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Radio 4’s Justin Webb

Published Friday, 04 June 2010

Justin Webb

BBC Radio 4’s Today programme presenter Justin Webb first moved to Southwark over a decade ago and loves the variety of life in the borough.

Justin, who lives in Camberwell with his wife Sarah and their three children, talks about what Southwark is like today.

What made you move to Southwark in the first place?

My wife had lived here for a long time when I met her in 1995. We just felt that there's something more compelling, more interesting about living in Southwark. There's some wonderful architecture and lots of really beautiful streets. Something about the quirkiness of the place attracted us.

When you did a stint as the BBC's North America editor you lived in Washington . Were you happy to come back to Southwark?

When you read about Southwark from afar you hear about crime and urban grime but as soon as you come back and actually live in the place you realise just how liveable it is. Southwark is so close to the centre of London. People here are friendly and while there are a lot of difficulties and poverty there's also a lot of joy here. We've been genuinely pleased to come back.

You spent ten years in America . How had the borough changed when you got back?

I notice the streets are cleaned more than they used to be and the place has a generally more spruced up feeling. And the Elephant and Castle development is exciting. Dulwich Park was pretty scrubby but that's now an amazing resource. And Lordship Lane is a staggering achievement. I just think the whole area has sense of possibility that I'm not sure existed when we left ten years ago.

You are bringing your three children up here - why is a good place in your opinion?

I think a lot of children in London live very isolated lives; either isolated in poverty or isolated in privilege. The thing I like about Camberwell is the variety. There are some quite wealthy people here but also people are who are really struggling. They all meet each other at various points of the day and I think that's good for children.

Do you ever get inspiration for Today from the borough?

I sometimes think of individual people I've seen or met in Southwark when we're discussing issues on the show. The 148 bus goes all the way from White City to Camberwell and I get that home from work. There are an awful lot of people on the Walworth Road who could do with an extra tenner a week from somewhere. It would give them the space to have more time to talk to their children and all the things that flow from that. I think if I lived in Chelsea or somewhere I'd be less able to talk about those things.

What do you think are the challenges Southwark faces for the future?

The challenge is the same challenge we all face but it's particularly acute here: we're all going to be as a country much poorer than we're used to being. So how on earth do we continue to improve life for people who are really hard pressed when there's very little money? It's going to be tough, for the council and for everyone. But I think there is a spirit in Southwark that will make people act together and get through it.

Justin's Southwark

Camberwell Green

There's an extraordinary vibrancy there. I have friends who go elsewhere to shop but I think everything you want is available there.

Dulwich Park

My children love the play area but they're also starting to explore the rest of it and cycle around.

King's College Hospital

My son has type 1 diabetes and we have to regularly go to the hospital for treatment. It's such a great resource and we live so close we can walk  here.

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