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19 June 2020updated 03 Aug 2021 6:41am

Why we should save Brixton Market’s Nour Cash and Carry

The international food shop and south London staple is under threat of eviction. Photographer Amit Lennon spoke to some of its customers.

By Gerry Brakus

Hondo Enterprises, the Texan landlords of Brixton market, have served an eviction notice to Nour Cash and Carry, a hugely popular and successful international food shop in the heart of Brixton Market. The landlords claim that they have to install an electricity substation in Nour’s specific unit, yet UK power network says that the substation can be installed anywhere in the market, which has several empty units. 

Local Brixton-based photographer, Amit Lennon, went to meet some of its regular customers. He asked them to talk about one item they regularly buy there, and the significance of the shop as the heart of this community. 

Annaliese Garratt – round pitta bread
No one comes to Brixton to visit Tescos, but they do come to visit Nour! It’s a great community shop: everybody goes here and it’s a lovely experience. It sells stuff you can only really get in Brixton. 

The landlords are being totally unsympathetic to the community and the council are just thinking with their pockets. London is always changing and new people coming into an area is lovely. You can move into an area and join in, but what people don’t like is the use of finance to push people out. 

I get herbs here, coconut milk, vegetables, Pitta bread – I’ve got friends coming over later and we are having pitta with dips. During the lockdown they were one of the few places to actually have flour! Nour is the heart of Brixton. 

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Don – saltfish
Should this shop stay? Absolutely, it’s very important to the market. The people that frequent this shop are from all over the globe, and their culinary norms are satisfied by everything inside of here. If you want something you can normally find it at Nour.

You hear accents and languages from all over the place in here – the Caribbean, Africa, Asia, lots of Chinese people come here too, and also Europeans. It services everyone in the community. The market now has Texan owners and they have no idea what this area is like, and they haven’t bothered to find out either. I’m gonna make flatfish fritters or maybe ackee and sailfish with this.

Elizabeth and her daughter Aracely – combi white cheese
I like that they know me in this shop, so if I ask for another kind of green banana, they will get me a new one. The man selling vegetables is a nice person. The fruit and veg is very good here.

But I also like the cheese, they have lots of different types – sheep, goat, cow. I often buy the Turkish white cheese, its similar to a Latin American cheese that we like to have with fried plantains. I live in Loughborough Junction but I love to come to Brixton, and to Nour especially. 

Jean Pierre Laville – Hard dough bread
They sell things that you can’t really find anywhere else, like molokhia (or jute plant) – we eat this a lot; it’s a kind of weed which is popular in Asian and African dishes. Lots of other shops here have similar stuff but the “Long shop” (thats what we call it) has the biggest variety.

I have the hard dough or spiced bun with butter or with cheese sometimes. My wife and I have been coming here for 12 years. It will be really upsetting if it closes down. 

Marsha – condensed milk
I live in Fulham and I come once a month to shop at Nour. I buy things in bulk for my family back in Jamaica and send food parcels back in a container. Today I bought three cases of condensed milk for them. It’s actually cheaper to buy it here and ship than just buying it there.

I also buy other Jamaican food, like plantain crisps or spiced bun. They always help me take the food to my car – that’s just really good customer service. I use the condensed milk in coffee or in a porridge and its great in a Guinness punch. 

Morelene – coconut milk
I’ve just got the basics today: some spinach, coconut milk, Chocho, some biscuit, some okra and Jamaican water crackers. I always go to Usear (the man that runs Nour); he is like a father figure to us Jamaicans. Day or night if I want one thing then I always run to Usear, that’s our name for him. 

My one item I can’t do without is my coconut milk – sometimes it’s two for £1. I use it for rice and peas but also for boiling with salt fish: we call it “Run down”, it’s one of Jamaica’s national dishes. I also use it for porridge and lots of other things.

Nick – jerk seasoning
We live in Herne Hill and come here occasionally. Some of the items that they have are fairly specific cultural items that you can’t get in a normal supermarket.

I come from California and if I want to make salsa, you need to get a very specific type of chilli that you can’t normally get, but they have it fresh. I’m making jerk chicken tonight so I bought the seasoning and also some Scotch bonnet peppers. 

Nish – chickpea and millet flour
Today is just a flying visit. I’ve just bought some chickpea flour and millet flour, its pretty hard to get anywhere else. I run a local vegan restaurant, En Root, which is international but is derived from Gujarati food. We use these flour for our cakes, as they are inherently gluten-free, as they are derived from chickpeas and wholesome grains that are better for us.

Before I even started my business, I use to come to Nour and that relationship has grown, many of the other local restaurants also rely on them, around 80 per cent of local restaurants buy from Nour. If they go, it would be really hard: my heart is here for Nour Cash and Carry. It’s familiar, a family home, a hub, its an emotional connection! It’s a big part of our community.

Shiela – ripe plantains 
They have all the varieties of plantains and reasonably priced: three for £1.20. It makes me angry that the landlords are attacking the black community like this, closing down our food shops and our heritage. We built Brixton and now they are trying to push us out. Why can’t they just leave this place alone?

Veronica – chocho
I’ve been coming for many years: the prices are very reasonable and its always very fresh. Today I bought chocho – look at it, it’s so fresh and only 70p. I peal it and use it in a soup with carrots and turnip. If you boil it and crush it you can give it to babies. I also bought a Jamaican bun, and my coconut milk powder (which is much dearer elsewhere). He really has everything we need. 

Viviana – fresh mint
I’m originally from Ecuador but I lived in Spain for a while, and I love that I can get good paella rice here and also Spanish stock cubes which I like better. I’m making paella tonight and I’m also gonna make some margaritas with this lovely fresh mint. 

Find more information about Nour on Instagram and Twitter.

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