A short walk from the Queen’s Road Peckham takes you to the Queen’s Coffee Bar located in nearby King’s Grove. Anything but -yet another - bland eating venue it was where I met up with it’s vibrant and colourful owner Gloria Douglas.
The bar has been open for nearly a decade;the premises are shared with Gloria’s hairdressing salon which dates back to 2006. Expanding the premises to include a coffee bar was possible once coffee beans became available but the other motivation for Gloria was somewhat different. She describes it’s early days as offering a drop in for local people who were isolated and lonely(some by their experiences of depression and anxiety). The bar offers rotating space for local artists to display their work.Gloria and others will be involved in the Nunhead Art Trail (watch out for this in September 2020). The bar also hosts a monthly book club - not currently running but due to be relaunched soon. Unlike library reading groups I was told it serves wine to participants! Gloria has also run successful ‘meet and greet neighbours’ events for those living in the neighbouring streets.
We talked about how the area has changed over the years. Gloria has seen businesses and other eating venues come and go and also seen how transient the population is - common is for people to move into the area but not to stay long. People either rent or buy - some move out when they have children and need bigger places. Those living in the area lack roots within it.
Gloria has been involved for the last 6 years in the Family Fun Day held each June in the nearby Brimington Park. Her bar also does ‘sandwich runs’ for local businesses and local events including Peckham Platform.
When I asked Gloria what motivated her to be involved in the local ‘community’ her answer was somewhat self-deprecating ; she does things such as seeking to make welcome new residents as she saw little sign of anybody else doing so. She described the area as one with little evidence of community activity(for example there is no local community centre). There is an active residents association but is only for those living in certain streets. Our meeting reminded me that - in a society where we expect groups and organisations to ‘do things’ for us - there is still a place for caring and passionate people like Gloria to contribute much to the lives of those she interacts with.
We concluded by discussing the ‘hot topic’ for where she lives which is Southwark Council’s plans to redevelop land on Asylum Road to build new offices for front line services. The plans are described by SOS Peckham who oppose the development as seeking to create a ‘monstrous’ super office.