Wednesday, December 31, 2008
Earlier on the jukebox they'd been playing some good music - including Egyptian Reggae by Jonathan Richman - and some terrible music - including Donny Osmond and the Bay City Rollers. The latter reminded me of the strangest encounter I've had in that pub - a couple of years ago I had a drunken conversation with somebody who claimed to have just missed out on fame with the Bay City Rollers as he'd been in a band with them all before they became successful. Must admit I was sceptical, but when I checked later I found that the details (names etc.) he'd given me were all correct. So maybe his story that not long before he'd brought an old friend for a drink in Skehans was also true - none other than Les McKeown himself, former teenage heart-throb and BCR lead singer. What next, David Cassidy in the Hobgoblin?
Well that was Christmas Eve. Not sure of final New Year's Eve plans but I know I'm not planning to spend too much time outside in this temperature. Will probably make it up to Telegraph Hill Park for midnight - if you haven't been there before, there's usually quite a crowd at the park's highest point by the tennis courts watching fireworks going off all over London. Not sure when this started - it's definitely been happening every year since the turn of 2000, but I can't remember whether it was happening before that.
It's also the closing party at Moonbow Jakes in Brockley tonight, sad occasion, New Year's Day will see that place empty.
Tuesday, December 30, 2008
'The church of St. Catherine, Hatcham, situated in Pepys-road, New Cross, was practically destroyed by fire shortly after noon yesterday, and the damage, which is partially covered by insurance, is estimated at several thousand pounds. The walls and centre-arches are not seriously injured, and it is hoped that little will have to be expended in their restoration. At half-past eleven the vicar, the Rev. H.J.H. Truscott, visited the church and found everything as usual, but half an hour later he was amazed to see the building in flames. He states that the gas was turned off securely and that the heating apparatus had not been used for a fortnight. This would lead to the belief that the fire was the work of an incendiary, and it has been suggested that suffragists are responsible….
The church occupies a commanding position at the top of Pepys-road, and is a landmark for many miles around. It was erected about 20 years ago at a cost of £18,000 by the Habderdashers Company…
The fire was first noticed from Aske’s school by an employee who immediately gave the alarm. The vicar hurried to the building with the intention of saving the more valuable ornaments and furniture, but the flames were so fierce in the chancel that he was obliged to give up the idea of entering that part of the church. He was able, however, to get into the vestry, from which he removed the registers and church documents to a place of safety….
The sight of the burning church attracted large crowds. The firemen were greatly handicapped in their work owing to the fact that the water had to be pumped a considerable distance up the hill… About 5 o’clock the fire was under control, and when the firemen were able to enter the building it was apparent that the outbreak occurred near the organ… The side chapel was practically intact and also the stained-glass windows, which are situated at the far end of the building. Many of the oak pews in this part of the church had not been burnt.
The vicar informed a newspaper representative that he was convinced that the outbreak was the work of suffragists or of incendiaries. He said “ Last night I noticed two women and a man hanging about outside the church, although there had been no service. I went away for a short time and when I returned they were still there”'.
(Transpontine note - This is the church next to Telegraph Hill Park. I have heard the story of the church being burnt by militant suffragists before. The Times story confirms that this was the view of some at the time, but I have been unable to find any evidence of anybody being charged with this, or of suffragists claiming it. The timing - in 1913 - does though coincide with the period when suffragettes were starting fires in public buildings, including churches. And the fire is reported - with the above photo - in Diane Atkinson's The Suffragettes in Pictures, Museum of London, 1976. The photo is also interesting as the public space where the crowd is standing does look bigger than what is there now - this is where the roundabout now stands at the junction of Jerningham/Pepys/Vesta roads).
Monday, December 29, 2008
A friend (Mick H.) has told me that he used to go El Partido club in Lewisham (8-10 Lee High Road) in the 1960s, a place he remembers being frequented mainly by young Jamaicans as well as some local white mods. King Ossie Sound played out there regularly. Other guests included Jimmy Cliff and the Duke Reid Sound System from Jamaica (both in 1966) and Bo Diddley in 1965.
