Monday, May 25, 2015

Music Monday: Skinny Lister - Down on Deptford Broadway

Skinny Lister pictured outside The Birds Nest on a return visit earlier this year
(photo by Brian Rasic)
Skinny Lister have come a long way since starting out in South London in 2009 and playing early gigs at the Ladywell Tavern, Birds Nest (Deptford) and Jam Circus (Brockley). Since then they've toured the USA, Australia, Europe and Japan, playing at numerous festivals.  Their first album 'Forge and Flaggon' (2012) featured the track  'If the gaff don't let us down' with its chorus of  'we'll sail away tomorrow, back to dear old Deptford Town'.

Their second album, released last month, is called 'Down on Deptford Broadway' and the album title features as a line in one of its songs, 'Six Whiskies'  - a tale of a drunken stumble through London.

I'm really enjoying the album, a mixture of folk-punk stomps that recall The Pogues and calmer moments, such as 'What can I say' sung by Lorna Thomas (video filmed around Hastings).

Thursday, May 21, 2015

A deer jumps through a window in Lewisham

A hundred years ago today, a deer jumped through a window in Hither Green Lane:

'Deer in a Lewisham House

A deer, which had apparently escaped from some park, on Friday jumped through the window of a house in Hither Green-Lane, Lewisham, occupied by Mrs. Perren and her daughter and did considerable damage. Chairs and tables were smashed, and a good deal of glass and china broken., The police were informed, and after barricading the window a sergeant and constable, with two other men, entered the room The animal appeared be mad with fright, and it  took the men some time to secure it with a rope'.

Gloucestershire Echo, Saturday 22 May 1915

Yes, this may have been the original Lewisham Stag

Monday, May 18, 2015

Peace meetings in First World War Lewisham

Opposing the First World War was a difficult business, with harassment from the authorities and from pro-war mobs. In 1916, Nellie Best of the Women's Anti-Conscription League was jailed for 6 months for deterring recruiting, and the Lewisham Borough Peace and Anti-Conscription Council passed a resolution demanding her release (Daily Herald,15 April 1916).

Sylvia Pankhurst, the radical socialist and suffragist, was active in the anti-war movement, as a key figure in the Women's Suffrage Federation/Workers Suffrage Federation (after 1917 name change)/Workers Socialist Federation (from 1918). The WSF was particularly active in the  East End of London, but sometimes south of the river, as this report of a 'GREAT PUSH" FOR PEACE' (Daily Herald, 6 October 1917) demonstrates: 'The Workers' Suffrage Federation's " Great Push" for Adult Suffrage, Socialism, and, above all, for Peace by Negotiation, held on Saturday, September 29, in Greenwich and Lewisham, where all the speakers met with good reception. Men in khaki and wounded soldiers from the local military hospital took Peace leaflets and bought the Workers' Dreadnought. A good collection was taken...  Volunteers for these parades should write to Miss Sylvia Pankhurst, 400, Old Ford Road, Bow, E3'.

Sylvia Pankhurst
A planned meeting the following month by the pro-peace Fellowship of Reconciliation received a more hostile response. Those opposing the war were likely to be labelled as pro-German as the headline to the following article from the Nottingham Evening Post (9 November 1917) makes clear:


A meeting under the auspices of the Fellowship of Reconciliation at Lime Hall, Lime-grove, Lewisham, to be addressed by Mrs. Swanwick, was cancelled at the last moment yesterday owing to the presence of a large and hostile crowd. Cheers were given for the "Boys in Khaki" and the Lads in Navy Blue,” and several of the promoters of the meeting were rather roughly handled. An impromptu patriotic meeting was held outside the hall, at which a resolution was passed in favour of refusing to allow any more peace meetings to be held'.

'Mrs Swanwick' mentioned here was presumably Helena Swanwick, the first Chair of the Women's International League, an organisation set up by pro-peace suffragists (she was also, incidentally, the sister of the artist Walter Sickert)

Helena Swanwick - stopped from speaking in Lewisham, 1917

Ken Weller's book 'Don't be a soldier!' The radical anti-war movement in north London 1914-1918 is an excellent account of this period. As the name suggests it is primarily about north London, though he mentions the WSF making  'occasional forays into the transpontine wastes of South London'!. Wish I had the time to research a South London version.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Folk on the Hill

Tonight - Friday 15th May at the Hill Station Cafe (Kitto Road, SE14) presents 'Folk on the Hill', with live music from Byron Biroli, Harry Dickson and Pigeon Heroes. Entry is free/donation, food and drink available.

