Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Nunhead sings the Blues

In Nunhead the Sew Knit shop at 40 Nunhead Green is sadly missed, a shop from another age of wool, thread and buttons. In its place after a couple of years of semi-dereliction is a still closed building with pictures of Billie Holiday and Johnny Cash in the window. What's going on? Discussion at Nunhead Forum suggests it is being converted into some kind of music rooms/guitar workshop. All this and a new coffee shop due to open just a few doors down next to Sopers fish shop in the New Year.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Lewisham Demo tonight: Cuts, Catford and Cameron

Oh dear, had to work late and missed the anti-cuts protest in Lewisham. Tonight Lewisham Council was meeting to vote on a package of spending cuts, the demonstration outside seems to have been lively to say the least. Reports on Twitter from Sue Luxton and Hangbitch describe the scene with the police deploying horses, dogs, batons and riot shields.

Just picked up this report from S.:

'There was a demo starting at 18.30 outside Lewisham Town Hall. Probably about 3-400 people present, half students, half members of local anti-cuts protest groups and the usual contingent from SWP and other left groups. The meeting was due to start at 19.30. The council and cops had said that only 28 people would be allowed to get in the public gallery.

About 19.15 the crowd moved to the front door, which was poorly defended by about half a dozen police and the same number of security guards. About thirty or so people got inside. Outside, things began to get heavy. Police reinforcements with riot shields (the small round ones) turned up and started to push the crowd off the steps outside the front door of the town hall. There was a fair bit of pushing and shoving, a glass door pane was broken. Then some completely excessive violence against some students on the steps: grabbing people by scarves, pushing them down a flight of five steps into each other, etc. There were one or two nasty and vindictive cops who made the running, hitting people with the shields. The crowd seemed to be made up of people who were not especially used to this type of stuff, but equally seemed absolutely unintimidated, which I found heartening. Music was being played and a chant of "this is what democracy looks like" went up, which I thought was pretty apt.

Even more police arrived, some with long riot shields, and a bunch of thuggish looking plain-clothes officers. They seemed to go completely over the top, closing down the South Circular Road (which runs past the town hall) with their cars. By then they had got the crowd off the steps. Things quietened down a bit and people started to leave. So did the full-length riot shields...

Note that this was a meeting of a Labour-majority council, voting on a budget that it had put together before the general election. I am struck by the contrast with the Thatcher government, under which Labour councils put up all sorts of token resistance to the cuts right up until the capitulation of the GLC in 1983-84. This time they didn't even wait for the coalition to get elected to start pushing the cuts through'.

(not sure last point is completely accurate - I don't think the detailed budget had been put together before the general election, but it's certainly true that Bullock and co. haven't hung about in making cuts)

Here's some footage of the crowd before some of the demonstrators made their way inside:

There's also some photos up at Lewisham Right to Work.

The Lewisham cuts package was approved, 36 for (Labour), 3 against (Green and Tories), 11 abstained (Lib Dems). The result was probably never in doubt, what may turn out to be significant was the scale and intensity of the demonstration outside - in 1990 the movement against the poll tax saw similar demos outside Town Halls, notably in Brixton and Hackney, injecting a momentum that was followed by the huge anti-poll tax demonstration in Trafalgar Square and six months later by the resignation of Margaret Thatcher. Has Cameron's downfall started in Catford?!

Leslie Nielsen In Herne Hill

The Transpontine motto is 'there's always a South London angle...'

Didn't expect to find one about Leslie Nielsen, the US star of Airplane and Naked Gun fame who died at the weekend. Then this popped up via Max Tundra on Twitter:

Yes, there he is standing outside the Half Moon pub at Herne Hill. Seemingly it was 1988, and he was in town to film this cider commercial, which I assume was filmed inside the Half Moon:

They don't make Red Rock any more do they? It was a brand for Taunton cider.

The Brockwell Three: a school strike in 1974

With protests by school students in the news, here's an account of an earlier wave of protest in Brixton in the early 1970s:

'In 1973 a youth was stabbed while in a queue at a fish and chip shop in South London. The police arrived and a crowd gathered. The police began to panic and tried to push the crowd back, but the crowd was under pressure from people pouring out of a fair in Brockwell Park. The police drew their truncheons and laid into the crowd. A general fight developed, a policeman was hurt and reinforcements sent for. A police riot ensued; they attacked people all around them and lost control of themselves. Three black youths were arrested... and each given three years in prison. One later won an appeal against conviction, but the other two were not so lucky...

