Sunday, June 26, 2022

Save South London Buses (12, 45, 78, 521)

Transport for London is currently consulting on major cuts to London bus routes, including in South London scrapping the 12, 45, 78 and 521. 

A 'Save Southwark Buses' petition has been launched which argues:

'The 12, 45, 78 and 521 provide essential routes for Southwark residents without access to the tube or overground. It is vital that the most vulnerable passengers and those on the lowest incomes can get to work, school or access key services across the borough and beyond. An efficient public transport system is also vital to cleaning up the borough’s air, ensuring that residents have a viable alternative to car use.

It is disgraceful that the Government has cut TfL’s funding by £600m and has demanded that TfL makes service cuts and increase prices for the funding to survive the Covid pandemic. These cuts to services have been forced on TfL and will only serve to level London down, ensuring that those without a car will struggle to get around the capital. Hard pressed families will have to make more difficult and costly journeys...

It will have a devastating impact on areas such as Camberwell, Peckham and Dulwich on the number 12 route. The loss of the 45 route will impact on areas of Walworth with the lowest levels of car ownership in Southwark. On the 78 route it will impact and isolate areas of Nunhead, South Bermondsey and .along the Old Kent Road. For the most vulnerable living and visiting London Bridge and St George’s that rely on the 521 route, the cuts will be badly felt'.

I frequently get the 78, which goes from Nunhead to Shoreditch via Peckham and Tower Bridge and it is pretty obvious that what is being proposed as an alternative is going to be a significantly poorer service. Without the 78 you would have to get at least two buses, relying on the often overcrowded P12 to get from Nunhead to Peckham and then change. What's more the P12 is less frequent than the 78, it starts later, finishes earlier and doesn't serve the last stop of the 78 in St Mary's Road.

You can respond to the TfL consultation here until 12 July 2022, but the real power to prevent these cuts sits with the Government.

Tuesday, June 14, 2022

Nouveau Quiche - a co-operative restaurant in 1980s New Cross

Nouveau Quiche was apparently a co-operative restaurant at 301 New Cross Road, this advert is from Marxism Today, 1986 and promises 'Cordon Rouge catering for all occasions'.  A 'TGWU recognised workers co-op' no less (the Transport and General Workers Union was one of the largest trade unions at the time, it later became part of Unite).

I asked on twitter and facebook for memories of this place and got a few interesting comments:

'My memory is a bit hazy but they must have been doing vegetarian food, otherwise we wouldn't have gone, and the decor was fashionable for the mid-80s, lots of matt black etc. I think they did actually serve quiche. In those days the area was a culinary mix of the well-established Indian, Chinese, Turkish etc, but if you wanted something different there was nowhere local to go'.

'I was an education development worker at a homelessness project in New Cross Road during the mid 80s, and some of my colleagues used to go there. I think we had meetings there as well'.

There were other radical food places in this period including Brockley Bean, the vegetarian/wholefood co-op in  Coulgate Street. Nice to see that the daughter of one of those involved has opened a cafe of the same name in Wrexham. 

In the 1990s there was the great Heathers vegan restaurant in Deptford, home of anti-apartheid benefits and fantastic food which I must return to another time. With the widespread availability of vegetarian/vegan food today it is hard to remember the days when you had to make your own humous or do without. Hard to remember too perhaps how much these alternative food spaces overlapped with radical political movements, in the case of Nouveau Quiche perhaps late period Communist Party of Great Britain in its Marxism Today phase with its designer socialist aesthetic and its questioning of Stalinist certainties

Interestingly in the 2000s there was a really good Indian restaurant a few doors down in New Cross Road called Nouveau Spice - inspired by a memory of the radical quiche-ists?

Thursday, June 09, 2022

'You and Me' - TV drama filming at Skehans

 Lots of filming going on this week around Telegraph Hill locations for new ITV drama series 'You and Me', including at Skehans pub SE14 where one of the characters is seen getting into a black cab and heading off down Gellatly Road. The Hill Station Cafe has also been used. The series, with Russell T Davies as Executive Producer, is due to be broadcast in 2023.

Wednesday, June 08, 2022

Sunday, June 05, 2022

Echoes of Ukraine invasion at Peter the Great statue

Anti Putin graffiti and Ukrainian flag stickers on the Peter the Great statue at Millennium Quay in Deptford. The statue was built with the support of the Russian embassy in, shall we say, different times.

