Wednesday, July 29, 2009

New Deptford Blog

Deptford Misc is a new blog from long term Deptford activist Bill Ellson. Early days but it looks promising - posts so far have looked the history of the Dog and Bell pub and the Iyengar Yoga Institute (470 New Cross Road), for 80 years the headquarters of the now vanished New Cross Building Society.

Another Depressing New Cross Story

'A man has been found shot dead in his car in New Cross this morning (Tuesday). The 24 year-old man was found with gunshot wounds in a VW Golf in Ludwick Mews at around 1.30am. He was pronounced dead at 2.11am. Cops believe they know the identity of the man but are awaiting formal identification and they are searching for four male suspects' (South London Press, 28 July 2009).

Don't worry, it probably won't make the BBC News.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Merce Cunningham in New Cross

Merce Cunningham, the famous American dancer/choreographer, died this week aged 90.

Once upon a time he walked and danced in New Cross, thanks to his connection with Bonnie Bird (1914-1995). Bird was in the original Martha Graham Dance Company, and while teaching at the Cornish School in Seattle in the 1930s met Cunningham (as her student) and the composer John Cage (as her accompanist). Equally importantly, via Bird, Cunningham met Cage, his long term partner and collaborator.

In 1974 Bird became the director of the Dance Theatre Department at the Laban Centre Centre for Movement and Dance which moved to Goldsmiths College, New Cross, in 1976. It took over the former St James Primary School buildings at the back of the college, and then later, in 1981, expanded into the former St James Church (shortly after it severed its institutional links with Goldsmiths, and later still moved to its current building in Deptford)

And so it came to pass at Laban that 'In July, 1980 the annual summer school welcomed Merce Cunningham who taught technique, composition and repertory classes, and John Cage. One of the course’s high points was a showing of Imaginary Landscape No ???, a complicated compilation of the joint work of 12 visual artists and 30 dancers, performed to 21 sound scores all played at once by Cage’s students. It was a veritable musical circus, a far more complex version that first created by Bonnie and John at Cornish more than half century before! For the concluding performance, Cunningham and Cage presented Dialogue to an audience of 500 in the Great Hall at Goldsmiths’ College’.

If you're one of those people who get your John Cale and John Cage mixed up, never mind, they can both be claimed for SE14.

(If anybody out there has any memories of Cunningham and Cage in New Cross, bring it on)

Frontiers – The Life and Times of Bonnie Bird, American Modern Dancer and Dance Educator - Karen Bell-Kanner, 1998)

Deptford and Peckham Violence

Last Friday night/Saturday morning was not a good time on the streets of South East London:

'.... a man was left fighting for life following an assault on a train in south London. The 39-year-old from New Cross is in a critical condition in hospital after a fight broke out near Deptford station last Friday. British Transport Police officers were called to the station at around 11.55pm following reports of a disturbance on the 11.40pm Charing Cross to Dartford Southeastern trains service. Detective Superintendent Ashley Croft, the senior investigating officer, said: “Two groups of people were reported to have had an altercation on the train which then continued onto the platform at Deptford' (more on this story at This is London, 27 July 2009)

'Police are appealing for witnesses following a suspected gang attack that left three men knifed in Peckham. The attack also left one woman, 29, with head injuries after they were set on at Rye Lane before 4.45am Saturday morning. The men were all taken to a south London hospital where two remain in a stable condition. One man, 20, suffered multiple stab wounds to the torso, the second man, 17, was also knifed' (more at This is London, 26 July 2009).

We were in Peckham on Saturday and a large chunk of Rye Lane was taped off, via the instant folklore/rumour mill we heard variously that there had been a shooting and an accident.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Brockley Station and Greenham Common

The works at Brockley station are dragging on adding at least 45 seconds on to my daily journey - no it's not the end of the world. For a brief period at the beginning of June, during the Brockley Max festival, the fences around the site were redecorated following a Brockley Knits workshop at Broca cafe.

It reminded me of a famous anti-cruise missiles protest at Greenham Common (below), when 'as part of the 'Embrace the Base' protest by 30,000 women in December 1982, participants covered the USAF base perimeter fence with a variety of things that held significance for them: clothes and other personal items, family photographs, poems and expressions of opinion, in order to highlight the contrast between the death-dealing weaponry inside and the life-enhancement represented outside' (source of text and photo, Ceridwen at Geograph).
Not sure if a protest camp against train station delays is on the cards in Coulgate Street!

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Gramophone Societies in South London

Back in the early days of recorded music, gramophone societies sprang up around the country where people would gather to listen to records. Looking through the online archive of Gramophone magazine it is evident that there were several such groups locally - there was a South London Gramophone Society, a Brixton Gramophone Society (reported in April 1925 to be meeting at New Morris Hall, Bedford Road, Clapham) and a South East London Recorded Music Society covering the Lewisham/Brockley/New Cross/Peckham area.

The secretary of the latter in 1923 was Ernest Barer of 42, Chalsey Road, Brockley; in 1924, Edward C. Coxall of 128 Erlanger Road, New Cross; and in December 1932, R. J. Skan, 70 Chudleigh Road, Brockley, S.E.4.

