Monday, November 30, 2009

A radical funeral in Brockley Cemetery, 1888

In November 1887, the Social Democratic Federation and the Irish National League organised a demonstration against 'coercion in Ireland' in Trafalgar Square. The day became known as 'Bloody Sunday' after a clashes with police left hundreds injured and at least three dead.

Among those who died was a Deptford radical, William Bate Curner. In circumstances similar to the death of Ian Tomlinson earlier this year on the G20 demonstration, there was a dispute about the cause of his death. The inquest, held at the Lord Clyde pub in Deptford on 16 January 1888 heard that 'he was stated to have received injuries to the head, inflicted by a policeman' described as 'barbarous and cruel'. However a verdict of 'death from natural courses' was returned, after medical evidence that he also suffered from heart problems. (Times January 17 1888). As with Tomlinson it is surely hard to believe that the injuries sustained at the hands of the police didn't contribute to the death, even if there was an underlying health problem.

Curner's funeral in Brockley Cemetery was a major event, reported in The Times on the 9th January 1888:

'The remains of William Bate Curwin, stonemason, of 58, Henry-street, Deptford, who had died suddenly after undergoing a sentence of 14 days' hard labour for taking part in riotous proceedings in Trafalgar Square, in the course of which he received certain injuries, were interred in Brockley Cemetery on Saturday. The circumstances of the death are forming the subject of an inquiry by coroner's jury, the case standing adjourned.

The funeral procession reached the cemetery about 4 o'clock. It consisted of a hearse and two coaches and a walking party numbering about 1,000, and was made up of representatives of the Deptford and Greenwich branches of the National League, the Deptford branch of the Social Democratic Federation, the East Greenwich, Deptford, and Woolwich Radical Clubs, the West Deptford Reform Club, the Home Rule Union, &c.

The bands of the local branch of the National League and the East Greenwich Radical Club played the 'Dead March'. The hearse bore the inscription 'Killed in Trafalgar Aquare'. On banners draped in mourning were such inscriptions as 'Honour to the Dead' and 'Assist the Widow. There was a very large gathering at the grave and a number of torches were used while the burial ceremonial adopted by the Secularists was performed by Mr Robert Forder. Addresses were then delivered by Mr W T Stead, Mrs Besant, and Mr J J Larkin, and a 'Death Song' having been sung by a Socialist choir, the proceedings terminated' (Times Jan 9 1888).

As can be seen from these two reports there is some confusion about the name of the dead man. The Times report of the inquest has the surname Curner and the funeral report Curwin. I am fairly sure that the former name is correct; genealogy sites have a William Bate Curner in Deptford, but not Curwin. Also the name Curner is used elsewhere - in E.P Thompson's biography of William Morris for instance, which mentions the funeral of 'William B Curner, a prominent Deptford Radical and Secularist'.

Morris wasn't at the funeral but he did write the Death Song which closed it - it was first used at the funeral of another of those who died at the time, Alfred Linnell. The line up at Curner's funeral was quite impressive though. Annie Besant was already well known as a socialist and secularist, and later in 1888 was to play a key role in the famous Match Girls Strike. W T Stead was a prominent campaigner and journalist - he was the editor of the Pall Mall Gazette at the time. Robert Forder was secretary of the National Secular Society.

I believe that Henry Street, Deptford, is now part of Childers Street.

I had a look in Brockley Cemetery for the grave recently, but had no luck. If anybody else knows its whereabouts please comment.

Updated September 2013:

Report from Commonweal (paper of the Socialist League), January 14 1888:

'Last Saturday afternoon William B. Curner, who died from injuries received from the conflict with the police on Sunday 13th November, was buried in Brockley Cemetery. The deceased was a Secularist and Radical, and as such occupied a somewhat prominent position in the borough of Deptford, where he resided. The occasion of his burial was marked by a public funeral, and the whole line of route from his residence in Henry Street, Deptford, to the cemetery was lined with sympathetic spectators. Blinds were drawn and mourning borders were displayed from houses, one of the chief. tradesmen displaying over his shop black flags, two with mottoes, " Honour the Dead,"  and "Let all assist the Widow." The. funeral hearse bore Radical, Irish, and Socialist flags, and also a shield with the inscription "Killed for Trafalgar Square'. A band playing the "Dead March" preceded the hearse, the whole procession to the cemetery being most imposing.

At the grave R. Forder, surrounded by a dense throng of people, among them being representatives of Secular, Radical, and Socialist bodies, read the secular burial service. After which Mrs. Besant made a most impressive speech, in which she urged her hearers not to shrink back from the struggle for freedom in which their brother in the grave had fallen, for in their efforts to make life worth the living some must fall. Let them go from the grave the more determined than ever to carry on the fight for which, he had given his life. Mr. Stead followed with a most fervid speech, and speaking as a Christian at the grave of an Atheist dwelt on the necessity for the sinking of mere minor differences of opinion: the cause of the people was the cause
of humanity, and all its lovers would unite for the overthrow of its enemies.

Mr. Larkin then made a brief speech, and the choir of the Socialist League brougt the proceedings to a close by singing William Morris's " Death Song," written to commemorate the death and burial of Linnell.

This is the second public funeral that has taken place within a month, the dead in each case being martyrs to the cause of freedom of speech. How many more are to be sacrificed ere "liberty the parent of truth" shall
triumph?'

(I have just added to a previous post on Margaret and Rachel McMillan that they too are buried in Brockley Cemetery)

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Dire Straits in Deptford

Deptford Dame notes that this Thursday the Performing Rights Society are planning to unveil a plaque for Dire Straits on the Crossfields Estate in Deptford to commemorate the band's first gig there back in 1977.

Most of Dire Straits actually lived in a flat on the first floor of Farrer House on the estate at the time. At one point in the 1970s it looked as if the estate would be demolished. After a campaign to save it, the Council decided that it was unsuitable for families and allocated the flats instead to young people -which is how quite a few musicians and artists came to be living there.

According to Mark Knopfler's website: 'The band's first gig took place on the open space at the back of the Farrer House flats, the electricty provided by a power cable running from the stage into a socket on the wall of John's first floor flat'.

Not everybody foresaw their potential in these early days. A review in the Mercury of a local gig in 1977 was far from flattering, with writer Jad Adams asking: 'Would Dire Straits by offended if I called them a poor man's JJ Cale? They are a good support band playing easy, laid back country rock which everyone appreciates but no one gets very excited over. From the Crossfield Estate, Deptford, where they recently played a community benefit, they are all intelligent, competent musicians. The line up: bass player John Isley, who has just taken a sociology degree; social worker Dave Knofler [sic -the paper mis-spelt the name] on rhythm, his brother Mark, a college lecturer, on lead; with Pick Withers, who "scrapes a meagre living" as a session musician, on drums' (Mercury 4 August 1977).

Way on Down South London Town

I was never a fan of Dire Straits in their period of 1980s stadium excess, but have to admit now that they actually wrote some good songs. My favourite remains their early hit ‘Sultans of Swing’, and not just because the 'Way on Down South London Town' setting for the song was a local pub. In an interview Mark Knopfler recalled: 'It was a little deserted pub in Deptford where we were all living at the time - the pub was semi-deserted and the band were down at heel and it was just playing these Dixie standards of Louis Armstrong things, the way they always do. They're an interesting make up, those kind of bands in that they're blokes who do all sorts of things, aren't they? They're postmen, they're draughtsmen, whatever, quantity surveyors, teachers, different things and they were expressing themselves. I mean that's one thing that struck me that whatever I might have felt about it they were expressing themselves and when the guys said "Thank you very much", you know, "We are the Sultans of Swing", there was something really funny about it to me because Sultans, they absolutely weren't. You know they were rather tired little blokes in pullovers.'

