Friday, February 23, 2024

Tales from a Disappearing City - Uncle G on Woolwich B-Boys and Acid House

'Tales from a Disappearing City' is a great podcast with Controlled Weirdness interviewing people about their untold subcultural stories from his SE16 batcave. The latest one is a SE London cracker featuring Uncle G, also known as Urban Intelligence. Godfrey arrived in London with his family as political refugees from Chile in the 1970s and grew up on the Morris Walk Estate in Woolwich. He has lots of great stories of body popping and breakdancing crews in that area in the 1980s at places like Woolwich YMCA and taking part in 'freestyle boogie' dancing competition to hip hop at the Albany in Deptford (apparently there was guy called Chris Sykes  who arranged these events across Lewisham and SE London).

Moving on to the acid house period, Godfrey recalls the legendary Clink Street parties and an ecstasy epiphany with the luvdup crowd that led to a  'rude boys see you later, we want this shit' turning point. He went to Asylum acid house parties at Thames Poly and lots of other raves and parties including 'Rave in the Cave' at Elephant and Castle, a Biology event in a Charlton warehouse, the Tasco warehouse in Plumstead, the Comedy Club in Greenwich and the Tunnel Club (at the Mitre pub by the Blackwall Tunnel) where he remembers a police raid  with 'a big pile of money and pills' in the middle of the dancefloor as dealers frantically disposed of evidence.  He also recalls, as I do, nights at the Venue in New Cross where people would be dancing to house music in one room while indie/alternative bands were playing downstairs: 'we used to see all the goths going to Woolwich train station, loads of punks and all that, and they'd disappear on to the train and go the Venue'. 

He was soon putting on his own parties, including setting up decks in the fields in Middle Park estate in Eltham, and getting involved in pirate radio - leading to 20 years of radio DJing on Woolwich based stations Shockin FM then Wax FM. Today he livestreams every Friday from Planet Wax record shop/bar in New Cross.

Along the way Neil CW mentions seeing Sonic Youth at Thames Poly in 1985 (one of their first UK gigs) and Afrika Bambaataa at Deptford Albany. 

If you remember any of these nights, or similar scenes, let us know in comments.

Tuesday, February 20, 2024

WW2 Peace Shop in Blackheath: 'War will cease when men refuse to fight'

During the Second World War, as in the First World War, there were pacifists who refused to serve in the armed forces because of their political and/or religious opposition to war. Many of these war resisters suffered time in prison, while others recognised as conscientious objectors were officially excused on the basis that they agreed to undertake non-military duties.

The main journal of the peace movement, then and now, was Peace News which was founded in 1936. Its entire run has now been digitised on Internet Archive and it is a fascinating treasure trove of historical material. I have already found some South London nuggets and no doubt you can find plenty more.

Here's one interesting story... the Blackheath Peace Shop, which ran at 14 Royal Parade from late 1938 until mid 1940. It was seemingly set up by local branches of a number of pacifist groups including the Peace Pledge Union, the Fellowship of Reconciliation, the Anglican Pacifist Fellowship and the Society of Friends (Quakers).

Peace News, 5 April 1940

In the early days of the Second World War it was opening daily between 10 am and noon, and 3 pm and 5 pm, with Sunday afternoon tea parties followed by open air meetings on Whitfield's Mount on Blackheath.

Peace News, 22 September 1939

The shop did though face hostility, with a window being smashed in May 1940 at this 'centre of pacifist activity in the neighbourhood':

Peace News, 3 May 1940
The shop also featured in a court case in which six officials of the Peace Pledge Union were prosecuted in relation to a poster reading 'War will cease when men refuse to fight. What are you going to do about it?' The poster was said to have been on display in various locations including on a board outside 1a Eddystone Road in Brockley (the HQ of the Forest Hill branch of the PPU) and outside the Peace Shop in Blackheath. The location near to the Heath where 'service men resorted' was cited as evidence for the serious charge that the poster was intended to incite 'disaffection' in the armed forces.