Here's Pigeon Heroes in the Goldsmiths Music Studio, New Cross Road:

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Nepal earthquakes

Various initiatives have been going on locally in response to the disastrous earthquakes in Nepal. The Hill Station Cafe in Kitto Road SE14 collected donations for an emergency airlift:

Tomorrow (Friday) there's a film night Nepal benefit at the Kagyu Samye Dzong Tibetan Buddhist Centre in Spa Road, Bermondsey:

Monday, May 11, 2015

Muddy Waters at Goldsmiths 1968

This poster popped up recently on Twitter (@salvatorRosa) - legendary blues artist Muddy Waters playing at Goldsmiths College in New Cross, November 29 1968. Also featuring Otis Spann (playing with Waters), British blues guitarist Gordon Smith (who has played with Kevin Coyne among others) and Mike Kean's Dusty Blues Ensemble.

However, as somebody in comments has pointed out, the image in the poster appears to be John Lee Hooker rather than Muddy Waters! Awkward...

John Lee Hooker

Muddy Waters (left) as he actually looked in 1968
(pictured at Hammersmith Odeon)

Saturday, May 09, 2015

Recent Sydenham Street Art

Some recent Sydenham street art.

This is off Sydenham Road (by the car park near the Co-op/Lidl)

The kingfisher and fox are on hoardings on Sydenham Road, replacing the lemurs that used to be there.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Yeats in London

We are coming up to the 150th anniversary of the birth of the great Irish poet W.B. Yeats - he was born in Sandymount, County Dublin on 13 June 1865.

Yeats spents some very formative years in London, and next month at South East London Folklore Societu. Yeats authority Niall McDevitt will be giving a talk on 'Yeats in London'.

As mentioned at Transpontine before, there's an interesting connection between W.B. Yeats and the Horniman Museum in Forest Hill. He also visited Madame Blavatsky in Norwood, and spoke at Southwark Irish Literary Club. Hopefully there will be some more South London connections

Wednesday, May 13th 8:00pm, The Old King's Head, The Kings Yard, 45 Borough High Street, SE1 1NA

Talk starts at 8pm. £3/1.50 concession

To be sure of a place you can email to book

Monday, April 20, 2015

Reptilian terror in Peckham Rye

A reptilian monster is lurking in the depths of the lake on Peckham Rye, terrorizing passing wildfowl... or not. This terrapin seems to be just chilling out on a wooden island floating on the lake. I wonder how did terrapins become established in the park - were they deliberately introduced or did someone just abandon their pets?

Friday, April 17, 2015

Burn the Sea at Deptford Cinema

Tomorrow night at Deptford Cinema - Amakino present Burn the Sea 'an evening of documentaries about migration and the Meditteranean border'. The Cinema is at 39 Deptford Broadway and the films start at 7:30pm.

Very topical - this image was released by Amnesty this week, who say: 'The ongoing negligence by European governments of the humanitarian crisis in the Mediterranean has contributed to a more than 50-fold increase in migrant and refugee deaths since the beginning of 2015 compared with last year... As many as 400 migrants are feared to have died off the coast of Libya in recent days'

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Railman: a 1974 film made at Grove Park Station

A rare showing this Friday at the Mayday Rooms (88 Fleet Street EC4Y 1DH)  of an experimental film made in 1974 at Grove Park Station, Lewisham.This from the organisers:

'RAILMAN: A First Attempt at Collective Film Making - FOUR CORNERS FILMS in 1974

Friday 17th April 2015 7-9pm, MDR Screening Room

In 1976 Four Corners Films (Joanna Davis, Mary Pat Leece, Ron Peck and Wilf Thust) released Railman, a film concerned as much with the distribution of roles within the film collective as with getting "as close as possible to the life and routines" of an NUR station master. Filmed at Grove Park Station, Lewisham, in south east London, and set against the backdrop of state divestment in transport infrastructure, Railman might be regarded as a modest and experimental corrective to more technically accomplished and officially sanctioned British Transport Films: Rush Hour, Wires over the Border and Accident.

