A Place to Call Home: Brockley from Winter to Summer, a set on Flickr.
I have lived in London for 27 years, and for the last 12 years (13 in November) I have made my home — with my wife, and with the son who, prematurely, joined us shortly after moving here — in Brockley, on the hills above New Cross and Lewisham, and near the hill-top park of Hilly Fields, which commands fine views over to Blackheath and Greenwich, to the east, to Blythe Hill Fields to the south, and south east to Kent.
For decades, Brockley was a kind of secret village in south east London, home to artists, writers, musicians and various other bohemians, and affordable for those seeking to buy, whilst also providing generous allocations of social housing. In the 12 years since I came here, I have watched as coffee shops and delicatessens and bars and restaurants and gift shops have opened, where, in 1999, there were none — places like The Broca and Magi Gifts and The Orchard — which have brought the area to life, and although Brockley remains, at heart, the same clever, down-to- earth place it has been for decades, the upgrade of the East London Line and its incorporation into a London-wide Overground network, and regular publicity in the media’s property pages, has led to a recent influx of Yuppies.
The phrase remains appropriate. The Yuppies, priced out of west London, and now, with the opportunism of the Olympics, out of east London too — found Brockley after the Overground, which opened in May 2010, running from Whitechapel to West Croydon, and extending to Highbury and Islington in February 2011, brought them in from Shoreditch and Hoxton and other points north and east, attracted by Brockley’s village nature, its new shops and bars, the weekly farmers’ market off Lewisham Way, and the property prices — horribly overpriced, but still less expensive than many other places in London that could claim to be a “village.”
As a result of this influx, which has coincided with a baby boom and the opening of Gently Elephant, a children’s shoe shop and The Gantry, a new bar/restaurant , prices have risen by about £30,000 in the last year, with the bare minimum for a two-bed property, often without a garden, currently standing at around £280,000. The influx hasn’t fundamentally changed Brockley yet, although its apparent desirability is already driving up rents, meaning that many Goldsmiths students and ex-students, and other young people of ordinary means — the kind of people who always bring life to an area — may well have to give up on living here if there is not a much-needed property crash and a return to a time when life could be measured out in more than the permanently inflated value of property.
Personally, I hope that Brockley remains a bastion of creativity and political agitation, but while I wait to find out, and hope that I don’t hear too many incomers braying about how their overpriced houses were a relative bargain, here’s a selection of photos from the last seven months, showing a few of Brockley’s many faces, and much of its green spaces — and the odd glimpse of its creativity and eccentricity.
Andy Worthington is the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (published by Pluto Press, distributed by Macmillan in the US, and available from Amazon — click on the following for the US and the UK) and of two other books: Stonehenge: Celebration and Subversion and The Battle of the Beanfield. To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to my RSS feed — and I can also be found on Facebook, Twitter, Digg, Flickr (my photos) and YouTube. Also see my definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, updated in April 2012, “The Complete Guantánamo Files,” a 70-part, million-word series drawing on files released by WikiLeaks in April 2011, and details about the documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (co-directed by Polly Nash and Andy Worthington, and available on DVD here — or here for the US). Also see my definitive Guantánamo habeas list and the chronological list of all my articles, and please also consider joining the new “Close Guantánamo campaign,” and, if you appreciate my work, feel free to make a donation.
yuppies tend to be real CREEPS AND IDIOTS..kill them,lol
A bit harsh, Damo, but I know where you’re coming from. They epitomise the problems with a sense of entitlement and a disregard for the situations in which others find themselves. I’m amazed at how few people have pointed out that, when Cameron bangs on about the poor, unemployed and disabled having a sense of entitlement, it’s actually the rich who have the most sense of entitlement – justifying whatever they can get away with paying themselves, even if that is disproportionate, and, of course, if they’re very rich, getting involved in tax evasion schemes so tat they pay virtually nothing.
When I publicised these photos on Facebok, I wrote:
So this is slightly weird- I’m in Rome on holiday, but publishing these photos of my home in Brockley, south east London, a photo set that I prepared before leaving the UK on Sunday. The photos are part of my ongoing mission to record the whole of London while travelling around by bike. If you don’t know south east London, I hope you get a flavour of where I live from these photos. Enjoy!
Richard Osbourne wrote:
Welcome to the modern world Andy…
Zilma Nunes wrote:
handsome boy , nice family ..you re lucky…Enjoy your free time .
Aleksey Penskiy wrote:
Excellent photo, Andy! Thank you and special thanks for the comments, of which I know a lot of interesting history and culture of England
Agastyan Daram wrote:
lets not welcome the modern world.. lets change the modern world..good thoughts Andy..
Jacqueline Gemini Honeybee wrote:
Sigh. Beautiful South London. I went to Blythe Hill recently and gazed across at Hilly Fields. We are so blessed with our hills and green places. Wonderful photos. Thank you! x
Thanks for the comments, everyone. Great to hear from you all.
So Richard, yes, this is indeed my welcome to the modern world. Perhaps next I’ll even get a mobile phone. The nice thing is that it surprises me to be working at all on holiday because I used to work so hard writing about Guantanamo the rest of the year that I literally had to switch off for two weeks. It’s good to be slightly less obsessed, but thinking about it reminds me of how much work I’ve done over the years – some would say obsessively – to try and get Guantanamo closed. Perhaps that day will arrive, eventually …
And Aleksey, I’m glad you learned something about the current state of affairs in the UK, and Agastyan, your words crystallised for me the notion that this is in fact a struggle to define how we live, in which the dominant messages are being pumped out by a complacent and/or cynical elite. “Let’s not welcome the modern world, let’s change the modern world” – I like that!
And finally, for now, thanks, Jacqueline. I’m amongst the hills of Rome right now, which is wonderful, but I wouldn’t exchange them permanently for the hills of south London, which are so dear to me too.
Investigative journalist, author, filmmaker, photographer and Guantanamo expert
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