Sunday, April 29, 2007

Kropotkin in Bromley

Following on from our recent discovery of 19th century French anarchist Louise Michel living in East Dulwich, we can now add that her friend and contemporary, Russian anarchist Peter Kropotkin (1842-1921) lived in exile in Bromley. There's even a plaque to mark this on the house at 6 Crescent Road, Bromley (known at the time as Viola Cottage).

Kropotkin moved to Bromley in 1894, and while he was living there developed his anarchist-communist perspective in his best known books: Fields, Factories, and Workshops, Mutual Aid, and Ethics. He was visted there in 1899 by Emma Goldman.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

May Day 1924

Here's a May Day message from Bermondsey Labour Magazine in 1924, the likes of which we won't be hearing from Tony Blair or Gordon Brown next week:

"All over the world the organised Labour movement has set aside May 1st as a special holiday or festival. From pagan and mediaeval times the period of the year marked by the beginning of the month of May has been held as a time of rejoicing at the return of sunshine and warmth after the greyness and frost of winter. In the young tress the sap is rising. Flowers and buds and blossoms are lifting up their faces to the sun. Shall not humanity do likewise and rejoice with them? May Day for our ancestors, therefore, symbolised the Dawn of Hope - hope of harvest, hope of fruit, hope of plenty, hope of the glad time to come after the bleak discomfort of the past months.

For Labour and the toiling masses everywhere, May Day signifies the new hope of the better days that are to be. It proclaims the bursting of the fetters of convention; it delcares deliverance from the bondage of wage slavery; it tells of the times when the disinherited shall share in the beauty, the joy, the dignity of like. And, as the men of the past proclaimed their faith in the future by song and dance and merrymaking, by procession and pageant and revel, so the Labour and Socialist Movement over Europe demands that May 1st shall be a day of demonstration, of carnival, of freedom from work. The celebration of May Day is Labour's proclamation to the tyrants of Land and Capital that the mighty are to put down from their seats and that the people of low degree are at long last to enter into their inheritance... May Day is Labour's International Holy-day.
(The Meaning of May Day, Bermondsey Labour Magazine, May 1924. The Merrie England cover is from May 1928).

May Day 2007

Various May Day goings on in the South London area on Tuesday.

Fowlers Troop and the Deptford Jack in the Green will be doing their traditional May Day procession, not in Deptford this year, but in the Borough (Southwark) then over London Bridge into the City. They will be starting out at 11:00 am from the Market Porter, Stoney Street (Borough Market).

The folk at Camberwell Squatted Centre are having a procession from the Centre to Kennington Park, where there will be a maypole and picnic. Meet 2pm at 192 Warham St, off Camberwell New Rd, Camberwell SE5. Picnic starts at 3pm .

In the evening Strawberry Thieves Socialist Choir will be celebrating May Day at the Brockley Social Club on the corner of Foxberry Road and Brockley Road by the Esso petrol station. As well as songs and drink, there will be a short talk by me on the history of May Day in South London. 7:30 pm start, admission free.

(image: a London chimney sweeper, May Day 1813)

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Venue Pre-history

The Venue in New Cross Road has a long history as a place of entertainment. It opened as the New Cross Super Kinema in 1925, with a cinema on the ground floor and the New Cross Palais de Danse above, as well as a cafe. The name was shortened to New Cross Kinema from 1927, the plain Kinema in 1948, and finally Gaumont in 1950. It closed in August 1960, and remained derelict for some time. Part of the building was demolised before the old dancehall became The Harp Club and then The Venue (the picture here is from the 1920s).

