Thursday, April 30, 2009

Local movements

A few things to keep you busy, if you are so inclined:

Defend Education in Lewisham is supporting the occupation by parents protesting against the planned demolition of Lewisham Bridge Primary School.

At the New Den last weekend, supporters of the United Campaign Against Police Violence leafleted fans about the death of Ian Tomlinson -the Millwall fan killed by police during the G20 protests on April 1st. The family of Sean Rigg - who died in police custody in Brixton last year - also took part.

Bob from Brockley has the full details of next week's Strangers into Citizens rally for migrant rights in London, including the South London contingent from the Elephant.

Stop the Strip is a campaign against the lap dancing club at the White Hart in New Cross. They say 'This is not an anti-sex campaign but rather a campaign by a range of local people who are concerned about the establishment of these clubs in residential areas. We believe our area, New Cross, deserves better. Women working in modelling and sex industries are often treated poorly and their rights often breached. As a group we believe all workers have the right to Unionise and seek support when they are being exploited. We would extend support to any and all women working in the venue'.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

High Llamas - Pipas - Stereolab - New X

Some more New Cross music connections towards the indie end of the spectrum.

Lovely indie-pop duo Pipas used to live in Jerningham Road, and indeed have a song called Old Kent Road on their 2002 album 'The Cat Escaped'. In this 2001 interview they mention Telegraph Hill Park and also refer to another band living in the same area: 'we think that we have these superstar neighbors, the High Llamas, and this whole year one of my projects has been to look into everybody's window as I walk up and down the hill and I've studied everybody's house and there's some people who look like they're into '60s tropicalia kind of stuff and it's got to be them'.

In a 1996 review of the High Llamas and Stereolab in Mojo magazine, Barney Hoskyns refers to them as 'two musical ensembles who dwell in the New Cross netherlands of south-east London, whose metier happens to be an uncanny kind of mimicry or pastiche. They do it brilliantly'.

Intriguing, somebody mentioned to me before that Sean O'Hagan (High Llamas and before that Microdisney - who I once saw at Glastonbury) used to live in the area but I didn't know that anybody from Stereolab did too. I would love to be able to weave them into the South East London musical history narrative so if anybody knows any more, do tell...

Anyway here's The High Llamas' Bach Ze to brighten up your day:

Monday, April 27, 2009

New Cross vs. New York (2)

Just noticed that a different version of the article in today's Metro referred to in the previous post is also in today's Daily Hate Mail with a typically nasty shift in tone - i.e 'You gotta be kidding: New York Times tells U.S. tourists they MUST go to 'Wild West' Deptford... Wealthy American tourists are being urged to visit a crime-plagued UK district which has been dubbed ‘London's Wild West', by a popular travel guide'.

New Cross vs. New York

The Metro has picked up on the New York Times travel feature on New Cross & Deptford (covered here at Transpontine a few weeks ago), with an article in today's paper noting that 'American tourists have been advised to check out the hottest must-see locations in London - er, Deptford and New Cross'. The Metro adds its own slant to the story by adding a list comparing New York and New Cross:

US: Plaza Hotel - UK: Novotel London Greenwich
US: Bowery Ballroom - UK: Goldsmiths Tavern, formerly featuring S&M "live whipping" shows named "Night Of The Cane"
US: Mayor Michael Bloomberg - UK: Labour MP and former deputy leadership contender Jon Cruddas
US: The New York Dolls - UK: Dire Straits
US: George Gershwin - UK: Jools Holland
US: David Letterman - UK: Danny Baker
US: Woody Allen's "Annie Hall" - UK: Gary Oldman's "Nil By Mouth"
US: John Lennon assassinated in 1980 - UK: Christopher Marlowe assassinated in 1591
US: Central Park - UK: Brookmill Park'
US: The Subway - UK: The Docklands Light Railway
US: Broadway - UK: The A2
US: Views and boat trips out to Staten Island - UK: Views and boat trips out to the Isle of Dogs '.

