Thursday, September 21, 2023

Looking History and other walks

A couple of walks coming up in the 'Looking History' series. My walk 'Peckham Against Racism and Fascism' takes place at 11 am on Sunday October 1st and will hopefully do what it says on the tin, exploring the history of anti-racist/fascist/colonialist moments and movements in the Rye Lane area.

Before that on Sunday 24th September there's 'A Kaleidoscope Walk of the Elephant and Castle' with people being encouraged to share stories about particular places with meaning to them.

One of the best things about these kind of walks is the contributions and memories of people who turn up. On the 'Dirty Walworth' walk in July there were was a nice moment where walk guide Chris passed round some sarsaparilla, a drink taken as a health tonic for many years in that area and famously sold on East Street market and at Baldwin's herbalist/health food shop on Walworth Road. That sparked off childhood memories from somebody present who also recalled being sent by her mother to pick up orange juice from Walworth health centre which was provided free to babies - she sneaked her first taste of orange.

On that same walk as we passed Husky Studios on Amelia Street I mentioned that I'd once read in South London Press that Destiny's Child had rehearsed there prior to a performance on Top of the Pops, so Beyonce had been in Walworth.  A guy who had been a regular drinker in the nearby Tankard pub for years said that lots of people using the studio had popped into the pub in the past including John Lydon and Stevie Wonder! Somebody else chimed in with the tale of Drake being spotted in Walworth Road bagel shop. Folklore or facts? Tell me more...

I also enjoyed the Radical History Faction walk around Newington Green, one of a series around Hackney and Islington. Visiting 29 Grosvenor Avenue - home to a radical commune in the early 1970s and raided by police searching for the Angry Brigade - one person on the walk remembered visiting for anarchist meetings (there was a print shop in the basement) while somebody else lived there now. They have one final walk this season coming up around Angel/Upper Street on 15th October

I also went on the Rye Lane film locations walk on 10 September, part of the Peckham and Nunhead Free Film Festival. It told some of the history of the area taking in locations from recent Rye Lane movie, including a park bench on Holly Grove, the Peckham Soul shop and the indoor market.


Tuesday, September 19, 2023

South London Street Art Gallery, September 2023

Refugees Welcome - Nettleton Road SE14

Refugees Welcome - Nunhead

'Now playing Stereolab Parsec' - Station Passage SE15

'Stop lying' - Peckham

'South London is Anti-Fascist' - Peckham High Street

'Edelweiss Piraten' sticker, Nunhead (name of underground youth subculture in Nazi Germany)

Multilingual radical posters Bellenden Road SE25

'Transphobia belongs in the bin' - sticker, Brockley

'Justice for Chris Kaba', New Cross Road (shot dead by police in Streatham in September 2022)

'Black Lives Matter' - Choumert Grove Car Park, SE15

'Black Lives Still Matter' by Aliyah Art from her exhibition 'Anime through Black Eyes' at Peckham Levels (OK not actually street art, but thematically linked)

Wednesday, September 13, 2023

New Cross Gate Rainbows

Glorious double rainbow over New Cross Gate recently (26/8/23), here seen from New Cross Road:

And here from Sainsbury's car park. Failed to find any gold in the supermarket though.


Monday, August 28, 2023

Kick Out Cars in Croydon (1973) and the Croydon Libertarians

'Croydon Libertarians' were an anarchistic radical left group in the early 1970s. In 1973 they planned a 'Kick Out Cars in Croydon' action involving closing Church Street to traffic (this was more than 20 years before Reclaim the Streets tried similar tactics in Camden, Islington, Brixton and elsewhere).

The action was advertised in the anarchist paper Freedom (7/4/73, notice above) to take place on Saturday 7 April, but it seems that it actually took place the day before on Friday 6 April. Perhaps this was a cunning plan to get a step ahead of the police who were no doubt aware of the planned action. Unfortunately the police knew exactly what was going on as there was an undercover officer from the 'Special Demonstration Squad' ('spycops') infiltrating the Croydon group, known as Michael Scott. He was presumably responsible for the Special Branch report of the demo which was revealed in the ongoing Undercover Policing Inquiry:

