Sunday, November 29, 2015

Dismaland to Wonderland

It didn't take very long for Banksy's Dismaland art exhibition, held over the summer in Weston-super-Mare, to be recuperated by some of those who the artist may have thought he was critiquing. I spotted this poster in Brockley last month, seemingly from property developers South London Land looking for potential local sites with the headline 'From Dismaland to Wonderland'. I first thought it must be satire, but I think it was actually chutzpah.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Debating Disarmament at Riverdale Hall, Lewisham (1984)

There are plans to turn Riverdale Hall next to Lewisham shopping centre into a temporary 'street food emporium' (as reported at Brockley Central) As a public space it has been underused in recent years but it has had its moments in the past - hosting Saxon Sound System and an Elvis Presley exhibition among many other events. 

At the weekend I went to the Imperial War Museum, primarily to see the excellent Lee Miller: a Woman's War, but also to see the exhibition of work by anti-war photomontage artist Peter Kennard. His iconic images defined the visual culture of the 1980s Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament and related movements, and I came across this poster there from March 1984: a Great Debate at Riverdale Hall featuring Jennifer Edwards of CND versus Lady Olga Maitland, Women and Families for Defence (a Conservative pro-nuclear weapons group)

Anyone remember this or other interesting events at this venue?

Monday, November 16, 2015

Whatever happened to Nunhead Reservoir? - public meeting

Nunhead Reservoir, on the other side of Brockley Footpath from the Cemetery, was one of the area's hidden gems. While nominally fenced off, it was easy enough to get into and dog walkers, lovers, runners and others would climb up its grassy banks and take in the great views of London. I should say for those who don't know it that the reservoir itself is underground and completely covered so there was no obvious risk to the water supply.

But early last year a massive new security fence was built, topped with barbed wire and not only preventing access but dominating the view from the surrounding area. I'm not sure what reasons have been given by Thames Water, the privatised utility company that runs the site, but there is a similar reservoir only a few hundred metres away that has a golf course on top of it (Beechcroft reservoir), so on the face of it there is nothing intrinsically unsafe about people moving around such sites.

Anyway there's a public meeting coming up to discuss this, next Sunday 22 November at the The Field, 385 Queens Road, SE14 5HD. The organisers say:

'If you didn't already know, Nunhead Reservoir is now surrounded by a high fence with barbed wire, patrolled by security guard and dogs.

Do you have a connection to Nunhead Reservoir?

Did you used to go there to hang out/ run around/ burn stuff/ do yoga/ walk dogs/ play rounders/ watch the sunset etc. before the new fence was put up?

Are you upset/angry/glad about the new fence?

Did you have your first date with your girlfriend/boyfriend there? Did the reservoir have any special significance to you?

Do you miss being able to go there? Did you dislike the noise and/or rubbish left by people spending time there?

Whatever your connection/memory/opinion, you are warmly invited to a public meeting with soup, bread and wine, hosted by the New Cross Commoners.

We will have an open discussion on Nunhead Reservoir – to share memories and think together about its past and future'

This meeting doesn't have a set agenda- the purpose is to get people who love the reservoir (or hate it!) together, and we will see what comes of this through that meeting. If you know people who have a connection please feel free to invite them'.

Starts at 7pm, there will be soup and wine too

See also article on this at New Cross Commoners for a bit more detail: 'Thames Water probably have valid reasons for doing this. But some locals are understandably upset that what by now is perceived as a common has been so suddenly taken away. There hasn’t, as far as I can tell, been any dialogue between Thames Water and Nunhead locals, so nobody is completely sure of the exact reasons for the new fence. The only new signs are to tell people that guard dogs patrol the area. There is no notice explaining why, even though Thames Water know that people regularly used to spend time there- that’s why they’ve built the new fence after all.

The reservoir is an example of a space which until its recent increased securitization has been paradoxically liminal in terms of its private/ public status.  It’s been used as if it were public, and yet its private status has allowed it to be outside of state control- free from the ‘city officials’ who might also try to control it. Wide open space in this way is always in demand, and yet it being above a reservoir it is at least protected from being bought and developed on as expensive flats. Because of these two powers- the state and the market (in the form of Thames Water) turning a blind eye, many different activities have been allowed to happen at the site'.

One of the things I wonder about places like this is that there's a kind of tacit understanding that people can be allowed to quietly break the rules as long as they don't broadcast the fact too loudly. The reservoir was in use as a semi-public space for years, but Thames Water seem to have acted once people started posting about online or even writing about in the Guardian (to be fair, the latter article didn't actually name the site).  

Chimpman also wondered on twitter whether Thames Water's action might have been prompted by an 'over-zealous' reading of the Government's Centre for Protection of the National Infrastructure's security guidelines.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Save Lewisham Hospital Conference

Well we might have saved Lewisham Hospital from closure of key services and downgrading in 2013, but NHS services everywhere are under threat from funding cuts and more. Next month Save Lewisham Hospital campaign is holding a conference at Goldsmiths in New Cross. They say:

'Why is our NHS under threat and what can we do to defend it?

Our NHS is under threat as never before: hospitals, GPs, mental health services are all struggling due to underfunding and lack of staff. Devastating social care cuts add to the pressures. Privatisation is causing worse care and wasting resources.

The NHS faces £billions of cuts annuallly. 60% of hospitals are in deficit, made worse by extortionate PFI debts. Many hospitals around the country are under threat of closure. NHS staff morale is low, with pay cuts and longer anti-social hours. The NHS, one of the best health care systems in the world, is being underfunded and broken up, and Tory politicians are claiming it’s unsustainable and calling for charges and more privatisation.

But we can fight back. From junior doctors to the Save Lewisham Hospital Campaign and other campaigns around the country, it’s clear that we don’t just have to accept what is happening to the NHS.

Save Lewisham Hospital Campaign is organising a day of talks and discussions aimed at helping us understand better the threats facing the NHS.


