Brixton Blog is an online community newspaper about everything happening in Brixton, London. We cover local news, music, food, events and history. We hope to inspire debate and enthusiasm about an area we are passionate about.
Liam Witchalls caught a special Skinnyman performance in a Brixton record shop and spoke to the man himself …
It’s been over a decade since Skinnyman and one of hip hop’s most influential rappers, KRS One, came together to record alongside other UK acts, MCD and Paradise, at Brixton’s The Dairy studios on Tunstall Road.
Once again Skinnyman returned to Brixton last night (23 March) for another unlikely meeting of minds at the newly opened record shop Soul Proprietors on Elm Park, Brixton Hill. An unlikely line-up, including Cosmo Pyke and DJ Oneman, brought an eclectic blend of sounds.
Skinnyman performs at Soul Proprietors
Since opening the record shop, it has been host to a handful of relatively small nights, including jazz group Ill Considered, and some soul nights by local musician Chrissy. Nick Lucas, the owner of Soul Proprietors, says most of the nights held at the shop so far have low key. He was interested to see what Friday would bring.
And, by stark comparison, Friday night was heaving with people; the storage room had been cleared and the garden made available to make room for a huge turnout.
Before Skinnyman’s performance, I asked about his first visit to Soul Proprietors. he described seeing his own records among the collection of vinyls …
“The first time that I visited this record shop, I was so surprised to see they had vinyl copies of my album – which is like a rare thing for me to see nowadays. I almost felt like the TV commercial of Fly Fishing by JR Hartley” – a reference to the 1983 Yellow Pages TV advert in which a man looking for a book called Fly Fishing is revealed to be JR Hartley looking for a copy of his own book.
“It was nostalgic to see someone still have my albums and I was asked to sign them … And I thought what a blessed vibes that this shop has, a lovely aura.”
Skinnyman at Soul Proprietors
I went on to ask about his collaboration with KRS One and about his other experiences in Brixton that shaped him musically.
“That experience was delightful,” said Skinnyman. “It was brought together by 57th dynasty. The guy behind them is called Charlie Parker.”
He then recalled seeing Run DMC and LL Cool J at Brixton Academy when he was 10 years old.
“So that’s going back about 33 years now. When The Voice newspaper first ever started, I was part of the Coldharbour Lane crew so, they had like a comic book strip- like a photo strip, of us in, and that’s when I was about 10-11.”
Shortly after our chat, Skinnyman went on to deliver an energetic performance. The crowds reciprocal energy caused a wire to come loose mid performance at which point Skinnyman jumped onto the table and delivered an acapella, freestyle.
Skinnyman’s parting words on the history of hip hop: “For as long as language has been mastered, lyrical pugilism has been used as a sort of entertainment, as well as a battle of the wits.”
Soul Proprietors is open 11am- 7pm Tuesday to Saturday at 64 Elm Park, Brixton Hill SW2 2UB
Taylor McWilliams at the opening of the Relay Building in Aldgate in 2015
The announcement of the purchase came from the PR company Lowick, which specialises in “reputation and political risk”.
Hondo describes itself as a property investment, development and asset management company specialising in “opportunistic and value-add transactions” in central London.
Its announcement says that the market has been bought by Hondo “and its investors”. Hondo Enterprises last filed accounts – for 2016 – in September last year. It recorded itself as a “micro entity” with assets of less than £50,000.
It was reported earlier this year that the market had been bought by a consortium led by Irish-born property trader Aidan Brooks. Mike Ashley’s Sports Direct, which is opening a “luxury” Flannels store on Pope’s Road, had also been interested in the market.
Hondo’s website lists its other properties as car parks, an “urban resort hotel and spa” and the Relay Building in Aldgate, a 22-storey-mixed-use development that has part of a London Underground carriage in the reception area. It is intended to be “a new hub for tech and creative occupiers”.
Announcing the purchase of Market Row and Brixton Village, Hondo said: “The Market is at the heart of Brixton’s community and under our stewardship its unique character will be secured for the long term.
