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Both a home-grown marketplace and a hipster haven, Brixton Village is home to butchers, bakers, even candle-stick makers.
Comprising Granville Arcade, Reliance Arcade, and Market Row the Village is the breeding ground of a thriving restaurant scene serving up world foods from India, East Asia, Africa, South America, and the Caribbean, and houses a number of eclectic businesses selling everything from vegan cupcakes to hand-made clothing.
Originally built in the ‘20s and ‘30s the arcades were sold off in 2007 but later became heritage listed, acknowledged as integral structures in Brixton’s cultural and socio-economic landscape, and particularly as an Afro Caribbean community hub during the 1950s.
In 2009 a social enterprise property company took over Granville Arcade, most of which was empty at the time and offered temporary rent-free leases in a bid to fill the retail spaces and kick-start the wave of independent shops and eateries that followed. While initially successful a series of disputes with landlords over rising rent costs inevitably followed.
Now traders at Brixton Village have joined forces, forming a new Community Interest Company (CIC), which aims to protect their interests and allow the group to communicate and operate as a united front.
The CIC, which will be represented by Brixton Pound, will aim to clarify regulations and improve the standards set by landlords InShops.
Membership to the group is available to all traders and carries no joining fees, engagement manager for Brixton Pound, Jamey Fisher said, adding that Brixton Pound does not have the authority to make decisions and is merely a third party hired to speak for the group.
“The traders are busy running their shops and restaurants. We just try to advocate on their behalf and resolve situations for them so they can be more streamlined and work together more effectively,” Ms Fisher said.
The traders are still identifying the key issues they need addressed, however negotiating individual rental rates will not fall under the CIC’s jurisdiction, Ms Fisher said. One of the first orders of business will be outlining the specific details of the service charges that traders pay on a monthly or annual basis. “We’ll also be looking at pest control and security issues because there’s been a few break-ins recently,” Ms Fisher said. The market’s inconsistent opening hours is another factor top on the agenda.
Along with protecting the economic interest of the indoor traders, the CIC will aim to maintain the cultural balance and diversity of the market, Ms Fisher said.
“The traders are keen for a balance between the different kinds of things the market has always had; the newer traders still want to make sure it stays the kind of place that they were originally drawn to,” she said.
Brixtonites tend to be particularly loyal towards their local area and businesses, Ms Fisher said. “People have either been here a long time or they’ve moved here more recently but they don’t just want to live in Brixton, they want to be a part of it and be invested in the community, and so much of Lambeth is like that.”
This is reflected in the Brixton pound’s continuing growth; there are now more than 1000 electronic accounts set up using the local currency. To encourage spending within the local area, people who upload money into their Brixton Pound account via bank transfer receive ten percent extra while Lambeth council employees can also allocate a percentage of their salary to be paid in Brixton pounds. Anyone requiring assistance in setting up an account can contact staff at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Meanwhile plans to introduce a Lambeth Pound are currently in the early stages, Ms Fisher revealed. “Our overall goal is to make sure community currencies are available across Lambeth and we’re doing consultations with the BID areas but it’ll be a case of whether or not this is something the business owners want,” she said.
The council’s Community Currencies and Action group is also investigating using the technology behind the Brixton pound as a possible e-currency platform to allow businesses to business trading, similar to the Swiss Wir, which was created in the early ‘30s in response to the Great Depression.
“It essentially means that businesses could trade without money involved and use surplus stock. For example, a trader could put in the value of fourteen hours of painting or ten kilograms of apples into a bank and then be able to take something else to that value in return,” she explained.
“This is a really simple way to use old ideas to support a modern economy,” she said.
Plans will be discussed further over the next six months.