Behind the counter: South London’s offies

by Josephine Schulte and Defne Saricetin


The people behind the counters of South London’s off-licenses. Perhaps, people you don’t stop to think of. This film shows what they think of you. What they believe offies represent and why they think it matters today.

South London has a sense of neighbourhood of its own, a sort of ambivalent vibe but a strong sense of community. Sort of like a teenager, not sure exactly which brackets to fall in however undoubtedly fierce about their peers and the idea of being cool and not following whatever is the norm.

As if it is all on one small street, its people, its little cafes and its jazzy offies. Something is intriguing about it that you can’t put your finger on unless you are a local. So much so that when you walk into a coffee shop around the corner, the owner who has never seen you in his life will relentlessly ask why you are carrying camera equipment, what could you possibly be filming.

The South Londoner is curious about whatever goes on around him. And soon as you pronounce South London, he breathes back “I love that” and starts feeding you with little pieces of history from the area.

Off licenses also obtain that same feel, the banter surrounding your late night run for ciggies. The owner knows you. There is something from the past about it that we no longer seem to have in society. A nostalgic feel we seem to be so eager to let go these days.

He knows you smoke Sterlings on weekdays and Marlboros at the beginning of the month. He knows you always come to pick up two bottles of Merlot on a girls night in, and a six-pack when there’s an Arsenal game on. If you are lucky, he offers you a smile when you had a long day at work.

Well, maybe not all of them are like that. Maybe sometimes their chit-chat annoys you. But they offer something that all the Tescos and Sainsbury’s in the world can’t. Interaction in a busy, fast-paced, work-oriented world. Conversation in a world where we don’t have that much time to talk to strangers anymore. And perhaps even a sense of locality, a sense of community, if there is any left at all.





Featured Image and Video by Josephine Schulte and Defne Saricetin