“We look forward to beginning a conversation with traders, the local community, and Lambeth council in the coming weeks and months as we develop our plans to protect and enhance the market.”
Brixton is the secret source of much inspiration for the English teacher and artist Nick Seymour who recently launched his most ambitious collection of works to date ‘New Town Utopia’ on the walls of Brockwell Blend Cafe, Brixton writes Paul Point, Chocolate Chieftain.
The multi talented Nick Seymour – born in Basildon – admits to being drawn to Brixton for its charisma, visual personality and integral diversity. “To me this part of Lambeth illustrates some of things I like best about London as well as it highlights what the future of living in the capital may be like”.
His irresistibly detailed, often futuristic, graphite and pen work demonstrates not only masterful control of the medium but also articulates thought provoking statements that scorch into the subconscious and evoke the imagination.
Catch Nicks’ full and updated collection ‘New Town Utopia’ made of nine fascinating works until the end of March at: Brockwell Blend, 19 Tulse Hill, SW2 2TH
Sir Lenny shows aspiring Hill Mead actors how it’s done
One of Britain’s most popular performers visited a Brixton school today (15 March) to promote a national scheme to boost drama education that was piloted there.
Sir Lenny Henry launched the National Theatre’s new primary school programme, Let’s Play, at Brixton’s Hill Mead primary.
Let’s Play commissions new plays with songs and music for children aged four to 11 to perform. It will enable schools to involve children in all aspects of theatre production – from performing to designing costumes to operating sound.
Hill Mead took part in the pilot scheme last year.
Speaking at the launch, Becky Lawrence, the school’s deputy head, said: “The Let’s Play programme has had a huge impact on the children. It has developed their speaking and listening skills, supported their reading and writing skills and their confidence and empathy grew rapidly.
“The training was exceptional and prepared teachers to deliver the programme with confidence and enthusiasm, and with an improved understanding of teaching through drama.”
Sir Lenny Henry, who is a member of the National Theatre’s board of trustees said: “Many of us working in the arts can remember an experience at school – a theatre visit, an inspiring teacher, meeting a professional artist – as the ignition to their career or enduring passion for the art form.
“Let’s Play is the perfect scheme to engage primary school children in the artistic process, It’s an essential part of a young person’s creative and artistic education.”
He watched a performance by young Hill Mead actors and then led them through acting exercises that delighted them and everyone who had come to see the launch.
Members of Parliament on the House of Commons’ select committee on education have reported that SATS (standardised assessment tests) and the pressure on schools to compete in league tables has led a focus on English and maths at the expense of the arts.
National Theatre executive director Lisa Burger and Sir Lenny listen to Becky Lawrence explaining the importance of the scheme
Lisa Burger, executive director of the National Theatre, said “We believe that all young people should have the chance to see, make and explore theatre as a core part of their education.
“Let’s Play is the National Theatre’s commitment to supporting schools and to develop teachers’ skills to ensure drama and theatre remain a vital part of school life.”
Hill Mead parent Abigaile Kanini knows first-hand the power of theatre to unlock a child’s imagination.
She participated along with her five-year-old daughter in the school’s Unicorn Theatre workshop and theatre trip last year.
They went to see the Boing! play. “It was an amazing show and the experience stayed with her. She’d just turned five and it was magical. It drew you in and the kids loved it. She came home and we talked about Boing! so much. It breaks down your barriers too.
“The workshop cemented the whole experience and made it real and we could pretend to be in it.”
“In one part of the play you have to perform in the dark and pretend to be a robot. Every reception class should do it. The school is fantastic. If there’s a resonance, then the school will find it.”
Watch out for our interview with Sir Lenny in the next Brixton Bugle, due out on Friday 23 March.
