Once upon a time there was a space in Bermondsey that never dreamed it would become an arts/events/book/beer shop with a devoted community and its own publications.
Bomb to building site
World War Two left Bermondsey a bomb site. Still in the 1980s when young architect Jonathan Dransfield appeared on the scene, little had been done to regenerate the area (see above). So he bought 1a Morocco Street, and at first he lived in the flat above, using the downstairs as a garage.
Eventually Jonathan's architectural firm Waterhouse needed somewhere to be based. Soon the place was transformed into a purpose-built office complete with cupboards, a printer, plug sockets, a mini kitchen and those hefty office chairs that we've still got hanging around!
Books beget beer
Alongside architect-ing Jonathan had been plotting something else. He'd had an idea for a story which began as a series of illustrations that he had initially intended to turn into a film. Instead, defying his dyslexia, Jonathan succeeded in writing a novel: The Other Things.
But where to sell it...?
Well, fortunately a young man named Natty happened to be going out with one of Jonathan's step daughters at the time. This young man was seriously into literature, so when he told Jonathan his dream was to open a bookshop the two of them launched into business together. Their first endeavour was a little stall selling books at the Bermondsey Street festival. Morocco Bound was born in September 2019. 👶
Eventually Natty and Jonathan made the radical move to expand their range of stock, and they also began hosting BYOB poetry nights.
The more raucous these became, the more evident it was that the space was just crying out for its own supply of booze. And conveniently a little something called the Beer Mile was lying just around the corner.
Enter the beer.
Alas. While the happy little craft beers were making their way into Morocco Bound, something else was making its unwelcome way into the country. Something with precisely the inverse of beer's liberating effect. That's right, this was March 2020.
With all shops forced to shut and the outside world barred but for an hour a day, you might have thought a new business would find itself facing an existential threat. However, the infinite stream of terrible news updates seemed only to amplify (hu)man's need for books, and indeed beer. Escapism was the name of the game. And Morocco Bound was here to serve that need, no matter what. Business prevailed thanks to the good ol' bicycle.
The shop's ethos was always to support local, and the pandemic's restrictions on delivery, travel and transport absolutely brought this into focus. We simply weren't able to get beer unless we went to collect it ourselves.
Persisting through the pandemic
Tough times followed. The rest of 2020 was really spent selling beers i.e. operating as a retail space and squeezing in live music events wherever restrictions allowed. Happily there was a fantastically talented saxophonist within the team at the time - a Mr Joe Elliott - who began putting on jazz nights which he still hosts now. There were good times; some weeks people could even come to sit and drink a can outside(!). But with browsing banned the team were forced to be inventive about how to keep the book element of MB alive...
So manager Lucy came up with the idea of a magazine, the Morocco Bound Review.
From December 2020 a team of editors, a web designer, illustrator and creative director came together from across the country to work on the MBR. They organised talks over Zoom with authors and academics to raise its profile and the first print issue launched in June 2021, just as Covid restrictions were finally easing for good (until Omicron lol).
Becoming an event space
From the summer of 2021 forward, we set our sights on cultivating the creative community, which had been curtailed by Covid just as it began to crystallise. We also clocked that enticing you lot down Morocco Street was going to require some effort, otherwise we just ain't that noticeable.
Since then our programme has massively expanded to incorporate more and more live music, poetry nights, quiz nights, tastings, book club, talks, comedy, film screenings, charity fundraisers, book launches and more. If you've bothered to read this far we probably don't need to be telling you! We've also release two more print editions of the Review, as well as a poetry anthology full of work by you lot.
This September we'll be four years old. Give us another four and who knows what else will have come out of the ol' garage. Four cheers to Morocco Bound! 🍻