My name is Daniel O’Connell and I was born in Kings college hospital in 1977. I truly have lived and breathed Brixton my whole life. My mum was from the Tulse Hill estate in Brixton and my family lived there for many years. We then moved onto an estate at the back of Brixton Hill for a few years and then moved to an estate just off of Acre Lane.
I spent a lot of time with my Nan who lived near Clapham Park Road. My mum was living on Solon New Road so I was always up and down Acre Lane, Cold Harbour Lane, Somerleyton Road and Angell Town, I couldn’t keep away from the place.
I went to Santley Primary School where I met a lot of good friends, I will never forget the place as I loved it there. Quite a few people I know from Santley have gone onto bigger and better things and hopefully the same will happen for me and my family.
I left Santley and went to Haselrigge Primary school and then ended up moving around different secondary schools including John Archer, Pimlico and even went to Chestnut Grove in Balham but in the end I came back closer to home. I went to a centre off of Sternhold Avenue which was for kids with behaviour problems and this is where I finished my schooling years.
I then became an apprentice glazier on Brixton Road, this was my first job but I still got drawn back to the streets where I used to hang around as a kid, always up and down Landor Road, always around Ferndale Road, Coldharbour Lane and Acre Lane. Brixton was my stomping ground and I seemed to know everyone. It would take me literally an hour sometimes to walk from one side to the other, as I was always stopping to chat. You wouldn’t believe that nowadays as you hardly see anyone you know. It was a different world back then, everyone knew everyone. Everyone’s families knew everyone’s family and if you didn’t know them, you soon got to know them.
Brixton was a pretty cool place back then, but people change and times change, it’s still a cool place but in a different way.
All my friends from when I was younger, they were from Africa, Jamaica, India, Ireland, we had people from everywhere on our manor, we had people from all sides.
When I was growing up, most people I knew were in different gangs or crews, gangs is not a new thing. But I seemed to float around and everyone knew me. Most of my friends were in the ‘28’s gang’ and so I would run with them.
I got into quite a lot of trouble as a kid, whether at home or out on the street and was always doing something I shouldn’t. I ended up getting stabbed quite a few times in different situations but ironically never in Brixton, it was always in surrounding areas where I wasn’t known. Brixton was a safety net for me and I think it still is.
When I hit the age of 16, everything changed for me. I met my missus and moved in with her and her family in Clapham for a few years until I was 21 when my daughter was born. We then moved back to Brixton, onto one of the redbrick estates.
I then opened my own business, setting up as a mechanic near to Minet Road. I then started to meet people from different parts of Brixton which made my network of friends even bigger. Everyone seems to take to me, I don’t know why, I must be that sort of guy? 😜
I have watched the sights of Brixton change, people come and people go. People I remember from when I was younger, opening different businesses, different opportunities given to them. You’ve got the likes of the Brixton soup kitchen which is phenomenal, the young lad that started that is different class. You’ve got Brixton Street gym, TerrolI take my hat off to him too, I always see him around. The man has taken it to another level, you’ve got to have big respect for these guys. Brixton studios is another one, there is backgrounds to all these lads and yet they’ve all come out with a positive angle on their lives which is fantastic.
Then there is Brixton market, well everyone calls it Brixton village now. You used to hold your breath going through there as a kid as it used to stink of fish. You would hate your mum dragging you through there but nowadays you’ve got burger bars and restaurants in there, it’s a very different place.
We used to eat in the cafe which was in the Arcade, walk through and everyone was “uncle” or “aunty”, it was brilliant. You could walk through there and you felt so comfortable. Most people were scared to come to Brixton back then but it was all I knew and still is.