Monday, May 15, 2017

Linear Obsessional Festival in Deptford and Hither Green

Hither Green-based experimental/improv label Linear Obsessional Recordings (LOR) has a busy weekend coming up with a two day festival starting out on Saturday (20/5/2017) with a gig at Vinyl Deptford:

'Live Music from 5pm with

Tom Jackson, Daniel Thompson, Jacques Duerinckx & Matthieu Safatly - acoustic free improvisation from this specially assembled Anglo/Belgian quartet - clarinet, guitar,soprano sax and cello. Expect intricate flowing absorbing interaction.

Jo Thomas - astonishing electro-acoustic composer - Her music captures a combination of refined and raw sonic matter, and is utterly absorbing. Her work has won awards and been performed around the world

Stephen Shiell - Sculptor, field-recordist and environmental musician is working on a new album for Linear Obsessional - here's a rare chance to see him perform solo and in a confined space!

Ne...t - Net is the project of Finland based composer and electronicist NE.Trethowan whose Linear Obsessional album "Grammostola" recieved extraordinary reviews. This is his UK debut and he will be working with modular synth and samples. He has new release imminent on Whitelabrecs.

James Worse - writer and poet James Worse is a "master of the surreal spoken word" (the Quietus) whose melifluous, extraordinary wordplay is compelling and irrestable.He was invited after his extraordinary contribution to the LinOb "Utterances" compilation-

Starting the evening- a first performance for a trio of three LinOb artists-
Phil Durrant, Phil S. Maguire and Richard Sanderson
(modular synth, tiny electronics and melodeon respectively) creating an enveloping slowlydeveloping wave of sound.

Admission - a donation of £5
Food, Drink, Coffee,Tea Vinyl Reords and Linear Obsessional material available'

Day Two is on Sunday when as part of the Hither Green Festival LOR will be taking over Manor Park from 12:30, starting out with a free event including interactive sound sculptures and an open access al-fresco drone from multiple musicans throughout the park. From 4 pm there will be a gig in the Arts Cafe in the park with Oren Marshall (tuba), Greta Pistaceci (theremin), Ed Lucas and Danile Kordik (sax/electronics) and Me, Claudius (avant noise dub) -£5 donaton for indoor gig in Cafe.

If you want to take part in the drone performance contact Richard Sanderson ( - virtuosity not required, in fact postively discouraged  - the idea is for the public to wander through a park  enlivened by long, softy played sustained tones on  all kinds of instruments mutating slowly over a two hour period down by the banks of the River Quaggy.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

A not so joyful sound - noisy singing in New Cross church, 1866

From 1866, the tale of an unusual protest in a New Cross church -deliberately singing loudly and out of tune!

'Unseemly conduct at church

For the last fortnight or three weeks the congregation worshipping at Saint James's Church, Hatcham, have been annoyed by the conduct of a female, determined to make her voice heard above all others in the responses, and in the singing adopting a completely different tune. The cause of this is wholly annoyance to the officiating clergymen and churchwardens, the woman having been removed from some office in the church, since which this unseemly conduct has been displayed; but surely the officials have some means whereby the annoyance and irreverence may be put a stop to'

(Kentish Mercury, June 22, 1866)

St James, Hatcham, built in 1854 - now used as part of Goldsmiths with the church relocated to a new building next door

Saturday, May 13, 2017

A Joyful Noise Unto the Creator SE17

At a neighbour's moving house sale earlier I picked up a vinyl copy of Galliano's acid jazz album 'A Joyful Noise unto the Creator' (Talkin Loud, 1992). Looking at the cover photo I thought I've been to parties on roof tops like that in the Pullens Estate off Walworth Road. And looking in more detail at the background I think you can make out the now demolished Heygate Estate and the Newington Library building on Walworth Road.

Compare building on right of background with Newington Library picture below (not curved roof with two windows underneath, and chimney stack on right of building)

Any one no any more? No doubt somebody who knows those streets better than I will be able to narrow down the location further.


Rob Gallagher, lead singer of Galliano, has confirmed photo was taken on roof of his flat on the Pullens and that Constantine Weir, the band's other regular vocalist, lived round the corner. Interesting times in which different scenes overlapped and flowed into each other. I went to some 'acid jazz' nights like Flipside at Iceni in Mayfair and was also very politically active in that post-poll tax period, then came the anti-rave Criminal Justice Act and the road protests at Claremont Road and Newbury, and Galliano got amongst it with their last album 'The Plot Thickens'  aligning themselves with that movement.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Laura Misch - Playground - soulful South London sounds for summer days

I'm loving 'Playground', the new album by Laura Misch. Self-produced at home by the multi-talented singer, saxophonist and ableton whizzkid from East Dulwich, it has a much fuller sound than you might be expecting from that description. Laura is the sister of Tom Misch, and while there is a similarly mellow vibe she has her own distinctive sound -  lush layers of jazz-tinged neo-soulfulness and understated beats.  You might have heard her on Gilles Peterson's Radio 6 show last weekend. This could be the soundtrack to a languid summer, when the sun comes out.