Heidi Alexander, Shadow Health Minister and East Lewisham MP (will open the conference)
John Lister,London Health Emergency
Dr Gurjinder Sandhu, Ealing Hospital
Dr John O’Donohue, Lewisham Hospital
A Junior Doctor (person TBC)
Anne Drinkell, Community matron, West London
Dr Brian Fisher, Lewisham GP
Jane Mandlik, Lewisham Pensioners' Forum and Save Lewisham Hospital Campaign
Peter Roderick, Lawyer, Drafter of NHS Reinstatement Bill

Saturday, 5 December 2015 from 10:30 to 16:00, Ian Gulland Lecture Theatre, Goldsmiths University, Lewisham Way. New Cross SE14 6NW'

Monday, November 09, 2015

The Pitmen Painters and Panto

Coming up later this month (Tuesday 17 to Saturday 28 November) at the Brockley Jack, Bromley Little Theatre presents The Pitmen Painters by Lee Hall, directed by Pauline Armour. The play is the true story of a group of miners from the Ashington Colliery who in 1934 hired a professor to teach them a Workers Educational Association art appreciation evening class. He encouraged them to paint, and using pieces of old board and left over tins of paint they created art that represented their day to day lives, both underground and in their local streets and allotments. The Ashington Group went on to become nationally celebrated for their work.

Full details and tickets (£14, £12 concessions) at
or 0333 666 3366.

Telegraph Hill Panto

The Christmas Panto season  is also coming round soon, including Dick Whittington (4, 5 and 6 December) at The Telegraph Hill Centre. Tickets here: (£12, £6)

Saturday, November 07, 2015

Radical New Cross: Protest and dissent 1875 – 2015

As part of the 2015 Being Human Festival of Humanities, Goldsmiths is hosting a series of events this month on the them 'Radical New Cross: Protest and dissent 1875 – 2015':

'From radical parish priests to anti-fascist resistance, New Cross has a long history of radicalism, as will be demonstrated through a series of events, all based on current research projects. Made possible by a collaboration with local community groups, these events are designed to engage the public in an open and collaborative way. Using New Cross as an anchor to explore marginalised histories, groups will be able to start conversations, reveal forgotten histories and demonstrate the relevance of research in the humanities'.

Events include:

- Saul Newman on Post anarchism (12 November);
- Women’s Art library exhibition (14-15 November) - printmaker and street artist Aida Wilde will join archivist and artist Ego Ahaiwe to produce a new poster inspired by a collection of hundreds of posters from the women’s movements of the 1970s and 80s.
 -BANK panel discussion (14 November) - discussion and materials from BANK art collective, charting the organisation’s dissident journey through the boom of the 1990’s London art scene.
- Textile networks (14 November)  - open workshop for crafters, hackers and makers based around the Embroidered digital commons project, a collective artwork initiated by artist Ele Carpenter.
- Commoning in Deptford Town Hall (14 November): For one evening only, Goldsmiths’ historic Deptford town hall will host a feast prepared and eaten by community groups, historians, academics and local people.
- New Cross data tourists (14 November) - interactive walking tour of New Cross. Participants will be given a device developed by the to try out on the streets and public spaces of New Cross.
- The battle of Lewisham: united against fascism (15 November): the history and context of anti-racist and anti-fascist resistance and protest in and around Lewisham in the 20th century.
- Not the measure of us: Black Women, New Cross, ‘New’ Human (15 November) - 'bring along a small example of black radical memorabilia and some words, thoughts and ideas to create a collective installation'.

I hope to get along to some of this, including the New Cross Commoners event at Deptford Town Hall next Saturday - 'From 6pm food will be collectively cooked at the Field, at 385 Queens Road, New Cross. From 8 to 10pm we’ll be in the Deptford Town Hall Council Chamber, New Cross Road, SE14 6NW to eat and discuss. There would be an open mic round happening during the evening and we invite you to join and participate in the conversation and share your experience of the town hall, local area, food, and the relationship between Goldsmiths and New Cross. We are also inviting local groups and people to use the event at the end to ask for things and contacts they may need, announce local events and look for help. We look forward to seeing you there!'

Wednesday, November 04, 2015

The Kooples at the Rivoli Ballroom

French clothing line The Kooples is the latest to take advantage of the splendour of Crofton Park's Rivoli Ballroom for a film shoot. Their latest advert features a glamorous couple meeting up amidst a northern soul dancefloor.

For loads more at the Rivoli, including Lana del Ray, Jimmy Page, Oasis, Florence and the Machine etc. see the Transpontine round up.

Sunday, November 01, 2015

Halloween Bikelife Rideout in South London

Last night someone mentioned on twitter that they'd just seen hundreds of motorbikes tearing down New Cross Road. A couple of minutes later I heard a wall of noise heading up my road, and looking out of the window there they were - every kind of motorbike, scooter, moped and quad bike, taking over both sides of the road, lots of wheelies, lots of people riding without helmets...

On twitter there were sightings of them all over the place... Streatham Common, Brixton Hill, Nunhead, Brockley, Ladywell, Blackheath, Charlton, the Old Kent Road. Reports too of fireworks being let off by bikers. It looks like they may have met up at Hilly Fields at around  7pm

So what was going on?

The first thing to say is that it didn't come out of nowhere. Some of you may remember that exactly the same thing happened this weekend last year, when hundreds of bikers met up in Sydenham on Halloween weekend and rode all round South London.  The Halloween rideout is a coming together of lots of people involved in the bikelife scene, a growing sub-culture of young guys (and it is mainly but not exclusively guys) doing stunts and generally getting their high speed two-wheeled kicks. To get a sense of this check out Bikelife TV. Here's footage of the 2014 London Halloween rideout:

Bikelife is an international scene starting out in the US, and Halloween rideouts are also held elsewhere - check out this footage of the New York City Halloween Rideout 2011 for instance, a very similar event to last night's in South London. A quick search on youtube shows that there were Halloween rideouts last night in places as far apart as Tijuana (Mexico) and Tokyo.

