The Camberwell Society

Society for those living, working or interested in Camberwell

Land for the people


Dr Miatta Fahnbulleh, chair of the Southwark Land Commission

Southwark Land Commission puts land at the centre of local debate and explores how it can be freed up for the benefit of all. Tom Harvey of the Societys Planning Committee explains

The council has launched the Southwark Land Commission (SLC), the first commission of its kind in London, and only the second in England following Liverpool City Region’s in 2020. This forms part of Southwark’s Council Delivery Plan (2022-26) “Fairer, Greener, Safer”. The SLC will be an advisory body convened to undertake investigations and make recommendations on how more land can be made available for the public good.

Topics of interest include genuinely affordable housing, active travel, food growing, community participation, health and wellbeing, community wealth building and climate change mitigation and adaptation.

The members of the SLC are from a diverse group of people with local knowledge and a wide area of expertise. They include architects, economists, urban planners and academics as well as active citizens and a church representative. The chair is Dr Miatta Fahnbulleh, chief executive of the New Economics Foundation and prospective Labour Party candidate for the Camberwell and Peckham constituency.

The SLC will look to work with major landowners in the Borough including the NHS, Transport for London, the Port of London Authority, Dulwich Estate and local faith organisations. A key aim is to exert influence over land in the Borough outside the council’s ownership.

The Commission is being assisted in its delivery by consultants PRD with support from We Made That and PMV Planning.

The programme of work and engagement for the commission has four key elements.

1. Three meetings between members of the Commission between February and April this year

2. One to one engagement of council officers across departments

3. Four area-focused community workshops,including one for Camberwell and Walworth which took place in March 2023

4. A limited number of one to one external stakeholder engagements

There is active discussion to extend the programme with it potentially expanding to further meetings between commission members and additional public engagement.

The recommendations and action plan are intended to be formally proposed to the London Borough of Southwark’s Cabinet sometime in Summer 2023.

The Society looks at all planning applications within the SE5 area. The website has invaluable quick links to all applications

Fire Station “always ready” for new curators


In September 2023 it will be five years since the South London Gallerys Fire Station annexe opened on Peckham Road. Angela Weight pays a visit

The conversion of the old fire station building aimed for flexibility, so that different spaces could be used in various ways according to need. To begin with, the building comprised three exhibition galleries, an archive room, kitchen, artist’s studio, and education facilities, supplementing those available in the main building. As was foreseen, there have indeed been changes of use, most obviously because of the need for storage space.

The gallery has an ongoing artist residency programme, during which an artist occupies a studio in the Fire Station for six months of the year. Initially the studio was on the top floor at the back of the building, but this space is now used for tech storage. The large light-filled space at the front of the building, known as the attic, is currently used on an occasional basis for educational projects.

The artist in residence now uses gallery five on the second floor as a studio. When not in use by this artist, the studio is used by groups such as Southwark Carers or the School of Speculation, an independent design school which aims to increase diversity in art and design education.

The spacious community kitchen opposite gallery five has a small, wood-floored terrace that opens off one corner, its railings entwined with green plants, giving a tantalising glimpse of nature in this packed urban environment. On the first floor, galleries 3 and 4, either side of the lift shaft, remain as exhibition spaces.

Initially, the ground floor room at the back was an archive room, an unsupervised area where people could access local history material on touchscreen computers. But the space was underused. So, the archive is now accessed via touch screen tablets in the entrance hall, where there is also a computer with a digital map of the local area highlighting points of interest. The back room has now been freed up for exhibition use. The SLG’s own archive since 1993 has been digitised and is available on the gallery’s website, as well as on the tablets in the entrance hall.

The long, narrow entrance hall is double height and top lit. On entering the eye is drawn to the glass wall at the end, behind which is another sliver of garden and greenery. The reception desk is here, but the small retail space has been removed to make space for the archive. There is a pleasing absence of polished concrete throughout. The architects retained the original chevron brick floor in the entrance and wood boards in the exhibition rooms.

Interestingly, the Fire Station receives more drop-in visitors than the main gallery. Whether this is because of curiosity about the building itself or because it does not look like a municipal institution is hard to say. In the summer visitors can relax in outside chairs and tables, but in cold weather there is nowhere to encourage people to hang out. Currently, the large, cobbled forecourt is rather bare, apart from the new colourful digital sign. The plan is to install planters, benches, and outdoor lighting to soften the space, while still allowing access for lorries delivering artworks. However, money is needed to pay for these things.

The SLG has always been deeply embedded in its community, whilst presenting high quality international art exhibitions. It is renowned for its extensive and varied educational programme. In a further endorsement of its reputation in this area, from autumn 2023 the Fire Station will be the operating base for New Curators, an ambitious new charitable organisation whose three directors are all highly experienced ex-Tate curators. It is running a paid twelve-month curatorial programme based in London for individuals from lower socio-economic backgrounds. This sounds like a timely addition - or perhaps a challenge - to London’s existing university-based, fee-paying curatorial training courses.

The South London Gallery will also present New Curators’ first exhibition in 2024. No doubt the Fire Station will play a significant role in the activities of this exciting new venture.

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The Camberwell Society was formed in 1970 and is the recognised amenity society for those living, working or interested in Camberwell.

The Society’s objectives, as defined by our constitution, are: to stimulate public interest in Camberwell, to promote high standards of planning and architecture in Camberwell, and to secure the preservation, protection, development and improvement of features of historic or public interest in Camberwell.

We are a charity and raise money for local charities. In the past we have raised money for Southside Rehabilitation Association, St Giles Trust, Cambridge House, the CamberwellCommunity Choir, the HollingtonYouth Centre and the Camberwell Arts Festival