The future’s hyperlocal – does Charlton need a champion?

I went to the London Neighbourhoods Online “unconference” in Southwark at the weekend – a chance for a whole group of people who run locally-focused websites like this one to chew the fat, swap ideas, and look at the challenges and opportunities ahead. I could only hang around for the morning, but it was good to put a few faces to names and meet some other people, and to discuss the attitudes of local authorities and local “old” media to the upstarts that are currently springing up. Should local websites have a voice and be subjective, or stay cool and objective? That kind of thing. Onionbagblog and Arthur Pewty’s Maggot Sandwich have more if you’re interested in what went on.

One thing that did strike me was the difference between north and south London sites – many north of the Thames sites like Harringay Online, and King’s Cross Environment tend to be multi-authored, more conscious ways of trying to serve a local community. But south of the river, it’s tended to be lone operators who blogged for fun and found themselves covering more local issues as they went on. The little informal network that’s built up between SE London bloggers has been invaluable in what’s essentially a desert for informed local news coverage and discussion.

Not that this site is scrupulously neutral – but at least you know where I’m coming from and that there’s limits to what one slightly bored not-so-young man can do.

All of which activity made me think about my own neck of the woods. 853’s hyperlocal in the sense that it covers an area smaller than most other outlets, but the area it focuses on is pretty big – roughly Charlton, Blackheath and Greenwich – whereas true hyperlocals cover tightly-defined areas. Greenwich has its own hyperlocal site and a hyperlocal podcast, plus the Phantom, while Blackheath has the Bugle. Not forgetting the Kidbrooke Kite, Adam’s new project.

But what about Charlton?

I’ve done bits – but I’ve tended to shy away from doing too much Charlton stuff for fear of being boring (news on your doorstep isn’t always news to all, and it’s easier to gripe about what you see every day) and also because the SE7 stuff doesn’t seem to pull in much feedback. And also because… well, not a lot happens here, really. I generally look west because that’s where most stuff happens.

Or does it? Charlton is always going to suffer for being neither one nor the other; stuck between Greenwich and Woolwich and generally ignored. But there’s still issues to be dealt with – flytipping and rubbish, gangs of kids hanging around near Charlton station, cars speeding down rat runs, and a general lack of pride in the area. There’s no real forum for locals to express and share concerns, and neither the police nor local councillors ever make their presence felt beyond the odd meetings of residents’ groups which people outside them have little idea about.

Charlton House flowers

But there’s also wonderful upsides to living in SE7 that I’ve come to appreciate in the 11 years I’ve been here. The parks are (mostly) great, with Maryon Park in line for a long-overdue spruce-up. Charlton House and its gardens are under-appreciated gems, while St Luke’s Church is a reminder that Charlton is a proper village. Southeastern’s “screw you” attitude to passengers aside, the train service (when it works) is rather good. The buzz of a matchday still excites me. We have the kind of industrial waterfront that’s been destroyed in Greenwich and Woolwich, and we have the best secret riverside pub in London – the Anchor and Hope.

So, how about a blog for Charlton? The core of SE7 is a fairly well-defined area, so there’s not so much chance of overlapping into other territory. One thing I’d like to do is to bring the local representatives out of their shells a little, and give them a space in which to do it. It’s worked with Brockley Central – which is even being asked by police to help with enquires – although Lewisham’s political culture is much less secretive than Greenwich. Frankly, though, we won’t make this place better if we don’t talk about it.

But I don’t want to do this alone. In fact, I can’t, because I don’t want the site to be too ranty and subjective (and I don’t have to the time). I’ve had some minor successes in trying to get my own street swept, and trying to make sure my street isn’t strewn with wheelie bins every Monday (both a bit hit-and-miss, really), but somewhere where we can share tips and advice on little matters like that would be handy.

So if you live in Charlton, read this site and think I’m missing loads of things – then I’d love you to contribute to a site that’d take a different approach to this one. With a bit of effort, we could come up with something special. I’ve got a few ideas about how to go about it – so if you’re up for contributing something about the area in which you live, and about the joys and pains of life in SE7, please drop me an e-mail or leave a comment below, and let’s talk.