The trial ended with the defendants being ' bound over' after the Peace Pledge Union agreed to withdraw the poster. A verbatim account of the 'Poster Case' trial was published as a pamphlet by the PPU later that year. One of those summonsed to court was Ronald Smith, of Courtrai Road SE23, described as the 'group leader' of the PPU's Forest Hill branch.

Peace News, 7 June 1940

Shortly afterwards it was reported in the Lewisham Borough News that 'Blackheath's little Peace Shop' had closed down after having its window broken again.

The PPU remain active in Blackheath however, with its local branch meeting at the home of its secretaries Alan and Winifred Eden-Green  of 2 Talbot Place SE3. As well as supporting 'distressed COs' they set up a Pacifist Service Unit to provide welfare help in the local community.  Alan Eden-Green (1916-1997) was  a conscientious objector during the Second World War who 'performed voluntary work for Woolwich Council in the blitz, driving mobile canteens and putting up Anderson shelters for the elderly' (obituary in Independent, 12 December 1997).  Winifred Eden-Green worked as assistant to author and prominent pacifist Vera Brittain through the war years and on to 1962. The Eden-Greens later edited a collection of Brittain's war time letters  in which they recalled that 'two attempts were made to set the Blackheath Peace Shop on fire' and that an Army Major had threatened to shoot them both (Testament of a Peace Lover: Letters from Vera Brittain, Virago, 1988).

Peace News, 15 November 1940

The former Peace Shop at 14 Royal Parade has most recently been home to Yield Gallery.

Tuesday, February 06, 2024

Delivery Riders Strike and South London 'Dark Kitchens'

Notes from Below report on the recent food delivery riders strike:

'On Friday 2 February thousands of food delivery riders, demanding a pay rise, took strike action against all of the apps, in over 90 zones across London, Brighton, Liverpool, Bath and Glasgow. The strike demanded a pay increase. In 2017, Deliveroo paid a minimum £4 per delivery. Now, they pay a minimum of £3.15 to mopeds and £2.80 to bikes. That is a 40% real terms pay cut. Uber Eats have made similar changes.

This was the biggest strike yet in food delivery in the UK and it shook the management of the apps. Across many areas, riders focused locally and organised pickets to shut down dark kitchens and key restaurants...

20 riders picketed the editions kitchen in Forest Hill. When more riders arrived at the kitchen and learnt about the strike, most stopped working and joined in. Only a couple tried to pick up, and before long the manager had turned off the app. Nothing went in or out for hours. Most riders agree a pay rise won’t be won in a single strike; they’re ready for a longer campaign. A few days after the strike, deliveries seem to be paying more than they did. The rates have been calculated upwards a bit'

The Forest Hill site mentioned is in the Dulwich Business Centre, Malham Road SE23 and is one of a number of 'Deliveroo Editions' dark kitchens. Essentially these are  anonymous industrial units managed by Deliveroo where under one roof different restaurant brands use separate kitchen spaces to prepare food.  The Forest Hill/Honor Oak one makes food for Coqfighter , Zing Zing , Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen, Dishoom and Pho. Another one is in British Wharf, Landmann Way SE14 with food vendors including Jacob's Kitchen, Shake Shack,, Poke Shack, Remedy Kitchen, Jude's Ice Cream and Bleecker Burger. This site is known as Bermondsey 1, not far away at 145 Ormside Street, SE15 is Bermondsey 2 with Dishoom , Wing-Stop, Tao Tao Ju and Pho.

Deliveroo's kitchens have been mapped by Autonomy, and they have also researched this phenomenon noting that Deliveroo are just one of the businesses operating this model.  Foodstars, another big operator, has kitchens locally at 107 Ormside Street SE15 (off Ilderton Road) and at 81 Enid Street SE16.

With more strikes likely these places will be a focus as busy places where large numbers of delivery riders are constantly coming and going.

(below - pickets at Forest Hill Deliveroo kitchen last week, photo from Callum Cant on twitter.

Update: On Valentine's Day (14 February 2024) there was another successful strike, couriers blocked Westminster Bridge and there was a picket  - pictured below - of the Deliveroo dark kitchen on Ormside Street (picture again from Callum Cant)

Monday, January 22, 2024

Music Monday: Ewan MacColl, Peggy Seeger and the Critics Group in Beckenham

In musical terms the folk singer Ewan MacColl (1915-1989) is associated in most people's minds with the Salford where he was raised (the subject of his song Dirty Old Town) and the Scotland of his parents with which he so strongly identified. But many of his most creative years were actually spent in the outer reaches of South London.

