26 March 2020

The Lazy Chef

Located in Forest Hill station’s forecourt, it is easy to overlook this surprising little café, where the staff are anything but Lazy!

First impressions on entering this family run café are of a warm, friendly place to eat, featuring a menu with something for everyone. The large range of breakfast options has an international flavour with Mediterranean and American combinations to complement the standard European fare. There is also an equally varied list of lunch options ranging from chicken dishes to pasta, fish and burgers. These can be washed down with a glass of wine from Italy, Argentina, New Zealand, Australia or Chile. It’s the wide range of different meals available that makes the Lazy Chef special.

I met with Serkan, one of three brothers, the others being Sidar and Serdar who have worked together for 20 years and have run the Lazy Chef for two years — alongside their uncle Ercan, who does the cooking.

My first question was obvious: Why the name when it’s very clear this is not a lazy establishment!? Serkan explained that the name is fun, a laugh and something different to catch the eye. Continuing, Serkan said 90-percent of his customers are locals who visit regularly. Serkan takes pride in making them feel welcome. He wants the Lazy Chef to feel like a warm sanctuary where you can enjoy excellent coffee and tasty food.

Serkan and his family are Kurdish and come from Turkey, though Serkan has now lived in Devonshire Road for 23 years and loves working in Forest Hill. Before the Lazy Chef, Serkan and his brothers owned kebab shops including one in Dartmouth Road. Asked if he had any plans for the Lazy Chef, Serkan said he would like to expand the café and be able to serve more customers. Given the location, this would be difficult. I wondered whether Serkan and his brothers might want to move to a larger premise elsewhere, but he was adamant he had no intention of leaving Forest Hill.

If you fancy a good cup of tea or coffee and a tasty bite to eat, the Lazy Chef may be the place for you. And if you do visit, try the Gorlette — savoury Turkish flatbreads which are home-made by Serkan’s mum!

24 March 2020

Where Did You Get That Hat?

This past Christmas our community was aflutter with the Forest Hill Hat Caper when not just one, but two of the handmade Santa hats for the Christmas tree were stolen. Local Forest Hill designer and resident Lee Jackson of Jackson Morgenstern Ltd created this fantastic feature. Jason Kee sat down with him to find out more about the designer behind the decorations, and the man under the hat.

Now very much in demand, Lee didn’t start his career in design. His first foray was an extensive year-long refurbishment and redecoration of the house he shared with his then partner. It must have been a triumph as a friend then introduced him to the BBC. It was the 1990s and makeover programs were all the rage. Lee found instant success and began working on home makeovers for daytime magazine shows. He had no formal training, but he was creative, could do the work himself and was an excellent presenter, a rare combination for this new emerging TV format.

After the BBC, Lee started working with a growing number of interiors’ magazines and began to focus on styling rooms for photoshoots. There is a very good chance you have a feature in your house which Lee inspired. But the fortunes of TV home-décor shows and those glossy magazines waned. Lee set up Jackson Morgenstern Limited twelve years ago and has built a business focusing on exhibition design, and experiential and PR stunts. Stunts have included setting up a full-scale wedding for Bertie Bassett at the Bassett’s factory, and an ambush by Scottish Clansmen in Soho.

He said, “I love it most when I answer the phone and someone says: I’ve got a really bizarre request...” He has been asked to recreate a jungle and 1950s Cuba, and even to create an edible set. In an industry where burn-out is common, Lee attributes his success to keeping ahead of the curve, and embracing new technology and media.

Today, styling photo shoots accounts for a lot of his work and takes him all over the World. When we talked he was getting ready to head to Milan for two weeks. When he heard about the theft of the hat (the first time) he was in Tenerife.

Lee became a Forest Hillbilly just over six years ago on a day his partner Alex is unlikely to let him forget: Valentine’s Day.

Lee is a native North Londoner, living in both Century Park and Watford before venturing south to SE23. Like many other recent arrivals, he knew very little about the area but was encouraged here by friends who live and work in Havelock Walk. In Forest Hill he found a converted sausage factory (or so he has been told) with room for a studio and a home for him and Alex. Lee speaks with great fondness now of Forest Hill though, from our chat, I suspect it is the cheese toasties from Aga’s Little Deli that keeps him in the ‘hood.

Over the past few years, Lee has also carved out a niche line of work in styling photo shoots and events for Christmas. For him, Christmas begins in May lasting often through to October. A few years ago at a photo shoot for Dobbies Garden Centres, he admitted to decorating over 1,500 trees — a number he now thinks was conservative. It should be no surprise that he has earned himself the title Mr. Christmas. Forest Hill was very lucky to have Lee not only design but also supply the decorations and make those two erstwhile hats for our Christmas Tree.