In some ways this is just the latest incarnation of US/UK youth fascination with bikes and reckless behaviour, something that goes back through biker gangs, 1960s mods on scooters, 1950s 'ton up' rockers and Marlon Brando's Black Rebels Motorcycle Club in 'The Wild One'. As a recent Vice article noted, some of the new scene even gravitate sometimes to the mecca of British biker culture, the Ace Cafe on the north circular.

The second thing to say is it looks like a lot of fun and excitement for those taking part. Obviously its pretty thrilling taking over the streets for a night, something which cyclists also feel through their Critical Mass rides and which I even sometimes feel as a runner when a race closes down a road and hundreds of us get to run for once in the middle of the street. All the roads everywhere are dominated by cars, vans and lorries every day of the year, so part of me thinks why shouldn't some of the rest of road users have their moment? Maybe like London Marathon for runners or Ride London for cyclists, the streets of London should be closed once a year for bikers.

The third thing to say though is that it is a dangerous  pursuit. For those participating, it's their choice if they want to risk their own injury or worse, and plainly the danger is part of the thrill. But on last night's ride there was also some people who rode up on pavements, something that must have been very frightening for anyone walking along and could easily have caused a serious accident. So I guess liberal old me says have your fun but don't put other people at risk. Or as the commentator on this film from Streatham last night puts it, don't be a ' idiot'.

It looks like the meeting point at 7 pm might have been at Hilly Fields:

Saturday, October 31, 2015

The Devil of Deptford - a poltergeist tale from 1699

For Halloween here's a spooky story from late 17th century Deptford. 'The Devil of Deptford' is a pamphlet by the clergyman Edward Fowler.  According to the historian Peter Elmer,  the 'haunted' house in question 'almost certainly' belonged to 'Henry Godman (d.1702) who combined preaching with medical practice and had resided at Deptford since at least 1672' (The Miraculous Conformist: Valentine Greatrakes, the Body Politic, and the Politics of Healing in Restoration Britain, OUP, 2013). Looking at old maps I believe that Back Lane was near to Deptford Green about where Gilbert House now stands.

'The Devil of Deptford... being a true relation of the strange disturbances, ludicrous feats and malicious pranks of an evil spirit in the house of Mr G. living in Back Lane at Deptford near London, in April and May 1699. The truth whereof is known, and can be attested to by a great number of the inhabitants of that town...

there are evil spirits or devils, which do infest this lower world, and of which we have a fresh convincing argument in the following instance: all the particulars whereof were acted, not in the dark, or at midnight, but at Noon-day in the face of the sun, in the sight of a great many persons, and the effects thereof were felt by divers of the family

Upon Saturday April 25 1699... about Twelve a Clock at Noon, a stone was thrown against the parlour window next to the street, which breaking the glass came into the room.The boys that were in the street were charged with doing it, but they all denyed it; when instantly another stone was thrown, which broke the glass likewise... Soon after for many days together a great number of stones were thrown against the back and side windows next to the garden, seeming to come from the fields behind... At length they nailed strong deal board on the outside of the broken windows, after which the disturbance ceased from without, but began within the house. One time all the china cups and glasses were removed from the mantel-piece in the parlour, and set on the floor... Several pewter plates were seen to come out of the kitchen below stairs into the parlour of themselves... A candle and candlestick being left in the dining room, which was locked, was thrown upstairs, and their looking out at the noise found it there, and yet the door continued locked as before'.

(the full text may be available at Early English Books online,
if anyone has a login)

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Althea Gyles (1868-1949), poet and artist: 'A Strange Red Haired Girl'

Althea Gyles (right) with Irish revolutionist Constance Markiewicz

The Irish poet and artist Althea Gyles (1868-1949) was born in County Waterford and moved to London in 1892. She knew Oscar Wilde, W B Yeats (who described her as "a strange red-haired girl, all whose thoughts were set upon painting and poetry"), Constance Markiewicz, Aleister Crowley (with whom she had an affair), Compton McKenzie and many other interesting people, and is best known for her book designs for Yeats, Ernest Dowson (now buried in Ladywell Cemetery), Wilde and others. For a period she was associated with the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn (famously connected to the Horniman Museum in Forest Hill), and was later interested in vegetarianism and Buddhism.

Gyles' cover design for Yeats' The Secret Rose (1897)

Sympathy - Althea Gyles (1898)

The colour gladdens all your heart;
You call it Heaven, dear, but I -
Now Hope and I are far apart -
Call it the sky.

I know that Nature's tears have wet
The world with sympathy; but you,
Who know not any sorrow yet,
Call it the dew.

She spent her later years in South London, including in Brixton, Sydenham (one of her last homes was at 19 Tredown Road SE26) and at a nursing home in Beckenham at 69 Crystal Palace Park Road where she died in 1949.

In Jad Adams' biography of Ernest Dowson (Madder Music, Stronger Wine, 2000) he writes: ‘Althea Gyles lived on... her flaming hair now grey.. She lived in bedsits in Tulse Hill and then Sydenham, casting horoscopes as the new century wore on, until she became a ghost from the 1890s in war-shattered London.’

"Lilith" by Althea Gyles, from 'The Dome' vol.I, Oct.-Dec. 1898
(The most detailed account of Gyles' life that I have found online is in 'Althea Gyles’ Symbolic (De)Codification ofWilliam Butler Yeats’ ‘Rose and Wind Poetry’' by Arianna Antonielli)

Related posts:

Friday, October 23, 2015

Mek' it Blow: police raid New Cross Jah Shaka Blues Dance (1975)

From the groundbreaking black radical magazine, Race Today (May 1975), a report on 'the atmosphere of tension that has gripped the community of black youth in South London following a police invasion of a blues dance at Malpas Road, New Cross, on Saturday 26th April'. 

