Guest Post: Bellenden Road is Proud to be Diverse

Bellenden Road is one of the central locations of this weekend’s Peckham Festival and promises to be a hub of creative and culinary delights. It is also a real treasure trove of independent eateries, top notch coffee and great community spirit. One such example of this community spirit is Bellenden Big Lunch, an annual street party that celebrates all things Peckham. Started nine years ago by a group of neighbours, it has brought a real mix of people together alongside live music and collaborative art projects. After Brexit left a sour taste in many residents mouths last summer, two neighbours decided to do something and took up pens, designing posters with the title ‘Bellenden is Proud to be Diverse’. They were a hit, with several even featured in Time Out, and after being spotted by book designer Jack Smyth, they were developed and re imagined and are for sale all weekend to raise money for two excellent local charities, Southwark Day Centre for Asylum Seekers and Southwark Food Bank. If you like art with a heart, come on down to various locations along Bellenden Road on Saturday and Sunday between 10am and 6pm and bag yourself a reminder of how wonderful this area is.

I chatted to one of the organisers Anne Bowers to find out more…

Can you tell us a bit about Bellenden Big Lunch Association and how it got started?

More than 9 years ago a group of neighbours on Bellenden Road got together to host the first Bellenden Big Lunch, inspired by the Eden Project’s national Big Lunch event. Since then we have held an annual street party with people bringing food to share, art projects and dance performances, music by local resident Raz Keith and The Organic Rootz Band, as well as more recently the Bellenden-Dudes (local dads) and lots more. A year ago we held the first Big Tree – an annual Christmas Tree lighting of a tree in the Sun Garden where we collect presents for families at the Southwark Day Centre for Asylum Seekers. Early this year, we decided to become a formal group so that we could raise funds to do more. Our aims are to
To plan and deliver inclusive community activities that bring joy, happiness and solidarity to people living in the area around Bellenden Road.

To raise funds and resources that can be used by people who have needs locally – and to deliver activities as above.
To enable anyone from the local community to develop events in line with our aims.
What is it about Bellenden Road and the surrounding area that makes it special?

Bellenden Road and the surrounding area has an amazing village feel right in the heart of London. People speak to each other on the street, neighbours know each other and help each other out with big and small things – from cat sitting to caring for really ill neighbours. The shops are part of this – each of the owners seems really committed to supporting the residents to continue to build community. Gareth James estate agent has supported us with the purchase of a marquee to allow the Big Lunch and other events to happen even if it rains – and this year sponsored two banners designed by a local artist to advertise all of our events.

And people are generous – the Big Tree always yields an amazing array of donations for families.

Your exhibition happening at the festival has the title ‘Bellenden is Proud to be Diverse’. Can you give us an idea of where this came from?

After the Brexit vote in 2016 two of us in the Big Lunch Association wanted to be visible that Bellenden Road was a place of welcome and inclusion. So we made a number of signs and put them in our windows. They were even noticed by Time Out. One of our friends had a poster in a flat she rented with her family and when she moved out she left the poster. Jack Smyth an accomplished book designer moved into the flat and liked the poster – so he applied his considerable skills to the theme and created a number of prints that he hung in his window each week.

The prints will be displayed in an open exhibition all weekend, and available for sale at £17. You can buy them through us or email [email protected].

Written by @lydiainpeckham