Paying tribute to our favourite green oasis.
A Love Letter To Peckham Rye Park
They say absence makes the heart grow fonder… We won’t deny it, our love for Peckham Rye Park runs deep and true. It’s one of London’s most attractive parks and we’re honoured to welcome you there each year. Before we release 2021’s programme, we took the time to pay tribute to our favourite green oasis.
Ranking a solid 60th of the 278 Nature & Parks listings for London on Tripadvisor, Peckham Rye Park is no secret hidden gem, but most people don’t get a chance to explore everything it has to offer. The park and Peckham Rye Common together are spread over 113 acres, providing a much needed green lung for South-East London and a popular place to hang.
Aside from the large open spaces for dog walkers and first dates, there is the lush Sexby garden, a Japanese garden, ponds, a skate park, outdoor gym, a café, three football pitches and still plenty of space for the birds and the bees.
The park’s history stretches back as far as a mention in the Domesday book of 1087 and, apparently, it was on Peckham Rye Common that author William Blake had the vision of angels in 1767. In 1864, Wombwell’s animal show brought 32 vans of wild beasts to the privately-owned common, much to the community’s disapproval. They took the matter to Parliament and the common, as well as some surrounding land, was bought by the Camberwell Vestry to keep as public land.
During the Second World War, Peckham Rye Park was heavily damaged. The Common was turned into allotments and Italian prisoners of war were kept in huts to the north of the park. The north-west corner of the Common was also home to one of London’s biggest air-raid shelters.
A group called Friends of Peckham Rye Park is entrusted with the space’s well-being and maintenance, keeping it looking shipshape all year round. The park was awarded a Green Flag Award for the first time in 2007 and has kept the status ever since, meaning it meets the requirements of safety, aesthetics, facilities, community, biodiversity and more. There is also another company in charge of cleaning the park, Idverde, who even have Faeces Intake Disposal Operation (FIDO) staff. It’s thanks to them that you’re not likely to step in doggy do on your morning stroll.
Though our journey began down the road in Brockwell Park, we’ve found a more natural, intimate home in Peckham. Even small details like the slope of the main stage expanse, offering a great view over the back of the crowd, make the site perfect for us. We like to think that, 200 years from now, another festival might write a history of the park, mentioning GALA as we mentioned William Blake and wild beasts.