Hey they missed out, US: Brooklyn, UK: Brockley.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

London Lore

A report on yesterday's 'London Lore' conference at the Bishopsgate Institute, sponsored by the Institute, the Folklore Society and South East London Folklore Society:

'London Lore' was a great success, with a sell out audience of 250 suggesting that there is a growing interest in 'exploring London's traditions, customs and folklore, old and new' (as the conference was subtitled).

Sarah Crofts began the day with a talk on the Fowlers Troop and the Deptford Jack in the Green. The starting point was an Edwardian photograph by Thankfull Sturdee, the Deptford based photographer of a local May Day scene (below). This inspired members of the Blackheath Morris to revive the custom on May Day in the mid-1980s, building a the Jack (a green foliage covered frame) in the back of a local pub - accounts differ about whether it was the Dog & Bell or Wickham Arms. Over the years they have staged May Day processions in Deptford, Greenwich, Borough, Bankside and the City of London.

Sonia Ritter discussed The Lions Part seasonal festivals in Bankside and Borough, particularly Twelfth Night, St Georges Day and October Plenty. They have been combining processions, seasonal customs, music and street theatre since 1995.

Doc Rowe gave a broad overview of London Seasonal Celebrations. He argued against an ossified view of 'calendar customs' as survivals from the past, looking instead at people marking times in the year very much in a continuous present according to the needs and interests of the period. He covered May Day, Halloween and more specific local events like the annual Clown service in Dalston.

Animal folklore was the subject of Paul Cowdell's talk 'Rats, redstarts and ravens: animal-identified London'. He discussed new and old legends - or as is often the case with folklore the former masquerading as the latter. For instance the 'ancient legend' of the ravens having to stay at the Tower of London to prevent its destruction seemingly only dates back to the 1950s and may have been invented by tour guides. He also traced the history of the slogan - 'Rats, rats we've got to get rid of the rats', starting off as an advertising jingle for rat poison, adapted by fascists as an anti-semitic slogan and then used by anti-fascists breaking up Mosley's meetings in Clapham and Battersea.

In discussing London fox-lore, Noel Rooney suggested that the fox was assuming a more positive identity, becoming seen as an icon of willderness in the city rather than as a pest - a fact perhaps linked to the decline of Londoners keeping chickens. The cat owners' fear of foxes killing their pets was dismissed as another legend - they generally coexist peacefully - a fact borne out by own observations a few years ago of a fox and a cat sitting happily in the sun on a sofa on derelict land in Camberwell Road.

Richard Barnett's talk on 'Folklore, medicine and the body in London's history' covered executions and the uses of the bodies of the victims - such as the notion of the Hand of Glory, the candle-bearing hand of an executed prisoner said to be used to ensure that burglars could enter a house without being observed since the inhabitants would remain asleep.

Scott Wood discussed a modern urban legend, The Helpful Terrorist - the tale that warnings had been given to people to avoid places threatened with terrorist attack as a result of them helping out a suspicious generally foriegn looking man. Various versions of this storu - inevitably happening to a friend of a friend of a friend - have spread in the context of 9/11 and the July 2007 London bombings. But Scott traced similar stories back through the IRA campaign to the First and Second World Wars. In 1915 a mysterious helpful German is said to have warned a nurse who had saved his life to avoid the tubes in April of that year.

Several presentations covered the life and work of Edward Lovett (1852-1933), a pioneer collector of London folklore in the early twentieth century. Steve Roud gave an overview of the life of the Croydon-based folklorist, while Ross MacFarlane focused on the relationship between Lovett and the Wellcome Historical Medical Museum. Neil Gordon-Orr discussed the Lovett collection relating to London superstitions held at the Cuming Museum in Southwark. This includes lucky charms and amulets to protect from disease, such as this blue bead bracelet warn by children to protect them from bronchitis:
Mark Pilkington spoke on the Brompton Cemetery time machine- a Victorian mausoleum around which stories have been woven involving egyptology and time travel - a tale seemingly made up by a mischievous screenwriter in the 1990s.