George Austin recalls at Ska2Soul: 'music was a mix of Ska, Blue Beat and American Soul/Motown. The Club was on two floors, it had a small stage and very low ceilings just the place for live acts. Usually with two sound systems, one on each floor. Upstairs Duke Reid played with his home made sound system tucked away in a small corner, it was a large box, stood about chest height, which housed the amp with a single record deck on top. It had a selection of small lights on the front. The sound was turned down at the end of each record as it was removed and replaced with another disc, a large record box stocked with the latest sounds stood by the side, it's lid open displaying the contents. Speakers stacked up to the ceiling in each open room, pumping out the sound, using about 200 watts. The smell of hash in the air people dancing everywhere'.
There was also the Savoy Rooms in Catford (75 Rushey Green), originally a 1950s ballroom and known in the 1960s as the Witchdoctor. In the 70s it was renamed Mr Smiths, and I've also seen it referred to as the Black Cat - a later incarnation? The Rolling Stones, The Who (April 1966) and Desmond Dekker (1969) all played there. There is a delightful poem called The Savoy Rooms by Marie Marshall, in which she recalls being 'thirteen trying for sixteen in the court of the mohair miniskirt'. In March 1966, a man was shot dead in the club in a gangland battle involving members of the Richardson gang (including Frankie Fraser)
I've also seen mention of the Glenlyn ballroom in Forest Hill (15 Perry Vale - later Crystals Snooker Club) - the Kinks, Stones, Byrds and The Who all played there too.
Interested if anyone's got any memories of these or other places - happy to host any scanned photos, flyers or newspaper clippings people may have lying around too.
See related posts:
The Who in South London
The Mistrale Club in Beckenham - 1960s/1970s
The Green Man in Blackheath - 1960s jazz, r'n'b and Manfred Mann
The Fellowship Inn in Bellingham
Soul City record shop in Deptford
Ok, After my post about Brockley where I live, I decided to do one about the soulless, concrete homage to pure capitalism that occupies a rather innocent spot hidden behind Crystal Palace on the south edge of London. Croydon. Where, I am ashamed to admit, I have my design studio.
Kirsty MacColl, whom grew up in Croydon, once added it as number 5 in her top 50 things she hates, adding she hoped it would all be "blown up" someday. David Bowie said in an interview in 1999: “It was my nemesis, I hated Croydon with a real vengeance. It represented everything I didn't want in my life, everything I wanted to get away from. I think it's the most derogatory thing I can say about somebody or something: ‘God, it's so f**king Croydon!’”.
If asked my own quote on Croydon would be along the lines of: "Concrete, Suburbia and Nestle! such an uninspiring combination" or words to similar effect. After such recommendations, I decided it was not worth investigating further, but I did anyway...
Croydon, originally the seat of the Arch Bishop, and an important city in Surrey, was only officially part of London in 1965, when the London boundaries we're widened as the city grew in the post war boom, a previous expansion in boundary in the early 1900s saw areas such as Deptford and Peckham join London from leaving Surrey, so this process is nothing new.
Old Croydon is all but gone. The area was devastated during world war one and two, as it's nearby airfields and munitions factories were targeted. The 50s, 60s and 70s saw croydon reborn as a concrete new town, quickly establishing itself as a center for commerce and trade. Being located on several rail mainlines and it's "new" architecture made it attractive for large multi-national companies to settle there. (Even east croydon station is branded with "Welcome to Croydon, The home of Nestlé", as if you needed further warning.)
Croydon Council, despite being landlocked and with no more than the odd stream, still operate a LifeBoat service, maybe in case anyone should want to rebuild the once heavily used, Croydon Canal, which I'll blog about in the future, as it turns out my own back garden in Brockley was once the site of the Lock Keepers cottage 200 years ago! Unimaginable now!
Croydon's saving graces are it's fun Tram Network, my studio, and 'South End' the most densely populated area for restaurants in the UK. (over 200 in under a mile)I'm perhaps being a bit harsh, Croydon is updating itself, new facilities are being added, it's shopping is a quite good, and less busy, alternative to the west end, offering the same variety of shops and three shopping centers. Ikea is there, which perhaps is its saving grace.