'More than 200 young blacks danced to the sound of the popular Jah Shaka at Malpas Road on Saturday/Sunday 26th-27th'. After visiting to demand the sound be turned down, the police 'reinforced in numbers and violent in attitude... ordered everyone to leave the building. One of the organisers who stood at the door was dragged out and thrown into the van. The police proceeded to kick, punch and truncheon people indiscriminately. Not content, they went on to wreck £400 of equipment with their truncheons. Sixteen people were charged with crimes ranging from assault to drunk and disorderly behaviour... one police officer exuding arrogance warned Jah Shaka that the sound was banned from playing in South London'.

'A mass meeting was organised on Monday 28th at the Moonshot Youth Club, New Cross. Some 300 youths attended. They dealt at once with the ban placed on Jah Shaka. They immediately announced details of another party in the area at which Shaka would play'

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Ghostpoet in Nunhead - more Mercury Prize news

Mentioned earlier this week  the nomination of Lewisham's Eska for this year's Mercury Music Prize, alongside Camberwell/Kennington's Florence Welch. Somebody has since pointed me in the direction of Nunhead's Shrunken Head Studios, who noted that another contender, Ghostpoet, recorded his nominated album 'Shedding Skin' there at 40 Nunhead Green

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Lewisham Suffragette Banner

The movement for women's suffrage a century ago is once more under discussion thanks to the new 'Suffragette' movie. The Museum of London holds the original c.1910 banner of the Lewisham Women's Social and Political Union 'The  figure of Justice is represented to emphasise the justice of the Votes for Women cause. Prison arrows adorn the corners of the banner. The motto 'Dare Never Count the Throe' can be read as a warning for people not to underestimate the suffragettes' struggle'

Previous women's suffrage posts at Transpontine:

Monday, October 19, 2015

Music Monday: Eska

A couple of local nominations for this year's Mercury Prize. Florence (with her Machine) is of course now a veritable global South London superstar, six years after launching her debut album at the Rivoli Ballroom and long after her days hanging out in Brockley Cemetery.

Less well known is Eska (Mtungwazi), born in Zimbabwe in 1971, but growing up in Lewisham where she still lives. She studied violin at Blackheath Conservatoire and has worked in a Southwark Primary School. She has been shortlisted for her long awaited self-titled album.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

'Mutiny at Woolwich Dockyard' (1802) - attempted escape by hulk prisoners

During the 18th and 19th centuries, many ships no longer fit to sail the seas were converted into floating prisons. In the London area these 'prison hulks' were located in the Thames by Woolwich and Deptford.

This account of an  'Mutiny at Woolwich Dock Yard' (Morning Post, 2 August 1802) describes an attempted escape by prisoners who had been brought ashore from a prison hulk to work: 'for several months... above five hundred men have been employed in erecting a new wall at the back of the Governor's house. For some time, it since appears, they had planned an escape'.

On a Friday morning, 'about a dozen of these desperadoes went up to the keeper, armed with clasp knives, and demanded the key of the inner gate. The keeper refusing to deliver it up, he was knocked down, and the key taken by force from his pocket'. About 'fifteen or sixteen got into the outer yard' but still faced a 26 foot high wall, which only four managed to climb. By this time the keepers were armed, and two of convicts were shot, one killed. 

The army was mobilised from the nearby garrison, and 'the whole military force, about 2000 men, was placed at every avenue leading out of the town. The horse were stationed in Hanging Wood and its environs, and the foot marched instantly to the Dock-yard... After a very strict search of several hours in the Hanging Wood and the town, the whole were found concealed in different places about the Dock-yard. The four supposed to have have escaped into the wood were found by the military concealed under a quantity of timber in the front yard, near the principal entrance from the high road, and one of them refused to leave the place of his concealment until a shoulder ran his bayonet four inches into his shoulder. The offenders were carried to the dungeon and chained down until they receive their punishment'.

(The Hanging Woods covered an area that included what are now Maryon and Maryon Wilson Parks)

Morning Post, 7 August 1802
Conditions aboard the hulks were notorious. Writing in the last days of their use, Henry Mayhew and John Binny ('The Criminal Prisons of London and Scenes of London Life', 1862) devoted a detailed chapter to 'The Hulks at Woolwich':

'The idea of converting old ships into prisons arose when, on the breaking out of the American War of Independence, the transportation of our convicts to our transatlantic possessions became an impossibility. For the moment a good was effected, for the crowded prisons were relieved; but from the time when the pressure upon the prisons ceased, down to the present, when the hulks may be said to be doomed, all writers on penology have agreed in condemning the use of old ships for the purposes of penal discipline...

Some idea of the sanitary condition of these establishments, even so recently as 1841, may be gathered from the report of Mr. Peter Bossy, surgeon of the "WARRIOR" hulk, off Woolwich, which shows that in that year, among 638 convicts on board, there were no less than 400 cases of admission to the hospital, and 38 deaths!There are still officers in the Woolwich hulks who remember a time when the "Justitia"... contained no less than 700 convicts; and when, at night, these men were fastened in their dens - a single warder being left on board ship, in charge of them! 

Even so late as 1849, we find the "Unité", hospital ship at Woolwich, described in the following terms- "In the hospital ship, the 'Unité,' the great majority of the patients were infested with vermin; and their persons, in many instances, particularly their feet, begrimed with dirt. No regular supply of body-linen had been issued; so much so, that many men had been five weeks without a change; and all record had been lost of the time when the blankets had been washed"'.

'A view near Woolwich in Kent showing the employment of the convicts from the Hulks'
(the hulks are the ships without sails in the background, not sure of date of picture)

Monday, October 12, 2015

Bermondsey Black Beauty

Yes it's time for another South London horse sculpture. After featuring the Vauxhall horse sculptures last week (which have now been removed), here's 'Jacob' in Queen Elizabeth Street SE1, in Bermondsey to the east of Tower Bridge Road.

