An insider's view on London’s Mini Lagos (aka Peckham)

An insider's view on London’s Mini Lagos (aka Peckham)
Zine Scene — SE15 Paper reveals a side of South London tourists never see, highlighting Peckham’s vibrant mix of cultures.

Trailing their selfie sticks around Buckingham Palace and Leicester Square, unadventurous tourists who visit London and just stick to the centre see only a petrified waxwork of the city. But escaping the tourist trail and getting out of Zone 1, you’ll find where the real heart of London beats.

SE15 Paper is a collaboration between local graphic designer Hilda Kortei and photographer Adama Jalloh, designed to shine a light on the people and culture of Peckham, sometimes known as Mini Lagos.

But shooting and interviewing people who run the business that tie the community together is a bittersweet celebration, as gentrification marches onwards and more and more people who’ve called the area home for generations are pushed out.

When and why did you start making zines?
SE15 actually started out as Hilda’s university project during her second year at Arts University Bournemouth. It’s changed a bit since then. It was originally designed as a sort of London travel guide to persuade tourists to visit more areas of London. The aim was to give tourists a bigger picture of London and show them that London isn’t just your usual London Eye, Buckingham Palace, Tower Bridge, etc. but there are other areas that make London, such as Peckham (aka mini Lagos). Hilda wanted to show tourists that they could come to London and experience so many different cultures within England. She wanted people to be able to say “I went to London and I tasted Jollof rice for the first time”.

Areas like Brixton, Croydon and Peckham are very different to central London. They’re all beautiful places, and they’re all very much London.

Hilda wasn’t happy with the photography she had originally produced and found Adama’s style of photography was exactly what the publication needed. She decided to contact Adama and ask if she would be interested in teaming up to recreate the publication.

We really wanted to give the shop owners and employees a voice. We wanted to find out more about their line of work, how long they had been working there and what it’s like to own/work in a shop in Peckham. Most importantly, as there is a lot of gentrification happening in Peckham and other areas, we felt it was important to document these places before they get wiped out.

What do you like about the medium?
It’s a quick and easy way to get our work out there and get our point across. It’s always nice when you have a piece of print you can feel and hold. We went for an unusual format too, something more interesting and different from your average zine so you’ll remember us. Digital zines are becoming more and more popular these days but why follow the crowd? Peckham is busy and ‘all over the place’ – we feel our format and design gives our audience a little taste of that.

There is definitely a lot of creative freedom involved with this type of medium; you can do and express things the way you want without having to worry so much about how it might come across. With zines in particular, it’s always cool knowing that you can display your ideas in the most flexible and unconventional way.

What’s SE15 all about? 
The main aim of the publication is to bring positive awareness to multicultural businesses in Peckham, however we are not trying to promote individual businesses. We want to highlight the little details of these businesses that make them unique from each other and return recognition to shops that may have been forgotten about. We also interview shop owners, people of Peckham and regular customers to give them a voice and stop them from getting lost behind the commotion.

The way things are going, we feel in a few years these businesses, customers and the people who have lived in Peckham for decades won’t exist anymore. Residents are already being kicked out of their homes so we just want to capture as much as we can before they disappear.

People that work within these businesses are always shocked when we mention wanting to take photographs of them in their element. You can tell straight away how much they enjoy and take pride in their trade of work. Going back to these shops and seeing their reactions to the images is always good thing to witness. Not only will they be able to talk about their jobs/businesses but they can also physically show people as well keep an archive that includes them in it.

How do you go about creating each issue and how do you choose the stories and artwork?
Issue 02 (Nail shops) was released in July so we’re fairly new. We’re hoping to target as many businesses as possible and are still deciding what business we want our third issue to be about. We have a long list of people’s favourite shops they want us to feature.

Even though the first two issues have only expressed stories through photography and writing, we think it’s important that its shown through different mediums also. Adama is the photographer for SE15, but we had a lot of emails from people asking if they could get involved with our project, so for our latest issue we gave people the chance to submit all types of creative work, from paintings to poems. We hope that the more issues we create, the more other artists will want to get involved.

What do you do for a living and how does zinemaking fit into your life?
We’ve both just finished university and are looking for work placements and internships. We recently sold issues 1 and 2 at the DIY Cultures fair – the response from people were amazing. Having only just started out with zinemaking, its great knowing that the stories we share in the zines actually resonates with a number of people whether they are from Peckham or not. That alone motivates us to continue with wanting to release more issues. Now the stress of university is over, hopefully we’ll have more time to focus on the publication.

Have you swapped SE15 Paper for any other good zines?
Yes, we recently swapped with Jacob V Joyce’s White Boys and absolutely love it!

What are your favourite zines?
A few to mention: Between the Borders, Strike!, OOMK, Diaspora Drama and POP Africana – The way we plait.

Check out SE15 Paper.

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