In 1923 they were apparently holding concerts in Peckham Central Hall (43 Peckham High Street). They then seemed to have moved to Clock Tower Chambers, 73 High Street, Lewisham starting from January 1925 (see report here)

The music played at the South East London Recorded Music Society was mostly classical, with evenings devoted to, for instance, Wagner's ring, Vaughan Williams and Elgar. Sometimes though they let their hair down a bit, as shown in a report of their Christmas 1924 evening which mentioned 'amusing items... ra'ther undignified from the Society's point of view, but they were excusable because the members had gathered together on this one occasion of the year to be simply and easily entertained. They became for an hour or so very, very low-brows and enjoyed it. All of which goes to prove that those who can revel in and fully appreciate the masterpieces in symphony, the great world of chamber music and the music-dramas of Wagner can also descend through cheap, sugary Italian opera to the ballad and burlesque'.

As well as the records, the Society was also of course interested in the latest gramophone developments. A December 1924 report mentions a demonstration of a new model: 'It is not within our province to express any opinion on the new machine, and no doubt everyone at all interested will form or will have formed his own opinion. Let us just say that a full house was extremely interested, and everyone felt very grateful to Mr. Yeomans for coming such a long way on a horrible night to give us this demonstration—the first Society in the country to have such a demonstration. The Society is also indebted to Messrs. Robert Morley and Co., of 108, High Street, Lewisham, for so kindly lending the gramophone'. The Society also maintained its own record library.

There is also mention of an appearance at the New Cross Empire by Layton and Johnstone, an African American piano/singing double act who were popular in London in the 1920s. Gramophone reported in October 1928 that 'A Lewisham reader... states that a Deptford dealer made a display of Layton and Johnstone records when those artists were appearing at the New Cross Empire near by. "This rather shows that some gramophone dealers are waking up," he adds'.

You'll absolutely Lovett!

One Eye Grey presents 'You'll absolutely Lovett! A stranger side to Southwark’s history' at the Cuming Museum (151 Walworth Road, London SE17) next Wednesday 29th July 2009 at 6.30pm (admission free).

Ross Macfarlane of the Wellcome Library will speak about the Lovett Collection of folklore objects and old Southwark tales whilst London writer Chris Roberts will talk about more modern Walworth folk stories and urban legends. Everything from lost zoos to sacred dollies, magicians on the Heygate, shakers at the Tabernacle and vampires at St Giles.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Rivoli Footage

Here's a selection of videos filmed in The Rivoli Ballroom in Brockley.

First up some good quality footage of the Cut a Shine barn dance from a few weeks ago:

Then, as was mentioned by Brockley Ukulele Group at that gig, the S Club 7 Don't Stop Movin' video: On Youtube there's actually a whole film about the making of this video. Finally here's Elton John's I guess that's why they call it the blues:

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Crystal Palace Cinema Campaign

The Picture Palace Campaign is campaigning for the bingo hall at 25 Church Road, SE19 to be reponed as a cinema - apparently Gala have sold the building to a large evangelical church despite an independent cinema operator also putting in an offer. The art deco building in the Crystal Palace triangle was originally built in 1928 as a cinema and the interior was designed by the renowned cinema architect George Coles.

A Deptford Cricketer

Caroline's Miscellany has the full story of Colin Blythe (1879 - 1917): 'One of England's best Edwardian bowlers', born at 78 Evelyn Street, Deptford, working at Woolwich Arsenal and 'discovered' while playing around before a Kent cricket match at Blackheath. A sometime Wisden Cricketer of the Year, he was killed near Passchendaele in the First World War.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Pathe News: Brockley and New Cross

Thanks to Cath on Twitter I've come across another addictive historical archive, the British Pathe News archive of old newsreel footage. I am still trawling through but have found a couple of Brockley film clips already - only trouble is I think the archivist has mislabelled some of the footage.

For instance, there is a 1917 clip showing the Lord Mayor of London pinning a DCM (Distinguished Conduct Medal) on one Sergeant North - the caption says 'Brockley, Suffolk', but why would the Lord Mayor of London be in Suffolk. The buildings look like Victorian terracing of the (London) Brockley kind.

Likewise there's a 1931 clip of a folding car - the caption says 'Not sure which county Brockley is in - probably Somerset. May also be Brockley in Suffolk' - but the housing looks very much like round here, maybe even Telegraph Hill? Maybe even Drakefell Road - check out the crest of the hill and the gates next to the house - an entrance to the park?

Have a look and let us know what you think.

On safer ground with the New Cross footage - some great 1958 film of dogs at New Cross stadium, and from the same venue stock car racing at Easter 1954. There's a 1935 film of a Donkey Derby at Milllwall (donkeys on the pitch at the Den, never). The latter was part of an annual Jockeys vs. Boxers charity football match, which is also shown in a 1936 film, where the match was attended by the comedians Gert and Daisy. There's also a 1938 Millwall match against Man. City (check out size of the crowd) and of Millwall v. Birmingham in 1957 .

1935: crowd watching Donkey Derby at Millwall

From 1948 there's some cycle speedway in the bombsite ruins of a Wesleyan church in New Cross, and from 1952, London's last tram coming in to New Cross depot.

Update 23 July: walking up Drakefell Road I am now 95% convinced that the folding car footage was filmed there, specifically where the Greenstreet Hill wooden self-build now stands (I believe this replaced war damaged housing). There is still a post box opposite on the corner of Aspinall Road, which you can see in the film. Or am I deluding myself?

