Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Bermondsey Beach is now on Twitter and Instagram!

For updates on events in the Bermondsey area, follow us on Twitter @BermondseyBeach

Now we are also sharing photographs and images of Bermondsey on Instagram, @BermondseyBeach

We look forward to taking a stroll with you along Bermondsey Beach!

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Pawnbrokers and Payday Loans

"Lend me a tenner, I'll give you back £300":  Are the practises of the payday loan industry manipulating ordinary people?

To the average Bermondsey man or woman with a brain (and that is the majority of us living in SE1 and SE16), a proposition like this seems to be complete madness! We think ourselves too sensible to fall for betting scams on the South Bank or the 'charms' of Bermondsey beggars, some of whom can intimidate and threaten.  Many of us are even reluctant to lend a fiver to a work colleague or acquaintance! But, borrowing a hundred pounds from a payday lender at rates of up to 3000% APR interest seems to be an old trick that residents of the 'royal' borough are falling for, possibly  in their thousands, day after day. Although this is nothing new, the payday lending and pawnbroking industry could be using subtle manipulative practises to convince us to 'take a penny and part with 30'. 

Before the local payday lenders, many of whom operate under the guise of pawnbrokers, get too hot and bothered on this the hottest day of the year so far, let's look at the dictionary definition of the word 'manipulate':
1.  To handle, treat or use skilfully
2. To manage (a person, situation, etc.) to one's own advantage, esp. unfairly or unscrupulously.
Our proposition is that the people being 'managed' are the good folk of Bermondsey, especially those living in the most deprived areas.  But, shouldn't we all accept personal responsibility?

Our Superhero? 'Captain Pawn' on Southwark Park Road

Decades ago, families in Bermondsey and across London used the local pawnbroker to help them out when times were financially tight.  The service provided was, in effect, a loan, sometimes taken out using an item of clothing or furniture as collateral.  Of course, interest rates would have been higher than borrowing from a bank, but then as today the working man or woman on low wages has always lost out when it comes to loans.  As my great-grandmother experienced, pawning an item was generally done to raise money to feed the family or pay the rent, in the absence of state benefits.  Things are very different today.
The warmly and innocently named 'Money Shop' on Tower Bridge Road
(local wishes and those of councillors were recently overturned by allowing this 'shop' to open)
 As well including paying for essentials like electricity and food, people take out payday loans for a plethora of reasons including: covering emergency expenses; failing to obtain a bank or building society loan; reducing other debt; supplementing wages, overdrafts or student loans; paying for holidays, presents & entertainment; feeding alcohol and drug habits; children 'needing' extra spending money.  In a society with higher living standards than at any point in our history, something is going very wrong.

Albemarle Bond moved recently from The Blue to a more prominent location on Southwark Park Road

Planning committees and governments have been too slow to act on the problem, allowing knowingly the ballooning of the industry from £900million to £2.2 billion from 2008 - 2012 according to The Guardian.  This is another example of the 'middle-class-muck-about' in action: too much talk, not enough action and as a direct result, the suffering of the less well off.
'Albermarle Bond' has been sticking flyers under car windscreen wipers in SE16
Language and communication is at the heart of the problem.  The payday loan industry has rebranded themselves as kind, friendly, amusing, gentle and patriotic.  In advertising, they use warm yet cantankerous puppets of elderly people to persuade us to sign on the dotted line.  Party atmospheres are created outside their high street shops, with balloons and music.  Exorbitant interest rates are justified and the extent of their damage minimized in lenders' publicity.  The biggest provider, Wonga has recently sponsored television shows, London Transport and now even Newcastle United football club.  Payday UK even cites its 'great rates' as a reason to apply - unbelievable!  The industry is guilty of spinning on a scale that even Peter Mandleson couldn't have thought possible - and he was the master!  And yet, many lenders are open, upfront and honest about their rates and repayment schedules.  So, why do we still turn to them increasingly in our droves?  

Betty, Earl and Joyce: Wonga's front of house team
(Image Copyright the sun.co.uk)

 Three reasons: necessity, excess and greed.  While the first of these is understandable, those who are less well-off must be encouraged to use credit unions and their families to assist with saving and borrowing; in addition, the Citizens Advice Bureau at The Blue Market on Southwark Park Road provides excellent advice for those struggling on a budget.  The rest of us must learn and practise my great-grandmother's long-lost skills of saving, living within our means and going without what we cannot afford.  It's time for Bermondsey to shut down this con-trick loan shark industry - regulation and tinkering around the edges simply will not do.
Other articles
'Payday loans: The industry on numbers'
A student's experience:
Top 10 reasons to choose a 'PaydayUK' payday loan

Thursday, 13 June 2013

Abbey Street bridge reopens, but south Bermondsey loses the C10 bus

This is a modern day tale of 'North and South' - Bermondsey divided by a bus route.