MacColl seems to have first lived in London for a short period in the mid-1930s shortly after marrying his  first wife, Joan Littlewood. They hoped to pursue their radical theatre ambitions in the capital. In 1936 they lived for a while in 'a borrowed flat on the north side of Wandsworth Common' then 'rented an enormous run-down house at 113 West Side, Clapham Common, paid a month's rent deposit and a month's down, furnished the place with hire-purchase goods and set about communal living' with a group of young drama hopefuls. The money soon ran out and later that year they moved back to Manchester, though Littlewood was to return in the 1950s and become a major figure in theatre, living on Blackheath (where she hosted Brendan Behan - see previous Transpontine post).

In the 1953 MacColl moved back to South London with his second wife Jean Newlove - a dancer and choreographer who he had met through their involvement with Theatre Workshop. They rented a flat at 109 Rodenhurst Road in Clapham Park then later that year rented a flat at 11 Park Hill Rise in East Croydon; 'Old Theatre Union friends Barbara Niven - now a full-time fundraiser for the Daily Worker - and her partner, the social realist painter Ern Brooks, took the flat upstairs'. MacColl and Newlove put up visiting musicians and friends there including the American singer Big Bill Broonzy, folk song collector Alan Lomax and Scottish poet Hugh MacDiarmid.

Ewan and Jean had two children together, but by the time the second was born - the singer Kirsty MacColl - Ewan had fallen in love with the American folk singer Peggy Seeger. Peggy first lived in London in 1956 and over a couple of years lived as a lodger in Greenwich (16 Crooms Hill) at the home of another influential figure in the folk revival, A. L. Lloyd - as discussed previously here.

In 1959 MacColl and Seeger rented a flat at 55 Godstone Road, Purley before in 1961 taking out a mortgage on the upstairs flat at 35 Stanley Avenue, Beckenham, Kent - where MacColl lived for the rest of his life. This was not just a family home but a productive centre of London folk music. From 1964 to 1972 a group of folk singers met there regularly to study and sing. The Critics Group recorded a number of albums including two collections of London songs in 1966 'Sweet Thames Flow Softly' and 'A Merry Progress to London'. The collective with its floating membership was active in left wing politics, particularly opposition to the Vietnam War.

As described by MacColl biographer Ben Harker: 'The stalwarts who congregated in the Beckenham workroom on one, two or three evenings a week in 1964 were mainly in their early twenties. They were typically from working-class backgrounds, had been caught up in the skiffle craze, and had subsequently renounced American-based music in favour of British or Irish traditions'. Early members included Sandra Kerr, John Faulkner, Frankie Armstrong and Gordon McCulloch, as well as for a short while Luke Kelly of The Dubliners. Children's author Michael Rosen was a later member.

Sweet Thames Flow Softly, written by MacColl, was sung on the Critics Group recording by John Faulkner. A song of a pleasure boat trip from Woolwich Pier to Hampton Court, it has become something of a folk standard, sung by many including Christy Moore/Planxty, Sinead O'Connor, The Dubliners, Maddy Prior and of course MacColl himself. Throughout the 1970s and 1980s MacColl and Seeger ran their own Blackthorne Records from their Beckenham home where today there is a plaque commemorating 'political songwriter and playwright' MacColl.

All quotes above from Ben Harker, Class Act: The Cultural and Political Life of Ewan MacColl (2007)

Saturday, January 06, 2024

Goldsmiths Occupations: a chronology

Found at the awesome 56a Info Shop archive a copy of SHIP Network News (Southwark Homeless Information Project) reports an occupation at Goldsmiths College in Summer 1991, specifically of the  Outreach Unit at 32 Lewisham Way which had just been closed down. 'the occupiers have opened it up to anyone and everyone' and proclaimed a 'free university' with a planned democratic education summer school. Not sure how far this got, as they seemed to have quickly been served a court summons. I don't know if this was the same 1991 occupation at which there was talk of Spiral Tribe putting on a party in the Great Hall only to be blocked by nervous student union officials.

