Be @ The Paxton Centre
Updated: Jul 19
Crystal Palace's very own community arts centre, venue, exhibition and workspace.
If you’ve wandered down Anerley Hill to the station recently or arrived by train, you may have spotted a butterfly-like transformation from black, grey and white to peacock blue taking place.
Yes, The Paxton Centre has a bold blue sky new look. ShopSE19 talked to owner and founder Beth Mander about how The Paxton Centre has evolved since she opened.
The former Paxton Arms Hotel which served the community as a pub for 154 years (with a wartime break, more about that later…) became a thriving multi-functional venue, cafe and arts centre in 2016.
The Paxton Centre will soon be celebrating its 6th birthday.
So what’s behind the change and the new blue look?
Beth is looking to bring The Paxton Centre’s successful model to other boroughs in London.
“I’ve worked with a creative consultant to refresh the entire brand and palette. There’s a new website coming soon. And I’m excited about the idea of taking the concept to other locations.”
The new concept is “Be” - a venue where you can explore and Be what you want to be. Be creative, be a potter, be a singer, be with friends, be positive. There are lots of possibilities.”
Being a welcoming and inclusive venue for all, is a vital part of what The Paxton Centre has always done.
An alternative to the isolation of working alone from home in the dedicated hot-desking area, a regular What’s On calendar of courses, events and group meetings.
Over the the last six years these have included open mic nights, sign-language get togethers, a menopause cafe, LGBTQ+ social, community choirs, Giving Back to Women events, a writers group as well as all the accessible creative arts and exhibition space supported by The Paxton Centre .
The Paxton Centre location has always been a landmark from its beginnings as a Victorian Station pub and hotel, to today as an informal visitor stop-off for anyone arriving in the area by train.
The blue hue makes it stand out even more proudly today.
What can you expect when you visit?
“A creative, chilled environment, with access to information about what we do, dedicated hot-desking and a gateway to explore your creative hobbies or find new ones” says Beth.
The walls are covered in art, which rotates monthly. Beth is looking forward to curating collections from local groups, including Women Artists of South London, and more local Crystal Palace art. The Paxton Centre recently welcomed a collective of South London Polish Women Artists in April 2022.
Any artist or group wishing to exhibit in the future should get in touch, drop-in or send an email. While there are only a few slots left in 2022, there’s always the option to plan ahead, while you complete your portfolio or creative project.
What inspired Beth to open The Paxton Centre?
Beth has been on her own spiritual journey since 2000. A single mum of three children, including a severely disabled son, Beth needed to find her own way.
She took a series of qualifications in ceramics, jewellery-making, business and teaching, to fit round the needs of her family.
The challenges she faced proved to be an advantage in learning how to adapt in even the most challenging situations and moved from a working ceramics studio, a stall on Saturday's Crystal Palace Food Market and pop-ups (Handmade Palace) to a permanent building and a successful growing business.
“I’m used to working with disabilities organisations and navigating the system. That teaches you the importance of staying positive and being collaborative and becoming resilient in almost everything you do.”
Competition and resilience
Crystal Palace has a reputation for its ample choice of coffee shops . Clearly The Paxton Centre is much more than a coffee shop, but even creative activities can become saturated as they become more popular.
It’s important to evolve and put a new twist on activities and reach wider audiences.
Lockdown was a time for reflection, renewal and recovery for Beth.
“I loved lockdown actually. It was a time for personal growth and gave me chance to reassess and recover . As a result, I now delegate more. I’ve taken on more staff and moved from being a bit stuck to feeling energised”
Beth has been teaching herself screen-printing too, as a new post lockdown hobby, so she’s truly practicing what she preaches.
Drop in and see her work on display.
The WW2 resilience of The Paxton Centre’s building is an important metaphor for Beth and all that she does. The building was damaged, in 1944, by one of the largest V1s to hit South London. All around was devastated.
The pub had to close for 11 years for repairs, but remained a landmark and rose again, with a pint waiting on the bar for regular customer John Markham, who was in the pub at the time and helped with the immediate emergency response after the bomb struck.
Both images via Anerley District Nostalgia group (Facebook). Print is a scan from "The Battle of South London", which is available to buy from Crystal Palace Foundation.
A final word. What do you love about Crystal Palace?
“It’s the community. It’s the history and heritage. It’s the creativity. It’s the diversity of independent businesses here. People really take ownership and are invested in this area and want to help to improve it.”
Many thanks to Beth. Make sure you pay a call to The Paxton Centre this summer and enjoy the diverse range of events on the What’s On calendar.
Thanks to the whole team at the Paxton Centre, 52 Westow Hill, SE19 2AE
Visit the Paxton Centre website for all links and socials and find them on Google.