Sunday, June 09, 2013

Back to the Broca (and remembering The Brockley Bean)

The Broca by Brockley station was opened six years ago by Erin and Rob 'inspired by the coffee shops in Western Canada and Berlin' and 'using found objects, second quality equipment, and ethical products'.  At one time I used to be in there several times a week, but changes in work/school/ukulele patterns put an end to that. I was glad to pop in there last week though for the first time since some changes were made earlier in the year. It still has that non-corporate, bohemian feel, the biggest change is that the kitchen/counter area has been moved in to the area that was previously an extension, creating more space for preparing food and drink.




The space hangs together better, in the past it felt a bit like a tiny cafe with a big room stuck on the side. Of course the coffee is still very good, and as I had just run 5k round Hilly Fields I also allowed myself my traditional banana and almond muffin.

The book exchange has returned to just a few shelves, with the tide of old books no longer threatening to overwhelm the space. I love second hand books and picked up some really interesting reads at Broca over the years, as well as adding some into the mix. But one thing I have noticed in watching a few of these take a book/leave a book schemes is that there seems to be an iron law for the quality to diminish over time, so that you end up with a lot of books that nobody wants.

Next step for Broca is a planned alcohol license so that they can open as more of a bar in the evening.


The Broca is at 4 Coulgate Street SE4.

The Brockley Bean

In the 1980s/early 1990s there was a wholefoods co-op at 2 Coulgate Street called The Brockley Bean. I came across a 1993 article from The Independent which describes it as the base for the South East London Permaculture Community, then planning to grow food at Brickhurst Farm, near Pembury in Kent

'Since qualifying as a permaculture designer two and a half years ago, Steve Reaad has been spreading the word around his base in Brockley, south-east London. The local food supply system was set up 18 months ago after eight locals attended an introductory course on permaculture.


Based at the Brockley Bean, a pretty, cottage-like house with balloons painted along the facade and runner beans growing up the walls in summer, the South-East London Permaculture Community provides a monthly supply of wholefood - soya milk, organic flour, rice, cornflakes, muesli, bread, cheese and the like - to its 50 members. It also provides organic fruit and veg from Spitalfields Market. 'The mark-up is only 5 per cent and you're doing your body a favour. It's not so much a business as a proper community,' says Leslie Wills, a member who makes a living recycling clothes into an extraordinary range of patchwork coats and skirts. They plan to grow all the green goods for the community at Brickhurst Farm as well as providing free-range eggs, honey and organic wine from the nearby vineyard' (12 November 1993).   Anyone remember the Brockley Bean or related projects (I think there was also a cycle repair project)?

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

I remember the Brockley Bean well, and its counterpart in New Cross, Cross Currants. The Bean had a lovely feel to it and the prices were good although I once got charged £110 for a couple of packets of tofu due to getting to grips with the new till. Having been a regular visitor to the Aetherius Society wholefood shop in the Fulham Road (which really took some beating with the model spaceship in the HQ window next door) from the mid-60s, it felt very welcoming!

Transpontine said...

So was the Bean simply a food shop or was it also a cafe?

I believe Cross Currants was at 304 New Cross Road, where Prangsta is now.

Anonymous said...

Not a cafe, but it was a social space as I bumped into friends and neighbours or arranged to meet them there!

You're right about the location of Cross Currants. It had more variety but wasn't such a nice chummy place. It still isn't, in terms of the state of the building. I noticed the scaffolding had been removed from that block but it doesn't look much different; same grotty rotting windows.

Martin Dixon said...

I remember helping Mr Brown's Pig (now in Bristol http://www.puppetsonline.co.uk) with one of his anarchic puppet show evenings at the Brockley Bean - might even have been upstairs.

Moira said...

In later years a cafe was opened upstairs.