Friday, April 30, 2010

Brockley 1941: Every Day Like Sunday

I spent some time in the reading room at the Imperial War Museum recently, and came across a poignant couple of handwritten letters sent by a father to his daughter. From the Second World War comes a letter send from 101 Tressillian Road, SE4 to 'Ella Kay' from 'Dad'. He informs her: 'Here we are back in the old home, what a mess too... The front room is smothered in dust from the houses being bombed in Breakspears Road (about 70 of them down)... Everywhere around here seems deserted and Brockley and Lewisham looks every day like Sunday nobody about as most of the houses which are not down are deserted by their tenants. There is practically no shops left in Lewisham High Street'.

Sent to Ella Jones at the same address from 1919 is a postcard, also from her father, but at a time when he was serving in France with the British Expeditionary Force. The card, dates 13 April 1919, is signed off 'don't get too old before I get back'.

I also read a First World War letter (19 March 1917) from Joe Hollister, who was living at 31 Hunsdon Road, New Cross, in which he mentions an explosion at a munitions factory. This was the infamous January 1917 Silvertown explosion in West Ham, in which 73 people died. The explosion caused damage across a wide area, seemingly including New Cross, as Hollister states 'about a dozen houses down the road had windows broken and shop windows as far out as Brixton (six or seven miles away) were blown in'.

It also felt like a privilege to visit the Imperial War Museum reading room in its last weeks within the dome of the building, in what was once the chapel when the building housed the Bethlem Hospital. The reading room there has now closed to allow it to be relocated to more accessible space on the ground floor.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Old Deptford Photos

JeanyPee at Flickr has some great old Deptford photos (as well as some good new ones too). Although they are family photos (the Peterson family mostly), they are also of great historical interest to people like me so hope she won't mind me reproducing a few here. Check out the South London threads, 40s/50s Style!

Deptford Teddy Boys 1955

Outside Speedwell House (now demolished), 1952

Outside Watergate House, Watergate Street, 1940s

Deptford stables in Murrays alley off Comet St, Deptford, 1950s. Passersby were charged 6d to view the animals that Billy Smarts Circus used to stable there, while they set up on Blackheath.

(just noticed some of these pictures are also on the Lewisham Family Album blog - no posts there for a couple of years, but worth checking out. I always find it sad when at Deptford Market you come across old family pictures, presumably left over from a house clearance. I agree with Lewisham Family Album that 'The residents of Lewisham and their ancestors have come from every corner of the globe. Most images of these people have yet to be seen by the wider public. Unfortunately, in a few years, many precious, historic images will be dust, especially the mass-produced colour images of the 1970's and 80's. It is important that they are preserved, and publishing them online is one way of doing so, and sharing them with the world'. So if you have any old pictures lying around, why not scan them and put them on flickr or somewhere. Otherwise Transpontine or one of the other local blogs would be happy to put some of them up)

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Brockley Soul

Friday night, 30th April, sees the launch of the new Brockley Soul night at The Wickham Arms (69 Upper Brockley Road, SE4). It promises a night of Northern And Rare Soul, Funk, Crossover And Modern 70's Soul until 2am.

Worse case scenario it will be a nice drink to some top tunes, but it looks like it could be much better than that. DJ Ollie Lailey already puts on Crystal Palace Soul at the Alma, SE19. There's even a Brockley Soul mix you can download to get you in the mood.

Anyway, planning to give it a go and hopefully have a dance.

Puts me in mind of Deptford Soul City.

Monday, April 26, 2010

May Day

Lots of great stuff going on locally on Saturday May 1st. I am most excited about the Kit and Cutter May Day Spectacular at the Deptford Arms on Saturday night, featuring the legendary Martin Carthy, as well as floor singers and 'dangerously sexy morris dancing' from the Belles of London City. I will also be doing a quick talk/slideshow whizzing through the history of May Day in South London. Tickets priced £8/£5 from:

It looks likely to be a farewell to the Deptford Arms for this folk club, due to proposals to turn the pub into a bookies. We can only hope that they are successful in their search for another local venue. Here's some footage of their last event in March featuring singer Alasdair Roberts:

Alasdair Roberts live from The Wire Magazine on Vimeo.

Earlier in the day the Deptford Jack in the Green will be out as usual, doing a tour of pubs around Borough and Bankside. The itineray will be as follows:

10.00: Greening the Jack at The Rake, 14 Winchester Walk, London SE1 9AG. Bring some flowers and help decorate the Jack.
11.57: Depart to Clink Street and then Bankside to:
12.15: the Founders Arms, Hopton Street, London SE1 9JH,
13.00: Cross the Millennium Bridge to:
13.15: The Centre Page, 29 Knightrider Street, London EC4V 5BH,
14.00: Return to Bankside across the Millennium Bridge, then Hopton Street, Great Suffolk Street and Union Street to:
14.15: the Charles Dickens, 160 Union Street, London SE1 0LH,
15.00: Depart via Union Street and Southwark Street to:
15.15: The Wheatsheaf, 24 Southwark Street, London SE1 1TY,
15.45: Depart via Stoney Street to:
15.55: The Rake.

Later in the month, on Friday 21st May 2010, Sarah Crofts from Deptford Jack in the Green will be speaking about Thankfull Sturdee and Fowlers Troop (the original early 20th century Deptford Jack) at the Lewisham Local History Society.

