The press image of Peckham is often negative - so would you walk around at night ?
Funding life in Peckham
PVSF serve small enterprising social businesses in Peckham - getting through the recession for an area known sometimes, or usually, for the wrong reasons, is a big issue.
A spontaneous impetus triggered by a desire for positivity post-August disorder has led to an ad hoc group of local residents in the Peckham area setting out plans for coordinating fresh projects right across the community. At the end of August, 40-50 local people met at All Saints Church by Peckham Rye station to discuss ways of capitalising on the remarkable blossoming of community spirit in the Peckham area of Southwark. Various clusters of residents turned up in number, with churchgoers from a variety of local churches, Salvation Army representatives young and old, Peckham Settlement (who announced a large bank of volunteers has been identified), Peckham Society, Eileen Conn, Inside Out, and Community TV Trust. All Saints Church hosted a meeting in late October which created a number of clusters of like-minded local people. The test is to see now whether clear actions come from this 'talking shop'.
Proud of Peckham by Rowenna Davis
(First published in The Observer 14 Aug 2011) Rowenna Davis is Labour Councillor for Lane Ward in Southwark
Hundreds of multi-coloured post it notes have sprung up on a boarded window of Poundland in Rye Lane. It was one of the windows that got shattered on Monday night. Now it's filled with emotional messages from the community: *Love Peckham. Stop Trashing Our Community. **Where is the Prime Minister? This is Our Home.* Testaments to a different kind of expression, these tiny scrawled messages are a powerful reclamation of space. But they also symbolise a bigger lesson about community that many continue to miss.
I was fiercely proud of Peckham this week. When hundreds of rioters descended on to the streets, individuals in this South London community acted as the buffer long after dark. The images stick with me. A youth worker running around an estate, calling through windows to check kids were still at home. A young woman in heels snatching dresses off rioters and putting them back in a shop. A guy with dreadlocks stepping through broken glass to stamp out the flames.
As a councillor on the scene that night, I tweeted that I felt powerless. The first time I called 999 no one picked up; the second time it took fifteen minutes for the police to arrive. In the interim waves of young people dashed into a smashed sports shop to grab what they could. Someone in a mask set fire to a wrack of t-shirts. Community members risked their lives by walking in and picking up rows of burning nylon to throw on to the floor outside. They knew the families living above the shops; they wouldnít let the fire spread.
And the community was there in the morning. Shopkeepers worried about returning gangs realised they were simply kids carrying brooms. The technology that helped organise the violence was now arranging how to pick up the mess. The clean up was almost complete by 9am. In the afternoon a meeting of some 100 community leaders gathered in Tooley Street to discuss what should be done. Councillors called neighbours and co-ordinated services. Strangers embraced shopkeepers on reclaimed and broken streets.
Politicians failed to grasp the significance of this action. They referenced community efforts, but the media quickly framed them in the same age-old debate. Those on the right claimed we needed more discipline; those on the left allegedly called for more investment and opportunity. Those on the left were expected to talk about causes and those on the right to talk about consequences. After the heat of the riot, Theresa May was left sounding cold and disconnected on the Today programme.
By focusing on these two strands, we risk missing out a crucial third: community organisation. Peckham provided awe-inspiring examples of individual bravery, but more could have been done if other neighbours had been able to join hands. We would have been stronger if the youth workers had known more Imams, if the unions knew more churches, if the council workers knew more residents. A key way to stop feeling powerless is to ask questions about how these links made. Is there anything we can do to make them stronger? That round table of community leaders should move from emergency cabinet to mainstream meeting.
Politicians should move beyond the discipline verses opportunity paradigm, and join these discussions. The fact that we didn't realise this discontent was bubbling just below the surface should be a wake up call. It was good that Ed Miliband came to Peckham to listen, but Iíve heard politicians of all parties pontificating about something they couldnít predict. A bit of humility would do us good.
Of course the other two strands of this debate are crucial. But the argument makes for depressing reading because it rests on a false dichotomy. For a start, authority itself takes investment. It doesnít make sense to talk about stepping up authority when councils like mine are being forced to merge safer neighbourhood teams to cut costs. Second, you need to give people alternatives for discipline to work. Itís hard to criticise idleness for example, if youíre not providing work. We need to firmly stamp out one path as unacceptable, whilst marking out another.
Perhaps if more politicians joined in community discussions, they would stop missing subtleties that are obvious on the ground. I am sick of hearing that the riots in Clapham were surprising, as if the ones in Peckham were expected. One in three children in Southwark live in poverty, but many of those did not join in the riots. Some of my young constituents are still afraid to go out. But the fact that different people respond differently to social conditions does not mean that social conditions are irrelevant.
Michael Gove was right that these rioters were not calling themselves protesters, and liberals are wary of ascribing motives to those who donít state them. But can we always expect young people to express themselves in such terms? Their ages and experiences are a million miles away from articulate politicians who lay out their reasons in clean-cut paragraphs. It is possible to feel angry and let down without knowing why. I invite any politician who wants to come to Southwark to see that.
It is also difficult for power holders in this society to talk about morality when the integrity of authority itself has been brought into question. Young people have heard that bankers have effectively been looting the public purse. They have heard that police shot a man they said was attacking them and then changed their story. You don't have to read the news for these things to filter down. If we want to debate morality, we have to look at the wider example we set as adults.
Luckily there are other role models. Young people in Peckham will look up to all those who stood up for their homes and businesses in the riots and came together to clean up in its aftermath. Already members of my community are meeting to try and raise £1m for a new community centre. The moment after the riot is a precious space to build new relationships. We would do well to build on this moment, and construct something stronger from the ruins. My constituents are leading the way on this, and Iím proud to follow them. The writing, it seems, is on the Poundland wall.
SE VILLAGE CELEBRATION
Celebrations at Peckham Settlement for a new project designed to support local community ventures - and there have been many in the past few months that have got under way in a resurgent Peckham. For anyone who has a great idea for any project, club, business or activity in Peckham and SE-London, SE-Village can help. SE-Village offers support, guidence and space in The Peckham Settlement building for anyone who'd like to bring their big idea to life and have fun setting up an SE-Village project of their own. One of the best things about the initiative is that it needn't cost anything more than your time; SE-Village has launched Peckham Pounds backed up by volunteer time, so people can trade support, rather than hard cash. To share your big idea or find out more get in touch directly.
A VIEW OF THE RIOTS
The Guardian website provided this video testimony with insights into how the alienated young black male may have wound up getting involved
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PECKHAM - INSIDE OUT
A photography project by Inside Out forms a striking visual response to the recent events in Rye Lane, with the community affirming itself as individuals with lives, character and roles to play in local life.
PECKHAM visions, news & views
Watch this space for links and comments about this thriving quarter of Southwark.