We are a group in Montpelier Rd, SE15 who have always had a small but strong community through parts of our Road. Altogether we have between 120 and 150 households with several houses converted to Houses of Multiple Occupation, quite a few A & Bs as they are called around here (maisonettes) and two small blocks of flats. A flurry of ‘over the back garden wall’ burglaries a few years ago prompted us to set up both an email list and a WhatsApp group for the street which was useful for alerting neighbours if anything untoward happened.
The COVID lockdown brought a much larger number of neighbours into the fold. We now have a thriving friendship group called MontyWatch / MontyVillage on WhatsApp. It has become a real community hub. Information on where you could get flour or toilet rolls was shared, as were notifications of ill neighbours, neighbours in need, local help groups offering help and small shops which were open in some format during the crisis.
The group has grown and now features a swap shop – a pram for a stroller, book exchanges, plant swaps and donations, runs to the recycling centre, passing on of unwanted items (amazing how they go). We continue to have group get-togethers, little garden street-parties. Other COVID legacies that continue are that themore able collect newspapers for others; printers are shared, parcels are taken in after a series of thefts. One neighbour sadly watched her parcel being taken away but felt powerless to intervene.
It is a wonderful experience walking down the street now knowing more than half of the neighbours, young and old. During lockdown front garden coffee mornings were frequent. The prize for the best front garden event must go to the family who bought a large kidney shaped swimming pool, filled it with warm water, plastic balls and lots of bubbles and let their 2 and 5 year old expend all of the energy that they accumulated from being locked up inside during the week while Mum and Dad worked from home.
The community approach to living in London has made Montpelier Road a very attractive proposition for both buying and renting. The residents range from the very elderly to those who have young families, and cover the many spectrums of modern day multi-cultural London. A recent development has been the painting of houses in bright and cheerful colours.
adapted from and article in Peckham Society News Summer 2020 Issue 161