Finally on May Day weekend there's Foxfest 2010 at The Fox & Firkin (316 Lewisham High St), with an incredible 40 bands/singers performing on two stages throughout Saturday and Sunday - all for a weekend £10 ticket .

Sunday, April 25, 2010

365 days of Live Music

Hugo Simms has finally finished his epic exploration, 365 Days of Live Music in London. As he recounts in an article in The Evening Standard (16 April 2010), last April he made a vow to experience live music every day, taking him on an odyssey of streets, pubs, churches, concert halls and various improbable venues. All of this written up in his blog, and one day to be a book.

As Hugo lives in Nunhead, a lot of the performances were in South East London. The Birds Nest, New Cross Inn, Amersham Arms, Jam Circus, Old Nun's Head and Ivy House all get visited. There were several posts where I cursed that I hadn't heard about the gig beforehand - I mean, seeing Viv Albertine of The Slits at the Glad in Borough?

Hugo's effort should serve as a reminder of just how important pubs are for the culture of low key musicking - which is why it is quite right to get agitated at things like the threatened closure of The Deptford Arms.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Case - Croydon Oi and the oldest graffiti in New Cross (?)

We've previously considered some of the ancient graffiti of South London (notably the now painted over Cold Blow Lane tunnel), those spectral traces of lost bands, social movements and love affairs. At that point where the Old Kent Road becomes the New Cross Road, under the railway bridge just past Ilderton Road if you're heading South, you can still see a few letters of a word that by my reckoning must have been painted getting on for 30 years ago.

The word is 'Case' - to those in the know a punk band from Croydon in the early '80s associated with the Oi scene, to those not in the know a band best known for their prolific graffiti campaign. At least one of their efforts still remains, as we can see. I think I need to do a proper feature on Oi in South London, an oft-misunderstood working class punk/skin scene famously championed by journalist Gary Bushell at the time.

Of Case, Bushell says: 'And when great Oi-influenced bands did break through in ’83 they all fell at early fences. Croydon’s Case were cracking – they specialised in a ballsy brand of high-octane pop fresher than Max Miller chewing polos in a mountain stream and were fronted by the exceptionally expressive Matthew Newman. Case attracted acclaim from most quarters (including the Daily Mirror and Radio One) but fell apart when Matthew swapped the stage for domestic bliss with Splodge co-vocalist Christine Miller'. There's another South London connection there as Splodge were from Peckham, but that can wait for another day.

In 1981, Punk's not Dead zine wrote: "CASE: One of the most invigorating moments of my life this year was wandering into the Woolwich Tramshed to be whacked wide awake by an experience more invigorating than the kiss of my life from Pamela Stephenson. That experience was a shower, not of cold water, but a motley one from Croydon name of Case who specialise in fast, boisterous new wave rock that's catchily uncategorisable. There's some Ruts in there, even a touch of the Beat, pushing pumping power, red hot and hard-driving, and the punks and skins in the audience were going seriously bonkers. Case are fronted by cropped Matthew Newman (picture) who is incredible to watch. One minute he's Buster Bloodvessel, the next Ronnie Kray. A clown and a criminal, a nut-case and a hardcase all rolled into one, leaping into the audience and rolling round the floor with a snatch of enthusiastic punky punters. I've never seen a face that says so much and for forty minutes it's physically impossible to take yer eyes of him . . .".

Not much of their stuff online as far as I can see, but you can listen to their ska infused track Oh on youtube.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Gautrey Road Style

Anybody want to buy a London cultural landmark? I noticed that in Nunhead there's a for sale sign outside number 42 Gautrey Road, SE15, opposite the Golden Anchor pub. As mentioned here before, this was at one time Mad Professor's Ariwa Studio. The original Ariwa Studio was launched in 1979 in Neil Fraser's family home at 19 Bruce Road, Thornton Heath (Neil Fraser being the Prof's real name). It moved to the basement of Gautrey Road in May 1982 and remained there until 1986. According to David Katz:

'The material to emanate from Gautrey Road is really the sound of Ariwa finding its feet: Johnny Clarke’s aptly-titled ‘Yard Style’ album retained a Jamaican sensibility whilst also incorporating a range of international influences; Pato Banton’s debut album showed the Birmingham-based toaster was equally capable of humorous ditties and politically relevant material; Sandra Cross’ recasting of the Stylistics’ ‘Country Living,’ first adapted in reggae by the Mighty Diamonds, was a particularly strong example of the UK lover’s rock genre, grafting soulful vocals onto lilting reggae beats. Professor also notes that he also made an important connection during this era, cutting his first set of recordings with Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry at the same address: "He came down with Winston Edwards and Joe Gibbs in September 1984 and Scratch said he wanted to do some work, so I said “No problem.” He voiced “Judgement Inna Babylon” in my studio and when he finished with his tracks, he then ended up voicing a load of tracks for me as well and a lot of them came out on ‘Mystic Warrior’, which wasn’t released until 1988, but there was at least another two albums’ worth left that never came out"'.

Mad Professor and Jah Shaka later produced an album together, Gautrey Road Style - though by this point Ariwa had moved to 34 White Horse Lane in South Norwood.

