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 Paul wrote us a guest post, we had a chance to meet Alicia, Manda wrote about her pledge to shop local at BriXmas, and today we would like you to meet Vincent!
Vincent is a champagne importer and transport planner. He’s lived in Brixton for 4 years now, steadily moving South, currently on the very top of Brixton Hill. “At this rate of rent increases, I will be in Croydon soon, and then in Brighton next year,” he laughs. His family in France make champagne, and he helps them import it to the UK. Brixton is a home for him for another few years at least. “I moved here because I had friends here. People complain a lot about bus congestion in central Brixton and the tube escalators – this doesn’t apply to me as I cycle everywhere. I do most of my deliveries on bike, you get a bit of fresh air and some exercise. I spend less monthly on TfL than on B£ for sure.”
He first signed up because you used to get B£11 for £10. “Now I don’t save as much, but I just keep using it – it makes me feel more part of the community. But you should bring back the 10% off. This is London – people need incentives, they need to see clearly what the benefits are, even if they know they should be using it for the good of the community.” How does he spend his B£s? Getting a haircut from Dorian (Barber de Seville on Coldharbour Lane), eating Honest Burgers, and in bars and pubs like Seven @ Brixton, Market House and the White Horse, where he doesn’t have to queue, just wave the phone with a confirmation text. “With B£ you get to meet the owners. I get along so well with Dorian, the owner of Barber de Seville. But in all the places, you pay in B£ and the owners remember you.” He also likes Brixi and always takes friends for Japanese street food in Okan. When he lived on Railton Road, he memorised the opening hours of Kaff and would frequently make a stop there on the way home, particularly on Fridays and Saturdays when they’re open late. He hasn’t spent any B£ in the service area yet, and he’s not sure about buying any BriXmas presents. “20 Storey is too edgy for France, I don’t know what half the things are. And the bookshop, Bookmongers, you can find every book in the world there, doesn’t take pay-by-text. In France we’re spoiled for good food. Noone in France would eat a Christmas pudding.”
Vincent is a big B£ advocate. “You don’t always carry a wallet. This system just works. I mean, it works when you have signal! At the White Horse, I never get signal. But the staff are really good and know how it works. If there’s new people, sometimes they don’t know about the B£, then I get to show them how the system works. It’s not annoying because you get to talk to them, it’s a conversation starter.”
He’s noticed that some of his favourite places are changing, though. Honest Burgers, one of his favourites, is now a small chain: “It would be nice if other branches of pop-ups that became successful, like Honest Burgers, also took B£. They change little by little with the “success”, and I think we’re not going to enjoy them much longer. The market is changing as well. It’s fine when it’s still phase 1 of this change. It’s phase 2 which is scary, when Waitrose and Pizza Express and other chains come in.” Vincent is also very dissatisfied with property prices. “If I want to buy a flat, I can’t do it here, nobody normal can buy a house here.” He does a quick calculation. “Who earns that? Who buys those flats?”
But Vincent really likes the neighbourhood, and taking part in the local life. “I’m interested in the area, that’s why I follow the news. I have a Google Alert for Brixton, follow the Brixton Buzz. I like going on the Urban 75 forums, to read what it was like before, what places were called and what they looked like – you can see the evolution. When I first moved here 20 Storey was a barber shop with a tattoo parlour at the back and an ice cream stall at the front – they had everything! I’m still in touch with the barber, Palu, as he likes cycling, and I like cycling too. I started drinking coffee because of Brixton Village. Where Rosie’s is now, or maybe the shop next to it, there was a coffee shop with speciality coffee. I didn’t drink coffee, but the guy made me an espresso one day and said, if you don’t like it, you don’t have to pay for it. I’m French, I always go for a good deal. He’s giving me this for free? Sure. It was actually delicious, so I paid for it! I can now tell the difference between a good independent coffee shop and the averageness of the high street big coffee brands thanks to that chap.
Now, like Will Smith, I go to Federation. I saw Gordon Ramsay once, he came to The Joint. Dorian managed to get some photos of Naomi Campbell when she was in Brixton. It’s good to see Chuka, the local MP, about and using social media. Other politicians do it only a month before the election. I follow him on Twitter, and he comes up lots on my Google search for Brixton. It’s so easy to keep up with what’s going on with social media these days.”
“I’ve really enjoyed my time in Brixton. Every year I go to the Lambeth Country Show and Brixton Splash. I didn’t go to the fireworks this year though, for the same reason as everyone else: I didn’t want to pay. But the place still feels like a community. My brother from France says, whenever he comes to visit, that it feels like a small town within a big one. We had a street party in our street this year too, I brought some champagne to that. There’s an email group for two or three neighbouring streets, and it’s nice to know what’s happening. Now we’re raising money for a ping pong table and trees – can B£ help with that?”
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 firstname.lastname@example.org!