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URBAN FOX: Rye and shine, looking at a former Peckham church that is now a hub of work, food and retail

Something special is about to launch at 133 Rye Lane. As the former church’s doors open following a stunning refurb, the Urban Fox takes an exclusive first-look tour around a co-working, restaurant and retail hub like no other, writes Cara Cummings…

It’s the kind of space you immediately feel settled within.

In fact, so invitingly comfortable is the space that you’d be forgiven for thinking you’d walked into a cosy showhome instead of Peckham’s latest professional workspace. That, it seems, is no mistake. “We’ve tried really hard to make it feel quite homely,” explains Simon Thorpe, co-founder of Market. “We aimed to strike a balance where it feels professional but doesn’t feel too hard-edged. Domestic is a good summary: comfortable, yet adaptable when you want it to be.”

It’s a smart move from Simon and co-founder Nick Mansour, who’ve spent three years transforming the seven storey building into a brand new community hub for Peckham – one that helps freelancers, small businesses and independent retailers to thrive on their own terms within it’s freshly refurbished walls.

Market isn’t just geared towards providing south London’s laptop nomads with a desk to call their own. It’s bringing new restaurants, shops and a live performance venue to the heart of Peckham, building a work-meets-leisure hub for the whole community. Ramen rockstars Tonkotsu are already confirmed residents along with Furza Wine, who’ll serve up antipasti and killer drinks to punters enjoying 360° views of the city from Market’s rooftop bar. The basement venue, meanwhile, will host bands and club nights curated by the founders of Bermondsey Social Club and Peckham bar Four Quarters.

“It’s reflective of the area – there are so many people doing such interesting things,” says Nick of Market’s innovative mix of professional, cultural and social spaces.

It wasn’t always meant to be this way. Nick and Simon’s initial aim of developing the building into flats through their residential architecture practice Frame had to be withdrawn after more than 15,000 people signed a petition calling for the planning application to be rejected. It wasn’t an easy moment for the pair – but the setback proved the start of the Market journey.

“Through the consultation process it became clear that there’s real interest from south Londoners when it comes to their local town centres,” reflects Nick, a long-term Peckham resident himself. “In Peckham’s case, it’s particularly strong. People wanted to see their town centre develop in a way that fostered business growth, to maximise the amazing potential the area is clearly demonstrating at the moment. Seeing the variety of different people who responded with what they wanted, which wasn’t the classic buy-to-let boxes… I think that was the pivotal point. We could see the massive interest and thought: ‘let’s make it happen’.”

“Our own process of trying to find work space told us an awful lot. We couldn’t find a workspace that reflected what mattered to us as people in a creative industry; all the other spaces just seemed a bit generic. We felt patronised by the graphics on the corridor walls, and like we weren’t getting the cost-effective shared facilities that make a massive difference to a small business.

“Inflexibility of commitment was a nightmare for us too. We were evolving constantly, so couldn’t speculate on a fixed term, two year contract based on what size we might be and then start paying that rent straight away! It’s odd sometimes that these things can carry on and carry on without someone saying, ‘This is absurd!’ It feels long overdue.”

“It’s a really fulfilling experience having your own business or being a freelancer,” continues Nick. “Being part of a big corporate machine, you can spend an awful lot of time communicating rather than actually doing. It’s incredibly satisfying being able to be small, lean and focused, and think about what you’re doing and get on with it.”

Simon and Nick have already hit the ground running with Peckham Rise, an annual competition with a business-changing prize of free desk space for a year for. (Inaugural winner Daniel Peters, founder of Southwark-based menswear brand Your Samples Collective, moves in this month.)

“Peckham’s got this incredible small business scene that’s growing at an amazing pace, and it’s incredibly inventive in the way that people are doing things. It felt as though this is an area that’s ripe for successful businesses, who need good quality office space to grow and not feel hampered.”

“We’d feel really proud if in five or ten years’ time, it felt like we were able to facilitate people taking a step towards doing things that they really want to do, and enjoy working life. It’s incredibly important for us that we’re able to look back, in the end, and think: ‘Market helped that happen.’”

September edition 2019

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