Thursday, August 30, 2007

Some new Brockley blogs

...well new to me anyway.

The Coterie of Zombies is 'about one man, his boyfriend, his best friends and a bunny in Brockley. It's about art, knitting and gay sex'. Zombiemaster Howard James Hardiman is currently working on a participatory art project in Brockley where he's asking people to put in pictures of the local area under monsters, giant ants, zombies and their ilk to be displayed during October at the Broca café. It's called Brockzilla and people have until the end of September to submit pictures.

London SE4 is Brockley's only Italian language blog in which Moya writes a 'Blog di arte, cultura e tutto quello che (mi) capita a Londra... '. My own knowledge of Italian doesn't run much further than 'autonomia operaia' and 'Bella Ciao' but good to see anyway.

Camberwell Eviction

Camberwell Squatted Centre was evicted unexpectedly this morning by a van load of High Court bailiffs and 2 vanloads of police, who climbed in to the building at 4.30am and surprised the occupants. We had some good and interesting times there over the past 6 months, with music, film, politics, chat and even a bit of dancing.

There's a meeting tomorrow, Friday 31st August at 8pm, to plan the next move. It takes place at 56a Info Shop, 56 Crampton St, London SE17.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Fabric of Society

Fabric of Society is a piece of participatory public artwork facilitated by Artmongers at Café Orange/Telegraph Hill Centre on Kitto Road, New Cross (next to Telegraph Hill Park). To celebrate ts completion there's a picnic on Saturday 8th September, 12 to 3pm.

The great sandal strike of 1977

With the craze for brightly coloured plastic shoes sweeping the country this summer, here's a lesson from history for any schools thinking of denying the right to wear crocs! The following report was published in the Mercury, 7th July 1977:

Schoolkids went on a sandal strike - and won. Pupils at Sedgehill School, Bellingham, were told the could not wear their colourful plastic sandals in school. But a group of them organised secret meetings to plan a strike. And when the break-time bell rang pupils claim 500 stayed in the playground. One of them Sharon Williams, 14, of Morley Road, Lewisham said: 'One of the teachers came out and threatened the boys with a beating and girls with suspension. Some went back and the rest stayed'.

Veron Smith, 15, of Erlanger Road, New Cross, said: 'We said "Give in and we'll go in and do our work" and they did. The next day they announced we could wear them'. A teacher, who asked for her name to be withheld, said: 'They were told they could not wear them because they were dangerous and bad for their feet'.

After the strike last week, which lasted 15 minutes, some of the leaders claim they were picked out for punishment by being sent home. One of those sent home, David Fisher, 15, of Southend Lane, Bellingham, said: 'The plastic sandals are just cooler in the summer. I don't know why they are supposed to be dangerous. It was the deputy head, not the headmaster who stopped us wearing them'.

Headmaster James Turner declined to comment. An ILEA spokesman said: 'It was just a handful of pupils at the end of break discussing these plastic sandals which a member of staff though were slippery. The headmaster examined the sandals and felt that though they were unsuitable, they could still be worn'.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

East Dulwich UFO?

From South London Press (9 August 2007):

'Stunned star spotters were shocked to see mysterious lights flying above East Dulwich on Saturday, fuelling rumours of secret military experiments or visitors from the space in the area. Lawyer Richard Pringle, 33, of Peckham Rye, was walking home with his flatmate about 11.30pm when he spotted the UFOs rise above the Crystal Palace skyline.

He said: "We were both completely sober and we could see a row of four lights coming up over the hill and over Dulwich Village. If it was a plane you would have said it was at about 15,000 feet and you couldn't see any lights flashing or anything, you could just see a constant orange glow". Mr Pringle said the lights were followed by two more chains of four lights which moved as if propelled by an engine. He added: "There is no way you would have normal planes flying like that. People have said it's possibly planes from a military base nearby."'

Some discussion of this too over at the East Dulwich Forum, with suggestions including Chinese Wedding Lanterns, and account of the sighting (presumably from same person):

'Me and my flatmate (both rational professionals and sober at the time) were walking up peckham rye on the east side of the common at about 11 pm on saturday 4 august and saw 3 or so lines of quite small orange fiery lights, each line with about 4 lights in it, moving almost vertically up from the horizon near crystal palace masts, then, when they were fairly high in the sky, their trajectory flattened out sharply and they began to travel east over east dulwich and peckham rye. the speed and altitude were similar to that of a jet plane, but the flight path, formation, numbers and appearance were quite different. we watched for a few minutes. we left the road and went into our apartment building to get binoculars and look from our roof terrace; in the couple of minutes it took to get there, they had disappeared. did anybody else see this?'

