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    Monday
    Apr232012

    Coffee, Conversation & Wine Under the Tracks

     

    Entrepreneurial ambitions can be big or small, but fundamentally they involve the risk of doing something new. A railway arch under Loughborough Junction station is the unlikely scene for one such enterprise, the Beanery Cafe and (as of last Thursday) Wine Bar. There is nothing like it in Loughborough Junction. Great for locals; great for an early-evening glass of wine before a film at the Ritzy or other more raucous Brixton activities.

    Since the cafe opened a little over a year ago, I have frequented this cute and cosy spot for Monmouth coffee and good conversation with the inquisitive-minded co-founder and hostess, Sabina Pieper. Like all great establishments, the décor is a reflection of the proprietor's character: hip yet unpretentious; fun; immaculately executed. The photos of Kenyan and Ehtopian tribeswomen were taken by photographer friend Tim Draper, but the designs on the walls are Sabina's own work and they perhaps symbolise better than anything the changes in her life.

    Sabina moved to England from Cologne in North West Germany at a young age. It was hard to find work and she was therefore not very discriminating about the job she took and kept for years.

    Co-founder Sabina Pieper“I ended up working for the presentation department in a large american Investment Bank. I do have a qualification in graphic design, but that was a long time ago, and I'm not really a designer by trade. I was grateful to have a job, but it didn't offer much creativity – no decision-making. It was such a big organisation that there had to be months and months of discussion before a decision was made.”

    So when her friend Koyser proposed the project she jumped at the opportunity. There were four founders, but 'too many cooks spoil the broth' and it was soon just Koyser, who looks after the branding, and Sabina, who runs the cafe day-to-day. Life looked up:

    “Now, I just decide and do. It is a very positive change for me. Every decision I ever make has an impact on the coffee shop and my life...on the customer and on the people who work for me.”

    And so it was with the designs - conceived and promptly stencilled onto corrugated iron walls, as opposed to the paper of the presentation centre. Yet, Sabina has her own philosophical take on how life has changed:

    “People always think of creativity as something to do with painting or literature. I think that making a decision and changing something is a very creative process. Creativity is actually problem-solving.

    “And at first everything was a problem...railway cafes have a dreadful image; and there had been nothing like this in the area – greasy spoons, yes, but nothing like this.”

     

    Koyser and Sabina admit that their project was not deliberately targeted at building community. However, it brings its own light to an area which feels somewhat forgotten. 

    Loughborough Junction, often considered 'the ugly duckling' between Camberwell and Brixton, has seven bridges. It has a mesh of tracks. It has Coldharbour Lane – less a lane, more a through-road with thin pavements. On the one side is Camberwell, as I imagine it, a hive of humble, liberal-minded live-and-let-live do-gooders; on the other, the colours of Brixton's Jamaican community. To the South - wealthier and staid neighbourhoods such as Herne Hill and Dulwich. To the North – big estates. At about the same time the Beanery opened, the Sun and Doves, arguably the best pub on Cold Harbour Lane, shut down (photo above right).

    Loughborough Junction has its life, as well as its sad aspects. It is hard to say why the area feels a little forlorn and neglected - whether it is the local heroes, to be met at all hours of day or night, or Cold Harbour Lane itself, or the ambulances screeching to and from Kings' Hospital. Then again, it depends on your mood. As Sabina put it, “These very things give the area a defiant identity. The local people like it and are proud of living in an area which has such a bad image.” A great recent initiative, The 7 Bridges Project, promises to turn each bridge into a canvas for an artwork, and it has a serious budget to achieve this. You could say that The Beanery has jumped the gun.

    The cafe also benefits a different section of the community, the much-accused perpetrators of gentrification. Unbenownst to many, a slick overground line connects Loughborough Junction to the City, so that during rush-hour the station thrums with a mass of grumpy, sleeping commuters. Good coffee and food for thought is in fact a pre-requisite if I am going to travel with them.

     

    On Thursday night, there was a novelty in LJ. Passers-by heard live music and even at midnight there was an excited hubbub spilling out onto the street. The Beanery was opening as a wine-bar. It was a brilliant evening which brought together all manner of people who might not have otherwise met. Indeed, the Beanery is small and facilitates sociability between strangers.

    “I like it when people meet in my cafe, often through me. The beanery is a place where social differences don't exist. People from the local council estates enjoy the good coffee as much as the barrister who lives a couple of roads away." 

     

    The Beanery, Loughborough Junction Railway Station, Coldharbour Lane, SW9 8SA

    Open Monday-Wednesday 7am-3pm, Thursday-Friday 7am-11pm, Saturday: 7pm-11pm

     

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    References (19)

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    Reader Comments (2)

    Loved what you've wrote. I am also a coffee lover who likes to spend time making my own coffee at home :)

    May 7, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterGenson

    It's a great time to have some coffee while talking to you guys.

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