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.
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.
This is an alternative space on a derelict site, using recycled shipping containers for entertainment, food, independent stores and social enterprise.
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.
The markets have been rebranded as ‘Brixton Village’
Locals fought the council to keep this skate park although it is on a prime corner site.
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.
Street Art and Graffiti
The walls of Brixton reflect local heritage, history and protest.
This piece by the artist Aspire in nearby Stockwell protests the reduced population of Sumatran Tigers (is the caged effect a coincidence I wonder?)
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.
This ball alley is very popular with artists and new pieces appear frequently. The big mural is a piece of brandalism (anti advertising movement) –
Another piece of artivism – (note the demo loudhailers)
The fish traders have been hardest hit in the markets – this is a tribute to their trade.
Road junctions are getting in on the act and markings are colourful and interesting.
This is one of the oldest murals – Nuclear Dawn was completed in 1981. I’m not sure whether it will survive the surrounding development.
There are a few beautiful pieces in the station reflecting the local community.
This mural of Michael, a local worker is one of the best known in Brixton.
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.
Local community groups are doing it their way.
Book Stop Brixton provides free books for the community
These two locals were delighted to model for the mural promoting the book initiative.
Brixton Street Gym is a project aiming to get young people interested in sport
On the High Street….
Remnants from another time….
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
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……