Friday, June 03, 2022

Lewisham Sound Systems Trail

Big crowds last Sunday (29/5/2022) at the Lewisham Sound Systems Trail, with dub reggae and other sounds across the Deptford area. All free as part of the We are Lewisham borough of culture programme

Dennis Bovell and Friends in the Albany garden.

Lemon Lounge at Creekside artworks

Unit 137 at Deptford Market Yard

Wednesday, June 01, 2022

Nunhead Cemetery Open Day 2022

Nunhead Cemetery Open Day was busy on 21st May 2022 with its usual idiosyncratic mixture of local history, wildlife and cemetery enthusiast stalls, morris dancers and goths.

There was a 'hearse and horses promenade' courtesy of South London undertakers Francis Chappell & Sons. I posted this picture on twitter and a friend asked what was going on with the tiny people in the hearse - a trick of perspective or something spookier?!


Wednesday, May 25, 2022

The Peanut Factory: squatting in South London in the 1970s

I really enjoyed reading 'The Peanut Factory' by Deborah Price (Guts Publishing, 2022), her memoir of life in South London squats in the 1970s and early 80s - and specifically the scene in the Crystal Palace/Norwood area. Must admit that despite myself being a Brixton squatter later in the 80s I had no idea how much squatting there was around that nearby part of London. But this was in a period when there were plentiful empty private and council homes for people to live in if they could cope with disrepair and no hot water.

She particularly mentions a triangle of streets lower down Gypsy Hill where many of the houses were squatted and a warehouse known as the Peanut Factory became an informal community centre: 'There was big rockabilly scene down at the squats, with King Kurt and other fledgling bands, and a lot of quiffs and hair-gel. Parties happened every weekend. It was amazing how many people could cram into a small Victorian terrace'.

People living round Upper Norwood will appreciate some of the hyperlocal detail, including memories of working in local pubs, the zoo and Crystal Palace Adventure Playground. But there is a lot here for anyone interested in alternative scenes in London and their cultural history. 

Price really evokes this time through her relationships with a shifting cast of friends, lovers and flat mates. There is freedom and affordable living, but also addiction and sexual abuse.

Price moves through the sub cultures of the time, leaving aside her former hippy clothes and records to enthusiastically embrace punk and then moving on to clubbing at places like the Fridge in Brixton, the WAG and Le Beat Route: 'Getting dressed up and partying was a living protest against cuts and poverty. It was fingers up to the Government'. Sometimes cultural/music historians treat these scenes as a succession of completely distinct moments, when the fact is it was sometimes the same people involved just changing their clothes.

The Fridge is probably best remembered now for its long term location at the bottom of Brixton Hill, now home of Electric Brixton. But for a couple of years in the early 1980s it was above the Iceland store on Brixton Road. Price remembers it at that time as being 'glittering white, decorated with lots of fake ice stalagmites and stalactites... lit up with silver and blue lights to get a cold icy backdrop' (I went there once to see Rubella Ballet). She also recalls regularly getting her cut at one of the famous gay squats on Railton Road. 

The author is giving a talk at the Bookseller Crown bookshop in Crystal Palace on 26th May 2022, details here

Monday, May 23, 2022

Music Monday: Naima Bock - 'Toll'

Naima Bock was the  co-founder and bassist with Goat Girl, but has left the band to pursue a solo career. Her debut album is due out on Sub Pop on 1 July 2022. Naima spent her childhood between Britain and Brazil and indeed has just completed a tour of Europe supporting Brazilian singer Rodrigo Amarante. But her London years have been very much SE London, in fact she lived in my SE14 street for years and went to Edmund Waller school.

Toll is a track from the new album and features a kind of psych-folk sound, little bit Vashti Bunyan but with a languid melody that also puts me in mind of slowed down Stereolab. Great folk horror video too.

Monday, May 16, 2022

Music Monday: Belle & Sebastian video on Ladywell Fields

The music video for the latest Belle and Sebastian single “Talk To Me Talk To Me” features scenes shot in and around Ladywell Fields.