BNP Buffoon Unwell

Richard Barnbrook, BNP member of the London Assembly, was apparently too ill this week to be questioned about his untrue claims last year that three people had been murdered in Barking & Dagenham (in fact none had, a blatant attempt to stir up panic). Funny he looked fine when I saw him last week wandering around More London (SE1), or at least he looked no more like a badly dressed cadaver than usual.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Brockley Bags

Akolele is an occasional blog by a local ukeist who alongside Brockley Ukulele Group duties finds time to make some cool bags - some of which are on sale at Broca Food Market.

New Cross Scheme Back On?

As mentioned here before, the plan to build a new health centre and library in Briant Street, New Cross, ground to a halt when the original developer pulled out as the credit crunch took hold. Now it looks like it may be back on. According to Construction News today: 'Developer Building Better Health has been announced as preferred bidder for a £35 million development in New Cross Gate... A landmark development, it has been awarded by the New Cross Gate Trust on behalf of New Cross Gate New Deal for Communities, the area based regeneration partnership. Once completed, it will be home to a new health centre, a pharmacy, fitness facility, library, cafe, internet facilities, crèche, community space, retail spaces and 170 residential units. Designed by architects Fielden Clegg Bradley, the project features in the Mayor of London’s 100 Public Spaces programme'.

Building Better Health is a property development company whose shareholders include Alliance & Leicester, Allied Irish Bank and Meridiam Infrastructure. So presumably the progress of this project is still dependent on whether, as some predict, a second wave of the banking crisis is on the horizon.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Free Greenwich Films

Greenwich Film Festival next weekend has a number of free showings of films connected with the area, including Mike Leigh's All or Nothing (filmed on the Old Haddo Estate on the Greenwich side of Deptford Creek), The Golden Compass (partially shot at the Royal Naval College), G:MT (South London late 1990s music movie, includes a scene shot in The Venue, New Cross) and The Railway Children (being shown at Well Hall Pleasaunce, where Edith Nesbit wrote the story). Best of all, Antonioni's Blow Up (with David Hemmings and Vanessa Redgrave) is being shown next Saturday in Maryon Park, Charlton, a key location in the film.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Hillaballoo 2009

Don't forget tomorrow - Saturday 18th - it's Hillaballoo with a full programme of fun activities in Telegraph Hill Park, SE14 from 10 am. Music includes 'The Little Devils, Jude Cowan, Paul the Poet and Steve the Pirate, compered by Tarzan (more Ape than Man)'.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Straycation: Exploring South London

Explore the unknown spaces and stories of South London in a walking festival currated by South East London Folklore Society in August.

All walks are free. Contact for more information.

Saturday 1 August 7pm: Camberwell Myth & Magic
Join Scott Wood on a walk around the mythological sites of Camberwell. There'll be ghosts, folklore, saints and Aleister Crowley's father-in-law. Meet on Camberwell Green, junction of Camberwell Road & Camberwell Church Street.

Sunday 2 August 3pm: Wonderful Weeds
Roy Vickery of the South London Botanical Institute will lead a stroll around Burgess Park exploring the folklore and uses of our native plants. Meet at the Camberwell Road entrance to Burgess Park.

Wednesday 5 August 7pm: Brockwell Park is waiting in the dark!
Wild West heroes, a cure for impotence, the devil's fruit and deadly mermaids are just part of the cast in this stroll around Brixton's magnificent Brockwell Park. Brockwell Park Gates Herne Hill entrance. Junction Dulwich Road and Norwood Road.

Sunday 9 August 3pm: The Greenwich Mysteries
Jacqueline Woodward-Smith takes a walk around Greenwich Park, and maybe beyond, in search of goddesses and mysteries in the land. Meet at the King William Walk gates in Greenwich.

Thursday 13 August 7pm: The Peckham Ghost Trail
Follow the trail of the infamous Peckham Ghost with SELFS host Scott Wood, meeting other phantoms of Peckham & Nunhead on the way. Meet Honor Oak Station, walk ends Nunhead Green approx 9pm.

Sunday 16th August 3pm: A short radical ramble in SE1: subversive amblings up Blackfriars Road. A walk with Past Tense: Anarchist plotters, King Mob tumult, ranters, writers, early feminists, physical force chartists and more... Meet at the Obelisk, St George's Circus, SE1

All walks between 1-2 for more details. Keep an eye on the website and the Facebook page for more walks.We'll try and be brave but walks won't happen if it's pouring with rain please ring 0795 201 2487 on the day to ensure the walk is happening.

Isa Craig - a Victorian feminist in Brockley

Interesting article here about Isa Craig (1831-1903), 'Victorian social reformer, women's rights activist, journalist, poetess and novelist'. Born in Scotland, she moved to London and was active in the campaign for women's employment, writing to The Times that 'in securing her independence the dignity of woman is deeply concerned. The power of independent industry, which saves her from a mercenary marriage, renders her equally free to serve the needs of the world'. She was an early advocate of women's suffrage, joining the Enfranchisement Enfrancisement of Women Committee when it was formed in 1866. At this time her address was 14 Clyde Terrace, Brockley Road.

She wrote for publications including the English Woman's Journal, and published several novels and volumes of poetry. In 1858 one of her poems won the Robert Burns Centenary Competition at The Crystal Palace, which had attracted over 600 entrants. Apparently more than 14,000 people turned up for the Burns celebration at Sydenham, but Craig was not amongst them and didn't realize that she had won until later. Her novels included Esther West.

