Peckham Experiment

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The Peckham Experiment

The Peckham Experiment was a study into the nature of health in the 1920s-1940s. The researchers decided to study the family unit in a community setting to identify what contributes to human health. See below for more information. This page records the current work in Peckham to bring the information about the Peckham Experiment back into Peckham today. Peckham Vision shop, in Holdrons Arcade at 135A Rye Lane, has original Peckham Experiment books and later publications for sale and reference. Eileen Conn, Peckham Vision coordinator and long term resident in Peckham, is the local contact and a Pioneer Health Foundation (PHF) Associate, and a member of the South London Gallery Heritage Roots project currently focusing on the Peckham Experiment.

15th September 2017 Search for local memories

During the second annual Peckham Festival 15-17 September, the South London Gallery youth group Arts Assassins launched a search for people who had memories of the Peckham Experiment themselves or through older family members or friends. Peckham Vision is a partner in the South London Gallery Heritage Roots project taking the Peckham Experiment as its theme. The leaflet about the search was launched in Peckham Vision’s Open Studio during the Peckham Festival, in a new exhibition telling the story of the community role in shaping Peckham town centre. The new exhibition included Peckham Vision's display about the Peckham Experiment and its pioneering approach to understanding health. The maps displayed showed that the area covered by the Experiment in 1935-1950 included the Bussey Building and Copeland Park where Peckham Vision started and has its studio. Peckham Vision's approach to community engagement links with the pioneering Peckham Experiment's understanding of the relationship between individuals in community, and that enabling freedom for self determination cultivates health. [photos]

Rye Lane Art Deco cluster montage
The art deco Pioneer Health Centre,

29th August 2017 Heritage Roots project visit

The South London Gallery (SLG) youth group, with artist Eleanor Wright, met with Peckham Vision. Eileen Conn showed them the Art Deco buildings in Rye Lane and gave a brief account of their historical and architectural significance. (These buildings were all in the area covered by the Peckham Experiment and were built in its early years.) We ended with a discussion in the Peckham Vision studio with Eleanor exploring relations between buildings and people. The interest is sparked by the famous Art Deco building in St Mary’s Road to the east of Rye Lane. This was designed and built for the Peckham Experiment which opened in 1935. The SLG are currently inviting applications for a HISTORIAN IN RESIDENCE to work with the youth group up to October 2018. This will be of interest to anyone keen on the Peckham Experiment and with skills in heritage research.

Khans Bargain shop revealed Art Deco ceiling
looking at Rye Lane Art deco buildings
Heritage Roots youth group in Coepland Park
IMG 7280.jpg

19th May 2017 PHF Glasgow seminar

The Pioneer Health Foundation held a seminar on: "How can we nurture human flourishing? Seeds of hope in Scotland today and lessons from the Peckham Experiment" on Friday 19 May 2107, 2-4.15 pm, in Glasgow. Eileen Conn coordinator of Peckham Vision contributed a talk on on the nature of healthy communities [slides to be uploaded]. The [LINK] programme included also presentations from two PHF trustees - Lisa Curtice on the Peckham Experiment, and Margaret Hannah on 'how do we pattern hope?' Participants all took part in table conversations about what we can all do to create the conditions for human flourishing - in public policy, in services, but most of all on the ground in our communities. Note of the proceedings.

25th February 2017 Ilona Saga's arts event

Ilona Saga's arts event in the Peckham Experiment building - detail to be uploaded. This event is further preparation for Ilona's 'Correspndence O' an installation at the South London Gallery in later 2017. The first event in Peckham in this work coincided with Art Licks Weekend in September 2016, where The Ballad of Peckham Rye presented 'Hesitant desire shall flourish in a soil not too strong', an audio work that featured as part of Ilona Sagar's exhibition at DKUK Salon. This new body of work "looks at the history and social significance of the Peckham Experiment, a holistic model of healthcare, which aimed to cultivate community wellbeing from 1926-50. It uses the radical Peckham Pioneer Centre, as a lens through which to examine ideas of health, welfare and wellness, exploring interactions between collective understandings of common good and individual wellbeing."

February 2017 Heritage Roots project

South London Gallery announced their heritage roots project funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund.This will be exploring the history of the Peckham Experiment, and led by the Arts Assassins, South London Gallery’s young people’s forum. Peckham Vision and Pioneer Health Foundation are full partners along with the Wellcome Library, the Science Gallery at King’s College, and the Wilderness Wood. The project, which will run until autumn 2018, will see the group work alongside a historian-in-residence, heritage experts and artists to investigate the Peckham Experiment.

28th January 2017 Peckham Vision display at Community Council

Local Councils are now responsible for public health and well-being in their areas. So the Peckham & Nunhead Community Council held an exhibition from local organisations on local Public Health & Well-Being at its meeting on 28th January. Peckham Vision's displays were aimed at bringing the historic legacy of the Peckham Experiment to the attention of the people who live and work in the area now, and highlighting the way the information is still highly relevant today and how it links also to Peckham Vision's own work in strengthening the local community networks of relationships. The display was put together by Peckham Vision with the assistance of Pioneer Health Foundation (PHF). Special thanks to the staff at Southwark Local History Library and Archive for their assistance and permission to reproduce three articles about the Pioneer Health Centre.The display included:

Photos from the Community Council and the exhibition:

PEX display at Peckham & Nunhead CC meeting
PEX display at Peckham & Nunhead CC meeting
PEX display at Peckham & Nunhead CC meeting
IMG 6030 adj med.jpg
PEX display at Peckham & Nunhead CC meeting

The Peckham Experiment

Nature of the Peckham Experiment

The Peckham Experiment was a study into the nature of health in the 1920s-1940s. The researchers decided to study the family unit in a community setting to identify what contributes to human health. This was very different from the study of sickness and the prevention of sickness. The modern promotion of health is often focussed on preventing sickness or the absence of sickness. The Peckham Experiment was focussed on the nature of health and how it could be cultivated.

What was the Peckham Experiment?

The centre/laboratory, known as the Pioneer Health Centre,
was purpose built for the Experiment in St Mary's Road, in Peckham. The blue shaded area of the map shows the boundary of the Peckham Experiment. The research was conducted by annual medical checks and observations of families interacting in social activities. Recognising the importance of sound nutrition, they rented a farm to provide fresh organic food. The experiment pioneered thinking, decades ahead of its time, about the way in which health could be nurtured rather than just sickness remedied. The Peckham Research Findings have influenced authorities across the world including the WHO. The Health Centre building is still here in St Mary's Road and is listed by English Heritage in recognition of its historic importance as architecture and its pioneering in health and social understanding. The legacy material from the Experiment is owned by the Pioneer Health Foundation (PHF) a small national charity. Read more...

Where was the Peckham Experiment?

The original catchment area for the Centre in 1935 is shown on the map below. The major part of this small area was in what is now called New Cross Gate in the London Borough of Lewisham. But in 1938 the area was extended west further into Peckham and just beyond Peckham Rye station, and south to Nunhead and north to just beyond the Old Kent Road, so that most of the eastern half of Peckham was covered. The main Peckham Experiment grew out of the first exploration in a centre in a house in Queens Road 1926-1929.

Queens Road centre
extended area
Area covered by the Peckham Experiment

Pre 2017 information

Film & audio

2010 some new ideas