In the spirit of MayDay Rooms' commitment to opening out historical material onto the present, Wilf Thust, a founder member of the Four Corners collective, will introduce the film and help shape a discussion on the terms and conditions of collective filmmaking as a mode of political or politicising practice, as a form of group process....

In 1974, four London Film School students - Joanna Davis, Mary Pat Leece, Ron Peck and Wilf Thust - agree to work together as part of a course requirement to hand in a film script. They begin by interviewing the PR rep of the National Union of Railwaymen (NUR) and then meet with the course director of the London Film School, Ralph Bond, who in turn secures an interview with Ray Buckton, the general secretary of the rail drivers' trade union ASLEF. This preparatory work predictably draws the filmmakers into the labyrinth of British Rail bureaucracy, culminating in a failed negotiation to obtain permission to film on BR property on the grounds that an "irresponsible film" or any form of misrepresentation might damage the company's recruitment drive. This exchange is scripted and then re-staged as the opening sequence of the film. From that point on, the filmmakers move into a more clandestine mode and having identified a location, Grove Park Station in Lewisham, decide to circumvent management and contact workers directly.

As with much Four Corners' work from this period, the 'subject' speaks and Railman is filmed almost entirely in the station master's place of work, the platform office. In this setting, albeit only for a brief moment, the relationship between the film collective and station master permits the unarticulated a voicing and the unrepresented a hearing'.

Thursday, April 09, 2015

New Cross and Deptford Free Film Festival 2015

Some great events coming up in this year's New Cross and Deptford Free Film Festival, here's a quick summary from the organisers, for full details check out their website.

New Cross + Deptford Free Film Festival 2015.
Fri 24 April - Sun 3 May

'The fourth annual New Cross + Deptford Free Film Festival is shaping up to be a cinematic extravaganza. This year there really is something for everyone - from Youtube Cats to radical politics (there’s an election on!).

The festival launches with Friday Night Fever, a screening of Saturday Night Fever followed by a 70s disco. Strut your stuff at Number3, the new warehouse space on Creekside. 
The festival closes with a very special guest. Legendary DJ, musician and filmmaker Don Letts will be talking about his documentary film The Clash: Westway To The World followed by a DJ set at the Job Centre in Deptford.

Other highlights include:

Tuesday 28 April: Westmonster / Spirit Level - Two politically charged films with Q & A and discussion at New Cross Learning

Wednesday 29 April: Carrie – the original teen horror at Deptford Lounge

Thursday 30 May: Global Shorts - 16 films from 16 countries at Deptford Lounge

Friday 1 May: Old Kent Road -Everybody’s heard of the Champs-Élysées. The Old Kent Road’s the same. It must be one of the best known names in Europe.” - at The Hill Station Cafe

Saturday 2 May: Wizard of Oz - Follow the yellow brick road to this bike powered, open air event in Telegraph Hill upper Park

Throughout the festival Sanford Housing Co-op are presenting Ways Out: Unfolding the topography of the possible. Six films investigating alternatives to generic Capitalism. Join filmmakers, activists and guest-panellists for discussions'

Wednesday, April 01, 2015

US Chicken Chain set to Open in Greenwich

A leading US chicken chain is set to open its first UK restaurant in SE London. In a further sign of  the attractiveness of the area to cash-rich international investors, Albuquerque-based 'Los Pollos Hermanos' expects to open for business in Greenwich within the next few weeks.

In a joint statement with the company released yesterday, Greenwich Council welcomed the news, saying: 'The Royal Borough has been a centre of global trade for hundreds of years. From the tea brought back to England on the Cutty Sark to the modern consumer products so expertly marketed by Los Pollos, we have always welcomed the best that the world has to offer'. Speaking for the company, Mr Gustavo Fring said: 'Our motto at Los Pollos is "The finest ingredients are brought together with love and care, then slow cooked to perfection". We can't wait to get cooking in Greenwich'. Customers who bring a copy of the Council newspaper 'Greenwich Time' to the restaurant will be eligible for a free sample of the Los Pollos' specially-tailored new range - the Greenwich Meridian Line.

