The rise of a multicultural creative destination in south east London
By Sujata Burman
This creative hub, in an old car park in Peckham, is made for local talent. The eight-storey location has transformed over the years, now an incubator for studios and an evolving space for the community to enjoy. Here, Maysoon Matthysen, who heads up activation and events, shares five things you need to know about Peckham Levels.
1. Everyone’s welcome
Levels one to four host about 100 businesses in parking space- sized studios and offices: from immigration officers to therapists, ceramicists, jewellery designers and recording studios.
These spaces have reachable rents and are offered to the community – about 75% come from Peckham or SE15. It is still predominantly white males, so we’re looking to diversify, though it takes time to get the message out that the space is for everyone. We’re working on transforming that narrative.
2. Plenty to eat & drink
Levels five and six are our open public spaces; there’s a foodhall, cafe and bar area. We're under the Really Local Group portfolio, which takes disused high-street locations and repurposes them for communities. The idea is that you can just come here – teenagers after school; parents and children; friends meeting after work.
3. Design is key
Carl Turner Architects designed the building and offers tours for people wanting to set up something similar. And, we aim to support local design talent to thrive here.
4. Accessibility, too
We try to hit different communities via our events – from talks for people with learning disabilities, to open mic nights for lesser known artists. We want to give people an equal platform.
5. Springboard for small businesses
Essentially, we’re a stepping stone: you start in the co-working space, build your business, get a studio, then outgrow us altogether. You can see the growth of businesses like gal-dem, who developed here.
6. Community & young people
Our members increasingly reflect the rich culture of Peckham. Take Goya Studios, a company of designers and artists who are predominantly women of colour. For LDF22, one of their artists created an inflatable in one of the alleyways at Peckham Levels, supported by Camberwell College of Arts third-year students. Another artist hosted a workshop in the play area, inviting children to share their thoughts on: What would be fun? What would be safe? What would allow them to feel comfortable? The evolution never stops.