She became Mrs Craig-Knox after marrying Mr John Knox at St. John's, Lewisham in 1866, but seems to have lived in Hampstead in the 1880s. The 1891 Census though records Ida and her family living at 88 Breakspears Road, Brockley where she remained until her death in 1903.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

New Cross Reggae Shops/Labels

Really only beginning to find out more about the contribution of New Cross and surrounding area to the history of reggae. I've mentioned before Eve Records in Upper Brockley Road, birthplace of Lovers Rock in the 1970s.

Another important record shop/record label was Fay Music. According to the Reggaepedia 'Fay Music was the label of Winston Edwards. It was set up from Jah Shaka's house in Alpha Road, London in 1974. In 1975 Edwards opened his Fay Music record shop in southeast London's New Cross. The greatest success for the label was the album 'King Tubby Meets The Upsetter At The Grass Roots Of Dub' which remained for three months at the top of Black Music's reggae chart. The label was closed down in 1978'. Fay Music also released singles by Augustus Pablo and U Roy.

The addresses for Fay Music I have come across are 21 Alpha Road, SE14 (presumably Shaka's house) and 324 New Cross Road, SE 14 (presumably the New X record shop referred to previously).

After the closure of Fay Music, Edwards apparently went on to manage Joe Gibbs' record shop in Lewisham Way, 'He also launched his Studio 16 label here. He worked there to the start of the 80's and the shop seem to have folded when Joe Gibbs was having various legal problems'. So legendary Jamaican artist/producer Gibbs had a record shop in Lewisham Way - was he actually living in London at the time, or was it just the London end of his Jamaican business?

Joe Gibbs Record City was at 29 Lewisham Way (where Viva Zapata is now) and regularly compiled the UK reggae chart in the early 1980s.

As for Shaka himself, he had 'had an Arts & Craft Culture shop in New Cross' in the 1980s. Would be good to know where so we know where to put a plaque...

Yet another reggae record label based locally was Sound City Records (1978-81) at 494 New Cross Road, SE14 and at the same address King & City Records (1980-82)

Finally, another local landmark in this respect would have to be the Mad Professor's 1980s Ariwa studio at 42 Gautrey Road, SE15 - technically a Peckham postcode, but only a couple of streets outside SE14 in the Nunhead area.

Anybody with any memories/information about these places, please get in touch so that we can do justice to them.

Here's some footage of Jah Shaka in 1986 in Arklow Road, Deptford:

Spooks Stops Trains in Deptford

Before you rush to construct a conspiracy theory about the security services implementing a Strategy of Tension by leaving dummy bombs around London, it should be noted that this story relates to the TV programme...

'A prop used in a television spy drama disrupted train services after sparking a security alert. A passer-by called the emergency services after spotting what was described as an oil drum with wires sticking out in a yard close to Deptford train station. But after a short investigation by officers from the Met, it was found the item was in fact a prop used in the television series Spooks. The alert caused 12 trains travelling from Charing Cross to Dartford, Dover and Hastings to be delayed by more than half an hour between 11pm and midnight on July 1. Others trains were forced to stop on the tracks for around 20 minutes and Landmann Way in New Cross was closed to all traffic while police checked out the item...

The production company Kudos Film and Television said the item was "stored securely" at its studio in Bermondsey. A spokeswoman said: “A prop used on Spooks was stored securely in the production’s private courtyard. A member of the public looked into the yard and, on seeing the prop, decided to alert the emergency services as a precaution. As soon as the Spooks production team were contacted, they confirmed the package was just a prop and not dangerous.”

Full story at This is Local London, 14 July 2009.

56a - Films and Zines

56a Infoshop, at the Elephant and Castle, has a few events coming up over the next couple of weeks.

As part of the ongoing Full Unemployment Cinema season, they are screening Rene Clair's 1931 film À nous la liberté on Sunday 19th July at 5pm. According to IMDB it is a 'A famous left-wing satirical comedy about two ex-convicts, one of whom escaped jail and then worked his way up from salesman to factory owner, where he oversees a highly mechanized operation where the workers are reduced to mere automatons. Fearful of being exposed over his past, at first by his friend and later by another gangster, the owner chooses to give his factory to the workers, then escapes with his friend to the freedom of the open road. The production company for 'A Nous la Liberte' was for more than a decade embroiled in a lawsuit claiming that Charles Chaplin had seen their film and plagiarized many ideas from it as he developed Modern Times'. Admission is Free at 56a Crampton Street, SE17.

The following weekend sees DO YOU REMEMBER ZINES? - 56a ZINE LIBRARY LAUNCH and BENEFIT WEEKEND. It starts on Saturday 25th July with a Launch Party at The Grosvenor (17 Sidney Road, Stockwell SW9- 7.30pm start) with music from Jean Genet, Husbands, Chaps and Candy Panic Attack, as well as zine stall from Cherry Bomb Comics, Ricochet Ricochet, 56a and more tbc.

The next day (Sunday 26th July at 56a Crampton Street, SE17) there will be a pancake breakfast from 12 noon, followed by an afternoon of workshops, discussions, exhibition, zine library browsing and general hanging out. Specific activities confirmed will include self published comics discussion, practical squatting and bike fixing workshops. Crashspaces available for weekenders. More details at 56a website.

Monday, July 13, 2009

A Taste of London: Greenwich Whitebait

A Taste of London in Food and Pictures by Theodore Fitzgibbon (Pan Books, 1973) is a mixture of social history and recipes, with the latter chosen because of their associations with the capital. Examples include London Buns, Chelsea Buns, Bubble & Squeak and Pease Pudding.