Somebody who works nearby told me that he thought it had come from a local film studio where they had filmed Black Beauty. Sadly this local folkore does not seem to be true, the statue's real origins are described in the plaque on its plinth:

'Jacob, the Circle Dray Horse. The famous Courage dray horses were stabled on this site from the early nineteenth century and delivered beer around London from the brewery on Horselydown Lane by Tower Bridge. In the sixteenth century the area became known as Horselydown which derives from Horse-Lie_Down a description of working horses resting before crossing London Bridge into the City of London. Jacob was commissioned by Jacobs Island Company and Farlane Properties as the centrepiece of the Circle to commemorate the history of the site. He was flown over London by helicopter into Queen Elizabeth Street to launch the circle in October 1987'

Wednesday, October 07, 2015

An Underground Bunker at Goldsmiths in New Cross

During the Second World War, Goldsmiths College was evacuated to Nottingham. The buildings in New Cross were taken over for Civil Defence. There was a barrage balloon, and an Air Raid Precautions (ARP) Control Centre, with First Aid and Casualty Clearing Station. The swimming pool in the college was set aside as a potential mortuary. In the event an incendiary bomb attack in 1940 destroyed the swimming pool, which I believe was never reinstated, and  badly damaged much of the main building.

However, in the Upper Field, where the Stuart Hall Building now stands as well as tennis courts, an underground ARP Control Centre was built but never used. According to Dorothy Dymond's 'The Forge: a history of Goldsmiths' College 1905-1955' (London, Methuen, 1955):  'The Borough Council in conjunction with the Ministry of Health also carried out extensive excavations under the Upper Field for the purpose of a large ARP Control Centre. This elaborate underground structure suffered some damage from a bomb and was never actually brought into use. At the end of the war, after various possibilities of College utilization had been considered and rejected, the whole structure was buried, out of sight and out of mind'. Wonder if there's anything left of it?

From 'The Forge' (1955)

Goldsmiths Library after 1940 incendiary bomb attack

Monday, October 05, 2015

Vauxhall Horse Sculptures

'When suddenly Johnny gets the feeling he's being surrounded by
horses, horses, horses, horses
coming in in all directions
white shining silver studs with their nose in flames,
He saw horses, horses, horses, horses, horses, horses, horses, horses'
(Patti Smith)

I believe that Jason deCaires Taylor's horse sculptures on the Thames shore at Vauxhall (close to where what remains of the River Effra joins the Thames) have now gone after being displayed there throughout September. The sculptures were only fully visible at low tide, with the title 'Rising Tide' alluding to global warning.

Thursday, October 01, 2015

Cradle to Grave: Danny Baker & SE London

I've really enjoyed 'Cradle to Grave', the BBC comedy/drama series based on Danny Baker's memoirs of growing up in 1970s SE London (published as 'Going to Sea in a Sieve). Baker was born on the Crossfields Estate in Deptford and then lived in Silwood Estate SE16, going to Rotherhithe Primary School and then West Greenwich Secondary Boys School.

Baker gave a great interview about the show on 'Later with Jools Holland' last month, accompanied by Chris Difford and Glenn Tilbrook from Squeeze who have soundtracked the show and who of course, along with sometime member Jools Holland, also come from the SE London area. There was some funny discussion of how Northerner Peter Kay, who plays Baker's dad in the series, had to master the SE London accent - according to Baker a much faster version of its East London counterpart.

Asked to describe SE London, Difford said: 'I think we live in a wonderful world, it's almost like a mythological place full of fish and chips and ducking and diving'. The best bit  though was a great rant from Baker himself:

'My dad was a docker and my dad brought home lots of the produce of the docks... helping themselves... we've had too many university comedies, we've hard too many middle class comedies, people forget that working class aren't there to be demonized, they're not there to say "oo look they stole stuff and brought it home" because where the docks used to stand in London is now Canary Wharf, and that's where the banks are, that's where the hedge fund monies are, you want to talk about pilferage, let's not talk about a few stray bottles of Scotch, and that is the truth of it... sometimes people just get on with stuff and they get through this vale of tears the best way they can and usually it's with a lot of good spirit'.

The Tarot Tour of London

The Wheel of Fortune card from the Rider Waite Tarot Deck -
co-designed by A.E.Waite who has an interesting connection with the Horniman Museum

Coming up next week (Thursday October 8th) at South East London Folklore Society:

'The Tarot Tour of London uses 22 of the major historical sites as the basis of the tour as they correspond with the major Arcana. There are obvious ones like the Wheel of Fortune being represented by the London Eye and the Tower card by the Tower of London. Others are not so easy to presume as it is their history, myth, legend and folklore that makes them complement the meaning of a card.

Geraldine Beskin of The Atlantis Bookshop is a Londoner and occultist and is delighted to combine the two as she presents the capital from a fresh, new angle.

The talk will start at 8pm in the upstairs room of the Old King’s Head, off Borough High Street SE1. Entrance is £3/1.50 concs.

To avoid disappointment in event of a full house you can email to book in advance'

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Festival of Choice Film Night in New Cross

The Festival of Choice is a week of events in London aiming 'to raise awareness of threats to reproductive rights and the plight of those in countries around the world who do not have access to safe and legal abortion. The Festival also wishes to celebrate solidarity and activism and to strengthen and support the pro-choice message, locally and globally'.

On Saturday 26th September, there's an evening of films and discussions at Goldsmiths in New Cross (in the Stuart Hall building from 6 pm). 'Their laws, our lives' will feature 'A quiet Inquisition', which 'follows a doctor in Nicaragua, a country where the draconian abortion does not allow abortion in any circumstance. After the screening, we will have the intervention of one of the directors of this documentary'. This will be followed by 'My Choice, the Freedom Train', a documentary that 'looks at the successful campaign by thousands of activists who stopped the reform that threatened to severely restrict the access to abortion in Spain in 2014'.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Rabbit in Hither Green

Following last month's successful first foray into the world of live experimental performance in Hither Green, Linear Obsessional recordings return to promote another early evening session at the Art Cafe in Manor Park SE13. Music this time from Rabbit (David Aylward and Tom Scott-Kendrick, with guest Richard Sanderson) plus Iris Garrelfs and Oren Marsahll.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Lost London Films at Catford Constitutional Club

Tomorrow night at Catford Constitutional Club (Catford Broadway, SE6): 'Lost London: two film screenings marking the changing face of our city'. 

