Lifestyle communications agency focused on all things culture, retail and entertainment
  • Brand it like Peckham

    When speaking to a colleague at Good Relations last week, he seemed shocked to hear that not only did I live in Peckham, but that I love living in Peckham, and that I remain a firm advocate for moving South of the river to the trendy hotspot that is SE15.

    But, if I have to say it’s trendy, does that make it so?

    As far as I was aware, Peckham was high up in the Londonian consciousness – largely due perhaps to the happy coincidence that the features editor from Time Out lives there too. However, when looking through the news stories or articles on Peckham, it seems to be the usual suspects of Peckhamite references that come through: Only Fools and Horses; Damilola Taylor; and the notorious Riots of 2011. The latter of which is responsible for some of my less-than-fond memories of finding a burning bus at the end of my road after being locked inside a hospital “for my safety”. But… that’s all history right? Whilst the blackened burnt-out shell of a Greggs store still stands forlornly on Rye Lane as an inconvenient memento to the riots, we’ve moved on.


    In fact, Peckham has a happier history if we want to look at the past – in the Victorian times Rye Lane, Peckham, was a huge shopping destination for South Londoners featuring a famous department store in 1867 that remained open until 1980. This shopping heritage seems to be thriving in the present on Rye Lane with the high street bucking the trend of bricks and mortar stores elsewhere in the country – and enjoying a roaring trade on the traditionally quieter and lazy-day Sundays. There’s a farmer’s market every weekend that will soon be joined by its Bellenden Street neighbour. These shops and market places are indicators of the community that exists in SE15 – as recently covered in the awesomely diverse free local newspaper, the Peckham Peculiar. The various shopkeepers along Rye Lane made up of 20 different nationalities and 28% of whom are able to speak 4 languages or more and are a big part of the reason why the area is on the up. Where else can you find a single store that allows you to buy a range of items from “Gungo peas, Nigerian brown beans, sour cherry jam, yellow dates, fried eggplant, Charmagaz mixed melon seeds, to Tinsel, magnetic fruit, toiletries, hair dye, cleaning products, birthday cards and plastic animals”? You know… If you wanted to…

    Kahn’s Bargains is your eclectic outside-the-box one-stop-shop.


    It’s not only shopping that captures the imagination of the residents and visitors alike (although don’t forget to check out the live African Snails on the side of the street languishing in a wooden crate behind the Yams…) it’s the bars and the clubs that are raising the … bar.


    Cue Four Quarters, London’s only Arcade Bar where you can balance your pint on the corner as you play on a retro Pac-man machine; or Franks Bar, a 6th storey bar on a car park roof with an incredible view of central London – you know it’s trendy when you’re perched on rough cut wooden blocks; Canavans – a poolbar cum nightclub, with a terrifying entranceway to make your way through, but the reward of an Aladdin’s Cave of Hipsterism when you do; Bricks Brewery, a yard where you can sit and drink the beer that’s brewed on site; Pedlar, a restaurant/cocktail bar run by the makers of Little Bird Gin, and which promises to be the site of many a ruined mother; as well as The Bussey Building – a warehouse set for demolition, rescued by the community, and now the site of a rooftop cinema; a nightclub; dancing studios; pop-up restaurants; art galleries; a gym; a café; and  pop-up markets as well as many many more.


    It is this community aspect again that makes Peckham that little bit special, and a place to reconsider your preconceptions. The Bussey Building was saved from a remodelling that would have altered the accessibility of art and music to the local community; and a recent planned renovation of the Peckham Rye train station also fell afoul of the community malcontent – which is now using CoDesign with the community to shape the future direction of Network Rail’s plans for the station. The next target for collective action is the proposed return of the Peckham Lido, currently buried under turf on the 96.3 acre Peckham Rye Common, and which would promise further cohesion of a community, as well as an added draw to the curious tourists commonly seen milling around the train station using Google Maps to track down Franks Bar.


    This month, it’s Black History Month, and a recent film release of Growing Pains (available at the Peckham Plex, a multiscreen cinema where tickets are a fiver, or only £2.50 on Orange Wednesdays) showcases Peckham’s Black community in a move away from the outdated stereotype of knife crime and disgruntled youths to an important fresher message of multiculturalism and community.

    This film is one strand in the rebranding of Peckham; alongside the efforts of Time Out, Peckham Peculiar, the local community, and the numerous gentrified Hipsters taking the southbound train from Shoreditch.


     So if you did have any Peckhamite preconceptions – get over them, and get the Overground to see and feel it for yourself.

    Just don’t go to Greggs.