The nearest it comes to a specific South London recipe is in a section on Greenwich and Whitebait. It states:

Since medieval times it has been a summer custom to go by water to Greenwich, and a river boat still plies in the summer from Westminster Bridge and Charing Cross Pier, but alas the Souchet and the freshly caught whitebait dinners are a thing of the past, although frozen whitebait are available. Old Greenwich Fair in the Park was the scene of every variety of entertainment.

'The flair began directly you landed from the ship "Torbay Tavern" up to the Park gates, and the road was bordered on either side with stalls, games, and handwaggons containing goods or refreshments of every description ... ' G. Culver Budd, Easter and Whitsun Fairs in and about old Greenwich, 1910

'Then won't I have a precious lark
Down One Tree Hill in Greenwich Park.'

(Cruickshank, Comic Almanack. )

'Gladstone at Greenwich Ate his whitebait gaily,
Then ordered tea and shrimps, And sent for Disraeli.
Benjamin Disraeli sent back word to say:
"I'm wanted in the City, It's Lord Mayor's Day".

Whitebait are the small fry of the herring although some­times small sprats are used as well. They used to be found in large quantities in the Thames and huge shoals were caught at Greenwich and Blackwall during July and August. Until 1895 Ministers of the Crown had a whitebait dinner provided by the Trafalgar Tavern in Greenwich (Lord Nelson's body was brought to Greenwich to lie in state), and the Opposition were provided with the same at the Old Ship Tavern.

At least half a pound (227 grammes) whitebait should be allowed per person. Keep the whitebait in a cold place before using, then wash and dry them very thoroughly. Have enough seasoned flour in a large plastic bag, then shake a handful at a time in the flour. Do this just before frying, for they become soggy if left. Heat up oil in a deep-fryer until a faint blue haze comes from it, then fry a handful of whitebait at a time in a frying basket for 2 to 3 minutes. When ready, drain on paper or a rack and keep in a warm place until all are done, then put all the whitebait together into the frying basket for 1-2 minutes until crisp. Serve at once with salt, brown bread and butter and wedges of lemon. Iced champagne or punch was drunk with them. When served with cayenne pepper liberally sprinkled over them they are called Devilled Whitebait.

While waiting for the whitebait to be cooked, at Green­wich a fish soup called Souchet or Souchy (from the Flemish Waterzootje) was served. Souchet is a clear fish soup flavoured with parsley, peppercorns, a little onion and slices of lemon, and served with hot brown toast'.

Swigg's Hotel for whitebait dinners, King William Walk, Greenwich, 1885

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Syncopating Sandy at the New Cross Empire

'Syncopating Sandy' Strickland made his name in the 1950s as an endurance piano player, travelling the country trying to set records for playing the piano without a break. One of the venues he used was the New Cross Empire music hall, situated in Deptford Broadway opposite Addy & Stanhope school (pictured below in 1910).

According to Gramophone (August 1974) 'Sandy Strickland, was a non-stop piano player in the barbaric days of marathon dancers and other bizarre feats of endurance. Strickland would book the New Cross Empire from 9 am on a Monday through to 11 pm on the Saturday, during which time he would play the piano without stopping—no sleep, and being fed at the keyboard. The audience came and went as they pleased, and by Saturday they could be standing in the aisles'.

Linda Neesham recalls: 'the New Cross Empire... was demolished in about 1960 and I think a garage now stands in its place. In about 1959 I saw one of the last, if not the last, act to appear there. He was called Syncopating Sandy and he was trying to set a new endurance record for piano playing. He went on for days and it was free just to wander in and sit and watch him for a while. Screens were pulled round periodically for normal functions to be carried out!'

Strickland apparently died in 1975, 11 years after his last public appearance 'in Hampshire, in 1964, when he played non-stop for 132 hours'.

Saturday, July 11, 2009


With everyone talking about Florence and the Machine spare a thought for her former band Ashok - who I have seen described as Brockley and Greenwich-based but are definitely in the Transpontine area. A couple of the songs Flo sings on her new album developed from tracks she performed with Ashok. Interesting to compare versions - Ashok's Happy Slap is an earlier take on Florence and The Machine's Kiss with a Fist. Ashok are more jazz/funky, complete with MC. Their album Plans is also out now.

Here's some footage of Ashok (complete with Florence) performing at Brixton Jamm in 2006:

Friday, July 10, 2009

Alexander O'Neal for Free in Southwark Park

Tomorrow is a bumper day for free music in South East London. As well as Lewisham People's Day, it's also The Event in Southwark Park, with the headliner, due on stage at around 8:15 pm, none other than soul legend Alexander O'Neal. Which is as good a reason as any to post this clip of his great 1987 hit, Criticize:

Hot Summer Nights at the Rivoli

Cut a Shine

The launch party for Lewisham People's Day last Friday saw a packed and very hot dance floor at the Rivoli , thanks to Cut a Shine and their raucous ceilidh/barn dance set. There were people spinning in circles, dancing under arches and looking around in confusion as they struggled to keep up with the instructions from the caller as the drink took effect (or was that just me?)

All of this in the fabulous ballroom and its railway carriage-like bar.

Brockley Ukulele Group supported, and thanks to this I got to poke around backstage for the first time. Among the treasures to be found in its red painted corridor was this vintage cash register from the days when a pint cost 6d.