She has some gigs coming up locally at Bermondsey Social Club next month, which I think is already sold out, and at Peckham Rye Music Festival this weekend where I think she is playing on the Saturday.

Yes she painted the cover too


Tuesday, May 09, 2017

Medals for Lewisham's Kent AC in London Marathon

Media coverage of the London Marathon tends to concentrate on either the international elite runners of the very front or the fancy dress charity runners further back.

In between are the many serious club runners running for personal bests and at the faster end competing for both the English and British Marathon Championships, which are held within the London Marathon.

The recent 2017 London Marathon turned out to be a great day for Lewisham-based Kent Athletic Club, who had more than 50 runners taking part. In the English championships, based on the cumulative times of the three fastest finishers from English clubs, Kent AC women came first and Kent AC men came second. In the British Marathon Championships, which includes any club from Great Britain, Kent AC women were pushed into second place by the Scottish team Metro Aberdeen while are the men also secured the silver position.

Kent's Amy Clements was the second fastest woman overall outside of the elite field and in fact she had a faster time that several of the elite runners.

England Athletics Marathon Team results from 2017 London Marathon

Kent AC, who are based at the Ladywell arena behind Lewisham hospital, are now firmly established as one of the top long distance running clubs in the country. As well as competing at the sharp end of events like London marathon, the club has training groups for all levels of ability from parkrun improvers to Olympic athletes. The club also has some very talented sprinters including Olympians Jack Green and Conrad Williams.

Membership for adults is only £35 a year, but if you would like to try out a session before deciding whether to join you would be welcome at the track on a Tuesday night, starting at 7 pm.

Monday, May 08, 2017

Little Earthquakes... Independent Records Labels & SE London

The joint Independent Label Market/London Brewers Market in Greenwich on Friday night (5/5/2017) was good and busy, with music, food and drink stalls and Lewisham's Unit 137 Sound System shaking the rafters of the indoor market.

I wrote the following piece for the programme giving a quick overview of independent labels associated with SE London, in particular New Cross/Deptford/Lewisham. I say 'associated with' because you can't necessarily pin down the label based on an office/mailing address. So for instance, I included Stay Up Forever, arguably an East London label, on the basis of tracks being recorded in Deptford (the Punishment Farm studio mentioned was originally upstairs in the now closed Harp of Erin pub, then known as Round the Bend, on New King Street). Similarly I mention No Hats, No Hoods on basis of association with Lewisham artists, though its address is in E2.

Little Earthquakes that changed the world

In 40 years of  vinyl, cassettes, CDs and digital downloads, the independent labels and artists of South East London have helped launch and popularise whole genres of music. Some of these little earthquakes have ended up shaking the world, at least those parts of the world ready to be shaken by a guitar riff or a bass wobble.

The punk period saw the first big explosion of DIY music and independent labels.  Miles Copeland named his label  Deptford Fun City because, according to Jools Holland, ‘he had been so amused by Deptford High Street, never having seen or heard anything like it before’.  A major aim was to release early tracks by Greenwich’s Squeeze, who included the young Jools on keyboards. Squeeze were soon to be recognised as some of the best songwriters of the New Wave period but as well as their sweet melodies Deptford Fun City released some of the more experimental sounds of the post-punk period by Alternative TV, the band founded by Deptford’s Mark Perry , the sometime editor of legendary punk zine Sniffin’ Glue.

Reggae sound system culture was another key ingredient of the SE London social/sonic mix in this period, and this too found expression through influential independent labels.  Dennis Harris’s Eve Records in Upper Brockley Road was to give birth to the Lovers Rock label in this period, popularising a new style mix of reggae rhythms and soulful vocals that remains part of the palette board of pop down to the present.

In the early 1980s, a new industrial sound began to emerge that included  noise made from bashing metal and other found objects.  The pioneers of this in the UK were Test Dept; like many bands at this time, they self released early material on cassette, before moving on to vinyl and releasing records on their own Ministry of Power imprint on Some Bizarre records.

The Band of Holy Joy started out in similar milieu – some of them even sharing a house with members of Test Dept in New Cross -  but their songs of love, despair and the city took them in a different direction. Their breakthrough record  was the 10” EP ‘The Big Ship Sails’ released on Flim Flam records in 1986. Flim Flam was an independent label  as well as a club of the same name that took place at the Harp Club in New Cross – later to become The Venue.  It was started by BOHJ and Beloved manager Robert Lancaster with each record given a ‘Harp’ serial number presumably in reference to the New Cross club.