John Constable introduced The Southwark Mysteries and the Crossbones Shrine - the latter the site in Redcross Way, Southwark of a burial ground believed to be the last resting place of prostitutes denied a Christian burial as well as of paupers. Up to 15,000 people are still buried there, disturbed by the Jubilee Line Extension in the 1990s. Every halloween since 1998 people have gathered at the gates to honour the outcast dead.

It was almost time to retire to the pub, which Anthony Clayton set up with a talk 'Strange brew- the folklore of London pubs'. Pubs mentioned included The Widows Son in Bromley by Bow where a hot cross bun is hung from the ceiling every Good Friday. Numerous pubs have legends attached to them stating that they have secret tunnels, usually leading to landmarks such as a palace or monastery. Clayton mentioned the Hoop and Grapes in Aldgate and the Nell of Old Drury in Covent Garden in this context, but of course in our area a similar legend applies to the Old Nun's Head.

All in all, an interesting day prompting lots of ideas for future research.

Friday, April 24, 2009

New Cross play worker wins award

Hanneke Nicholson has been working at Somerville Adventure Playground in New Cross for the past 30 years and has just received London Play's 2009 award for Lifetime in Play. Hanneke and other staff and volunteers have kept the playground going in the face of all kinds of adversity (not least shoestring funding), offering that seemingly rare experience of exciting outdoor play.

The playground - situated opposite the Montague Arms is open most afternoons after school for children from 5 to 16.

Read an interview with Hanneke in Children and Young People Now.

Strangers into Citizens

On bank holiday Monday (May 4th), Strangers into Citizens are holding a big Justice for Migrants' rally in Trafalgar Square (Asian Dub Foundation will be playing at the rally). SiC is campaigning for a 'one-off regularisation' (or 'amnesty') for long-term migrants.

A South London feeder march, organised by Latin American community organisations, will be leaving from the Fusion Centre in Elephant & Castle from 10am.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

The Battle of Lewisham Bridge

From BBC News today:

Protesting parents have occupied a school roof-top to voice opposition against plans to build a new academy. Children from Lewisham Bridge Primary School are being bussed from their school gates to a temporary school in nearby New Cross as part of the plans. Campaigners said the disruption would adversely affect their children's education and want the plans reversed. But Lewisham Council insisted the plans to build a new secondary school on the current site were vital.

"Myself and a number of other parents are very angry that our children are being expected to go to a school that is over a mile away from where we live, while our own school stands empty," said Eleanor Davies, one of the roof-top protesters. "The council decided that all the children and staff would have to leave the school before they got planning permission to build their new academy."

English Heritage confirmed that the primary school has been given Grade II-listed status.
Campaigners said they hoped that will delay the council's plans to demolish the two-storey Victorian building. Council leaders described the school's new listed status as a "shock decision". "This decision beggars belief," said Lewisham's mayor Sir Steve Bullock. "It has been made by an undisclosed civil servant with no regard whatsoever for local need. The future prospects of our children and young people cannot be sacrificed for the sake of somebody's fancy for Edwardian sinks, butterfly designs and tiling."

He said a rising population within the borough meant the borough needed additional secondary school places. The new academy Lewisham wants to build will cater for children aged three to 16 and would be run by Leathersellers, a City Livery company.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Klezmer at the Telegraph

Tomorrow night - Thursday 23rd - at the Telegraph pub (Dennetts Road, SE14) there's live klezmer from the band Oi Sauce. It starts at 7:30 pm.