Florence and The Machine

A few days later (Tuesday 7th), Florence and The Machine held the launch party for her debut album at the Rivoli. Florence is from Camberwell, and the album Lungs is getting fantastic reviews. With Brixton's La Roux also riding high it looks like the predicted South London Redhead Insurgency is in full effect.

(photo by Nialler9 at Flickr)

Jive Dancing

I've also just come across this article from The Independent (2.11.2008) by Luiza Sauma on Austerity Entertainment: Hot to Trot: 'Britain may be in financial turmoil, but inside south London's Rivoli Ballroom, you'd never know it. Under the scarlet glow of the venue's giant Chinese lanterns, hundreds of people are jiving the night away, while a band in 1940s garb swing out on stage. At the centre of the dancing mass, a beautiful girl in a white 1920s-style flapper dress is kicking her heels on the wooden floor, a gleeful smile on her face. In fact, Deborah is 41 and works in HR, but the carefree way she moves makes her look 20 years younger. No one else can match her, but they try anyway: from the eight-year-old dancing with her dad, to the teenagers with indie hair and vintage frocks. There are white people, black people, Asian people; old, young and middle-aged; all dancing together, as if they don't have a care in the world'.

"We invite everybody along, as long as they behave themselves – and why not?" says the Rivoli's amiable owner, Bill Mannix, who has been running the grade II-listed venue for 30 odd years, and dutifully preserving its original flock wallpaper, chandeliers and plush velvet furnishings. In the past, this is what people have always done during troubled times – they cobbled together their glad rags, and went out dancing...' (lots more in the full article).

For details of jive dancing at the Rivoli, check out Jive Party.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

A Saturday in Deptford

I was sitting in the sun outside the Deptford Deli on Saturday when I came across the article in the Guardian about Deptford and its creative juices. I certainly soaked up enough of them at the weekend, starting with picking up a few books on the market followed by a gorgeous mixed meze for brunch at the Deli - the food there is excellent.

Next it was on to Laban for the end of year children's show. On account of the heat I had to have an iced coffee in the cafe there first, also run by Feast Your Eyes (who run the Deli) - not quite such a selection of food, but hey nobody ever got rich selling food to skinny dancers.

In the show there was some good dancing of course, but to be honest it's just a pleasure to sit in the Laban theatre listening to good music on their awesome sound system. The soundtrack to the performance included Squarepusher, Transglobal Underground, Nitin Sawney and The Prodigy - oh and a completely different tip The Lark Ascending by Vaughan Williams.

Then we went to the Deptford Arms for a bit to take in some of the Deptford Independence Festival, featuring music all day and most of the night at the Arms, as well as at the Birds Nest and the Albany. Highlight for me was Anthony.Love, a singer songwriter accompanying himself on a semi-acoustic bass. He did a good cover version of Bloc Party's Flux as well as some of his own songs (mural below is in the garden at Deptford Arms - same artist who did the recent Brockley station mural, I believe).

Finished up in the Duke, labanistas pub of choice, recently refurbished by the people behind The Dartmouth Arms in Forest Hill and the The Dolphin in Sydenham. It feels like it's about twice the size as when I last went there a few years ago, nice and airy with very comfy sofas. All in all a good day out in SE8.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Deptford Job Centre

There's a public meeting on saving Deptford Job Centre tomorrow (Thursday 9 July, 7 pm) at the Albany, Douglas Way, SE8. It has been called by the Public and Commercial Services Union, who explain:

'On Friday 13/03/09 PCS members at Deptford Jobcentre Plus were advised that it was likely that the Deptford Job Centre would close, as the lease is due to expire in November 2009. Lewisham Council have major plans to redevelop Deptford town centre and planning permission has been granted to build a restaurant and private flats on the site currently occupied by Jobcentre Plus. JCP have told PCS that they will continue to look for suitable alternatives in the Deptford area. However they also have a contingency plan, which involves moving work from Deptford to the Lewisham and Forest Hill Job Centres.

The last thing people in Deptford need is the closure of their Job Centre. PCS will be campaigning over the coming months to ensure that an adequate public service is maintained within the area and we firmly believe this means a permanent Job Centre, located in Deptford, providing a full range of services'.

Peckham Raises the Roof

Hot on the heels of Deptford's Creative Juices, Peckham gets the treatment in Sunday's Observer Review section (5 July 2009):

'Peckham raises the roof. Move over Hackney! London's next creative hotspot, signalled by this bold rooftop sculpture park, could be south of the river, reports Hermione Hoby:

It's a hot Tuesday night, and 1,000 twentysomethings have elected to spend it in a multi-storey municipal car park in Peckham. It's a crowd impressive enough to match the big, bold artworks they're here to see. A sculpture park on the roof of the 10-storey building in Rye Lane forms the highlight of the third Bold Tendencies exhibition from the Hannah Barry Gallery, which has joined forces with four local artists' groups for a formidable show.

Coming so soon after the success of Barry's Peckham Pavilion at the Venice Biennale, if anything can substantiate claims of an influential youthful art "scene" in Peckham, this is it... the south London suburb is more likely to be associated, at best, with fictitious wheeler-dealers Rodney and Del Boy, and worst, Harriet Harman in a stab-proof vest. Soon, though, it may become synonymous with art. Cheap rent and large empty buildings are a classic recipe for attracting young artists, and Peckham's creative boom has also been helped by a stream of graduates from nearby Camberwell and Goldsmiths art colleges'.

