When you think of East and West London you don’t necessarily think of Dalston and Brixton as places to go to during the weekend. It’s a real shame, as these two neighbourhoods are brimming with authenticity and creativity. As city “curators”, we often get inspired by the unexpected, and would like others to be as excited as we are by what Dalston and Brixton offer (especially its food trends and live music), thanks to their amazing diversity.
As soon as you exit from the Dalston Junction underground, you face the famous Dalston Lane mural painted in 1985 by Ray Walker, inspired by the 1983 Hackney Peace Carnival. Brixton also has several murals including the Big Splash mural by Christine Thomas (off Acre Lane on the junction of Strathleven road and Glenelg road) and “Nuclear Dawn” (1981) by Brian Barnes near the market on Coldharbour Lane.
Both neighbourhoods have an important African and Caribbean community. Very close to Brixton station, you will come across Brixton’s main square called ‘Windrush Square’ in commemoration of the first wave of immigrants (around 500) who arrived from Jamaica in 1948 at Tilbury Docks on a boat called ‘the Empire Windrush’. As a result of the losses during the war, the British encouraged mass immigration from the countries of the British Empire and to fill shortages in the labour market. In June of this year, a new African-Caribbean heritage Centre will open on the square, which will surely attract many visitors who want to learn more about this important community.
In terms of food markets, both neighborhoods have very active markets. Ridley Road market in Dalston sells vegetables, fish and meat at very decent prices and it is the kind of environment where a woman from the Caribbean standing with you in the queue will share her favourite recipes while you are waiting. Brixton outdoor market sells the same types of products but is bigger and more diversified. It also specializes in selling a mix of African, Carribean, South American, and Asian products. Built in the 1880s, it was the first market street to be lit by electricity, hence the name of “electricity” avenue. Brixton indoor markets are becoming the place for foodies with Brixton Village (entrances through Atlantic road, Coldharbour Lane and Pope’s Road) and Market Row both offering an amazing range of cafés, restaurants, food shops and eclectic design/clothing shops. It is a great place also to go to during the week, as they stay open quite late (especially on Thursdays).
Brixton was a shopping mecca in the 1900s and still enjoys the presence of beautiful Victorian buildings. Bon Marché’s first store opened in Brixton in 1877, the first purpose built department store in the country. Morley’s, along with a number of other similar stores, created the reputation of Brixton being one of the best shopping areas in South London. Both Brixton and Dalston enjoy independent cinemas: the Ritzy Picturehouse in Brixton is a beautiful cinema located in a Victorian building on the main square with a great outdoor terrace. In Dalston, the Rio Cinema on Kingsland high street features a beautiful Grade II-listed art deco building.
London is ever changing, and it is fascinating and exciting to go on ‘discoveries’ of neighbourhoods that are just going through changes. As Architect Alvaro Siza brilliantly stated in the recent exhibition “Sensing Spaces “at the Royal Academy. “In a city the atmosphere is all around you and is ever changing…Time is a great architect.”
Contact us to arrange for a Dalston or a Brixton Discovery event.
A few addresses:
Beyond Retro: Stoke Newington Road, London, N16 7XB (huge vintage shop and café in the former Turkish community centre)
L’Atelier Dalston: 31 Stoke Newington Road, N16 8BJ (coffee room, restaurant with a very nice atmosphere)
Café OTO: 18-22 Ashwin Street (café/live music at night)
Federation Coffee: Brixton Village Market, Units 77-78, SW9 8PS (great choice of coffees and homemade cakes)
Snugg: 74 Brixton Village, 5th Avenue, SW9 8PS (opened by former staff of Ottolenghi and Honey & Co)
Wildcaper, Unit 11A (Market Row), SW9 8JB (salads, sandwiches, freshly baked pastries. Sourdough bread is excellent!)