Thursday, 25 December 2008

Merry Christmas

I wish a Merry Christmas to all readers of the Lurking about SE11 blog. We have the following local good news stories in honour of Christmas:

Here's a great story from the Telegraph about a one 100 year old lady, originally born in Kennington.

There's an alarming story here of a Pest Control officer who discovered a 2 ft crocodile in a house in Peckham!

There's a bright story about the father in Walworth who has decorated his estate with Christmas lights to celebrate his son's recovery from leukaemia.

Monday, 22 December 2008

Another stabbing: Tooley Street

There's been another stabbing at Tooley Street in SE1. This is of two men, one in his thirties and one in his teens, but fortunately, it is thought that neither of their lives are at risk. London-SE1 reports the rest.

Good grief. I thought that this was the season for goodwill and cheer.

Sunday, 21 December 2008

Camberwell Shooting

A 26 year old man was shot dead two nights ago (Friday 19th December) after an incident which apparently began in Coldharbour Lane, Camberwell. Police are chasing two men who apparently ran in the direction of Crawford Road.

There's not much further information on the matter. The Telegraph's report is scant. The Press Association suggests that the shooting started in Coldharbour Lane, Stockwell, but since Stockwell isn't really near Coldharbour Lane, I can only assume that they've incorrectly labelled the area.

My sympathy goes to the family of the man in question.

Thursday, 11 December 2008

Is Kennington / this area safe?

I cannot quite recall how many times I've been asked "is Kennington safe?" or "is this area safe?" or received looks of incredulity for owning up to the fact that I choose to live in SE11, but I can safely say that if I had £1 for every time I was asked, I think I'd be able to live quite happily on the proceeds.

The problem is that I don't have a good answer to the question. I've hosted numerous international students over the years, and I have several answers to this question:

1. None of London is safe in the sense that it's a large city with dark corners containing a huge number of strangers.

2. London might be safer in certain parts than some cities because of the fact that some parts are very busy.

3. The areas that I feel safe in are actually areas that have less money. Whilst Kensington or Chelsea might "feel" safer, I'm inclined to think that the risk of being mugged is higher because one actually stands a chance of finding somebody with some money on them in those areas! However, there are also locations within certain areas that I perceive to have deep pockets of poverty, and which I would consequently feel vulnerable walking at night.

This is the advice that I give to international students for living/traveling in London:

1. If you do not know the city well (particularly if you are a woman), try to travel as much as possible with somebody else until you know the area better. If you get lost, ask an older woman for help with directions.

2. Once you know an area, walk confidently and determinedly at a steady pace to wherever you're going. Do not catch peoples' eyes or stare at people, but also do not look as though you're afraid. You have as much right to be out as anybody else to be out and about during the day or night.

3. Traveling through well-lit and well-populated areas is much safer than traveling through dark side streets. I know it may be noisier, but choose to live on a main road in a property with double glazing, rather than opting for a quiet cul-de-sac in which the lighting is poor, and where people will not pass regularly.

4. Do not carry your camera/wallet/purse on display or get them out more than necessary. Keep valuables in a bag which has a zip. My top tip is to keep your oyster card separate from your wallet so that each time you go on public transport, you don't have to get your money out!

In answer to the question, "is Kennington safe?", I can only point to the Metropolitan Crime Maps here: and ask you to start burrowing into Lambeth at ward or sub ward level. Unfortunately, the maps don't appear to have been updated since October 2008, but it does give some idea of crime in the area. Most of Kennington appears to have average levels of crime for London. If you want to be really safe, you could move to Wimbledon, Richmond or Twickenham, but you'll then live in the suburbs. I'd much rather walk home alone from Kennington tube than have to catch a late night overground train back to Twickenham.

Oh, and I don't think the shooting/knifing headlines are useful to judge how safe an area is because knife crime/gun crime does appear to be particularly targeted upon those involved in drugs/turf wars.

Tuesday, 2 December 2008

John Bull Centre: This year's best kept secret

I was delighted to read recently that a new centre for the LGBT community was due to open in Vauxhall, SE11. The scene has long been dominated by clubs under railway arches, and to be honest, the "L", "B" and "T" provision in the area might be said to be, errr, non-existent. Still, in these days of post-Thatcherist politics, everything is led by the market, so one just has to wait for queer minorities to make some money...

The John Bull Centre is to be opened on Tyre Street (in the old pub of the same name), after having received funding from a local entrepreneur, Adrian Flack, who has also decided that the scene lacks a heart, and wanted to put something in place. Flack is quoted in the Pink Paper as saying:

“We have a gay village, but it doesn’t have a heart. Yes, I could’ve opened the place as another club, but there’s a definite need for a focus for our community. Since the press release yesterday, the response has been amazing.“ The opening of the centre will provide the LGBTV and TG with a dedicated community
centre in Vauxhall.”

The press-release, which I discovered here, notes that the centre was due to open on 8th November, and the coffee shop on the 1st December.

After my initial delight, I peered more deeply into the ways in which the centre was to fund itself. Unfortunately, it seems that for a large portion of the time it will be open, it's going to exist as another club. The John Bull Centre website suggests that during the following times, it will host the Play Pit club:

Thursday: 9:00pm - 2:00am
Friday/Saturday: 9:00pm - 3:00am
Sunday: 3:00pm - midnight

I suppose that some form of club promotion was to be expected, but I was vaguely hoping that the community space might be more accessible in the evenings for LGBT people who don't have any interest in clubbing. On the plus side, it does have a coffee shop:

Monday - Friday: 8:00am - 5:00pm
Saturday: 12:00 noon - 5:00pm

It would be really good to hear some comments from anybody that has actually dropped by. Disco Damaged has a review from the Play Pit clubbing point of view of the opening night, but I'd like to hear comments from anybody that visited in a broader social capacity.

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