Too busy gallivanting in Europe and Asia, it’s been a while since we took to the streets of London with a commitment to capturing its heart and soul. So it was a welcomed surprise when New Amsterdam Vodka, a new premium vodka imported from the US, threw us back into the familiar streets to capture not one but two transitory London districts for their new campaign. #ItsYourTown is ultimately a celebration of your city, from a brand that’s all about modern city nightlife. Peckham was our first stop, and whether it’s constructed by episodes of Only Fools and Horses, Giggs lyrics or your “trendy” friends anecdotes, everyone has a picture of this South London district. So what is it really like?
A community of often underprivileged and culturally diverse individuals steeped in history and brimming with stories of what once was and now is? An on the rise hub buzzing with creativity, nightlife and opportunity? Or flat whites, soda bread pastrami sandwiches and droves of young middle class 90’s babies who previously wouldn’t have come within a mile of the area but now want house each and every weekend? What defines and encapsulates Peckham in 2015?
As always, there are varying subjective views and none should be taken any more seriously than another, everyone’s lived experience is different. As Dipo eloquently put it when writing the Brixton London’s Portrait, ‘this feature will not attempt to take a side. The beauty of a portrait is that it is not meant to be the start of a debate, it is in fact: a snapshot of time.” It seems perfect then that we take a snapshot at this moment, as New Amsterdam Vodka encourages one to embrace the new spirit of your town, rather than reject it.
To some, Peckham understandably provides an exciting and previously unexplored nightlife spot. The CLF Art Cafe or The Bussey Building as most know it, constantly grows in popularity and is a welcomed alternative to the pretentious, dress coded and indiscernible West End clubs. Its multiple unpolished and unrefined floors play host to every possible musical genre, allowing for no discrimination as to who can come along and shake a leg. Yep, even the much loved shufflers make an appearance, fortunately the closest Nando’s for them to get cheeky in is in Camberwell. The building is a positive symbol in the area, ‘[CLF] are currently working on the launch of it’s own film and television company, record label, as well as finally resuming work on it’s global plans to make positive change permanent.’
For some, a half forgotten night at The Bussey Building or Frank’s Cafe, an undeniably enigmatic rooftop bar on top of a multi-story carpark on Rye Lane, may be all they know of the area. Quite frankly (no pun intended), if you’ve taken the time to find Frank’s for the first time you may not have any left to explore further. Enter the flat whites and soda bread pastrami sandwiches, which if you’re familiar with the haunts of East London will be appear to be nothing new to the city.
These coffee shops, restaurants and bars all share a nonchalant atmosphere, laid back team and the offer of something “different”, which could be said to make one no different from the next. Partner this with the fact that they’re regularly frequented by today’s trendiest of cultural tribes and such places become easy to parody.
The counter argument to this is that there’s a good reason people stand over a table to Instagram their order in these places. You can get a really good coffee, a delicious baked treat, heartily cooked food and terribly fun cocktails, they’re trendy for a reason. Mock the customer base all you want for their style choices or Twitter profile credentials but you’re guaranteed to find interesting characters with a diverse range of backgrounds. Perhaps the problem is not with the places but our tendency to judge them before immersing ourselves in them, judging people before making conversation with them.
Besides, not all independent businesses are focused on organic goods and coffee. The celebrated no frills independent cinema Peckhamplex has been a fixture of the area for almost as long as many new inhabitants have been alive. £4.99 for a ticket is less than I’d pay with a collection of vouchers and an old student card at most cinema chains.
#ItsYourTown is all about embracing the ‘new’ in your town, even if it’s like the drastic changes we’ve seen in Peckham – one of London’s most cultured and iconic areas. So, if people want to Snapchat, Instagram and tweet their location to make themselves appear and feel a little cooler, a little more trendy and in the know, let them. We’ve all done it, it’s become a part of the culture we live in, and you can choose to acknowledge or ignore it. Ultimately people are just looking to have a good time, so spread and embrace good vibes wherever you venture to in London, Peckham being no exception.
We have a passion for our city, and our portrait of London will continue to grow. Check in next week to see where we hit up next.
“#ItsYourTown is a mini series from New Amsterdam Vodka capturing real-world commentary from some of the UK’s most buzzing party towns – London, Manchester, Birmingham and Glasgow. Gather your tribe and share your town on your terms at #ItsYourTown.”