For the past six months, campaigners in south London have been fighting to save Nour Cash and Carry, a local grocery shop. During ongoing negotiations, Nour's owners, Sundos and Salam Shaheen – who opened the shop more than 20 years ago as refugees from Iran – are being threatened with eviction by their landlord, the property investment company Hondo Enterprises. Located in Brixton Market, Nour Cash and Carry provides essential Afro-Caribbean and Middle Eastern foodstuffs for the area's historically diverse population.
The locals behind the "Save Nour Save Brixton" campaign now say that they have unearthed controversial photos on the Instagram page of a DJ duo with links to Hondo Enterprises' director, Taylor McWilliams, as well as on another account linked to McWilliams.
Alongside his role at Hondo Enterprises, McWilliams is part of the London-based DJ collective Housekeeping, which also releases music as a record label. Badin Brothers, made up of DJ brothers Scott and Olivier Badin, released an EP on the label last month. In a photo published to the Badin Brothers' Instagram page and seen by VICE, one of the brothers is wearing what appears to be a Rastafarian hat with fake dreadlocks. Uploaded in August of 2015, the photo also features McWilliams. Housekeeping is mentioned in the caption, which reads: "Badin Bros were smashing it up nicely with @housekeepingldn this week in Ibiza!"
The photo has now been deleted from Instagram.
Save Nour campaigners shared a screen grab of the photo in a video uploaded to Twitter on the 10th of June, which also highlights the value of Nour Cash and Carry to the Afro-Caribbean community in Brixton. The video has been retweeted over 1,000 times, as well as being shared by chef Yotam Ottolenghi and popular Instagram page, Poundland Bandit.
On the Badin Brothers' Facebook page, Scott and Oliver Badin, who were born in Paris and are now based in London, describe one track on the forthcoming EP – titled "bruvva" – as a "nod to South London's Jamaican, Rastafarian and Reggae heritage in its encounter with electronic music: Jungle and their MCs [sic]". It is not clear whether the pair have any direct cultural links with Jamaica or south London.
Save Nour campaigners also claim that operators of the Badin Brothers' Instagram account have deleted comments that draw attention to the pair’s connection with Housekeeping. After the Badin Brothers account posted a black square as part of "Blackout Tuesday" in support of Black Lives Matter, one Save Nour supporter commented on the post, asking whether the brothers had talked to "Taylor from Housekeeping" about the ongoing eviction with Nour Cash and Carry. This comment was deleted. The Badin Brothers' Instagram account is now private.
Save Nour campaigners, who have now reached almost 35,000 signatures on a petition to save the grocery shop, also made VICE aware of another photo, shared on Housekeeping's Instagram page. It shows one member of the Housekeeping group wearing a Native American headdress. The caption on the photo reads "Chief DJ!".
Since Save Nour shared their video on Twitter, the photo has been deleted from Housekeeping's Instagram.
Save Nour hope that highlighting McWilliams' links to these alleged instances of cultural appropriation will pressure him to withdraw the eviction notice for Nour Cash and Carry.
McWilliams strongly denies all accusations of cultural appropriation.
A spokesperson for Save Nour told VICE: "Our community is hurting and has been disrespected time and time again. It has been sold out by politicians and bought by a millionaire who wants to profit off the borough and erase us from it. The battle for Brixton is raging every day in the shops we shop from, in the streets we walk, by existing in places deemed not ours, despite us making it what it is. We refuse to go out quietly."
Hondo Enterprises, on behalf of McWilliams, strongly deny any accusations that McWilliams intends to "erase" a culture. It claims that Nour Cash and Carry needs to be vacated in order for UK Power Networks to install a new electricity unit for the market. In a solicitor's letter sent to VICE, Hondo Enterprises alleges that Brixton Market has been suffering from power shortages for a long time, and that "an upgrade of power through the installation of a new electricity substation is therefore needed to secure their long-term future in the market".
The letter continued: "UK Power Networks' (“UKPN”) stringent requirements precluded any other location at which the power substation could be installed, confirming the Nour Cash and Carry ("Nour"), unit 23 location. Hondo Enterprises explored all other possible alternatives to avoid having to move Nour from unit 23.” These include exploring whether the substation could be built underground.
Hondo Enterprises says that negotiations with the Shaheens are confidential but ongoing, and believe commercially favourable conditions for Nour Cash and Carry have been agreed, involving a new substation built for the shop, paid for by Hondo. It is not clear why an eviction notice was presented during negotiations.
Brixton has historically had a large Afro-Caribbean community, and while rising house prices and regeneration projects have led to an increase in white residents in recent years, it is still considered a hub for Black British history and culture, home to landmarks including the Black Cultural Archives and Windrush Square, named for the Caribbean workers who helped rebuild Britain after the Second World War.
Despite the furore over Nour Cash and Carry, McWilliams looks intent on establishing a music presence in Brixton. He recently registered a new company called “Brixton Studios” for “sound recording and music publishing activities”. Hondo Enterprise also bought Brixton nightclub, Club 414, after legal issues forced it to close in May of 2019.
VICE approached Badin Brothers for comment. We received a letter sent on behalf of the pair from solicitors, which said that the Rastafarian hat with dreadlocks had been worn to a private fancy dress party.
The letter read: “To put the matter into context, the photographs were taken at separate DJing events, in which many of the guests were invited to wear costume headgear. In anticipation of the first event, which was a private party, our client visited the Euro Disney gift shop with his nieces and nephews and picked out a dozen costume hats."
It continues: “Neither our client nor his brother tolerate, partake in or condone racism of any kind.”
VICE reached out to Housekeeping. A spokesperson told VICE: “We appreciate this is a very sensitive issue and we respect everyone’s right to voice their opinion. Housekeeping is a DJ collective with multiple artists and members and is focused on music and events. With the exception of Taylor McWilliams our DJs and staff, label manager, operations manager etc have no influence over, or involvement in, the decision making of Hondo Enterprises, a real estate company. We respect anyone’s right to protest, we just ask kindly that it is directed to the appropriate people.”
Accounts from Hondo Enterprises detail a loan of £59,924 to Housekeeping Events Limited in 2017. It bears no charge to interest and has no fixed repayment date.
This article originally appeared on VICE UK.