Residents living in the northern half of Bermondsey will be pleased to know that the refurbishment of the Abbey Street railway bridge is almost complete.  After nearly three months, the road blocks have been removed and the scaffolding taken down, revealing a rather attractive and royally blue bridge.

Cars, vans and trucks have been diverted along Enid Street and Spa Road, causing disruption for many, including those making their journeys on the much used C10 bus route.  But, the wait was worth it. 

Metal netting under the bridge should prevent birds from nesting and spattering the ground with remnants of their 'midday lunch'. The freshly painted pillars lining both sides of the road enhance the public realm, while the steel safety bollards create a modern feel to the Victorian construction.

But, as the C10 bus trundles once more under the bridge, spare a thought for those who live and work in south BermondseySouthwark Park Road and 'The Blue' market were well-served, albeit temporarily, by the C10 diversion.  Buses transporting them to Borough and Victoria have been snatched quietly away while they were sleeping.

Of course, the C10 has rightly returned to its usual route passing Bermondsey Spa and serving the Jamaica Road community.  But, this has highlighted the poorer transport provision for south BermondseyTransport for London must now review the frequency and capacity on bus route number 1, which is frequently a standing-room only cattle truck.  Fighting for and getting better transport at 'The Blue' would surely be a vote winner with local people.

So, thank you Network Rail for doing your best to create a better Bermondsey, but more must be done.  By the way, don't forget to steam clean the pavements and install new lighting to make pedestrians feel safer at night.

Bermondsey Spa Gardens:
We bloomin' love it!

In the words of Oscar Hammerstein from Oscar and Hammerstein's 1945 musical 'Carousel', "June is bustin' out in Bermondsey!"

While these lyrics were not written in their entirety by Mr Hammerstein, there is no doubt that both Nettie Fowler and Julie Jordan, if not even the reformed Billy Bigelow, would have understood the sentiment behind this 'Bermondsey' appendage.

The range of flora and fauna within Bermondsey Spa Gardens is a beauty to behold: roses of a wide spectrum of colours and scents; incredible indigo blue irises; hoards of hanging baskets bursting with flowers of all shades of pink.

Bermondsey Spa Gardens was totally revamped as part of the award winning Spa development, opening to the public in early 2006.  The park is so special that it was awarded the prestigious 'Green Flag Award' five times: in 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012.

For those who don't know this Bermondsey gem, it contains: unique stone seating, lighting, a toddlers' play area, a multi-use games facility, a dog walking area, a 333m running track and the Ellen Brown Bermondsey Play Centre - and for afters, coffee and muffins at the park café  are reasonably priced and said to be very moreish.  It's a place for relaxation, contemplation and meditation - or, simply perfect for sun-worshipping of the 'tops-off' Bermondsey variety!

So, let's all hope and pray for a summer to end all summers.  I know where and how I'll be spending most of mine: Bermondsey-style in one of the finest parks in London town.

Why?  Just because it's June, June, June!

                                            'June is bustin' out all over' from Carousel

Location: Bermondsey Spa Gardens, Spa Road, Bermondsey, London SE16

Car and bike parking: Along Spa Road.

Buses: 1, 78 Grange Road or 42, 188, 78 from Tower Bridge Road.

Map and Information:


Tuesday, 11 June 2013

The Bermondsey Review - Coffee and Cream Cafe, SE16

A strong Americano with fresh croissant can be very hard to find in the British Antarctic Territory – the same can easily be said for the more metropolitan former maritime territory of Surrey Quays.  Unlike the neighbouring ‘borough’ of Bermondsey, which is fortunate to boast a smorgasbord of cafés and restaurants, finding lunch in Rotherhithe can be a chore to say the least.  So, it was with great thirst and ravenous curiosity that we made our way along Bermondsey Beach and arrived at ‘Coffee and Cream’, the new café forming part of the impressive, if a little off the beaten track, Greenland Dock community.

A video rental outlet in a former life, this shop had lain dormant for over two years, before an entrepreneurial duo decided that its fortune lay in coffee rather than DVDs. 
Inside, the overall theme of the décor works well given the compactness of the café: bold whitewashed walls, an inviting shiny red counter and trendy (if a little uncomfortable) black half-cylinder shaped chairs. Each table was decorated with a lightly scented pink tulip and tasteful red and black coasters.

 (Photo used with kind permission)
Selina, one of the partners in the enterprise, gave every customer a warm and genuine welcome: it was refreshing to receive a decent service with a smile.  The menu at ‘Coffee and Cream’ includes: coffees, teas, milkshakes, smoothies, patisserie, baguettes, salad and a rather mouth-watering breakfast menu, including a ‘full English’ for us more discerning Bermondsey customers!

