Russell Dryden – Our Latest Community Hero

“Nothing changes until you do something” says Russell who is Bermondsey born-and-bred.  He grew up around Jamaica Road and he still lives and works here because he loves the place.  True to the spirit of Bermondsey, Russell is an entrepreneur who is always looking out for opportunities and grabs them when they arise.

He took over fish stall in the Blue Market when the previous owner disappeared overnight and went on to set up The Blue’s Business Improvement District (BID) along with fellow shop-owner, Jack Shah.  Frustrated by the decline of the market and struggling local businesses, they came together to start a business association – determined inject life back into the Blue.  But it’s not just about businesses, he contends – its local shops, stalls and the personal connections that form around them that help to create places of community and belonging.

Several years later, these efforts resulted in an impressive £2 million regeneration grant from the GLA to redevelop the market. With this, they have created a flexible space and public art installations designed by and for the community.  The market now provides first class facilities for traders alongside a diverse calendar of family events, creating  unique and loved spaces. Ensuring that the market is not only a place to shop but also a vibrant community hub.

Russell has also helped to revive the Bermondsey Carnival – and a hugely a successful event was held this summer in Southwark Park. The music showcased a range of genres, including West African Kora, Persian, Jazz, Blues, Rock and Ska.  This mix of global sounds reflects the new demographics of Bermondsey. Russell wants everyone living here – regardless of their country of origin – to say “I come from Bermondsey”.

But let’s not forget his own musical prowess… Russell’s band ‘Bastru’ allows him to ‘blast out songs of ‘middle aged angst’! And he has done (and continues to do) a huge amount to support and nurture the musical talent of local young people.

Russell’s journey and his contributions to the regeneration of Bermondsey through the market and music serve as inspiration to take action, appreciate community values, and preserve the essence of a neighbourhood for future generations.