news. The identity of the Mr Warwick, he of the Gardens and the Hall, will also be revealed.

    There will also be dancing danceathons and gymnastic extravaganzas by the Yoof of Camberwell Parish.

  4. Wonderful, Miss Eilean! Will bring the Dagmarlings in their Sunday best to the rejuvenated scene of their baby-gym days.

  5. Chris — I emailed the council with the same question, and was told “We will not be providing the design images on the website because we are inviting everyone to see the images at the six exhibitions starting at Camberwell Leisure Centre this Saturday 26 January.”

  6. Seems like the sports halls were a bit of a waste of money?

    They are impressive, attractive and large. But given that there are no ball games allowed they are going to struggle to fill them consistently.
    Certainly after work they can probably justify having legs bums and tums and zumba running at the same time but about the other hours of the day?

    Could have made a proper gym out of one they created. I wish them luck.

  7. I went to the see the plans for the new cycle highway from New Cross to Victoria. There was a big gap at Camberwell Green because the cycle lane needs to work with whatever it is they have planned for the junction. Hopefully, they will take out a bunch of lanes of traffic and make it a bit more human-friendly.

    Council should put the plans online. Maybe less people would bother going to the actual display, but so what?

    Meanwhile, I’m looking forward to seeing the new sports hall. That could be really good.

  8. Why don’t we go on a road protest? There’s one between Hastings and Bexhill, we could practice there. Then we could stage a sit-down protest in the middle of the crossroads at Camberwell Green until they build a by-pass for Camberwell.

    Then we can all moan because Camberwell’s BEEN BYPASSED AGAIN.

  9. Some more info about the new road layout and a diagram of one of the options has appeared…



    It’s disappointing that at the main crossroads, pedestrians will still have to wait at a central island and cross each road in two stages (as currently). So to cross diagonally you’ll still have to wait at four sets of lights.

    Also not much improvement for bikes traveling west on Camberwell New Road — no cycle lane just a blue stripe or CS5 logo painted within the traffic lane.

  10. Good link Jonathan. Thanks. Skimmed it quickly and it seems there are some good ideas in there — e.g. allowing cyclists to turn into Grove Lane, narrowing the roads, and stuff. But the actual junction is still way to dominant

  11. By the way, does anyone want to buy a cheap car?

    Astra, 1.6i Auto, Hatchback, Tax and MOT until June(ish), 80,000 miles, Good runner. It’s a 1994, so quite old for a car. £300

  12. “Camberwell Streets

    What are we consulting on?”

    Err… nothing I should imagine

    Like this lot go through the motions of ‘consulting’ on Camberwell Library and Heygate Estate Controlled Parking Zones, Camberwell Leisure Centre and any number of other things local

  13. J Mark Dodds —

    Is the only legitimate outcome of a consultation the one that accords with what you want to see?

  14. @Rex

    Warwick Hall
    8.30 am to 9.30am Yoga
    10am to 10.30am Body Combat taster
    10.40am to 11.10am Body Pump taster
    12 noon to 4pm Gymnastics Club

    Jubilee Hall
    11.30am to 12 noon Ceremony and speeches
    12.15pm to 12.45pm Body Combat taster
    12.55pm to 1.25pm Zumba taster
    1.35pm to 2.05pm Body Pump taster
    2.15pm to 5.30pm Youth Centre

    12 noon to 3pm Fun and floats swim sessions – special discounts

    12 noon to 3pm PT taster sessions

  15. but on a normal day it looks like this:

    7am — 8am Circuit training Jubilee Hall
    12pm — 1pm Zumba Jubilee Hall
    1.15pm — 2.15pm Boxerfit Jubilee Hall
    6.15pm‑7.15pm Body Pump Warwick Hall
    7:15pm‑8:15pm LBT Warwick Hall
    8:15pm‑9:15pm Body Combat Jubilee Hall
    8:15pm‑9:15pm Zumba Warwick Hall

    e.g not necessary to have two halls apart for 1 hour a day.

    timetable here:

  16. sloth. You just misread where I’m coming from. Or I don’t describe it well. Whatever. Anyhow. No. It’s not to do with what I want. Legitimate outcome of consultation is where it palpably reflects what the majority of people want. Consultation, the way it is done here is not engaging. I believe in community engagement and collaboration. That doesn’t happen here. Perhaps it’s just the way it is and it will never be better than dreadfully inadequate. Perhaps perennially unsatisfactory incompetent outcomes are what happen everywhere when engagement and consultation take place. Although the dialogue I hear from every level accords with my experience maybe we’re all wrong.

