The Nature of Peckham town centre
The dynamic of Peckham town centre is influenced by the interaction of multiple parallel economies. These reflect the diversity of cultures in modern Peckham. They include those arising from mainstream economic, commercial and social daily transactions and from the modern cosmopolitan mix of multiple different ethnic, religious and secular communities. In Peckham these are now overlaid with the rapidly developing diverse artistic and creative industries.
Below the radar ‘street’ research
Much of this happens on the ‘street’ which is ‘below the radar’ of the public agencies and mainstream commerce. The LSE Cities Research Unit led by Suzi Hall has produced compelling evidence of this from detailed study of the commercial trading life in Rye Lane, the central street in Peckham town centre. A key question from this research is what can mediate between the two to produce constructive conversations, as it took an urban calamity in Peckham through the August 2013 riots for some of the below the radar life to begin to be visible to the bureaucracy.
Peckham as a cultural ‘hotspot’
Peckham has recently come above the radar in London as the latest artistic and creative ‘hotspot’. This has long roots but no one has yet studied this in the depth of the LSE street commerce research. But it has been obvious to locals operating at street level for several years that there was immense potential for the creative industries to take off in central Peckham. This is partly because there is a cluster of large sites in central Rye Lane where for more than two decades the artistic community has occupied some low cost spaces in Blenheim Court the railway arches behind Peckham Rye station, and across the road in the large Victorian factory, that locals have named the Bussey building. The Bussey and adjoining Copeland Park have now shown how the potential can be realised by providing spaces for a wide variety of performance arts, and for a variety of studios, workshops and venue spaces. Meanwhile the Arches Studios in Blenheim Court continue to thrive as a well integrated collective of independent artisans’ workshops, and Bar Story pioneered the use of the railway arches behind the station for a bar, restaurant and art gallery.
Peckham Vision was born in 2005 at the start of the campaign to save the Bussey and Copeland Park from demolition for a tram depot. The campaign publicised the potential of the site for the creative industries and in 2007 the CLF Art Cafe took root in the Bussey building and the Hannah Barry Gallery in Copeland Park. The campaign also drew attention to the neglected spaces in and around Peckham Rye station on the other side of Rye lane. The station building was listed by Peckham Society action, the idea of the new public square in front was successfully publicised and the huge Old Waiting Room on the top floor was unbricked and opened by Peckham Vision action. Meanwhile Bold Tendencies and Frank’s Café began the highly successful summer uses of the top three floors of the unused multi storey car park on the other side of the railway tracks. All these developments brought more than half a million visitors to Peckham since 2008.
Over the same time, one by one along the sides and behind the station building, innovative micro enterprises have been taking root - The Sunday Painter, Peckham Print Studio, Peckham Refreshment Rooms, Brick Brewery, Peckham Springs, Hannah Barry Gallery (final location), and recently the newly restored café delicatessen in Station Way – finding their places amidst the very Peckham mix of a hairdressers, office business shop, and African restaurant.