After this the stunned black community in Brixton began to mobilise. On 20 March [1974] a meeting was held in Brixton town hall at which a fund was started for the three and a committee formed to campaign for them. On the 27th the Tulse Hill Students' Collective organised a meeting attended by 70 children from nine to 17 years old. The collective which had raised £100, urged other schools to raise money. At the meeting a Black Students' Action Committee was formed. On 30 March, a 500-strong demonstration and a public meeting took place to spread information about the case. Then on 3 April 1,000 school pupils, most of them black, came out on strike. They held a rally and march - parading past the local court, the police station, Tulse Hill School, where another 100 pupils joined them, and Brockwell Park'

(Source: Robert Moore, Racism and Black Resistance in Britain, Pluto Press, 1975)

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Lewisham Police raid Muslim Wedding Reception

Muslim News (26 November 2010) reports:

'A young Muslim couple’s wedding reception was wrecked by the police when they were arrested at their home full of guests and taken to the local station on allegations that it was a forced marriage. Shahid and Kiran Iqbal were getting ready to go to the celebrations, when police first raided their home in Sydenham, south London on October 31. “They pushed into our house without warrant and demanded to see my wife, Kiran. They didn’t tell me why they were there,” Shahid told The Muslim News...

There were around 200 people in the house and around 800 were waiting in a reception hall. At around 12.30 the bride and groom and the family and friends began leaving for the reception led by musicians playing drums. “As soon as we began leaving around 10 police officers came to our house. They told me they were not satisfied and told me I was under arrest,” Shahid said. “I asked him for what. He replied, ‘For kidnapping.’ I asked, ‘Whose kidnapping’, he replied, ‘you kidnapped a young girl under the age of 18 and you are force marrying her.’ I said this was not the case and that you had talked to my wife earlier and you told us it was Ok.”
... Shahid, his parents and parents of Kiran appealed to the police officers to allow them to go to the reception and said they would willingly go to the police station after the celebrations. “We told them they could accompany us to the reception to ensure we don’t run away,” said Shahid.

But they were taken to Lewisham police station where they were questioned. Kiran said she was asked the same questions as before. They asked her name, her age, what she did, how long she had known her husband and whether she was forced to marry. “I said no. I told them I was happy to get married. They asked me to sign a statement to this effect which I did,” said Kiran...

“They did not even apologise after they had spoilt our day which we were looking forward to enjoy and celebrate. We spent so much money, the large amount of effort we put into to make the wedding reception perfect. All of this went into waste,” said Shahid. Most of their guests, who had come from around the country, had left when they reached the reception. “I was embarrassed when we walked into the hall. I felt humiliated,” said Kiran'.

Doubtless the police were obliged to investigate the allegation of forced marriage (which they now acknowledge may have been made maliciously), but did they have to pile in such a ham-fisted and insensitive way?

On Wednesday 1st December, Lewisham Anti Racist Action Group and Goldsmiths Studnet Union are holding a meeting on 'Fighting Racism and Islamophobia today - Defend our rights, celebrate diversity'. It takes place at Goldsmiths Student Union, Dixon Road, SE14 from 4 pm to 6 pm. The meeting is part of the One Society, Many Cultures initiative.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Last week's anti-cuts rally in New Cross

A packed hall at Goldsmiths in New Cross on Thursday night for an anti-cuts rally, 500 or so in the meeting with all seats taken and standing room only round the edges. The big banner at the front read 'Education for the Masses not just the Ruling Classes'

First speaker was John McDonnell MP, left wing Labour MP, who denounced the police treatment of young people he witnessed on Wednesday's student demonstration in Whitehall - they were 'Trampled, hurt and kettled... They were cold, they were hungry'. He called for solidarity with those arrested and students occupying colleges elsewhere. Tony Benn did his usual litany of English radicalism, placing the students in the line of the Tolpuddle Martyrs, Suffragettes and Chartists.