So whoever moves into the Gautrey Road flat take note - some of the reggae greats have been through that door.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

General election in Lewisham - racism rears its head

Not planning to spend too much time on the election at Transpontine, and certainly steering clear of party politics. However, I cannot let some of the disgraceful comments attributed to candidates in the Lewisham Deptford consituency pass without comment. In a feature on immigration at BBC News (19 April), the parliamentary candidates of all the three major parties come out pretty badly. Of course they may have been misquoted - in which case let's hear them back pedal pretty quickly.

Worst of all was... can you guess? They 'said areas like Lewisham could not sustain high rises of immigration because standards in services like schools, housing and hospitals had fallen "well below par". She added: "In the past 13 years, Labour has operated an open door policy on immigration, with the UK seeing the largest sustained rise in our history. I'm still surprised every time I knock on someone's door and find that despite living here most of their life, they can hardly speak English." '

No this wasn't the BNP candidate, but Gemma Townsend who is standing for the Tories. The comment about people's language is nonsense - how does she know how long they have been living here, if they can't speak English? Maybe I am underestimating her, perhaps she is polylingual and is able to converse with them in Bengali, Somali, Spanish and Polish about their personal histories. The comment about the open door policy is also nonsense, unfortunately. Try telling that to people locked up in detention centres or dragged on to planes for deportation. But the suggestion that there is some link between migration and falling standards in public services is plain racist in so far as it seeks to blame migrants for totally unconnected social problems. Whether standards have actually fallen is a moot point, but in what way could migrants be held responsible for failings in health care? In London, the health and social care system is largely dependent upon migrant labour - far from damaging it, migrants are keeping it going. As for education, are migrants really dragging down standards? In many schools migrant children do at least as well as their English-born counterparts.

As for housing.... well, over to the Liberal Democrat candidate, Tamora Langley: 'People are frustrated by seeing immigrants placed in council housing when they, or their children, have been on the waiting list for years. Particularly in Lewisham Deptford, where the Labour-run council has lost money that should have been ours to spend on upgrading social housing, people feel let down, and some wonder if immigrants are getting a better deal'. Of course there is a shortage of social housing, partly because of the 1980s Tory policy of selling off council homes and partly because Labour then placed a moratorium on building new council housing. But to talk of immigrants jumping housing queues is again pandering to racism. It a BNP-fostered myth- a study last year by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) found that migrants are actually under-represented in social housing - only 1.8% of social tenants are immigrants who have moved to the UK in the past five years. Of course many of the British-born people who live in social housing are black, which is actually the subtext of a lot of complaint about 'foreigners taking our housing' - racism from people who think that only white people really 'belong here'.

What of the Labour candidate? Joan Ruddock avoids saying anything negative and talks about her constituency work helping community groups 'access grants and establish self help groups '. This may be true, but tiptoes around actually saying anything about policy. I sometimes wonder how someone like Ruddock sleeps at night knowing, for instance, that her party's immigration policies are leaving children locked up in prisons, sorry detention centres.

Green Party candidate Darren Johnson does say "I support an amnesty for migrants who have been here for a number of years". In the context of national politics this seems almost unthinkably radical, but is actually the Strangers into Citizens position that is supported by Boris Johnson as well as the previous Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone. Lots of migrant organisations are supporting this call, though others have wondered whether this could be used as an excuse to be even more intolerant of those who don't fit the criteria for an 'amnesty' - is it 'regularisation for all' or only a minority? This is the real debate about immigration that we need to have - how do we best recognise the reality and humanity of the hundreds of thousands of people living, working, loving and having kids in London regardless of what papers they hold? Everyone knows, including the Borders Agency, that most of these people are here to stay.

One of the rarely commented on positive results of mass migration is that it undermines the electoral success of explicitly racist politics. It may be true that in some areas the perception of an influx of migrants can be manipulated to create a racist backlash - as the BNP have done to a certain extent in Barking and Dagenham. But the bottom line is that once migrants and their descendants reach a critical mass beyond a small scapegoated minority, it is very difficult for openly racist candidates to get elected. Apart from anything else only a tiny number of immigrants and 'non-white' people are likely to vote for explicitly racist candidates which means that the latter could only be elected if a very high proportion of 'white British' voters support them. In the 2001 census, one third of Lewisham residents were defined as 'non white'. In Lewisham Deptford today the proportion is probaby higher - suggesting that playing to the racist gallery in elections round here is flirting with political suicide. Time will soon tell.

(Update - shortly after posting this, Lib Dem candidate Tam Langley commented at this post that it is not her view that immigrants are jumping the housing queue - in the BBC story she was reporting the perceptions of some voters, not her own perspective. It is true that her statement on immigration on her blog is much more positive. Taken on their own, TL's comments in the BBC article appear to acknowledge but not challenge the perception that 'immigrants jump the housing queue'. Of course the BBC journalist put their particular slant on the story, and may have left out other comments that make this clearer).

Monday, April 19, 2010

Deptford Arms: historical notes

With continuing uncertainty about the future of the Deptford Arms, I've been looking into its history. Searching at Google Books, there are a couple of references to 19th century travellers stopping off at the Deptford Arms. But this is misleading, as the present pub at 52 Deptford High Street has only been called by that name since 1965 (I am guessing that the older Deptford Arms must have been on the Broadway).

