I didn’t know Camberwell at all when I first moved here in 2009. In fact I’d only visited once, by mistake. I was getting the bus home to Brixton from Clapham after a night out at Infernos. I hadn’t been living in London long and didn’t realise the bus route didn’t go past Brixton station, the landmark I was looking out for. Before I knew it I was on Camberwell Church Street, cold and upset as I tried to navigate my way back home.
Jump forward 12 years and I’ve lived here longer than I’ve permanently lived anywhere else. I’m so glad I opted to take that room on Vicarage Grove when I was kicked (and priced) out of Brixton. Frequently when I tell people I live in Camberwell I have to explain where it is in relation to the nearest tube stations (south of Elephant and Castle and east of Oval) as not being on the tube map seems to mean it doesn’t exist. I’ll admit, the fact there was no tube was a concern for me when I first moved here. I’m now an advocate for the amazing bus network in these parts, and I’ve saved so much money by not getting the tube everyday.
It’s not just a great transport hub though. Camberwell is an extremely creative place to live, which is no real surprise when it’s the home to Camberwell College of Arts. It’s also the home of one of the first and longest running arts festivals in the UK, Camberwell Arts, which was founded in 1994.
In 2019, Camberwell Arts, the Camberwell Society and SE5 Forum for Camberwell joined forces to develop a new identity to reflect the vibrant community. It was launched in January 2020 and can now be seen on display throughout the streets of Camberwell. Just yesterday I was lucky enough to see Lionel Stanhope painting a new mural with the Camberwell branding and I can’t wait to see it finished.
I’ve made the most of the Camberwell Arts’ annual festival over the years to learn more about the creative people who live and work in the area via events, exhibitions and open studios, which has been eye opening. It was alongside one of those festivals that the legendary Organoke was born, for which I’m now heavily involved in promoting via social media – if you’ve ever been, you’ll have seen me singing and dancing around St Giles church filming and taking photos to share on Instagram and Facebook. Hopefully this Christmas we’ll all be dancing in the aisles together again.
Over the past year of course, we’ve all had to get creative with our lives and Camberwell Arts has got creative too. After going online with their summer and winter events in 2020, they’ve brought art back to the streets of Camberwell with a lockdown exhibition displaying work by local artists in the windows of various businesses. I think I’ve seen them all now and it’s a really interesting mix. Unfortunately due to the light and reflections the photos below don’t do them all justice, so if you’re in the area it’s worth wandering down to check them out. You can click through for the full image of each.
More information about the work and the artists is available on the Camberwell Arts’ website.
Getting to know you, getting to know all about you
I’ve got to know Camberwell so much better as I’ve explored the streets and parks on my daily walks to break up the monotony of lockdown life. I’ve seen so much creativity from residents spreading much needed joy. Even now, 11 months in, I’m still spotting things I’ve not seen before.
My current favourite is the wise donkey who resides in a window on Camberwell Grove. Every day there is new thought for passers by to contemplate. I don’t know if it’s been there since the first lockdown, but it’s now something I’m going to always look out for when nearby or purposely head out to see on those days when I may not have a reason to leave the flat.
Yesterday’s quote really resonated with me:
“Insane people are always sure that they are fine. It is only the sane people who are willing to admit that they are crazy.”Nora Ephron
Want to get to know Camberwell a bit better? The A-Z of Camberwell, as voted for by local residents in 2020, is a great place to start.