New article and next public meeting on 10 December

Our friends at Brixton Blog have written a helpful update article which Rec users and supporters may wish to read. You can see the article here.

The next public meeting will be at 6.30pm on 10th December at the Rec. The Brixton Rec Users Group (BRUG) will host Lambeth Councillors Lib Peck and Sally Prentice to answer questions about the future of the Rec. All welcome. Further details will be published here shortly.

Next BRUG meeting 10 December 6.30pm


Update from BRUG meeting

A good, lively meeting on Tuesday night at the Rec, with Brixton Rec Users Group (BRUG) members, Rec users, traders and other supporters in the room. A very helpful fellow from the Brixton Society was on hand to explain the intricacies of the planning process; one which has led to the suggestion that Brixton Recreation Centre could be knocked down and redeveloped. This is despite the Council’s original Brixton Masterplan stating the Rec “will be refurbished and opened up as a major community resource.”

For some at the meeting, it was the first time they had heard the details surrounding the threat to the Rec, and many spoke passionately about the need to retain the excellent facilities the Rec offers. There was scepticism that any ‘replacement’ leisure centre would offer the same standard of activities as the Rec, and the mooted site (Brixton Ice Rink) was considered far too small. Traders who have businesses in the Rec building spoke about the threat to their livelihoods.

The BRUG committee explained that the next key date is Monday 17 December, when the full Lambeth Council Cabinet will meet to discuss and possibly approve a ‘Brixton Supplementary Planning’ document which will go to formal public consultation in early 2013. It is hoped that document does not suggest knocking down the Rec. We’ll find out around 10 December when the papers get published.

In a triumph of precise timing, the BRUG has arranged for Councillor Lib Peck, Lambeth Council lead on regeneration issues (and potential future leader of the entire Council, should current leader Steve Reed win the forthcoming Croydon North by-election) to come and speak to Rec users and supporters at 6pm on 10 December. We’ll post a notice about that meeting nearer the time.

A fuller note of Tuesday’s meeting has been put on Urban 75.

In addition, the BRUG committee had a private meeting with Lib Peck on Wednesday night (21 November). We’ll provide feedback on that meeting as soon as we have it. Interestingly, the day after that meeting Lambeth Council posted the following tweet:

Lambeth residents will of course be rightfully sceptical about the claim that there is “no plan to demolish the Rec”, especially when Councillors have been openly discussing this since the summer.

In the meantime there are a couple of things Rec users and supporters can do:

1 – If you haven’t already done so, you can write to the council (Lib Peck, copied to your local councillors – contact details here, more info here) telling them how much the current facility is valued;

2 – You can tell your friends, family, colleagues, neighbours there is a threat the Rec could be knocked down and turned into private housing and commercial units. It is vital we build community awareness of the current threat to the Rec.

If anyone wants some leaflets to give out to friends/family/colleagues etc, there are some available in the ‘All Eyes on Egipt’ shop at 25 Brixton Station Road (under the Rec at street level.)

20th Century Society backs campaign to save the Rec

The Twentieth Century Society has backed the campaign to save Brixton Rec.

Formed in 1979, the Society “exists to safeguard the heritage of architecture and design in Britain from 1914 onwards” with a particular focus on conservation and education. Laura Chan from the Society visited the Rec recently and said, “I was heartened to hear many impassioned users of the centre say how much they value it, praising its swimming pool, climbing wall, gym and other sporting facilities, and also valuing it as a place to meet and as a local focus.”

Brixton Recreation Centre, photo courtesy of the Twentieth Century Society

The Rec at Night

Read the full article on the Twentieth Century Society’s website here.

The fantastic design quality and architecture at Brixton Rec

A user of Brixton Rec and a member of a local architectural practice (which specialises primarily in the conservation, restoration and alteration of historic buildings) has written to highlight Brixton Recreation Centre’s excellent design quality:

The Rec was the result of an extended design development period that modern architects would only now dream of and – like the Routemaster bus – was made to satisfy many criteria that go far beyond the reach and aspirations of most modern public sports and leisure design, with exception being the Olympic buildings.

The scale of the Rec is impressive and the range of sporting provision is exceptional, from lawn bowls to climbing. The sports hall is of a size that even today is rare, which because of its generous height can accommodate many competitive indoor sports at a high level. The pool hall is exceptional and its architectural quality is unmatched anywhere else in London. The space, natural light, timber lining and arrangement of family friendly pools are a delight and a credit to the vision of the local political leaders and architects.