There's some more information at the useful Dead Pubs site, which has a historical list of local pubs, inns and taverns. Here it clarifies that the current Deptford Arms was previously known as the Duke of Cambridge. It includes census information from 1881 which shows that most staff in the pub were living on site at that time - in addition to the landlord Richard T Stringer and his wife Matilda, three barmen, a potman and a servant were living there, as well as a wet nurse (presumably for the Stringers' baby son).

The pub was something of a radical meeting place. In the Deptford Infidels, Terry Liddle's short account of SE London secularists, we are told that in July 1871 'at a meeting in the Duke of Cambridge, Deptford High Street, a Mr Bishop lectured the Advanced Liberal Association on taxation and expenditure' and that in '1874 the National Reformer was advertising meetings of Deptford Radical Association in the Duke of Cambridge'.

According to Liddle, the Greenwich Advanced Liberal Association 'formed in 1869 at a public meeting of 500, wanted independent working class representation in Parliament, and so found itself in conflict with mainstream liberalism. A leading member the secularist William McCurly stated: "It was now time for the working classes to think for themselves and manage their own affairs"... Following a local agitation in support of farm labourers, members of GALA formed the Deptford Radical Association'. Jim Connell, who famously wrote the socialist anthem The Red Flag, was a member of the DRA.

As well as a meeting place, the pub has also been a music venue at various times. As mentioned before Squeeze had an early residency there in the 1970s.

The latest news on the pub, incidentally, is that Lewisham Council has given planning permission for a change of use from a pub to a bookies, but has refused planning permission for Paddy Power to make changes to the front of the building, including putting up a sign. This doesn't mean that the bookies won't go ahead though - Paddy Power may appeal, or come up with other plans. The pub will be staying open for a while longer at least, and will definitely still be open for the Kit and Cutter event on May 1st with Martin Carthy. Meanwhile, there is a similar issue in Peckham where Paddy Power are also planning to convert the last pub in the road, The Hope, into a betting shop.

Saturday, April 17, 2010


A very productive Saturday in Deptford. In the market I stumbled across a book about New Cross in the 1920s that I didn't even know existed - more to come on that. Bumped into the always good to see Fred and David Aylward outside the Deptford Deli. Then I had my first coffee/cake in the Gallop space coffee shop at 198 Deptford High Street. A very pleasant space decorated in lots of old London tiles, run by friendly people. They also have a tiny hidden 'cinema booth' - actually like being in a cupboard with a laptop. It's currently showing Tristan Shorr's Thames, composed on Super 8 film on journeys up and down the river.

At present, the cafe is only open on Saturdays and Sundays, though they are considering extending the hours.

More South London Blogs

A couple of new (to me) South London blogs.

Free South London - move over Wolfy Smith and the Tooting Popular Front, Wolfgang Moneypenny has seemingly launched the campaign for transpontine independence via his 'FreeSouthLondon Anarcho-Situationist Commune'. Yes there's even a new flag. Some entertaining reflections on his childhood too, like his 1995 memories of being a Man. Utd fan at Crystal Palace on the night of the famous Eric Cantona 'kung fu' incident. How he squares his South London pride with supporting United you will have to read for yourself.

Southwark Notes is dedicated to the critique of gentrification around the Elephant & Castle and elsewhere in Southwark. Lots of information and some interesting historical material, particularly Jam Tomorrow: Some history and notes on the regeneration and gentrification of North Southwark + Bermondsey.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Fair Betsy of Deptford

I have mentioned before the song Pretty Betsy of Deptford Town (aka Fair Betsy of Deptford), as part of the ongoing tracking down of South London songs. Bill at Deptford Misc has gone one better and found the complete words, which start off:

Come all you pretty fair maids of every degree,
I pray give attention awhile unto me
The story of a fair maid to you I will unfold
Pretty Betsy of Deptford and her young sailor bold...

(full lyrics here at Deptford Misc)

All we need to do now is to put a tune to it.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Malcolm McLaren in New Cross

The recent death of Malcolm McLaren got me digging out my notes about his time at Goldsmiths College in New Cross.

Malcolm McLaren was a student at Goldsmiths in the late 1960s and spent his time there perfecting the skills as a cultural provocateur that he was later to put to use as the manager of The Sex Pistols. In 1969 he had his first go at ‘the Great Rock’n’Roll Swindle’ when he advertised a summer free festival at Goldsmiths with claims that Pink Floyd, The Rolling Stones and John Lennon were ‘awaiting confirmation’. Naturally they didn’t turn up, but thousands of people did. The local paper reported the event with the headline ‘Free festival, free beer, free shambles’ and made much of the presence of ‘dolly birds’ and ‘girls [that] seemed to strut about with an ‘I’m groovier than thou’ expression’. There was some music, including ‘Local folk singer and guitarist Gordon Giltrap’ and ‘local folk trio the Strawbs’ (Kentish Mercury 10/7/1969). A debate featured radical psychiatrist RD Laing, the Scottish writer Alexander Trocchi and others, as recalled in this critical account:

'The day before the Free Stones Concert in Hyde Park we stuck up stickers in Goldsmiths college saying simply, "Riot! – Hyde Park tomorrow!", which I’d written in felt-tip markers. We’d gone along partly to help a Punfield and Barstow striker make a speech and collect money for the strikers, who weren’t getting strike pay. At Goldsmiths that day there was a teach-in partly organised by Malcolm McLaren, later of Sex Pistols/Richard Branson ad fame. He’d collected a motley crowd of male star rebels, many of them media hate figures. These included the former Notting Hill rent collector for Rachman, Michael X, whom everyone was supposed to support because he’d re-modelled himself along Malcolm X lines and had got a lot of hassle from the cops, getting arrested for contravening the Race Relations Act. Also, the dockers leader, CP shop steward, Jack Dash, and Alex Trocchi, former member of the SI and low level promotor of heroin chic along William Burroughs lines. All of them were considered heroes by the underground press such as IT and OZ.

