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Boris Johnson recently compared the Irish border to the border between Camden and Islington - so obviously London boroughs are now more important than ever! Much like America we take the words of an unconvincing blonde very seriously at Don’t Panic. But, in a way, he's right. London boroughs have now become something more than just areas of a city, they've become microcosms of the polis, ghettos for each type of Londoner to inhabit, populate and illustrate…don’t panic, this is the only mention of Joris Bohnson in this piece.

 

Here at Don’t Panic Online we wanted to celebrate all the colourful realms of our great city. We want to reflect the diversity of London by highlighting compelling community stories from around the capitol. Each month we’ll study a different district; finding out what they have to offer, their histoy and how they contribute to London as a whole. This month we’re starting our journey with one of South London's comeback kids - Peckham.

 

'Peckham' is a Saxon place name meaning the village of the River Peck, a small stream that ran through the district until it was enclosed in 1823. Back in the eighteenth century Peckham was known as a small market town, producing figs, melons and grapes. At the beginning of the nineteenth century Peckham was a 'small, quiet, retired village surrounded by fields'. Fast-forward to twenty years ago and Peckham had become a bit booky, until it received £290million in regeneration money which gave the area the boost it needed to thrive. But enough with the command c’ing from Wikipedia, here's a personal story of Peckham’s journey, from no-go zone to area of forever homes.

 

This summer I attended a humanist wedding set in a verdant glebe, under a meteor shower in which I knew no one (well one person). Set in rural Hampshire I sought out fellow Londoners, I think I gravitated toward their air of urbanitas and their mismatched suits. We were discussing our homeland at length, focusing on my quest for new rented accomodation. Whilst debating provinces of South London I said that we hoped to move to Peckham but it was probably out of our price range, to which the Peckham native family replied ‘I didn’t realise that Peckham had become aspirational’.

 

And so it has. Blame it on the art kids or blame it on gentrification, Peckham’s allure has grown exponentially in recent years. For better or worse it’s become one of the nerve centres of South London, Nike has even name-checked the ends in their latest film celebrating what makes London, London - Londoners. And so they should, Peckham is one of the most ethnically diverse areas of the UK and diversity is an integral part of London culture. It’s also host to a thriving art scene due to its proximity to Camberwell College of Arts, it’s nightlife is second to none thanks to new developments like Peckham Levels as well as old favourites like the Greyhound.

In 1767 William Blake visited Peckham Rye and had a vision of an angel in a tree. Nowadays, you’re probably more likely to find a William wondering from Bussey Building seeing visions of fried chicken but hey, there's still poetry in that. And in the same vane we will be finding poetry and beauty in stories from Rye Lane to Queens Road and beyond this month so stay tuned!

 

March also marks the start of international Women's History Month, which seeks to highlight the contributions of women to events in history and contemporary society. So whilst we interview and interrogate Peckham locals along the route of the 37 we’ll also be finding inspiring women’s stories from across London to celebrate a month that has long been overlooked.

 
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Ronan Smith
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