2020 Heroes

Cara Cummings (18 December, 2020)

Well, that was quite the year. As 2020 draws to a close, we celebrate the south London heroes who’ve gone above and beyond during an extraordinary twelve months.


READ THIS ARTICLE AND MUCH MORE IN OUR DECEMBER ISSUE OF THE SOUTH LONDONER. CLICK HERE

Brigade Bar and Kitchen. Photo by Nic Crilly-Hargrave Photography

Brigade Bar & Kitchen

This London Bridge restaurant was already unique before the pandemic hit – but its response has made it even more special. Set up to provide a platform into work for those impacted by homelessness, Brigade could have been hit particularly hard this year; but the team devised a raft of initiatives to support others hard hit by Covid, with truly inspiring results. Not only did the restaurant’s kitchen send out 500 meals a day for vulnerable people during lockdown – Brigade’s furloughed staff set up and manned a community helpline, all as volunteers, supporting more than 80 people a week. And they didn’t stop there: rallying the support of 140 chefs, including Michelin-star names like Michel Roux Jnr, Rick Stein and Tom Kerridge, Brigade published a cookbook of donated recipes, raising funds for a new programme to support struggling hospitality workers revive their careers.
Feast With Purpose is available as a £25 digital download, or a £65 limited edition hardback, at beyondfood.org.uk.

Lewisham Mutual Aid

On the subject of the ‘sham – guess where the UK’s now thousands-strong network of mutual aid groups first began? That’s right: Lewisham. As Covid came careering towards Britain and the elderly and vulnerable were asked to isolate, a group of young friends in the borough distributed leaflets offering to pick up shopping and medication for those staying indoors. Within a week of starting their informal volunteering system, 4,000 people had joined the Lewisham Mutual Aid Facebook page to offer support for neighbours. Within a fortnight, hundreds of parallel groups had been established across the country, mobilising a grassroots, hyper-local army of tens of thousands of volunteers to help those in need. The Mutual Aid movement has been credited with directly supporting millions of people throughout the pandemic; there are now nearly 5,000 groups nationwide, with an umbrella organisation – Covid-19 Mutual Aid UK – still run by Lewisham’s original founders.

Lavinya Stennett Founder and CEO of The Black Curriculum

At just 23, south Londoner Lavinya Stennett is already changing the world. Having grown up experiencing first hand the alienating effect of a lack of Black British history in the UK curriculum, Lavinya – a historian, writer and First Class graduate from SOAS – decided to step in. She founded social enterprise The Black Curriculum in 2019 to deliver arts-focused Black history programmes in schools throughout the year, alongside a #TBH365 (Teach Black History or To Be Honest, all year round) campaign to make Black history lessons mandatory in every British school – and all whilst finishing her degree.
2020 has been a big year for The Black Curriculum. As the world shuddered at the death of George Floyd and Black Lives Matter became a national movement, Lavinya launched a 22-day-long campaign targeted at Education Secretary Gavin Williamson. He denied her request for a meeting; but the swell of public support means The Black Curriculum is firmly on the agenda. Expect to see a lot more from Lavinya as she pushes for tangible steps to have Black history embedded in British education to create, in her words, “a society that doesn’t breed racism.”

Lewisham Mayoresses (L-R Christina, Dawn, Natasha)

Dawn Atkinson, Natasha Ricketts & Christine Norman aka the Lewisham Mayoresses

As the furore over free school meals raged in October, three Lewisham volunteers rolled up their sleeves. Dawn Atkinson, Natasha Ricketts and Christine Norman run the Evelyn Community Store, a membership-based food scheme for low income households in Lewisham, and had already spent 2020 making sure hundreds of local families had food during lockdown; in fact, so impressive were their efforts that Mayor of Lewisham Damien Egan made the formidable trio Mayoresses in July in recognition of their work. Having witnessed a rise in food poverty across the borough – more than 13,000 extra families have applied for free school meals since the pandemic began – and a lack of commitment from central government to extending support during school holidays, the Mayoresses stepped up. Launching their Packed Lunch appeal, Dawn, Natasha and Christine asked the public for £10,000 to keep every child in Lewisham fed. To date, they’ve raised nearly £35,000. All hail the Evelyn angels.

Oliver and Henry Bailey

Oliver Bailey Harvest for Heroes

King’s College Hospital holds a special place in Dulwich dad Oliver Bailey’s heart. When his son Henry was born in 2018 with spina bifida, the unwavering care of staff at King’s means the little boy can walk today. When Covid-19 first struck, Oliver offered to send coffee and donuts to the hospital’s frontline medics; but realised that what staff really needed was access to fresh, healthy food of the kind that panic buying had stripped supermarket shelves bare of. Oliver set up Harvest for Heroes to deliver boxes of fruit, vegetables, milk and eggs to NHS teams across London, funded by a donations campaign that raised more than £29,000. By sourcing products from New Covent Garden market, Oliver also gave struggling wholesalers a much needed boost. At the height of lockdown, Harvest for Heroes delivered 1200 boxes to hospitals across London, Surrey and Kent in just 13 days. Oliver’s campaign was backed by celebrities including Jonathan Ross and Rocketman star Taron Egerton, and comedian Johnny Vegas even helped him deliver supplies to hospitals as far away as Liverpool, Rotherham and Doncaster.

Chris Mullany & Kevin Quinn Southwark News

Call us biased, but the immediate response of our parent paper’s owners to the coronavirus crisis was nothing short of humbling. Rather than focus on their own challenge of keeping a small business afloat, Chris and Kevin chose instead to offer free digital advertising to independent or family-run local businesses across their digital platforms, giving away more than £14,000 worth of space. Our inhouse designers even created adverts for anyone who needed materials to run. As lockdown wiped out trade for many local outlets overnight, Chris and Kevin’s lifeline helped businesses from furniture retailers, to Japanese restaurants, to online counsellors benefit from 75,000 page views a month – all 100% free of charge. Community spirit at its absolute best.


READ THIS ARTICLE AND MUCH MORE IN OUR DECEMBER ISSUE OF THE SOUTH LONDONER. CLICK HERE

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