October 2010

Brixton Village: One Year On

Brick Box & United 80 launch party last month (Photo: Andy Broomfield)

It’s a year this week since we agreed to run a project to bring twenty empty shops in Brixton Village back into use. If we’d had any idea of the scale of what we were embarking on, I doubt whether Julia or I would have had the courage… Sometimes lack of foresight is an advantage!

It’s been an amazing year and none of us would have missed it. We’ve seen the empty corners of the market come alive, worked with hundreds of people who brought their own talents and dreams, and watched twenty new independent local businesses grow out of all that chaos and creativity.

The original plan was for a three month project, but it soon became clear that we were involved in something more complex and longer-​term. A market is an incredible tangle of people, place, trades and stories, where everything is interconnected and interdependent. A year on, we’re still learning, and still blown away by the grit and good will which goes into making Brixton Market such a special part of London.

It’s important to know your limits, though — and we’ve felt for a while that a time was coming when our skills would no longer be what the market needed. Twelve months on, with all the original shops now let to new businesses, this feels like a good moment to step back. So, from November, Space Makers will no longer be funded by LAP to work at Brixton Village.

Of course, that doesn’t mean that everything that’s happened in the last year will come to an end. Our role has been to act as a catalyst, to help other people get things started, without making ourselves indispensable.

So, you can still expect Saturday afternoons and Thursday nights to be full of surprises. There will be plenty more opportunities to get involved in events and performances at the market — not least through the new Brick Box community arts hub and cafe, funded by Lambeth First, which opened last month at Unit 41–42.

More generally, we’d encourage everyone who has discovered or returned to the market over the past year as a result of this project to continue to support all the market’s traders, new and old. The Friends of Brixton Market have been critical friends to us throughout this project — we’ve had differing perspectives at times, but they play an important role in asking difficult questions about the future of the market, and they deserve support and involvement from as wide a range of people who care about the market as possible.

We also believe that there’s a need for regular, joined-​up discussions between all the groups with a stake in the future of Brixton Market, through a cross-​market forum of some kind, something that others have proposed. In the next few weeks, we’ll be meeting up with people from those groups to talk about this and other possibilities for assuring the long-​term viability of the mix of old and new, cultures and traditions, trades and stories which has drawn so many of us to the market.

Finally, we won’t be disappearing altogether. Although the project finishes next month, Mitchell and I will still be living around the corner from the market and we look forward to continuing to be involved as local residents — and I’m sure you’ll see Julia, Kat and Flora’s faces around the place, too!

We’ll share more information with you about next steps as we can, over the next few weeks. For now, we just want to say thank you again to everyone who’s been part of what’s happened at Brixton Village over the past year.