Back in the late 1970s, Counterpoint record shop in Forest Hill was the main local outlet for punk and new wave records. Owner Andy Ross was in band Disco Zombies who released their 'Drums Over London' single on their own South Circular Records in 1979. Fast forward ten years and Andy Ross was working for indie label Food Records when he went to check out a band called Seymour featuring a couple of students from Goldsmiths in New Cross. He persuaded them to change their name and signed them - you might have heard of Blur.

In the 1990s electronic music explosion, a specifically London contribution  was the Acid Techno sound pioneered by the Liberator DJs  - the 303 drenched banging soundtrack to London free parties. Many of the classic tracks were released on Stay Up Forever  records, and recorded at D.A.V.E. the Drummer’s Punishment Farm studios in Deptford. International techno/speedcore label Praxis Records also sold records for a while from a shop on New Cross Road in that period.

The early noughties saw a revival of intelligent guitar based  bands and a key label was Angular Recording Corporation, founded by ex-Goldsmiths students Joe  Margetts  and Joe Daniel.
The release of the  ‘The New Cross’ compilation CD album in 2003 by Angular Recording Corporaton and associated nights at the Paradise Bar (now Royal  Albert pub)  led the music press to talk of the ‘New Cross Scene’ .  While not all the bands were actually from the area it was through Angular’s New Cross portal that bands like Bloc Party, Art Brut, These New Puritans, The Long Blondes and Klaxons had their first releases. Angular was founded by two ex-Goldsmiths students, Joe Daniel and Joe Margetts.

Following in Angular’s footsteps, No Pain in Pop  was founded by Tom King and Tom Oldham in New Cross in 2008, putting on nights in local pubs before releasing a diverse range of material from indie pop to post-dubstep – and the UK release of the 1st album by Grimes,  Geidi Primes.

A recording studio on the Juno Way industrial estate in New Cross helped launch another new sound on the world, with Defenders Entertainment releasing Crazy Cousins’ ‘UK Funky’ tracks  including their highly influential remix of Kyla’s Do You Mind (2008) – later covered by The XX and sampled  by Drake on ‘One Dance’ (2016). Also from New Cross,  Andy Blake’s disco/house label  Dissident Distribution released a critically acclaimed series of  limited issue 12" singles from 2007 to 2009.

The spirit of Dissident and Andy Blake’s ‘World Unknown’ clubnights have informed the most recent wave of ex-Goldsmiths upstarts known as The Rising Sun Collective. Along with labels such as Squareglass they are carrying the torch for S.E. D.I.Y. with a series of parties, mixtapes, and vinyl releases spearheaded by artists such as A House In The Trees and Semi-Precious.

The recent upsurge in 2nd wave grime is giving birth to may new independent labels as artists seek to take control of their careers. Brockley’s finest Novelist has launched his own Mmmyeh Records,  having first come to prominence as part of grime collective The Square with their famous Lewisham McDeez track released on No Hats, No Hoods.  Independent labels have come a long way since the first punk and reggae 7 inch singles, but the DIY spirit lives on.

You can check out tracks from some of these on the accompanying Spotify playlist here:

1. Alternative TV – Action Time Vision (Deptford Fun City, 1978)
2. Brown Sugar - I’m in love with a dreadlock (Lovers Rock, 1977)
3. Test Dept - Fuckhead (Ministry of Power, 1986)
4. Band of Holy Joy - Rosemary Smith (Flim Flam, 1986)
5. Star Power  – Nothing can save us London (Stay up Forever, 1994)
6.  Long Blondes - Autonomy Boy (Angular, 2004)
7.  Veronica Falls – Beachy Head (No Pain in Pop, 2010)
8.  Kyla – Do you Mind, Crazy Cousinz remix (Defenders Ent, 2008)
9.  Cage & Aviary - Giorgio Carpenter(D‎issident,  2007)
10. The Square - Lewisham Mcdeez  (No Hats, No Hoods, 2015)
11. Semi Precious - No Distractions (Squareglass, 2017)

Limited for time and space for this article,  there's a lot more that could have been included. Johny Brown  from Band of Holy Joy has asked me about Desperate Bicycles, arguably the DIY label pioneers of the punk period. I did consider them but wasn't sure about extent of their SE London connection. Think first single was recorded in Dalston, but their 1978 'New Cross, New Cross' EP on their own Reflex label apparently followed a period rehearsing in New Cross. He also mentioned Bastard Haircut records, associated with Brain of Morbius. 

As covered at this blog before, there were other New Cross reggae labels in late 1970s/early 1980s, including Fay Music, Studio 16  and Sound City Records. 

In wider SE London beyond Lewisham, there's lots more to consider, perhaps most significantly on the punk front Conflict's Mortarhate label, starting out in Eltham, and One Little Indian which started out with Flux of Pink Indians in Forest Hill

Loads of dance labels out there of course, could have mentioned Controlled Weirdness' Unearthly records (including his great South London Bass track).

