Creatives of Camberwell

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๐–๐ก๐จ ๐š๐ซ๐ž ๐ฒ๐จ๐ฎ?

๐‘๐ฎ๐ฌ๐ฌ๐ž๐ฅ๐ฅ ๐Ž๐œ๐œ๐จ๐ฆ๐จ๐ซ๐ž: founder of Camberwellโ€™s Jazz at the Crypt, the famed London Jazz club.

The Crypt, and his idea of using it as an events venue, originated 28 years ago as a way to restore St Giles decrepit spire. From then on, jazz symphonies alongside church bells, can be heard behind the stainglassed walls. He thinks the public’s generosity and involvement towards the event was inherited from the churchโ€™s volunteering spirit.
It was his teenage love of reggae music, particularly old-style reggae of the 50s and 60s with its harmonising horn sections and jazz licks, which led him to jazz. At 20, sitting in a Brighton jazz club on a Friday night, got him thinking heโ€™d like to have something similar. For a long time, the idea of a club was there, but he needed the right moment. His club has now become a weekly Friday ritual for many, hosting a network of world-renowned musicians under the red-lit, vaulted ceiling.

๐–๐ก๐š๐ญ ๐›๐ซ๐จ๐ฎ๐ ๐ก๐ญ ๐ฒ๐จ๐ฎ ๐ญ๐จ ๐‚๐š๐ฆ๐›๐ž๐ซ๐ฐ๐ž๐ฅ๐ฅ?

He โ€œdidnโ€™t have a choice in the matterโ€: born in the now closed St Giles hospital, Russel comes from a long line of Camberwellians; his motherโ€™s family has been here since the early 1700s.

๐–๐ก๐š๐ญ ๐œ๐š๐ง ๐ฒ๐จ๐ฎ ๐ญ๐ž๐ฅ๐ฅ ๐ฉ๐ž๐จ๐ฉ๐ฅ๐ž ๐š๐›๐จ๐ฎ๐ญ ๐‚๐š๐ฆ๐›๐ž๐ซ๐ฐ๐ž๐ฅ๐ฅ?

Russell smiles, โ€œitโ€™s the best place on the planet; donโ€™t think it isnโ€™t, it really is.โ€ He loves the family connection, the diversity of the people, but mainly the โ€œart vibeโ€. As a child, he admired the outlandish College of Arts students who paraded the high-street, and continues to appreciate how Camberwell encourages creatives and creativity

๐’๐ž๐œ๐ซ๐ž๐ญ ๐ก๐š๐ฉ๐ฉ๐ฒ ๐ฉ๐ฅ๐š๐œ๐ž ๐ก๐ž๐ซ๐ž?

A now closed cafe called Seymour Brothers (which is today Theoโ€™s). It was sprawled with mismatched furniture and no wifi, it was a place where you could sit all day conversing with strangers and never leaving in a bad mood. The owner unfortunately passed away and the venue was sold.

๐…๐š๐ฏ๐จ๐ฎ๐ซ๐ข๐ญ๐ž ๐ซ๐ž๐ฌ๐ญ๐š๐ฎ๐ซ๐š๐ง๐ญ?

At the moment, Nandine. For more traditional cooking, he enjoys the Crooked Well.

๐–๐ก๐š๐ญ ๐ฐ๐จ๐ฎ๐ฅ๐ ๐ฒ๐จ๐ฎ ๐œ๐ก๐š๐ง๐ ๐ž?

โ€œTo have a tube.โ€ It would help regenerate the neighbourhood, not just commercially but also make it more attractive for commuters. Russell would also like the traffic from the Green to flow under Church St and emerge up in Peckham, to pedestrianise it and create one big boulevard. It would help the environment too.

๐–๐ก๐ฒ ๐ฐ๐ข๐ฅ๐ฅ ๐ฒ๐จ๐ฎ ๐ฌ๐ญ๐š๐ฒ?

โ€œThe Crypt is an extension of my living room. I love my association with the church and the certainty in its longevity, which unfortunately, isnโ€™t the case for many venues in the UK in the current climate. If the connection with the church as an arts venue continues long after my generation is gone, then that’s a good enough reason to stay.โ€

๐–๐ก๐จ ๐š๐ซ๐ž ๐ฒ๐จ๐ฎ?

Belinda Braggins: musician, piano teacher, composer, performer.
Belinda didnโ€™t grow up focusing on music, in fact, she only considered herself vaguely musical thanks to a few childhood piano lessons. But as a disillusioned, high-achieving Oxford graduate, she rebelled from the academic expectations and pretension (Boris Johnson was her peer) and turned to music. Moving into a Brixton squat, she took up the saxophone through Greater London Councilโ€™s free music provisions โ€“ which in the 80s, under Mayor Ken Livingstone favoured big expenditure on the arts – and entered Londonโ€™s jazz scene. Most people find picking up an instrument past childhood daunting, but Belinda possesses that wicked intelligence thats makes complex things seem easy. Those early, disciplined experiences with the piano triggered an โ€œinstinctive yearning to improviseโ€ and she learned to play the saxophone intuitively by ear. After stints in bands, found her own identity as a solo performer.
But in the 90s, she started having problems with her jaw: โ€œIt was diagnosed as focal dystonia, a form of repetitive strain industry, but I think it also was a result of years of academic pressure, competition and stuck in the analytical-left, rather than creative-right, side of my brain. I hadn’t approached music properlyโ€. The jaw tension stopped her from playing the saxophone, which as her form of self-expression, was extremely destabilising. However, breaking the mould yet again, Belinda reclaimed the piano, mastering another instrument. Now, the piano is what she dedicates her time to: practising self-written material and performing, often around Camberwell, with her good friend Winston on bass.
What brought you here?
Belinda was born and raised in London, but in 2014, after caring and mourning her mother, she came to Camberwell to celebrate a friend’s birthday. They went to The Tiger, where music played, people danced, and familiarity reigned. Despite her loss, it became a celebration of life and community. “This is where I need to beโ€.
What can you tell people about Camberwell?
โ€œWhilst itโ€™s gentrifying, it hasnโ€™t yet divided or taken over: thereโ€™re still places that have been here forever and surviving. It makes it feel uniquely genuine and authentic.โ€ The arty, trendiness of it feels indigenous; itโ€™s not been grafted on.
Secret happy place here?
She adores Burgess park – โ€œitโ€™s so used; brilliant demographically; and I love the wild flowers thereโ€
What would you change?
โ€œSlow the gentrificationโ€
Why will you stay?
โ€œFor all the reasons that I love itโ€