    By Sam Newell

  • How to celebrate the big birthdays

    Brand anniversaries are a brilliant way to reflect on a brand’s history and look forwards to the future. This year has seen many brands celebrate a big birthday, from Topshop’s big 5-0 to McDonald’s 40th, but perhaps the biggest celebration of all happened just a few weeks ago at a much-loved food market on London’s Southbank. Borough Market is celebrating a whole millennium as one of London’s favourite street markets.


    Borough Market in 11th Century

    First launched in the 11th century, Borough Market caused outcry on its opening when its cheap prices and success threatened London’s other markets. Today it is a thriving food market, selling everything from the very best Italian mozzarella to beautiful Croatian fig jam and every delicacy you can think of in between.


    To mark their 1000 years, Borough Market placed colourful wash-away paint at the three main entrances to the market, which visitors walked through as they entered, leaving multi-coloured footprints wherever they go. The colourful artwork represents the footsteps that have visited the market over the years from William Shakespeare to a literary Bridget Jones.


    By Jenna Birks


  • YouTube Sensations: The New Generation Of Celebrity

    Zoella, Alfie Deyes, Thatcher Joe, Caspar Lee, Tanya Burr and Jim Chapman are some of the hottest names in the Twitter-sphere right now. Just in case you’re not sure who they are, let me explain. They are a group of twenty-somethings from Brighton who are some of the most popular and admired personalities amongst teenagers across the world. They have not sold millions of records, starred in Hollywood blockbusters or modelled for high-end designers. What they are is a new generation of celebrity; they are YouTube vlogging sensations.


    This group of attractive, bright young things are known individually for their lifestyle vlogs, and they are also best friends. Imagine if Friends was separated out into six individual shows, and you’ll get the idea. So, Zoella is going out with Alfie (collectively known as Zalfie), she is Thatcher Joe’s older sister, Joe is living with Jim, who is engaged to Tanya. They are lifestyle vloggers: Zoella and Tanya Burr give hair and make-up tutorials, Alfie offers general musings on life, while Joe and Caspar often play pranks on each other. Ostensibly, there is nothing extraordinary in this, yet their popularity has skyrocketed and they are beginning to take over new territory. Alfie (AKA Pointless blog) has just turned his blog into a book, ‘Pointless Book’ which has already topped Amazon’s best-sellers list, and Zoella has signed a two book deal, penning a story about a girl who has a YouTube blog. It may seem counterintuitive that stars who have found fame on social media are returning to the antiquated medium of the book, but there is a nostalgic place for books in the hearts of even the most tech-obsessed kids and these books will no doubt be the must-have for teens across the globe in months to come.


    To give you some perspective of their social media standings, Alfie turned 21 recently and #HappyBirthdayAlfie was the top trend on Twitter. Zoella’s vlog now has an impressive 6 million subscribers and fans across the world tweeted in celebration, with #CongratulationsOn6MillionZoe trending. This may seem surprising as they aren’t red-carpet starlets, but actually this is what makes them so popular. Their appeal lies in the fact that they are essentially normal people. They are a group of friends with whom the younger demographic can associate; they shop in H&M, live in pretty but modest flats and don’t have an entourage and bodyguards with them at all times. However, they do achieve some celebrity status. Zoella has appeared on the cover of Company Magazine, Tanya Burr has her own make-up brush range and the gang rub shoulders with the likes of teeny bopper heart-throbs One Direction.


    Between Zoella and Tanya’s beauty tutorials, Zoella’s “ChummyChatter” (a regular slot in which she talks about issues like body image, boys and university), Joe and Caspar’s amusing boyish pranks and Aflie’s perspective on why girls are confusing, this group has the effect of filling the void left when teen magazines like J-17, Sugar and Jackie ceased to be published. Where previous generations held these mags in high esteem, like bibles with glossy pages (and free nail polish and posters!), today’s teen looks to the internet and social media for guidance through adolescence. So these vlogs provide them with regular instalments that they can look forward to, ready to discuss at length with their school friends the next day. What’s more, parents can also relax when they see their children watching and imitating their favourite vlogger, safe in the knowledge that the Brit Crew are not about to lead their offspring down a road of hard drugs and twerking.

    The rise of these YouTube stars is a perfect demonstration of how technology may have advanced and the chosen medium of teenagers may have evolved, but our human nature remains the same. Teenagers are still wowed by glitzy A-listers but their affinity lies with the Brit Crew: their virtual older siblings. And unlike with real older siblings, fans don’t have to worry about getting picked on all the time. 