 'On Friday 6 April 1973 at 11 am in Church Street, Croydon, a demonstration was held which was intended to alert public attention to the need for that particular road to be made into a pedestrian precinct.  It was organised and executed exclusively by members of 'Croydon Libertarians' and took the form of a length of chain being suspended across the road and secured at either end by padlocks.  In the event the road was closed for little more than five minutes and disruption of traffic was light. It was not quite clear even to the participants why it failed, especially as the event had not been publicised outside the immediate confines of those involved. The participants did not wait to see the immediate effect of their protest but disappeared, to return a short time later to find the chain so longer in position. It was therefore assumed that padlocks had not been securely fastened or that an unsensitive  lorry driver had been responsible for sabotaging the event. Police were absolved from blame as they had not been in evidence'. Plainly the attempt to close the road had been derailed as a result of the undercover police operation. The report named 5 people who took part, though their names were redacted in the report disclosed to the Inquiry.

Croydon Libertarians were one of a number of similarly named groups around the country in this period. An interesting 1989 article on this movement by Max Farrar describes their politics as follows 'What were the libertarian movements of the 1970s? In the late 1980s a clear distinction has to be made between libertarians of the left and the right. Today, the expression has been hijacked by people around Margaret Thatcher, and has been thrust into the headlines by young conservatives who champion a form of complete ‘freedom of the market’ which would include the legalislation of heroin. In the seven- ties, those of us on the far left used the term to distinguish ourselves from Leninists and Trotskyists. It ran alongside the word ‘Liberation’ in the Women’s Liberation Movement and the Gay Liberation Front; it identified us with the historical critique of authoritarianism in the conventional marxist parties but it consciously distinguished us from the antiquated and male-dominated practices of English anarchism'.

The Croydon Libertarians were up and running by 1969 when a notice in Freedom (12/7/1969) said that they were meeting on the 2nd Friday of each month. The contacts given were Laurens and Celia Otter, 35 Natal Road, Thornton Heath, CR4 8QH and Keith McCain, 1 Langmead Street, West Norwood, S.E.27. The Otters were lifelong radical peace activists - he died in 2022 aged 91 (see Guardian obituary) and she died in 2014.

The Croydon Libertarians co-operated with other radical groups locally, including Suburban Press (which the late Jamie Reid was involved in) and the White Panther Party- more to come on that.

That late 60s/early 70s political generation is getting elderly and many have passed, we would love to hear from any people involved in groups like this and the various radical community papers in South London at that time.

See previously:

White Panthers in SE2 - Abbey Wood and the 1970s counter culture

Saturday, August 19, 2023

The Village charity shop, Nunhead Green

Sure, you know about the The Village, Nunhead's friendly Salvation Army charity shop and community café. But did you know it now has a whole room upstairs, full of books, DVDs, CDs and vinyl?


Tuesday, August 08, 2023

Kender Street killing

Shrine on corner of Kender St SE14 and Queens Road where 20 year old Julian Ebanks-Ford was stabbed and killed at weekend (Friday 4th August 2023), so sad.

Thursday, August 03, 2023

Shirkers Rest SE14

Don't think I've given enough love out to the Shirkers Rest, beer shop/bar at 9 Lewisham Way opposite Goldsmiths in New Cross.

They have beers (and cider)

They have events including open mics and comedy nights

And of course they have a slacker aesthetic

Yes there's a 'Never Work' poster and the legendary 1980s 'I didn't go to work today... I don't think I'll go tomorrow' poster. Despite the claims of some cheeky f*cks online to have designed and therefore sell this image, I believe it was actually designed by a nice Leeds anarchist called Brian  who also did some radical Tin Tin cartoon strips. Remember having lots of arguments about this at the time  - along the lines of yes the sentiment's great but many working class people don't have the luxury of sleeping in and losing their job. Something to debate over a pint of Common Sense or whatever you fancy at the Shirkers Rest.

Wednesday, July 26, 2023

New Cross House closed (temporarily)

The New Cross House has closed for refurbishment. I went down last week and it was down to its last few closing down beers, so took a few photos to document it before it changes. I've enjoyed its current incarnation - my payday treat of a book from the Word bookshop opposite followed by happy hour margaritas, pizzas a plenty including after my first London Marathon when food never tasted better, farewell drinks in the old stables block with my international colleagues after I finished a postgrad course at Goldsmiths... Hope they hold on to their queer friendly vibe, which has included drag nights upstairs.