'A Place for Us' is the story of the 'battle to save Catford's pre-fab Excalibur Estate'; 'A House in Bayswater- the last days of a West London Lodging House'. Free Entry, 7:30 pm start.

How Does it Feel to be Loved? at Camberwell Crypt

It was a sad moment this month when the Canterbury Arms in Brixton closed its doors for the last time, due to be demolished to make way for flats. The pub hosted many music nights in its big back room, including the legendary indie-pop/soul club How Does it Feel to be Loved? - where among other things I once shook the hand of Kevin Rowland.

Emotional scenes last month at the last HDIF at Canterbury Arms

A silver lining to this cloud is that HDIF is moving to a new South London location at the Crypt in Camberwell. They say:

'The venue couldn't be more HDIF - a jazz club in the crypt underneath St Giles' church on Camberwell Church Street, it's a beautiful, atmospheric, and ever so slightly eccentric space which feels like it could have featured on the second side of "Tigermilk". It's 150 capacity... with a cool dancefloor, lots of interesting nooks and crannies for chatting in, and a great private garden for the smokers.

The Crypt runs regular jazz nights on Fridays and then the club is mostly unused for the rest of the month, so we're very lucky to have been given the first Saturday of the month. This is a new kind of venture for them and they're understandably wary about hosting a club crowd in such a refined venue, but I've assured them that our regulars are polite, well-behaved, and make frequent trips to the bar - so please come along and do us proud!

We have been given TWO CHANCES to prove ourselves. First is Saturday October 3rd and then Saturday November 7th. After that, they'll see how the nights have gone and whether they'd like to make this a regular event. If you'd like to have HDIF south of the river, please please come along and support us on these two nights. I can't see many other decent options for a HDIF south, so if this doesn't work out, then I reckon that'll be that.

We play:

The Smiths * The Supremes * The Go-Betweens * Dusty Springfield * Belle & Sebastian * Love * Tammi Terrell * Aztec Camera * The Ronettes * Orange Juice * Beach Boys * The Temptations * Velvet Underground * Felt * The Shangri-Las * Primal Scream * Otis Redding * The Field Mice * Dexys Midnight Runners * Camera Obscura * The Four Tops * Melba Moore * The Orchids

Guest DJ for the night is Chris Stride of Offbeat.'

Usual admission of £4 for members and £6 for non-members. Club will run from 9pm - 2am. Advance tickets here -

More info from; facebook event details here.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Lewisham Welcomes Refugees

An impressive turn out at the 'Refugees Welcome Here' demonstration in central London yesterday (Park Lane to Downing Street), I would estimate at least 50,000 people - making it possibly the largest pro-migration march ever seen in this country.

Also good to see a 'Lewisham Welcomes Refugees' banner there.

A local contingent met up in New Cross Gate before heading into town to join the demo:

'No human being is illegal' - members of the local New Cross community on route to the solidarity with refugees march

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Anthrax at the Birds Nest tonight

Last minute call for  a free punk gig tonight at the Birds Nest in Deptford Church Street, featuring 1980s anarcho-punk/hardcore stalwarts Anthrax, Liberty and Bug Central. I saw Liberty play a few times back then with Conflict etc, nice guys.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Not the Rolling Stones at the Montague Arms

It's the closing weekend of this year's Peckham and Nunhead Free Film Festival, with some great events still to come including the Welcome to Busseywood African film festival tomorrow (Saturday).

Tonight at the Montague Arms (Queens Road SE15) there's a Rolling Stones night, with a showing of the definitive Stones documentary Crossfire Hurricane followed by a live gig with cover band Not the Rolling Stones. There's also an alternative take on the band's history with an exhibition of 'Astonishing band facts and unearthed artifacts from the Nunhead & District Municipal Museum and Art Gallery's archives'. 7 pm start, free entry, no ticket required.

As mentioned here before, Bill Wyman and other members of the Stones did actually drink in the Montague Arms in the 1970s.

Saturday, September 05, 2015

Three-sided Football returns to New Cross

Tomorrow (Sunday) sees the return of three-sided football to Fordham Park in New Cross with a new season under the auspices of Deptford Three Sided Football Club.

If you've never tasted the delights of the three-sided game, check out this recent Vice article 'The world's most anarchic, hectic sport':

'In keeping with the anti-authoritarian spirit that gave birth to the sport, the rules of 3sf are few, and considered more as guiding principles than steadfast laws. In general, the game should involve a ball, three teams and a hexagonal pitch – anything beyond this is subject to spontaneous revision. Unlike conventional football, a team doesn't win by scoring the most goals, but rather victory is predicated on how few goals a team concedes to its opponents'.

(the article actually credits me with a small role in relaunching the sport - as well as describing me somewhat dubiously as an artist - but the credit must go to Mark Dyson and the other players who have made Deptford/New Cross the global centre of the game!)

A special Midsummer Game  was held at the setting of the sun over the Hilly Fields Stone Circle on 21st June.

If you want to check out the game, and maybe even join in, come to Fordham Park tomorrow (by Deptford Green school) at around 1:30 for a 2:00 pm start. As well as Deptford Three Sided Football Club, teams participating include Strategic Optimism FC, Philosophy Football FC and New Cross Irregulars.

(see previous 3-sided football reports here - including the Association of Autonomous Astronauts 1998 match on One Tree Hill)

Wednesday, September 02, 2015

Up from Downstairs

Coming up on Friday 4th September in Deptford, a night of improvisational music and performance featuring Lia Mazzari and Jonas Gustafsson, Bridget Scott (Butoh and traditional Japanese dance), and Rabbit ((David Aylward and Tom Scott-Kendrick). All happening at Vinyl (record shop/cafe/gallery, 4 Tanners Hill, SE8, 7:30 to 9:30 (£5/£3 concessions).