    By Zoe Taylor

  • National Theatre Live: The Death of Theatre as we Know it?

    "Everything about the theatre depends on the relationship of a performer to a group of spectators", wrote Richard Eyre, former director of the National Theatre.


    Does this relationship change if you are watching live theatre performed not on the stage, but on a screen?

    The National Theatre Live scheme was piloted in 2009, the idea being that people across the UK could enjoy the quality of London’s Southbank without having to leave their home town. Initially 70 cinemas across the UK enjoyed a screening of Phèdre, starring Helen Mirren. Today there are around 700 venues showing NT live internationally. 


    "Isn’t the whole point of theatre that it is a live experience? What is the point of watching something live if there is a screen in the way? It might as well be recorded and edited so that you can at least watch the best possible version", comes the criticism from cynics and theatrical purists. 

    Well, these cynics should be booed off. The National Theatre Live project is bringing theatre to a whole new audience that might otherwise never get to experience the thrill of a live theatrical performance, let alone a performance that reaches the high standards set by The National Theatre.


    Last week we went to check out National Theatre live for ourselves as we headed to a King’s University to watch Tennesse Williams’ A Streetcar Named Desire. The performance was every bit as engaging and electric as live theatre and it was easy to forget that you were looking at a screen at all. The all-important relationship between performer and audience was still intact. Gillian Anderson, Ben Foster and Vanessa Kirby had an energy so powerful that it bounced off the stage onto our screens. What’s more, because it was live we felt much more absorbed in the production than we perhaps would had it been pre-recorded. Live performances, however they are viewed, will always be more engaging.

    Perhaps more importantly for us, it was also half the price and half the effort. For many people (particularly us cash-strapped graduates), National Theatre Live is keeping people engaged with theatre without expensive ticket and travel prices (the free drink and popcorn in the interval is also a bonus).

    As Richard Eyre himself wrote, National Theatre live has made “the National more national”. After all, it is an institution to be enjoyed by the whole country, wherever you are in the country.

    For a full listing of upcoming events head to

    By Emily Heath and Francesca Turner

  • Why House of Vans won’t sell shoes

    On 9 August, House of Vans arrived in London. Hosting the only indoor skate park in the capital, as well as a cinema, music venue, art gallery and bars and restaurants, HoV has been hugely successful in pulling in the crowds five days a week to club nights, skate sessions and community workshops.

    But what sets HoV apart is that visitors cannot buy a single Vans product there. Not one.

    So what makes it so successful? Aside from the free entry and the novelty of an underground skatepark underneath Waterloo station, how has HoV become one of the city’s must-visit events?

    On opening, Vans’ marketing vice president Jeremy de Maillard said its purpose was to make the space feel like a ‘house where everyone is welcome’ and that the aim is not to sell but to immerse people in the Vans brand and make them feel part of the ‘Vans family’.

    Vans itself, a US clothing and footwear brand, has long been associated with skateboarding and youth culture and it is this that HoV seeks to bring to life. By focusing on enhancing the lifestyles of its target market, rather than just trying to sell to them, Vans is better positioned to build a loyal community rather than just a customer base.

    Authenticity is important here. Shoehorning a brand into a fun but completely unrelated event does not create the same positive associations. It appears fake and forced and detracts from the brand’s credibility without fostering any enduring commitment. By taking out any commercial element, Vans made a clear statement that HoV was not about any financial gain on their part, but rather just a chance for Vans lovers to get together and have a good time.

    These sorts of events – also trialled by others such as Levi and Converse – are experiencing a renaissance at the moment, largely due to their natural integration with social media. With exclusive online content, interaction through various social sites and visitors sharing their own experiences, brands are able to reach even greater numbers than they could ever hope to do by just running these as something that could only be experienced physically. Making these events work across all platforms means that Vans is able to cultivate its presence both on and offline, amongst HoV visitors as well as their friends and followers.

    Vans overcomes the need to sell products at HoV by playing the long game. By putting on a unique event for everyone to enjoy, Vans boosts engagement with the brand and understanding of it, without having to push sales at everyone attending. Once visitors have this affiliation with the brand, those who identify with it are more likely to become long-term Vans customers, rather than making one-off souvenir purchases at HoV which have little value for anyone.

    Vans’ success is in showing that Vans is more than just shoes – it’s a way of life. And House of Vans gives visitors the chance to live it.

    By Matt Robshaw

  • Seeing is believing! The coming virtual reality revolution?


