Really Local Group and Southwark Council announce new cultural venue in Bermondsey

Really Local Group and Southwark Council are working together to create a high street cultural venue for Bermondsey, that aims to restore an iconic landmark at The Blue, a central marketplace. Through positive regeneration, Really Local Group has committed to transform this local landmark building which has lain empty for over a year, into a vibrant cultural community hub to complement and enhance the existing local creative scene.

The development will be an all-day community space that will see the creation of a three-screen cinema, coffee shop, a café, bar, informal co-working spaces and a food and craft hall featuring local artisans and vendors. It will offer quality and affordable entertainment; with average ticket prices of £6.50 to watch a film and £13 for live events. The new venue will also encourage community ownership and regular business through an annual membership programme, as well as offer students the option to sign up for just £25 to receive exclusive access to free tickets, discounts and benefits.

Preston Benson, Founder of Really Local Group commented: “We are very excited to enhance the cultural infrastructure offer in a borough with an established craft and music heritage. Working with Southwark Council, we hope to be able to curate a new ‘cultural quarter’ for the town and secure collaboration opportunities with local independent businesses, artisans and traders.”

Cllr Leo Pollak, Cabinet Member for New Homes, Great Estates and Social Regeneration, said: “ After years of working to improving the mix of shops and stalls at the Blue, and intervening on the sale of Thorowgoods, we are hugely proud to have secured a three screen cinema, community events and exhibition space and an affordable food market showing the best of local producers. We were greatly impressed by Really Local Group’s approach, and I’m confident this will become a major new arts centre for the north of the borough, and a game-changer for the Blue. This not only underscores our commitment to healthy thriving high streets across the borough, but the importance of municipal interventions high streets that need a ‘curatorial’ steer while getting the tone balance and affordability right. Bring on the Summer of 2021!”

The new cultural hub will bring life to the marketplace which is being refurbished using funds from the Mayor of London’s Good Growth Fund, and will serve as a link between the historic centre of Bermondsey and Bermondsey Street. The repurposed space will provide a platform for local businesses and community members to engage with the craft heritage of the area. Aiming to increase footfall to 5,000 people on weekends, the venue will aid towards revitalising the local economy and its traders. Really Local Group will also collaborate with local talent to showcase comedy and music performances alongside educational opportunities, with a community run creative school. The venue will also provide a collaborative space for community groups to develop their own program of events.

The lettings strategy for the Blue agreed in 2016 created a bespoke approach to lettings on the Bermondsey high street, with Southwark Council considering the impact their choice of retail tenants makes to the vibrancy and affordability of shopping on high streets, local parades and estates. The local residents’ opinion has had a big impact on the shape of the high street too, with the Commonplace survey with locals carried out influencing the delivery of Bermondsey Uprising, Bermondsey Community Kitchen, Big Local Works, and a number of private commercial lets at the Blue. Southwark has also already taken steps to update their letting policy, reversing the dominance of payday lenders and betting shops on the high street to cultivate a community destination.

The proposal is subject to approval by the Council’s Cabinet members, and planning approval.

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