Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Modern Antiquarian

Getting increasingly addicted to The Modern Antiquarian, a fantastic compendium of stone circles and other ancient sites in UK and Ireland named after Grandmaster Julian Cope's book of the same name and subject. Most London sites have long since vanished, but there are still a few burial mounds to be found, including at Winns Common (Plumstead), Shooter's Hill (Shrewsbury Tumulus) and Wimbledon Common.

Yule be sorry if you miss it

South East London Folklore Society returns with Folk Yule: an evening of story telling, song, acoustic music, traditional and magical games and other (mostly) carbon neutral entertainments. You're welcome to join in with a song, story or some other entertainment.

Thursday 14th December, revels shall commence from 8pm in the upstairs room of The Royal George, 85 Tanners Hill, Deptford, London, SE8 4QD. Just off the Lewisham Way. (map here). A £2.50 donation is requested to cover room hire and other costs.

Contact scott@selfs. org.uk or clare@selfs. org.uk

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

I'm Your Fan

Greenwich Picturehouse are showing Leonard Cohen: I'm Your Man next week, a documentary about my favourite Jewish Buddhist Canadian singer-songwriter. Should be good, even if features a tribute concert with obligatory performances from U2, Rufus Wainwright and others not worthy to touch the hem of Len's garment.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Sympathy for the Devil

Watched Sympathy for the Devil last night, Jean-Luc Godard’s film structured (very loosely) around The Rolling Stones recording their greatest song. I am not a great fan of The Stones but this song has a particular resonance as the track always played as the last record at The Venue in New Cross during many 1990s indie-nights, with hundreds of drunk people 'whoo whooing' in chorus for most of the song.

In musical terms the film demonstrates what a triumph the recorded version is in comparison with some of the dire earlier takes. Also noteable is that Keith Richards plays bass throughout with ostensible Stones bassist Bill Wyman relegated to Maracas.

But this is radical avant garde 'cinemarxism' circa 1968, so the music is only one element of a collage with elements including a narrator reading political porn (‘Foster Dulles went inside to order Princess Beatrice a Molotov Cocktail’) , staged scenes of armed Black Power activists in a car scrapyard down by the Thames and a parody of the banality of interviews with a young woman pursued through a wood answering in monosyllables to questions like 'Do you feel exploited from the moment you step into an interview?' and 'Do you think drugs are a spiritual form of gambling'. Meanwhile figures pop up in the London landscape painting graffiti about Viet Nam.

God knows what the later Sir Michael Jagger made of it all, though apparently even this version was too much of a compromise for Godard whose final take left out a complete version of 'Sympathy for the Devil' only for the film to be edited to include it at the end without his consent over images of fighting on the sand in a section entitled 'Under the Stones the Beach'.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Life is Cheap

A horrific story on the front page of this week's South London Press (17.11.2006), which for some reason isn't on their website at present:

A corpse was left rotting for weeks after council officials failed to help a man living in a cleaning cupboard, it was claimed today. The man, an immigrant from Togo known as Atayi, was found after residents reported a sickening smell. Police went to a cupboard used to store cleaning products at Perronet House in Elephant & Castle at 12.15pm on Wednesday. After smashing down the door officers found the body of the man, in his late 40s. Cops at the scene told people living on the second floor the man was thought to have been dead for at least three weeks.

People who live in Perronet House told the South London Press Atayi had been working in the block but lived rough so he could send as much money as possible back to his wife and children in Togo. Early reports suggest he died from carbon monoxide poisoning - it is believed as a result of cooking on a camping stove - but a full post-mortem is expected today. Questions are being asked of Southwark Council after claims they had been told the man was squatting in the 8ft by 4ft cupboard as long ago as May but failed to act. It is said that Atayi worked as cleaner for the council and was therefore able to get past security doors at Perronet House....."

