My upbringing was both outside England and outside the inner city. Six years of living in central Brixton, though, offered me an idea of what daily life must be like for English inner-city inhabitants. The sights, sounds and smells of Brixton, what can be expected from walking down the area's high and back streets, where the 'good' and 'bad' areas are, and some restaurants and cafes worth checking out are well remembered. Due to my length of time in Brixton, to a degree, I became localised, and enjoyed many of the area's small perks. I discovered a couple of places to buy inexpensive CDs, shops selling cheap refillable shaving razors, and some off-licences that are open every day of the year. I enjoyed much of what Brixton had to offer, and could take people on guided tours, showing off the area's many attractions.
Some extraordinary events occurred during my time in Brixton. Nelson Mandela visited, and gave a talk at the Recreation Centre. The vibe he generated amongst the throngs of people who came to welcome him was one of wonder and respect. I caught a glimpse of him as his motorcade departed. Mike Tyson also came to Brixton to check things out, and had to duck into the local police station to avoid getting mobbed by his fans. Activists once 'reclaimed the streets' and turned Brixton High Street into a giant party, complete with banners demanding that Effra Road be dug up as 'a river runs below it'. On the day of Princess Diana's funeral, Brixton seemed relatively empty, and the chorus of the broadcasted funeral procession was audible in the streets. A racist homophobe exploded a nail bomb on Electric Avenue, about 40 metres from where I stood at the time. The shockwave caused by the explosion was not too dissimilar from the tremors caused by minor earthquakes in Southern California. These events will never be forgotten.
In October 2002, I moved out of Brixton to live with my fiancée in Tottenham, North London, an environment not too dissimilar from Brixton, and then finally out of Tottenham a year later to take up a position at Columbia University. I always knew my time in Brixton was temporary. My plan was to get in, do research, and get out, and the plan unfolded accordingly. Throughout the course of this research, the knowledge of eventually leaving Brixton never really left my mind. Brixton was only my temporary home, a chapter in my life that I opened and closed. I put myself in and took myself out of this environment. The majority of people living in Brixton and Lambeth more generally probably do not have these