The video was written and directed by 15-year-old south London siblings Freya and Rosalie Salkeld.  According to singer Stuart Murdoch, “we put out an open call to filmmakers who would be interested in making something for the existing budget, requesting an image encapsulating their idea and a 100-word pitch. The directors’ mother got in touch saying her daughters are fans of the group and keen filmmakers, and they sent in a treatment that we loved. They co-wrote and co-directed it, and got a bunch of their friends involved, and made a fresh and funny take on the song.”

The Salkeld siblings added, “Our idea had come from photos we’d taken of our friends for art projects. Casting mates we’d recently seen in a school drama production was really fun — filming them was even better!”

I believe the school that features in some scenes is Kingsdale in West Dulwich.

Sunday, May 15, 2022

Airship over Nunhead

The Goodyear Blimp airship has been in the skies of London and Kent this weekend, here seen over Lausanne Road in Nunhead on Saturday 14th May 2022


Wednesday, April 27, 2022

Reweirding: Lost Landscape and Found Lore

A packed Amersham Arms in New Cross last month for the first of a series of 'Reweirding' events there. The theme for March was for 'Reweirding London: Authors on the Secret City', with interesting talks from Caitlin Davies on female crime,  Lara Maiklem on mudlarking on the Thames shore and Tom Chivers on  'London Clay: Journeys in the Deep City' (pictured below left holding his underground London map with host Scott Wood).

The next event,  'Reweirding: Lost Landscape and Found Lore', takes place on Thursday 28 April 2022, 7 pm:

'Discover what remains of south London’s Great North Wood and revel in the revival of the Deptford Jack in the Green mayday celebration. Complementary verdant short films from Video Strolls.

C.J. Schüler, author of The Wood That Built London, charts the fortunes of the North Wood from its earliest times: its ecology, ownership, management, and the gradual encroachment of the metropolis.

The Fowlers Troop Jack in the Green was revived by members of Blackheath Morris Men and friends in the early 1980s. It is a revival of a Jack in the Green from the late 19th/early 20th century which was taken out around Deptford, South East London on May Day by the original Fowlers Troop.

Sarah Crofts tells the tale of the Deptford Jack-in-the-Green and presents David Aylward’s film of the 2006 procession. Artist Sarah Sparkes demonstrates, with some help, with shadow puppets'.

(further details and tickets here).

David Aylward with the Deptford Jack in the Green

Tuesday, April 26, 2022

Flowers for Teon Campbell-Pitter in Fordham Park

Flowers in Fordham Park, New Cross, where 16 year old Teon Campbell-Pitter was killed on 13 April 2022

Another child killed, more children charged with his killing. Difficult to say anything meaningful, but Peckham-based Power the Fight are doing some good community based work around youth violence.


Friday, April 15, 2022

South London Swans

Redcross Way SE1

The sadly closed White Swan pub in Deptford High Street

Hamilton Street, Deptford


Thursday, April 14, 2022

Anti-Refugee Bill opposed at Brockley Cross

Billboard poster at Brockley Cross denounces the Government's plain evil plans to deport refugees to offshore detention camps. Press reports today suggest refugees arriving in the UK could be flown to Rwanda.


Friday, April 08, 2022

Nunhead Museum 2022

It's been a while since the 'Nunhead & District Municipal Museum and Art Gallery' opened its doors to the public, but for one weekend only this idiosyncratic collection can be viewed at 80 Gellatly Road SE14 - part of the Telegraph Hill Festival Open Studios.


Sunday, April 03, 2022

Gormless Rishi and other famous faces on the New Cross Road

Dark clouds gather over the Sainsburys petrol station on New Cross Road - an omen for the Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak as inflation rises and people struggle with the cost of living? For it was here that he recently staged that ill dated photo opportunity to demonstrate that he was a man of the people filling up his car, only to be widely mocked after it was broadcast (by Sky News on 23 March) as it was revealed that he had borrowed a Sainsburys worker's car for the shoot and appeared not to know how to pay in the petrol station.

This particular stretch of the New Cross Road has had its fair share of famous visitors, and the experience has not always been a good one. American actor Shia LaBeouf hit the tabloids not once but twice in 2012 and 2014 after getting into fights just across the road in The Rose pub (known at the time as the Hobgoblin). He was dating local actor Mia Goth, press reports this week say they have just had a baby together in Los Angeles, though he is also facing allegations of violence and abuse by ex-partner FKA Twigs.