    Maybe the outcomes ARE what most everyone wants.

    I like to be optimistic though.

  17. @Rex
    As I understand it that is the ‘public programme’. The halls will also be used by groups such as Southwark Gymnastics and the Youth Centre for their sessions

  18. Right, Southwark Gymnastics will be using it. It used to be there before the refurb. It’s an excellent club, by the way. I really recommend the display. They have some incredible gymnasts on the squad.

    Mark, you might have hit on a PhD topic right there 😉 “The distribution of outcomes in community consultation projects”.

    No one wants my ’94 Astra then? It blends it well. “Reuse” is being picked up by the trend-hunters at marketing agencies, so you won’t look skint, you’ll look, well, as cool as you can look in car.

  19. No the “majority of what people want” happens at an election. We elect them, they hire/ instruct/ hold accountable a civil service at Town Hall, and get on with it. We can fire them every few years, sometimes sooner, at the ballot box. Sloth is right: when a small group shouts “we weren’t consulted” 9.5 out of 10 times it means “they did not do it like I said”, usually said by people whose party lost at the election. A consultation is not a blank sheet of paper. We’d never get anything done, as opposed to the small number if things we do manage.

  20. Hmm Gabe, now you mention it, if I were a lot less focused on the pub sector I’d seriously consider that Phd!

    None of this consultation issue is in any way particularly bound up with party politics.

    Consultation is an immutable defensive process that subsumes party politics. It’s predicated on an expectation that it will stir up problems, delay, generate fuzzy outcomes, blow budget, terms in office, legacies. Under the cerebral cortex of the Local Authority’s public position, from desk officer to top dog, no one really wants Consultation to work by getting EVERYONE involved because it’s so obvious that consulting absolutely everyone will make the whole process grind to a standstill. Nightmare they think. Nightmare so they just press ahead with a process that doesn’t work but at least it gets to the end of the process.

    This is stuck in a status quo. What’s monolithically problematic about The Consultation Process is that it’s deeply flawed but convention demands that this is the way it is done and that the results are representative of a broad spectrum of views. Therefore it is not deeply flawed. It’s a circular, embedded process. It may not be intentional or Machiavellian but it IS exclusive. And it makes the local authority look in because looking out is fraught with irritating things like questions about consultation that won’t go away.

    Burgess Park? Without raking over the past BP is a good example. People who live ON Burgess park and opposite Burgess Park, one of them a horticulturist and landscaper who’s used the park daily for twenty years, did not see a brochure, letter, questionnaire, email, phone call or invitation to an exhibition on consultation without having to go out and search for them — over a period of years.

    Bring this up at Southwark at the highest level? Just gets brushed off. Pooh poohed with a wave of the hand and an ‘of course they knew about it, the consultation works, they’re just tree huggers, moaners, you get them everywhere’.

    That’s not good. It’s bad. And it’s wrong. And it pisses off lots and lots of people. Especially the ones who point out the flaws objectively and then are instantly dismissed as well.

    Neither end of this discussion are telling porkies. They both are right. One lot had not been consulted and the other lot believed they had been. They each have the conviction that they are right. And here the people who should have been talked to were vicariously insulted by the very people they actually voted for. The politicians dismiss the concerns and critics with a clear conscience because they believe, from the bottom of their world view, that they HAVE consulted — the circular process proves it. Even though, manifestly if they could be brave enough to look out, it does not.

    Bottom line is most people don’t get asked and don’t get their views heard — and a prevailing embedded attitude like ‘we’d never get anything done’ is what drives this flawed status quo and this is part of what alienates voters.

    By default the views of most people are considered irrelevant. If they were considered relevant the process would be reviewed, made less convoluted and more down to earth.

    IF consultation were treated more responsibly and employed more effectively it would throw out better, more financially efficient outcomes that provide better targeted public amenities and facilities, leading to improved community cohesion and faster, more appropriate development and regeneration.

    That’s me done on consultation.

  21. I’m still not really sure what it is precisely that you want to change about the consultation process. Could you propose a few explicit changes?

    Is it just about explicitly asking EVERYONE directly what they think?

  22. Sloth. You’re flogging a dead horse.
    In all the time I’ve been reading and writing on this blog Mark has always had something to groan about. Becoming a candidate for a political party would be a good move so as to change things perhaps. But then.…
    Right! Off to the market to buy good bread and black pudding.…now that’s consultation for you.

