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Moonbow Jakes Coffee Bars

Three south east London coffee bars, live performance spaces, exhibitions, outdoor theatre and 

From 1998 - 2009 | 11years / 7days a week

Platform-7’s founder, John McKiernan built 3 Moonbow Jakes Coffee Bars from derelict sites in New Cross, Brockley and Catford, south east London.  The bars incorporating exhibition and performance spaces, an outdoor theatre and was at forefront of pushing for an al fresco revolution in a city strangled by regulations and over zealous enforcement.  20 years on it is difficult to imagine quite difficult it was to buy an espresso outside Soho or watch live  performance for free without drinking alcohol (although there was plenty alcohol to purchase).


Moonbow Jakes was a trailblazer in many senses.  Opening 2 years before the arrival of Starbucks in the UK, and opposite the radical (at the time) Goldsmiths, University of London and Laban contemporary dance school, there was a unique combination of creative and political people, limited choice beyond the pub or greasy spoon, and a growing confidence to change a society. The mainstream media would occasionally term it being at the forefront of the ‘coffee boho lifestyle’, but as the years progressed, cappuccino became more associated with house prices. 

Thousands performed over the decade, with a no-covers rule and only playing complete albums from start to finish, the bars became places for artists to experimented with their music, exhibited, show films, performed dance, poetry, theatre and developed careers.  New Cross was a hotbed of radical and political groups with daily discussions on philosophy and life, Brockley had a more mature art crowd with Catford having a hard, down at the heal crows.  Gigs in the local park were just big parties. 

The Emergence of Platform-7

Besides the music rules and ‘if you don’t smell you can come in’ Moonbows, as it was known, established a life long relationship with artists, local businesses, academics, tutors, students and local people, openly embraced local gangs, dealers, addicts and many more living on the margins.   It was a rare space that allowed people of differing backgrounds to meet, whether intentionally or not, and from that respect grew.  Moonbow Jakes was certainly not for everyone, but those who liked them - loved them, and that affection continues to this day.

In 2011, McKiernan, through platform-7, used his experience to create a temporary Moonbow Jakes in Cliftonville, Margate, one of the most deprived areas in southern England.  To see more on this project follow the link… 

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