Who would you add to the list of SE London independent labels?

Thursday, May 04, 2017

Independent Label Market in Greenwich

This Friday night (May 5th 2017), a free night of music at Greenwich Market:

'Independent Label Market, supported by Sound Performance are excited to announce the launch of their debut Night Market, South of The River at the historical Greenwich Market! As usual we'll be joined by London Brewers' Market providing refreshment from some of your favourite breweries so make sure you don't miss out!


!K7 Records
37 Adventures
Accidental Records
Africa Seven
BBE Music
Bella Union
Be With Records
Bureau B
Cadiz Music
Casbah Records SE10
Earth Recordings
Emotional Response
Far Out Recordings
Fire Records
First Word Records
Gare du Nord
Hospital Records
Pie & Vinyl Records
Recards - The Record Playing Birthday Card
Secretly Group
Slowfoot Records
Sound Performance
Strut Records
tapete records
Unit 137
White Peach Records


6:30 Heavenly
7:30 Profusion (First Word Records)
8:30 Squareglass
9:30 Rising Sun Collective


The Five Points Brewing Company
Partizan Brewing
Orbit Beers
Bullfinch Brewery & Tap Room
The Gipsy Hill Brewing Co.
The London Beer Factory
Canopy Beer Company
The Brockley Brewing Company
Bianca Road Brew Co

I have written a short article for the programme on the history of independent labels in South East London, so look out for that.

Monday, May 01, 2017

Music Monday: Lisa Knapp - Til April is Dead: A Garland of May

What could be better for May Day than a whole album of May Day themed songs? Beautiful singing combined with found sounds, birdsong and spoken word samples - including what sounds to me like folklorist Steve Roud on the opening track. The Guardian review likened her vocals to a 'south London Björk', though I don't think that fully does her justice. Guests include Graham Coxon and David Tibet.

(for more on May Day folklore, history and politics see May Days in South London - Neil Transpontine - free pdf pamphlet)

Sunday, April 30, 2017

May Day 1894: Peckham anarchists in Hyde Park

'The May Day demonstrations - The London anarchists - Violent scenes'

'A demonstration arranged by the Social Democratic Federation was held today in Hyde Park. The processionists, who did not exceed 3000 in number,  were for the most part orderly, and included contingents from Camberwell, Hammersmith, Bow, Bromley, Deptford, Greenwich, etc. Among the speakers were Dr Aveling, Messrs Keir Hardie, W Morris, J H Watts, P Curran. Congratulatory telegrams were sent to workers assembled throughout the world urging them to neglect no means towards their emancipation from wage slavery, and to work unceasingly for the establishment of the international co-operative Commonwealth, in which all the instruments of industry will be owned and controlled by the organised communities. The International Anarchist Communist group from Peckham brought a black banner inscribed "away with authority and monopoly, with free access to the means of life".

The Commonweal Anarchists held a meeting close to the Federation meeting place. At one platform a speaker was hurled from his place and the red flag was torn to pieces, but, protected by the police, the speaker managed to escape before receiving further injuries. Several disturbances occurred, but none of a serious character. There was a large body of police in attendance. After the excitement had subsided the anarchists restarted the meeting, when speeches were delivered by Samuels, Mowbray, and Louise Michel, who was followed by a man named Tochatti. He was frequently interrupted with cries of "shut up" and finally thrown to the ground by a crowd, by whom he was roughly handled. The police, after much exertion, rescued Tochatti and started him in the direction of the marble arch, where he was again set upon, and received several ugly blows on the head and face. The police again intervened, and to Tochatti was eventually placed in a cab in a very exhausted condition and driven away.

(Daily Express, 2 May 1894; James Tochatti (1852-1928) was a Scottish-born anarchist living in Hammersmith. For more on the Peckham anarchists of this period see Pressure Drop in Peckham by Nick Heath at libcom; the Paris Communard exile Louise Michel's time in South London is covered in this earlier Transpontine post; see also William Morris and South London)

My historical overview of 'May Days in South London' (50 page pdf pamphlet) is available as a free download here

Friday, April 28, 2017

1977 'Battle of Lewisham' plaque

August this year sees the 40th anniversary of the demonstrations and clashes of the 'Battle of Lewisham' when thousands of people turned out to oppose a racist march from New Cross to Lewisham by the far right National Front. Goldsmiths is leading on a number of events to commemorate the 1977 protests which are recognised as a turning point in the fight against fascism at that time.

Among the initiatives is the installation of a commemorative maroon plaque on New Cross Road. But how should the plaque be worded? You can have your say by voting on a number of suggestions or indeed coming up with your own idea before midnight, this Sunday 30th of April.