It's other, and to be honest, the reason I don't mind working there, is it is home to the best cycling shop in london. Geoffrey Butler Cycles, a racing and road bike specialist. And where most of my wages end up going!
A compilation released after her death is entitled 'From Croydon to Cuba', and she did indeed grow up in South London in Beech Way, Selsdon, going to Monks Hill Comprehensive School (later re-named Selsdon High School). She started out in a pub rock band, the Tooting Frootis, later re-named The Drug Addix. The latter put out a 1978 EP on Chiswick Records which includes the South-London suburb referencing Addington Shuffle. It was recorded at RMS Studios in Clifton Road, Thornton Heath, which Kirsty later used for some solo material (incidentally The Monochrome Set and St Etienne also recorded there).
Her final album, the Latin-infused Tropical Brainstorm (2000) was also partially recorded in South London, at her long-time collaborator Pete Glenister's studio in Bermondsey.
Kirsty had an ambivalent relationship with her father, the folk singer Ewan MacColl, as he split up with her mother shortly after her birth. But it is clear that the adult influences on her childhood included some interesting people who lived in South East London at the time. Most important was her mother Jean Newlove (married name Jean MacColl), a dance teacher who had been assistant to Rudolph Laban (later the inspiration for the Laban Centre in Deptford). Ewan MacColl and his new partner Peggy Seeger lived in Cromwell Road, Beckenham. Also signficant was Kirsty's godmother, Joan Littlewood, who had founded the Theatre Workshop with Ewan. She lived in Blackheath and used to take Kirsty for walks in Greenwich Park.
An MA scholarship in Kirsty's name was established at Goldsmiths College in 2001.
Anyway here's Kirsty with the Pogues on St Patrick's Day 1988 (at the Town & Country Club in Camden):
Source for most of the above: Kirsty MacColl: the one and only by Karen O'Brien (2004). Incidentally this book includes a photo entitled 'Kirsty... with the Drug Addix at the Venue, New Cross, south London, 1978'. I'm pretty sure the Venue wasn't called by this name until the end of the 80s - previously it was the Harp Club. So presumably this is a mistake - there was also a place called The Venue in Victoria around that time, maybe the photo was taken there.
See also: Suburban relapse; Shiraz Socialist on Kirsty.
Saturday, December 27, 2008
The Berlin Wall
Thursday, December 25, 2008
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
Perhaps of most interest to Transpontine readers, he lives on Brockley Road. In fact the fictional location can be narrowed down further, as we are told that from the window of his home, the Daffodil House, 'he regarded a section of the Lewisham High Road and as much of Tanners Hill as can be seen before it dips past the railway bridge into sheer Deptford'.
J.G. Reeder is a fan of 'transpontine drama' no less, liking nothing more than a melodrama where 'to the thrill of the actors' speeches was added the amazing action of wrecked railway trains, hair raising shipwrecks and terrific horse-races'.
He is also enamoured of his Brockley neighbour, Miss Margaret Belman who he treats to a guided tour of South London: 'They crossed Westminster Bridge and bore left to the New Kent Road. Through the rain-blurred windows J. G. picked up the familiar landmarks and offered a running commentary upon them in the manner of a guide. Margaret had not realised before that history was made in South London. "There used to be a gibbet here-this ugly-looking goods station was the London terminus of the first railways- Queen Alexandra drove from there when she came to be married - the thoroughfare on the right after we pass the Canal bridge is curiously named Bird-in-Bush Road..."'.
As for the neighbourhood, 'if there is one place in the world which is highly respectable and free from the footpads which infest wealthier neighbourhoods, it is Brockley Road'.
Edgar Wallace knew the area well. He was born in Greenwich (at 7 Ashburnham Grove) in 1875 as the child of an unmarried actress Pollie Richards, and then brought up by adoptive parents in Deptford. There is an Edgar Wallace Close in Peckham, where he went to school. He was one of the creators of the King Kong story.
All quotes from The Mind of J.G. Reeder (1925). There is also a second collection of stories, Mr J.G. Reeder Returns, which I haven't read. The Mind of... was made into a film in 1939, as well as as a 1960s TV series.
