London out and about – Brixton beyond the High Street

You’ll know,  as soon as you come up out of the underground station,  that you’re not going to find any hop-on-hop-off tour buses here – yet!  But with its strong sense of community,  evolving food and event scene,  this neighbourhood is fast becoming one of London’s hotspots.

Located south west of the capital, the region was farmland up until 1816 when the Vauxhall Bridge opened and offered improved transport to central London.   Thousands moved to the area and beautiful Victorian houses lined the main roads.   By 1925,  Brixton had become the main shopping centre of the city with several department stores.  Heavy bombing in World War 11 led to a period of urban decay.   The first group of immigrants from Jamaica arrived in 1948 and were temporarily housed in the locality.   Some returned to the Caribbean but many stayed and Brixton is best known for its strong African-Caribbean heritage which dates back to that time.   It has moved on from challenging times in the 1990’s to become a diverse and creative district.

20190909_115019

 

Brixton Market

The markets are the heart of the town and cover both indoor and outdoor spaces with over 130 independent traders.  Here you will find everything you need – not just your veg and fish but clothes,  household goods and a huge variety of international cuisine.

Electric Avenue ( made famous by Eddy Grants 1982 song) was so named as it was the first market street with electricity.

20190909_120227

 

20190909_120231

 

20190909_120403

 

20190909_124431

 

20190909_124507

 

Pop Brixton

This is an alternative space on a derelict site,  using recycled shipping containers for entertainment,  food,  independent stores and social enterprise.

20190909_130746

 

20190909_130822

 

20190909_130813

 

Regeneration

The regeneration of the town is not without controversy – gentrification of the neighbourhood does not sit well with many locals.    The market was to be replaced by a shopping centre but was successfully resisted by the community.

 

The retail spaces here under the bridge were cleared of tenants,  renovated and relet (at a much higher rent of course).   After much local lobbying,  Cafe Max was allowed back in.   I did notice that most of the units are empty.

20190909_115242

 

The markets have been rebranded as ‘Brixton Village’

20190909_120447

 

Locals fought the council to keep this skate park although it is on a prime corner site.

20190909_112816

 

A success story – The Astoria cinema opened in 1929 and closed its doors in 1972.   Planning permission to knock the building and develop a petrol station and car showroom was thankfully rejected.   It reopened as a music venue in the 1980’s and today the Academy is one of the biggest non-arena venues in the city.

20190909_113940

 

Street Art and Graffiti

The walls of Brixton reflect local heritage,  history and protest.

20190909_104631

 

Artivism (art/activism)

This piece by the artist Aspire in nearby Stockwell protests the reduced population of Sumatran Tigers (is the caged effect a coincidence I wonder?)

20190909_105051

 

This road was used as a dumping ground and subject to anti social behaviour.   A local project,  inviting street artists to display their work,  has given the community a sense of pride in the area.

20190909_105640

 

This ball alley is very popular with artists and new pieces appear frequently.  The big mural is a piece of brandalism (anti advertising movement) –

20190909_111445

 

Another piece of artivism – (note the demo loudhailers)

20190909_114751

 

20190909_112250

 

The fish traders have been hardest hit in the markets – this is a tribute to their trade.

20190909_124542

 

Road junctions are getting in on the act and markings are colourful and interesting.

20190909_125831

 

This is one of the oldest murals  – Nuclear Dawn was completed in 1981.   I’m not sure whether it will survive the surrounding development.

IMG_20190909_120826

 

There are a few beautiful pieces in the station reflecting the local community.

20190909_115737

 

20190909_115107

 

This mural of Michael, a local worker is one of the best known in Brixton.

20190909_115943

 

And of course – last but not least – Brixton’s celeb – David Bowie lived here for a few years as a child.  This was painted in 2013 and became a shrine after his death.

20190909_124941

 

 

Community Projects

Local community groups are doing it their way.

 

Book Stop Brixton provides free books for the community

20190909_121546

 

These two locals were delighted to model for the mural promoting the book initiative.

20190909_123608

 

Brixton Street Gym is a project aiming to get young people interested in sport

20190909_123537

 

20190909_123232

 

20190909_123641

 

On the High Street….

Remnants from another time….

IMG_20190909_135725

 

IMG_20190909_135732

 

20190909_135906

 

20190909_140047

 

20190909_114932 (1).jpg

 

Walking Tour

We took a tour with Wesley from Free Tours by Foot.   The morning walk lasted about 2.5 hours and gave us a great overview of the neighbourhood.

Check out Free Tours by Foot

♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦

Postscript….

We were heading back to the underground station (as usual) when the 159 bus pulled up beside us – heading to Oxford Circus.   We hopped on and got the front seats upstairs – what a trip – its a fantastic route……

20190909_143029

 

20190909_143139

 

20190909_143215

 

20190909_143649

 

20190909_143826

 

20190909_144223

 

20190909_144424

 

20190909_144455

 

♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦

24 thoughts on “London out and about – Brixton beyond the High Street

    1. It was amazing – and also interesting – lots of political and environmental messages. But in the end its about the colour and design – I can’t paint for nuts so I’m fascinated at the scale of some of them – how they manage to produce these massive pieces on the sides of buildings…..

    1. Thank you. I really hope you have enough time to enjoy the city beyond the big attractions… pick at least one neighbourhood and sign on for a free walking tour.

    1. Me neither – I love when you find out that a place you know well from a song or whatever actually exists…it actually changes the whole context doesn’t it. Its an interesting place all right – I must make sure to revisit in a few years and see whether it has changed much – for better or worse.

Leave a Reply