Thursday, August 20, 2015

New Cross church collecting for Calais Migrants

St Catherine's Church at the top of Telegraph Hill SE14 is collecting donations for migrants in Calais. Rev. Sheridan James, Vicar, says:

"If you bring things into church on Sunday mornings (either before the service at 10am, or immediately after - 11.15am) we will collect the items up and make sure they get collected and sent to the migrants in Calais. Conditions are very poor in ‘The Jungle’, and whatever our political position on the situation, the people are in urgent need of humanitarian help ...
Reverend Tim Clapton has linked up with a small Catholic voluntary organisation in Kent called ‘Seeking Sanctuary’ who in turn is working alongside a Catholic charity in France. The aim of this organisation is to provide material aid to the migrants in Calais.

Firstly can I say how moved I am by the amount of things which have been delivered to church already - by church members and local community. So can I just re-iterate:
St Catherine's Church is acting as a local collection point for men's jeans, jumpers, training shoes, Bibles, games (scrabble, chess), toiletries.

These will be be taken to Calais early Sept. The resources will be handed out in an organised fashion, by a bona fide charity to EVERYONE in need. Please drop stuff off at church on Sunday 23 or 30th August - either before the service 9.30am...until 10am, or immediately afterwards 11.15-11.45, when there will be people around to recieve your gifts. Please make sure that whatever you donate is clean and usable.

Thank you so much for the response so far. Whatever our politics, whatever our faith perspective #loveyourneighbour is a life rule we all can follow.After Tuesday 18th please refer any questions to Jane Elliott, Assistant Priest at St Catherine's, as I will be on a short sabbatical."

Sunday, August 09, 2015

Woolwich Rent Protest 1939

'A photograph showing residents creating a road blockade as part of a rent protest in Woolwich, south London, taken in July 1939 by John Topham for the Daily Herald'.  Great photo, unfortunately I don't know any more about the context. The placard reads 'we the tenants of these flats do not intend to pay  any rent till something is done'. But about what?

Wednesday, August 05, 2015

Fascist mob attacks Clapton fans in Thamesmead

A pre-season non-League football friendly might seem an unlikely setting for violence, but that was what occurred last night at Thamesmead Town's ground in Bayliss Avenue SE28, where the home team were hosting a visit from Clapton FC. Clapton supporters were attacked with bottles and other missiles, and the game was abandoned.

But it seems that this was not a clash between rival football fans - instead it appears that a group of far right thugs attended specifically to attack Clapton fans known for their anti-fascism. According to Clapton Ultras:

'Last night our club Clapton FC were playing our last pre season friendly away against Thamesmead in South East London. In the last few days, we received threatening messages from a fascist group regarding this fixture. This information was passed on to the football club and its fans who decided to travel as one group to the game as fan safety is the number one priority.

As we arrived at the game around 15 minutes after kick off and began to enter, Clapton fans were immediately attacked with weapons and missiles by a large group already present inside the ground, who threw glasses, bottles, bricks, signs and a fire extinguisher at Clapton fans, the vast majority of which had not been able to even enter the ground. In addition to causing minor injury the missiles damaged several parked cars in the car park outside the ground. Thankfully no one was seriously injured.

Clapton fans have no history or rivalry with Thamesmead fans and this attack was not made by Thamesmead fans. The attackers sang racist chants as they pelted Clapton fans with missiles. This was a planned attack, orchestrated by fascists and their allies as a politically motivated assault on Clapton fans for our politics of anti-sexism, anti-homophobia, anti-racism and anti-fascism. Their interest was never in the football and they only attended the game in order to attack us.

We are calling on all supporters of Clapton and all those who stand against fascism to join us this season and celebrate football for all. Specifically, those unable to oppose the fascist White Man March in Liverpool would be welcomed at our home game on Saturday 15th August in the FA Cup against Stanway Rovers

In strength,
Clapton Ultras – Scaffold Brigada'

Dulwich Hamlet banner remembers 1940s Jewish anti-fascist 43 Group

Rather like Dulwich Hamlet FC, Clapton have a radical crew of supporters for whom opposing fascism is part of their identity. Clapton have had several run-ins with fascists previously, including in Southend last year. There is no suggestion of any link between the attackers and Thamesmead Town FC and its supporters. But it is sickening to hear of racists chanting 'we hate n*ggers' last night, just down the road from where Rolan Adams was murdered in a racist attack in the 1990s.

Tuesday, August 04, 2015

Hilly Fields 1907: 'Socialists in hot water: eight arrests follow a riot'

Once upon a time Hilly Fields in Ladywell was the scene of intense political dispute, with thousands arguing and sometimes fighting at public meetings in the park:

'An enormous crowd charged a Socialist procession as it was leaving Hilly Fields, Brockley, yesterday afternoon, and, in the free fight that ensued the S.D.F. [Social Democratic Federation] red flag was hauled down and its bearers severely handled. The police made eight arrests. For some weeks public meetings have been taking place on the Hilly Fields on Sunday afternoons. Yesterday nearly 6,000 people assembled, and distributed themselves into four groups, addressed by members of the S.D.F., a detachment of suffragists, an Anarchist, and an Agnostic respectively. There was a strong attendance of police and London County Council park-keepers to maintain order. The speakers were vigorously heckled during the afternoon, but the meetings were brought to a close without serious interruption. The Socialists marched off, protected by a police escort. In their wake came a hostile crowd, several thousands strong, waving sticks and umbrellas, and hooting and jeering in a threatening manner. The procession passed into Eastern-road, and a strong force of police came up at the run, and attempted, unsuccessfully, to head off the crowd. A sudden rush brought down the red flag, and the next minute the roadway was blocked by a mass of struggling humanity. As the opposing parties came to grips, hats and sticks flew in all directions, and arms and legs were briskly used in the affray. The police acted with restraint throughout, but matters rapidly became worse, and, in order to quieten the crowd, eight of the ringleaders were arrested and marched to the police-station at Ladywell' (Nottingham Evening Post - Monday 25 November 1907)

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Three Feathers & The Old Witch: Two Deptford Fairy Tales

More English Fairy Tales  by Joseph Jacobs (1894) includes a tale called 'Three Feathers' which the author states was 'Collected by Mrs Gomme from some hop-pickers near Deptford' (presumably the folklorist Alice Gomme).