Mr Gustavo Fring
Notes for editors:

- Los Pollos Hermanos has 14 restaurants in the South Western United States between Albuquerque (New Mexico) and Nevada. In Greenwich it is planning to operate from the premises on Church Street recently vacated by Desparadoes, for further details see here.

- the Cutty Sark played an important role in international trade between India, China and Britain: 'clippers, such as the beautifully dry-docked Cutty Sark in Greenwich, often did double duty: serving as tea
clippers between Guangzhou (Canton) and London, and opium clippers between Calcutta and Guangzhou. By 1840 the British were shipping 40,000 opium chests to China each year' (source).

yes, this was an April Fool's joke - Los Pollos is the chicken chain that is a front for a drugs empire in the series Breaking Bad. 

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

'Violence in Brixton follows poll tax protest' (March 1990)

Twenty five years ago today, on 31 March 1990, one of the largest demonstrations of the 20th century set off from Kennington Park to protest against the Conservative government's planned new poll tax (officially known as the 'community charge'). The demonstration ended up in Trafalgar Square and was followed by rioting throughout the West End. By the end of the year, Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher had been ditched by her own party, worried at its seeping popularity.

A few weeks before the March 31st demonstration there had been lively protests at Town Halls throughout the country where Councils were setting their local poll tax rates. One of the biggest was outside Lambeth town hall in Brixton on Friday 9 March 1990.  I was on the demonstration, I remember people heading from the Town Hall, down Coldharbour Lane and along Electric Lane (which then ran down the back of Woolworths) in an attempt to get around the police. I stopped off for a drink in the Railway Tavern, others went on to Stockwell Road which I think is where a police car got turned over (pictured below).

Pat G.S. commented at a previous post here: 'After the gathering at the town hall... everyone turned and walked down Brixton Road, through the traffic. It was a happy, positive, almost celebratory event. No trouble, or even any sense that there would be trouble ... until the walkers were directed down Stockwell Road, round the back of the Academy - and straight into a wall of riot police. Immediately, all hell let loose - I had no idea that people could actually just pull up paving stones with their bare hands.  My boyfriend (now husband) and I legged it away from the trouble and towards home back up Brixton Road, which had now been closed to traffic by the police. Unbelievable how quickly they'd done that. And then, while we were walking as quickly as possible up the road, we heard this deafening - terrifying - sound behind us and, looking back, saw a line of police on horses who were stamping their hooves on the ground to make as much noise as possible. Oh yes, we felt threatened. That was a heavy day - and an exhilarating one, too. And Maggie didn't get her way'.

photo © Adrian Lord on flickr

Here's a newspaper report from the next day:

'Violence in Brixton follows poll tax protest (Independent, Saturday 10 March 1990)

Violence erupted in Brixton, south London, last night after a peaceful and good-humoured mass demonstration against the poll tax outside a Lambeth borough council budget meeting.

As the meeting began to break up, paint bombs and bottles were thrown towards speakers and police guarding the town hall. A festive atmosphere, with a band playing Caribbean music and protestors dancing and singing anti-poll tax songs, quickly evaporated.

Organisers made appeals to the 2,000 people to leave quietly, but hundreds tried to get to the centre of Brixton, and the police callled in reinforcements and repeatedly charged to clear the scene amid a hail of missiles. Two police were taken to hospital, a Panda car with a WPC inside was overturned, and six of the crowd arrested, as the skirmishing continued for half an hour or so'

'protestors in the south London borough of Lambeth hang an effigy of Margaret Thatcher from a bus shelter,
 before burning it and celebrating over the ashes'
(click to enlarge)

See also:

Monday, March 30, 2015

Music Monday: Live at the Montague Arms

When the Montague Arms  (289 Queens Road SE15) closed in late 2011, many people feared it was gone for good.  Stan and Bet, who had been working there for many years, had passed away, and the famous contents of the pub had been put up for sale  Today though the pub is going strong having been 'resteamed, rebooted, repunked' as it says outside -  it remains a good music venue with a different but equally idiosyncratic style.