Not sure exactly what pub it was - The Duke has got to be a possibility as a (then) music pub close to Farrer House. Maybe if anyone from the band turns up next week somebody can ask them.





Of course there's already the Dire Straits inspired Love Over Gold mural on Creekside, which aritst Gary Drostle did with local kids in 1989.


Update: According to Pete Frame's book Rockin' Around Britain, the Sultans of Swing pub was actually The White Swan, in Blackheath Road, Greenwich.

They came from outer Sydenham

A couple of recently spotted South London fortean stories.

Neil Arnold at the Londonist reports a tale from 'several years ago' of an odd supposed sighting in Brockley: 'We saw a figure walking up the street towards us. The word we coined later to describe its movement was 'lolloping' - a kind of up and down bouncy walk. It took a few seconds for the two of us to realise this was no human being. The creature was entirely black and like a cardboard cut-out, flat and one-dimensional. It had no features at all, and it had arms that hung down to its knees. It seemed to be ignoring us, then it seemed to realise we could see it and it began to lollop faster towards us' (full story here).

Meanwhile the Newshopper (16 November 2009) reports strange lights over Sydenham:

'A mother and daughter had the fright of their lives when they saw two strange orange lights in the sky. Nurse Sue Hentschel was driving her teenage daughter Jessica to a dance class when they witnessed a terrifying vision in the sky. Their car was stuck in heavy Sydenham traffic on November 2 at around 6.10pm when they saw two mysterious lights. Mrs Hentschel, of Stembridge Road, Anerley, said: “We saw these two lights which were orange coming towards us. “My daughter looked up and said ‘Mum, what’s that?’ “I didn’t know. I just said ‘What the hell is that? What is it?’” She says they stared dumbfounded for several minutes as the lights hovered over Hazeldene School;.

The comments thread to this story has other people reporting seeing the same lights, but others provide the more prosaic explanation that they were in fact Chinese lanterns rather than spacecraft.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Saucy rats, murder ballads and bonkers folklore

One Eye Grey is 'a penny dreadful for 21st century that draws on the tradition of those as well as the pulp fiction that followed. It features modern stories based on traditional London tales of the uncanny, paranormal and supernatural'

To celebrate the release of One Eye Grey theme on vinyl they are taking over the Pullens Centre (Crampton Street SE17) on Friday December 4th, from 8.00 to 10.00pm.

Expect to hear: Murder ballads courtesy of Jude Cowan; Scary stories by One Eye Grey writers; Incredible tales of south London wonder from Scott Wood of the South East London Folklore Society; music from Nigel of Bermondsey and London Dreamtime singing stories from the streets.

The event coincides with the Pullens Yard xmas sale - free mince pies, mulled wine and carol singing will be available in the yards (Clements, Peacock and Illiffe) as well as stalls selling gifts.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Hatcham - Still No Action

Still no sign of any action at the Hatcham Liberal Club in New Cross (369 Queens Road), shamefully empty more than two years after it closed. For over 100 years it was a place for drinking, socialising, music and much else. In its last few years alone the hall out the back hosted Exploding cinema film nights, jazz nights, private parties and more - in fact I DJed there a couple of times myself.

I've mentioned before its earlier radical history, and a quick google search shows that all kinds of alternative and radical currents flowed through the place from when it opened in around 1880 to at least the time of the First World War. Annie Besant lectured on socialism there, as did George Bernard Shaw and the Fabian Sidney Webb ( on 'Socialism and Cooperation'). The latter owed his political career as a London County Councillor to the club - in an 1891 letter he stated that 'B T Hall of the Hatcham Club wants to propose me as LCC Candidate for Deptford'.

Shaw also records in his diary that on November 15 1887 there was a 'Debate on Vegetarianism at the Hatcham Liberal Club between Dr. Drysdale and W. S. Manning'. There were meetings on the Irish situation too. Remarkably The Brisbane Courier (27 February 1882) carried a report of a meeting there: 'Miss Helen Taylor, who has returned from a tour in Ireland, recently addressed the members of the Hatcham Liberal Club on the condition of the country... she asked were English working men prepared to send 50,000 soldiers to Ireland to force the Irish to emigrate and leave the land desolate? She did not believe two thirds - certainly not one-half - of the Irish could pay their rents... the police were the masters of the lives and liberties of the people in Ireland'.

On Sept. 29 1889, Colonel Henry S. Olcott, a leading member of the Theosophy Society lectured at the Hatcham Liberal Club - it was apparently lthe argest audience of the season.

On 21 Feb 1912 there was a meeting in support of women's suffrage there, chaired by CW Bowerman, MP with the main speaker, Mrs F Swannick.

Now - nothing (apart from the memory of its name carried far afield by Hatcham Social). Is it going to be left to crumble just because nobody can make money from buying it? The place is crying out to be an occupied social centre, come on people!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Brixton, Lewisham


'Brixton, Lewisham' by Tony Tomas was a track on the b-side of an early Island records single by Tony & Louise, 'Ups And Downs', released in 1963. Tony Tomas was presumably the Tony of '& Louise'. I don't know much more about it - seems to have been a pre-ska record by a Jamaican singer, but with a title like that I obviously long to know more. Anybody heard it, or better still can anybody sling me an MP3?

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Our Daily Bread

Full Unemployment Cinema's free showings of interesting radical films continues next Sunday November 29th with Nikolaus Geyrhalter's Our daily bread. It's a documtary from 2005 about global food production, about which Geryhalter says: 'I’m fascinated by zones and areas people normally don’t see... the production of food is also part of a closed system that people have extremely vague ideas about. The images used in ads, where butter’s churned and a little farm’s shown with a variety of animals, have nothing to do with the place our food actually comes from. There’s a kind of alienation with regard to the creation of our food and these kinds of labor, and breaking through it is necessary'.

Other films scheduled include:

December 20th: WAGES OF FEAR, Henri Georges Clouzot , 1953 (131m)

January 31st: BANGLADESH LABOUR REVOLTS. Films from the recent Garment workers strikes and riots

February 28th: PART-TIME WORK OF A DOMESTIC SLAVE, Alexander Kluge, 1973 (91m)

Film Times: Doors open 5pm - All films begin at 5.30pm. Venue: 56A Infoshop, 56 Crampton St (off Walworth Rd), Elephant and Castle.

Lost Robots in Greenwich

Interesting sound music session in Greenwich tonight (Wednesday, 25 November), with Little Other presenting Special Sounds featuring:

- Lost Robots: free improvised group featuring Mark Braby, Richard Sanderson, Andy Coules and Clive Pearman, influenced by british and german experimental rock, non-idiomatic improvisation, free jazz, minimalism, post punk, and traditional music.

- Luciano Berio's Sequenza for Solo Violin performed by Aisha Orazbayeva

- Nalle: Based in Glasgow, Hanna, formerly of Scatter, performs with voice, flutes, kantele

Ben's Pens: singer/songwriters Ben Elsley

8:00 pm start at Oliver's Music Bar, Nevada Street, Greenwich.

