Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Capital's Latest Cultural Quarter Is ... Lewisham; Italian Vogue Called It 'London's Montmartre' - and the Mayor Takes It Seriously

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Capital's Latest Cultural Quarter Is ... Lewisham; Italian Vogue Called It 'London's Montmartre' - and the Mayor Takes It Seriously

Article excerpt

Byline: COLIN FREEMAN

WHAT do pop singer Gabrielle, Czar Peter the Great of Russia and Samuel Pepys have in common? Two things, actually. Firstly, they're all one time-residents of Lewisham. Secondly, as is probably now apparent, their connection with the humble suburb is not exactly part of every Londoner's cultural lexicon.

That is about to change, though. Fed up with being labelled one of the capital's dreariest locations, civic leaders have launched a programme to persuade the world that SE13 is not, in fact, a place where nothing does, has, or ever will happen.

In the first study of its kind by a British council, Lewisham commissioned a survey of the area's "cultural activity" - revealing that nearly 2,000 artists and 550 "creative industries" are based locally.

That alone, they reckon, could be enough to see it enjoy a Shoreditch or Hoxton-style rebirth as a fashionable artistic community.

Mayor Dave Sullivan, who wants his fiefdom to be the "best place in London to live, work and learn", said: "I am acutely aware of the reservoir of creative talent across Lewisham and am keen to use this as a dynamic force for change.

"I think there's a lot of snobbishness about the north-London-south-London thing. People malign us without ever having visited the area, and they don't realise there's been a thriving artistic community here for years.

"All over the world now the main growth area in cities is arts and culture."

First, though, the prosecution case.

When James I declared he "would be king of Lewisham" after strolling down the High Street in the early 17th century, he clearly didn't anticipate what town planners would do to it as Greater London gradually swallowed it up.

Out went the elegant mansions and farmhouses surrounded by green pastures, and in came landmarks such as the immense Sainsbury's SavaCentre, the giant glass fibre feline at Catford shopping centre, and the huge Citibank tower that dominates downtown Lewisham today. …

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