  • Fun Fact 1 – The Forest Hill Hat was made from an elephant-knit throw, padded with a 5-tog duvet and trimmed with a lot of fake fur.
  • Fun Fact 2 – In case the second Forest Hill Hat was stolen, it had the message “we hope you get no presents” printed on the inside.
  • Fun Fact 3 – Lee is obsessed with television shows from the 60s and 70s, which in part explains the Morgenstern in Jackson Morgenstern. If you think you know why, then tweet us at @FHSoc or leave us a post on Facebook.
  • Fun Fact 4 – Lee will be decorating the Forest Hill Christmas Tree again this year and has already started on design concepts.

Environment Update

Pots against pollution
As a trial, in a further effort to mitigate against the pollution produced by traffic on the South Circular, Forest Hill Society volunteers have attached pots of trailing ivy to the railings near the former Barclays Bank in Forest Hill. These plants form the beginnings of a “green screen” in an effort to reduce the negative impact of vehicle emissions on people, and especially small children, using our roads. If the trial is successful similar pots will be attached to other railings around the traffic junction.

Cleaning — not just greening
The Forest Hill Society’s cleaning squad turned out in force on February 22nd to spruce up the subway. Sloshing suds and waving wipers, it didn’t take long to return the walls of the subway to whiter than white.

How Clean is Your Air?

The Forest Hill Society’s “Clean Air for SE23” campaign began last year aiming to raise awareness about the dangers of air pollution and improve air quality.

You may have met us at the Horniman Farmers’ Market where we encouraged people to plant a tree for SE23. We asked you to take away an acorn or conker seed and come back in the spring to plant the sprigs at the Horniman Triangle, to create a green screen next to the playground. At the same time, we raised £120 to plant 120 trees in developing countries through “Just One Tree”, so thank you for your donations. We realised the sprigs would be too small to plant in March (we’re still learning about trees!) and are asking people to keep your plants until November when we will have set up a planting event alongside Street Trees for Living who will be planting six large oak trees and other saplings. The best place for oak and horse chestnut trees is actually at the opposite end of the park to the playground, because of ground conditions, but we hope to get funding to fill in the gaps in the hedge and plant some more suitable saplings in this area. We hope the plants will help to screen the traffic fumes from the busy road to some extent. Watch this space or the Facebook group for news of the November planting event.

Last year we also set up an air quality monitoring programme to look at the levels of pollution in our area and measure particulate matter in the air. Lewisham Council and Kings College Air Quality Network have a useful map of air quality, but their maps are made by modelling data from just a few actual monitors across Lewisham. Their data gives an average across the day and does not account for peaks during rush hour traffic, when children are walking to school.

We are working with Jennifer Gabrys from Cambridge University and Goldsmiths to develop an enhanced monitoring programme. Jennifer has designed a small monitor called a dustbox, which is designed to look like a particle of air pollution. She has already run a successful citizen science research project in Deptford. We identified sites that we think will have bad air quality (mainly along the A205, especially where traffic idles).

We will have monitors at about 10 sites including Horniman Gardens (one by the road and one by the bandstand), Dalmain school, along Brockley Rise and Honor Oak Park, and near Forest Hill station. The monitors will collect data for 2-3 months. Jennifer will calibrate the data against the existing monitoring stations at New Cross and Honor Oak, to identify what pollution is caused by local sources (traffic) and external sources (e.g. pollution that can be blown here from European factories and from Saharan dust).

We hope to use the data to lobby for things like the London Mayor’s Healthy Neighbourhoods scheme, cycle lanes, school streets, air filters in classrooms and more green spaces and trees. We also hope it will strengthen our campaign to reduce car use, something which is also key to Lewisham Council’s climate action plan.

If you would like to find out more or have a little time to spare to help with future campaigning please email cleanairSE23@hotmail.com or see our Facebook group www.facebook.com/groups/cleanairSE23.

Have a Look at Havelock Walk

Havelock Walk is one of Forest Hill’s great treasures. It is a cobbled mews off London Road which is home to a diverse community of creative people, who all live and work there. Its small entrance off the South Circular gives little indication of the creative hub a few meters from our busy high street. It feels almost hidden despite the large blue and white Hello and Goodbye mural, by resident artist Supermundane.