(Facebook event here)

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Deptford Last Fridays

Deptford Last Fridays is an evening event for anyone with an interest in what's happening at local art galleries and studios. Deptford Art Map galleries hold evening openings of their exhibitions, from 6:30-8:30pm, followed by an after-party in the studios at Creekside Artists.
The next one is this Friday 27th November, with the party from 8:30-11pm featuring live music & DJ set by 'The Meat Sweats'. Creekside Artists will also be launching their new bar 'The Queen Creek.'

Monday, November 23, 2009

Hyperdub at Corsica Studios

The Hyperdub night at Corsica Studios (Elephant & Castle) was excellent on Saturday, with two awesome live appearances. Kode9 and Spaceape were intense, but due to moving around, saying hello to folks and then being squeezed to the back, I only caught the latter half of the set. I was luckier for King Midas Sound - squeezed at the front instead - and they were outstanding on their first London gig. The project is a collaboration between Kevin Martin (of The Bug fame), Roger Robinson and Hitomi.

Must admit I did think of early Massive Attack when they were playing, something which Jonny Mugwump has already criticised (see link below). It's not so much that they particularly sound like Massive Attack, but in some ways there's a similarity of approach. On the first Massive Attack album they magnificently filtered the then current state of dance music (including hip hop) through a UK reggae sound system sensibility. King Midas Sound do something similar, except in the interim there's a whole lot of other stuff that's been added to the mix, from techno to dubstep. The KMS album is out next week, and not having heard it I don't want to overdo the hype, but on the evidence of the live show there is potential for it to have a similar impact to that first Massive Attack album as a sonic landmark that crosses over to a wider audience.

There's a couple of good new KMS interviews out there - John Eden at FACT and Jonny Mugwump at The Quietus).


(photo - Roger Robinson under the spotlight on Saturday)

Corsica Studios and La Provincia


Corsica Studios is located in a railway arch directly underneath Elephant and Castle station so joins the list of great railway arch clubs which I will eventually get round to writing about. Two good-sized rooms with nice sound system plus a bar overlooked by a picture of Dickie Davies (yes really). At the back there's a covered outside area shared by the other railway arches, including La Provincia, a Latin America club frequented mainly by Colombians. Thanks to a Spanish speaking member of our party we ended up in there for a while too.

As someone who is always as fascinated by the crowd and dance styles as the music when I go out, it was interesting to compare the two. Dress codes weren't that dissimilar - jeans and t-shirts predominating, though a bit smarter in La Provincia. Gender balance was similar too - fairly evenly matched, but with more men than women. Hyperdub though was very crowded, whereas in La Provincia people were sitting round tables.

And the dancing was very different - in La Provincia it was exclusively salsa dancing couples, whereas in Corsica there wasn't room for much more than nodding heads, shuffling on the spot, and hands in the air for the more enthusiastic. At Hyperdub a lot of the dancing was in rows facing the front, which means people are mostly looking at the back of the person in front of them. Understandable for a live performance, but something I have never really understood when it's just a DJ. I don't think I ever saw this before the 'superstar DJ' boom in the late 1990s, in fact I distinctly remember noticing it for the first time at the famous 1999 Armand Van Helden vs. Fatboy Slim clash where they DJed in a boxing ring in the middle of Brixton Academy. Not proposing that people should start trying out strict tempo Latin moves to dubstep - though that might be fun - but there is something to be said for shifting the balance back from the DJ to the dancefloor as the centre of attention.

Anyway just some thoughts rather than criticisms, it was a good night enlivened even more by this sense of these different dance worlds coexisting in time and space in a corner of South East London.

Some more reviews of the night: Uncarved, Yeti Blancmange, Vice Magazine (from where this Moses Whitley photo comes).

(cross posted at History is Made at Night)

Brixton, Bookmongers and Black Panthers

Last weekend I wandered round my old Brixton stomping ground for the first time in ages. Pleased to report that the market arcade is as busy as ever, had a snack at Rosie's cafe and then went to a Little Bazaar craft/jumble sale at the Rest is Noise (the town centre pub run by the people behind the Amersham Arms in New Cross). Best of all, the second hand bookshop on Coldharbour Lane - Bookmongers - is still going strong. A proper second hand bookshop with piles of books everywhere, shelves of bargain paperbacks, and generally more tomes than you could possibly have time to look through on one views.

Remembering Olive Morris

But there's always been more to Brixton that shops, another strand being its history of radical community politics. In celebration of one its past activists there 's a new exhibition just opened at Gasworks in Brixton. Do you remember Olive Morris? 'uncovers the largely untold history of Brixton-based activist Olive Morris (1952-1979)... In her short life, Olive Morris co-founded the Brixton Black Women's Group and the Organisation of Women of Asian and African Descent (OWAAD) and was part of the British Black Panther Movement. She campaigned for access to education, decent living conditions for Black communities and fought against state and police repression'. Various events are taking place alongside the exhibition, which coincides with the opening of a permanent Olive Morris collection at Lambeth Archives.

More details at the Remembering Olive Collective blog, where I also found a link to an interesting article about the Black Panther movement in London. The Black Panthers in London, 1967-72: A Diasporic Struggle Navigates the Black Atlantic by Anne-Marie Angelo (Radical History Review, Winter 2009 includes an account of the Oval House incident in August 1970 when police and Panthers clashed at a Panther-organised dance in Kennington (the slogan 'Get out, fascist fuzz' was apparently shouted!). Three people were later convicted of 'riotous assembly'.

'Police Everywhere, Justice Nowhere' meeting

A similar spirit motivates a public meeting being held this week (Tuesday 24th November, 7pm) at Brixton St Vincent's Community Centre ((off Railton Road, SW2 1AS). They say 'We are a group of Lambeth residents who believe that the problems within and between our communities can be solved by communicating with each other, and co-operating to find long-lasting solutions.We believe that the increasing powers, and abuse of powers, of the police and the authorities serves only to undermine our ability to live and work with each other' . Issues to be discussed include the 'increased presence of armed police on the streets of Lambeth'; surveillance and stop and search. More details from lambeth@riseup.net

The next night (Wednesday 25th November 2009) there's a folk-themed fundraiser in Brixton for London No Borders, a group fighting migration controls. Acts appearing at The Windmill (22 Blenheim Gardens, SW2 Niall Kelly, Emily C Smith, and Mark Ridout. Doors: 7.30pm, Suggested donation: £3.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

The McMillan Sisters and Rudolf Steiner in Deptford

McMillan Street, Rachel McMillan Nursery School and Children's Centre, and Margaret McMillan Park in Deptford all mark the long term influence of the McMillan sisters on this part of South East London.

Margaret (1860-1931) and Rachel McMillan (1859-1917) grew up in Scotland before moving to London in the 1880s, where they became active in the socialist movement. They met William Morris, the Russian anarchist Peter Kropotkin, and the Paris Communard Louise Michel, and were involved in supporting the 1889 London dock strike.

Margaret McMillan

In 1910, Margaret helped establish a pioneering child health clinic (called the School Treatment Centre) in Deptford Green, later moving it to Evelyn House (353 Evelyn Street). In 1911, the nursery started on a small scale in the garden of Evelyn House, where there was also a 'night camp' for children over eight years of age while little children were received in the day time. In 1914 the 'camp' moved to a shelter on London County Council land on the Stowage site where the Rachel McMillan Nursery School stands to this day. In the war it was mainly used by the children of munitions workers. New buildings were erected on the site in 1917, with further buildings opened by Queen Mary in 1921. Rachel died in 1917, and so Margaret named the Nursery School after her. Margaret continued to have some involvement in it until her death in 1931.
Rachel McMillan

In the early days it was known as an open air nursery school, as there was a strong emphasis on playing, learning and sleeping outside. Although sleeping outside passed from fashion, outdoor play remains at the heart of the nursery schools movement which Margaret McMillan helped inititate.