Meanwhile the memories of its previous incarnation live on, not least in a series of remarkable albums put out in the 1970s. Thanks to my friend David W. who has found copies of them in various SE London charity shops.

Live at the Montague (1971)

A sleevenote on the back of this first album by Peter Latham, BBC presenter, says 'New Cross may not be within the sound of Bow Bells, but you can certainly find more than a touch of Cockney in its pubs. The Montague Arms, featured on this record, is not only in New Cross, its also vibrantly alive... the 'Mont' has the secret of making you forget the drab day's grind, the dismal weather and the disastrous news'.

The sleevenotes also instoduce the two musicians who were in effect the house band at the pub.  Peter Hoyle, the Mony's landlord and drummer, is described as looking 'like a wilder edition of Peter Ustinov and plays the drum like a demon'. Peter London on organ and piano and vocals is said to be 'blind and works with music in Braille', his musical career including recording with his wife Marilyn as 'Man and Wife' (including the single Who Shot the Piper Man?), and being Musical DIrector for the BBC TV series STRAMASH featuring Lulu

On this and the next three albums the two Petes are also joined by comedian/compere/singer Jimmy Jones.

Live at the Montague Arms - Volume Two (1972)

More great cover versions, with Peter London now adding a moog to his keyboards. Songs include The Beatles 'A Day in the Life' and Gilbert O'Sullivan's Alone Again Naturally.

The crowd photo on the back is great, very evocative of early 1970s pub life:

Live at the Montague Arms - Volume Three (1972)

I haven't got the sleeve of Volume Three, only the vinyl (anyone help me?).  Another diverse offering - Eleanor Rigby rubs up against Elgar's Nimrod and Jimmy Jones' comedy routines. Note that the recording engineers are listed as John Hassell Recordings. The Barnes-based Hassell assisted many people to self-release records and is now justly celebrated for his role in pressing dub-plates for the UK reggae scene.

Live at the Montague Arms - Volume Four (1973)

The semi-psychedelic cover art stands out on this one.

Recording engineer this time is Bob Auger, who worked as sound engineer with The Kinks, The Animals and many more.

The two Petes pretty much invented the look for the guys from Abba didn't they?:

Once again the crowd picture is a 70s fashion classic:

This album also has a gatefold sleeve, with the inside promoting the King and Queen, Kimmeridge Road, SE9 - described as the 'The Biggest Live Strip Comedy Scene in London' (the Montague Arms also featured strippers at this time). I think this pub/disco in Mottingham was run by the same people.

Live at the New Montague Arms (1977)

Note the address is given on the back as Queens Road, Peckham on the back - the confusion about whether the pub is in Peckham or in New Cross continues to this day. I guess as it's on the border it can be said to be either.

The picture in the top left of the cover shows, I believe, Bromley's Christopher Greener (1973-2015) - at the time Britain's tallest man - standing next to the pub's Stan Pownall.

The duo continued to perform in the Montague Arms, as the Two Petes, into the 21st century. I saw them many times on Sunday lunchtimes - who can forget their version of Wonderwall!

Are there any more albums?!

Here again is their version of MacArthur Park/Popcorn, which I put together with some pictures of the pub (see also their version of America):

Peter London

Before his Montague Arms days Peter London released the single 'Bless You' on Pye records in 1965, produced by the legendary Joe Meek

Who shot the Piper man? by Man and Wife (Peter London and  his wife) was released on CBS in 1970

Update (2 April 2015): Jimmy Jones's account

In his autobiography, 'Now this is a very true story' (2011), the comedian Jimmy Jones mentions working with Peter Hoyle (pub owner) and his brother-in-law Stan (the bar manager) to get the Montague Arms going as a venue, and describes how the records came about:

'We would have strippers on Monday and Wednesday nights, and Sunday nights we'd put on drag acts... Peter Hoyle noticed that there were more and more punters coming in just for my comedy routines. And he had a very bright idea. 'Wouldn't it be nice', he siad, 'if we had something to sell all these lorry drivers who are spreading the word about you'... No stand-up comedian had ever released a vinyl long-player of adult material before. So we recorded 'Live at the Montague Arms' relased on the Montague Arms label. It was very popular, we sold thousands of copies of them in the pub. Bill Wyman certainly bought a copy. We finished recording five stand-up LPs from the Montague Arms. '

Jones mentions that all of the Rolling Stones with the exception of Mick Jagger came down to see him at the Mont, as did other other comedians including Mike Reid, Roy 'Chubby' Brown and one Cameron Davidson from Blackheath - soon to launch a successful career not uninfluenced by Jones' 'adult' comedy routines as Jim Davidson (he also performed at the Montague Arms).