'Once upon a time there was a girl who was married to a husband that she never saw. And the way this was, was that he was only at home at night, and would never have any light in the house. The girl thought that was funny, and all her friends told her there must be something wrong with her husband, some great deformity that made him want not to be seen.

Well, one night when he came home she suddenly lit a candle and saw him. He was handsome enough to make all the women of the world fall in love with him. But scarcely had she seen him when he began to change into a bird, and then he said: 'Now you have seen me, you shall see me no more, unless you are willing to serve seven years and a day for me, so that I may become a man once more.' Then he told her to take three feathers from under his side, and whatever she wished through them would come to pass'.

She uses the feathers to wish for her work as a laundress to be done, and to trick various men out of  their money before the bird man reappears and the live happily ever after.

Another story in the same collection, The Old Witch is also described as 'Collected by Mrs Gomme at Deptford'

'Once upon a time there were two girls who lived with their mother and father. Their father had no work, and the girls wanted to go away and seek their fortunes. Now one girl wanted to go to service, and her mother said she might if she could find a place. So she started for the town. Well, she went all about the town, but no one wanted a girl like her. So she went on farther into the country, and she came to the place where there was an oven where there was lots of bread baking. And the bread said, 'Little girl, little girl, take us out, take us out. We have been baking seven years, and no one has come to take us out.' So the girl took out the bread, laid it on the ground and went on her way. Then she met a cow, and the cow said, 'Little girl, little girl, milk me, milk me! Seven years have I been waiting, and no one has come to milk me.' The girl milked the cow into the pails that stood by. As she was thirsty she drank some, and left the rest in the pails by the cow. Then she went on a little farther, and came to an apple-tree, so loaded with fruit that its branches were breaking down, and the tree said, 'Little girl, little girl, help me shake my fruit. My branches are breaking, it is so heavy.' And the girl said, 'Of course I will, you poor tree.' So she shook the fruit all off, propped up the branches, and left the fruit on the ground under the tree. Then she went on again till she came to a house. Now in this house there lived a witch, and this witch took girls into her house as servants. And when she heard that this girl had left her home to seek service, she said that she would try her, and give her good wages. The witch told the girl what work she was to do. 'You must keep the house clean and tidy, sweep the floor and the fireplace; but there is one thing you must never do. You must never look up the chimney, or something bad will befall you.'

So the girl promised to do as she was told, but one morning as she was cleaning, and the witch was out, she forgot what the witch said, and looked up the chimney. When she did this a great bag of money fell down in her lap. This happened again and again. So the girl started to go off home. When she had gone some way she heard the witch coming after her. So she ran to the apple-tree and cried:

'Apple-tree, apple-tree, hide me,
So the old witch can't find me;
If she does she'll pick my bones,
And bury me under the marble stones.'

So the apple-tree hid her. When the witch came up she said:

'Tree of mine, tree of mine,
Have you seen a girl
With a willy-willy wag, and a long-tailed bag,
Who's stole my money, all I had?'

And the apple-tree said, 'No, mother; not for seven year.'

She outwits the witch, but when her sister tries to do the same without being so helpful along the way she is caught and punished.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Catford Constitutional Club

I finally made it down last week to the Catford Constitutional Club, the pub in what was once the Conservative Club. The decor has a shabby period charm, rather like it was an abandoned outpost of a once powerful political party (OK they still run the country, but they have little presence in Lewisham).  A good place to eat, drink and put the world to rights, and the pub also hosts various comedy, quiz , film and music nights. 

Last Wednesday I was pleased to stumble across a room upstairs full of people playing the ukulele - Catford Charity Strummers seemingly surfing the South London uke wave that also includes Brockley Ukulele Group, Dulwich Ukulele Club, PLUC (People of  Lewisham Ukulele Club) and Goldsmiths Ukulele Society.

The pub is run by Antic, who for a while ran the nearby Catford Bridge Tavern ( (formerly the Copperfield/Railway Tavern) that was seriously damaged in a fire earlier this year. I gather the wooden bar in the Constitutional may have made its way from the CBT. 

Unfortunately the current pub tenancy only runs until October 2016, with the building itself (one of Catford's oldest) threatened by redevelopment plans for the area. With a question mark hanging over whether the Catford Bridge Tavern will ever reopen, the area can ill afford to lose another popular pub. There is a petition calling on Lewisham Council/Catford Regeneration Partnership to extend the tenancy. It says: 'The CCC building is part of planned re-development of the Catford Centre/Thomas Lane. The CCC strongly supports efforts to regenerate the heart of Catford however we feel this should not come at the expense of one of its  most historic buildings or a pub that is fast becoming considered a community asset as was its predecessor the Catford Bridge Tavern'.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Goldsmiths Sayes Court Institute: for 'bona fide artizans and working people' only (1896)

In the late 19th century, the Goldsmiths Institute in New Cross had a satellite 'Sayes Court Institute' in Evelyn Street, Deptford. According to the 1896 Goldsmiths handbook (a copy of which is in the Special Collections archive in Goldsmiths library), the building (pictured)  included a gymnasium hall, reading room/games room and four classrooms.

Membership was restricted to 'bona fide artizans and working people' only, with the benefits including access to Goldsmiths Library and Swimming Bath as well as classes.Use of the building was offered by W.J.Evelyn, who was one of the Governors of the College. Evelyn, a descendant of the 17th century John Evelyn who lived at Sayes Court, bought the site from the Government in 1869 and created what is today Sayes Court park. The building offered for the use of Goldsmiths was a former dockyard building. I'm not sure how long the Institute continued.

The building, also known as Sayes Court Hall, was originally built as a model making facility for the dockyard. It is shown on this 1914 map in the north west corner of Sayes Court Gardens.

1914 Map -source: Sayes Court wikipedia