Although this an extreme case, it is indicative of the conditions of migrant workers in London today, people who may be branded as 'illegal' and denied rights such as access to healthcare, but who are relied on to the dirty jobs that nobody else wants to do. People who work as low paid cleaners in every office in town, paid a pittance and making profits for multi-national cleaning firms like ISS. If you feel the urge to do more than sigh and turn away, you might want to check out the Justice for Cleaners campaign which is organsing two weeks of action in support of ISS cleaners next week. This isn't just a London issue either, check out the current Justice for Janitors strike in Houston, Texas.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Strange vehicles of South London (1)

This Russian T-34 tank has been situated at the corner of Mandela Way and Pages Walk (just off New Kent Road) for a few years. From time to time it gets painted - at one time it was pink, but this is its latest colour scheme.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006


After the recent Nunhead Black Panther incident, we now have reports of vulture sightings in Richmond Park and Beddington sewage farm, near Croydon.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Ladywell Pool Saved

Well done to Save Ladywell Pool campaign - Lewisham Council has now reversed its decision to demolish it to make way for a much-needed new secondary school. The school will be built instead at Lewisham Bridge. Details here

Your Arsenal

Down by the River Thames at the site of Woolwich Arsenal today, many of the old buildings still standing from when it supplied guns and ammunition for the Empire, but now being turned into luxury flats.

My great great grandfather, Thomas Cook, worked there in the 19th century and his father and grandfather before him (in the 1851 Census, Thomas junior is listed as a 'laboratory boy' and his father as 'labourer, Royal Arsenal'). Later Thomas's sister Jane worked there as a teenage 'cartridge maker' while another brother, John, worked as a 'metal turner' in the Royal Laboratory.

You can only take nostalgia so far, and it is surely better that these buildings are now homes instead of factories producing lethal weapons for the British army. Still, once again I ponder the irony of riverside locations where the poor once lived and worked becoming, in the words of a brochure I picked up today, spaces for 'bespoke penthouse living'.

On another tack entirely, entering the site from Beresford Street, there is an unusual weather worn statue (above) bearing the plaque 'Deus Lunus - late Roman work, brought from Egypt'. Any ideas what a statue of a moon god is doing at Woolwich Arsenal? It stares across to a fine 1764 sundial, complete with moon and St George & Dragon imagery (below).

Saturday, November 11, 2006


Tales of a Nunhead micro-brewery, anyone?


I've also been intrigued by Witcomb cycles, an ancient looking bike shop in an even more ancient looking building in Deptford. Now thanks to Slightly Lost in the World you can read the full story of its pivotal role for the global cyclist massive. Must get the two wheeled monster out of the cellar.


In a Peckham art squat today it's the last day chance to take in Openlab 3, featuring 'Installations, sonic interventions, video works, animations, digital musics' from more than 20 artists and musicians engaging 'in the aesthetics and politics of Free Open Source Software'. It's open from 1 to 7 pm, with performance from 4 pm at The Midnight Blue Gallery (autoitalia south-east london gallery), 82-86 Queens Road, Peckham.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Lost Penguin Found in New Cross

Strolling down the New Cross Road last Saturday afternoon I stumbled across a gig at Rubbish & Nasty by Lost Penguin. It was great, amidst the retro clothes and vinyl in the shop there was a riot of fuzzy bass, shouty boy/girls vocals, drum machine and korg synth noises, stripy jumpers, yellow jackets and more. Ever in search of the Riot Grrrl revival (OK I know it never really went away), I am pleased to report that some of their faster tracks reminded me a little of Le Tigre.

Anyway there's more free music action on Saturday afternoons until Christmas, with Tea and Toast Band tomorrow at 3 pm, and a Wonktronica Showcase on 18th November. All at 308 New Cross Road.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Dis-Orient X

'Ten years after the book Dis-Orienting Rhythms: the Politics of the New Asian Dance Music (zed books 1996) we've decided to have a party (or a wake) and discuss, and dance, about the new world disorder.

3pm start - speakers - Sonia from ADFED, Anamik Saha of Goldsmiths, Sanjay Sharma, Aki Nawaz showing the new Fun-da-mental video, & panel discussion... finish 6pm

Followed by Dis-Orient X club night 7.30 - 12with Aki Nawaz from Fun-da-mental and SPARK! on the decks.

Friday 17 November @ New Cross Inn.

A benefit for the 1857 Indian war of Independence Commemoration Committee. Donations at the door. All welcome'.

How does it feel? gig at the Windmill

Our fave indie-pop night, How Does if Feel? are putting on a gig on Thursday November 9th at The Windmill, Blenheim Gardens, Brixton. The line up is
Francois/Amida/The Steadies/The Darlings and it all starts at 8pm, a mere five pounds entry.

