IWCB Day – an ode to the women of Peckham


Three female brewers (me, Jane and co-owner Helen) from the Water Into Beer homebrew club decided we’d take part in International Womens Collaboration Brew Day. The theme this year is Exotic Unite. Seeing as we live in Peckham we decided to source inspiration from Rye Lane.

Rye Lane is awash with exotic ingredients, we are a bit spoilt for choice really. Spices, fruits, vegetables, nuts, things I have no idea what to do with all tumble from boxes in many Caribbean and African shops. Jane discovered Ugli fruit, they are a bit of a combo of a Tangerine and grapefruit, slightly smaller than a grapefruit but paler and a bit sharper than a tangerine. They also have a floral end note which we think would go very nicely in a beer.

What style to brew though?  Well, erm we live in Peckham RYE, so we decide to do a Rye beer of course to celebrate Peckham in all of its loveliness and the women living within it.  Peckham is definitely not ugli.

As part of this I decided to do some research about some of the prominent and important women who have had an impact on the area. It was really interesting to delve into this and learn so much about where I live. I highlight a few below, if you know of others please let me know I’d love to hear about them.

Una Marson

Una Marson moved to Queen’s Road from Jamaica in 1932 where she was the Secretary for the League of Coloured Peoples (a great organisation founded by Harold Moody, read up on it if you can). She was the first black female broadcaster at the BBC. She joined as a programme assistant in 1939 working on the Calling West Indies programme and eventually having her own radio show, Caribbean Voices.  As well as a journalist, Una was a poet, publisher, playwright and activist for racial and sexual equality.  In 1928 she was the first Jamaican woman ever to have launched her own magazine. Back in Jamaica she encouraged women to join the work force and make their voices heard.  In London she highlighted the feminist and racist issues that were confronting the Jamaican community. She also worked hard to encourage Jamaican women within the community to seek the beauty within themselves and fight against the light skinned, straight-haired ideal perpetuated by the movie industry.

In 1935 she was the only black delegate at the International Alliance of Women for Equal Suffrage conference and she eventually became appointed as private secretary to Haile Selassie where she used her role to highlight the atrocities Ethiopian women faced during Italian occupation. Not only did Marson have to contend with the prejudice faced from being a woman, but she was also black.  Marson was fearless and dedicated to fighting against the issues facing the Caribbean community in London.  A blue plaque commemorating her sits in Brunswick Square where she lived for a time and a blue plaque lies on Queen’s Road where Harold Moody founded the League of Coloured Peoples.

Elsie Bowerman

All round badass Elsie Bowerman was a barrister, suffragette and Titanic survivor.  She was a member of the Emmeline Pankhurst led group, the Women’s Social and Political Union; she served in WWI in a Scottish women’s hospital unit in Romania and became the first female barrister to practice at the Old Bailey. Her links to Peckham are through her voluntary work for the United Girls’ School Mission.  She had volunteered since her schooldays and eventually was made treasurer in 1931 and then Chairman until her death in 1973. Elsie saved the Mission from closure during a crises period and thanks to her it re-emerged as the Peckham Settlement. The Peckham Settlement provided a place where nurseries, children’s clubs and an old people’s daycentre could operate. They also organised meals on wheels and supervised accommodation and for a time it acted as a local church.  They organised day trips for disadvantaged children and pioneered a savings scheme which led to the passing of the first national unemployment insurance Act in 1911.  The Peckham Settlement still lives on today where it is now providing grants to community projects such as Age UK Lewisham & Southwark, Pioneer African Caribbean Over 50s Group and South London Cares.

Eileen Conn

A modern day heroine is Eileen Conn, Founder of Peckham Vision.  Eileen is a pioneer for the local community. She has been lobbying the council for this community and its businesses since the 70’s.  She started a resident’s group after a planning issue occurred on her street, this spiralled into her being recruited as chair for the Peckham Society and then starting Peckham Action Group. She has lobbied for better, long-term community buildings and public spaces for Peckham and recently formed part of the Peckham Levels Steering Group collaborating between the community, corporations and the council to get Peckham Levels underway and to transform the empty space into something useful and worthwhile for all. It was also Eileen who was responsible for the beautiful avenue of Birch Trees that were been planted on Nutbrook Road 40 years ago, if you haven’t taken a walk down that road to see them I recommend you do. In 2009 she was awarded the MBE for services to the community.

Girl Tribe Gang

There’s also Girl Tribe Gang.  GTG are the UK ‘s leading collective for women who have quit the 9-5 and are working for themselves giving them a space to come together, collaborate, coach and help each other. The Peckham branch meet at John the Unicorn. The leader of the Peckham Branch is Sarah Howat, she has also volunteered for the Smart Works Charity which helps women back into work by providing clothing for interviews and practice and coaching sessions. GTG offers an invaluable space for women starting out alone in the business world.

The connection to the Jamaican roots of the Ugli fruit and the fact that she was so fearless in the face of prejudice has helped us decide to name the beer Una after Una Marson.

2 thoughts on “IWCB Day – an ode to the women of Peckham

  1. Links below not working for me but great post!!!

    I’d love to sell your brews in our cafe…Beckenham beer!

    Axx >


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