With traditional pubs, bingo halls and clubs closing down at an astonishing rate (4 pubs a day in the UK), these spaces are having to find new purposes. Surprisingly not all have been redeveloped in to flats. In South London, many pubs, bingo halls and clubs have been transformed in to places of worship, for a variety of religions and denominations.
On Walworth Road in Southwark, no fewer than 8 old pubs, shops and a massive bingo hall have been converted in to religious spaces. A pub only 4 years ago is now a thriving Islamic Centre, an old money exchange shop now offering regions salvation in Jesus and the old Gala Bingo now a mega evangelical church.
These old spaces die hard, with hints of their past life as purveyors of sin, with old brewery names next to ‘Jesus Saves’ signs it is clear this is a recent phenomenon. So much so, through Google Maps, we can see what the old spaces as functioning pubs as little as 5 years ago.
Some of these spaces have a long and important history in their local areas. For instance, ‘The Angel’ pub on Coldharbour Lane in Brixton was once a focal point for the first generation immigrants which came to London in the 1950’s and 60s where reggae and ska would play and was the hub of the community. The first pub in Brixton to sell drinks to black people, it lasted through the generations, however closed in 2012, briefly becoming an art space ‘Brick Box’ and now transformed into a artisan bread shop playing easy listening and serving flat whites over potato and rosemary bread. One of the many upmarket shops in Brixton, another sign of the gentrification of the area. Has this and other pubs be salvaged from a dying need to serve a new wealthier population or has the old community lost out to a shop they can’t afford, identify with or socialise in? A question which is being asked all over London at this time not just about pubs, but all types of businesses as the landscape changes and traditional working class areas become middle class hubs. With this in mind, will the new church spaces and community centres in areas like Walworth and Peckham survive, or is Brixton a hint of things to come, have these spaces been salvaged in to regions spaces permanently, or will they become the artisan bread shops of Southwark when the inevitable gentrification hits?