  23. I went this morning to the opening of the hall, mainly to see the proposed vision of the green. There are 3, which all have good and bad elements to them. I think a hard standing area for the farmers market is great as is the planting of more trees and moving the play area to the north end and putting more table tennis tables there making the green look greener. Relocating the toilet is also good as its a shame its the 1st thing you see when looking at the green as well as blocking vision of drivers at the junction, so all good EXCEPT.…removal of the railings, now i understand the reason behind this, as to make it more open will prevent antisocial behaviour being penned in, but i would love to see london black railings running the length of camberwell road and the north side of the green, i think its safer for people with children and dogs that they are not going to run out across the busy road and it maintains a feel of historical importance within this conservation area (as the sign says on the green its one of the oldest parts of camberwell). I also walked past the orchard the other day and i have to say it was a tipping ground full of rubbish, as much as i think it is a shame to remove it I do feel the new library would be a benefit providing they plant a new orchid around or near to the site. I like the look of the new library. One thing that made me chuckle this morning was how all the council members spoke about how important it was to have community space in Camberwell for the youth to use and how passionate camberwell residents are in fighting to get this passed, i really wanted to ask why nothing has been done about the regal cinema/ house of praise if community space is so important! such a shame! but on the whole it was great to see something that has been achieved and nice to know that Camberwell is getting some well deserved attention at last.

  24. The grand opening of the sports halls at Camberwell baths was an uplifting event. Jenny Agutter was radiant as she cut the tape, Peter John beamed in his socialist jacket and a charming baby crawled all over the floor exploring the world at the rate of 1,000 amazing discoveries a minute.

    The new traffic/bike lane maps on view were very detailed. The planners certainly pick over every foot of the roads and put a lot of thought into it.

    There is a suggested cycle contraflow and toucan crossing at the bottom of Grove Lane by the Hermits Cave. Presumably the toucan is sponsored by Guinness. “Why did the toucan cross the road?” “To get to Stormbird opposite.”

    There seems to be no planning for the daftness and sanctimoniousness of some cyclists. They who have fresh air between their ears seem to think you can just hop on a bike and go, when in fact you have to be as canny as London drivers who are pragmatically generous to other road users in a culture of mutual understanding and are adept at judging their own manoeuvres down to the last inch.

    The new library looks great. It will transform that rather grim area with its penal gloom.

    Did anyone know that Janet Frame, the fascinating and enigmatic Kiwi writer whose story is on Radio 4 at the moment, lived for a long while at 39 Grove Hill Road while getting excellent advice at the Maudsley?

  25. sloth , do you know the adage: “If you don’t have a solution, don’t bother complaining”? Well, I do have suggestions and proposals for radically improving consultation but they will never become solutions because they will be comprehensively ignored. the local authority is not as interested as the people who live here. So I won’t take up your invitation. Thank you.

    You may see me as a ‘moaner’ Chunters but I’m pointing out what’s wrong, what does not serve local people well, what does not work, what is iniquitous and what could be better.

    It’s difficult to post on many things Camberwell without seeming to be down about what happens round here because being in Camberwell is Ground Hog Day and I, like many others, have heard it all before. Things don’t improve and the conversation never ends because people get worn down and stop trying to be involved or they move away, to be replaced by new people who are unaware of the attritive process revolving.

    Never changes. Same issues were current, live and being discussed vociferously by people in Camberwell before I chose to move here in 1995. They came into my pub and told me.

    At invitation I wrote an article in Camberwell Quarterly in 1998 highlighting the potential of the area, part of the proposal was doing some effective consultation back then. Already by then, from 1996, I had been lobbying the most senior officers and elected at the local authority — with other like minded local people — to encourage uptake of new creative ways making Camberwell better for all people at all levels. While the people sitting in the seats of power and steering wheel agreed about the problems identified we were accused of not being representative and so, brushed off, and comprehensively ignored. The people I lobbied with back then gave up. They had better things to get on with in their lives. Being an optimist I rationalised that if there were a representative voice locally — as the council people suggested — then it would not be ignored. So I went off and set up a community forum that has a representative voice. That took a couple of years. And the local authority agreed that it is representative and it has been comprehensively ignored. Everyone is comprehensively ignored. Local people are not listened to. Local people are not consulted adequately. Instead it’s the voice of ‘experts’ and ‘consultants’ that are listened to and acted on.