Margaret McMillan’s writings on childhood criticised schools for just preparing working class children for unskilled work. At a time of rigid discipline she opposed corporal punishment and stressed the importance of free play. In Deptford she tried to put into practice her vision of the school as 'a garden city for children', with children playing, learning and sleeping outside. Her description of children sleeping under the stars has an almost mystical quality: ‘sleepy eyes looked from their pillows at points of starry fire in the indigo blue depth; the night wind cooled their little heated bodies, and a primrose dawn called them awake. Will these children ever forget the healing joy of such nearness to the earth spirit as is possible even in Deptford?’ (quoted in Steedman).

The nursery and the clinic were both practical efforts to answer the question McMillan herself posed: ‘We all hate the poverty – and the riches – of capitalist society. But the real poverty goes deeper than wages. It is in the starved, cramped, diseased bodies and minds: the eyes that do not see; the ears that do not hear: how can we change them?’ (quoted in Steele, 1999).

Rudolf Steiner visits Deptford

McMillan's progressive ideas about children and education were shared by the Austrian thinker Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925). In August 1923, Steiner visited the nursery school in Deptford at the invitation of Margaret McMillan. He described this visit at the time:

'Today I was able to accept her invitation to visit the nursery and school established by her at Deptford, London. Three hundred of the very poorest population, from the ages of two to twelve, are wonderfully cared for there by her... one sees at work in the various classes youngsters who are spiritually active, happy in soul, well-behaved and growing healthy in body. It is an equal pleasure to see these children at play, to see them learning, eating and resting after meals'.

Mentioning that some of the older children were performing a Midsummer Night's Dream, Steiner remarked: 'The institution lies near the spot where once upon a time the court of Queen Elizabeth stood, who herself lived at Greenwich nearby. Shakespeare apparently acted for the royal household almost in the identical place in which his works are now being so delightfully interpreted by these little ones' (quoted in 'Rudolf Steiner speaks to the British: lectures and addresses in England and Wales', Rudolf Steiner Press, 1998).

Rudolf Steiner

As well as an educationalist, Steiner was an occultist with his own doctrine of Anthroposophy combining elements from Theosophy, esoteric Christianity, and Rosicrucianism. This spiritual side of him seems to have appealed to McMillan, judging by her account of his visit to Deptford. She wrote to her friend Margaret Sutcliffe: 'He came here and everything seemed new and wonderful as he entered the room... The whole world is a whispering gallery to him, and vibrations reach him for which we have no name'. She later recalled 'how in walking with her round the school he kept telling her, very concretely, of the spiritual presence of her sister Rachel with whom she had begun this work - whose death not long before had been a very heavy blow for her' (according to George Adams, cited in 'A man before others: Rudolf Steiner remembered', Rudolf Steiner Press, 1993).

Steiner's educational ideas are still applied in the Steiner-Waldorf schools, the first of which in the UK opened in Streatham Hill in 1925. And judging by a conversation I had recently with a Brockley allotment gardener, his biodynamic agriculture ideas are being applied in South East London to this day.

Margaret and Rachel McMillan are both buried in Brockley Cemetery.

Sources other than those already referenced: Jess Steele (ed.) The Children can’t wait: the McMillan sisters and the birth of nursery education (London: Deptford Forum, 1999); Carolyn Steedman, Childhood, culture and class in Britain: Margaret McMillan, 1860-1931 (London: Virago, 1990).

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Laurence James/Mick Norman

In the 1970s there was a hugely popular genre of youthsploitation pulp fiction in the UK, with paperbacks catering to a seemingly insatiable demand for tales of sex, drugs, violence and youth subcultures (skinheads, bikers etc.). A key figure in relation into all this was Laurence James. As an editor at New English Library he was involved in publishing many of them. Then he moved on to writing his own novels themed around Hells Angels under the name Mick Norman - Angels From Hell, Angel Challenge, Guardian Angels and Angels On My Mind.

I've just been reading Stewart Home's interview with James, conducted several years before his death in 2000. And yes - if you read this site regularly you can probably guess where this is going - James/Norman was living in SE London at the time he wrote the Angels novels.

James originally moved to the area from Birmingham to study at Goldsmiths in New Cross: 'I came down to London at the beginning of the sixties and dropped out of college about '62... After a year, I decided teaching was not for me and I went to work in Foyles bookshop'.

Apparently his corner of SE London was not particularly swinging at the time:

'HOME: You were in London in the sixties, rumour has it there was a lot happening.
JAMES: There wasn't a lot happening in Hither Green. Not down in south London. I hung around with a lot of friends living down in New Cross. I had a girlfriend down there at the time. I don't think very much was happening outside the centre. It wasn't a drug crazed heaven at all'.

However, it was to be his time living in Hither Green that inspired the start of the first of the Angel novels: 'It was triggered by the opening episode at Hither Green station, where there's this long tunnel, because I lived in Hither Green for a time and I always thought it was really creepy, this pedestrian tunnel that ran under the railway. The tunnel was only about five or six foot wide and I always had this nightmare that you'd be walking along late at night and some guy on a motor bike would come thundering down the other way. That was what triggered the opening scene in the book. Everything else came from that' ('Angels from Hell' opens with a blind teacher dying under the wheels of bikes in the HIther Green tunnel).

Laurence James also wrote many other books under his own and other names, including some of the Deathlands series of Science Fiction novels under the name James Axler.

Friday, November 20, 2009

The Jolly Sailor and the Lady of Greenwich

Fran and Geoff Doel's Folklore of Kent (Tempus, 2003) mentions a number of eighteenth-century broadside ballads related to South East London, including The Jolly Sailor and the Lady of Greenwich which includes the verse:

A Lady Born of birth and fame
To Greenwich Town for pleasure came
Where she a sailor did behold
Both tall and trim, of courage bold.

Others include 'Greenwich Moorings', 'The Greenwich Pensioner's Garland', 'The Greenwich Lovers' Garland', 'Jack of Greenwich' and 'Fair Betsy of Deptford'. Some of these seem to have been included in volume called The Kentish Garland, but I haven't been able to trace the lyrics of these South London songs. Anybody got them?

Lady Danga

Flicking round the dial in search of pirate radio action last weekend, spent some time listening to reggae and dancehall on Mystic FM (98.1), including live chat from South London's Lady Danga. The sometime UK Dancehall Queen dancer is now putting out tracks herself - check out her Youtube channel. Not sure what part of the Southlands she is from, but she's having a night at Club Simba in Woolwich tonight (November 20th).

Thursday, November 19, 2009

East London Lines

When the East London Line extension finally does open next year it will make a big difference not just to how people move around London but perhaps to how they perceive the city. By directly linking Croydon and Hackney (or at least Dalston) via Brockley and New Cross it could generate a sense of East London that crosses the river. Today when people talk about East London they generally mean the Eastern part of the city north of the Thames, whereas in Victorian times for instance, Deptford was often described as being in East London.

Anyway ahead of the curve on this shift is EastLondonLines, 'an independent news website produced by students and staff of Goldsmiths, University of London. It will be the virtual shadow of the new East London Line, connecting communities in virtual space, just as the new line connects them in physical space'. What this means in practice is that it is a news site covering Hackney, Tower Hamlets, Lewisham and Croydon.