    “Put on these goggles, go nowhere, and be transported anywhere. It’s the same escapism peddled by drugs, alcohol, sex, and art — throw off the shackles of the mundane through a metaphysical transportation to an altered state. Born of technology, virtual reality at its core is an organic experience. Yes, it’s man meets machine, but what happens is strictly within the mind.”

    I found this great quote on which got me thinking about virtual reality (VR), where it could go and how it could ultimately change our lives…

    It’s hard not to notice that VR technology is everywhere! Its announced as being the next big innovation in tech but the promise of virtual reality has always been enormous and has been around in certain levels since the 50’s; the military for example have used virtual reality technology for war simulation for years. However VR got its biggest boost when Palmer Luckey raised enough money on Kickstarter to create the Oculus Rift (some of you may have had a go at this in the GR office a few months ago), the Oculus Rift was quickly snapped up by Facebook in July this year.

    It’s worth noting the Oculus Rift is just one of many VR projects currently up and running; Google recently produced a cheap DIY virtual reality headset made solely of cardboard, embedded with two lenses. When a user places a smartphone in the front of the device, the viewer receives an immersive 3D experience comparable in many ways to more expensive hardware like the Oculus Rift. You may have also noticed on Wednesday this week Samsung launched an untethered virtual reality headset with a removable front plate that conceals and protects the housing for a Galaxy Note 4. Samsung spent over 12 months developing the software to support  the mobile VR experience and it will be interesting to see how much consumers buy into this.

    So what’s next with VR technology? We all know that gaming has got its mits tightly round VR but where will the next VR revolution take place? What experiences will we be able to go into VR? Could you imagine enjoying a court side seat at a tennis match, studying in a classroom or consulting a doctor face to face all possible by popping some goggles on in the comfort of your own home?! Whatever developments come out the next few months, experts indicate that VR has hit a critical mass in the tech community; developers are working toward creating products that will capture the public and entice them into virtual worlds and playing games will just be the beginning.

    However it would be hard not to talk about VR without mentioning the lack of actual accessible VR technology at the moment. I really agree with a quote I recently saw from Oculus Rift’s Luckey:

    "It’s really easy to make an announcement that you are working on something and doing a Kickstarter, but it’s much harder to actually ship a consumer-ready, polished, and working product."

    So even though there is an abundance of VR hype no VR product is currently available to consumers, including the off-the-shelf version of the Oculus Rift itself. However I say give it time and one day VR will be a viable option for brands to make meaningful experiences for their consumers and for us to revolutionise how we live our lives!

    By Victoria Smith

  • 7 of the best Twitter exchanges involving brands

    Brands and their Twitter profiles are curious things. More than just a promotional tool, Twitter allows brands to really engage with their customers - and with other brands too. Below we’ve outlined 7 of our favourite brand-to-consumer and brand-to-brand exchanges - just because it’s Friday.

    Read More

  • 'Great Britain' review - A play that left us wanting more

    We went to see the play Great Britain last night.  As you may know, the play opened without reviews at the National on Monday 23rd June follows delays due to legal advice given to wait until the verdicts were reached in the phone hacking trials.  We were intrigued. How close to the truth would it go? Would it show us things about the inner workings of the media that we didnt know? Would they comment on whether they thougt the verdicts from the trial were fair?

    A satire based on the phone hacking scandal, it is set at ‘The Free Press’ – a fictional tabloid newspaper. It focuses on Paige Britain (played by Billie Piper), the news editor who discovers the ability to hack phones and uses it to discover stories and in turn drive readers to the paper. It’s written by Richard Bean, playwright of One Man, Two Guvnors and explores the relationship between press, police and politics. 

    So, to our questions…. how did it answer them?

    Well, it didn’t, really. At times a little too close to the real events that took place over the last few years (slightly boring as we all know the details very well), I was slightly disappointed by the lack of real comment on the illegal practises, the consequences for the those affected and the future of the media. 

    For me what was interesting was the look at the inner workings of a tabloid newsroom – showing the daily news conference and the need to constantly create stories that will drive readership.  Plus the cast was fantastic. 

    Not sure how many tickets are still available but I got one for £15 so it won’t break the bank.  Details here:

    Nicola Hamilton

  • Pogonomics

    Beards have been the subject of controversy for thousands of years. Some of history’s most beloved and respected individuals have sprouted prodigious growths, with wearers including everyone from Jeremy Paxman to Santa Claus.

    The last five years has seen a huge resurgence in the beard as a fashion accessory, not only for east London hipster, but in the day-to-day life of thousands.

    However, according to a recent guardian article, the beard movement may finally be facing the chop. With beards having become so prolific, they no longer hold the mystery and uniqueness they once did and as such are becoming shunned as a trend of another age.

