Q&A: The Peckham Peculiar

The Peckham Peculiar  Southerden Pastry Store(above) In the Southerden Pastry Store Words by Elizabeth Pollard

Every city in the world seems to have it’s own geographic rivalry. In New York it’s fiercely Manhattan vs Brooklyn, with some Williamsburg hipsters swearing never to cross the East River. In Berlin it’s the bohemian artists of the East in Kreuzberg vs Mitte’s traditionalists for the battle of the best bar in the city. And in London there is absolutely a North West – South East divide. But what’s a little healthy competition between family to encourage residents to build communities and become proactive around their home.

One of the best examples (and one very close to my own heart) of people creating, communicating and supporting their community is Peckham and surrounding pockets of South East London. Residents here need no encouragement to support independent businesses and artist collectives and create a proactive network of people who want to make their postcode thrive.

Newly launched independant newspaper; The Peckham Peculiar demonstrates and encourages this SE15 pride. Founded by four residents, Kate White, Duncan Barrett, Mark McGinlay and Nuala Calvi, who work in publishing and editorial, it was their aim to produce a newspaper, of interest and accessibility to the whole community with an emphasis on unique stories and strong design.

Since launching in February this year, the response in the community as well as nationally has been incredible, allowing them to quickly expand and evolve the concept of the paper. We spoke to their Marketing Director, Mark about the inspirations and philosophy behind The Peckham Peculiar.

Issue Two will be out this month so watch out for it in and around SE15. If you aren’t lucky enough to pick up a printed copy, the digital newspaper is published on Issuu here and it’s contents can be viewed on their blog.

What inspired you to start The Peckham Peculiar?
The Peckham Peculiar was founded by four friends who all work in publishing and journalism. Two of us are Sunday Times bestselling authors. We’ve always had a real love for local newspapers and the important role they have within communities, and we’ve dreamt for many years of setting up a paper for the area that we live in.

Other parts of London including Brixton, Kentish Town and Croydon already have their own newspapers and we felt that Peckham deserved its own hyperlocal title, dedicated solely to the SE15 postcode and featuring the word ‘Peckham’ in the masthead.

What is the philosophy behind The Peckham Peculiar?
Between us we have lived in southeast London for about three decades and we love Peckham for its huge diversity and strong community spirit. There is nowhere else in London like it and we wanted to celebrate this with a newspaper about the area, to be enjoyed by everyone who lives and works here.

While Peckham tends to make the headlines these days for all the exciting arty and foodie happenings here, that is only one aspect of life in SE15. We want The Peckham Peculiar to be a paper for everybody in the community, reflecting all facets of local life. We made the paper a freesheet so that it’s accessible to everyone.

The first issue covered a broad range of subjects from art and style to local businesses looking at homelessness in Nunhead. Was this a conscious decision and can we expect it in future issues?
Covering all types of stories was very much a conscious decision as we want to be a newspaper for the whole community. We raised £5,000 on Kickstarter to fund our first two issues, and we promised our backers that the paper would be for the community as a whole, not just for one part of it.

Going forward we hope to reflect more and more the incredible diversity of Peckham and Nunhead, as we haven’t come anywhere close to achieving that yet. Our next issue features stories on schools, planning issues, food shops, charities, local artists, an award-winning Peckham film-maker and lots more.

Has the support of the community been significant in launching the paper?
The support from the local community has been incredible – better than we could ever have hoped for. Many of the 150 people who backed us on Kickstarter were Peckham and Nunhead-based residents and businesses, and the newspaper wouldn’t exist without their support.

We now have more than 70 stockists in the local area that range from Me’Lange hair salon on Blenheim Grove to Manze’s on Peckham High Street. You can also find us in Peckham Library. Businesses have been really keen to stock the paper and we’re eternally grateful for that. It has allowed us to reach as many readers as possible.

Full list of stockists

Pace seems to have picked up very quickly with the paper. How has the community responded to you?
When issue one came out we were lucky enough to be invited to talk about the paper on the BBC Breakfast show, which really helped to get our name out there. Hearing Bill Turnbull mention the paper was definitely a surreal moment! We also appeared on Jo Good’s show on BBC Radio London.

The community has responded to us really positively. Lots of readers have contacted us with story ideas or offering their help, which has been great. We’ve also had suggestions from people about what they’d like to see more of and what we can do better, and we have tried hard to address those in issue two.

How do you see the paper evolving in the next 12 months?
Over the next 12 months we hope to make our content increasingly diverse as we reach out to more and more people in the area. It’s very important to us to reflect all different aspects of the community and that is something we will strive to do more of as we go on.

Strong support from advertisers has meant that we’ve been able to increase the paper’s size from 16 to 24 pages for issue two, which in turn has allowed us to add more editorial content. We hope the paper continues to be well-received and that we’re still here in 12 months’ time!

What quality do you think South London offers that gives people such Southern pride?
Perhaps the fact that until relatively recently, southeast London hasn’t really been on the media’s radar when compared with other areas – and when it is, it’s often talked about in clichéd ways. But people who live here have always known that it’s the best place to live in London.

There is also such a strong community in Peckham that makes us proud to call it home. It’s an exciting place to live and up until now, relatively low rents have allowed small, independent businesses and artists to thrive here. It would be a huge shame for Peckham if that ever changed.

What would make your perfect Peckham Sunday?
A perfect Peckham Sunday would start with scrambled eggs and coffee at Petitou on Choumert Road, followed by a browse in the Review Bookshop. Then we’d have an afternoon stroll through Nunhead Cemetery and perhaps a Sunday roast at The Montpelier. We’d finish off the day with a drink at the Peckham Liberal Club on Elm Grove, or the recently-reopened Montague Arms on Queen’s Road.

Email us // peckhampeculiar@gmail.com
Blog // peckhampeculiar.tumblr.com

Twitter // twitter.com/peckhampeculiar
Facebook // facebook.com/peckhampeculiar
Instagram // instagram.com/peckhampeculiar
Pinterest // pinterest.com/peckhampeculiar

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