They've already run some good local stories, including one on health inequalities: 'life expectancy in Lewisham is still below the national average... Department of Health figures reveal that a baby girl born and bred in Kensington and Chelsea can expect to live up to 8 years longer than one in Lewisham, where female life expectancy averages around 80'.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Bermondsey and Deptford Suffragettes

London SE1 notes the recent 100th anniversary of suffragette protest in Bermondsey. On the occasion of a Parliamentary by-election on Thursday 28 October 1909, Alice Chapin 'a 45 year old supporter of votes for women living in the West End' broke a test tube of acid on the ballot box in the polling station at the school at Boucher School in Grange Road. Some of the acid splashed into they eye of the presiding officer George Thorley, but he was not seriously injured.

'At the Old Bailey the following month Mrs Chapin was found guilty of interfering with the ballot box and sentenced to three months imprisonment. In addition she was found guilty of a common assault for which she received four months to run concurrently. Also sentenced in the same court was Alison Neilans who tried to pour fluid into the ballot box at the Long Lane polling station... Miss Neilans was sentenced to three months in Holloway Prison along with her fellow conspirator. Both women were members of the Women's Freedom League (WFL) which was a breakaway from the Women's Social & Political Union (WSPU)'.


I have also come across a report about a Deptford suffragette from 1910. In that year, the Education Committee of the London County Council, meeting at County Hall, heard that 'an application for re-appointment had been made by a lady teacher at a Deptford school who the report stated "had absented herself from her school duties as the result of her association with a demonstration in connexion with women's suffrage". The teacher "promised not to take part in any further demonstration while in the service of the Council, but subsequently resigned her appointment". It was explained that the teacher was absent from her duties because she had gone to prison. The committee subsequently approved the employment of the teacher on supply' (Times, 21 April 1910).

Christmas at Kirkdale Bookshop

Kirkdale Bookshop in Sydenham is kicking off the festive season on Friday 4th December, 4pm -9pm, with a Christmas event featuring readings from Dickens, mulled wine & mince pies, a Christmas lucky dip for children and 10% off everything in the shop. And believe me there's lots of good things in the shop, with new books upstairs and a second hand basement that has a whole section of old London books.

The shop is at 272 Kirkdale, Sydenham SE26 4RS. Tel: 020 8778 4701, kirkdalebookshop@hotmail.com, http://www.kirkdalebookshop.com/.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Georgina Cook

Architecture is a photography exhibition by Georgina Cook. It's on at Antenna Studios, Haynes Lane, Crystal Palace until November 29th. Haven't checked it out yet, but it looks promising.

Georgina Cook is the Crystal Palace-based photographer and basshead behind the excellent Drumz of the South. She has some good photos of the area at the site, and some interesting thoughts on the Crystal Palace cinema campaign: 'Who wants a business orientated church in the art-deco building that used to house the Bingo Hall (once originally a cinema)? And who wants an independent art-house cinema? Hmmm......hmmmmmmmmm. No Brainer? I'm a creative type, I oughta want a cinema; and I do... BUT I worry that it will yuppify this area even more that it's already yuppified over the past few years and that I should I decide to stay in the area (largely because my family are near) or should I decide to leave and then come back when I'm older and should be living somewhere like here, will property be even more costly partially as a result of a cinema?'. A reminder that gentrification is not victim-free - rising house prices mean that people who grew up in an area often have no chance of getting a place to live there themselves when they leave the family home.

Also check out her collection of South London photos on Flickr, including quite a few from La Cronx itself (that's Croydon to you).

Monday, November 16, 2009

November/December at Cafe Crema

November and December events at Cafe Crema in New Cross include films and music. On the film front the Thursday night season includes:

November 19th: The Steptford Wives - the original and best version.

November 26th: Tocar y Luchar; To play and to fight: 'The captivating story of the Venezuelan Youth Orchestra System – an incredible network of hundreds of orchestras formed within most of Venezuela’s towns and villages'.

Decmber 3rd: Alfred Hitchcock's Notorious.

Dec 10th: Cable Street.

As for music, on Saturday December 5th, there's the regular New Orleans New Cross piano jam plus gig featuring Bobby Valentino's band.

Café Crema: 306 New Cross Road. London Se14 6AF. 020 8320 2317. Doors open for evening screenings at 7.30pm. Tickets cost £6. More details at http://www.cafecremaevents.co.uk/.

(STOP PRESS 20th November - Cafe Crema have announced that all these events will be postponed until after Christmas pending sorting out some licensing issues)

Cuts push asylum seekers deeper into poverty

From East London Lines, 14 November 2009:

Action for Refugees in Lewisham are urging the public to raise money and donate clothes for destitute refugees after the Home Office slashed benefits for asylum seekers to £5 a day, which the Refugee Council claims is half what the government says a person needs to live on. The cuts agreed last month mean the weekly rate for a single asylum seeker over 25 will be reduced from £42 to £35 a week.

Iolanda Chirico, chair of the charity said: “Can you imagine living on nothing? Unfortunately many of our asylum-seekers here in Lewisham live off handouts from relatives, friends and local churches. Donations will be used for essentials such as food, baby milk and nappies.”

Hannah Ward, spokeswoman from the Refugee Council said many refugees relied on the local community to survive. Ms Ward said: “It’s difficult for people who have never experienced poverty to understand what life is like for these refugees.” Policies that prevented refugees from working in the UK were “leaving people in severe poverty,” she said.

Ms U, 22, who wishes to remain anonymous, attends English classes at the the Lewisham-based refugee centre. She first applied for asylum one and a half years ago after fleeing violence following the civil war in Sri Lanka. She now lives with her mother, sister, brother-in-law and four-year-old nephew in a two-bedroom flat in Lewisham. Her sister supports the family by working in a shop.

Ms U said: “Now it’s so hard. We have no income. Me and my mum live on my sister’s wage only. Now we have many problems, income problem, food problem, clothes problem,” she said.
“We have no contact with family in Sri Lanka. We don’t know what happened to them. It is very dangerous. We can’t go back. I want to study but I have no money to study.” (read the full story here)

Future Roots at the Birds Nest

On Thursday 26th November, there's a benefit gig for Unite Against Fascism/Love Music Hate Racism at The Birds Nest in Deptford. The line up includes the Sufi dub of Celt Islam and The Sysiphians ('future roots vibes from France').

It's one of a series of four nights of 'experiments in dub, future roots and beyond' being put on by Urban Sedated Records.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

A Camberwell Servant Learns the Mandolin

A nice story from South London Observer regarding a Camberwell servant getting ideas above her station by learning to play the mandolin.

‘The Servant’s Mandolin’ (South London Observer, 6.5.1899) tells of a court case in 1899 where the father of Agnes Reid, aged 18 and ‘in service at Camberwell’ was sued by Miss Rosina Love, a Peckham music teacher. The cause was Agnes’ failing to pay for her mandolin lessons, but the fact of her learning to play the instrument was seemingly cause for comment.

The Judge asked her father 'what induced your daughter to learn the mandoline' to which he replied ‘One of the other servants put her up to it. I know no other reason’. Judge Emden of Lambeth County Court concluded: 'I do not say that a servant should not play the mandoline if she does not annoy the people in her mistress’s house by so doing. But she must pay her music teacher'.