There have been quite a few occupations at Goldsmiths over the years, some of which we have covered here previously. But here's an attempt at a chronology - no doubt missing many so let us know if you have any others - or have memories/documentation of the one below.

1968: Perhaps surprizingly Goldsmiths does not seem to have been directly affected by the wave of student occupations of art schools in 1968, notably at Croydon and at Hornsey Colleges of Art. It is though recorded that ‘Sixty students from Goldsmiths’ College of Art, New Cross, SE, invaded Hornsey College of Art on the first day of its new term… They crowded into the corridors of Hornsey and chanted ‘We support you. We support you’. Hornsey college authorities called police, who dispersed the students and ejected them’ (Times, 5 November 1968).

1984:  the Administration building (later the Whitehead building) was occupied for 8 days to protest against staff cuts in the Media and Communications team (more here)

1999: as detailed by Past Tense, 'Part of Goldsmiths College, New Cross, was occupied 26th February – March 5th 1999. 300 students took over college admin building, after eight students were expelled because they couldn’t pay £1000 a year tuition fees that had been imposed on them. A court granted the college an eviction order, but the occupying students refused to leave till the eight reinstated. A few weeks previously, students had held a demonstration, blocking New Cross Road outside, over same issue'.

2009: a two day occupation of the Deptford Town Hall building  by 50 or so studentsas part of a national wave of protest against Israel's bombing of Gaza (plus ca change). The occupation did achieve one of its demands -  scholarships for students from Palestine's al-Quds university. The blog from the occupation is still online 


2010 saw a huge movement linking together university students, school students and others in the front line of austerity in the aftermath of the financial crash.  In November 2010 around 40 students occupied the old Deptford Town Hall for two days in protest at education cuts and the proposed increase in students fees. Effigies of prime minister David Cameron and his deputy Nick Clegg were strung up on New Cross Road next to a banner saying 'Education for the Masses, not the Ruling Classes'. More here:

Then in December 2010 there was a larger scale occupation of the library, with several hundred taking part at the beginning. This lasted for almost a week from 5 to 11 December (More here and here). I believe Kae Tempest (then known as Excentral Tempest) performed at the occupation. The radical anthropologist David Graeber, then working at the College, was heavily involved, going on the next year to play a significant role in the Occupy protest in New York.  I have a talk in the library on the radical history of New Cross.

In March 2011 there was a short occupation of the Town Hall in support of striking lecturers. More here

March 2011

A short occupation of the Whitehead building in November 2011 declared itself 'in solidarity with the UK-wide strike on November 30th and the global occupy movement. We are here because we reject the privatisation of the university, symptomatic of the neo-liberal agenda that permeates all aspects of life. For this reason we have strategically occupied the building housing Goldsmiths’ finance offices, responsible for executing the cuts and the privatisation agenda'. More here.

November 2011

In December 2013 around 100 people occupied the Town Hall building in support of striking staff. More here.


March 2015 saw another occupation of the Town Hall with a wide range of demands and a focus on the marketisation of education. More here


The Goldsmiths Anti- Racist Action occupation of 2019 took over part of the Town Hall and lasted for a mammoth 137 days between March and July. Arising as part of the global Black Lives Matter movement its demands focused on institutional racism at Goldsmiths. 


Monday, December 25, 2023

Music Monday: Jacqui McShee and Pentangle

Happy 80th birthday Jacqui McShee, born in Catford on Christmas Day 1943. Like many of their generation, Jacqui and her sister Pam got involved in the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament in the early 1960s, and through this got involved in the folk music scene. With friends she started a folk club at the the Red Lion Pub in Sutton, and then in 1967 she started the band Pentangle with guitarists John Renbourn and Bert Jansch, joined by  Danny Thompson on double bass, and Terry Cox on drums. A  string of innovative albums from 1968 to 1972 defined a new direction for English folk music, with jazz, rock and psychedelic influences. There have been various revivals and reformation since, and Jacqui is still performing.

