How an Abandoned Parking Garage Became One of London's Coolest Hangouts
In Peckham, one of several emerging districts in South London, a once-derelict structure has become a center or cutting-edge arts programming, driving a broader neighborhood revival.
Each summer, a multistory parking garage in Peckham, a fast-changing neighborhood in southeast London, becomes a wildly popular destination. But not as a place to stash your car.
In his latest Travel + Leisure video exploration of the cultural tribes of London (previous installments have included the skaters of Southbank Centre and the gallery scene in Bethnal Green), Carlos Carneiro of London Sessions documents an ongoing program of musical and theatrical performances, visual art, food, and drink created by the local nonprofit Bold Tendencies. Since its inception in 2007, the series has drawn nearly a million visitors and led to the commission of more than 80 works of art created specifically for the space.
“We had been very interested in creating an opportunity for ambitious works of arts by emerging or lesser known artists,” explained Bold Tendencies' curator, Hannah Barry. When the group discovered the abandoned garage nearly a decade ago, she added, it “was a great opportunity to do that project.”
To complete the multi-use space, Bold Tendencies commissioned the creation of Frank’s Café, which doubles as a design destination and a restaurant “where people can sit down and have a drink and stay longer,” Barry said. Small bites like olives and peanuts are coupled with quintessential English fare, like smoked aubergine with marinated Graceburn cheese on pita and sardines with tomatoes and oregano.
The program is just one aspect of a broader revival of Peckham, a once-grim enclave that is fast becoming a creative mecca. Another formerly derelict old building, previously a cricket-bat factory, now houses a thriving collective of artists and entrepreneurs. The district is also now home to one of London's buzziest food scenes. During the summer months, the car park is at the center of it all, drawing visitors with its orchestral and chamber music performances in the Hay Bale Auditorium.
“Bold Tendencies has always been about a community,” said Sasha Morgan, who oversees the organization's education arm. “Peckham—and this bit of South London—is not the same, partly because we exist here.”
“We’re very excited about all the things that we hope we’re going to be able to achieve between now and when we open to the public [for the season] in May of 2017,” added Barry.