(a bit more context at History is Made at Night)

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Yet more ukes

The South East London ukulele movement continues to spread its four stringed tentacles. First of all there was the Dulwich Ukulele Club, now a well established band on the festival circuit. Then Brockley Ukulele Group started up about 18 months ago, and are regularly to be found in the Amersham Arms and elsewhere.

Now there's the People of Lewisham Ukulele Collective (PLUC), which meet on alternatvie Tuesdays The Lewis Club, Lewisham Hospital. There next session is on November 17th at 8:30 pm (heard about this via Leepedia on twitter).

Incidentally, Brockley Ukulele Group will be playing at Jam Circus in Brockley on Friday November 27th.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Liberty Lodge: Land Squatters in Deptford 1909

From the Times, 2 Feb 1909:

'Seizure of Land at Deptford

Five of the unemployed men whose attempt to seize a piece of Crown Land at Eltham, Kent, on Saturday night, was frustrated by the police, yesterday took possession of a building site belonging to the London County Council at Deptford, opposite the Wesleyan Central Hall in Creek-road. The ground is enclosed by railings about 6 ft high, which the men scaled. They then erected a shanty in one corner of the plot, and put up a large placard describing the structure as 'Liberty Lodge'. On the walls of some houses near by were inscribed the words, 'What will the harvest be?' During the morning the men were seen digging up a portion of the land, apparently with the intention of cultivating it. About 2 o'clock yesterday afternoon two representatives of the London County Council arrived and requested the men to leave. One of the men, William Needham, refused to do so and was ejected. The four other men left quietly'.

This is one of those stories where a little fragment of news shines a light on a forgotten corner of social history. Pretty clearly this wasn't just a case of a few blokes deciding to dig over a piece of vacant land - they were obviously determined and motivated, but were they part of a wider movement? There is a history of radical land occupations stretching back at least as far as the Diggers in the English Civil War, but I hadn't heard of any in London in this period (early 20th century). Does anyone know any more?

Thursday, November 12, 2009

David Wiffen - Sydenham-Canadian singer

Thanks to Bob from Brockley for providing me with a rare opportunity to weave The Cowboy Junkies into the Transpontine Mythos, albeit via a rather indirect link with South East London.

For, as Bob notes, Canadian singer-songwriter David Wiffen was actually born in Sydenham in 1942 and spent his childhood in South London and Surrey before moving across the ocean at the age of 16. In the early 1970s he recorded two solo albums before his career floundered, but his song Driving Wheel (Lost my Driving Wheel) has been covered by many artists including The Byrds, Tom Rush, Brothers of a Feather (Chris and Rich Robinson from Black Crowes) and The Cowboy Junkies (it's on their live album, 200 More Miles):

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Herbert Burden: Shot at Dawn


In 2001 a memorial was unveiled at the National Memorial Arboretum in Lichfield, Staffs to 306 British and Commonwealth soldiers shot by their own side for 'cowardice and desertion' during the First World War.

The statue is modelled on the likeness of Private Herbert Burden of the Northumberland Fusiliers, executed at Ypres in 1915 for desertion. Burden came from Lewisham, where his father worked as a gardener, and was just 17 years old when he was shot. It is likely that he had lied about his age to join the army, since he must have been only 15 or 16 when he joined up. This was common and colluded with by the authorities who turned a blind eye to underage recruitment. According to some reports he at one time deserted the Fusiliers for another regiment, the East Surreys at Deptford, and then returned to the Fusiliers.

During his brief 'trial' Burden stated that he had just gone 'to see a friend of mine in the R.W. Kent Regt. in which Regt. I served in 1913 and as I heard he had lost a brother I wanted to enquire if it was true or not'.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

LCC Occupation

Students at London College of Communications at Elephant and Castle have occupied the main lecture theatre in a protest against cuts, course closures and redundancies. More news at their Oppose LCC Course Redundancies blog. They have a facebook group too, and have received messages of support from students occupying colleges in Austria and Germany.

Lewisham and Croydonisation

I must admit I haven't been giving due attention to plans for the redevelopment of Lewisham town centre. As I understand it two separate large scale developments are planned - Lewisham Gateway and Loampit Vale. Both of them have planning permission from the Council.

As both Brockley Central and Max Calo report, 'This coming Thursday 12th November, at 7:30pm at the Tabernacle, Algernon Road SE13 7AT there will be a public meeting held by the Central Lewisham Action Group, a group of residents that opposes the current plans for redevelopment of the area often referred to as Lewisham Town Centre although currently this area is still mostly a transport hub with a roundabout'.

There's also an 'alternative Lewisham gateway' site run by objectors to both schemes, making various criticisms including lack of community facilities, scale of buildings, loss of open space etc. I was struck by their anti-Loampit Vale development poster with its slogan 'No to Croydonisation'. Not sure who coined this word, but a quick google search shows that it has been used by opponents of development in Dalston, Chiswick, Ealing, Canada Water and Putney (and no doubt soon, Paris). Seemingly becoming like Croydon is the worst fate many can imagine.


It all put me in mind of Jamie Reid's famous image from the Situationist-influenced Suburban Press from the early 1970s (mentioned here before). It shows a picture of Croydon with the headline 'Lo! a monster is born... Croydon redevelopment 1956-1972'). So some people were critiquing the 'Croydonisation' of Croydon itself while it was happening.

New Deptford Film Club?

Some people are investigating setting up a film club in Deptford and are surveying local film lovers to find out what sort of film club they want. They've set up a Deptford Film Club blog and an online survey, so tell them what you think. If all goes well, the first screening will happen in December or January.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Lewisham War Memorials

Continuing with the World Wars One and Two remembrance theme, Lewisham Local History and Archives Centre is hosting the interesting Lewisham War Memorials wiki, seeking to document the various local war memorials that exist or have existed. There are 10 for Brockley, 19 for Deptford and 15 for New Cross, among many others.

I find the ones that have vanished particularly poignant. For instance at the long gone South East London Synagogue in New Cross there was a memorial dedicated on 19 March 1922: 'Solid Brass Menorah: a candelabrum with sockets for nine candles, each socket inscribed with the name and date of death of one of the men who lost their lives in the war'. As neither the Memorial or the Synagogue now exist (unless somebody has the former somewhere) let us remember Joseph S. Heron, David Barmes, Lionel Goldston, Godfrey Levy, Lewis Levene, Bennett Chart, Philip Barnett, Montague Spurling and Philip Frank.

South East London Coalition Against Poverty

London Coalition Against Poverty is a newish group established 'to show solidarity with individuals and families affected by the regressive and hostile attitude of government and employers to poor and working class people'. It is inspired by an organisation based in Canada, Ontario Coalition Against Poverty, which has developed the use of 'direct action casework'. This involves combining advice for people at the sharp end of the housing and benefits system with demonstrations etc. 'to pressure an institution to accept the demands of an individual, family, or small group. That institution might be a housing office, a job centre, a local authority, a landlord or perhaps an employer'.

As they acknowledge, similar tactics were used in this country by the unemployed movement in the 1920s and 1930s - see this previous Transpontine post on protests at the workhouse in Nunhead.

There is now a South East London Coalition Against Poverty and if you want to hook up with them, head down to their Kickin Beats and Fighting Poverty party next Thursday (November 12th) at Dirty South, 162 Lee High Road, Lewisham, London SE13 5PR. £2 entry.