Squeeze at the Albany 1977

A review by Paul Rambali from the NME (6 August 1977) of a gig by Squeeze at the Albany in Deptford:

'The Albany is one of those places – and there aren't many – that can get packed to the rafters, sweaty and messy, and still be comfortable. It's a small theatre at weekends and an occasional small rock gig during the week, putting on mostly local bands. Squeeze are obviously a local band, local heroes even... when they came on stage they were greeted with a welcoming roar – probably most of the crowd were their mates anyway. There's no way you can really blow a gig like that, and of course they didn't' (read the rest of the review at Rock's Back Pages).

This was the old Albany at 47 Creek Road, before the current building opened in Douglas Way.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Marianne Faithfull

In 1979 filmaker Derek Jarman made a series of three music shorts with Marianne Faithfull linked to her album Broken English. The songs were the Ballad of Lucy Jordan, Broken English and The Witches Song. According to Jarman's autobiographical Dancing Ledge (1984)some of the filming took place at Surrey Docks where they 'built a bonfire in the rubble of the old warehouses'.

The Broken English video also has another local connection: 'We used old footage of Stalin and Hitler, cut together so that they smile and wave to each other in a ballet of destruction. There's footage of Mosley, and video material that the Oval Co-op have given me of the police at Lewisham. The film starts with the Bikini H-bomb explosion monitored on a space-invaders machine; and ends with the destruction in slow motion of the huge concrete swastika that crownded the Nuremburg stadium'. The Lewisham footage is from the 1977 clashes between anti-fascists, the National Front and police in New Cross and Lewisham.

Deptford Allotments and Gardens Association

There are a number of allotments in the local area, probably least visible are those in a narrow strip between St Norberts Road in Brockley and the railway line (the entrance is near the junction of Mantle Road/St Norberts Road by the Chinese takeaway). They are run by Deptford Allotments and Gardens Association (DAGA) and have been in existence since the 1930s. DAGA now have their own website, and are developing a blog which will include gardening tips and the history of the allotments.

Monday, April 20, 2009

BUG at Shunt

Brockley Ukulele Group are playing this Thursday night at the Shunt Lounge at London Bridge. If you've never been to this amazing place in the arches under London Bridge station before get along there now as it's closing in a couple of weeks to make way for the construction site for the Shard of Glass tower. It's £5 in, worth it just to wander around and check out various installations and have a drink, never mind the bonus of the famous SE4 strummers. The entrance is on Joiner Street SE1, opposite the tube station entrance. BUG will be on after 9 pm.

More details about Shunt here, plus a short film about the place below:

(just in case you are curious about the bear in the flyer above, it might just be a reference to a new number in the repertoire of SE London's premier English-Irish-Japanese-German-American ukulele band - 80s Swiss classic Eisbär)

G20: The Brockley Connection

Brockley has been in the news a few times relating to the G20 protests and the subsequent row about policing sparked by the death of Millwall fan Ian Tomlinson. In the build up to the demonstrations, the press highlighted that one of the organisers was Chris Knight (of the Radical Anthropology Group) with the BBC commenting that his 'rather grand house on this rather leafy street in Brockley was in fact the headquarters for the four horsemen of the apocalypse'.

Now a local man has complained about his treatment on April 1st: '21-year-old student Tom Hibbins, from Brockley, south-east London... said he was unable to escape as the police line pressed forward outside the Bank of England, and that he was hit with a metal baton and kicked in the groin by police. He said: "It seems to me inevitable that the tactics used by police on that day would inevitably agitate people and lead to trouble"' (source: BBC News).

And to think that the person who is ultimately in charge of the police - Home Secretary Jacqui Smith - lives just down the road from this hotbed of radicalism in her sister's house in Nunhead. If you're wondering what all the fuss is about, here's the latest film report of the Climate Camp protest:

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Dancing on the Heygate Estate

The Elephant and Castle is full of healthy looking specimens of humanity leaping off buildings and dancing in the streets - or at least it could be if this 2006 video is anything to go by. Love Don't Let Me Go (David Guetta vs The Egg) was filmed on the Heygate Estate, SE17:

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Marilyn Monroe in Forest Hill

...or at least a model of Marilyn watching the Forest Hill traffic on Stansted Road from the window of an antique shop.