Still I've been around long enough to see this pub flourish through so many changes. I danced there in late 80s when it was a gay pub the Goldsmiths Tavern, hung out in the garden mid-90s when it was a techno charged 'crusty' bar known as GMT  Lager Daleks, went along to its relaunch as the New Cross House (its original name) in 2011. It is after all the pub that gave New Cross its name, or so it seems, so one way or another will hopefully be around for many years to come.


Saturday, July 22, 2023

Firefighters' car wash at New Cross

Firefighters at New Cross fire station (Waller Road SE14) were offering car washes today using actual fire engine hoses. A bargain fee of £5 and all proceeds to firefighters charity.

Thursday, July 20, 2023

Jerry Dammers at Deptford Dub Club

Deptford Dub Club's Reggae All Dayer at the Fox & Firkin on Sunday 23rd July features Specials/2 Tone founder Jerry Dammers. The dub club goes from strength to strength and the Fox an Firkin is the perfect location with its huge outdoor area (partially covered for all weathers) and its so Lewisham crowd. Should be a good night (and day) and a bargain at £5. Address is 316 Lewisham High St SE13


Monday, July 10, 2023

Music Monday: Three Wize Men, South London Hip Hop 1988

Three Wize Men were an early UK hip hop trio, putting out an album and several singles on Rhythm King records between 1986 and 1988. This New Musical Express interview from 1988 situates them very much in South London:

'Sarff London!! Sarff London!! In the best traditions of the Hip Hop Nation this was the lip curl message growled out by the Three Wize Men as a prelude to Refresh Yourself, the band's second single released last year by Rhythm King... For the Wize Men (AJ, Jemski, Danny D along with Fil Chill aka DJ Cybertron) it's a matter of fact that South London exists somewhere along a line that links Deptford to Peckham Rye and the the Rve to the convoluted sprawlings of the Gloucester Road housing estate that provided the subject matter for their first single. 'Urban Hell'. A mass of stairwell towers and walkways from which a thousand flats branch off. its fortifications were intended to keep out the noise from a planned Europe-London motorway. The road never came. Now Gloucester Road lacks only the battlements to be a proper castle at war with an outside world, at siege from within.  It was Danny D who once lived there, but AJ tells the stories of kids he'd find comatose over glue bags and cheap skag. The police avold the place and owners Southwark Council despair at their own creation. South. London... It was the WIze Men's appearance in a support slot to Big Audio Dynamite that in August '86 lured Mute Records boss Daniel Miller, alongside newly formed Rhythm King, down to Jemski's Deptford flat'

'Three Wize Men' pictured on their album 'GB Boyz'

'Gloucester Grove Mix' of  Urban Hell

'Burn it down to the ground'  - Three Wize Men take down North Peckham's (now demolished) Gloucester Grove estate on 'Urban Hell' (1986)


Saturday, July 08, 2023

'Jews in Lewisham Fight': a 1936 punch up with Hitler fans

A street fight in Avenue Road,  Lewisham in 1936 seems to have started out with a visit to the local Lyons coffee house where Jewish customers were subject to antisemitic abuse. Edward, Benjamin and Victor Ansell, brothers from Clapton, were out with Rene Low, a young woman from Rembrandt Road in Lee. They got into an argument after hearing remarks such as 'Fancy an English girl going out with Jews' and approving comments about Hitler. Edward Ansell was reported to have said 'I'll give you Heil Hitler' and 'Fascists or anybody else are not going to insult my fiancee'.

Avenue Road no longer exists in Lewisham - I believe it ran off the High Street, but was demolished to make way for the Shopping Centre. The Lyons coffee house was at 64 Lewisham High Street, next to the Joiners Arms (pictured below in 1951).

[story found at British Newspaper Archive]


Monday, June 26, 2023

Music Monday: Speakers Corner Quartet

South London's Speakers Corner Quartet started out around 2006 as the house band of the Speakers Corner spoken word/hip hop night held at Brixton Jamm. Their album 'further out than the edge' (June 2023) features an impressive range of guests including Kae Tempest, Shabaka Hutchings and Sampha. A great start to the summer album - not in a banging holiday anthems kind of way, more 'it's too hot to do anything but listen to soulful sounds'.

South London poet James Messiah features on Hither Green: 'whether blue whether green, whether Highbury Fields or Hither Green, whether north or west or south or east, I'm still the same G', while Lewisham-based singer Coby Sey sings 'On Grounds'. 