I was involved in a similar commemoration on the 'Battle of Lewisham' 30th anniversary in 2007. This included a conference at Goldsmiths and a history walk which I helped lead and that included different perspectives from people who had been involved on the day. There were some great material produced and collected from all this - see the Lewisham 77 blog -  and Goldsmiths historian John Price hopes to build on it for this August's events.

To find out more about the project including how you can get involved and upcoming events, visit

Photo of police atempting to clear anti-racist protestors from Clifton Rise, 13 Aug. 1977 (© Peter Marlow) - in this photo you can see the New Cross House in the background and the corner of the New Cross Inn on the right. The protestors are clustered round what was then the public toilets on Clifton Rise.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Peckham Soul brings Togetherness to Beckenham

I love Beckenham Place Park with its green spaces, woodland and grand old mansion house, so good to see that there are some interesting things going on there to encourage other people to come along and discover it. Personally I mainly go there to run (among other things there's a newish parkrun every Saturday morning) but I might be tempted to try out something even more athletic with some northern soul moves - which I always imagine I am capable of after a few drinks...

'With the best in Northern Soul, classic Motown, Stax, funk and disco, your host DJ Craig Jamieson (Peckham Soul / South London Soul Train), takes you on a dancefloor trip through the world’s most life affirming music. A season of Peckham Soul events taking place in in the summer  splendour of Beckenham Place Mansion... In this time of nastiness, we say -, Trump…No, Togetherness …Yes!'

This weekend will feature a DJ set from Ben Ayers from Cornershop, after that the monthly line up will include: 

May 27th Andy Lewis (Paul Weller Band & Acid Jazz) DJ Set
June 24th Special Guest T.B.A
July 29th Eddie Piller (6 Music & Acid Jazz)
Aug 26th Belle & Sebastian (Chris Geddes DJ Set)
Sep 30th Special Guest T.B.A

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Cutty Sark - Camberwell Now

Last weekend 40,000 people including both myself and the world's greatest endurance runners ran round the Cutty Sark in the course of the London Marathon. The week before thousands more were in the area for the Tall Ships festival. Since the ship was first put in in dry dock in Greenwich in 1954 it has become an iconic part of the SE London landscape.

The Cutty Sark was built on the Clyde in 1869 and in its heyday transported tea and possibly opium between Britain, China and India. For me, it has an ambivalent meaning as simultaneously a loved local landmark (mile 6 and a bit of the marathon no less); an impressive product of the ingenuity of human labour (my dad did his engineering apprenticeship in the Clyde shipyards, obviously in a later period, so I have a romantic appreciation of their products);  a vehicle of both colonial plunder and global connections.

Some of this ambivalence is expressed in the song Cutty Sark by Camberwell Now from their 1983 album Meridian (1983):

I dream of empire, I dream of sailing ships
A fortune beneath their decks
Heavy with cargo, copper and ivory

I cross the ocean from one land to the next
I trade the space between, I cross the ocean
I trade the space between

Up in the crow's nest or down in the hold
I hear the ocean sing to me
It sings to me of another way of life
I ignore it, I choose to ignore it

I work with chart, compass, latitude, longitude
A world of reference points
To cross the ocean, measure the space between

Still this singing insists and insists
Won't go away, won't leave me be
It sings to me of another way of life
I ignore it, I choose to ignore it
I ignore its melody

Camberwell Now were formed in 1982 by Charles Hayward and others previously involved in influential experimental band This Heat.

Friday, April 14, 2017

New Cross & Deptford Free Film Festival 2017

Next weekend sees the start of The New Cross & Deptford Free Film Festival, featuring 31 free film screenings in the ten-day period starting 21st April. According to the organisers:

'The festival starts with a bang at the newly refurbished White Hart pub in New Cross, with the screening of comedy-drama Chef, followed by DJs until late. From then on, you have the choice of up to three films per day.

Amongst the many highlights is the outdoor bicycle-powered screening in Telegraph Hill Upper Park, which has become an annual staple in the festival. This year the festival chooses to celebrate the late great Gene Wilder, and promises a chocolatey treat of wonder, with Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory showing on the first Saturday in full technicolour. Your pedalling helps to power the film so your attendance is required!

Our second open air bike-powered event aptly takes place on the commuters’ cycle route in Folkestone Gardens. With all those bikes powering the film it had to be the right film choice: Breaking Away is about bike racing, as well as growing up.

Another highlight is Reservoir Dogs, which hits its twenty-fifth anniversary this year. Can you believe Tarantino first hit the big screen 25 years ago? You are invited to dress accordingly for this film screening at one of the new units in Deptford Market Yard'.

Some of the people involved in the Festival have already got into the spirit of things, making a short Deptord Dogs promotional trailer.