Sunday, December 24, 2023

2024 London Calendars

Couple of fine 2024 calendars on sale at the Word bookshop in New Cross (and other local independent bookshops). South East London pubs by Lydia Wood is the latest outcome of her project of aiming to draw every pub in London. London Rebel History 2024 from Past Tense does what it says on the tin.


Friday, December 08, 2023

A young Irish woman in Lewisham, 1959

Leaving aside the dubious framing of this story ('workaday beauties' ffs), some nice local detail of a young Irish women's life in Lewisham 1959 - Mary O'Donoghue from Cork working in the Robertson Jam Factory in Catford, living in Davenport Road with her sister (a nurse at Hither Green Hospital) and socialising at the Harp Club in New Cross.

Wednesday, December 06, 2023

Flaneuse/'London as a man's city'

I recently read Laura Elkin's 'Flaneuse: Women Walk the City in Paris, New York, Tokyo, Venice and London' which explores the act of women's public presence on the streets as a subversive practice:

'It would be nice, ideal even, if we didn't have to subdivide by gender - male walkers, female walkers, flâneurs and flâneuses - but these narratives of walking repeatedly leave out a woman's experience... I like the built environment, I like cities. Not their limits, not the places where they become not-cities. Cities themselves. The heart of them. Their manifold quarters, sectors, corners. And it's the centre of cities where women have been empowered, by plunging into the heart of them, and walking where they're not meant to. Walking where other people (men) walk without eliciting comment. That is the transgressive act. You don't need to crunch around in Gore-Tex to be subversive, if you're a woman. Just walk out your front door'.

Elkin, a New Yorker who has spent much time in Paris, lived in Brockley when she was working on the book and mentions some of her London haunts: 'I have walked everywhere, and come to know Peckham High Street and Highgate, Bethnal Green and Green Park, Holland Park and Honor Oak, the Isle of Dogs and Dulwich, Clerkenwell and Camberwell, Greenwich and Gravesend'.

I was reminded of this when browsing an old guide to London,  Clarence Winchester's 'Let's look at London: A Travelogue for the Short Time Visitor' (Cassell 1935) which asserts that London is not a place for women... and that seemingly this is a good thing! (yes Clarence is a man in case you were wondering):

'If an Englishman's home is his castle, a Londoner's home is his thrice-moated strong-hold, even though the front wall stands on the pavement and there is only a yard of grass at the back. Perhaps that is why London strikes us as a man's city... 

It is true that London is by no means short of women, but they are not predominantly noticeable unless you take a stroll along Regent Street and Oxford Street about tea-time. We do not notice women in London as we do in New York or in Paris, or in Nottingham even. There are the "castles" to be looked after, and it is the women's job to see to that, which is just as well if we consider- as we should- that the domesticated man is an anachronism and an offence against nature.

In no other city in the world are men so well provided for as in London. In no other city is there a Clubland that so adequately symbolizes masculinity'

Monday, November 27, 2023

Music Monday: Chainska Brassika songs of Brockley and New Cross

Popular South London ska band Chainska Brassika include plenty of local references on their album 'Tales of a Londoner' which came out last year (and I'm only now catching up with).

'Down the Barge' tells of nights out in the Brockley Barge, which features in the video:

Another pub, currently closed, is mentioned in New Cross Stomp: '171 on a Friday night, down the White Hart for a couple swift pints'.

Friday, November 17, 2023

Life is one big road with a lot of sign

A traffic sign in New Cross Road, near to the bus garage, has been hosting a running commentary on the state of the world for over a year.

The latest iteration photographed today  includes the very timely 'ceasefire now', along with 'Just Stop Oil',  'A wealth tax could easily fund the NHS' and 'support workers  when they strike - tax the rich'

From April of this year 'Boris Johnson should pay his own f*cking legal fees':

November 2022 and there's a call for 'general election now', in smaller print underneath 'Rishi Sunak has too much money' (later somebody not so keen on the electoral road sprayed a black @sign over this, you can see a trace of it on image above)

September 2022 - 'say no to tory tax cuts, F**k the fat cats' complete with cat


Tuesday, November 07, 2023

Small Worlds - Caleb Azumah Nelson

Like his previous novel 'Open Water', 'Small Worlds' by Caleb Azumah Nelson is a beautifully written slice of young London African life, set in South London. In this instance the story of the unfolding family and intimate relationships of a young jazz musician living in Peckham - and visiting Ghana - is set between 2010 and 2012.