  1. I was at the ”Unconference” and I was struck by how many SE London bloggers there were, most of whom working in isolation. But I made contact with, which is linked with Goldsmiths College Journalism students. I’m currently exploring the possibilities of sharing resources with them – I’d love to get a student pulling articles together so that as they build up experience and a CV, our Deptford blog will get articles. While the eastlondonlines blog is limited to boroughs that the ELL passes through, if it turns out that we can find a way of working together, I don’t see why this couldn’t also work for a putative SE7 blog. I’ll keep you informed, Darryl. (I didn’t understand a single football result on Saturday, not a single one!)

  2. Well there’s a name that I thought I would never type again…

    Yes I did leave the area, and then it didn’t seem fair to keep the blog going, the whole point of it to me was being local. I did try to keep the pressure up on the Council until the end though rather than just give in.

    But anyway yes I really think you should do a hyper-local blog, and it’s that that’s brought me back out of hiding. I had so much stuff that I wanted to get through such as more old maps of Floyd Road, the trams, bomb damage and local out and abouts.

    A blog like that is the sort of thing that I wanted to see when I was in the area, and it’s lack is one of the things that got me doing it.

  3. I think it’s a great idea. I don’t live in Charlton but I do work here and know some great people who live here. I wonder if the local group the CCRA (central charlton residents association) would be worth contacting as potential contributors. They certainly seem to be in the know about things locally and organise social events as well improving and cleaning up the area. They are centred on Wellington gardens and Elliscombe road and the surrounding streets. Like your blog.

  4. I don’t live in Charlton now, but was born there and lived there for my first two decades. Now I am just over the border, watching the place, and I think a local SE7 blog is a great idea.

    Charlton has so much which should be admired. And I do remember that many centuries ago when local councils were reorganised some of us felt that the united Greenwich and Woolwich ought to be called Charlton.

    I’d be happy to put in some contributions.

  5. Tangent Alert:

    Mazehiller, is there a resident’s association or similar in Maze Hill? I’d like to play a part, if so.

  6. I think you should, I enjoy reading hyperlocal blogs, even for areas I’m not from: I read all the SE blogs, even if I only cycle through the areas at a pace. Was wondering if it was worth setting one up for my area because I love other hyperlocals so much, but given the unflinching bourgeouis stangnancy of Nappy Valley, a comedy blog may be more appropriate.

  7. The Nappy Valley Varieties? I like it.

    Thanks everyone who’s offered to help – and good to see Charlton Average is alive and well. I’ll put a few things together and post again or get in touch…

  8. No longer live in Charlton but spent the first 25 years of my life there (Victoria Way and Cherry Orchard Estate), so very happy to contribute when and as appropriate.

    Good to see you are still around Charlton Average … look forward to seeing some of your archive material.

  9. Steve, I really don’t know of any associations for Maze Hill, except for the more general ones of the Greenwich society and the Westcombe society. The associations I know of are small concern specific to residents of particular roads or developments (eg. Tom smith close R.A.)
    Hmm.. Maybe a good idea to create one?

  10. If those are the rules, then it’s got to be the ”Charlton Clarion”

    [Runs off to start the Deptford Declaimer…]

  11. Charlton Cornet? Not sure I’d contribute much, but I’d certainly read it …

    As for Mazehiller’s comment about the CCRA, they seem to be pretty focused on their own little area and not interested in reaching outside that – at least, that’s the impression I’m left with from posts here passim and from living immediately outside the border.

  12. Darryl – I had the same idea awhile back but haven’t found the time to get it going. Even got as far as I’d be more than happy to contribute.

  13. Dave, on our local blog (also on blogspot) we’ve got 2 admins and around 5 ”authors.” About 95% of the posts come from the admins, and whenever people start commenting with an individual point of view, we nearly always invite them to contribute as authors. And we’ve only had to remove one author, and that was because they abused the blog.

    I’ve found very helpful to have 2 or more contributors – I find that co-administration, while clearly removing the kind of editorial control a single individual can have, more than halves the burden. A responsibility shared is so much easier. And you don’t actually have to agree with each other – your different perspectives give the blog a wider range and hopefully appeal – you simply have to have something in common. Defending the interests of a small area with a distinctive history that’s been swallowed up and ”anonymosified” by a larger borough certainly looks like a strong interest in common to me.

    The crucial first step is probably deciding whether it’s ”my” blog or ”our” blog. If ”our” feels fine, then that’s…er…champion.

  14. Hello all –

    I’ve sent everyone who’s expressed an interest an e-mail about the new site – anyone who comes to this late and still wants to get involved, feel free to get in touch.

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