(photo used with kind permission)
Lasagne and salad with olives is an easy meal to get wrong, but this offering was truly delicious. While the portions were a little smaller than expected after our trek across Bermondsey Beach, the rich creamy sauce oozed over the layers of fresh pasta and soon melted in the mouth.  (One small point: although served with love and care, the coffees would have quenched better our thirst if they been a few degrees warmer).
(Photo used with kind permission)
In addition to the menu, ‘Coffee and Cream’ offer an interesting range of speciality food products to take-away including juices, preserves, crackers, pastas, sauces and old-fashioned confectionery, sure to be a hit with the local quayside families.  The café also displays art and is currently exhibiting a selection of rather fine photographs taken in Turkey and France, a precursor to their first exhibition planned for the evening of 20th June.
(Image used with kind permission)
'Coffee and Cream' fills a rather large hole in the area's collective stomach, and does so with style and panache.  So, why not follow Selina and her friends on twitter @originalyummie.  Better still, pop in and sample her simple yet rather fine menu – oh, and on your way out, pick up a bag of spicy pasta sauce, and some bonbons to suck on as you catch the C10 bus back home to Bermondsey Beach.
Coffee and Cream, 12 Russell Place, London SE16 7PL
Nearest station: Surrey Quays (Overground)
Twitter: @originalyummie
Telephone: 020 7252 2865
Buses: 1, 47, 381, P12, C10

Friday, 7 June 2013

Chambers Wharf: The New Battle of Bermondsey

Last night saw the reassembling of an army: strong, proud and ready to do battle.  As the troops gathered outside London's City Hall to the backdrop of Brazilians dancing to the steady beat of Samba & Zouk in More London's 'Scoop', a palpable sense of victory could be felt on this most unlikely of battlefields.  The war is against Thames Water, owned since 2007 by Australian-based Macquarie Group, over their plans to use the Chambers Wharf site on Bermondsey Wall West as a main drilling and reception site for the much needed Thames 'super sewer'.  Tonight's battle at City Hall was more of a military exercise, where resources were employed in preparation for the next stage in their military operations: the meeting with the planning inspectorate.

When over 100 members of the local community attend such a meeting in a very small, stiflingly hot room in the bowels of Boris' boudoir, you know that that they mean business.  This new Battle of Bermondsey was fronted by a united coalition: Simon Hughes MP, Peter John Leader of Southwark Council, Val Shawcross Member of the London Assembly, Wendy Mortimer-Lee Head teacher of neighbouring Riverside Primary School and a representative from the 'Save Your Riverside' group (SYRG).  Their main argument is that there is a far more suitable drilling site at Abbey Mills in east London: it is owned by Thames Water and would not affect so detrimentally the local community.

The original Abbey Mills Pumping Station
The impact on the proposed Bermondsey site in terms of pollution, noise, health & increased traffic was described as unacceptable by many in the meeting.  The headteacher went much further in an emotional statement, stating her fear that the works would turn the area into a 'battle ground', with children at increased risk from road traffic accidents. Furthermore, she believes that children's futures would be damaged because constant noise from the site would affect their concentration during lesson time.  Can these Bermondsey children really put up with this for up to 10 years?

So, who does Thames Water plan will pay for this decade of works?  Well, interestingly enough, not them.  According to Simon Hughes MP, the company appears to have run down its asset base over the years and returned the money to shareholders.  This has 'forced' Thames Water into going Bermondsey cap-in-hand to the state to ask them for additional funding.  In addition, Thames Water customers from Canada Water to Cirencester will see an increase in perpetuity on their water bills of £80 per year - so much for reducing the burden on the state through privatisation.
Thames Water bills set to increase by £80 per year

Despite two years of objections from SYRG, Thames Water have not altered their position. Work is due to begin in 2016 and SYRG have appointed an expert legal team, the cost of which paid for through fund-raising.  The good news is that there is a cross-party consensus against the proposals; indeed, politicians from all persuasions were positively beaming at tonight's meeting, in sharp contrast to the average Southwark council meeting, which can often feel quite threatening.
What can we do to support the Battle?  Visit the website and sign the petition.  Follow SYRG on Twitter.  Write to Simon Hughes and express your opposition.  Make a donation to 'Save your Riverside'.  Attend the next series of public meetings.  This is a call to arms.  This is the Battle of Bermondsey.  So, choose your 'weapon', pick it up and fight for your local community.

Actor Patrick Stewart outlines the objections

Twitter: @saveurriverside



Wednesday, 5 June 2013

"God save our gracious Queen!
Long live our noble Queen! God save the Queen!": 60 years 'on the job'

Yesterday, Her Majesty the Queen and His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh were joined by their family, civic dignitaries, friends and vast numbers of well-wishers to celebrate the gargantuan achievement of 60 years since the coronation in 1953.