Narrator Stephen's parents have come to London in the 1980s in hard times: 'Mum says, when she arrived in winter she was so sure that in London, everything would be possible for her. What Mum didn't realize was that she was moving to a city in the wake of the Brixton riots and New Cross fires, a London living in the wake of explicit violence, a London in which there were people who might explicitly wish death upon her. Still, her older brother was already living here, so she quickly found accommodation halfway between New Cross and Lewisham, and work as a cleaner in Brix-to. To get to work, she would walk to Lewisham bus station, riding the P4 until the last stop, her hands thrust deep in her pockets to protect from the cold'.

Now Stephen has grown to be a young adult in the city. There are nights out in Deptford and Peckham, including at what was then peak period Bussey building and Peckhamplex cinema (not to mention Camberwell Nando's). One of the more evocative scenes for me though take place in one of my favourite places with Stephen jamming with some of his fellow jazz musicians:

'One time, we crammed into two cars and drove a little further south, to Beckenham Place Park, with its grounds which sprawl endlessly. It was spring and new life seemed to be blossoming, everywhere. Everything was possible. We dragged our instruments, deep into the wooded area, and formed a circle, sending sounds into the trees. Just before we started playing, someone placed a recorder in the middle of our small gathering, not because we didn't think we would remember, but because we didn't want to forget. As we were playing, my fingers slipped, an odd note coming from my horn. The mistake didn't go unnoticed, but we continued on. It made me grateful for the freedom to be in that space, to make a mistake; and how that mistake might be beautiful to the right ear; how Del heard that odd note and followed with her own, adjusting her thrum; how the rest of us followed that twist and shift, surrendering to whatever unknown we were going towards. It was there that I noticed I only really knew myself in song. In the quiet, in the freedom, in the surrender. Afterwards, as we trailed back to the cars, spent and yet still so full, we said things like 'I didn't know I needed that' and 'that was a spiritual experience.''

Put me in mind of those sweet jazz sessions you would stumble upon during Covid lockdown, in Peckham Rye or Hilly Fields or wherever.

Monday, October 30, 2023

Music Monday: Laura Misch 'Sample the Sky'

East Dulwich-raised Laura Misch has been marking the release of her new album, Sample the Sky, with some interesting local events in the last few weeks. There was a sound walk in Sydenham Woods, an event in the Brockwell Park greenhouses and, on 21 October 2023, a 'cloud bath' in the old waiting room above Peckham Rye station.  The latter featured an improvised set with Laura's saxophone accompanied by Slow Moon on guitar. People were invited to bring cushions so they could relax on the floor while artists Holobiont projected cloud imagery. Lots of lush reverb drenched tones approaching a spiritual jazz vibe, it was a lovely event.

There's an interesting interview with Laura at The Line of Best Fit where she talks about her musical and woodland inspirations.

The album is more song based, including the previous single Portals -  the video of which, I am reliably informed, was styled with the help of Bleak House Flowers in Brockley Cross

Thursday, October 26, 2023

The Tidal Year


Freya Bromley's 'The Tidal Year: a memoir on grief, swimming and sisterhood' sees the author travelling around Britain's tidal pools in the aftermath of her brother's untimely death. Along the way she visits some of my favourite swimming spots including Walpole Bay in Margate, Clevedon Marine Lake (on the Severn Estuary) and Dancing Ledge in Dorset.

But her home turf swimming spot is Brockwell Park Lido, even through the swimming there does not always come easy: 'Getting in the lido felt like a punishment, which something inside me needed. Getting out felt like a rebirth, which everything inside me needed. I took short, sharp breaths as the water burned my ankles, thighs, stomach, then chest. Crying happens on an inhale, and swimming gives me that same breathless sensation. I swam three laps, then at the deep end screamed underwater. When I emerged, I couldn't stop crying. Witnessing someone having a breakdown in a public pool must be a good way to see British manners'.