Thursday, April 06, 2017

Last weekend of 2017 Telegraph Hill Festival

The final weekend coming up of the 2017 Telegraph Hill Festival, plenty of events still to come - see programme for full details. Its open studios weekend, a perfect opportunity to see some local art and nose around other people's houses (go on, admit it). 

I missed the South East London Folk Orchestra (SELFolk) a couple of weeks ago when they played outside at the London Wildlife Trust Nature Reserve on Vesta Road (pictured), but they are back on Saturday 8th April at the Telegraph Hill Centre, Kitto Road, SE14 from 2.00pm-3.00pm. There may be dancing, there will definitely be folk tunes, tea and cake. I took my mandolin along to one of their early sessions a couple of years ago at the Old Nun's Head and have been meaning to go back ever since.

On Sunday 9 April, 11.00am-12.30pm, Malcolm Bacchus of the Telegraph Hill Society will be leading a guided tour of the area focusing on its architecture and history. Meet in St Catherine’s Churchyard. 

Also on Sunday there's the intriguingly named 'Bilingual Cake' from 2.00pm-4.00pm at Telegraph 
Hill Centre - actually a session on raising bilingual children (£3/£1 concessions). In  amongst London's linguistic wealth this should be no big deal, but in the post-Brexit landscape where every two-bit racist feels emboldened to express their views even this can be a target. On the Nunhead Rocks facebook group last week, somebody described a nasty event in East Dulwich:  'I was walking along doing my shopping in Sainsbury's talking to my daughter in Spanish and a lady has shouted at us "speak English". It is very upsetting to experience such a horrible comment in a community I think is more open minded than that'.  I think I would reply in English to a comment like that, probably with some Anglo-Saxon swear words including a reminder to 'mind your own f*ing business'.

Tuesday, April 04, 2017

13 Dead and Nothing Said - New Cross Fire Exhibition at Goldsmiths

The death earlier this week of Darcus Howe led to several mentions in obituaries of his role in helping to organise the Black People's Day of Action, a major demonstration called in response to the 1981 New Cross Fire.

Photograph by Vron Ware (Autograph ABP)

By coincidence an exhibition documenting that demonstration is currently on display at Goldsmiths in New Cross, just a few hundred metres from the scene of the fire. '13 dead and nothing said' 'presents a body of photographs taken by Vron Ware documenting the Black People’s Day of Action on 2 March 1981. The images bear witness to an historic moment of community organising and resistance in post-war Britain. In the early hours of Sunday 18 January 1981, a fire at 439 New Cross Road resulted in the deaths of 13 young black Londoners as they were celebrating the 16th birthday of Yvonne Ruddock, one of the victims. One survivor died nearly two years later, bringing the total loss of life to 14.  In the face of public indifference towards and negative media coverage about the loss of 13 young black lives, as well as perceived inaction on behalf of the police to apprehend suspects, hundreds of people met on 25 January 1981 at the Moonshot Club and marched in protest. The New Cross Massacre Action Committee was set up and plans were made for the Black People’s Day of Action on 2 March 1981' in which 15-20,000 people marched from Fordham Park in New Cross into central London. 

Leaflet for the march, announcing the start in 'Fordham Park next to Moonshot Community Centre, Pagnell Street SE14'. The address of the New Cross Massacre Action Committee is given as 74 Shakespeare Road SE24 - this was the office of Race Today, the radical black magazine edited by Darcus Howe.

I have been to a few exhibitions in this space and was expecting more of the same i.e. a few photos hung on the wall. But this is different, a well designed and thoughtful display that squeezes a huge amount of content into this corridor. As well as photographs the exhibition features fascinating archive material loaned by the George Padmore Institute including documents from the New Cross Massacre Action committee, the Metropolitan Police and contemporary press accounts. It also includes reflections on the events from Linton Kwesii Johnson, Paul Gilroy and others.

List of the victims of the fire from exhibition and 'The Declaration of New Cross' made on the day of the demonstration: 'The national authorities in Parliament and Government... ignored the tragedy of the families of the dead and injured':

Stewards Instructions for the day, including the route of the march - it went from New Cross, through Peckham and Camberwell, up Walworth Road to Elephant, over Blackfriars Bridge, down Fleet Street (then centre of the newspaper industry) and into the West End, finishing in Hyde Park.

Relatively minor clashes near Blackfriars led to exaggerated and frankly racist press reports, and the exhibition reproduces some fo the headlines such as 'Black Day at Blackfriars' and 'Day the Blacks ran riot in London' (The Sun).

'What explains the silence that you see in the newspapers immediately afterwards is the fact that – I can't translate this into something polite really – that the deaths of 13 young black people don't matter because the value of their life is lower. And I think that at the beginning of 1981 we were trying to say that these black lives matter, you know? If our children die we feel the same pain that you feel'  (Paul Gilroy, 2015)

Flyer for an event the weekend before the march, organised by the Steve Biko Youth Organisation and featuring Ras Messengers and Jah Shaka, as well as a film about Malcolm X.  This took place at 190 Evelyn Street, Deptford.

