In Brixton, up until 2009, the old Granville Arcade was just another of London’s many retail spaces in abandoned disrepair. That was until Lambeth Council and LAP, the building’s owners, called in Spacemakers, an agency that specialises in the regeneration of challenging spaces across London. The group launched a competition for local entrepreneurs, foodies, artists, and creatives to apply for a free unit for a period of three months in the newly re-christened Brixton Market.
To the delight of the regulars, many of the market’s original applicants – from old fashioned confectioners Sweet Tooth (unit 66) to French vintage purveyors Leftovers (unit 71) – have kept their homes in the arcade, alongside a selection of mouth-watering restaurants. They’ve been joined by new unit-holders like Emy of lovely interiors shop Brixi (Unit 7), a Brixton local originally looking for shop premises in Stoke Newington, who quickly applied for a space in the arcade when she saw the redevelopment.
By night, the arcade is represented by some (if not all) of its residents at its regular Thursday, Friday and Saturday ‘lates’, open house events soundtracked with live music – which could have a Latin, urban or just plain noisy bias depending on which unit is playing host – plus workshops, poetry evenings, shopping events and supper clubs.
Brixton Village Market shops
Emy is a Brixton local who had always hoped for the day the old Granville Arcade would pull its socks up. As soon as it did, she applied for a unit, which she has stocked with hand-drawn-by-Londoners greetings cards, homewares and dolls-houses. Sit down in one of the chairs dotted outside this cute gifty shop, and you're likely to be offered a tea by one of the neighbours.
Circus is owned by Binkie and Tabitha (perfect names for vintage shop owners, in our opinion) who pedal a lovely brand of flotsam and jetsam for the body and home. Artsy glassware and vintage vases are juxtaposed with an array of Socialist literature and old enamel trays, while the odd lacy dress is hung up from the walls for your trying on pleasure. The clothes offering is currently expanding, and just in is punky-but-pretty label Minus Sun. For the male of the species, there is a 'Man Corner' for more masculine buys.
This pocket-sized shop is stocked by Gallic owner Margot Waggoner with sweet sailorette dresses and bleached cotton petticoats. If you're a bit crafty, you can buy a sweet little lace collar from here and sew it on to a plain dress to make it your own. There are also lots of collectible items that look like they've been raided from a 1950s Parisian larder; cute rusty tins and vintage bits and bobs which would make perfect gifts for the kind of people who would never throw anything away.
Near the entrance of the market, this girly clothes shop mixes independent labels with a smattering of vintage, plus designs by the three lady owners - providing a good choice of printed dresses and kooky accessories. You can try them all on in a changing room fashioned out of wispy vintage scarves by proprietor Eva. Have a good rummage at the back of the shop, as there's a range of artsy Sanderson wallpapers with bird-prints on that are easily missed.
Read more about Brixton Village Market
Compared to the culinary homogeneity of Borough market et al, Brixton is a sensory fiesta. The air is thick with the sizzle of jerk chicken stalls, tinny reggae riddims and yam-based price disputes while the multi-coloured hues of exotic fish displays glimmer like a whiffy rainbow. And for every hipster rammed into one of the (justifiably) rave reviewed eateries in the newly trendified Brixton Village (that's the covered arcades), a stack of bargain basement exotic produce still teeters like a nutritious Jenga set.