Full article here .

Good luck to the artists of Peckham, but personally I am a bit weary of the endless series of articles about Deptford/New Cross/Peckham being the new Shoreditch/Hoxton/Hackney. Sometimes it feels like only the antics of 'twentysomething' artists are deemed worthy of mention, the real issues facing the majority of people living round here - including poverty and housing for many - just aren't crazy sexy cool enough to mention until murders and tower block fires make them newsworthy. Rant over.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Lewisham People's Day 2009

It's Lewisham People's Day this weekend, with lots of music for free in Mountsfield Park from 12 - 7 pm. The James Taylor Quartet headline the Albany Stage at around 5.45 pm. Lots of local sounds on the Bandstand including Bloco De Louco samba band, local singer-songwriter Jenifer Jay and from the Ivory Coast via Downham, X Factor singer Zyta.

The Global Local Village Hall features acts including Katy Carr, Brockley Ukulele Group, Bollywood Ballroom Tea Dance, Cut-a-Shine, Liam O’Sullivan’s Gasta and Harare Dread, while the Rocklands stage features lots of indie-hopefuls such as The Postcards, Shortskirtz, Rawfox, Anita Maj and Officer Kicks.

Finally on the Broadway Stage, there's London Breakbeat Orchestra, Yokoko and The Dualers.

Monday, July 06, 2009

Colfe's and Catford High

Defend Education in Lewisham reports that 60+ people turned up to a meeting at Goldsmiths last week to oppose the plans for a Trust linking together Goldsmiths and New Cross schools (Deptford Green, Addy & Stanhope and Crossways).

More worrying still though, as highlighted by Green Ladywell, is the proposal to link together Catford High with the local fee paying private school Colfe's. The consultation document summarises:

' The Proposal is that a partnership is formed between Catford High School and Colfe’s School: Catford High School would be a Colfe’s Associate School. It would remain a state school and have its own governing body, constituted outside the requirements of The School Governance (Constitution) (England) Regulations 2007, to include the Head Teacher of Colfe’s, and to allow Colfe’s to appoint other governors to strengthen the governing body significantly. The reconstituted Catford Governing body would report into the main Colfe’s Board, which would have responsibility to steer it and offer advice. The Catford Governing Body would have representation on the main Colfe’s Board and would take account of its views in deciding the strategic direction of the school and in making key operational decisions. Catford High School would change its name to reflect its aspirations and the new partnership'.

In other words, an independent fee-paying school will have a major role in running a community secondary school - it is not a mutual partnership, but one weighted to giving Colfe's the leading role. The assumption behind this seems to be that Colfe's must be a good school because of its academic record and that this will magically rub off on Catford High. But the reason why Colfe's performs so well is because a) it is much better resourced and b) it selects only the most able pupils to attend. I'd like to see them them get such great results with the same intake as Catford High and the same funding and staffing ratios.

But of course this proposal won't challenge their intake - they will just siphon off a few of the more high flying students for bursaries ('The partnership will produce a regular flow of academically gifted bursary candidates into the Colfe’s Sixth Form') while retaining the basic social apartheid of one school for the well-off and one for the rest ('Colfe’s and Catford High pupils would not be taught together').

It is unclear whether Colfe's will financially benefit directly from this deal - there is no mention of money changing hands - but in the long term the financial benefits could be enormous. This is because the Charities Commission is finally getting round to querying the dubious charitable status of independent schools - charities largely for the benefit of the more affluent which enjoy all the tax perks of more genuine charities. As the consultation document states 'The partnership will enable Colfe’s to satisfy many of the criteria of the Charities Commission in respect of pubic benefit, most notably in respect of the provision of means-tested bursaries.' In other words to retain their lucrative tax status.

Consultation closes on 22 July 2009.

Bashy in Deptford Market

Check out the Deptford Market scenes on the video for Bashy's new single, Who wants to be a millionaire? (shot by Digital Sneakers):

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Dragon Slayer Talk at SELFS

South East London Folklore Society meets this month on Thursday 9th July, and features a talk by Christopher Hadley on The Riddle of Shonks' Tomb:

'Christopher Hadley will ask if the fabulous stories told about a Hertfordshire tomb remember a medieval 'dragon slayer' or are simply attempts to explain its strange carvings. The search for an answer begins with events separated by eight hundred years: a death under the Norman yoke, and a strange discovery beneath a yew tree on a 19th Century farm'.

The tomb in question is in a church at Brent Pelham, Herfordshire, and purports to be that of Piers Shonks the dragon slayer sometimes referred to as the Hertfordshire St George.

SELFS regular meet at The Old King's Head, Kings Head Yard, 45-49,Borough High St, London, SE1 1NA. Talks start at 8.00pm, £2.50 / £1.50 concessions Website: Contact: scott@selfs.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Deptford: drowning in creative juices

From today's Guardian Weekend magazine, by Tom Dyckhoff :

'Let's Move to Deptford, South East London.... What's going for it? Where-oh-where have all the arty farties gone in London? Time was you could walk down Shoreditch High Street and spy half a dozen Turner prize nominees. Now it's all IT execs, and the bridge and tunnel crowd. Some say Hackney Wick. Some say Bethnal Green. I say Deptford. The Laban Dance Centre was the Trojan Horse a few years back. Now the whole place is drowning in creative juices. Latest arrival: the Deptford Project, a groovily eccentric 60s South East Trains carriage turned cafe-cum-art space, hauled on to the High Street. But, thank the Lord, the Vietnamese cafes, Afro nail bars and pie and mash shops more than curbs any latent pretension. And, among it all, St Paul's church, a masterpiece of English baroque'

More follows on grime, schools and property prices.

