There used to be an outpost of Selfridges in Peckham, back in the days when Peckham was seen as a destination shopping street.

It closed in 1949, and while many lament that as the point that Peckham started to decline, it’s more that the street became the same as every other shopping street in South London — and while it has not economically declined, it lacked a key focal point to make a special visit worthwhile.

Much of the new building still remains though hidden behind modern façades, and part of it has been taken over by artists under the banner of Traces-London.


They are running one of those irritating gorilla marketing campaigns, which means I am not supposed to tell you where it is, although they gave most of the address away on their Twitter feed when they announced it was in the old Holdrons building.

I don’t like gorilla marketing campaigns as they seem based around the idea that if they make you curious, then you’ll want to find out more. I find they just frustrate me and I haven’t got time for being frustrated by things. Gives me a headache.

Even with the address of the venue, I managed to go to the wrong place at first,. I nearly walked into a Greenpeace fund raising event. Erk.

Back to this bit of stealth art…

The old department store had an arcade running though the centre, and they have taken a bit of that and where modern shabby shop fronts once stood, have recreated a 1930s era set of shop fronts, displaying goods made today, but in the style of then.

A model steam train running around on a loop with an audio track playing was the only overtly “arty” thing on display.

A brief moment of joy as I stood looking at a display of ladies hats, and the audio dialogue behind changed to the sound of a steam train chugging away. And for a fraction of a moment, it was the 1930s, with ladies catching a steam train to mysterious places.

A brief encounter with nostalgia.

All the tickets in the shop windows are for 1930s prices, although a catalogue at the back in the style of a department store advert reveals their more modern price tags and some of the background into the people who created them.

Do look at the flooring in the shops, each is different. Some lighting displays also seem reminiscent of flapper dresses of the period.

A tea shop at the back, and a dark former storage space add a bit more action to the event.

I chatted to a couple of ladies coming out of one of the modern shops that share the space, and they seemed fascinated with the wallpaper rolls and the cushions. I quite liked the little buttons.

You leave, should you want, through the fire exit into the bargain goods store next door, which is not far off being a local all-things-to-all-people department store of its own.

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Entry to the arcade is free, but you need to book a ticket which you can do here.

The event runs until next Sunday.

See if you can spot the typo in the tailoring department.

I wouldn’t mind a look around the rest of the building one day, it has some notable architectural features in the upper floors.


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  1. Andrew says:

    Gorilla marketing? Not at Prima[te|rk]? Or the Ap[pl]e store?

  2. David Stevenson says:

    Very interesting. I have inherited a bungalow in Chalet Estate in Mill Hill from my parents. The bungalow has a plaque outside saying it was donated by Mabel Holdron in AD 1929 and later endowed by John Holdron in 1938. The bungalow is on a secluded estate with about 100 others donated and endowed by major department stores in the 1920s for their retired long serving staff to live in. The estate was sold about 10 years ago and the bungalows refurbished and then sold on the private market. It seems that philanthropy was alive and well in those days.

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