Biggest cheer though was for Jack Jordan who talked about the school students walk out he was involved in from Haberdashers Aske's in New Cross. He noted the irony of being pulled in for a warning by a senior teacher immediately after an assembly praising Nelson Mandela, who was expelled from school for organising a protest. It seems that on the day of the protest, sixth formers went in to school and then walked out (as they are allowed to come and go), the younger students worked out they could be locked in the school so they didn't go in at all, instead they went straight to Goldsmiths and met up with students to go in to town. We have heard from other students that some of those who took part were given a detention and told to write an essay on the pros and cons of student fees!

Tony Reay from Lewisham Anti Cuts Alliance talked about planned cuts in the Council and other local public services, including the conversion of Deptford Job Centre (his workplace) into a wine bar and flats. He called on people to join a demonstration at Lewisham Town Hall on Monday night, where Councillors will be voting on cuts.

There also speakers from Goldsmiths Student Union (James Heywood, arrested at Millbank), Goldsmiths UCU (Jon Wadsworth), Coalition of Resistance (Jon Rees, a Goldsmiths postgraduate), Green Party, Lewisham Right to Work (Jess Edwards, a local teacher). From the floor there were contributions from Martin Powell-Davis (National Union of Teachers), the Save New Cross Library campaign and a member of the Communication Workers Union whose daughter was also arrested at Millbank.

All in all it did feel that momentum is building for a widespread movement against cuts locally and nationally, even if in my personal opinion there is still too much looking back to the anti-Thatcher movement of the 1980s. The point is surely that with the exception of the poll tax, the then Conservative government defeated most of the opposition it faced. So just reviving 80s slogans and tactics seems a bad place to start (or for that matter 1968 slogans and tactics, as Nina Power has argued). Rousing speeches are fine, but we also need more imagination and discussion about how to move forward.

Tomorrow night's (Monday 29th) Lewisham Anti Cuts Alliance protest at the Council meeting takes place from 6:30pm at the Town Hall in Catford.

Last week's school protests

Meanwhile more news has emerged about what happened in local schools on last Wednesay's day of action against the cuts. The South London Press (26.11.10) reports that 'Pupils from schools includong Crossways Sixth Form in Sprules Road, Brockley; Dunraven School in Leigham Court Road, Streatham; The John Roan School in Maze Hill, Blackheath; Haberdashers' Aske's Hatcham College in Pepys Road, New Cross; Lewisham College in Lewisham Way; and Prendergast-Hilly Fields College in Adelaide Avenue Brockley, also joined the protest'. As reported here previously, students at Forest Hill Boys and Sydenham Girls were (mostly) prevented from leaving schools to join in, while a commenter to an earlier post reported that at Charter School in Dulwich 'there was a sit in by a couple of hundred kids in a hall... after they were refused the chance to leave to join the protest, and the whole school was locked down'.

Many of those who did make into Whitehall for the demonstration ended up being detained for hours in the police 'kettle' operation. According to The Guardian:

'Jasmine Simmons, 18, a student at Crossways College in Brockley, south London, said: "It's madness in there. Everyone is angry because they just want to go home. The police are letting people out 15 at a time now but there are still hundreds of students in there, it's going to take hours." Naz Ramadan, 18, from Lewisham, east London, said: "It's so dangerous in there. I felt dizzy, some people were injured, and they still wouldn't let us out'...

Two mothers with children stuck behind police lines said their children had contacted them earlier in the day to say they had been blocked in. Sara Tomlinson, 45, received a text message from her 16 year old daughter Katie at about 3pm. "I got here at 5pm. She sent me a text message at 3pm and said 'mum we have been kettled, and we have got to be here til 9pm'." Tomlinson said that while she was waiting for her daughter she was caught up when officers on horse back charged the protesters. "I said can I talk to someone about the welfare of my child. They have been there eight hours without food or water and what is the temperature?... But they kept forming a line of horses and then charging. We were running and trying not to fall over."

Tomlinson's daughter attended the same school - Lambeth Academy [in Clapham]- as Sam the son of Margot Turner, 55, a medical lecturer."I think it's appalling. I was really scared," said Turner in reference to the charge by mounted police. "I think it is their democratic right [to protest]. It is them that are going to university in 2012 and they won't be able to afford it."

The National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts has called a further day of action for this Tuesday 30th November.

Last Thursday also saw a group of students blockading the Bermondsey office of Simon Hughes MP.

Throbbing Gristle in New Cross (So Long Sleazy 2)

The death of Peter 'Sleazy' Christopherson was mentioned here yesterday, and here's another local connection. Christopherson played at Goldsmiths College Student Union in New Cross twice with the pioneering industrial/electronic band Throbbing Gristle.

