Cultural preservation society wanted…

by Charles Olafare

The first ever on screen interracial kiss was set in Brixton. The kiss in question was a scene in You in Your Small Corner, a teleplay about a middle class Jamaican migrant and his white working class Brixtonite girlfriend. First broadcast in 1962 and recently unearthed from the BFI archives, it predates Star Trek and Captain Kirk and Lt. Uhura’s make-out session by a whopping 6 years.

It’s worth mentioning that the kiss didn’t technically take place in Brixton. It was actually filmed at Granada Studios in Manchester. But the fact that Brixton was chosen as the setting for this story is still significant. Symbolic, even.

Thanks in no small part to the Windrush in the 40s, Brixton has a long and storied history as a cultural crossroads. It’s always been a place where people from all walks of life converge, collaborate and cohabit, and still do to this day.

Take a stroll up Atlantic Road at any time of day and the words Cultural Melting Pot take on a whole new, incredibly visceral meaning: Skaters skid past Rastafarians, market stalls heave with exotic and local produce, Nigerian party dresses stand next to Portuguese cafes. Why wouldn’t such a place be the backdrop for such a groundbreaking moment in popular culture?

Gentrification and over-zealous redevelopment doesn’t just raise the rents and the cost of a pint. It squeezes out the diverse indigenous community and turns thriving cultural hubs into something much more homogenously bland. As more and more of the people get priced out of their homes and businesses, we run the risk of losing the very thing that makes places like Brixton so great: the people.

So how do we curb a force like gentrification? How do we ensure that places like Brixton continue to inspire groundbreaking moments in fiction and reality?

Recently, we’ve seen the people of Cressingham Gardens come together in a bid to save their homes from demolition and win a high court ruling outlawing the development proposal and protecting their homes. There’s also been a great crowdfunding campaign to keep Brixton Cycles a part of the community as it has been for 30 years – raising over £40k to keep the local wheels turning. The power that people have to come together and do good in the world around them can never be underestimated. So wouldn’t it be great if there was some sort of a society or governing body we could form to protect and defend our shared cultural ideals in the same way that we strive to protect local businesses, buildings and homes? A Cultural Preservation society.

Buildings of great cultural significance can be listed or protected by the National Trust. The London Mural Preservation Society keep watch over our murals. Even hedgehogs have the British Hedgehog Preservation Society looking out for them. A team of people dedicated to preserving places like Brixton’s shared histories and futures. Protecting not just spaces, places and buildings, but the incredible mix of people that inhabit them. Preserving them in the face of demolition, redevelopment and whatever comes next. So that we can have more World’s Firsts and more than pictures and archives to remember them by.

Who’s up for the Chief Cultural Officers job?