Well, 2012 has proved to be a big one for Brixton. Good or bad, it’s all been going on, and from Olympic torches to Country Show drama, we’ve covered it all. Here, Blog co-editor Tim Dickens takes a look back at the highs and lows of 12 months in Brixton Town.
January: The start of the year came with the re-launch of Brixton Blog on January 17. The move was the culmination of months of preparation, dozens of meetings and hours of work from selfless Brixtonians. The Blog got thousands of hits in the first few weeks.
Setting a tone for some of the changes to hit Brixton Road in 2012, Costa Coffee announced their plans to open a branch in the former Sander’s Jewellery store. Garish signs heralded the chain’s advance under the high-level railway bridge. Meanwhile, Labour activists campaigned to bring Boris Bikes to Brickie. Predictably, BoJo didn’t take any notice, but we do now have a bike pump in Windrush Square.
February: The second month started with a bang, with Lambeth council announcing they had cancelled our beloved Country Show, blaming the Olympics. This bizarre decision, picked up by the Brixton Blog and Urban 75, triggered an inevitable storm of protest. Thousands signed the Brixton Blog’s petition within hours of our campaign going live, as councillors blamed the police and each other for the fiasco. Ultimately, after a PR disaster for Lambeth, leader Steve Reed was forced into an embarrassing U-turn and the Country Show was back on, in September. A huge victory for community-based journalism.
Meanwhile in February, Brixton Energy launched their first pioneering and inspiring solar power project. Brixton Beer announced their equally inspiring, but more boozy project. Lambeth council scored another own goal by taking away free bus travel from those with mental health problems. Oh, and a celebrity chef triggered a major security alert at Brixton prison.
March: The Brixton community was rocked after teenager Kwame Ofosu-Asare was brutally stabbed to death in Adelaide Close, Moorlands Estate. Kwame, from Catford, was chased into a cul de sac before being stabbed numerous times. He was an innocent victim of gang violence which still plagues south London. In December, two youths were found guilty of his murder.
The month also started with the latest raft of £30million cuts to services to be approved by Lambeth council. West Norwood foodbank opened their Brixton branch after massive demand in the area. Brixton Market businesses celebrated a small victory when they were allowed to stay open in the evening, and an unexploded WW2 bomb didn’t go bang in Acre Lane.
April: A massive explosion and fire in Camberwell locked down the area for a day, and destroyed a unique mural at the same time. But there was more to it than met the eye; three people were arrested. After months recovering from serious burns, one man was jailed for six years for making class A drugs at the workshop when the whole thing went up.
Also in the spring, the Crown and Anchor reopened as a craft beer pub, Brixton people remembered the anniversary of the nailbomb attack in Electric Avenue, and we celebrated the heroic efforts of local London Marathon survivors.
May: Another first for the high street as TK Maxx opened a store in the former Rest is Noise site, in the historic Bon Marche centre. Shoppers queued around the corner on the opening day.
Sadly, the building of the Black Cultural Archives centre, Windrush Square, was put on ice when the contractors went bust. The foodbank demonstrated how important it is by feeding 1,000 people in six months. Oh and someone spotting this naked man sunbathing atop an Acre Lane house on possibly the only sunny day of the year.
June: Better late than never, the council opened the half-a-million-pound playground in Brockwell Park in early June, though kids, teenagers and grown ups had all been using it for months by then.
Our triumphant Tigers paraded through Brickie on an open top bus, Soul II Soul came back to town to be celebrated with a plaque outside the Electric nightclub where they started their career. Elsewhere, our story about a women’s group occupying their space within Stockwell Primary School made the Evening Standard, and Sudbourne primary school began consulting on future expansion.
July: The fact that we all should have been partying at the Country Show this month was quickly forgotten as event fever struck. Lee Jasper waded into a quagmire of controversy over Brixton Splash when he threatened to name and shame Brixton businesses that hadn’t given cash to the annual street party. Jasper was forced to resign as chair of the event after a series of articles on Brixton Blog and posts on the Urban 75 forum. Never fear, though, as Jasper would be back by the end of the year to contend the Croydon North seat as a member of the Respect party.
The town was generally in a bit of a frenzy. The Blog got lost in the crowds and thousands, including Levi Roots, welcomed the torch to Windrush Square. And the council gave a green light to a £4.5million budget hotel to be perched above Barclay bank. And, er, Brixton got its very own local newspaper called the Brixton Bugle.
August: The first weekend in August was possibly the biggest of the year, with Splash, Jamaica 50 and Usain Bolt all coinciding to promote one big party. We were celebrating at Brixton Blog and Bugle too, when we secured the support of the Journalism Foundation, led by former Independent editor Simon Kelner. The financial and practical help secured the Brixton Bugle newspaper for the rest of 2012.
One Brixton estate was rocked by the discovery of popular resident Steve Simpson, whose dead body had been lying in his flat undetected for some eight weeks. His friends and neighbours blamed landlords, the Guinness Trust, for not doing enough to support him.
Lambeth council got into the Olympic spirit by locking all the adventure playgrounds after an alarming failure by providers to carry out adequate CRB checks on staff.
September: Finally, and not without tears, the Lambeth Country Show took place in beautiful Autumnal sunshine. The Blog team gave out thousands of copies of the Bugle from our stall at the heart of the event. Despite the sad selling out of Chucklehead cider, top laughs were had by all.
Tragically, Brixton was struck by yet another young man stabbed to death on the Loughborough Estate.
October: Uproar followed the front page article in Brixton Bugle. The article highlighted a suggestion that Lambeth Council was considering demolishing the iconic Recreation Centre and rebuilding it elsewhere. Brixton Rec Users Group was quickly reinstated to battle such a proposal, ending with a resounding victory as new council leader Lib Peck guaranteed the future of the Rec in Brixton.
Another massive victory was has in the shadow of the Rec at the Brixton Bolt event.
November: Another story that reached the front page of the Bugle was the exclusive news that the covered market bosses, inShops, were increasing the rent for one long-time grocers by 22 per cent. Earlier in the month we learned that the market would now stay open late for restaurant and bar trade every day of the week.
There was also controversy over late night bar Hootananny bar, in Effra Road, being told to stick to its license and not let any punters in after 11pm. Our article led to dozens of comments and a lively debate on the subject of licensing.
There was also celebration from residents at the north end of Brixton Road. Lambeth council turned down an application for a strip club, Max 2, to keep trading as a sex entertainment venue after a five-and-a-half hour meeting.
So what a year for Brixton. With more budget cuts and welfare changes to come in 2013 there will be lots of news, and the team at Brixton Blog and Bugle is brimming with ideas of how to help you read all about it.