As Peckham Rye Music Festival returns for a second year, The Resident talks to founder Glenn Middleditch about why Peckham is such fertile ground for music and creativity right now
Few saw it coming, but Peckham – the famous stomping ground of the loveable and perpetually hopeless con merchant Del Boy – was recently named as the best place to live in London by The Sunday Times. Many of its homeowners are now, indeed, millionaires, or at least on the right track.
The average price of a semi-detached property is currently £967,550, according to Rightmove at the time of writing. Derek Trotter would be jumping for joy. Fortunately, creativity and community spirit is still going strong too.
For Glenn Middleditch, a former BBC radio producer and the founder of the Peckham Rye Music Festival, it’s the place to be, and he’s incredibly proud to be a part of it. ‘I don’t want to rely on clichés, but there’s a real sense of it being a “hotbed of creativity”. As cheesy as that line sounds, it genuinely is,’ he insists.
Cliché it may be, but with other projects like Peckham Levels from the creators of Pop Brixton also making waves, he’s clearly onto something.
The inaugural music festival was celebrated as a runaway success, and lauded for its good-natured, carnival atmosphere. This year, from 12-21 May, it will be even bigger and better, with the exclusive use of outdoor space and an extra rooftop at Copeland Park, plus a wider variety of music on offer as well as fringe events, exhibitions and workshops in the likes of video art and pottery throughout the week.
We’re trying to bring all of the creativity together to punch above our weight and get people to take notice
The idea, Middleditch tells me, came to him organically one night at SE15 haunt The Nines, when he attended an event that saw numerous local record shops including Rye Wax, YAM Records and Do!!You!! records come together. ‘There was a certain vibe that came from seeing them all together that made it feel really special,’ he reflects. ‘I was like, “Hmm, I wonder if we could do this on a bigger scale?”’.
The concept is simple. ‘What we’re trying to do is bring all of the creativity together to punch above our weight and get people to take notice, and to discover stuff that happens around the corner from them that maybe they haven’t come across before.
Although it’s musical, it’s about making and doing as well.’ Long-term, Middleditch is looking to draw inspiration from the famous South by Southwest festivals, which put Austin in Texas on the map by innovatively converging artists from the music, film and visual industries.
When it came to the music last year, Middleditch (who has worked on everything from the Proms through to Radio 1’s Big Weekend, but in his spare time has always nurtured a passion for underground house and techno) went with what he knew.
‘I kind of went for my own record collection really. I was a little bit like a kid in a sweet shop,’ he admits. ‘I booked my dream line-up, which leant towards the house and techno side of things, although I’ve got quite eclectic taste.’
In 2017, the line-up is expanding to include more genres. ‘We’ve got a reggae stage on the Friday with a happy, friendly ska sound. All we need is a little bit of sunshine and we’ll be well away! On Saturday there’s a world music feel, so there’ll be Afrobeat sounds and a bit of jazz. If you listen to Gilles Peterson’s show on 6 Music, you’ll know what to expect.’
On the Sunday of the main weekend, the festival be hosting Secret Sundaze, London’s infamous Sunday daytime party. ‘It just made perfect sense to bring them down,’ says Middleditch. ‘They put on the first party that I came to in Peckham on the roof of the Bussey Building.
What I love about the area – and the Bussey Building in particular is a champion of this – is varied programming
‘They’re just the best DJs around for a great Sunday daytime bash. What I love about the area, and the Bussey in particular is a champion of this, is varied programming. On a random Friday you might get some pounding techno, and the next day you’ll get funk and soul.’
He’s not kidding – the Bussey Building is home to everything from vintage markets and yoga studios to all-night parties. It seems that now is the time to celebrate one of London’s most exciting postcodes – and who knows what it will be like this time next year?
Book tickets at peckhamryemusicfestival.co.uk
peckham’s TOP independent record shops
RYE WAX An underground treasure devoted to records, food and live music. There’s also a wide range of graphic novels and comics, as well as regular quizzes, live jazz and club nights. ryewax.com
YAM RECORDS YAM Records specialises in second-hand vinyl and carefully selected new releases from choice independent labels. youandmusic.net
DO!! YOU!! RECORDS The venture of Charlie Bones, NTS Radio’s breakfast host, Do!!You!! stocks an unrivalled selection of disco, jazz, funk and reggae. doyourecords.co.uk
SACRED GROOVES The secretive Sacred Grooves (it doesn’t even have a website) stocks musical rarities for the musically curious, including sounds from around the globe.
RAT RECORDS Rat Records stocks, buys and sells an eclectic range of music from blues and jazz through to soul, reggae and funk, as well as rock, indie, punk and electronic music. It also provides a record cleaning service. ratrecordsuk.net