There is an account of going out dancing in the 1940s here:

'Our favourite little places for dancing was the New Cross Palais, it never had drinks licence or anything like that, and it's now The Venue painted black! At Laurie Grove Baths, they used to cover it over with a beautiful floor over the swimming pool, and there'd be a proper band. But New Cross Palais had the best band, because it was Art Tullock and his band and it was a beautiful dance floor. I can't remember how much it was, I think it was about two shillings. We used to go to Greenwich Town Hall, and dance to records, it was a shilling on a Tuesday, and walk home. Go on the tram because you didn't want to get your hair all messed up, and walk home. Two shillings at the Palais, and Sunday it used to be Club Day only, but we used to go up and stand outside, and some of the lads would come up, and they'd sign us in you see, so we used to get in that's what we used to do.

We didn't do a lot of drinking in those days, only if the young lads from our youth club used to go up there. Hardly any of them could dance, but they used to suggest the three of us might go up the Marquis, and we'd have a larger and lime, and then go back to the dance thing. There wasn't a lot of money around in those days".

Al Tallack and his Band were the resident musicians at New Cross Palais right through the war and up until about 1956 (Tallack was born in Woodpecker Road in New Cross).

Monday, April 23, 2007

Dizzee in Deptford

Dizzee Rascal is of course from East rather than South East London, but nice to read in this interview that his first encounter with Cage (his manager and producer) happened down our way:

"Aged 16, Dizzee came into the studio in Deptford where Cage was recording a vocal hook for the Roll Deep Crew. The track in question, 'Bounce', had been written by flaky E3 magus Wiley - who will crop up again in our story. 'I'd been bothering Wiley for ages, man,' Dizzee remembers. 'He just thought, "Ah - little kid in the area." He probably didn't take me serious, but you come to the point where you stop talking and just do.'

Cage finds the track on his computer, and Dizzee listens with his head in his hands. His voice sounds a little higher than the gruff, charismatic squawk of Maths & English - in fact, it's barely broken - but it's no less menacing. His naivety is only momentarily betrayed by an eager declaration of his willingness to play 'local raves and concert shows'."

New Cross Darkside

Momentum is building up for the May bank holiday weekend. On May 5th there's a festival across New Cross and Deptford with at least 12 venues and 100+ acts - all for one ticket (details here).

To kick the weekend off there's this night downstairs in the Venue, love the flyer. Details at Music Tourist Board

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Louise Michel in East Dulwich

An interesting East Dulwich resident...

Louise Michel (1830-1905) was a celebrated figure in 19th century French politics, an anarchist who fought at the barricades in the Paris Commune of 1871 and was subsequently exiled to New Caledonia. Returning to France in 1880 she was frequently in conflict with the authorities, and decided to flee France for London in July 1890, shortly after being arrested following May Day riots.

She stayed temporarily in lodgings at 59 Charlotte Street, Fitzroy Square - an area where many radical refugees hung out. She then moved to East Dulwich, where she seems to have remained until returning to France in November 1895. According to Edith Thomas's biography, she was interviewed there a number of times by French journalists and also visited by fellow Communard Charles Malato, who found the then 62 year old Michel surrounded by cats, dogs and a parrot that cried 'Long live anarchy!'.

Thomas gives the address as 79 Arspley Terrace - I can't find any trace of this today. Has anybody got any idea where this was. It is possible there is a spelling mistake, although I have also loooked under Aspley Terrace.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Tippa Irie

Going to this on Saturday at the Albany in Deptford, launch party for new Tippa Irie album.

This is a sound with deep local roots - Tippa Irie grew up in Brixton and, like Papa Levi and Roger Robin (also on the bill for Saturday) came to prominence through his association with legendary South London Saxon sound system

Monday, April 16, 2007

Another girl, another planet

Whether 'Another girl, another planet' by The Only Ones is the best rock single of all time (apparently suggested by All Music Guide), it is certainly the best thing to ever come out of Forest Hill.

Last week's Guardian had a good interview with Peter Perrett, Only Ones lead singer, still holed up in South London. The band basically fell apart amid levels of drug use that would put Pete Doherty to shame, after the split 'Sequestered in a crumbling gothic house in Forest Hill that he fortified against police raids, Perrett took and dealt heroin'. Now the band are reforming (isn't everybody?).