Saturday, June 17, 2023

'No Nazis in East Street' (1979)

A feature of London political life in the  last decades of the 20th century was the regular street presence of racist and neo-nazi groups like the National Front and British National Party - in particular through their paper sales at places like Chapel Market, Lewisham town centre, East Street market (off Walworth Road SE17) and Brick Lane. It took years of militant anti-fascist organising from the 1970s onwards to drive them away, with Brick Lane continuing to be a flashpoint until well into the 1990s.

  This article 'No nazis in East Street' is from the SE1 community newspaper, April 1979 and features a call from Southwark Campaign Against Racialism and Fascism to oppose the National Front presence there on Sunday mornings.

This picture of a 1979 SCARF protest in East Street is featured in an excellent round up of anti-racist demonstrations at Southwark Heritage blog

According to Sean Birchall in his book  'Beating the Fascists: The Untold Story of Anti-Fascist Action', the National Front paper sellers finally gave up the ghost after they were ambushed by members of Red Action in the early 1980s 'the fascist presence in East Street Market  in south London was irrevocably extinguished when, without warning or fanfare, the paper sellers were overwhelmed in less than five minutes of mayhem...  As the fascists fled, a heavy glass  door in a shoe shop snapped in two as they surged through seeking refuge. Some hope. They were pursued into a storeroom, while others, trapped among the displays, had a no-tolerance message literally hammered into their heads by stiletto-shoe-wielding opponents. So stunning had been the anti-fascist victory neither the NF nor BM ever returned' (though the successor BNP was back at East Street for a while in the early 1990s).

See also:


Wednesday, June 14, 2023

Hilly Fields parkrun 500

Hilly fields parkrun celebrated its 500th event last Saturday (6/6/23). Since it started in 2012 nearly 12,000 separate individuals have run or walked  three laps around the park on a Saturday morning to complete a 5k. The combined distance covered by all those who have taken part is around 480,000 km – that's equivalent to running a couple of time around the world, then running to the moon and running a couple of times round that too.

The free, volunteer run event started out from a meeting at the Ladywell Tavern, where Stephen Robson (pictured) agreed to be the event director. Having reached 500 events he stood down from this role on Saturday but will continue to be involved - thanks to Stephen and all the other volunteers who have kept this event going. Stephen and some of the others involved in setting it up had previously taken part in Bromley parkrun. Hilly Fields has gone on to spawn other events locally, with runners from there going on to set up Hilly Fields junior parkrun (for children on Sundays) and  Peckham Rye parkrun, among others.

In the early days of Hilly Fields parkrun attendance averaged around 40 runners. Nowadays it routinely involves more than 200 people and for Saturday's anniversary 438 people took part including 32 volunteers helping to make it happen.

Hilly fields parkrun has had a big impact on me since I first took part in 2013. It was the first organised running event I had taken part in since leaving school, and from that I really got the running bug. Parkrun led me on to get active in Lewisham based running club Kent AC and taking part in lots of races. But Hilly Fields parkrun is where I have run most and like many others I have developed an intimate knowledge of every twist and turn, every incline and descent. My running has declined due to injury in the last year, but it was great to attend at the weekend and I hope that as long as I am able to keep moving I will return there on Saturday mornings.

Olympic gold triathlete Alex Yee leaves us all behind at Hilly Fields parkrun in 2015

Wednesday, May 31, 2023

South London Gay Clubs 1984

Some South London gay clubs 1984: Dover Castle in Deptford Broadway; Market Tavern in Vauxhall, Union Tavern in Camberwell ) - from Capital Gay 24 August 1984

See previously:


Wednesday, May 24, 2023

Deptford Urban Free Festival 1995

 Deptford Urban Free Festival was a great event that took place in Fordham Park SE14 every summer from 1990 to 1996. It got bigger and bigger, squeezing bands, sound systems and tens of thousands of people into what is quite a small space. I have scanned and uploaded the July 1995 programme on to (see full thing here).

'you can't kill the spirit' - a reference to the Criminal Justice Act which had come into effect

Just part of the line up - headliners were Skunk Anansie and Asian Dub Foundation, others playing included Back to the Planet, Here and Now and Grateful Dub

Sound systems including RDK Hi-Fi (dub), Innervision (including Liberator and Institute of Goa DJs) and Avit Army ('from South London combine gabba/techno/acid/hard trance and industrial styles. Free parties are the order of the day'. I remember dancing a lot that day.

See also: Deptford Urban Free Festival 1992