    But where did they come from and for what purpose were they grown?

    Originally making its re-emergence in around 2009, it is the belief of some that we have the economy to thank for the hirsute faces we see today. A rise in unemployment and a drop in disposable income, courtesy of the financial crisis, seems to have invited jobless men to forsake the effort of shaving and to try to make savings on razors by trying follicle experimentation.

    That said, whilst this may explain the popularity of the beard on the faces of the sort of men who live in east London and dress like 18th-century carpenters, it does not explain its spread to the employed masses.

    Hollywood certainly played a role in this spread, as Buzzfeed’s list of the 51 Hottest Bearded Men in Hollywood attests to. However, to understand the deeper significance of the beard, we must look to our primal routes.

    In Charles Darwin’s The Descent of Man, he makes the first recorded suggestion of beards having an important evolutionary role. Darwin hypothesized that the process of sexual selection may have led to beards – a theory support by many modern biologists – arguing that there is evidence that a large proportion of females find men with beards more attractive than men without beards. Of course, Darwin himself was a rather hairy fellow, so one should take this with a pinch of salt.

    Although bearded men (pogonophiles) undoubtedly believe that their facial bushyness puts them at an advantage with the ladies over their clean-shaven counterparts, one must remain cautious when choosing the type of beard. Moustaches come with worrying connotations; Guy Fawkes goatees are downright sinister and it’s highly unlikely that the Monkey Tail comes with any pulling power whatsoever.

    With that in mind, like marmite, beards have their haters (pogonophobes). Periodically made illegal at various points throughout history, until very recently a beard suggested either that you were still recovering from the 60s or were a closet Communist. Today however, many arguments against them stem from the lack of hygiene and/or questionable living habits that they imply. If someone is apparently unable to control their facial growth, how can they be trusted as a business partner?

    As the popularity of beards teeters on a razors edge (quite literally), the fashion conscious among us must recognise that, although flattering for many, they are starting to feel a bit like shell suits and crop tops – something quickly going out of Vogue and only worn by bizarre subcultures.

    With this stark reality facing us, there remains only one thing to do. Have a shave. Move on. Relegate beards to the hinterlands of style as quickly as possible. After all, the sooner they are banished, the sooner those Shoreditch-dwelling eighteenth century carpenters can ironically re-embrace them and the more quickly we can have them back.

    Matt Robshaw

  • ‘Hello, My Name Is Paul Smith’: London’s Design Museum

    Earlier this month the GR Life team was lucky enough to visit the Paul Smith exhibition at London’s Design Museum.  Showcasing the best of the masterful work of the British designer, it also offered a behind-the-scenes insight into the world of the man responsible for those signature colourful stripes. Featuring  a host of memorabilia ranging from diary entries, full-scale replicas of Paul’s office and design studio, as well as a gallery of his favourite fashion pieces from past seasons, the exhibition brought Paul Smith ‘the brand’ to life.

    The central exhibition space was flanked by floor-to-ceiling displays of Paul’s personal print and poster collection. Just a snapshot of the thousands of prints he has collected over the years, from signed photographs of footballers to paintings of flower pots, the collection is vast and varied – giving observers an idea of what really goes on inside the head of a master of design.

    Paul Smith has collaborated with manufacturers and brands across the board, from Evian bottles to Condor bicycles to limited edition Minis. His designs are distinctive, original and, let’s face it, just plain cool.

    The main event for us fashion-conscious folk, however, was undoubtedly the clothes. Paul is arguably best known for his self-titled fashion label and for crafting gorgeous, sharp and quintessentially British designs for both men and women. From leaving school at 16 with no qualifications to showcasing the first Paul Smith collection for men in Paris in 1976, Paul Smith is now a household fashion name.

    The pieces displayed were a selection of Paul’s favourites from collections gone by: plush velvet blazers, sumptuous silk gowns and even fully sequined trousers all featured.

    Paul describes his brand as “uniquely British”: “We mix up one-off antiques with high quality tailoring: the chair you sit on when you buy a suit is for sale and we can wrap the suit and have the chair waiting for you when you get home”. The Paul Smith brand combines the unmistakeable with the unexpected, never losing its sense of style: each and every Paul Smith store, for example, is as unique as the man himself.

    Closing the exhibition is a giant handwritten post-it note stuck on a pink wall (obviously). ‘Every day is a new beginning’, according to Paul - ever-so-casually concluding a fascinating insight into the world of a master of innovation.

    Emma Blackwell