The MOD wesbite records another sighting in East Dulwich on 19th January 2003 at 1 am, with a description of 'Lights, that were formed in a worm shape, wriggling around in the sky'.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Sterile Neighbourhoods Act

A couple of weeks ago, some people organised a community event called Hillaballoo in Telegraph Hill Park, New Cross. They were unlucky with the weather - it rained all day - but a steady stream of people came through and enjoyed the views from a camera obscura set up in the park. In time honoured local tradition, the event was publicised with flyers in the area put up on trees. One of the organisers has now been cautioned by Lewisham Council for putting up the posters, and told that any further occurrences could face a fine of £75 a poster. Apparently the new Cleaner Neighbourhoods Act forbids such things. Following the suspension of The Montague Arms' music licence for similar offences, it seems that the Council has launched some kind of zero tolerance campaign against posters.

The trees in the area are mostly hardy London planes and their bark is certainly robust enough to cope with staples and drawing pins, so I don't think there's a green argument here. For years they have functioned as a kind of community newspaper, carrying news of lost pets, meetings, car boot sales, gigs and other events in local schools, pubs and community centres. I have never seen this abused by people mass flyposting for commercial advertising, and if people do put up something out of character they just get pulled down - a kind of communal editing of the local street paper. It will be a real loss to the area if this is destroyed.

Lewisham has apparently proposed a community notice board as an alternative, but unless there are lots of them this will hardly suffice. The point about the trees is that they are located all over the place and seen by people as they walk around, unlike say a board in a park which only a minority will see. The point is also that there should be a public sphere in which people can communicate with each other without needing to fill in forms or otherwise seek the permission of the Council or other authorities.

This is not just a Lewisham issue - the Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act 2005 gives powers to Councils to impose on the spot fines for flyposting, dogs, noise etc. Most of these things were already covered by previous legislation, so people could be prosecuted if the offence was serious. Now they don't need to go through the trouble of actually involving the courts where evidence can be challenged. Lewisham do however have discretion in how they implement the Act.

Everybody wants 'cleaner, greener, safer neighbourhoods' (to use the Government jargon) but do we really want sterile neighbourhoods where every social interaction is regulated by the local or national state and harmless community posters are banished? Please don't tell me this is making my neighbourhood safer - there were three burglaries in my road last week and my partner had her handbag snatched! One of the things that does make communities safer is a flourishing civil society where people meet each other, talk to each other and look out for each other. Precisely the kind of things that events like Hillaballo encourage. But if people can't promote them with posters, how are we even going to know they're happening?

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Brockley Tea Factory

The conversion of the Tea Factory at Brockley Cross to loft flats is continuing, not sure yet whether there will be a bar/cafe on ground floor as suggested, but this was included in the planning permission for the site

The original building dates from the 1940s, and yes was used for storing and blending tea. Apparently the tea company had a previous building on the same site that was damaged during World War Two.
I can't pass on without mentioning the casual racism of the image of the development posted on the developers' website and displayed in giant version on the Endwell Road site itself. Yes everybody in this image of Future Brockley is remarkably light-skinned, especially compared to the actual people you are likely to encounter standing there now or in the shops round the corner. Is this the not so hidden subtext of all those articles in the Evening Standard and elsewhere about Brockley being 'up and coming'?

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Ziggy: Made in South London

David Bowie's origins in the suburbs of South London have been well-documented, but until recently I hadn't appreciated the specific role of Beckenham as the incubator of his legendary Ziggy Stardust look/persona.

According to 'Moonage Daydream - The Life and Times of Ziggy Stardust', it was while living at Haddon Hall, a decaying gothic mansion at 42 Southend Road, Beckhenham, that Bowie and friends put the finishing touches to Ziggy.

Bowie had the ground floor of the now-demolished house from 1969 to 1973, painting the ceilings silver and holding parties in the garden. The Ziggy outfits were stitched together at Haddon Hall under the direction of clothes designer Freddie Burrett (known as Burretti), and the songs that became The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars were rehearsed in an impromptu studio created under the stairs, as well as at the Thomas a Becket pub in the Old Kent Road.

The haircut was done by Suzi Fussey, who worked opposite the Three Tuns in Beckenham in the Evelyn Paget (now Gigante) hair salon - although she apparently copied the design from a magazine. The famous red and black platform boots were made by Stan Miller of Greenaway and Sons in Penge.

More on the Beckenham connection here.

Friday, August 03, 2007


Connoisseurs of interesting talks about South London are spoilt for choice next Thursday 9th August.

At Camberwell Squatted Centre, South London Radical History Group present 'Underground Lambeth' covering secret bunkers, lost rivers, junk-filled basements... all the stuff hidden beneath the streets and houses. 8 pm start at 190 Warham Street (free).

Meanwhile at Review in Peckham, Chris Roberts (One Eye Grey) presents 'Disappearing dancers, Pagan Estate Agents, Angels and Faceless Nuns', a talk about these as well as other singular Peckham and London Folklore, Ghost stories and other ephemera. 7:30 pm at 131, Bellenden Rd, SE15 4QY, tel: 020 7639 7400.