I remember on that day the student union hacks – "I’m a moderate!" – were preventing non-student union members from going into the free festival-cum-teach-in: our little group opened up a side-door and told everybody how to get in. In fact this was far more interesting than what was going on on the stage, which was little more than just a radical version of a chat show. When a group of radical womens' liberationists disrupted the whole thing, and were treated in a blatantly patronising manner by the stage, we felt we had to support the women, though, quite honestly, I remember feeling that everyone was a bit on show, including the women. At the end of the day, a few cops came into the college, and were met with indifference by everybody. McLaren was furious, rightly, but none of us did anything to attack them - well, no one got arrested, despite the hash smoking. We used the free student facilities to print a leaflet for the Stones concert' (Anon, 1969: Revolution as Personal and Theatre).

In his book, ‘Lipstick Traces: the secret history of the 20th century’, the US music critic Greil Marcus makes a great deal of the influence of the Situationist International in the conception of The Sex Pistols. The SI was a revolutionary organisation whose highest point came in the May 1968 uprising in France, when Situationist-inspired slogans such as ‘take your desires for reality’ and ‘beneath the paving stones the beach’ appeared on the walls.

Malcolm McLaren and Sex Pistols sleeve designer, Jamie Reid, were on the fringes of the English pro-situationist group, King Mob. Whether the Sex Pistols represented the application of the situationist critique of culture, as Marcus would have it, or its recuperation as a money-making exercise is open to question - I would say a bit of both. But what’s all this got to do with New Cross? Well living in New Cross in the late 1960s was one Fred Vermorel, a friend of McLaren’s who had been in Paris in 1968. In his book ‘Fashion and Perversity: a life of Vivienne Westwood and the Sixties laid bare'’ he writes: ‘I introduced Malcolm to situationism at the 36 bus stop, just outside Goldsmiths College in Lewisham Way. Goldsmiths was where he had enrolled in October '68 in his continuing quest for a grant. I produced two copies of the SI magazine... Malcolm reacted in the way many others did. He was nonplussed and irritated, yet anxiously excited'.

I don't believe McLaren ever lived in New Cross - I think he was living with Vivienne Westwood in the Oval and then Clapham in this period - though Fred Vermorel told me that Malcolm was a frequent visitor to his flat in Jerningham Road.

Giggs and Paul Morley

Check out this film featuring the somewhat unlikely sight (but why not?) of Paul Morley walking the streets of Peckham - East Surrey Grove round by the Damilola Taylor centre to be precise - at the start of an interview with Peckham rapper Giggs. Born Nathan Thompson, Giggs is now signed to XL Recordings with an album due out in June.

Here's the video for his most recent single, the excellent Don't Go There, which cuts back and forth between Peckham (especially round by the library) and New York:

Morley is keen on 'keeping it real' and seems to imply that Dizzee, Chipmunk and co. have somehow sold out by moving away from gritty urban realism to 'pop' - a somewhat surprizing stance for someone who has always argued persuasively for the wonders of pop. As someone who lives a little bit closer to the impact of the Peckham Boys and their ilk, I can both recognise that Giggs is good, defend his right to tell it like it is, and hope that through his music he can move himself and some of his mates out of that reality. If, as Morley suggests, some people want to keep young black people 'in their place' by stopping them making the move from crime to music, it is also true that the expectations of some music critics and fans also subliminally want to keep them in their place by suggesting that they are only 'real' when they talk about guns, gangs and life in 'the hood'.

Another young man shot at the end of my road last week, another kid I've seen grow up from a baby in and out of the nick for gang business. Park yuh guns, badboys - keep it unreal.

(Update: since I wrote this post there have been two more local shootings of teenagers - making three in the last week, two in Brockley, one in Peckham right near where the Paul Morley walkabout was filmed. Fortunately nobody killed this time)

Monday, April 12, 2010

Stop the BNP at Lunar House in Croydon

Following the earlier post about fighting fascists in Peckham in the Thirties comes news of a contemporary echo. This from South London Anti Fascist Group Organising Team today:

'We have just found out that the BNP will be holding an anti immigration protest outside the Home Office, Lunar House, Croydon – THIS THURSDAY [15th April]. Lunar House management allowed the BNP to protest last year, however, this year they have bowed to anti fascist and union pressure and said that this year they can not demonstrate. However, it is now the police that are refusing to stop the event going ahead as they say that Lunar house is public property.

The protest will be on the afternoon of Thursday 15th at 2pm at the front of Lunar house - at a time when many families will be waiting to speak with staff in the Home office. This is of course unacceptable and the South London Anti Fascist Group will be supporting PCS comrades in the counter demo. Please join us from 2pm at Lunar House'

Lunar House is tough enough for migrants queueing up to make their way through the Borders Agency lottery without the added hassle of a demo by racists, so get along if you can.

