CAMBERWELL LIFE: FAREWELL, CAMBERWELL
And so it has arrived, as I guess we always knew it would. Living in a home tied to my wife’s work as a Salvation Army officer, we knew that at some time we would have to say farewell to Camberwell. Not, as it happens, because she is taking up a new appointment elsewhere, but because they are moving the national headquarters down from Elephant to Camberwell and they want to use our run of houses for other officers. So we are being moved to pastures new – Bromley, in fact. A place which likes to insist on “Kent” but which is still, thankfully, London. Just.
Camberwell has been our first home together. Marrying in 2013, we have had all but ten years in Champion Grove. We have known good times and bad times here. We have built up some deep networks of local friendships. We have become part of the community. We have had most of our various children living with us for periods of time, and all the kids and grandkids have stayed over for holidays. For Sarah, this is the longest she has lived as an adult anywhere; for me the second longest.
This is actually my second stint in the area. I lived in East Dulwich in the 80s – working at Hygrade Meats in Peckham and then for Grove Chapel in Camberwell Grove. My children were born in the old East Dulwich Hospital. This boy whose first memories are of Clapham came to the right side of the A23, you see!
Building a photography (or any other freelance business) requires considerable effort these days. You can be the best photographer, or tailor, or cake decorator around – but that is of no value if you can’t reach your market. Through this blog and other means, I have gradually built up a local presence to the point that Camberwell wedding couples now find me via Google searches. I will still very happily come back to photograph weddings, of course (20 minutes on the train!) but I will need to start building afresh over in Bromley. Still, I have celebrations to look forward to back here – next appointment at Southwark Register Office is on the 22nd of this month!
Sarah is part of the Salvation Army; I often enjoy attending (and photographing) SA events, but I have been most at home at East Street Baptist Church. East Street is where Charlie Chaplin was born. If you remember his film Easy Street, where everyone from the crook to the cops files into the mission hall and gets saved at the end, then you know East Street Baptist, at least a bit! The most glorious mix of young and old, black and white, British-born and immigrant – East Street has been my happy place over the last few years. If you want to know the secret of that racial and generational harmony, then you had better visit – or even just tune in to the YouTube channel.
My other special community has been the Open Mic night at the Joiners Arms. I get home too late for church activities midweek – but the Joiners runs late! There is a welcome and encouragement to musicians of every level of skill or incompetence. For me, singing my guts out in lament at the deaths of my dad and sister last year brought some catharsis and I found incredible support and affection in this little community. Katie shown here is just one of a number who have really cared through what has been a pretty bleak period.
Our most local local is not the Joiners, of course, but the George Canning. Regular gigs by bands like The New Immigants (shown here) have been phenomenal – pub rock like it ought to be! I am glad to count Justin (lead singer and the band’s songwriter) as a friend too – I hope to be back in Camberwell to shoot cover and promotional art for their next album.
Of course, being part of a community is about more than just those set pieces like Open Mics and church meetings. It is about neighbours and bumping into the same people at the bus stop or on the Denmark Hill platform. It is about recognising the ladies at the Sainsbury checkout, knowing the cafe and restaurant people, and building a friendship with the guys who cut your hair – no one flames my ears who ISN’T a friend, I can tell you!
Here is a salute to just some things I am going to miss as a local. You can come back – but it isn’t the same as living here.
Ruskin Park deserves a whole blog to itself! It has been a regular haunt throughout our time, but was utterly invaluable during lock down. Thanks to the Friends who do so much to keep the place a great resource for the whole of the Camberwell community.
So that is farewell. I could post many more pics! There are people that I regret not ever having photographed. I will be back – I hope that people searching for Camberwell Wedding Photographer or Southwark registry Office photographer will still find me! I don’t intend to be a stranger, but I won’t be quite so local, that’s all.
Now for a whole new adventure – getting to know Bromley. Anyone for “Bromley Life”?!