Meanwhile in New Cross I spotted two painted renditions of the slogan 'Solidarity with the Greek popular uprising' this week, at the bottom of Pepys Road and Jerningham Road. Both have already been removed, but possibly prompted some travellers on the A2 to ponder events in Greece since the shooting dead by police of 15-year-old Alexis Grigoropoulos on 6th December.
Sunday, December 21, 2008
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
The first Moonbow Jakes was in New Cross Gate, on the corner of Goodwood Road where the Rising Sun Cafe is now. The (in)famous 2004 Standard article 'Welcome to the New Hoxton', referred to the 'legendary Moonbow Jakes's cafe, the main young artists hang-out where you can sip segrafredo coffee (the best espresso beans from Italy, apparently)'. Well I wasn't a young artist, but I did hang out there, especially when it also had the record shop downstairs. Both had a small but significant role in the New Cross music explosion, as places to meet, chat and distribute/pick up flyers.
The New Cross place was still open when the second Moonbows opened in Brockley, but closed soon after - I believe there were planning constraints in turning the former into a viable bar as well as a coffee shop. The much larger Brockley place with its later evening opening has been a place not only of liquid refreshment but of numerous interesting encounters and occurrences, with music, performance and other events. Our very own Skitster gave a talk there in 2006 on Ghosts and Monsters of South East London, and the year before I gave a short talk there on the history of May Day in South London as part of a Strawberry Thieves May Day event.
Moonbows bravely attempted to extend the decent coffee wave into Catford too. The cafe there didn't last too long, and closed in 2005 - but not before it had been name-checked in a song by local band The Ubernators (then at Haberdashers Askes school I believe). Their song 'Tell it Like it is' starts with the line 'Catford born and Catford bred, no not Lewisham that's what I said' and goes on 'we used to have a gun shop now we're Moonbow Jakes' (Moonbow Catford was indeed in a former gun shop).
People may argue about who does the best coffee in Brockley, as unlike when Moonbow opened we now have a choice. As I like the other places too, I'm not going to compare - my experience is that most places locally with an espresso machine can do a really good coffee (though not always consistently). But one thing that Moonbow has had the edge on is its choice of music - if, like me, you judge a place's music by how many times it plays The Smiths or Belle & Sebastien!
Anyway this is an appreciation, not an obituary, so get down there while you still can - and maybe help keep it open for longer. I am sure we haven't heard the last of Moonbow Jakes.
Download Ubernators - Tell it Like it Is
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
It's part of a wider event happening there tomorrow, Find Yourself Lost in the Neutral Zone. There's live bands (including English Martyrs and Social Reform) performance, art, short films, zine stalls and food and drink from 2 pm to 1 am.
Monday, December 15, 2008
First up, there's La Roux, featuring Eleanor Jackson from Brixton. She pronounces herself 'totally obsessed with 80s music'. You don't say! The video for their Quicksand single even looks like a Duran Duran pastiche:
Then from Camberwell, there's Florence and The Machine. I've mentioned Florence Welch here before, but the new single Dog Days are Over is particularly excellent, definitely the best track featuring a ukulele this year (move over Noah and The Whale).
Sunday, December 14, 2008
Saturday, December 13, 2008
The musicians were also not deterred. Brockley Ukulele Group played a short festive set, including Last Christmas and Fairytale of New York. The Strum Pets (Corrie and Dominic) made their public debut. But all were upstaged by the Santa Claus and his helpers from John Stainer Primary School - Brockley Ukes: the Next Generation.
Friday, December 12, 2008
Thursday, December 11, 2008
In an article in Saturday’s Guardian, writers reflected on the stories behind their favourite works in the Courtauld Gallery. Julia Neuberger selected Camille Pissarro's Lordship Lane Station, Dulwich (1871) . I have mentioned this painting before - the bridge from which it is painted still stands in Sydenham Hill Woods. Neuberger writes:
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
Deptford also gets a mention as the site of the Deptford Marsh Clearance Project and later of rioting and looting, while 'Brixton and Streatham are quarantine zones'.