Francois are described as 'Bookish boys with library tans singing', Amida as 'quietly cool, gloriously romantic, indie pop janglers'. The Steadies reference 'Nick Drake and Belle & Sebastian and every loveable acoustic
dreamer going'. The Darlings remain a mystery, but doubtless have impeccable music taste.

Radical film night in New Cross

Class Acts presents a double bill of cinematic delights plus yummy food.

'The Free Voice of Labor-the Jewish Anarchists' tells the story of the anarchist movement among Jewwish immigrants to the USA from the 1880s until the final days of the Jewish anarchist newspaper 'Freie Arbeiter Stimme' in the 1970s.

'An injury to One- the Frank Little story' tells the story of the mysterious death of the Wobbly organiser Frank Little in 1917, following his radical organising of the workers of the Anaconda Mining Company. The film includes music from Low, Jim O'Rourke and William Oldham.

Wenesday 15th November, 7.30 for food, 8.00pm for film. At the Cafe Crema, 306 New Cross Rd, SE14. Only £4 includes delicous veggie meal.

Further information from useyourloaf@btinternet.com

New River

'The roving South London Radical History Groupies are going to walk along the south end of North London's New River and do a bit of sightseeing, and politico-historical chattering along the way... the idea is to meet up at Turnpike Lane tube at 2pm on Sunday 26th November and work our way down the river, stopping at Clissold Park cafe for a cup of tea, and then on to Sadlers Wells. After that we can wander back to Angel or Chapel Market to hang out in a pub and maybe try one of the "eat as much as you like" buffets... bring umbrellas, gossip and chat about historical spots we pass...'

For further information, or to be added to the SLRHG mailing list, contact mudlark1@postmaster.co.uk

Sunday, November 05, 2006


Good to see James Righton of 'new rave' instigators The Klaxons giving South East London its dues in the NME student guide (October 2006). Among his five favourite London places he lists are the Montague Arms in New Cross, the Skillian Centre rehearsal studio in Deptford, the Wah Wah squat in Peckham and the silver box in the middle of the Elephant and Castle roundabout, a 'portal to another dimension' where he once spoke to a fox!

Friday, November 03, 2006

Beast of Nunhead

'Interesting if true' report in the South London Press (20 October 2006) about a possible Alien Black Cat sighting in Nunhead:

Panther prowled into my lounge

A space scientist had a close encounter of the furred kind when a black panther called at his home. Astro physicist Brian Shear claims the big cat walked into his living room and settled on his settee in the early hours of Thursday.

Brian said: "It had green eyes and was between four to five feet long, nose to tail. This was no pussycat. It didn't miaow, it growled. I'd been sitting in my armchair when it walked in. I didn't try to get too close to it because I was concerned it might bite me. I just sat there and talked to it like you would a normal pussy cat. I said, 'Hello puss, where've you been then?' and it just growled. It seemed quite content and I didn't feel threatened. I don't think it would have harmed me.It seemed familiar with humans."

The 64-year-old diabetic said he had woken up at his home in Nunhead Lane, Nunhead, feeling ill and opened his front door to let some air in but got the uninvited house guest instead. After an hour the cat left Brian's home and disappeared towards Dulwich.

It is not the first time a big cat has been reported in South London. Last year dad-of-three Tony Holder said he was pounced on by a large cat-like animal in the backyard of his Sydenham home. Armed police patrolled the neighbourhood for several days afterwards and people were warned not to use local parks. Experts suspected a black panther had leapt at Mr Holder.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Ghosts and Monsters of south-east London

Samhein is over but today is the Day of the Dead.

SELFS is resting at the moment ('retreating to jump further' as they say) but we're still doing the odd bit. I'm giving a talk on the 'Ghosts & Monsters of Brockley & Surrounds' at Moonbow Jakes coffee shop and bar from 8pm tonight.

That'll be strange and fortean things happening in Brockley, Nunhead, Honor Oak, Lewisham, Deptford and Sydenham. There'll also be a couple of other local writers doing readings.

Sorry it's late notice, I didn't have a time until this morning, but I hope someone could come along.

Moonbow Jakes Brockley: 020 86949128

325 Brockley Road, London SE4 2QZ.

Find them equidistant between Brockley (turn right and up Brockley Road) & Crofton Park (turn left and down Brockley Road)

Train stations. Buses 122, 171, 172 & 484