Havelock Walk’s history is far from clear. Some suggest the name derives from the Have Lock, an offshoot of the Croydon Canal providing stables for the horses which pulled the barges. This may be more of an urban legend since there is no written evidence. Furthermore, the Croydon Canal closed twenty years before the first noted reference in 1862 to a Havelock Street on the site. Businesses then included a blacksmith, carpenter, coach-maker and zinc worker. It likely borrowed its name from the terrace of shops on London Road which now includes the Red Cross, then called Havelock Terrace.

It is much more likely that Havelock Walk is named after Major-General Sir Henry Havelock, then considered a hero of the unsuccessful Indian Rebellion in 1857. Havelock died shortly after the end of the Rebellion; subsequently, streets, building and even pubs came to bear his name. Today, a statue of Havelock stands on one of Trafalgar Square’s plinths.
While once an area of industry, fast forward to the 1980s when Havelock Walk was a grim, cobbled terrace used by mechanics and metal workers for storage. It suffered bomb damage during the war and had remained unwanted. Yet, despite the squalor, it had something that Lancashire-born artist Jeff Lowe was looking for.

Jeff Lowe FRSS was a student of the New Generation of British sculptors in the 1960s which included Anthony Caro and William Tucker. Lowe came to prominence in the 1970s winning the Sainsbury Award in 1975 and today is internationally acclaimed for his monumental architectural-inspired abstract sculptures.

Lowe had been looking for cheap warehouse space in which he could work on his large abstract sculpture and make a home. Havelock Walk fit the bill, and in 1987 he bought his first unit followed by several more over the next ten years. Each one was converted into live/work studios and often sold on to other artists. As shells, their new owners could create the spaces they needed for both their professional work and personal needs.

Fast forward to today, and Havelock Walk is now home to a vast array of artists, sculptors, ceramicists, architects, photographers and craftspeople. They include Royal Academician David Mach, who is now one of the UK’s most successful and respected artists, and known for his large-scale sculpture, collages and installations. His 1989 installation Out of Order, of fallen red telephone boxes, dominates the centre of Kingston. Supermundane’s (aka Rob Lowe’s) geometric images and typography are instantly recognisable, playing with line, colour and optical illusions. Another resident is visual artist and mental health advocate Liz Atkin. Atkin’s work is in part a response to her  compulsive skin picking condition and she can often be found giving away work to passengers on the Overground. Resident photographers Wayne Parker and Lenka Rayn produce haunting landscapes (Parker) and portraits (Rayn) from their unit at the end of Havelock Walk.

In the 30-plus years since Jeff Lowe bought his first unit, Havelock Walk has become more than a street of live/work spaces. Havelock Walk is now a thriving community of artists, often collaborating with each other; and a community of families, many with children born and raised there.

Throughout the year, visits to studios are often by request only. But twice a year the studios’ doors are opened, and this creativity explodes onto the street with Havelock Walk’s popular Open Studio Weekends. Colourful bunting leads visitors to original art and crafts for sale, alongside street music, street food and the families of Havelock Walk.

For further information, visit www.havelockwalk.com

Forest Hill Society Seeks New Chairperson

The Forest Hill Society is looking for a new Chairperson to oversee its activities and to help manage its future direction. The role is important — chairing both the Executive Committee meetings and the Annual General Meeting. Though much of the work done by the Society is at the Committee level  — which currently includes environment, planning, transport and communications — it is important to coordinate all our activities and campaigns.

Should you be interested in the role of Chairperson, please send us an email or arrange to speak with any member of the Executive Committee who would be more than happy to meet and talk about this.

The Society has grown to become an important part of Forest Hill life. We oversee activities like the annual flower planting in and around Forest Hill station. Of course, there was much discussion on the Christmas Tree this year and its errant hat — that’s us too.

The Society continues to provide input on major planning applications and has been instrumental in recent decisions around the SE23 postcode in the last year — including the creation of the Christmas Conservation Area. And, of course, there are the many ongoing efforts of the Society often mentioned in this newsletter, such as the Clean Air and Aircraft Noise campaigns.

Since the wonderfully attended Christmas Tree lighting ceremony with carols and Santa, the Society has hosted a public meeting of the Clean Air for SE23 campaign; organised a history walk around Perry Vale and Blythe Hill; and recently spring-cleaned the pedestrian subway. We have a plethora of events and activities coming up this year, including a number of themed social events to connect local people in real life.

If you would like to help out in other ways, there’s always room on our committees for more members.