On a lighter note there was that time in 2016 when Elton John parked his Bentley outside The Rose and popped in to use the loo.

I guess as a main road many notables good, bad and ugly have paused to sample its delights, some of them even able to work out how to pay for things. I remember that the long gone Sirius fish and chip shop near the Walpole, further along New Cross Road, used to boast that Paul McCartney had once stopped there for chips and a pickled onion. Am I imagining that they had a signed photo of him in the shop?

Sunday, March 06, 2022

Ukraine crisis on the walls of London

Like most people watching terrible events continuing to unfold in Ukraine, I feel a sense of powerlessness. I have no armchair hot takes or new geopolitical analyses, other than to express solidarity with people in Ukraine subject to brutal invasion and with those opposing the war in Russia itself (as well as sympathy for those Russian conscripts sent to fight in Putin's war, who we can only hope will turn against their masters as they have at other key points in Russian history)

There are a few echoes of the war on the walls of London, including in the graffiti tunnel in Leake Street under Waterloo station.

'Ukraine burns as we watch. F*ck Putin Murderer'

'F*ck Putin! Make love not war'.

'love not war' - simplistic but true. Since almost everyone prefers the former to the latter why can't it be so?

[There was also lots of memorial graffiti there this week for drum & bass MC Skibadee, who was born in Waterloo]

A couple more from elsewhere...

Noticed a few window signs going up including this 'Glory to Ukraine' near Brockley cross.

A friend sent this one from Greenwich High Road. A contemporary twist on the old anarchist slogan 'No war but intersectional class war'

Waterloo newspaper?

The graffiti in the Waterloo tunnels serve as a kind of wall newspaper, constantly changing in response to current cultural and social events. I took some photos there last year (June 2021) and at the time there was more about Covid, as well as the police off the back of the Black Lives Matters and 'Kill the Bill' demonstrations:

'class matters when it affects you'


Monday, February 21, 2022

Russian Revolutionaries in New Cross/Deptford, 1907

In 1907 the 5th Congress of the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party was held at the Brotherhood Church in Hackney. The 338 delegates represented the various factions of the party, chiefly its Bolshevik and Menshevik wings, and included Lenin, Stalin, Trotsky, Rosa Luxemburg and, Maxim Gorki. The Radical History of Hackney blog has written about this and why not, that was where it all happened.

But did some of the delegates stay in SE London? A later account given by one George Adam, a Reuters journalist at the time, suggests so. The article 'When Lenin came to Islington' (Graphic, 4 February 1928) states that:

'shortly before the Harwich boat-train came in with its cargo of Russians,six unmistakable Yard men, wearing the Yard bowler hat and the Yard boots [...] marched on to the platform and took up strategic positions behind the pillars supporting Liverpool Street Station. The delegates were marched off into groups with Scotland Yard in step with them to the East London Underground

In the train I became friendly with one of the C.I.D. (Special Branch), and he confessed that they did not know where the Russians were going, adding that they were all Nihilists, bomb-throwers, and villains of the deepest dye. They went no farther than New Cross, where these desperadoes- they certainly looked the part- prosaically marched up to a big London County Council lodging - house, paid a tanner apiece for their bedrooms, and went to sleep comfortably, while the Special Branch found what rest it could on the hard wooden benches of the hall'.

Adam managed to get inside the Church during the Congress - this is his description - 'There were men from all the Russias, thin-faced Jewish fanatics, university intellectuals, bovine peasants... The vestry had been turned into a refreshment bar. From two or three barrels, resting on a house-decorator's trestles and planks, beer was being dispensed... There almost under my eyes, the organization of the Soviet, more or less as it afterwards came into being, was outlined'

The tale is certainly feasible. At this time trains could indeed be taken on the East London line from Liverpool Street to New Cross, and if so the accommodation mentioned is likely to have been the LCC's Carrington House in Brookmill Road, Deptford, opened in 1903 as a hostel for working men.

Which of the delegates stayed there is not known - others stayed elsewhere for sure, including Stalin who is said to have stayed at another hostel in Fieldgate Street in Whitechapel.  

