Celebrate summer in Camberwell: this weekend arts festival, summer fayre and cycling

And so we come to summertime in Camberwell and a time for festivals and fayres. Many events start this weekend so here is a quick update.

The biggest event is the Camberwell Arts Festival which starts tomorrow (Saturday 18 June 2011) with a full week long programme of events — more information on the Arts Festival website.

And tomorrow there is also the Myatt’s Fields Park Midsummer Fair — from 1pm onwards there will be music, dancing, stalls and food and drink in the park. In addition there will be cake baking competition for all you budding Camberwell cooks (adults and children) — see programme and entry details

Further information on the Myatt’s Fields Park website or local Vassall View website

And starting on Saturday is Bike Week — the UK’s annual celebration of cycling. There are events on throughout London — see the main website for details. Local London Cycling Campaign groups Lambeth Cyclists and Southwark Cyclists have events on including one -the Incredible edible Lambeth ride looking at local food growing- departing from Myatt’s Fields Park on Sunday at 1pm.

Camberwell Town Hall update

New proposals for Southwark’s town halls could bring benefits for Camberwell

The latest (18/11/2010) edition of the Southwark News contains further information on the proposals which potentially could bring benefits to Camberwell.

In brief (and as previously described) the council intends to maintain council assembly meetings at the town hall in Camberwell (approximately 8 times a year) but shift virtually everything else to the new offices in Tooley St.

The council is looking to get a “public sector partner” to take over the town hall as its offices. Its not clear if it has anything in mind but this could be Veolia or other contractor or something exciting like the ballet which would bring real benefits to the area.

An exciting development for Camberwell would be the proposal to develop a new pavillion near the Magistrates’ Court on Camberwell Green — this would house a new library, community facilities and some customer facing council services.

The cabinet report suggests that this new building (or possibly shifting the existing pavillion building located currently next to Bermondsey town hall) could be used as a way of regenerating the local area, opening up Camberwell Green and creating a focus for Camberwell town centre. This plan however is at an early stage.

These plans would offer much for Camberwell making the Green a central point again. In an ideal world this area could be further enhanced by reopening Camberwell railway station/ building a dreamed of Camberwell tube station to offer real improvements and to bring a sense of place to Camberwell Green. At the very least they could work with Transport for London to make it less dominated by the big four/ six lane roads. However dont hold your breath — any plans passed this year are likely to take several years to implement and station options are on no to-do lists of which I know.

These proposals are set to be discussed at the Cabinet on 23 November 2010 — further information can be found in the Cabinet papers (agenda item 10, page 106 onwards)

We live in hope!

Council plans reorganisation of town halls — opportunity for Camberwell?

According to the latest issue of the consistently excellent weekly Southwark News the leader of Southwark Council Peter Johns has confirmed that the Council is set to sell off the three town halls it owns — in Walworth, Bermondsey and of course the main one which is still used for its originally built purpose in Camberwell.

The situation of having three town halls arose in 1965 when the current London Borough of Southwark was created bringing together the former metropolitan boroughs of Bermondsey, Camberwell and Southwark. The Council is now considering selling the town halls off as none are fit for purpose, all requiring substantial investment which, in the current spending squeeze, the resources for which the council does not have.

According to the News the Council will publish its decision on 23 November when it has been finalised by the Cabinet. The story seemed to suggest that the Camberwell town hall could be retained for some council functions such as the main council meetings dependent upon uses being found for the other accommodation on the site.

So what does this mean for Camberwell?
I see a threat to camberwell as well as an opportunity.

This could be bad for Camberwell — the loss of Council employees and their spending will be detrimental to local Camberwell shops, bars and restaurants. Worse thing would be conversion to flats or other private use.

Or it could be beneficial for Camberwell — a real opportunity. If the town hall building could be given over for community/ arts use it could really improve the area bringing something of benefit to local people. Retaining the council assembly function in Camberwell is also to my mind essential for Camberwell.

So what can we do?
I suggest that readers of this blog in Southwark engage their councillors (list of email addresses on Southwark site) to ask what they as individuals think of the proposals and suggest that the impact of any proposal for the future of the town hall on Camberwell must be looked at and community / arts use prioritised.

North is pretty, Green is vile

I’ve changed my route to work in the morning, now cutting across Burgess Park and down Portland Street. I’d never realised how nice it is down there; behind the Aylesbury Estate there is a mass of social housing built, if I’m not mistaken, at the beginning of last century, and all beautifully cared for. Also lots of little parks and gardens. It’s a really pleasant street to cycle down, much better than the Walworth Road route I’m used to.

In stark contrast, however, is the bottom of Denmark Hill and around the Green. On the bus back from Brixton last weekend* I noticed that the whole area’s getting scruffier; a few more of those open-fronted yam shops and a few more stalls selling cheap tat starting to spring up, plus the ugly metal grill on the front of the former Kennedy’s and the empty units scattered about. Really, it’s dying on its arse. It’s quite sad to see. Every month sees a decline in variety and (perhaps) quality; anyone who thinks high street chains are going to open here is likely to be disappointed. It’s becoming fragmented. I’m sure this is a subject that deserves more analysis, so please feel free.

But all is not lost! Away from the centre we still have lots of social diversity, and pretty soon we have Camberwell Arts Festival 2008. You should have received some lovely leaflets and guides through your door recently which explain all the events, but if not you can visit the Camberwell Arts website and decide for yourself what you’d like to attend. It all kicks off on the 14th June, which is next Saturday, and goes on until the following Sunday. I will most likely not be attending anything which could loosely be described as performance art, as it makes me grind my teeth.

On an admin note: first, I’ve just updated the software that powers the site, so if anything behaves weirdly please let me know. Second, I haven’t had the time to keep the site updated as frequently as I’d like, owing to work and some potentially interesting developments therein. If anyone would like to help me out for a little while (or even permanently) by writing here, you’d be very welcome. No salary is involved, but you will have the opportunity to take a load of personal abuse from tossers who think they know all about you, despite having never met you. Sound attractive?

* I went to the Ritzy to watch Indiana Jones; it was… um…


The new Camberwell Renewal magazine is out, and has an interesting (if brief) article on early immigrants to the area; the 18th Century Huguenot families Minet, Champion and De Crespigny who have lent their names to our streets, and the 19th Century German immigrants who had to Anglicise their names when the First World War started, and as a result have only a limited psycho-geographic impact; The Platanes on Champion Hill was owned by the Kleinwort family, and the Beneckes of Denmark Hill played host to Felix Mendelssohn when he wrote his famous ‘Spring Song’ (nee ‘Camberwell Green’).

I had wondered if the Walworth Road was named after William Walworth, fishmonger turned Mayor, who ended the peasants’ revolt by stabbing Wat Tyler in the neck at Smithfield. Turns out the area pre-dates the man, and has a fascinating history all of its own.

The story of the Wilson roads is equally interesting.  Who else has stories of their area’s history to tell?

Elsewhere in Camberwell Renewal they have a photographic retrospective of the year gone by. The new toilet on Camberwell Green gets mentioned rather prominently, which shows how little real renewal has happened. I think I should start planning my year-end review soon.

Reader sg has suggested a meet-up soon, perhaps around the roaring flame-effect of the Hermit’s Cave; anyone else interested, or is the festive season occupying your time now?