I’m still in love with Brixton. Walking down my leafy Victorian street at slate grey 7am, two guys staggering ahead of me, drinking from a can. Turn left into Salturn Road and a couple of junkies ask me for a Rizzler “sorry mate …” Turn right past the Black Cultural Archives and they’ve got some strange garish sculpture which has replaced the glitter boxes and there are a flock of kids who are fresh out of a club draped over the concrete furniture of Windrush Square close to the Black War Heroes Memorial. One of the local schizophrenic celebrities, Marianne, middle-aged but wears several different outfits throughout the day, all variations of a childhood theme, is weaving between people walking along the high street, the SMILE busker wears a skimpy leotard, florescent body paint, his Afro hair in bunches, and dances to 70’s disco like Pans People on speed.
There is an edgy and mad side to Brixton but there is a really peaceful and contented community that just don’t mind – they’re just getting on with it. You could walk down the high street in latex rubber body suit and people wouldn’t bat an eyelid, [I know because I did back in the day … ]
In the 11th century it was known as Brixistane which means the stone of Brihtsige which was used as a meeting point for 2 different communities between the two main roads leading into the centre from the south which became the A23 and the A3 and over the years it became shortened to Brixton. Between 1860 and 1890 the area underwent huge transformation with the railway link to the centre of London and that is when we got the Electric Avenue which sweeps around from the high street to the railway station that perches high up above the arcade which has become the gentrified Village. Lots of big houses where built and by 1925 Brixton had the largest shopping area in south London.
The area was badly bombed during WWII and you can see signs of it around the streets where I live; gaps between houses and a lot of the houses fell into disrepair. It is said that Brixton was initially chosen as a destination for the immigrants from the West Indies in the 1940’s and 50’s because of the underground bunker in Stockwell.
It might have gone through a massive change in the 20 years since I’ve lived here but there’s no sign of the soul of Brixton going anywhere because to come and live in Brixton you’ve got to believe that people from different backgrounds make for an interesting life. It’s not a hippy “we can all live as one” bollox. No. There are different cultures living alongside each other respecting each other at a respectful distance.
People go on abroad to experience different foods, different smells, different languages, different social gestures and customs … I just walk into my local market. I’m not ready to leave Brixton.