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  • Writer's pictureCommunity Bridges

Peckham Market | House of Lords

Lord Harris, Phil, was born in St Albans during the war and lived in Peckham from just 12 days old. He recalls life in Peckham in the 50s and 60s when he would spend his Saturday afternoons, after school, working at his dad’s shop C. W. Harris Linoleum in the Rye Lane Covered Market.

A place that was full to the brim with people doing their shopping, shouting over each other to get the best deal and stopping to talk to friends; A family-feel place where Phil enjoyed going, even if it was to work on a Saturday!

Phil used his natural ability with numbers and his quick memory to help his dad at the carpet shop and was good at it, unfortunately school was often a different story. Phil was dyslexic, something not recognised in his day, and so he struggled with reading and writing throughout his time at school. He left school at 15 with an O-Level in Maths and headed to college, but life had other plans for him, ones that would end up much grander than he ever planned.

The unexpected twists and turns of life

At 15 Phil lost his dad to cancer and took over the family business, too young to sign contracts and leases he still worked every hour of the day and went around all of his shops on Saturdays to talk to his employees and customers. His motivation, maths, memory and, importantly, his ability to motivate others by talking to them and respecting them led him on a journey to Carpet Right, the House of Lords, Harris Academies and, now, Tapi Carpets.

Whilst Phil experienced adversity at a young age, between 15 and 19 he left school and lost both his parents, he had his support network, his community to help him through.

'It is all about community'

Community can mean so many different things to different people but for Phil he had the employees of his dad's business who knew him, his family (he became a father at 19), his friends and his Peckham neighbours.

We all experience hardships where we need support to get us through, once upon a time it was easier to create these support networks, just by bumping into the same faces at the market or church. Now these places are often empty whilst people sit in their home ordering from Amazon, watching Netflix and isolating themselves within their silo of social media. The need for community is more important than ever and it will not happen by accident, it requires a little bit of effort from everyone.

‘We need to improve community and I see the Harris Academies fitting into that - every child only gets one chance of an education so all schools must make sure our children receive a good one. However we do need things outside of that - sport, dancing, singing and trips to new places. We need to give people a love of learning, whatever that learning is.’ - Phil Harris

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