Over the last two years we’ve been introducing you to our traders – independent business owners who are part of the Brixton Pound family. In this new series we’d like to introduce you to the members of the community who are just as significant: the Brixton Pound users! In the previous months you’ve met Paul, Alicia, Manda, and Vincent, and today we’d like you to meet Francis!
Francis Walden is a saxophone player and jazz musician who’s lived in Brixton for 9 years. He lives on a little street just off Ferndale Road – where the post office is, and where he initially lived when he first moved to Brixton. “I didn’t know the area well, I used to be in Earlsfield. The flat on Ferndale Road was the first one I saw, and I loved it straight away – got it without seeing any others! It’s funny cause it was the same story with our current house – we saw it, it was great, so we took it! It’s a small street so I know most of my neighbours, it’s just 8 houses each side. It has a very nice atmosphere and feels really safe, everyone recognises each other.”
He also instantly warmed to the area and became a regular at Salon and Market Row Wines (“Conveniently, they are right next door to each other so you can buy cheese *and* wine in one go!”), Burnt Toast Cafe, Franco Manca, Bookmongers… “Does Brixton Cycles take B£ as well? [it does! – B£] I cycle everywhere. Actually I don’t eat at Franco Manca much anymore because my girlfriend and I refuse to queue. I just call and order, they say come in 10, I cycle down and think, look at these mugs standing in line, see ya! It’s odd – young people seem to enjoy queueing, like then they’re part of some buzz. Like they just came for this thing specifically and don’t see that within 30 yards there’s a whole lot of other choices.”
“The market has changed loads. A few years ago it was threatened with closure. Daniel from Burnt Toast Cafe, he and his partner won green cards to the US in the green card lottery and were going to move to Brooklyn. I was pissed off because I used to go there to buy my bread everyday, and now they were moving to Brooklyn! There wasn’t much footfall, I’d hang out there and it would be very quiet. And just at that moment it all changed! Within 6 months it was a busy business, and they never went to New York – chose Brixton over Brooklyn. I love the market: I’ve always used the fishmongers, the butchers, the fruit and veg stalls, the market traders who’ve been here for decades. But I never came for a meal or a night out. Now it’s a wonderful balance – traditional market traders are still here, and there’s loads of places to eat – I hope it can stay this way. You wouldn’t want to see the old traders pushed out.”
Francis first started using B£ in December 2 years ago: “I can remember it actually, it was when you gave 10% extra with each top up, I’ve seen it around or in an email… So I bought £200’s worth in early December and was just running out on New Years Eve. We were playing a gig in the countryside somewhere, going on stage at 11:30pm, and I remembered – I have to buy more B£s before midnight! So I ran outside into a field, frantically looking for signal, to top-up my account and get the free 10%! Once you top up it doesn’t feel like you’re spending money, more like I’m getting free stuff – it’s clever. And I still get 10% off at Market Row Wines!”
Francis has played Brixton Academy twice, with Amy Winehouse’s band in which he played for years. He ends up playing locally quite a bit: at Hootananny’s or the Jamm. “Last summer I decided to do it more and ran a weekly Sunday night jazz at the Market House pub for a few weeks, it was great fun. The Effra does jazz and it’s a really good scene, I should really go more regularly. Another great sax player, Dave O’Higgins, lives down the road in Brixton, he’s a good friend. I’m touring a lot so I end up being away, but I’d love to play locally more often – but I have to spend time with my girlfriend too!”
Francis is actually getting married this month – he and his girlfriend Rebecca got engaged in Brockwell Park, and then went to Burnt Toast Cafe to celebrate with their favourite: the frytato. “Oh, it’s cracking! Definitely my favourite, next to that bread I used to buy at Burnt – they’ve now stopped selling it to take away, but you can still have it to eat in there. Wild Caper also does a really nice pumpkin seed loaf, and Salon has great sourdough. There’s great food at Cornercopia, Mama Lan, Fish Wings & Tings, and that Colombian place next door, El Rancho De Lalo – they have huge plates of meat! Pay by text is so convenient, but the cash – so lovely, so colourful! I probably shouldn’t tell you this but I gave away some notes to friends – some collect money from all over the world, why not Brixton? Oh, I didn’t know you could buy collector’s packs! Almost all my gifts last year and the year before that were from the market – from Brixi, or Rachel & Malika’s – they’re a nice pair who travel around the world and bring back scarves, jewellery, and pretty things from all over the world. And if you need a department store there’s Morleys. We’ve got everything here in Brixton – you don’t have to leave!”
“When I’m not on tour, I’m home during the day. I mostly work in the evenings, so I come down to the market every morning to buy stuff for lunch, for the day. I get fish from Jeffries, fresh fruit and veg, bread. During the day I’m on my own, practising, so it’s so nice to pop down, see some smiling faces, talk to traders. It feels like a social experience. With B£s, I feel very smug: I belong here, I’m local because I’ve got local currency. Especially now that there’s so many people coming down from all over the place – which is great, but it’s nice to have a little badge that identifies you as a local. Sometimes someone sees me using pay by text and asks about it, so I explain how it works. Speaking of which, can you show me how to work the app?”
Would you like to be featured in our next Meet The User post? We could meet you for a chat over lunch or tea/coffee, or you could write us a guest blog. Drop us a line at email@example.com!