By Jones' account he fell out with Hoyle after he started getting success and offered gigs elsewhere. A dispute about royalties from the records led to a court case, with Jones claiming that 'No one was buying those records to listen to the drums and keyboards'. As is often the way it became 'a very nasty and expensive court case which - to be honest with you - neither of us won'.

Jones also says that when Hoyle 'opened a second pub, the King & Queen at Mottingham' he [Jones] opened it for him with my dear friend Dave Lee Travis, the DJ, and an act who became very close mates of mine, a dwarf cabaret act known as the Mini Tones - Kenny Baker and Jack Purvis who went on to be in Star Wars as R2D2 and a Jawa'.

Update (8 April 2015)

Just came across this article from The Independent (29 June 2008): The Entertainers: 'The Two Petes' are the house band at The Montague Arms. Peter Hoyle says: ''I've been the proprietor for 40 years. My brother-in-law and sister run it now. It's changed a lot over the years. In 1978 we refurbished and now there are moose heads on the walls, a zebra head, skeletons, a penny farthing". Peter London is quoted: 'We go for stuff people know: the Stones, Beatles, some Ray Charles. We've also dabbled with Oasis, a bit of Ronan Keating. You’ve got to give people what they want. One song that has always gone down well is "Whiter Shade of Pale"... You can't buy atmosphere. In modern pubs, you don't feel welcome. Customers here know they're going to get called "love" when they come in. It's just like home.'

The Two Petes in 2008

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Goldsmiths Occupation

Goldsmiths students are occupying the college's Deptford Town Hall building in New Cross Road, part of a wave of occupations that has also seen similar protests at Central St Martins (University of the Arts London) and the LSE, among others.

The full list of demands is as follows:

Goldsmiths occupation demands

Counselling services:
-          Recruit more counsellors to meet demand.
-          We want to see a tangible reduction in the waiting list for the service
-          Resist the planned restructure
-          Secure jobs within the service, and stop any redundancy

-          Resist any cuts to the Disabled Students Allowance
-          Demand more investment in making the university accessible to students with disabilities
-          Bring all services in-house and put an end to all outsourcing

Sustaining Goldsmiths:
-          Establish an all union (UCU, Unison, Unite, GSU) committee to oversee the implementation of the sustaining goldsmiths plan.
-          Resist any increase in student numbers without matching it with an increase in resources.
-          Freeze Senior Management pay for five years and reduce their pay before anyone elses is.
Lack of space
-          Move the Senior Management Team to Warmington Tower to free up their spacious offices for teaching space. 

-          Curriculum should be organised by students alongside academics, and not from the top-down. Open forums should be held to consider what the students want to learn
-          Transparency in the department- including better communication with students
-          The DSC system is a broken mechanism for communicating between students. The DSCs are overloaded with work, not respected by management and this leads to students to feeling alienated and disempowered from their departments 

Wider Aims:
-          A commitment to working towards a Free University of London
-          Full financial transparency
-          A radical reduction in the pay disparity of University staff, at the maximum of 6:1
-          Cut ties with unethical companies in regards to funding including those complicit in fossil fuel 
-          Liberation: zero tolerance policies on all forms of prejudice, discrimination and oppression. One way we think this can be achieved is for annual funding to be provided for a full-time Women’s Officer who would be tasked with campaigning on Women and Liberation issues
-          Police not welcome on campus
-          Free Education
-          Fight marketisation and privatisation of higher education
-          Workers’ rights for everyone who works at Goldsmiths
-          All on-campus staff including security to be brought in house, receive a living wage as minimum and solidified union recognition.
-          Solidarity with LSE, UAL, University of Amsterdam  and King’s College London who are all in occupation

There's lots of talks and other events happening, check their twitter account for further details