Stop press 10th November: the venue for this has been switched to Jamm, 261 Brixton Road.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

In Deptford streets the houses small huddle forlorn together

On Remembrance Day, the most famous poem of the First World War will no doubt be extensively quoted. For The Fallen by Laurence Binyon was written in 1914, when the war had barely begun, and features the lines:

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them.

Less well remembered is Binyon's London Visions (1895), a collection that includes two poems about Deptford. The poem John Winter is the tale of a local lad who seemingly wants to run away and be a sailor:

What ails John Winter, that so oft Silent he sits apart?
The neighbours cast their looks on him; But deep he hides his heart.
In Deptford streets the houses small Huddle forlorn together.
Whether the wind blow or be still, 'Tis soiled and sorry weather.

But over these dim roofs arise Tall masts of ocean ships.
Whenever John Winter looked on them, The salt blew on his lips.
He cannot pace the street about, But they stand before his eyes!
The more he shuns them, the more proud And beautiful they rise...'

In the same collection, the poem Deptford paints a less than flattering portrait of the area, it's wretchedness seemingly only surpassed by the misery of the broken-hearted narrator:

'Well is it, shrouded Sun, thou spar'st no ray
To illumine this sad street! A light more bare
Would but discover more this bald array
Of roofs dejected, windows patched that stare
From sordid walls: for the shy breath of Spring,
Her cheek of flowers, or fragrance of her hair,
Thou could'st not, save to cheated memory, bring.

Alas! I welcome this dull mist, that drapes
The path of the heavy sky above the street,
Casting a phantom dimness on these shapes
That pass, by toil disfeatured, with slow feet
And with mistrustful eyes; though in the mud
Children the play of ages old repeat,
Because of quenchless wanting in their blood...'

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Guy Fawkes on Blackheath with the Treasure Seekers

It's the annual free fireworks extravaganza on Blackheath tonight (Saturday 7 November) at 8pm.

Guy Fawkes night in the area features in The Story of the Treasure Seekers by Edith Nesbit, the popular children's novel first published in 1899. The author (and socialist) lived in various parts of South East London and Kent for most of her life, including a period at 16 Dartmouth Row, Blackheath , where she moved in 1879.

In Chapter 7 of the novel the Bastable children have fun on the 5th November:


'When Albert-next-door had gone his uncle sat in the Guy Fawkes armchair and took Alice on his knee, and we sat round the fire waiting till it would be time to let off our fireworks. We roasted the chestnuts he sent Dicky out for, and he told us stories till it was nearly seven. His stories are first-rate - he does all the parts in different voices...

...we were getting very short of money again--the fortunes of your house cannot be restored (not so that they will last, that is), even by the one pound eight we got when we had the 'good hunting.' We spent a good deal of that on presents for Father's birthday. We got him a paper-weight, like a glass bun, with a picture of Lewisham Church at the bottom; and a blotting-pad, and a box of preserved fruits, and an ivory penholder with a view of Greenwich Park in the little hole where you look through at the top. He was most awfully pleased and surprised, and when he heard how Noel and Oswald had earned the money to buy the things he was more surprised still. Nearly all the rest of our money went to get fireworks for the Fifth of November. We got six Catherine wheels and four rockets; two hand-lights, one red and one green; a sixpenny maroon; two Roman-candles--they cost a shilling; some Italian streamers, a fairy fountain, and a tourbillon that cost eighteen-pence and was very nearly worth it. But I think crackers and squibs are a mistake. It's true you get a lot of them for the money, and they are not bad fun for the first two or three dozen, but you get jolly sick of them before you've let off your sixpenn'orth. And the only amusing way is not allowed: it is putting them in the fire.

It always seems a long time till the evening when you have got fireworks in the house, and I think as it was a rather foggy day we should have decided to let them off directly after breakfast, only Father had said he would help us to let them off at eight o'clock after he had had his dinner, and you ought never to disappoint your father if you can help it'.


They plot a play ambush of a neighbour on the Heath itself:

...Our plan was this. We were all to go up on to the Heath. Our house is in the Lewisham Road, but it's quite close to the Heath if you cut up the short way opposite the confectioner's, past the nursery gardens and the cottage hospital, and turn to the left again and afterwards to the right. You come out then at the top of the hill, where the big guns are with the iron fence round them, and where the bands play on Thursday evenings in the summer.

We were to lurk in ambush there, and waylay an unwary traveller. We were to call upon him to surrender his arms, and then bring him home and put him in the deepest dungeon below the castle moat; then we were to load him with chains and send to his friends for ransom.

...As I said, it was Guy Fawkes Day, and if it had not been we should never have been able to be bandits at all, for the unwary traveller we did catch had been forbidden to go out because he had a cold in his head. But he would run out to follow a guy, without even putting on a coat or a comforter, and it was a very damp, foggy afternoon and nearly dark, so you see it was his own fault entirely, and served him jolly well right. We saw him coming over the Heath just as we were deciding to go home to tea. He had followed that guy right across to the village (we call Blackheath the village; I don't know why), and he was coming back dragging his feet and sniffing'.

Friday, November 06, 2009

Transition Lewisham

Quite a lot of activity going on locally related to the Transition Towns movement. In case you don't know what that means - and I'm new to this game myself - 'the Transition Movement is about communities deciding they can't hang around for governments to act on climate change and peak oil, but they need to start building up local resilience to prepare for an era of ever-rising fuel prices, fuel shortages and the impacts of climate change. The activities they get involved in are varied, but might range from insulating homes, setting up community allotments, establishing a local renewable energy company to establishing their own local currency to encourage people to shop locally'.

Transition Lewisham includes people putting on events in Brockley, New Cross and elsewhere. Transition Town New Cross are putting on a screening of the film AGE OF STUPID next Thrursday 12th November, 7.30 pm at the Amersham Arms, 388 New Cross Rd, SE14. They say: 'Come and see this year's most talked - about climate change film from Franny Armstrong for free! Described as the "first credible film dramatisation of climate change", the film uses documentary footage and animation to weave together the stories of six people across the globe and their experience of oil. Featuring Oscar-winning actor Pete Postlethwaite, the film has been described as "bold and supremely provocative" (Telegraph) and the sparky "emotional sibling to the rational brother of Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth". The film-makers hope to inspire 250 million climate change activists through international distribution and invented an community franchise system to raise the funds to make the film. Film lasts approx 90 mins. Come, bring your friends and enjoy a drink at the bar and a short discussion after the film'.

Then on Saturday 14th November (7 pm-1 am), Transition Town Brockley present FLUX CLUB at Brockley Social Club, £6: 'It's gettin hot in here, so let's swish all our clothes. Get ready to transform your old world into a new one, through magic, music, miracle and muse! Bring your old stuff and let the magic of El Mago Javier transform it into something new.Funk/rock outfit Grand Illusion will have you swinging from the rafters, while Djs Saffrolla, Mr Burns and Bearjamm ply you with Balkan Beats, Swing, Funky Latin, HipHop, Breakbeat and more' (check out the flyer at Brockley Central).

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Folk in South East London

Folk clubs are like dog fighting clubs, they're often little known about and in more places than you think. Hither Green, Eltham, Blackheath, Borough, Woolwich, the Union Tavern in Camberwell and Deptford have, or have had, regular folk sessions.

Greenwich has the institution that is the tuesday night Greenwich Traditional Musicians Co-op  and there is the gig-based One World Club who have gigs every Thursday night.