Monday, December 08, 2008
Saturday, December 06, 2008
The Brighton Vigilantes were a group set up at the end of the Second World War to take direct action for the homeless - expropriating empty buildings to rehouse the families of ex-servicemen. In effect they pioneered the post-war squatting movement. As a result of their initiative, the Government gave local councils the power to requistion unused residences. Harry Cowley, who founded the group, was also involved in fighting fascists in the streets of Brighton.
All of which begs the question - what were they doing in New Cross in 1945? The obvious answer would be that at that time you could get a train direct from Brighton to New Cross, so they may have just been passing through on a visit to London. There were housing seizures in London on similar lines to the Brighton Vigilante movement, but I don't know whether this spread to South East London - anybody know more?
Friday, December 05, 2008
'Why do secret societies have such an appeal? What do they believe, and where do their beliefs come from? Freemasonry, Rosicrucian and Neo-Templar organisations, the various offshoots of the Golden Dawn and the OTO - do any of them have any genuine claim to be the true successors to historical movements? Does it matter if they make up their own histories, as well as their myths and rituals? What are the connections, if any, between John Dee, the Royal Society, Aleister Crowley and Wicca? And does the Priory of Sion, star of The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail and a certain third-rate thriller, actually exist?
Can David Barrett possibly answer all these questions and more in just an hour? Probably not, but he'll have a damn good try. David V Barrett is the author of, amongst others, The New Believers: A Survey of Sects, "Cults" & Alternative Religions, A Brief History of Secret Societies, and the forthcoming Atlas of Secret Societies. He is a frequent contributor to Fortean Times magazine, and has written for many other newspapers and magazines, mainly on esoteric religion and history'.
Thursday, December 11, 2008, 8 pm at The Old King's Head, Kings Head Yard, 45-49, Borough High St, London SE1.
Tuesday, December 02, 2008
Brown now lives in Stoke Newington, but in the interview he recalls that in the 1980s 'we were rooted in New Cross. Test Department and [UK comedian] Vic Reeves, they were our peers'. In the mid-1980s, he was sharing a house in Nettleton Road with another band, Test Department, who he compares with BoHJ; 'Test Department were incredibly masculine ... and we were extremely feminine. We were about romance, about a Britain that was fading away, contrasted with a reality that was quite dark. But there was definitely a spirit shared. Test Department were polemic where we were quite poetic, personal, romantic, the way we saw things. But then again, personal is political. They were out on tour with the miners during the strike, and you can't get more personal than people's lives being affected like that... It was totally opposite to Test Department, who were in training upstairs being militant. We were downstairs on drugs writing these really weird dirges. It was chalk and cheese'.
In terms of the local scene, Brown remembers 'there was lots of cheap housing in New Cross then, lots of squats and housing association houses, and there was Goldsmiths College too. [Test Department's] Angus was top boy at Goldsmiths, so it was mix of squatters, students, genius guys and general misfits. Vic Reeves was a very informed guy, with this art background and he was a really brilliant musician, very much an improvisor, working with people like Steve Beresford way before he made his hit record. The very first music I made when I came to London was with Brett [Turnbull film maker], Vic Reeves and his girlfriend Lucie Russell, and a guy called George on saxophone. We used to do this beautiful free rolling stuff with this cheap and nasty yellow and black plastic Wasp synthesizer. Of course everybody eventually moved away'.
(Thanks to John at Uncarved for letting me know about this article)
Monday, December 01, 2008
Times have changed... but not very much. Today it's likely to be Life on Mars/Ashes to Ashes (saw them filming this off Southwark Park Road earlier in the year) or BBC's 'aren't our security services wonderful?' drama Spooks. Last week's episode featured a chase through Surrey Quays Shopping Centre involving rogue MI6 assassins - I kept expecting them to break off the chase and pop into Tchibo to buy a bargain torch/bottle opener/toolkit combo - very handly for secret agents. Mysteriously in the programme the Shopping Centre had an underground carpark - either for dramatic effect or there really is a hidden subterranean world beneth Tescos. There was also a scene in a car breakers in Deptford where I once went in search of a part for a Vauxhall Corsa.
If you're bored of identifying locations, there's always Eastenders star spotting - I've seen two of the cast around Surrey Quays (Lauren and Shirley).