    Not everywhere is like here though. Since 2008 I’ve been working with other people, pub licensees, trying to effect change in the pub industry. We had no voice, at local or any level, no representative trade organisation, no one talking on behalf of publicans who are pub company tenants — the majority of pubs are run this way and no one was listening to what thousands of people knew was happening to pubs that was leading to pubs closing down everywhere.

    We lobbied to bring in statutory legislation to kerb endemic abuse of the beer tie by rapacious pub companies. We began our course of action by offering workable alternatives to a pub market operating without the tie. Confronting a status quo we were told we were wrong, we were told to go away. We stayed, we put our arguments forward again and again and eventually we were heard and a dialogue began, others took notice and saw that we were not just ‘moaning’.

    Now, only five years since we set out to change the pub sector, the Department of Business Innovation and Skills is consulting on how deeply the regulatory framework should cut.

    That’s the way it should be around here.

  26. Full moon was at 4.40am this morning. Last night it presented itself as a ghostly galleon rising above Warwick Gardens.

    The five acres of this park were named in 1959 after Alf Warwick, local socialist councillor, after whom one of the new sports halls is named — Warwick Hall. Alf made loads of things happen in Camberwell.

    Jenny Agutter, who cut the tape at the grand opening of the sports halls, is on the Poplar midwives programme on BBC1 in one minute from now. (At time of writing.)

    Poplar, to this day, makes Camberwell look like Tunbridge Wells or Bath Spa.

  27. Ooh. Bit scared to post in the middle of this. Especially completely off topic.

    Ermm …

    Does anyone know where I can buy organic soy beans in Camberwell (or nearby)? I’ve decided to start making tofu. Bought 10 Kg from Amazon and it has got completely messed up.

    (Sorry this isn’t fuelling the crucible of realpolitik).

  28. Anyone know the official reason for Wing Tai being closed down. I do miss that place, the one in Peckham is not as good.

  29. Anyone who bought 10kg off of Amazon would be messed up by now, St Giles.

    What’s the difference between a toucan and a pelican crossing? You can find the answer to this and other FAQs in the Penguin Book of Surface Transport, a Puffin Book.

    Janet Frame — surely Stella Duffy would know about her, Stella?

  30. Cambersmell? < via Internet

    Sold the Astra to a nice couple from Brockley via the East Dulwich Forum.

  31. @Julian

    Interesting article of inaccuracies, photo is actually Finsen Road ( not Ferndene as stated ) which is more likely to be in Loughbourough Junction and not Denmark Hill as that is the nearest Train Station.

    Though local estate agent speak is to call the area “Ruskin Village”.

  32. never let the truth get in the way of a good a property story*

    *Rule 1 in Estate Agents How to Flog overpriced property in London.

    I mean £440k for a 2 bedroom flat in Camberwell Grove FFS

  33. I read that Jonos snooker hall was to be demolished and replaced with a new build of flats etc. Is this still going ahead? As the regal cinema/house of Praise battle goes on is there anyway we can involve the old snooker hall as well, as that would make an amazing community space/cinema/theatre if it is being sold?

  34. @Frazzle: It’s not being sold. It’s the same owner. He already has planning permission, and has had it for a while. Not sure why he hasn’t gone ahead.

    There will still be a pool hall in the basement.

  35. Fraser, I completely agree.

    There are some positive elements to the design proposals for the Green, such as extending it at the north by reclaiming some of the road, relocating the play area there, planting a line of trees along the western and southern boundaries and pedestrianizing the road to the east to create a more appropriate space for the farmers’ market and other events.

    However, plans to completely remove the railings, re-align paths and introduce “innovative” designs should be left out. They take no account of the historical significance of the park or its historic setting.

    Instead, this is an excellent opportunity to restore Camberwell Green to its former glory by restoring the perimeter railings and benches to their original design, returning the paths to gravel, keeping the original path layout (which still reflect pedestrian desire lines) and planting more trees and shrubs.

    The consultation process may not be perfect but if enough people respond hopefully they will improve the design!

  36. What a wonderfully bizarre experience the Palace of Varieties was. I’m sure masses of you were there but as we all travel incognito it is hard to be sure.

    Perhaps at future events we should pin a carrot to our coat so that we can recognise each other. We could become a surrealist secret society.

    Or even easier, just strip off and pretend to be performers.

  37. Sounds like fun. I wasn’t there (someone has to keep publicans in business). The situationists would go for that carrot idea if it wasn’t so literal.

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