Home away from home

Why Rye Lane attracts so many people from across London

During the first week of CoDesign – asking the people of Peckham what they liked and didn’t like about this buzzing high street, and how they would like to see it change – we learned a lot. To Petra, a manager at the Peckham Plex, Rye Lane is a ‘home away from home’. So much reminds her of Trinidad, where she comes from. Rye Lane is her favourite food market – the only place in London where she can find specialist products from her home country.

If you don’t know about Caribbean or African cooking, you won’t know that cucumbers, mangoes or oranges from the Caribbean are all different. Not all yams are the same either. There are many different varieties, and some cook soft, the others hard. We also learned what a Guinep is – a fruit, also called ‘Spanish Lime’, that tastes delicious. We only found that out when the local carrier bag salesman (originally from Pakistan) gave us one to try. He employs five people and sells bags to most businesses on Rye Lane, including the food shops that will soon give way to the new ‘Station Square’.

These vegetable and meat shops have been part of the station area for 35 years. They are always busy. They are run mostly by Pakistani owners who cater for a huge mix of street customers, as well as African and Caribbean restaurants in Peckham, Brixton and Lewisham. People travel from all across London to shop on Rye Lane.

Monica and her two teenage children come to Rye Lane from West London for the great choice of exotic and imported foods and African hair products. The vegetable stall at the entrance to Rye Lane Arcade (front cover) is one of her favourite destinations to buy a good plantain. Sandra’s Hair Shop is also somewhere that Monica feels completely at home. Sandra is from Nigeria, and her shop isn’t just for hair treatments. It’s a place to come and listen to music, gossip, have a good time and be pampered.