Fighting Fascists in Peckham, 1937

Last week's account of fascist-friendly Conservative MPs in 1930s SE London should not be taken as indicating popular support for fascism in the area. In fact the very same issue of the Mercury that carried the Lewisham MP Assheton Powell's glowing account of his visit to the Nazi rally at Nuremburg also reported on a noisy anti-fascist demonstration in Peckham:

Fascists and Communists Clash at Peckham (Mercury, September 24 1937)

'Sir Oswald Mosley, leader of the British Union of Fascists and National Socialists, was given a warm reception when he arrive with 300 of his followers at the Triangle, Rye Lane, Peckham on Wednesday evening. He had come to address an open air meeting and to introduce his prospective parliamentary candidate for Peckham, Miss Olive Hawkes.

Fascists assembled at the Triangle, which is a public speaking place. There was competition for the pitch from other political organisations when it was known that the BUF intended to march there from Kennington Oval, and the Fascists decided to get in first. Sir Oswald Mosley, Miss Hawkes and the marchers arrived with a large loud speaker van and sharp at half past eight the leader climbed up a ladder to the top of the van, to which were fixed two microphones. He was wearing a grey suit with a black shirt. Before he spoke a sergeant and twelve policemen pushed through the crowd to the front.

Immediately Sir Oswald started to speak there was pandemonium. Whatever he was saying was utterly drowned in shouts, boos, cat-calls and songs and it was not fro over five minutes that this 'audience' of about tow thousand could hear a word that he was saying... for every hand raised in the Fascist salute there were two or three upraised clenched fists of Communists and Socialists.

... The Fascist leader spoke for about half an hour, during which time his opponents, in clusters of a dozen or more sang the 'Internationale' , the 'Red Flag', 'It's a sing to tell a lie', and occasionally shouted 'We've got to get rid of the rats' through improvised megaphones manufactured from evening papers. 'Tell me the old old story' was the song which greeted Sir Oswald's next audible announcement.

... Anti-fascist demonstrations were increased when Sir Oswald Mosley introduced his candidate. Miss Olive Hawkes. She was greeted with the singing of 'She was a dear little dicky-bird' and 'Daisy'. Miss Hawkes introduced herself as a South Londoner and a Briton 'born and bred'. She ended her remarks by giving the Fascist salute and prepared to climb down the ladder again. Just then , however, a colleague whispered something in her ear and she spoke into the microphone again. She announced that her party claimed the Englishman's privilege and would sing the National Anthem. The National Anthem and the Internationale were sung simultaneously.

Mounted and foot police, who had been stationed in the crowd throughout the meeting, became active when the Fascist speakers prepared to leave. The audience was told to 'keep on the move' and those who declined to do so were assisted to comply with the request. Despite the noise and the large anti-Fascist representation there was no serious disorder and no arrests were made. The general impression one gained was that most of the audience had come to South London's 'Tower Hill' to see a bit of fun. If they expected a baton charge and other exciting episodes, they were sadly disappointed.

When Sir Oswald Mosley's first South London march and demonstration had ended anti-Fascists, including Social Credit 'greenshirts' carried on a meeting in a street further down Rye Lane'.

Olive Hawks (not Hawkes - the paper spelt her name wrong) was a leading woman member of the British Union of Fascists. She became the party's Women's Organiser in Lewisham in 1934 and its national Chief Woman's Organiser by 1940. In 1937 she was announced as the BUF's prospective parliamentary candidate for Camberwell (Peckham) and "in line with the BUF's Jew-baiting, in June 1938 she was applauded by the fascist press for her role in preventing Lewis Silkin, 'Jewish MP', from opening the new Odeon Cinema in Peckahm High Street by writing letters of protest both to Silkin and the Press". Lewis Silkin was the Labour MP for the area. Hawks and her boyfriend Frederick Burdett (appointed District Leader for the Peckham Branch of the BUF in 1937) were both interned as Nazi sympathisers in 1940 (Source: 'Making Reputations: Power, Persuasion and the Individual in Modern British Politics' by Richard Toye and Julie Gottlieb, 2005).

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Woofah Issue 4

The fourth issue of Woofah, the UK's premier reggae, grime and dubstep magazine is out now. I can't do justice to its 92 pages so you'll have to get your own copy here, but there's a couple of articles of particular interest to South Londonists.

In the First Cut is the Deepest, Emma Warren explores the hidden history of UK dub cutting houses - a key part of reggae sound system culture and other subsequent bassist developments. She tells of the unsung engineers, often operating out of suburban houses, who cut the dub plates to be played out by sound systems. A few South London places get mentioned - Transition Mastering (still going with a studio in Kemble Road, Forest Hill), Pablo in Lewisham (operating from his house from early 70s), and 'Stingray in Perry Vale that's still running. It's in a very respectable semi-detached street but you go there at two in the morning, there are all these cars parked up. He's go a small studio and cutting room in the shed in the bottom of the garden' (Lloyd Bradley, quoted in article).