Teacher Matilda ffrench, who works with Hill Mead’s young performers, including (left to right) Lamine, Kelisiann and Melissa
Performing extracts from The Quest for Arthur
On display – workbooks from Hill Mead pupils studying Shakespeare’s play Othello – a noted role for Sir Lenny Henry
Christened Steve Burnett-Martin, Blacker Dread came to Britain to join his parents when he was eight. He hadn’t seen his mother since he was a baby and didn’t recognise her.
He told his elder sister that she wasn’t his mother and he wanted to go back to Jamaica. He stayed and he learnt to love his mother as witnessed in the emotional opening scene, that starts with her funeral.
Blacker was asked to take the entrance exam to a local grammar school twice. The school believed a young Black man from Jamaica could not possibly have passed. But he passed again and was accepted into the school in Penge.
Education is crucial for Blacker. His youngest son had troubles at school and was in danger of being excluded and labelled for life. Blacker decided to send his son back to Jamaica where the child has surpassed all expectations and is regularly in the top 10 of his class.
After running away from home at the age of 15, Blacker used to lug around the giant speakers as a box boy with the famous Sir Coxsone Sound System. He stayed with the sound for more than 27 years – from box boy to record selector.
He became a world-class record producer working with the likes of Sugar Minott, Beres Hammond, Gregory Isaacs, Dennis Brown, Luciano … the list goes on and on.
At the age of 30, he opened his shop on Coldharbour Lane. It became a focal point for the community. Mothers, friends, police, councillors and the rest flocked to the shop for advice. Sadly in the documentary, we are witnesses to the closure of the shop.
What came across to me when watching the film and then speaking to Blacker later is the impression that he feels so bad about the prison sentence that you can only just about drag the word “prison” out of him.
Blacker’s son Solomon was shot and killed by an unknown assailant on the last day of 2004. The police have never had a conversation with him about his son and the terrible killing.
We see Blacker join the family of Quamari Serunkuma-Barnes, a schoolboy who was stabbed to death in West London. That really is when we become aware of how much influence this man really did have in the Brixton and wider community and, of course, how the killing of his son makes him want to help and campaign against Black on Black crime.
There are some light-hearted moments in the film as we get swept along with Blacker’s charismatic friend Naphtali.
When Naphtali can’t find a parking space he looks at the camera and asks: “Do you think we can park on the corner?” As he steps out the car we see that he actually parked on the corner, not around it but right across it.
The judge at his trial for money laundering told Blacker that he was “a failure”. It’s a throw-away remark that judges a whole life by a single mistake.
The film shows how much more there is to know and learn from a life that, as the film’s publicity records, has experienced three generations of educational inequality, racism, cultural isolation, lack of employment opportunities, crime and violence, but also an extraordinary sense of togetherness and community spirit, and a vibrant musical culture which has done so much to shape today’s UK music scene.
Brixton has a temporary new coffee lounge and event space with the opening of House of Hygge where Diamond plumbers merchant once stood on Acre Lane.
Created in collaboration with the Chartwell Cancer Trust, that funds children’s cancer support groups in South London, Croydon and North Kent, Hygge offers coffee, other drinks and snacks as well as free wi-fi.
Yoga and other well-being related events are promised.
House of Hygge will support and fund the trust which was established to help both adults and children beat cancer through its products and services.
The trust is raising funds to cover the full cost of a virtual conferencing system linking the oncology teams of South London hospitals Kings College, Guy’s, St Thomas’s and Princess Royal.
Hygge is at 41 Acre Lane, Brixton, SW2 5TN.
The trust’s pop up shop selling a range of furniture, pictures and paintings, books and objet d’art is next door.
The future of the Diamond site was decided at a meeting of Lambeth council’s planning committee at the end of February that agreed unanimously to approve revised plans for demolition of the existing building and construction of 24 “residential units” and office space by local developer Lexadon in a five-storey building.
Earlier plans for a six-storey building on the site had been rejected by the council.
The development does not deliver the target of 40% “affordable” housing for the usual reason that it would not be “viable” if it did. Only 21% of the units will be “affordable”.
