“I got off the tube to find a mass of people waiting for the two lifts to exit the station. Seeing how crowded it was underground, I wasn’t sure I was ready to see what it might be like on the streets of this new area in which I had just landed.
“The queue wasn’t moving, but, as I looked around, I saw a group of young people – carrying cameras, banners and printing papers – move towards a flight of stairs. So I followed them up the 111 steps.
“On the way out, there were more crowds of people, food stalls, buses and music – then I saw it. The shopping centre behind the station, welcoming customers at the main entrance with the famous statue of a red elephant carrying a castle on its back, and I knew I had made it to Elephant and Castle.
“That was when I first started studying in the area, but fast forward two years and I would still follow a crowd of creatives – perhaps more assertively – because I am sure they would lead me to a hidden cultural and artistic gem to brainstorm and network.
“The neighbourhood has been undergoing massive regeneration, which is very noticeable when I think back to when I began my MA at the London College of Communication (LCC) and, now, where I pass by on the bus every morning.
“In just one year, many trees have been planted around Elephant and Castle, making it a more inviting place to hang out, even without the obligation to go there three times a week for classes. There was even a new huge screen in Elephant Park over the Summer!
“Creative spaces such as 55 East, in Walworth – a lounge, kitchen and studio – have been opening, while Mercato Metropolitano and Corsica Studios are booming.
“Plays and exhibitions are starting in the area again, reviving its 1940s reputation for being the ‘Piccadilly of the South’ because of the multitude of venues it had for entertainment.
“Elephant and Castle has a youthful vibe, born of its diversity, big Latin American community and two universities, London South Bank and LCC. There is a need to cultivate the art scene to its maximum potential, as there is the necessary human resources all around. We, the people at the Elephant, are a big factor in what makes it what it is – an area of Southwark that is at the forefront of creative developments.
“In 2016, LCC opened a studio inside the Elephant & Castle shopping centre, where it hosts exhibitions, DIY workshops and more. It is here that art and community mix, and it has become a model for how similar venues could be created from an artistically developed consciousness.
“As well as studying and creating art in Elephant and Castle, it is essential to feel we have the spaces and opportunities to showcase work within the community, and to be inspired, create a network, and collaborate with others – to be part of a collective.
“It’s about finding the balance between maintaining the character and diversity of the area, while introducing new creative establishments.”
‘Emergence: Service/Social/Sustainable Design’ is one of the recent exhibitions by the London College of Communication, that asks: “What can we do together that we cannot do alone?”
Taking place across September and October 2019, it features workshops, performances, screenings, talks, discussions, installations and displays, and is described as a “call to action for positive change”. See the website for more details.
If you are interested in more community events and activities around Elephant Park, check out the events page here.