Friday, April 17, 2009

CALL gig at Dirty South

A night of comedy and music in aid of the Campaign Alliance for Lifelong Learning is happening next week (23rd April) at Dirty South, 162 Lee High Road. Acts include Radio Revolucion, The Rules, Jeremy McClintock and the Brocklet Rise singers. There some's more information here. CALL is campaigning against the death by a thousand cuts of adult education.

Monday, April 13, 2009

South London in Swanage

The town of Swanage in Dorset is not a place you would automatically associate with London history, but oddly it does feature a number of monuments that previously graced the streets of the capital. The most prominent is the Wellington Clock Tower, erected at the Southwark end of London Bridge in 1854 but moved to Swanage in 1867, where it still overlooks the sea.

The tower and other London relics were brought to the town by George Burt (1816-1894), who ran the construction company set up by his uncle John Mowlem, (1788-1868). Stone from quarries in the Swanage area was shipped to London for use in building projects, and on the return journey the boats were filled with material from London, partly for ballast and partly because Burt thought that some of the unwanted London relics could be put to use in Swanage.

At Durlston Country Park on the edge of the town, there is 40 ton Portland stone globe displayed by Burt with plaques including quotes from Virgil and Tennyson and astronomical information.

The globe was actually constructed in Greenwich in 1887, where Mowlem had a yard from the 1840s (the location of Mowlem's yard on the Greenwich peninsula by Cadet Place is discussed here).

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Still Water (The River Thames, for Example)

The best thing for me in the Roni Horn exhibition at Tate Modern is 'Still Water (The River Thames, for Example)' a set of 15 close up photographs of the surface of the Thames taken on the Central London stretch of the river.

According to Horn: 'every photograph is wildly different—even though you could be photographing the same thing from one minute to the next. It’s almost got the complexity of a portrait, something with a personality. Of course the Thames is an especially beautiful river to photograph because the weather here is so indecisive, it’s rarely blue skies, which would be the least interesting light to photograph water in. The Thames has this incredible moodiness, and that’s what the camera picks up. It is also about it being a tidal river, so it has these vertical changes and it moves very quickly. It’s actually a very dangerous river and you sense that just by looking at it'.

Each of the pictures is annotated with a series of quotations and comment reflecting on the river and water, such as 'The sound of the river at night is a landscape of possibilities'. Horn is particularly interested in the relationship between the Thames and death - one note states: 'Another kind of suicide or even drowning in another river wouldn't be the same. In the Thames you die a double death, you die but you also disappear'.

As she described in an interview, 'I thought I would shoot the Seine or the Garonne, but these rivers don’t have the same energy. I don’t know how many people kill themselves in the Seine but it just didn’t look like a convincing suicide route to me. The Thames has the interesting fact attached to it that it is the urban river with the highest appeal to foreign suiciders. So you get people coming in from Paris to kill themselves in the Thames. So it has an incredible draw and one of the points about shooting the Thames was the fact that it’s darkness was quite real—it wasn’t just a visual darkness, it was a psychological darkness. Water is something one’s attracted to largely for the light aspect of it. And the banks along the Thames, a lot of them are being restored or renovated and the view is on this very dark water'.

Roni Horn aka Roni Horn is on at Tate Modern until 25 May 2009.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Dulwich Ukulele Club May Day Ball

Dulwich Ukulele Club are hosting an event to mark May Day this year (Friday 1st May). They promise:

