The ongoing saga of the eviction of Nour Cash and Carry from Brixton’s Market Row has seen the petition to keep it in its current location now reach more than 50,000 signatures. Back in January, it was served a section 25 eviction notice to leave its premises by July 22. The order was issued by Nour’s landlords, property company Hondo Enterprises, run by Texan millionaire and DJ Taylor McWilliams. Hondo bought the freehold and leasehold for the iconic Brixton Market and Market Row in 2018 for £37 million. At the time, it released a statement promising to maintain the market’s ‘unique character’.
Hondo says it is necessary to remove Nour from its current site because it is the only suitable location for a new electricity substation to upgrade the market’s power supply, invoking conditions stipulated by UK Power Network. Hondo says it will ‘pay for a large purpose-built unit for [Nour] in the Brixton Village market’. It adds: ‘The application for this new unit, which was submitted in December, has been approved and the current offer put to Nour meets all their most up-to-date requirements, including lower rent than they are currently on.’
However, there are fears among the Save Nour Save Brixton campaign group as to when the new site will actually be ready, how long Nour’s new lease will be and the general ambiguity around the ostensible reason for the eviction. ‘Hondo has been claiming that Nour Cash and Carry is the only place they can build this electricity substation,' says Save Nour. ‘We feel that’s dubious because when we spoke to UK Power Network we couldn’t find any evidence, apart from Hondo saying it, that Nour is the only place they can build this.’
In a statement responding to the contention over Nour’s eviction, Hondo Enterprises told Time Out: ‘Brixton Market has had an issue with insufficient power for many years with a number of tenants reporting prolonged power cuts. Hondo has been unable to meet the requests of a number of existing tenants to upgrade their power and upgrades requested for new units as the existing UKPN infrastructure to the market is at its capacity. In our search for a suitable site, we found that these conditions are not easily fulfilled, especially in a listed heritage operating market. Following an extensive review, UKPN confirmed that the requirements for a 2.5m headroom and direct access from the road would preclude any other location and thereby confirmed the rear of unit 23 location (Nour’s unit).
‘Despite this, in order to retain Nour, we looked at a number of possibilities culminating in Hondo agreeing to pay for a large purpose-built unit for them in the Brixton Village Market. The application for this new unit, which was submitted in December, has been approved and the current offer put to Nour meets all their most up to date requirements, including lower rent than they are currently on. We are doing everything we can to make sure Nour stays within the market and sincerely hope they sign the long-term affordable deal that is currently with them.’
Nour has sat on Brixton’s Market Row for 20 years. Every day, you’ll find it bustling with people searching through dried spices and tinned ackee or picking out fresh chillies and onions from its plethora of fruit, vegetables and canned goods. Even in these less-than-usual times, the shop has remained open, donating stock to food banks and delivering to isolated customers. The shop was set up in 2001 by Salam Shaheen, who came to Britain with his family after being forced to leave Iraq by Saddam Hussein. Over the years, Nour has become a Brixton institution, providing Caribbean, African and Middle Eastern communities in south London (and beyond – some people visit the shop from as far as Peterborough) with affordable access to their heritage food.
A fundraiser set up by Save Nour Save Brixton to generate money to produce flyers, posters, stickers and a mural to amplify the cause smashed its £2,500 target in a matter of days, reaching more than £20,000. The change.org petition to save the shop has received support from the likes of Yotam Ottolenghi, Neneh Cherry, Monica Galetti, Jay Rayner, Jack Monroe and Wiley.
‘We wanted to put up a fight,’ says Save Nour Save Brixton. ‘If shops like Nour go, these products it sells won’t be supplied by the likes of Tescos and Marks & Spencer. We’ve spoken to shoppers about what makes Nour special and they say things like “We appreciate seeing a whole range of diverse people behind the till” and “We appreciate being able to find ingredients from our grandmother’s recipe from our home country”. It’s extremely unlikely that this kind of space will be provided again if we lose shops like Nour.’
Nour Cash and Carry is just the tip of the iceberg for the Save Nour Save Brixton group. When Hondo bought Brixton Market and Market Row in 2018 they also unveiled ambitious plans to reshape the area with new modern buildings, including a tower block, and the contention around Nour’s eviction has reignited fears about gentrification in the area.
‘Nour was where the impetus came from, but we’re concerned about the wider implications particularly given that Hondo Enterprises has bought up quite a significant chunk of Brixton,’ says Save Nour. ‘The people who live here just see their community getting bought up and boarded up. The other issue with Nour is it caters for Black and brown communities. A lot of people perceive this as those communities being pushed out in favour of businesses that either cater to the tourist industry or much more affluent groups of people moving into the area who are predominantly white.
‘Brixton has a brilliant community and there’s a very strong sense of place. There’s a strong sense of people that have lived here for decades feeling like their communities are getting attacked. When you speak to people who have spent all their lives here, it doesn’t take long for them to bring you their fears and concerns about what’s going to happen to the area in the next five to ten years.’
For Save Nour Save Brixton, the fight to save the shop – which is in negotiations with Hondo – continues. The group is currently organising the creation of a mural in Brixton by a local artist to put the campaign on prominent public display and are also contributing to the Battle for Brixton fund, a grassroots community pot to support other campaigns for the rights of Black communities, working-class communities and communities of colour.
‘Nour is a community hub,’ says the group. ‘People say they have a sense of belonging there. They walk in and it’s a haven. If it were to go, it would be a tragedy.’
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