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WHY LADYWELL IS THE PLACE TO BE

PLACE/Ladywell is the UK’s first pop-up village, with temporary homes, a cool café, a thriving indoor market and workspace for entrepreneurs and charities. The Resident takes a peek at this cool new community hangout

Words: Marina Gask

When Ladywell Leisure Centre was demolished in 2014, Lewisham Council decided to put the site to good use. Instead of leaving a yawning gap in the high street while new build and estate regeneration programmes were being developed for the site, the council worked with architects Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners to create PLACE/Ladywell, a Lego-bright temporary residential development, offering a short-term solution to the housing crisis in the borough.

But that’s not all. The ground floor of PLACE/Ladywell is set to become the go-to business and community space in the area. Thanks to ideas contributed by locals at a September 2015 meeting, it’s now a thriving community hub that includes a yoga studio, a vibrant indoor market, a support centre and the Good Hope café, a spacious and welcoming establishment run by community charity For Jimmy, in honour of south east London boy Jimmy Mizen.

There’s also a community cinema, which doubles as a mixed-use events space for parties, receptions and networking events, and even co-working space for small businesses, available at affordable rates.

Anna Burton, who is Projects Coordinator at Meanwhile Space, the community interest agency that sublets the business units to entrepreneurs, says: ‘The aim is for PLACE/Ladywell to be a whole social experience for visitors – you can meet friends at the cafe, stop for lunch, browse the shops, try something new and even learn a new skill.’

The aim is for PLACE/Ladywell to be a whole social experience for visitors – you can meet friends at the cafe, stop for lunch, browse the shops, try something new and even learn a new skill

The space PLACE/Ladywell provides for local businesses and initiatives also contributes to the community’s wellbeing. For years Philippe Granger has had to run the Rushey Green Time Bank from his spare bedroom, but now he’s based at PLACE/Ladywell, local people know exactly where to find him – and he provides an essential service for people in need.

‘The idea with Time Bank is that people exchange their time and skills, which helps them to meet people and reduces isolation while getting them active. We also run a Bring & Fix, inviting people to share their skills, fix bikes, help people write their CVs and more.’

PLACE/Ladywell is a smart way to quickly turnaround vacant plots of lands to benefit the community

PLACE/Ladywell is a smart way to quickly turnaround vacant plots of lands to benefit the community

The indoor market is open from 3-6pm, and it’s packed with cool little shops – or retail ‘pods’ – many selling homemade and vintage products. There are hand-made skincare products and cards, a little haberdashery, a dressmaker and a picture framer.

Ann-Marie Litchmore sells floral arrangements, both silk and real, for weddings and christenings. ‘All the market retailers are women and there’s a great atmosphere of pulling together to make it work,’ says Litchmore. ‘None of us knew each other before, but we all have the right mindset, promoting each other’s wares. It’s easy when the quality’s so good.’

I’ve always wanted to run my own fashion business and it has finally become a reality

Owner of Thunder & Lightning vintage clothes shop, Morgan Webber-Newman, adds: ‘I’ve always wanted to run my own fashion business and it has finally become a reality. I’m always scouring markets, online and retail pop-ups for vintage buys, as well as UK-made alternative brands. Thunder & Lightning is a reflection of this mixing of old and new and showcasing brands such as Syd & Mallory, Mod Dolly, Crown & Glory and Finest Imaginary.’

Ladywell Fields is just around the corner from PLACE/Ladywell

Ladywell Fields is just around the corner from PLACE/Ladywell

‘The retail pods in the indoor market are incubator spaces for local start-ups to test their business idea in subsidised space with very low rents,’ says Burton. ‘It’s the next step up from doing fairs and markets, and offers a fixed space to work from.

Applications were accepted on the basis that they were local and offered something new to the area.’ One example, in a larger street-facing unit, is Sicilian Corrado Scala, who runs the Italian organic deli We Love Pasta, selling delights like home-made tagliatelle, tempting sauces and ice-cream, all made using his own recipes.

PLACE/Ladywell is a five-minute walk from Ladywell Station, and easily accessed from nearby Catford, Lewisham and Brockley. And with Ladywell Field’s river walk and all the cosy cafes and patisseries plus a traditional butcher’s shop in Ladywell village, the area’s set to become quite a destination.

Sadly the building will only be onsite for four years, though the units are designed to last 60 years so that the council can easily relocate them to another site where housing is in short supply. But for now PLACE/Ladywell is creating a buzz. As Webber-Newman concludes: ‘South east London really is on the up and it’s projects like this that make it a much more exciting place to visit and shop.’

PLACE/Ladywell is at 261 Lewisham High Street


 

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