I strongly recommend that you try and see this exhibition before it closes. It is located in the Richard Hoggart building that is the main old building at Goldsmiths on Lewisham way. Go into the main entrance and follow the corridor either left or right round to the back of the building where the Kingsway Corridor joins the left and right hand sides of the buiding.  It is free of charge and anybody can freely entered the building seven days a week from 9 am to 9 pm. I believe that the exhibition continues until 14 May, though note that the college is closed over Easter from 13th to 18th of April (full details here)

For more background on the New Cross Fire, see these previous posts:

.Les Back from Goldsmiths discusses the events and the exhibition:

Sunday, March 26, 2017

The end of the world comes to Telegraph Hill

There was a strange light at Telegraph Hill upper park (Kitto Road SE14)  earlier this week, with the night artificially brightened with floodlights to create a hyperreal landscape. The reason was that filming was taking place of a new BBC drama, Hard Sun, set in a pre-apocalypse world with only five years left. The series stars Agyness Deyn and Jim Sturgess - did anybody spot them?

Telegraph Hill Festival

I understand that the production company made a donation to the Telegraph Hill Festival, which opened yesterday and runs until April 9th. As always there lots of music, comedy, arts and other events taking place, check out the programme.

Andrew Clarke's sculpture in the grounds of St Catherine's Church, Kitto Road, SE14 as part of the 2017 Telegraph Hill Festival. Thanks to Andrew too for the photos of the floodlit Telegraph Hill Park.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Opposition grows to London Schools Funding Cuts

Government proposals to introduce a new natonal funding formula for schools from next year are expected to lead to big reductions in funding for local schools. Essentially the formula would result in funding being redistributed from schools in urban areas to other parts of the country, with schools in inner London particularly badly hit. 

Teaching unions estimate that funding for Lewisham schools could be reduced by more than £27m over the next two years, equivalent to the salary of 582 teachers.

Source: School Cuts.

Opposition to these plans is growing. Last night there was a packed meeting for Lambeth parents at Sunnyhill Primary School SW16, called by the National Campaign for Fair Funding for All Schools.

Last night's meeting @FairFundLambeth
Tonight (Thursday 16th March 2017), there's a similar event for Lewisham parents taking place at Edmund Waller Primary School, Waller Road, SE14. They say:

'The National Fair Funding for All Schools Campaign is holding a public forum for parents, teachers, head teachers, governors and councillors in Lewisham to raise awareness about the proposed cuts to schools’ budgets. The event will be attended by Vicky Foxcroft MP, Cllr Luke Sorba, Nicky Dixon (CASE Lewisham), Matt Dykes ( National Fair Funding For All Schools Co- Founder), Philipa Harvey (NUT). Other speakers to be confirmed.

Our aim is to build a local coalition of parents, teachers and leaders in support of the National Fair Funding Campaign to stop these proposed devastating cuts. Lewisham parents, teachers, and heads we'd love to hear from you, please join us. This is not yet a done deal as the consultation closes on 22nd March 2017; the government must hear our voices' (event details here)

London schools have generally got better over the last 20 years, and funding has played a significant part in that. More money means more teachers, more support staff and better resources. No doubt schools in other parts of the country could benefit from a rise in funding, but the pot of education funding needs to be increased to enable this rather than taking the money away from London schools.

School funding cuts protest by Queens Road Peckham station, 25 February 2017

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Enter Selecta - 45 RPM night at Telegraph pub SE14

Tonight - and every second Wednesday - it's 45 RPM night at the Telegraph at the Earl of Derby, the pub at 87 Dennets Road SE14. The format is simple enough, bring along a few 7 inch singles - actual vinyl only - and take a turn. Decks will be set up in the back of the pub from around 8 pm. I even had a go myself last time.

my selection at 45 RPM night last time
The pub is under new local management, with a plentiful supply of food and beers (other drinks of course available!).

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Stan Firm inna Inglan at Tate Britain

 Tate Britain gallery is currently displaying 'Stan Firm inna Inglan: Black Diaspora in London, 1960s-1970s', featuring images by 'eight photographers who documented Black communities in London: Raphael Albert, Bandele 'Tex' Ajetunmobi, James Barnor, Colin Jones, Neil Kenlock, Dennis Morris, Syd Shelton and Al Vanedenberg'.

There are a number of outstanding South London images to be seen, including Syd Shelton's photographs from the New Cross/Lewisham anti-National Front protests of 1977...

A smoke bomb in New Cross Road, August 1977 © Syd Shelton

..and Neil Kenlock's early 1970s photographs of the British Black Panther movement, particularly in the Brixton area, including this one of girls with Black Panther bags.