Along the way friendships and romance play out against a backdrop of familiar South London landmarks. East Dulwich Picturehouse, the Prince of Wales in Brixton, Myatts Fields, Herne Hill market, the Camberwell Arms and the Silk Road restaurant (also in Camberwell) all feature, not to mention a first date checking out the Lime Kiln in Burgess Park.

Thursday, October 19, 2023

Tuesday, October 17, 2023

Cider with Joyce

Delighted to have the first pint to be served of the new 'Joy is an Orchard' cider at Joyce in Brockley tonight, blended by them at Ross on Wye cider.


Friday, October 13, 2023

Peckham Taser Death Protest

A demonstration took place on Saturday 30th September to protest against the death of Zodoq Obatolah, a 52 year old man who died after being tasered by police in Peckham earlier this year. People marched from the Rye Hill Estate, where the man died in April apparently after falling from a balcony following being tasered. The protest ended in a rally at Peckham police station where people sat in the road to hear speeches from the United Friends and Families Campaign, which brings together people affected by the deaths at the hands of the police.  Speakers included Marcia Rigg, whose brother Sean Rigg died in Brixton police station in 2008, and Germaine Phillips whose son Adrian McDonald died after being tasered by police in Staffordshire in 2014.

Sunday, October 01, 2023

La Discotheque/Bouncing Ball/Kisses/Chicago's in Peckham

La Discotheque in Soho's Wardour Street  opened in around 1961 and was perhaps the first place to use 'discotheque' as the name for a club in the English speaking world (there had been clubs of that name in Paris since the 1940s). The Soho club earned some notoriety as the 'Soho nerve centre' of 'the purple heart racket' (Times 10 June 1964) but that didn't stop it expanding with other branches opening up in  Oxford Street, Streatham High Road and Peckham High Street. 

Not sure of the source of the advert below promising 'The West End comes to Peckham' with 'the accent on Rhythm and Blues, and Twist' to 'Hi Fi Stereo featuring the famous Nite-Sounds':

This advert from Streatham News suggests that the Peckham club ('London's most fabulous dancing club') opened in June 1963 and was open every night until 2 am:

I found a memory of the club on Facebook: 'Went a fair bit when around 15... can remember Frankie Fraser selling purple hearts and black bombers from his car parked outside. Probably around 1964'.

Location is given as 'facing the Oodeon cinema' which was where the Job Centre now stands. I assume the club was in the same location as the later Bouncing Ball/Mr B's/Kisses/Chicago - 43 Peckham High Street. Originally built in 1890s as the Central Hall, it was know for a while in the 1960s as the Maverick club then Mr Bee's/The Bouncing Ball.

Think this Bouncing Ball flyer is from 1979, mostly reggae including Delroy Wilson and lovers rock girl group Brown Sugar (with young Caron Wheeler later of Soul II Soul). Bob Marley and the Wailers are believed to have played there in 1973 though there is a story that the band refused to play on one occasion. Don Letts took Joe Strummer from The Clash to the club.

Although best remembered as a reggae club, the Bouncing Ball also hosted a regular heavy metal Monday night in the early 1980s with resident DJs The Bailey Bros - two black former Yorkshire miners (flyer below from December 1981):

Known as Kisses in the mid 1980s, regular DJs there George Power and Gordon Mac (McNamee) named their new London dance music pirate radio station after it - Kiss FM. In that period the club was closely linked to the pirate radio/soul scene - Solar Radio put on events there and LWR (London Weekend Radio) did a a live broadcast from there in 1986, shortly before the club changed ownership and was renamed La Plaza. This prompted 'Blues & Soul' (25/2/86) to  note that  "Kisses, that long time funk oasis in the hinterlands of Peckham, is no more." 

Later it became Chicago's, there's a short Channel 4 drama from 1992 called 'We the Ragamuffin'  (directed by Julian Henriques) that was filmed there and on the now demolished North Peckham Estate. For a while in the early 1990s there was a Vaders club night, featuring DJ Seduction and Grooverider among others.

The building today:


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)