Then there's an interview with Joe Ariwa and Young Warrior, the sons of Jah Shaka and Mad Professor respectively. They have teamed up to record an album together - 'Joe Ariwa meets Young Warrior', recalling their dads' earlier collaborations, particularly 'Jah Shaka meets Mad Professor at Ariwa Studio' (1984). We've mentioned Shaka and the Prof's New Cross and Peckham activity here before - and indeed will be posting some more about this shortly. Joe Ariwa & Young Warrior have been using the current Ariwa Sounds studio in White Horse Lane, South Norwood, but the studio was at one point based in Gautrey Road, SE15.

Friday, April 09, 2010

Down and Out in Deptford

Veteran Deptford punks The Phobics perfom their track Down and Out in Deptford:

The video ends with them disappearing into The Birds Nest, which is appropriate as they are playing a free gig there next Saturday April 10th, 9:30 pm onwards.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Death of the Deptford Arms?

Sad news that the Deptford Arms, one of the last pubs in the High Street, looks set to close. Crosswhatfields? and Deptford Dame have the lowdown, but it seems that Paddy Power are hoping to turn it into another bookies (though they have been refused planning permission to make some alterations to the outside of the building). I am not one to assume that bookmakers are the source of all evil but a high street with seven bookies (there are already six) and only one place to drink and socialise is seriously out of balance, and the pub has also been a significant music venue.

Recently it has hosted the Kit and Cutter folk club, with a gig last month by Scottish singer Alasdair Roberts and a planned May Day event with Martin Carthy - let's hope the pub at least lasts that long. Back in the 1970s, Squeeze had an early residency at the pub.

The pub has recently come under pressure from the local police, who initiated a review of the pub's license by Lewisham Licensing Committee following a police raid to close down a music event with underage drinkers in November 2009. The Committee imposed a new license condition that the pub should supply police with details of any event at least 14 days in advance.

In other local pub news, Simon Nundy - landlord of the New Cross Inn - is standing for the Tories as their candidate for Mayor of Lewisham. Funnily enough there's been a close connection between the NX Inn and the Deptford Arms - for a while they had a joint facebook group and the same promoter (Tristan Scutt). Are they owned by the same people?

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Haunted Pubs Talk

This Thursday (8th April) at South East London Folklore Society, Alan Brooke and David Brandon are giving a talk on 'Haunted Pubs of London: London is a historical city full of mysteries and curiosities and to many of England's oldest and most quirky pubs. It comes as no surprise that these pubs have a deal more than their fair share of ghosts, phantoms and ghouls or, as the old joke goes, spirits galore!'

Venue: The Old King's Head, Kings Head Yard, 45-49 Borough High Street, London, SE1 1NA. Talks start at 8.00pm£2.50 / £1.50 concessions.

Meanwhile SELFS convenor Scott Wood has started posting on Forteana at The Londonist, including this nice local tale from 1948 of the dancing ghost girl of One Tree Hill.

Pro-Fascist Tories in Lewisham

In the 1930s Lewisham had two Conservative MPs, both of whom were active in promoting links with fascist regimes in Europe. The only difference between them was that one was closer to Mussolini's Italy, and the other to Hitler's Germany.

Sir Philip Dawson (1866-1938) was Conservative MP for Lewisham West from 1921 until his death. He was chairman of the Anglo-Italian Parliamentary Committee and a great admirer of Mussolini. After visiting Rome in 1933, he wrote a letter to the Times entitled 'Italy under fascism: ten years of progress'. Arguing that 'Italy affords an amazing example of the genius of constructive statesmanship' he talked glowingly of fascism's 'benevolent influence on every phase of Italian public life' (Times, 4 May 1933). A 1938 signed photograph of the Italian dictator dedicated to Dawson was recently offered for sale by an autograph company. He was among the Conservative MPs who argued for restrictions on Jewish refugees fleeing Nazi Germany (Harry Defries, Conservative Party Attitudes to Jews 1900-1950, 2001 p.127).

Meanwhile in Lewisham East, Lieut-Colonel Sir Assheton Pownall was Conservative MP from 1918 to 1945. He was one of 22 Conservative MPs who were members of the Anglo German Fellowship, which promoted friendly relations with Nazi Germany. In 1937 he wrote an article for the local paper, The Mercury, describing a little visit:

'I was this year invited by the German Government to come as its guest for the Annual Nazi Party rally held each year in Nuremburg in Bavaria... On Sunday we saw 110,000 (the figure is suprising but quite accurate) of the SA and SS, the former in brown, latter in black uniforms, all defile past Hitler - it took four and a half hours - each contingent played past by its own band and marching the celebrated "goose step" before Hitler, many thousands of colours included in the procession - how tired we got of saluting them [oh dear, a bad case of stiff right arm fatigue! - Transpontine note].

... We were presented to the Fuhrer - as Hitler is usually called - and I had the chance of a short talk with him... The week was a most interesting one. The German hospitality was abounding and one came away with a great regard for the powers of organisation, and of mass appeal shown, and conscious of the reawakening of national spirit in a great nation' (Mercury, 24 September 1937).

OK so it was the 1930s! But perhaps a timely reminder that the liberalish platitudes of Cameron & co. can't entirely erase the party's history as the home for all manner of racists, foxhunting toffs, homophobes, and enthusiasts for the 'flower of a nation's boyhood' marching in strict military formation...

