Alas Smith and Jones

Peckham Fab Lab
Peckham Fab Lab

In 1980 Peckham lost its favourite, “it weren’t like that back in the day, it was all nice on rye lane” object of rose-tinted reminiscing Jones and Higgins. It was a department store no less, which was housed underneath the clock tower. The somewhat spurious link in Smith (to get Smith and Jones) comes courtesy of the recent disappearance of the chain “booksellers” WH Smith from rye lane. My immediate concern regarding where I may be able to source over priced stationary and “celebrity” memories was replaced by a cold panic as to what may replace WH Smith. The usual one pound, hair and beauty butcher bookie phone ministries of God pawn loan hipster rave sport halal off licence is the likely to occupy the vacant shop if what litters rye lane at the moment is anything to go by. The pay-day loan and bookies have recently come under fire from local MP and deputy Labour leader Harriet Harmann who has accused bookies of “predatory profiteering” and journalist and Labour Party councillor for the Lane ward Rowenna Davis who describes her experience in a Peckham pay-day loan shop in this New statesman article.

As with woolies, the rose-tinted glasses memories of “back to school” shopping for scientific calculators, set squares and protractors that were broken in the first week of school or never used at all were replaced with memories of more recent visits full of over priced items and rude staff, well one particularly rude lady, the other members of staff were fine to be honest.

Whilst I’m not shedding to much of a tear for WH Smith, It’s noticeable that these parasite shops have also taken over traditional south London boozers which I’m slightly more saddened by, as we’ve seen the Bun house and The Hope pubs both disappear from Peckham streets. It may seem a bit odd to favour one form of possibly addictive money losing activity with another, but I believe pubs provide a better traditional social hub than pay-day loan shops. I have been known to savour a few pints in the south London boozers that seem less likely to still have the no blacks, no dogs and no Irish signs behind the bar just in case Encoh’s predictions to come of age, as you may as well know I resemble an Irish wolfhound.

It seems a touch churlish to be totally disparaging about the hair and beauty shops, the comedian Chris Rock has shown in his documentary how important “Good hair” is to African and Caribbean women. Rather than just a vanity issue, those hair and beauty stores serve an important role in “assimilation” “European style” weaves and wigs are often easier to manage day-to-day and reported by African and Caribbean women to put their work colleagues at ease as opposed to natural “Afro” , braids and locks which have “black Militant” connotations. Observing the high levels of unemployment among African Caribbean males perhaps one or two of these hair and beauty shops ought to be dedicated to “European style” hair for young African Caribbean males, causing white counterparts to feel more at ease and increase job prospects perhaps?

No doubt the bring H&M to Peckham Facebook page has been revived, but again I personally would rather a more radical use for empty shops in Peckham, I want the exciting ideas on side streets to infiltrate rye lane itself. I’m not calling for a bland deli, yummy mummy cafe gentrification cul de suc, rather a more interesting use of shops away from the chains and one pound, hair and beauty butcher bookie phone ministries of God pawn loan hipster rave sport halal off licences. Appear here is an online platform that seeks to connect retailers with spaces they can use for temporary pop-up shops, imagine the unique uses the space could be used for over the summer? I’m very taken with the notion of Fab Labs, which seek to provide the environment and the access to a range of advanced digital manufacturing technology for anyone to make things quickly and cheaply. With the advent of admittedly buzz words of the moment such as 3d printing, retail units could be providing the spark and incubation for entrepreneurs, designers and inventors. If Peckham is the new ____________(insert favourite east London area) in terms of art, perhaps we can now skip to the tech hub part. Yes you knew it was coming, Silicon Peckham is here!

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