Efforts to save a pillar of Brixton Market’s community have stepped up, as Brixton Market landlord Hondo Enterprises intends to pursue its eviction of Nour Cash and Carry, at the heart of Brixton’s food community since 2002. The company served the business with notice back in January, with the date for eviction set as 22 July.
While the government has increased eviction protections for businesses unable to pay rent due to COVID-19, this does not apply to Nour’s situation, as it continues to trade, pay rent, and thereby give landlord Hondo Enterprises money. Nothing about the eviction is illegal. But its timing — in the middle of a an unprecedented crisis, and alongside another redevelopment proposal that would build a high-rise into the market — is stoking already burning fires about Hondo Enterprises’ attitude to the shop, Brixton Market, and Brixton as a whole.
Activist group Save Nour has led protests against the landlord, and recently released a video interviewing people shopping at the market, detailing its vital stocking of affordable Caribbean and West African staples like cassava, yam, saltfish, and ackee, none of which, one customer points out, are available in the U.K.’s main supermarkets and all of which are vital to the Caribbean and West African communities in the area.
Further action has included the crashing of a gig hosted on video conferencing platform Zoom by Hondo Enterprises’ owner Taylor McWilliams. Protesters signed in to the gig holding signs against the eviction, as reported by Dazed, which forced Hondo Enterprises to make a statement to the same publication:
“After exploring a number of solutions for Nour Cash and Carry, including Hondo building a new unit for them at our cost, we are pleased to be in the positive, final stages of discussions to retain them within Brixton Market. We hope to have details of this agreement very soon.”
Despite the statement implying a coming resolution that would keep Nour open, the eviction notice has not been rescinded, and no details on a “positive” solution for the owners of Nour have been shared. Hondo Enterprises has maintained that it is acting on the advice of U.K. Power Networks, with the market requiring a new electricity substation to be built in Nour’s unit, in support of the landlord’s future plans for the market.
The campaign around Nour’s future centres not just on its essential community status, but on the past and future of the area. Hondo Enterprises also plans to erect a 20 story tower block in the market, at the Pope’s Road site that includes Sports Direct and its subsidiary clothing store Flannels. Such a building would loom over many of the market’s long-time pitches. The statement of community involvement features CGI of a proposed food hall space, and “mixed” environment; as pointed out by Save Nour, it features one image with a token Jamaican flag tacked on top, in an area that has long been a vital hub for the Jamaican community. The proposal, which cites the landlord’s track record at Brixton Market as one possible reason for approval, has received 117 public comments, 114 of which are objections and several of which cite Nour’s ongoing eviction as reason for objection; the deadline for comments has now passed.
This is Hondo’s vision for the market — taken from the ‘community involvement’ section of their planning application.— Save Nour Save Brixton (@SaveNour) May 12, 2020
They’ve really captured the spirit of Brixton with that Jamaican flag ♀️ pic.twitter.com/9fPHlPiasb
That’s the future: the past is a larger picture, with the eviction of local delis, fishmongers, and grocers on Atlantic Road by Lambeth Council and Network Rail in 2016 long in the memory. Nour itself was served with a 22 percent rent rise in 2012 by previous landlord In Shops Retail, which backed down after a community response similar to that against Hondo now; the gentrification of Brixton served as a springboard for now large, successful chains like Franco Manca and Honest Burgers, while attendant increasing rents led established businesses to close. That the threat of Nour’s closure has gathered such a strength of feeling in a community wearily accustomed to its contours being remapped by the unchecked desires of developers is a testament to its importance, which numerous customers detail in Save Nour’s video, summed up in the words of one:
“No Sainsbury’s, no Tesco, no Morrison’s, no, what do you call it ... Aldi. Because they do not sell yam banana. They do not sell cassava. No salt mackerel, no pound of saltfish.”