“I fully support your campaign to be paid the real living wage and to tackle the injustices that you face in your workplace. We desperately need an economy that works for the many, not the few,” he said in a statement.
“For too many people, work is insecure and low-paid. On International Women’s Day, it is right that we recognise that women are disproportionately affected by poverty pay and strengthen our resolve to tackle it.”
Workers at the Ritzy and four other Picturehouse cinemas in London have been campaigning – in the longest-running dispute in UK cinema history – for the living wage and for other rights, including maternity leave. They are also demanding that four sacked Ritzy union reps be reinstated,
“The next Labour government will give all workers equal rights from day one of their employment, whether part-time, full-time, temporary or permanent so that all workers will be protected by decent sick pay, maternity and paternity pay,” said Corbyn.
“All workers should have the security of a union in their workplace, so Labour will make it easier for unions to gain access to workplaces and to gain recognition.”
Union reps “should not be dismissed for standing up for their members’ rights,” he said, calling on Picturehouse to reinstate the four sacked BECTU reps with immediate effect and “to sit down with the union to discuss ways to resolve this longstanding dispute”.
Children prepare to lay wreaths at the African Caribbean war memorial in Brixton’s Windrush Square on Remembrance Day last November
Communities Minister Lord Bourne will today (8 March) visit Lambeth council to launch an official “Windrush 70” campaign to celebrate the Windrush generation.
The campaign will highlight the huge contribution the Caribbean community has made to the UK.
The campaign will include a Windrush70 logo designed by the local Champion Agency.
This launch marks the start of a series of events and celebrations including performances, exhibitions, church services and debates to take place across the year to ensure that the Windrush legacy lives on for future generations.
The Voice newspaper will produce a commemorative edition that will be distributed across the country.
Lord Bourne said:“I am delighted to launch the Windrush 70 campaign today to celebrate the history of Britain’s black communities.
“The campaign is centred around the legacy of the Windrush generation, and will recognise and celebrate the enormous contribution of the Windrush generation and their descendants. It will also keep this legacy alive for future generations, ensuring that we all recognise the diversity of Britain’s history.”
Lord Bourne said that the arrival of 492 passengers from the Caribbean on the 22 June 1948 marked a key moment in Britain’s history. The men and women who came to Britain contributed significantly to rebuilding the country following the war and their settlement had continued to enrich social, economic, political and religious life.
Lambeth council leader Lib Peck said: “Lambeth has a pivotal role in the Windrush story and is a borough proud of its diversity and openness.
She said she was delighted that young people from Brixton had created designs for the campaign and hoped that “the whole country will celebrate not just Windrush 70, but the great cultural, social and economic enrichment that the Windrush generation and subsequent migrants have brought to this country.”
“Come on in, bring your records, or come and listen to some records”. So says Claudia Wilson formerly of Vinyl Records based in Reliance Arcade. It’s still there but being run by her partner.
Claudia has just opened another shop – Music – on Ferndale road right opposite the old Bon Marche building. When she remembers how it all started for her – a trolley she pulled to her stall in Brixton Market, packed with tons of records, speakers and a deck – it makes being in the new shop a pinnacle for her.
Claudia loves soul, her partner loves reggae. She laughs as she says that having separate shops means they can both indulge in their different choices.
Claudia Wilson of Pure Vinyl Records
She literally buzzes when she talks about her passion for music. The genuine passion in her voice when she talks about the young people who come into the new, much larger premises, and find they can pick a record and play it on the decks that are sitting on the shelves.
“The look on their faces when they get the opportunity to play some records is so exciting,” says Claudia.
Something she is keen to do is bring back the vibe of the old house party where you just turned up – the only requirement was to enjoy yourself. Her Valentine’s Day party was a thumping success, with people jamming the shop – “It was raining but the shop was packed”.
She has a lot of things planned for the coming months, including having a women’s sound system play, a rock and roll evening, rhythm & blues, rare groove … but she is adamant that the shop is not just for music aficionados. “I don’t play complex music, just music” As she says: “Come in everybody is welcome”.