Last days of the working river

Picked up a copy of 'The Ladybird Book of London' (1961), featuring a fine picture by John Berry of the South bank of the Thames by Tower Bridge, at a time when there were still working docks there.
The text reads 'When we pass under London Bridge we are in the Pool of London, one of the most famous stretches of river in the world. On one hand are ships and cranes, on the other a magnificent sight: the Tower of London and, up on its hill, St Paul's Cathedral'.
The only cranes there now are redeveloping buildings rather than loading ships.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Surrealism and Magic

12th April: Stuart Inman - Surrealism and Magic
Stuart Inman is a founder member of the London Surrealist Group and a scholar of surrealism. He has specialised in surrealism in Czechoslovakia and the poetics of surrealism. The current talk examines a much misunderstood aspect of surrealism, its engagement with hermetic, alchemical and occult thought.

Presented by South East London Folklore Society

SELFS meet every second Thursday at The Old King's Head, Kings Head Yard, 45-49, Borough High St, London, SE1 1NA.

Nearest stations are London Bridge and Borough. It is just offBorough High Street , a map is

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

South London Radical History Group

South London Radical History Group are back with a couple of events at the new Camberwell Squat Centre.

On Wednesday April 11th, 7.30pm there's a film night on the 26th anniversary of the first great Brixton riot in 1981 with two movies, one old and one quite new: The Brixton Tapes (1984) and The Battle for Brixton (2006).

Then on Thursday 19 April, 7.30 pm there's 'RARE DOINGS AT CAMBERWELL' a talk about some of the radical and social history of one of sunny South London's finest boroughs... Meet Chartists and artists, strikers and rioters, trade unionists and anti-fascists, squatters and plotters... From Camberwell Fair to Bonkersfest.

Venue for both: Camberwell Squat Centre, 192 Warham Street, London SE5off Camberwell New Road... Buses: P5, 36, 436, 185. Nearest Tube: Oval. Entrance: donation

A Transpontine Top Ten

A big weekend is planned in Deptford and New Cross on May 5th and 6th, with loads of live music happening in local pubs and other venues (including one very exciting international act, fingers crossed). Keep an eye on Rocklands for emerging details. Anyway for the programme I've come up with a Transpontine Top Ten of songs/artists linked to the area. In no particular order, here it is:

1. The Only Living Boy in New Cross (1992): Carter the Unstoppable Sex Machine had a top five hit with this tale of ‘greboes, crusties and goths’
2. New Craas Massakkah – Linton Kwesi Johnson (1984): dub poet’s take on the 1981 New X Fire.
3. Up the Junction – Squeeze (1979): South London kitchensink drama from band who started out on Deptford Fun City records
4. Mad Dot – The Band of Holy Joy (1986): ‘when I walk up the New Cross Road when I’m starved and I haven’t been fed’.
5. Nancy Boy – Placebo (1996): former Drakefell residents who met in a pub in Deptford.
6. Action Time and Vision – Alternative TV (1978): Deptford and ATV’s Mark Perry started Sniffin’ Glue, the original punk fanzine.
7. Gravity’s Rainbow – Klaxons (2006) :first single on Angular records when they were just a little band in New Cross. The song title references Thomas Pynchon’s novel, which features a rocket explosion in Greenwich Park.
8. Cloudbusting – Kate Bush (1985): Kate started her career living in Brockley and playing gigs at the Royal Albert in New Cross Road and the Rose of Lee (now Dirty South)
9. Judy Teen – Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel (1974): glam rocker grew up in New Cross.
10. Death Cab for Cutie – Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band (1967): Bonzos met at Goldsmiths in New X, performed this song in The Beatles ‘Magical Mystery Tour’ film and gave a name to current US emo rockers.

Fairly arbitrary I know, the list could be a lot longer. What would your suggestions be?