Devon is a young resident of Catford. In this personal essay, he reflects on how the area’s diverse community and its unique features have had a pivotal role in shaping who he is as a person.
When I think about the countless memorable experiences I have gained since moving to Catford, a quote by Oliver Holmes comes to mind: “A mind that is stretched by new experiences can never return to its old dimensions.” I moved to Catford in May 2016, after studying Business Information Technology at Coventry University. My sister offered me a spare room in her apartment which I happily still rent. Before this, I had lived with my parents just a train stop away in Bellingham, I would frequently meet with friends in Catford’s McDonalds and JD sports after school, back in 2009. Due to this, I was able to quickly ground my roots in Catford’s warm multicultural community. As a Caribbean man, the people and the unique independent businesses made me feel at home instantly.
Within the first few days of settling, I decided to explore the bustling centre to create a mental map of the useful shop locations. A few shops stood out to me as reflections of my interests; they were The Nubian Store and Joys Health Sanctuary. These two shops have gone on to positively shape my experience of Catford, through physical, mental and spiritual nourishment. I also use them as spaces to meet new people and strengthen friendships.
Upon entering the narrow shop floor of Joy’s Health Sanctuary, you are greeted with the most beautiful smiles and inspiring conversations about health and well-being. Her sugar-free vegan cakes and electric juices are delicious. Luckily for me, cake is my favourite dessert, it delighted me to know that Joy’s cakes are made using nutritionally dense, organic ingredients. Healthy cake? It seems paradoxical, to believe me you’ll have to taste them for yourself. I have huge hopes for Joy's business expansion as the vegan market widens in Catford and across London. As she advises me often; where there is a will there is a way. I’m a strong advocate for her vision as I am a health-conscious vegan myself. With the help of Joy's vision, we can make a healthier and more resilient Catford community.
On the famous Catford Broadway is another shop called The Nubian Store. There I have been sold a few life-changing products, such as supplements which restored ailments I’ve lived with for years. Howard, the owner, offers a wide range of products and services like metaphysical crystals, African artwork, books by black authors, a diverse range of cards and barrel shipping services. These services and products are mostly used by the African/Caribbean presence in Catford but they also provide a cultural insight for other nationalities, bridging the gap between residents.
The lengthy conversations I’ve had with Howard about health, African spirituality and service to others have expanded my wisdom; arming me for my post-university journey into the “real world”. The store has also been an excellent social spot for me, as I often meet many like-minded young people who have helped to expand my network and birth new opportunities.
Another thing I love about Catford is that no matter where you are in the area, you are never far away from a large expanse of nature. I’m very thankful to be surrounded by so much green space. I believe every community should have an abundance of parks, to further serve the social, mental and physical wellbeing of its residents. One of my favourites parks in Catford is the majestic Water Link Way; a scenic cycle pathway with a variety of plants, wildlife and footpaths which lead to the most tranquil spots. The linear park offers traffic-free routes into the surrounding areas of Forest Hill, Bellingham, Sydenham and Crystal Palace. I also frequent Ladywell Park to immerse myself in nature and escape the busy centre.
All in all, I am privileged to live in Catford as it has had a huge positive impact on me; I have been able to find peace and happiness within myself. The multiple transport links, independent shops, green space and diverse community, have all played a pivotal role in enhancing my wellbeing as a young person in Catford. The future of Catford is one filled with unbridled opportunities; more people now than ever are becoming attracted to the area. This increase comes with many advantages such as, increased business revenue, increased diversity, rising property value, a decline in crime etc. On the other side of the coin, these perceived benefits can be seen as a detriment to marginalised communities. Hopefully, in the near future, our council and its residents can facilitate the growth of a community that is home for all regardless of social status and background.
This is the beginning of an exciting time for Catford Town Centre. The more people involved, the better the needs of the whole community will be reflected. Have your say via Commonplace, and share the project with people you know locally.