Playing tonight are Lewisham and Greenwich (via Essex mudflats and Norwegian coast) band The Kittiwakes, a well-executed trio performing traditional English folk with a Scandinavian tickle. It's a free night at The Mitre tavern, 291 Greenwich High Road, from 8pm. The reviews of their album all seem rather positive.

November the 5th 1888

From the Daily News, 6 November 1888:

'Some attempt to keep up Guy Fawkes' Day was made in London; but the original object was completely lost sight of. Such effigies as were carried about were those of persons who have recently made themselves popular or notorious. Amongst a few political "guys" there was a large sprinkling of stuffed figures labelled "Jack the Ripper" or "Leather Apron." Sir Charles Warren also came in for some attention. At Hampstead the usual bonfire was lighted on the heath, in the presence of a crowd of visitors. There was also a procession of masqueraders. The annual carnival of the "bonfire boys" was held at Lewisham amid a good display of coloured lights, but the bonfire was dispensed with. At Eltham Mr. Parnell and other Irish members of Parliament were "guyed."...

Unfortunately some accidents are reported in connection with the celebration. At Swanley a set piece was accidentally ignited, and a youth had one of his hands blown off. At Crayford a young man was discharging a pistol when it burst in his hand and injured it. A rocket was let off at Bexley with the result that it put out the eye of a young lady named Jephson'.

This took place at the time of the Jack the Ripper murders, hence the reference to the subdued celebrations. Interesting reference to the Lewisham 'bonfire boys' carnival would like to know more.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Up the Line - Remembrance

I've always felt ambivalent about Remembrance Day - wanting to remember those who died in the terrible wars of the twentieth century (on all sides) but not wanting to have my remembrance conscripted into a military patriotic parade preparing for more wars.

So it's good to see a different take on the whole thing, with some of the Brockley Max people coming together for 'Up The Line' - 'A Lantern cemetery procession in darkness with poetry, classical music, film and soundscape for remembrance of WWI'. It will take place at Brockley and Ladywell Cemetery, Brockley, London SE4 2QZ on, Wednesday 11th November 2009 (Armistice Day) from 7.15pm - 8.30 pm.

Among those involved are Helen Schoene (associate artist with performance company Switch), Julian Jacobs (concert pianist), Isabel White (local poet), Keren’Or V. Pézard (dance choreographer, Adrian Josey (a.k.a DJ Saffrolla, Ninja Tunes Solid Steel DJ) and John McKiernan (a.ka. Moonbow John).

They say: 'The event is free to all and is designed to give people of all ages an opportunity to reflect on the sacrifices made during times of war. You can read more about the inspiration'.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Skinny Lister

Skinny Lister are a folkish band with nice songs that are very of the moment, judging by the success of Noah & The Whale and Mumford & Sons. They're mainly South London-based - not sure exactly where, but at least one of them lives in Greenwich and they played at Brockley Central's Ladywell Tavern night during June's Brockley Max festival. I suspect it might be a while before you catch them playing again in a local pub.

They have been featured on Radio 6, the Independent and Artrocker, and their first single, the Plough and Orion, came out in the summer. Here's a couple of the band performing the song:



Some of the band are also in indie outfit The Alps - busy people.Link

(update 4 November: one of them lives in Brockley - as they have just confirmed on Twitter)

Monday, November 02, 2009

Brockley Flowers for Paul Rowe


This roadside shrine of flowers and candles in Brockley commemorates the sad death of Paul Rowe (pictured), killed there earlier this month.

The basic facts are set out in this story Newsshopper story (22 October 2009):

A 49-year-old woman has been arrested following a road crash which killed a motorcyclist. Police were called to the junction of Brockley Road and Coulgate Street in Lewisham on Sunday (Oct 18) at 11.47pm. A silver Vauxhall Astra had collided with a Yamaha motorbike. Paul Anthony Rowe, aged 44, of Overcliff Road, Lewisham, was pronounced dead at the scene.

Speaking at Mr Rowe's home yesterday, his cousin Terry Rowe, 45, said: "He was a father of four lovely kids and he was an absolutely fantastic dad. "He was a very humble person and everyone really liked him - a very peaceful man. He ran his own girls football team and was a big West Ham United fan. We are a huge family and we all miss him very much."

Police have arrested a woman on suspicion of causing death by dangerous driving. She has been bailed to return in the new year. Anyone with information should call the collision investigation unit at Catford on 020 8285 1574'.

Paul Rowe was also known as DJ Shinehead, a presenter on Genesis FM and sometime part of the legendary Saxon reggae sound system, run by his brother Dennis. He went to Kelvin Grove Primary School and Roger Manwood secondary.

Duchamp in Croydon

Between 1920 and 1959, Croydon Aerodrome was the launch pad for various airborne adventures, including Amy Johnson's 1930 flight from from Croydon to Australia (the first woman to make this flight). Most of the site has been redeveloped, but there are still traces of it.

Anarchist Ian Bone is evidently a fan and has a couple of good photos of a recent event there. In 1938 another sometime anarchist (?*) - the artist Marcel Duchamp - visited Croydon in the company of the wealthy art collector Peggy Guggenheim.

In 1938, Peggy Guggenheim opened Guggenheim Jeune, her first modern art museum, at No 30 Cork Street in London. She was assisted by Marcel Duchamp, probably the best known of the artists associated with Dada and Surrealism (though as a fervent individualist he shied away from actually joining these movements).

According to The priceless Peggy Guggenheim (Independent, 21 October 2009): 'The gallery, christened Guggenheim Jeune, opened on 24 January 1938, with 30 drawings by Jean Cocteau. Two large linen sheets, sent over from Paris, displayed a group of figures with their genitals and pubic hair on display: they were confiscated and detained, of all unlikely places, in Croydon airport until Peggy and Duchamp could hurry to south London to have them released'.

* Marcel Duchamp, to my knowledge, did not describe himself as an anarchist as such, but he was greatly influenced throughout his life by the work of Max Stirner, an individualist anarchist. He kept a copy of Stirner's The Ego and its Own next to his bed, and specifically referred to Stirner in relation to his work 3 Standard Stoppages. The idea for this work, which can be read as a critique of the conformity of measurement, apparently came to him on a trip to Herne Bay in Kent in 1913 (see: 'Aesthetic Anarchy' by Francis M Naumann in 'Duchamp, Man Ray, Picabia', Tate, 2008).

Sunday, November 01, 2009

More on the Post Strike

Picket line banner outside the Post Office in Brockley last month

From the Communication Workers Union:

'POSTAL WORKERS ARE FACING:
• Threats to job security – full time to part time and compulsory redundancies
• Unreasonable demands – being bullied to meet impossible work targets
• Cuts in pay – longer hours for nothing

THE PUBLIC IS FACING:
• Less reliable and later deliveries – a part-time workforce means a part-time service
• More delivery office closures – you may have to travel to pick up your mail
• Creeping privatisation – a business based on profit only, not a service based on need'.

Support groups for the postal workers are being set up across London. Contacts for the local area include Greenwich (Rob Owen 07930 953265) and Lewisham/Brockley (07506 790733).

See also: Post Stike in SE London

Spiritualism and War Talk

This month's South East London Folklore Society talk features Jennifer Wallis on 'Spiritualism & War: From the angels of Mons to rumours of Nazi recruitment of fifth columnist mediums, aifer Wallis look at how the World Wars affected the practice and reception of spiritualism in Britain'.

Thursday, November 12, 2009, 8:00pm at The Old King's Head, Kings Head Yard, 45-49 Borough High Street, SE1.