Friday, July 03, 2009

Last Lap at the White Hart

The White Hart in New Cross has abandoned its short-lived conversion to a lap dancing Gentlemen's club, the focus for a Stop the Strip campaign that brought 100 people to a demonstration there on May 22 (pictured). One factor may have been advice that as a listed building, the pub was not permitted to have black out windows.

Anyway it's back open as a pub, so you don't have to be a particular kind of Gentleman to go there anymore. In fact on Sunday night, there's some more agreeable kind of dancing (to my taste) with a DJ playing funky house. Let's hope the pub survives, it's a good space in a key location in New Cross.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Lewisham and Hither Green rail crashes

Newsreel footage of the Lewisham (1957) and Hither Green (1967) rail disasters:

The Lewisham rail crash occurred on 4th December 1957 just outside St Johns railway station. Ninety people were killed and 173 injured.

The Hither Green rail crash occurred on 5 November 1967 opposite Hither Green Traction Maintenance Depot, between Hither Green and Grove Park railway stations. A Sunday evening express train from Hastings to London derailed shortly before the train crossed the St Mildred's Road railway bridge. Most of the carriages overturned, two of them having their sides torn off. 49 people died.

Open Mic in Greenwich

If you're not going to the Rivoli or the Monty on Friday night, there's an open mic night in Greenwich at the Star & Garter, 60 Old Woolwich Road, SE10. Get on down and do a turn. Think it's going to be a weekly Friday night affair.

Goldsmiths to take over New Cross Schools

Lewisham Council is currently consulting on a far-reaching proposal to bring together two local secondary schools (Deptford Green and Addey & Stanhope) and Crossways Academy (sixth form college) under the leadership of Goldsmiths College. The proposal is for the three schools to create a hard federation with a single governing body and a Trust arrangement with Goldsmiths. The Trust would be an Incorporated Charity with educational purposes; Goldsmiths would play a leading role and the Trust would be called the 'Goldsmiths Education Partnership'.

This proposal is not about privatizing education as such. The Trust would be not-for-profit, and the schools would continue to be state-funded as comprehensive secondary schools. Staff would continue to work to national terms and conditions. On its own terms, the proposal has some positive features. Nobody could deny that the Goldsmiths, which is internationally-renowned for its educational research, has much to offer local schools, and it wouldn't do more staff and students at Goldsmiths any harm to have to deal more directly with the young people living and learning outside the walls of the institution.

A key concern though is about governance, and the potential squeezing out of parent and staff voices. For Community Schools, the legal regulations require that at least one third of governors must be parent governors and there must also be at least two staff governors. There is also a requirement to have a governor nominated by the Local Education Authority. While this falls far short of community control of schools, it does at least ensure that some parents and staff have a direct input into key decisions for schools.

The Goldsmiths Education Partnership (GEP) will have two levels of governance - the GEP Trust itself and the federated governing body that will replace the three current school governing bodies. The Trust will have six trustees, three nominated in perpetuity by Goldsmiths and one each initially by the governing bodies of Deptford Green, Crossways and Addey & Stanhope Schools. Each of the three nominated by the present governing bodies will be replaced on resignation by a nominee of the federated governing body of the three schools.

There is no requirement that any of these Trustees will be parent governors or staff governors. In fact the proposal does not specify how many parent or staff governors there will actually be - though by definiton a single governing body for three schools will have less parents involved than three governing bodies. It is proposed that the Goldsmiths Education Partnership will nominate the majority of the governors to the governing body - so there is a circular process in which Goldsmiths dominates the Trust which in turn determines the majority of governors, who then nominate the non-Goldsmiths members of the Trust. The proposal does say that 'each school will be legally required to set up a Parent Council which governors must consult so that more parents can be involved than would usually sit on the governing bodies'. The problem is that being consulted is not the same as actually having seats at the table where decisions are taken.

The proposal also mentions that 'The Trust may include an additional partner from the public or private sector able to make a complementary contribution' and that this partner may also nominate one or two additional Trustees. Without knowing who this partner is it is difficult to say much more, but clearly this would build in an automatic majority for Goldsmiths and the partner on the Trust, further marginalising the already limited scope for parent governor influence on it.

There are some wider questions here too about the spread of Goldsmiths' influence in the local area. They already occupy much of the old town centre of New Cross, including the former town hall and swimming pool and various houses and shops. Now they will also have a major say in the local secondary schools too. At the same time they have no accountability to local people, not even the limited accountability that the Council has. Goldsmiths might be a relatively benign dictatorship - at least it is not a ruthless commercial enterprise - but community engagement means more than taking over community facilities and having the odd public meeting.

The consultation closes on 20 July 2009 - full details here

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Monty on Friday

If you're not coming to the Rivoli Ballroom on Friday (3rd July), Shopping Trolley Promotions have their monthly night of experimentation at the Montague Arms featuring the free jazz of Fuck Off Batman among other attractions. £5/£3.

Transpontine Twitter

Transpontine now has twitter:

Still testing it out, but sign up and expect to receive some content eventually.