40 years of the Elephant’s shopping centre

A week of celebrations marking the 40th anniversary of the Elephant and Castle Shopping Centre ended in high tension as a crowd gathered to watch the prize draw for a car.

Elephant and Castle Shopping Centre

A Charlie Chaplin lookalike was on hand to add to the festivities. At 4pm an eager crowd gathered on the first floor to watch the prize draw, presided over by centre manager Mike Knell.

Elephant and Castle Shopping Centre
Pink elephants adorn a new mural on the first floor of the centre

The celebrations were perhaps dampened by the knowledge that the centre is unlikely to see its 50th birthday; though few would claim to love the building, the future for the quirky mix of shops it houses is perhaps less than certain. Though the masterplan includes a market square and a high street, small businesses have been concerned for their long-term future.

Elephant and Castle Shopping Centre
The centre's birthday cake

Throughout the week the centre has played host to live bands, with two weekends of children's entertainment including face painting, a Bucking Bronco ride and a Harry Potter ride.

Appropriately, perhaps, the big prize was a City Rover. But the plight of MG Rover didn't impinge on the enthusiasm of the winner, Nicola Heaton.

Elephant and Castle Shopping Centre
Rover winner Nicola Heaton, left, with deputy Mayor of Southwark Cllr Linda Manchester.

To ratchet up the tension there were eight finalists to win the car – one was picked each day during the eight days of the birthday celebrations. The finalists were called forward and asked to pick an envelope containing a car key. In turn they were each invited to open their envelope and try the key in the door of the car. If the key didn't turn, a consolation prize of a bottle of champagne was presented.

No-one seemed to notice the irony of a competition to win a car when in a few years the centre will be torn down to create a new town centre that is less car-centric and more pedestrian-friendly.

The regeneration of the Elephant and Castle moved a step closer this week with announcement of the shortlist for Southwark Council's commercial development partner.

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