One of the most unique qualities of the Rec is the relationship and visibility of all the activities available; this makes it truly accessible and friendly. It satisfies the inclusive agenda that was high up on the Architects Brief. The desire to have as much natural light within the building right down to the basement has produced a welcoming environment and has avoided completely the claustrophobic nature of most new sports and leisure provision in the city. These have an arrangement of tightly packed boxes, so as to make the buildings as small as possible and as cheap as possible to build. Such ambitious aspirations for the Rec made the building expensive to design and build. This investment is today enjoyed and taken for granted by all the Rec users, however it is thrown in to sharp contrast, when the cheap build and mean spaces of the new Clapham pool and Peckham Pulse are experienced.

Considering the building is almost forty years old, it is in very good condition; the massive stainless steel stair rails almost look new and the brick cladding and copper roofs have weathered beautifully. The investment in top quality expensive finishes have lasted well and continue to perform as designed. This demonstrates again the vision and commitment of the original team to create a lasting legacy for Brixton. The dividends of generous design and materials are flexibility of use and reduced repair and maintenance costs.

The Rec is not only an unrepeatable asset in brick and concrete but, in the unique spaces and combination of provision, it has enabled life, leisure and sport accessibility to a historically deprived and troubled community. The Rec has become a beacon of enlightened provision and symbolic of investment and regeneration in deprived city areas.

During the life of the building it has been able to be improved and modified to meet changing needs. The original restaurant /club area has become a very successful fitness provision and the recent refurbishment of the changing areas has improved family access and privacy issues for minority users not envisaged in the original brief. The generous space provision in the original design has made many of the changes possible that would have been impossible if the original design had not been of grand ambition and vision.

The high quality design and grand scale of the Rec has allowed accessibility to a range of sport and leisure on a scale and richness unusual for an area such as Brixton. Its unique and exceptional design qualities should not be devalued by concerns over ageing plant and services: all buildings need services replacing as they wear out. Buildings should not be treated like consumer durables and sent to land fill if the ‘on’ switch breaks. The embodied energy in the Rec is high, and I do not believe that replacement studies will have fully appreciated the vast scale of the building that fits on a modest size plot. The Rec has a pool on the second floor and the sport hall on the 6th floor, not out of architectural whim but to fit all the facilities in.

The Rec is an asset that has a value way beyond its replacement cost, due not only to the social and political capital it owns but, also, the investment in good, generous, brave and visionary Architecture. This Architecture not only inspires and uplifts but is accommodating change and new visions.


Save Brixton Rec!

Welcome to the new Save Brixton Rec website!

Brixton Rec is a much-loved leisure centre in the heart of Brixton used by over 60,000 people per month.

Built in the early 1980s, partly in response to the riots and a lack of activities for young people, the Rec was opened in 1985 and boasts a wide range of facilities including three swimming pools, various sports courts, a gym and a children’s play area. The Rec is also home to the Brixton Topcats basketball team, who play in the English League Division One, and was famously visited by Nelson Mandela and Prince Charles in 1996.


In autumn 2012, Lambeth Council published the draft Brixton Supplementary Planning Document (SPD) which suggested the Rec could be knocked down and rebuilt elsewhere, with the land used for commercial, retail and housing developments.  The draft SPD said:

  • The current facility is much loved, enormously popular and serves the entire Borough and beyond. However, many residents think it is inaccessible because current access arrangements require the use of an exterior flight of stairs or a long ramp which is dark and not particularly welcoming. The building is large although much of the interior space is not efficiently used. The building is in need of significant levels of ongoing investment and running costs are forecast to continue to rise significantly.

Rec Users are happy with the current facility and are worried that any plans to knock it down and rebuild it would be expensive, disruptive and could result in a loss of facilities. Users of the Rec are coming together to highlight the issue and ensure our valuable sports and leisure facilities are protected for the community. We want Lambeth Council to honour their original promise to retain and refurbish the Rec. Some of the arguments for keeping the Rec are outlined on our Why Save the Rec? page.

Please look around our site for further information and details of how you can get involved and help to save Brixton Rec.

You can follow us on Twitter: @SaveBrixtonRec

You can also join the Brixton Rec Users Group on Facebook: