Space Makers in Brixton: How are we doing?

It feels like a good moment to take stock of what’s happened so far with the Space Makers project in Brixton.

I’ll post some photos soon of the big foodie event yesterday. We had hundreds of people down and a great atmosphere — and I had all kinds of interesting conversations with people over the day, from people visiting Granville Arcade for the first time to people who’ve known it all their lives.

The first wave of new occupants we brought into the market are now half way through their three months rent-​free. Some of them only ever intended to be temporary projects, but many hope to make the jump to becoming permanent rent-​paying tenants at the end of the three months. Talking to them in the Dogstar last night, it’s clear that this is starting to seem achievable. If we keep making the market a great place to go on Saturdays, that can support their businesses through the quieter times of the week.

So much for the new businesses we’ve brought in. This project has been (to mix cliches) both a race against time and a steep learning curve. Up to now, we’ve had to focus on getting the new occupants set up and organising events to bring new visitors to the market. I’m conscious, though, that this has meant we’ve not done as much as we should have on other really important parts of the project. In the next few weeks, I want to put that right.

We haven’t done enough to spread the word locally, as well as online.

Although it is happening here and there, we haven’t given enough time to building relationships with the existing traders and figuring out how to make this project work for them as well as for the newcomers.

And we haven’t done enough to hook up with all the people in Brixton who love the market and want it to thrive, not to be “regenerated” or transformed, but to be as distinctive as it’s always been.

I’m massively grateful for the help and guidance of Paul Bakalite, Mitchell Jacobs from Mo-​Shon, the Friends of Brixton Market and a lot of other people locally who have got involved, or just had a quiet word in my ear about where we might be getting things wrong. In three months working at the market, I’ve already got more sense of being grounded in a place than I have after two years of living in Hackney — and that’s one of the reasons I’ll be moving to Brixton next month.

I don’t think I’ve ever worked as hard on a project as I am on this one at the moment — and I’m loving every minute of it. I know Julia and I have come in to this as outsiders and people are right to question our agenda and our understanding of the situation we’ve come into. I want to have those conversations, because every time I do I learn more about why this place matters to people and how we can work with others to try and get this right.

So please, come down and find me at Granville — or get in touch online, or through comments on this post — and I’ll gladly sit down and talk about any of this.

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3 Comments

  1. Bonny
    Posted January 18, 2010 at 3:15 pm | Permalink

    Hi there,

    I was recently down in the market helping my friend Fran set up her work in the Brixton Village Gallery and I had a really lovely day wandering through the market and talking to the people there. I left with a smile on my face and a sense that something special is going on in that corner of the city. It was just a really refreshing atmosphere– very open and friendly– not at all pretentious or exclusive. So, i would like to congratulate you in getting it right– you have managed to cultivate a genuinely creative, participatory, community-​supporting situation. I think its brilliant– it’s the sort of thing that has a tangible positive impact on many individual lives, on the local community and the city as a whole. I am passionate about London and i am very interested in the forces that shape our city– i’d love to talk to you about your experiences developing this project. I’ll be down the market on thursday visiting Fran– if you’ve got a minute then it would be great to meet you. Let me know. Best, Bonny

  2. Posted January 20, 2010 at 2:48 pm | Permalink

    Hi there — thought you might be interested in some pics I’ve taken at the market over the last 2 weekends, you get a real feel as you say of the vibe of the place: http://​thehappinessprojectlondon​.wordpress​.com/.

    I think its such a wonderful idea and so exciting but agree that it could be busier so hopefully the word will spread.

    I’m really looking forward to how things develop in the future.

    Congratulations!

  3. Posted February 1, 2010 at 6:45 am | Permalink

    Hi,

    Just to say it’s great work you’re doing in Brixton. I paid my first visit to Granville arcade for ‘Tasty January’ and really enjoyed the market. I’ve been back since and wish you the best of luck with the project. It’s so nice to see so many of the shops buzzing.

    Rach