For more information contact us via:

The Streets are Filled with Art

Forest Hill and surrounding areas have seen a growth in the use of public art to better address the needs of 'dressing the street'. These works do more than brighten up a drab area, they also play a role in our sense of collective purpose. But what constitutes public art and how is the commissioning process able to support community goals?

With momentum building behind interest in these questions, the time is right to capitalise on the trend. The “Lewisham School of Muralism” is a proposal by Artmongers. A Spacehive crowdfunding-campaign has been launched to fund this initiative to teach participants the process of creating murals.

To find out more or to donate, visit www.spacehive.com/lewisham-school-of-muralism

15 March 2020

Looking out for your Neighbours

Our community is faced with some challenges ahead, and it is at this time community is at its most important. Right now, is a very good time to introduce yourself to a neighbour and swap telephone numbers.  Particularly elderly ones, stay at home parents, neighbours with disabilities and even those who just moved into the area. If your neighbour is not at home consider leaving a note such as this one with your contact details.

Think about creating a WhatsApp group for your neighbours or street.  And remember that some people are 'off-grid', consider sharing important information whenever you hear it.

There is a Lewisham-wide Covid-19 Mutual Aid group on Facebook which is intended to put people in contact and share information on a wider scale.

Related to this are local whatsapp groups based on ward areas:
Forest Hill https://chat.whatsapp.com/BGzBE202C6cELrzhg2SMFc
Crofton Park https://chat.whatsapp.com/BBw6zHu1G4ZG4F6jJ4njbf
Perry Vale - https://chat.whatsapp.com/GLijgM6K7AyK3pkvfjTVFJ

Shop Locally

While major retailers are finding it difficult to keep stock levels replenished, please consider shopping at local independent shops. Many continue to have good stock levels and need the support of the local community to keep it that way.

Similarly, why not consider ordering in a take away from your favourite local restaurants? (and keep your stockpile for another day).

From our foreign correspondent…

Goings-on from beyond the borders of SE23

New Cinema in Catford
Catford has been cinema-less since the ABC closed in 2001 — but no longer! 2019 saw the opening of “Catford Mews”, an independently-run venue comprising a three-screen cinema, café, bar, five local food vendors and a community space.
Located in the shopping precinct off Rushey Green, the cinema is open seven days a week with screenings throughout the day. It shows both the latest releases and independent films, and also hosts comedy nights, live music and the occasional live theatre broadcast.

Film ticket prices are under £10 and there are various membership packages entitling members to free tickets, discounts on further tickets, and 10% off food and drink.

For more information visit www.catford-mews.co.uk

New Shops and New Locations

Olives and More now open

New to 13 Perry Vale is ‘Olives and More’, which sells the finest Spanish extra virgin olive oils, made from a number of varieties of olive, each of which has its own distinctive taste. There are monthly Olive Tasting Workshops where you can learn how olive oil is produced, its uses and health benefits (for details and booking visit mardeolivos.co.uk/olivesandmore).

The shop also sells olives by weight, and other products made with extra virgin olive oil such as tapenade, chocolate and honey.

Forest Hill’s Co-op has moved
The Co-op grocery store has moved to Stanstead Road, next to Shurgard Self-Storage. The new store is much larger and more spacious than the previous one. There is more retail space for fresh fruit and vegetables, chilled and frozen food, groceries, household goods and off-licence sales. There is also an in-house bakery.

There is a small car park at the side, but note that Co-op parking is at the back (access through the gate) and limited to 30 minutes.


The following events have been cancelled:

Gin Tasting: Thursday 23rd April, 7pm. Sample a selection of English Gins to celebrate St George’s Day.

Spring Planting: Saturday 25th April, 2pm.

Havelock Walk Open Studio Days: May 9-10th and May 16-17th.

Walk Through History: Sunday 17th May, 2:30pm

We will be postponing the Edible Plant Give-Away and looking for a safe way to continue with this project without congregating in one place while the government advice is to stay indoors.

The Monsters are Coming … to the Horniman

The Horniman Museum’s temporary exhibition space is going back to a time BEFORE the dinosaurs to showcase fossil skeletons as well as full-size models and animatronics which bring the Permian back to life after 250 million years!

Visitors to the Permian Monsters exhibition can sift through interactive dig pits, get creative in an art area, and see a collection of artwork offering a glimpse back in time through the eyes of award-winning palaeoartist Julius Csotonyi.

The exhibition lasts until the end of October and is free for members (tickets required for non-members).

For more information visit www.horniman.ac.uk