"An evening of riotous ribaldry awaits. Featuring a very modern take on the May Pole, Morris Dancing and at midnight the coronation of the May Day Ball’s very own Lord and Lady of Misrule.With a veritable army of top class entertainment including live music from crazy country ska bumpkins David Goo and his Anti-Depressant Variety Show, bespoke pop for the discerning from King and the Olive Fields, the début performance of 7 piece Harmonica Dad and the Dulwich Ukulele Club of course.We’ve got a host of weird and wonderful cabaret stuff too – Charlie’s Mad Marionettes, which frightened everybody last time out and the sublime Actionettes, an eight piece all-girl 60’s dance troupe. Then there’s DJ 78– spinning the discs on two wind-up gramophone players. The last one was totally fantastic, we expect the same this time out. There's only room at St Thomas More Hall, 116a Lordship Lane, SE22 for 250 people so if you'd like to come and join the 'May'hem on Friday May 1st, 8 til 1am please visit the DUC myspace where you can buy a ticket by clicking on 'add to cart'"

Don't forget too that Brockley Ukulele Group are bring their ukebox to the Amersham Arms next Sunday (12th) and to Shunt at London Bridge on 23rd April.

Monday, April 06, 2009

Oss Oss Wee Oss

On Thursday (April 9th) at South East London London Folklore Society there's an English Folk Dance and Song Society Film Night, featuring a selection of short films from the EFDSS archive including 'Oss Oss Wee Oss', a record of the May Day 'Obby 'Ose celebration at Padstow in 1953 and 1960s singing and dancing in the Barley Mow pub in Suffolk. Come see some raw film recordings of British folk life from the not-so distant past.

Venue: The Old King's Head, Kings Head Yard, 45-49, Borough High St, London, SE1 1NA.
8:00 pm start, £2.50 / £1.50 concessions.

Friday, April 03, 2009

Blue-collar aesthetics and intermittent hipsterism

If you bump into some American tourists in Deptford High Street asking you the way to the Amersham Arms, you can thank the travel section of the New York Times.

No, unlike Brockley Central's story about anarchist barricades in Wickham Road (untrue I'm afraid) this isn't an April Fools prank - that was Wednesday. In an article 'New Cross and Deptford Attract the Hip' (22 March), NYT really does tells its readers 'The coming of New Cross and Deptford has been predicted for some time. It won’t be an easy ride. The area lies in an inglorious corner of southeast London; those with well-cushioned sensibilities need not make the journey. But with the unpolished location comes that most heady of urban ingredients: an edge. For now, these neighboring districts still feel more like eccentric outposts than uncut diamonds'.

Priceless. Along the way the Amersham Arms, Goddard's pie and mash, Bar Alchemy, the Bunker Club, The Deptford Project and the Royal Albert all get mentioned. I must take issue with the claim that the latter 'has been salvaged from the remains of one of the area’s most notorious dives'. That was The Paradise Bar, birthplace of the New Cross musical explosion way back in the early 21st century!

The article concludes 'Until the well-washed masses start arriving in larger numbers, this still feels a bit like London’s Wild West (southeast, actually), a boisterous concoction of blue-collar aesthetics and intermittent hipsterism. Perhaps some of the chaos will make it to the other side'.

Hmmm. Actually I think you'll find that we are already familiar with soap and hot water thank you very much. As for 'the coming of New Cross and Deptford', they have actually been around for quite a few hundred years already. (see also New Cross - New Shoreditch).

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Nowtopia at 56a

56a Infoshop at the Elephant & Castle is presenting an afternoon this Sunday 5th April with Chris Carlsson, the author of NOWTOPIA giving an illustrated talk. They are also using the occasion to open their newest exhibition in the space: Celebrate Peoples History, a selection of the great poster series from the radical art collective Just Seeds (56a is at 56a Crampton Street, SE17).

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Brockley Jack Film Club

The Brockley Jack Film Club's next offering, on Monday 20 April, is the great Hitchcock film North By Northwest, starring Cary Grant, Eva Marie Saint and James Mason.

Tickets cost £6 for non-members, £3 for members - available via the Box office (020 8699 6685). 7:30 pm start.

The monthly film night takes place the Brockley Jack Theatre, adjacent to the pub at 410 Brockley Road.