We caught up with Nicola Johnson, one half of the duo behind the The Great Big SE4 and SE23 Raffle.   Nicola had The Last Word in the May issue of SE23.

I’m Nicola Johnson, a lawyer and mum of 2 teens living in Honor Oak. I’m currently running The Great Big SE4 & SE23 Raffle with Amanda Pearce, another local mum who I originally got to know through Twitter and the SE23 Mums Facebook group. We were inspired to start the raffle, which aims to support local independent businesses during the Covid-19 crisis, by Victoria Rennison’s efforts in East Dulwich, and I knew that Amanda would be the perfect person to partner with to make an SE4/SE23 raffle a success.

How long have you lived in the area? What brought you here?
I moved to Honor Oak from East Dulwich on New Year’s Eve 2001, whilst pregnant with my first child. I was a bit nervous about making the short move from an area I loved to one that I wasn’t at all familiar with (in those days pre-Overground, most people hadn’t heard of Honor Oak!), but we saw the potential and, of course, could get more space for the money as we were starting a new family.

What has changed most during that time?
When we first moved to the area, there were very few places to eat out apart from Babur and a couple of “greasy spoons”. Don’t get me wrong, we love both, but we would often find ourselves heading back to East Dulwich at the weekends if we fancied something a little different. However, over recent years we’ve seen a lot of new food businesses establish themselves in Honor Oak that cater for most of our cravings, so there’s now little reason to leave the hood!

What do you most value about the area you live in?
It has to be the green spaces and the incredible views over London! We’re very lucky to have One Tree Hill and Blythe Hill Fields on our doorstep and I’ll often take a walk up to both, either alone or with the family, to take in the vista and recharge.

What one thing would you change?
We are partial to the odd burrito or taco, so would love to see a Mexican food offering in the area!

What’s the one thing you couldn’t do without?
My bike! Over the last year I’ve really tried to cut back on my car use and try to cycle wherever I can. As well as improving my fitness and being environmentally friendly, it’s also allowed me to discover so many parts of SE London that had previously passed me by!

What’s your favourite place for a night out?
Only a few years ago, I would never have dreamed of staying local for a top night out, but these days there are plenty of reasons to stay in the hood! I love the eclectic Ninth Life in Catford for Saturday night dancing, the newly refurbished Fellowship and Star in Bellingham hosts some banging DJ nights and I love my Tuesday night comedy from Laugh Train Home at The Honor Oak Pub.

Coffee or tea? Where?
I don’t drink coffee, so it’s tea all the way for me! I do feel that tea lovers are often overlooked, but I love the selection at Rise Café in Honor Oak – they serve whole leaf, single origin teas from Zigzag, which are natural botanical infusions using real fruit pieces, whole flowers, natural herbs and nothing else.

The best kept secret…
It’s not quite Honor Oak, but in neighbouring Crofton Park there’s a fantastic restaurant called The Blue Room, which pops up in someone’s front room on Friday and Saturday nights! The cooking, atmosphere and service is top notch, and it’s incredibly good value given the quality and quantity of the food on offer. But sssshhh, don’t tell anyone!

You can still buy raffle tickets until Thursday 7th May.