Peter Robins

The great wall of Peckham

The great wall of Peckham
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The Peckham Peace Wall began life as a window: a long pane of shop glass in the front of Rye Lane’s newly refurbished branch of Poundland. During the riots last summer, the glass went, along with some of Poundland’s stock. The next morning, after the damage had been boarded up, a local theatre group covered the MDF with multicoloured Post-It notes, asking passers-by to fill them in with messages about why they loved Peckham. They called it, with impeccable logic, ‘The “Why We Love Peckham” Wall’. The notes filled to overflowing with affection and wounded civic pride. And they attracted reporters, who gave the display a more resonant name.

For the riot’s first anniversary, the Post-It notes have been traced by a collective called Garudio Studiage to create a huge, permanent mural in nearby Peckham Square. They are still Post-It note sized, but smoothed and spread out into a neat grid. Where the original was a shaggy monster, this Peace Wall has the feel of a carefully but exhaustively vandalised Damien Hirst spot painting.

The notes at easy reading level suggest an editorial eye: the ironic (‘We’re all in this together’) next to the heartbreakingly broken and sincere (‘Peckham a beauty full plays to live’). They have not been tamed, however. Even when brought into the world of community grants, evening talks and limited-edition prints (see for all that) they remain touching and hopeful and, after a few moments’ thought, ominous. I have never lived anywhere with a Peace Wall before. I hadn’t ever lived anywhere that needed one.