The Queen arriving at Westminster Cathedral (BBC)

We at Bermondsey Beach echo their great joy and sentiment, as we wish to express our thanks and loyal gratitude to the Queen and her consort for over half a century of public service; to many in Bermondsey she has been quite simply (in the words of Prince Philip) our 'strength and stay'.

St Edward's Crown used at the 1953 coronation (BBC)

At this, those of us with shorter memories may laugh, mock or sneer.  But, those who lived through World War II have a deeper understanding of the importance of having a constant and recognisable head of state: a figurehead, guide and safe harbour for the hopes and fears of a nation.  She is known around the world, and is well loved and respected, especially here in Bermondsey, for her tireless devotion to her people, as well as the many kindnesses that she has shown to others.  Never a complaint or dour face.  Always a warm, friendly greeting and the sense that you are the only person in the room talking to her.  Your majesty, take heart from the fact that we here in the 'royal' borough are right behind you, stalwartly supporting you every step of the way.

Dee, the Pearly Queen of Bermondsey (flikr.com)

Judging by the masses of bunting and union flags decking the fences and bushes of the Age Concern centre on Southwark Park Road, the staff and the much cherished older Bermondsey residents agree that 60 years on the job is a marvellous achievement and one that needed to be celebrated - with a good old Bermondsey knees-up!  The centre is drop in service for people over 55 providing a wide range of services and social activities.  Staff work tirelessly to improve physical and mental wellbeing - like the Queen, they know that activity is the key to good health and longevity.  Old friendships are rekindled and new ones forged here.  The centre provides exactly the sort of local service that Bermondsey can be proud of.

So, put out your flags this and every week: without fear, shame or prejudice.  Don't listen to the middle-class über-elite playing their dangerous game of 'middle-class-muck-about'Patriotism is not racism, it is a natural spirit of life that lives within each and every one of us, giving us hope, unity and a sense of togetherness.  Ignore them when they criticise and berate us for flying our union flags with heart-swelling pride: we will wave them on the beaches; we will fly them on the foreshore; we will raise them on our land; we will drape them over our balconies: we will never be ashamed of our Queen and our beautiful flag - and neither will those partying hard on the job at the Age Concern centre.  Fly the union flag; play loudly the national anthem; and shout with great gusto, "God save the Queen!".


Age Concern
Yalding Centre
95 Southwark Park Road

SE16 3TY
Telephone: 020 7237 0860
Website: www.acls.org.uk/healthylivingcentre
Twitter: @age_uk

'God Save the Queen':



Age UK Coronation Memories:


Tuesday, 4 June 2013

The Bermondsey Review: Exterior Art, Salmon Youth Centre, Old Jamaica Road, SE16

Bermondsey is bursting with talent of all shapes and sizes: dancers, musicians and bands, actors and even landscape gardeners!  But, one of the jewels in Bermondsey's crown is the art produced by its local artists: paintings, sketches, installations and prints.  From the often weird, wonderful and slightly etherial work displayed by Emin, Hirst and their friends at the White Cube on Bermondsey Street, to the pared down minimalism of its excellent micro-cousin at West Lane South.  From the much more down to earth galleries and outreach projects displaying at CGP galleries in Southwark Park, to the wonderful world of the SoBo cafe gallery on Tower Bridge Road, where a warm welcome is guaranteed.  Bermondsey, and indeed the London Borough of Southwark, is blessed with expressions of creativity in many forms.

The recent installation on the exterior wall of the Salmon Youth Centre on Old Jamaica Road, is much more challenging and controversial than some might expect from a centre run for and by Bermondsey young people.  It is exciting, bold, proud and downright BermondseyLike a fisherman, it hooks you when you least expect it, and reels you in drawing you closer and closer to a deeper understanding of what is happening to you.

If the quiet bustle of young people outside of the centre most weeknights is anything to go by, an evening spent at the Salmon Youth Centre must be good one!  As one of the pieces (created by art tutor in residence Eugene Ankomah with help from the young people) states, Salmon gives a 'place and purpose for young people': a noble goal indeed.

The work can be interpreted on a spectrum from thought provoking to quietly provocative.  Young people have been affected in many ways by the spending of previous governments and the recession-based cuts of the current.  This work needs to be seen and understood in these and other contexts, by Bermondsey Spa residents and those further afield.

Up there with the best exhibitions, this one is absolutely free.  It can be viewed at any time of day or night; alone or with friends; on the way to work, college or when skipping or scootering along to nursery school.  These Bermondsey young people have produced art that is not pretentious, and that sends a clear set of messages to the world around them.

Find out more at:

Salmon Youth Centre
43 Old Jamaica Road
SE16 4TE

Tel: 020 7237 3788
Online: www.salmoncentre.co.uk/contact
Email: info@salmonyouthcentre.org
Twitter: @salmonyouth