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Fire at Hatcham Temple Grove School in New Cross

Just - 9 pm - walked past Haberdashers’ Aske’s Hatcham Temple Grove school in Monson Road (formerly Monson Primary School). Firefighters are still on site pouring water on to the building from above, though there are now no flames visible from the road. The main school building seems to have lost its roof completely, and there's clearly a lot of damage inside the building from fire, smoke and water.

According to the London Fire Brigade earlier this afternoon: 'Ten fire engines and around 50 firefighters have been called to a fire in a school on Monson Road, New Cross. It is thought the building is under refurbishment. A large part of the building’s roof is alight. The Brigade was called at 1513. Firefighters from Lewisham, Greenwich, Peckham, Forest Hill, Brixton, Southwark, Old Kent Road and Deptford fire stations are at the scene. The cause of the blaze is unknown at present'.

Haberdashers took over running the primary school a couple of years ago. They have already announced that the school will be closed until further notice and that 'Plans are currently underway to ensure provision is provided from across the Federation sites for all children returning on Wednesday 21st April'. I guess they could put some modular buildings up on their playing field in St Asaph's Road, Brockley, if necessary -though that would take time.

It's too early to assess the damage, but I would be surprized if the school fully opens again this school year, or even this calendar year. The school was originally built by the London School Board in 1882.

(heard about this via Brockley Central twitter - I can just imagine the conspiracy theories that would have flourished among some BC commenters if the fire had been at Gordonbrook primary school, focus of a bitter dispute between the Brockley Society and advocates of a new building there)

Monday, April 05, 2010

Lee Hazlewood and Arthur Lee in New Cross

I am always looking for new musical/historical threads to weave into the tapestry of the Transpontine mythology. But I must admit I was very surprised to be able to add Lee Hazlewood to the list of personages who have walked the streets of SE14, as he was such a quintessentially American musician. Thanks to comments at an earlier post however, I gather that he rehearsed a couple of times in New Cross - to be precise in the Music Room studio based in the Old Library building at 116-118 New Cross Road.

What's more someone has sent a couple of photos taken there. One of Hazlewood himself:

... and one of his guitarist Al Casey (1936-2006), who also played with Elvis Presley and Johnny Cash among many others.

Hazlewood played some of his last major gigs at the Royal Festival Hall in 1999, 2002 and 2004. Hazelwood seems to have rehearsed at the Music Room for both of the last two of these, with my informant stating that he liked drinking in The Five Bells. These photos were taken in 2002, with the person who sent them stating that 'He was an utter gentleman to work for, completely charismatic, his unique talents undimmed'.

I love Hazelwood's work, especially the stuff he did with Nancy Sinatra - Some Velvet Morning and Summer Wine are two of my favourite songs of all time. He also wrote and produced These Boots are Made for Walking for her, with Al Casey on guitar.
The same source states that another great American musician, Arthur Lee (1945-2006) of Love, rehearsed in the Monson Road annex to the Music Room in about about 1998 and drank in the pub opposite. That would be the Duke of Albany of Shaun of the Dead fame, now closed and converted to flats. Evidently he regaled the pub's patrons with his own take on personal safety to the effect of "Jimi liked to box. I prefer to stab or shoot".

Friday, April 02, 2010

Deptford and Lewisham Music Halls

Spent some time today browsing through London Theatres and Music Halls, 1850-1950 by Diana Howard (Library Association 1970). Here's a list of the venues licensed as places of entertainment in Deptford, New Cross and other parts of what is now the borough of Lewisham. Some of them, such as the New Cross Empire or the Broadway Theatre, were large purpose built theatres. Others were just function rooms above pubs licensed for music and dancing.

Amersham Hall, 411 New Cross Road (licensed from 1885-1903), known as the Conservative Club Hall until 1888

Bee Hive Public House, 18 Wellington Street, Deptford (licensed from 1852-9)

Black Bull Public House, Lewisham High Road (1859-60)

Broadway Theatre, Deptford Broadway (1867-1911)

Brookdale Hall, Brookdale Road, Catford (1886-7)

Crystal Palace Theatre, Sydenham (1890-1900), capacity 1739

Deptford Theatre, Church Street, Deptford (1840-1857) - also known as the Royal Deptford Theatre, the site was known as Theatre Wharf by 1895. Later site of Oxford Arms then Birds Nest pub.

Foresters Hall, Raglan Street, Forest Hill (1869-1887), capacity 300

Fountain Public House, Deptford Broadway (1874-1888), also known as Old Fountain Public House and Music Hall

Globe Public House, Lower Road, Deptford (1859-1882)

Golden Lion Public House and Palace of Varieties, 14 Sydenham Road (1855-1897)

Kings Head Public House, Church Street, Deptford (1854-1879)

Lewisham Hippodrome, 135-9 Rushey Green, Catford - pictured below (1911-1940s)

New Cross Empire, corner of New Cross Road and Watson's Street (opened 1899), 2000 capacity.

Ordnance Arms Public House, 37 Lewisham Road (1866-91) - 1st floor room above a pub

Sir John Falstaff Public House, Deptford (1847-53)

Swiss Cottage Public House, Stanstead Road, Forest Hill (1872-1891)

Trinity Arms Public House, Church Street, Deptford (1866-1867)

White Hart Public House, New Cross Road (1876-1889)

White Swan Public House, Deptford High Street (1846-1891)