Carrington House - the building still stands

Saturday, February 19, 2022

Light Perpetual - remembering the New Cross V2 disaster

An eye catching, if slightly storm frayed billboard advert in New Cross Road announces the paperback publication of Francis Spufford's novel 'Light Perpetual'. Spufford has been teaching creative writing at Goldsmiths since 2008 and the novel is directly inspired by events in New Cross Road. As he explains in the book, 'for the last twelve years, I've been walking to work at Goldsmiths College past a plaque commemorating the 1944 V2 attack on the New Cross Road branch of Woolworths. Of the 168 people who died, fifteen were aged eleven or under. The novel is partly written in memory of those South London children, and their lost chance to experience the rest of the twentieth century'.

The premise of the novel is to imagine what might have been given some very slight alteration in circumstances - supposing a technical fault has caused the missile to fail during its journey, as many did, or it landed relatively harmlessly in a park rather than a crowded shop on a Saturday?

'That's time for you. It breaks things up. It scatters them. It cannot be run backwards, to summon the dust to rise, any more than you can stir milk back out of tea. Once sundered, forever sundered. Once
scattered, forever scattered. It's irreversible. But what has gone is not just the children's present existence [....]  It's all the futures they won't get, too. All the would-be's, might-be's, could-be's of the decades to come. How can that loss be measured, how can that loss be known, except by laying this
absence, now and onwards, against some other version of the reel of time, where might-be and could-be and would-be still may still be'.

And so Spufford imagines how the lives of some of the children who died might have played out in the decades to come, what they missed out on and what the world missed out by their absence. I really enjoyed the novel but admit to being puzzled why he set a story that is so clearly tied to a real New Cross event in the fictional south east London borough of Bexford. But as he recently explained, 'I wanted to find a way of remembering the event that was faithful but not literal, so had to invent a London borough and drop a V2 of my own on to it, not to trample on anybody’s real grief'.


There are actually two memorial plaques at the site (where the Iceland store now stands)- the first put up by Deptford History Group in 1994...

...and the second sponsored by Lewisham Council unveiled in 2009, as reported here.

As I roved out on Deptford Broadway

The events are also referenced in a song from 2012 included on the compilation 'Deptford Day: Songs About SE8'. 'As I roved out on Deptford Broadway'  by Neil Gordon-Orr imagines somebody looking back on their youth in the pubs and cinemas of New Cross and Deptford and missing his friends lost in the Second World War, including in the V2 attack.

As I roved out on Deptford Broadway

As I roved out one summer Sunday
To take the air on Deptford Broadway
Fell in with Jo and Sam and Susie
Says I who'll share my wages with me?

We had a quick dram in the Dover
In the Royal Albert we sipped some porter
Sam left with Jo and Susie after
She caught the tram and I fell over

I saw Susie the next Friday
In the Odeon kissed through a movie
Next week we danced in the New Cross Palais
Next year in St Pauls we were married

Now I sit here in the Granby
And all those years have gone behind me
So have a drink and sit beside me
My old friends' stools are all long empty

Sam never came back from the army
Jo crossed the seas when she got married
And Susie died right here in New Cross
When the rocket blew up Woolworths

Now I go walking every Sunday
I dodge the cars on Deptford Broadway
I think of Sam and Jo and Susie
And all the other ghosts beside me

The sunlight perpetual reflects off the gold letters on the billboard
'Come, other future. Come, mercy not manifest in time; come
knowledge not obtainable in time. Come, other chances. Come,
unsounded deep. Come, undivided light. Come dust' (Frances Spufford)


Tuesday, February 15, 2022

Reweirding London: Authors on the Secret City at the Amersham Arms

'Reweirding' put on interesting talks and events at Conway Hall and elsewhere. Next month they are coming to the Amersham Arms in New Cross for 'Reweirding London: Authors on the Secret City', an event that will feature talks from the authors of three recent books on underground London - physically and metaphorically. 

Speakers include:

Caitlin Davies –  'Queens of the Underworld: A Journey into the Lives of Female Crooks'

Lara Maiklem – 'Mudlarking: Lost and Found on the River Thames'

Tom Chivers – 'London Clay: Journeys in the Deep City'

All this plus short films on London from Video Strolls.

24 March 2022 7pm – 10 pm

Venue: The Amersham Arms, 388 New Cross Road, London SE14 6TY

£7 / £5 concessions, advance tickets advised available here.  

Books available from The Word Bookshop, 314 New Cross Road SE14 6AF