© Neil Kenlock

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Recent street art: Captain America, Sweets and Ganesha

New piece by Artful Dodger on Peckham Road by Southamton Way junction, a Trump era lamentation featuring Captain America and referencing Simon and Garfunkel's Mrs Robinson too 'Where have you gone, Captain America? A nation turns its lonely eyes to you'. The same artist painted the nearby Carrie Fisher mural

'Money can't buy love, but it can buy sweets, I like sweets' by Dope, on Penge High Street.

Not sure if a statue of Hindu deity Ganesha counts as a street art, but its on Tooley Street SE1 outside the new Lalit Hotel.

Tuesday, March 07, 2017

Lucifer Over Lancashire - the Pendle Witch Trials

This Thursday night (March 9th 2017), South East London Folklore Society will be examining The Pendle Witch Trials of 1612 - some of the best recorded and famous witch trials of the 17th century.

SELFS host Nigel Hoyle has a rather fine folk music project, The Cunning Folk, and they have written a song about the Pendle trials entitled Lancashire, God's Country.  So I wouldn't be surprized to hear a tune or two on Thursday.

SELFS meets in the upstairs room of The Old King's Head off Borough High Street SE1, from 8 pm. £3/1.50 concs -walk-ups are very welcome however you may wish to email to book a place.

All of which reminds me that the very first post on Transpontine, back in October 2004, was for a SELFS talk (then at the Spanish Galleon in Greenwich), with Kathleen Blackmore talking about one of the last witch trials in England. In 1701 Sarah Morduck was accused of causing a neighbour's illness at Bankside (near the site of the Tate Modern). Even though she was found not guilty, she was beaten up and left for dead.

Oh and happy 60th birthday to Mr Lucifer Over Lancashire himself

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Farewell Steve Wilson

The funeral took place in Beckton on February 10th of Steve Wilson (1955-2017), who died recently after nearly two years of serious illness.

A man of multiple enthusiasms including Leonard Cohen, Crystal Palace FC, and folklore,  it was in the pagan/occult scene that Steve was most active. Among other things he was at various times an Archpriest in the Fellowship of Isis,  Archdruid in the Druid Clan of Dana, and SE London regional co-ordinator of the Pagan Federation, as well as working for a spell in the famous Atlantis bookshop. In his druid capacity, he was involved in the campaign for access to Stonehenge, and as described in this 1996 article in the Independent, helping conduct summer solstice ceremonies at Parliament Hill and watching the 'sunrise at Plumstead Common Burial mound'. I have seen mention of  his involvement too in the delightfully named Plumstead Occasional Druids.

In his book 'Robin Hood: The Spirit of the Forest' (Neptune Press, 1993), Steve mentioned another important campaign from that period, the successful fight to stop the construction of a major road through Oxleas Wood 'where once the King of England and his Queen, along with the Guilds of the City of London, once watched Marian and Robin in their Mayday Revels... By involving ourselves in these battles we can let the spirit of  Robin and his band live on in ourselves'.

I met him through his involvement in the South East London Folklore Society. SELFS was established in the early 1990s (I believe), starting out at Charlton House, and Steve was active in it from early on. In its first incarnation it was primarily a regular meeting (moot) of local pagans and fellow travellers. Although it has subsequently broadened out to include a wider range of folklore, local history and fortean themes, the format of a speaker on an interesting topic followed by beer and discussion has continued down to the present. Steve himself gave a number of SELFS talks over the years, including one on  'Chaos, Conjuring and Combat' at a 1999 SELFS conference in Charlton House ('Thee Event -Thee Last Magickal Conference ov thee So-Called Millennium') and another entitled 'The Brockley Thing' at a SELFS event at the Brockley Jack during the 2005 Brockley Max Festival. The latter touched on another of Steve's interests - the history of the Woodcraft Folk and associated youth groups such as the Kibbo Kift Kindred and the Order of Woodcraft Chivalry which he saw as linked to the 20th century neo-pagan revival - and in whose story SE London was an important focus.

Steve was a driving force and frequent MC at similar occultural 'moots' including Talking Stick, Secret Chiefs and The Moot with No Name (which he founded in 2003). He was thus a key contributor to the great London alternative university of esoteric talks in pubs - as well as organising and speaking he could always be guaranteed to have a question at the end of anybody else's talk! The debating and public speaking skills he no doubt first polished at Dulwich College were frequently put to use. He was a big man with a big voice.

Steve was an enthusiastic participant in the annual Deptford Jack in the Green/Fowlers Troop procession, including sometimes taking turns in the toughest job on the day, carrying the Jack - a heavy frame covered in foliage. The photos here are all of Steve in his May Day costume, the two below by Sarah Hannant.