Peckham: London’s creative community hub

How the South London district is making its mark on the wider London creative scene

Home to an eclectic mix of some of the most successful names across all cultural fields, Peckham is London’s unsung hero, nurturing some of the nations finest talent. From actor Damson Idris, rapper Giggs and footballer Rio Ferdinand, the area is renowned for its rich cultural diversity and bustling marketplace.

While Shoreditch, Soho and Notting Hill have long captured the city’s spotlight, Time Out named the district as one of the coolest neighbourhoods in the world in 2019, stealing 11th place on the annual ranking – the highest scoring area in the UK. As a resident, my opinion is biased, but it’s hard to deny the flourishing community Peckham houses. 

While approximately half of the local population identifies as Black, Black British, Caribbean or African according to Census 2021, the past decade has seen a shift in the district’s demographic. London’s young creatives have swarmed into the South East borough and have been embraced by Peckham’s rich and diverse communities. As a result, independent creative hubs and hospitality venues are successfully establishing themselves across town, flourishing into busy hotspots all week long. 

In the creative world, Peckham represents an escape from the churning cycle of central London galleries and members’ clubs, presenting a more intimate setting to network and exhibit. We sat down with freelance creatives and Peckham residents, Xander Lewis and Lilah Culiford to hear their thoughts. 

Thinking about Peckham’s demographic, Lewis says: “Students, really.” Culiford on the other hand, comments: “Not just student, think of Set Social, the private members club for artists in Peckham – all you have to do to become a member is show your profile as a creative in London. It’s really good for networking, the demographic there is more 25 to 30, I would say. There’s definitely a lot of students in Peckham but a lot of post uni, successful creatives too.”

Lewis says: “A lot people who work in Peckham, even if they’re not in a creative job might still have creative ambition. They’re working in a creative place where they have the chance to network with the right people.”

Providing a series of locally based studios spaces and workshops, Peckham gives ample opportunity for young creatives to lay foundations without feeding into London’s typical surging rent prices. For now, rental prices are below some London boroughs.

Yet Culiford discuss the effects of gentrification within the cost of living crisis, and how this is beginning to affect the community. “The only bad thing for creatives living in London is you need a studio. The Set has studios but it’s a non-profit organisation, it’s funded by donations, which keeps prices low, but because of gentrification they’re being bought up and turned into flats, which is really sad. Just in general, coming out of uni and being able to afford a studio, is going to be really difficult on rising rent and house prices.”

Despite these battles, it’s worth highlighting the work creative residents are building to support emerging creatives. This year, Culliford heads production for local photography festival, Peckham 24, a nonprofit event, established in 2016 by curator Vivienne Gamble and artist Jo Dennis. The title Peckham 24 emerged becasue the first exhibition opened on a Friday at 6pm, and closed on the Saturday at 6pm. The name was coined and intention was set to exhibit, share and discuss cutting edge contemporary photography. 

“Photo London [currently on at Somerset House] is the biggest photography festival of the year in London, which hosts prestigious photographers from across the world. The issue is, most of these are old, white men – and that’s really what photography has always been,” says Culliford. “To combat this, Peckham 24 formed as a new photography festival. It’s showcasing minority groups and underrepresented individuals leading in photography, addressing social situations and dilemmas. Unlike Photo London that is centred around capitalism basically.”

Peckham 24 takes place in Copeland Industrial Estate, this year introducing a book fair and live performances, lead by 50 volunteers. 

Set to be its biggest showcase so far, the event runs for two weeks opening tomorrow, Friday May 17. Free Entry. 

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