Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Moonbow Jakes: an appreciation

According to Brockley Central, Moonbow Jakes coffee shop/bar in Brockley may be closing - although it doesn't seem certain. John (the owner) has been at it for seven years or more so if he fancies doing something else or if it's no longer working out for him, that's his decision. But Moonbow has had a positive impact not only on Brockley but on New Cross and (briefly) on Catford, and would certainly be a loss to the area if it closed.

The first Moonbow Jakes was in New Cross Gate, on the corner of Goodwood Road where the Rising Sun Cafe is now. The (in)famous 2004 Standard article 'Welcome to the New Hoxton', referred to the 'legendary Moonbow Jakes's cafe, the main young artists hang-out where you can sip segrafredo coffee (the best espresso beans from Italy, apparently)'. Well I wasn't a young artist, but I did hang out there, especially when it also had the record shop downstairs. Both had a small but significant role in the New Cross music explosion, as places to meet, chat and distribute/pick up flyers.

The New Cross place was still open when the second Moonbows opened in Brockley, but closed soon after - I believe there were planning constraints in turning the former into a viable bar as well as a coffee shop. The much larger Brockley place with its later evening opening has been a place not only of liquid refreshment but of numerous interesting encounters and occurrences, with music, performance and other events. Our very own Skitster gave a talk there in 2006 on Ghosts and Monsters of South East London, and the year before I gave a short talk there on the history of May Day in South London as part of a Strawberry Thieves May Day event.

Moonbows bravely attempted to extend the decent coffee wave into Catford too. The cafe there didn't last too long, and closed in 2005 - but not before it had been name-checked in a song by local band The Ubernators (then at Haberdashers Askes school I believe). Their song 'Tell it Like it is' starts with the line 'Catford born and Catford bred, no not Lewisham that's what I said' and goes on 'we used to have a gun shop now we're Moonbow Jakes' (Moonbow Catford was indeed in a former gun shop).

People may argue about who does the best coffee in Brockley, as unlike when Moonbow opened we now have a choice. As I like the other places too, I'm not going to compare - my experience is that most places locally with an espresso machine can do a really good coffee (though not always consistently). But one thing that Moonbow has had the edge on is its choice of music - if, like me, you judge a place's music by how many times it plays The Smiths or Belle & Sebastien!

Anyway this is an appreciation, not an obituary, so get down there while you still can - and maybe help keep it open for longer. I am sure we haven't heard the last of Moonbow Jakes.

Download Ubernators - Tell it Like it Is

6 comments:

Graham said...

Totally agree - love the place and shall miss it if it does go.

bob said...

I still have't gotten over the loss of the original Moonbow's in New Cross!

Lady said...

Do you know what's taking over? Is the business for sale? Are there any takers for the premises? It's a shame that it's going, it's such a big part of Brockley. I hope someone else can pick up the baton and carry on.

John Moonbow said...

Hello, John from Moonbow Jakes here! Would like to say a big thank you to Transpontine for all your positivity. It was 11 years ago that New Cross opened and it was there for 8 years. Catford was opened 18 long months and although a disaster financially, we had some amazing nights downstairs and the art was always good. It is 7 years since I took the lease on Brockley and anyone who knew Brockley in 2001 can imagine the ‘umming and ‘arring about whether to invest in such an area. In retrospect, it was probably the success of Brockley that led to the error of opening in Catford. All the sites were derelict and I really loved creating the blank canvases that local artists, performers and staff decorated over the years. It has been a good journey with hundreds and hundreds of performances, of all guises, under our belts and the upfront or behind the scenes involvement in the many festivals that have taken place. My frustration with Lewisham Council never diminishes that no one there can see the untapped black gold, which is the Lewisham creative scene. If only they could see the potential of the creative triangle that is New Cross, Brockley and Deptford we could have our own London Dubai displaying extraordinary creativity rather than hotels! Thanks for everything and keep this amazing site going and promoting the best SE has to offer. John

Transpontine said...

Thanks John, don't know what your plans are now, but good luck with them anyway.

Anonymous said...

There are rumours that, following their awful recent bereavement, the Gmaberdella family are looking to handover their café in Blackheath Standard ... Maybe you could move over here?