The Brixton Blog is an online community newspaper covering local news, music, food, events and history. The blog aims to provide up-to-date news and inspire debate in Brixton, south-east London.
The Brixton Bugle is a free 12-page local newspaper published monthly by the editors of the blog. It is distributed at Brixton tube station, local libraries, businesses and on individual estates.
The blog was originally set up by Zoe Jewell in 2010 under a different name. Then in January this year, together with Tim Dickens and Luke Waterfield, it was relaunched as the Brixton Blog.
A week after its launch, the Brixton blog broke news that the local council had cancelled the popular Lambeth Country Show. The story generated significant public outrage, and led to an online petition that attracted over 1,000 signatures in 24 hours. As part of their campaign, the blog wrote articles about the council’s position, and in March this year councillors overturned their decision and reinstated the show. This was a victory for the community and highlights the power of new media to hold authorities to account.
“The minute we heard it we realised the Country Show story was outrageous, and the council had shown contempt for the community by not consulting over it,” Jewell said. “So we started the campaign and the petition, and the response from our readers was overwhelming. When flustered councillors performed a U-turn we felt that community spirit had triumphed, and knew we had to keep on with the project.”
Brixton is presently covered by very little local press. The only paid-for local newspaper is the South London Press, which aims to cover the whole of South London. Although the South London Press has launched a “hyperlocal” Brixton version of its Friday paper, the edition carries only three pages of news from an area that Jewell and Dickens regard as the busiest news patch in the country.
Council and community meetings in Brixton – and across the country – are frequently unreported. The Brixton Blog’s ambition is to increase coverage of the local politics and provide a forum for community discussion.
Tim Dickens said: “The South London Press has been cutting editorial jobs for a while now, with only one reporter covering two boroughs. What we have done is revived the idea of a newspaper, both in print and online, which is at the heart of the community which it serves.”
The Journalism Foundation aims to support the Brixton Blog and Bugle in its ambition to become a sustainable business.
“Securing the support of the Foundation gives us the chance to make this journalistic experiment work,” said Dickens. “We want to prove that quality journalism at a community level can be sustainable, and serve a vital tool as the voice of a community. We’d like to see the Bugle as a weekly or fortnightly free paper that puts the readers, and their views, at the core of what it does. There’s still a long way to go, but right now we’re on the right track.”