Peckham Palms [@peckhampalms] – The Afrocentric retail space counteracting gentrification

“It’s not just the business, it’s the sense of belonging”

Peckham Palms is a brand new Afrocentric retail space opening in the heart of Peckham, providing professional beauty services and hairstyling. The space also features a café, bar and multi-use event space.

I spoke with the team behind Peckham Palms, about how they created the space and what it means for an area hugely affected by gentrification.

What is the ultimate goal of Peckham Palms?

“The Palms exists to support and grow London’s lucrative Afro hair industry, with a mission to put the power back into the hands of the communities in which we work, and to create new opportunities for women to work collaboratively and to thrive.

This covered marketplace will be home to over 30 professional hair and beauty stylists and lifestyle businesses, and the space will be enhanced with our own ‘Mae J’s’ café/bar, as well as guest food kiosks, all expertly curated to meets the needs of black customers from all backgrounds.”

How does the beauty centre challenge the negative effects of gentrification?

“We aim to support black businesses to thrive, providing a new and professional space to grow and realise their ambitions.

We aim to keep the price points for units and salon rentals at an affordable level for local businesses, over the next 20 years, so that people are not pushed out because costs are too high.

We are looking to provide marketing and business support for other Peckham Afro hair and beauty businesses so that they can benefit from the economies of scale.

We also aim to host products and services from other small businesses so that black customers can support and invest in black enterprise.

We will have a staff force that are reflective of the businesses operating within The Palms and the customers that The Palms will serve.

We will be running an events series with black business and thought leaders to inspire others to be the best they can be.

We want to show that there can be a more diverse and disruptive business practice, products and retailers, other than what’s currently on offer in other areas of London that have been seen to be gentrified.

We have made a commitment that The Palms will transition to majority black ownership no later than the fifth anniversary of opening. This will give those who want to see fundamental change in who owns and benefits from the lucrative Afro hair and beauty marketplace the chance to invest in, and own, their local businesses. Currently 3 out the 5 directors of The Palms are black women.”

Photo credit: Peckham Palms

Why did you choose to locate in Peckham? Do you have any intentions to expand further?

“Southwark Council invited Something & Son, to create and manage a new Afro hair and beauty hub in Bournemouth Close in order to relocate businesses during the temporary closure of shops, on Blenheim Grove, for the Peckham Rye Station Square development.

In response to the Council’s tender, we worked with an architect to devise, design and develop a covered market concept and ethos in collaboration with the hair and beauty stylists on Blenheim Grove.

Our ambition is to establish The Palms as a model for how Afro hair & beauty services can cluster, thrive and innovate, and then to roll this out to other areas where there is a demand for such services.”

Have any of the directors, within the centre, been affected by gentrification personally?

“One of the Directors, Cyndi Anafo, was part of the Reclaim Brixton group, campaigning and fighting against the gentrification of the area.  She became a non-executive director of Peckham Palms to ensure the local area does not experience what has happened nearby.

Hazel Durrant, another Director is originally from Hackney and has seen what has happened in areas such as Stoke Newington and Dalston, areas where she grew up.  She has also spent over 20 years working on art-led and creative projects that aim to bring about social change for the many and not the few.”

Photo Credit: Tree Shepherd

Did you face any challenges during the process?

“Initially, there was some resistance from the stylists who didn’t want to move from their salons on Blenheim Grove. I have worked with the women over 3 years. I have slowly but surely built relationships with them and now have won their trust and respect. They have been involved in this project every step of the way and now they are really excited about moving into The Palms, because they can see all the benefits that it offers. They can’t wait!

Over the last few weeks with all taking shape with the fit-out of the units and shops, the women and businesses can see the quality and ambition of the vision we are providing.” (Monique Tomlinson, General Manager, The Palms)

Photo credit: Peckham Palms

Who was responsible for the artistic elements, and interior design of The Palms?

“The company behind, The Palms, Something and Son is an artist led company that works across art, design, enterprise and architecture to create diverse work that is socially and environmentally driven. This artistic approach is obvious when you step into The Palms – the walls outside each of the salon units are decorated in beautiful, vibrant colours with contrasting signage – each of the salons is named after an iconic black woman from present day to those that have been forgotten from the history books. The intricate work of the stylists can also be found in the woven moulds that form pillars either side of the entrances to the salons and feature beautiful 3D busts of the stylists, as well as local female entrepreneurs, that shall remain part of the building’s fabric for posterity.”

The removal of ‘cultural’ shops, community centres and retail spaces often affect residents’ sense of belonging within a community. This fragmentation can make life difficult, especially when it affects somewhere considered home. This is why community focused projects, such as Peckham Palms, are so important.

The retail space also offers ‘Rent a chair’ and ‘Rent a shop’ options for those who are independent hairdressers, barbers or beauticians. The Palms will be open for the public by the 15th December.

Find out more at: www.peckhampalms.com

For further reading check out Gentrification: London’s Cultural Health piece.

Ilayda McIntosh

Arts & Culture Writer @GUAP

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