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Ritzy Living Wage

Here at the Brixton Pound we are used to fielding questions about the Ritzy. Until the last few weeks most have been about why the B£ is not accepted by the cinema, something which dismays and surprises many in equal measure. Recently however this has been replaced by something else which, upon becoming wider public knowledge, also dismays and surprises people in Brixton – that the Ritzy is not a London Living Wage (LLW) employer. After several fruitless years of negotiation with Picturehouse, which owns the Ritzy among other cinemas, staff overwhelmingly voted in favour of striking, the first of which took place on Friday 11th April, and the second of which will follow on Friday 18th.

We’ve been asked a lot about this of late and we’re glad that we have, because it demonstrates that people understand the link between the Brixton Pound and what this issue is about: economic justice. So when we’re asked the question, “should the Ritzy pay its staff the LLW?”, our answer is adamant: absolutely yes. We won’t repeat the arguments that evidently show that the economic, social and moral sums all add up. They’re freely available and not exclusive to any particular political leaning. Our take on it is simple: profitable companies should pay staff a living wage. So what makes this one company any different?

Special characteristics mark out the Ritzy. Located opposite Lambeth Town Hall on Windrush Square, it takes on and enjoys the trappings associated with being ‘a local institution’. Indeed it was Lambeth Council which stepped in to rescue the cinema from demolition in the 1970s, and later assistance from the Brixton City Challenge which lifted it to the splendour cinema goers enjoy today. For the few people who don’t know where the cinema is, public signposts at several points in Brixton indicate the way. Recently, both of the shortlisted bids to run the former ice rink site on Pope’s Road proposed a collaboration with the Ritzy to run film screenings, listing the cinema as evidence of engaging with ‘local partners’.

It’s in this context that people perceive the Ritzy, one that almost makes people forget that it is a business, never mind a corporate one. And this is where the distinction must be made: this is a Picturehouse issue, not a Ritzy one. Even though we can’t spend the B£ there, we love the Ritzy. We love the film board that displays marriage proposals and messages of support for the Brixton Soup Kitchen. We love the interesting cinema programme it runs. We love the upstairs exhibitions and concerts, the terrace, the immersive cinema events, the kids club and even the pram jam at 11am. And on all of these things we love about the cinema are the fingerprints of the staff, who beyond being good at their jobs never fail to be friendly, knowledgeable, and as was evident throughout their strike on Friday are an energetic, talented and committed bunch. The argument that the LLW brings about a better workforce does not apply here. But that does not mean they do not deserve a wage that reflects the cost of living London.

We’d like to think that if they had the power to, Ritzy management would pay their staff the LLW. Likewise, we believe that like almost 300 businesses in Brixton, they would willingly accept the B£. The sad truth however is that the cinema is run according to the principles of most corporate businesses, where salaries at the top rise and at the bottom stagnate, where short term gain trumps long-term sustainability for the business and the environment in which it operates, and where staff are largely seen as expendable as opposed to an asset.

One banner at the strike asked the rhetorical question, “where are you Mooky Greidinger”, in reference to the CEO of Cineworld, which owns Picturehouse. The likelihood is that he has never heard of the Ritzy, perhaps not even Brixton, and less so the privileged position the cinema enjoys in the area. If it is on his radar at all it will be as a series of numbers, of which only one really matters: the bottom line. On Friday we were proud that Ritzy staff showed that they are not mere numbers, and we hope that they are soon in receipt of pay that not only reflects the cost of living in an increasingly expensive city, but also their contribution to the cinema’s success.

Follow @ritzylivingwage on Twitter

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#YourPound – Meet the Trader: Focaccia Gastro Bar

Focaccia Gastro Bar opened in October 2013 in Brixton Village. This cosy eatery serves freshly baked focaccia bread filled with delicious Italian ingredients. The Classica is filled with homemade pesto, mozzarella, rocket, fresh tomatoes and the Parma with prosciutto, parmesan and sundried tomatoes. Many of the ingredients are bought locally. There are also delicious salads and soups of the day on the daily menu. We tried the pumpkin soup with walnut and parmesan, which tasted amazing!


Roberto Urban is the manager of Focaccia Gastro Bar. He was born in Zaire (now Democratic Republic of Congo) and then raised in Rome. He has always had a love for local products, food and wine that he inherited from his grandmother from Friuli Venezia Giulia, a region in the North-East of Italy famed for its cuisine. Roberto opened Focaccia Gastro Bar as he wanted to bring healthy and delicious Italian food he grew up with to Brixton at a reasonable price. We think with Focaccia Gastro Bar he has succeeded, they offer a lovely lunch for £5 – what a great way to spend #yourpound.

Focaccia Gastro Bar welcomes Brixton Pound customers. Here’s Roberto telling you why he think the Brixton Pound is good for our community:

We’ll see you there!


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Impact Hub Brixton

Brixton is home to an ever-growing number of initiatives, groups and individuals whose work draws on similar themes: creativity, sustainability, community/local, sharing, to name a few. Increasingly found here too are the designers, engineers, artists and entrepreneurs who can make things happen.

At the Brixton Pound we are fortunate to come into contact with many of these people and we know that the vast majority want to expand their network and collaborate with other initiatives. We were therefore very excited when we heard that the team behind Hub Westminster were working in partnership with Lambeth to develop a space in the Town Hall that could bring these people together.

Last night we attended the first of three workshops (we’ll be at all three) for people potentially interested in the space to come along and give their views on what they wanted to see there. This will not be an operation that is parachuted in based on models that work in other parts of London. There was a real interest to understand the specific needs of Brixton and a desire to see them reflected in the ethos and makeup of the hub.

There are two more workshops taking place next week (Monday 10th at 7pm and Friday 14th at 12.30pm) and we encourage interested parties to attend and meet the very welcoming Hub Brixton team.  Information on how to register for a workshop (they’re free) and more can be found at http://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/lets-build-it-impact-hub-vision-session-tickets-10719138231

Warning: the team literally want your fingerprints all over the place. So much so that at the end of the session you may be asked to stop thinking and start doing. We joined in as carpets were ripped up to reveal the wooden floor that will be flipped over to give the place a new sheen. It was hard work but given the amount of pizza that was provided (and eaten), it was probably for the best…

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