The first gig was on 18 May 1978, the second on Thursday March 13 1980 (flyer below). Both were recorded and can be heard on the box set TG24 (cover from cassette release of 1978 gig above).

Incidentally, prior to Throbbing Gristle band members Geneis P.Orridge and Cosi Fanni Tutti were in the performance art group COUM Transmissions. They staged their pieces 'Birth of Liquid Desires' (1974) and 'After Cease to Exist' (1976) at Goldsmiths, the latter in the same year that they were denounced by an MP as ‘wreckers of civilization’ following their famous ‘Prostitution’ exhibition at the Institute of Contemporary Arts.

Later, P.Orridge and others founded Thee Temple Ov Psychick Youth (TOPY). In 1991, Fred Carter of TOPY had a performance called ‘Shock, Information and the Negation of Control’ stopped short by the Student Union at Goldsmiths. It involved self-mutilation, with Carter cutting himself to a soundtrack of drones, industrial rhythms and hymns.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Coil and Clink Street (So long Sleazy)

Sad news about the death this week of Peter 'Sleazy' Christopherson of Throbbing Gristle/Psychic TV/Coil.

Coil's album Astral Disaster states on its sleevenotes that it 'was recorded in two days at Samhain 1998... under the level of the river Thames in the ancient borough of Southwark'. As Christopher Jones mentions in his book 'Subterranean Southwark', Coil told him that it was made 'in a private studio nearby to Clink St'.

This was the studio run by Gary Ramon of Sun Dial and Prescription records, as Ramon recalls:

'We had a studio in London Bridge in London. It was in an old debtors' prison two floors below ground! It was a studio originally built by Iron Maiden and became known as Samurai studios (I think Motorhead recorded an album there) The Stranglers took it over for awhile, then we took it. With Prescription, I wanted to let artists loose in the studio to make what they wanted. With that freedom, I think it worked well. I played on most of the albums in some capacity. Coil made an album Astral Disaster there'.

From Coil's Astral Disaster here's an extract from the track The Sea Priestess

See also: Throbbing Gristle in New Cross

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Adam & The Ants at Lewisham Odeon, 1980

It was November 29 1980 - 30 years ago this month and Adam and the Ants were at their creative peak. Top of the Pops stardom was just around the corner, ant music for ant people was taking shape at Lewisham Odeon.

On Youtube there's even some footage from the gig. Anybody remember it?

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Today's Education Protests

Reports still coming in from today's actions against education cuts. On the South London front:

- Hundreds of college and school students set off from Goldsmiths in New Cross to take part in demonstrations, including a group who briefly occupied a Lloyds TSB bank at London Bridge for the 'inaugural lecture' of the University for Strategic Optimism, 'A university based on the principal of free and open education, a return of politics to the public, and the politicisation of public space' (film clip below).

- students have occupied the Language Centre (threatened with closure) at South Bank University, Elephant and Castle. They have issued a statement tonight: 'Today has been a momentous occasion for the student movement and the wider campaign against the coalition government’s ‘austerity cuts’ across the country. We offer our solidarity to all those students protesting today including those ‘kettled’ in Central London, the thirteen students arrested in today’s protests and those students from Rednock School, Gloucestershire, excluded for walking out, all in protest to the cuts in education funding and rise of university tuition fees'

- There were protests at various schools - the Standard reports that 'Around 60 students at John Roan School in Greenwich were among the first to walk out of class'. Anti-cuts reported earlier that 'students from Crossways sixth form are on their way to Trafalgar Sq. Blocking the local roads as they go!' (Crossways is in Sprules Road, SE4). At other schools, staff prevented students from leaving. For instance at Sydenham Girls a crowd gathered in morning break, but staff blocked the exit. Small groups got out later. Similar scenes at Forest Hill Boys. Still waiting to hear what happened at Haberdashers' Aske's in New Cross and elsewhere.

Anyone from South London schools or colleges take part? -Let us know what happened where you were.

Jason Donovan and Emma Watson at the Rivoli

Keeping track with comings and goings at the Rivoli Ballroom in Crofton Park is a full time job. Whenever I see red velvet on TV by Rivoli alarm bells go off. Take a look for instance at the Iceland 2010 Christmas advert, featuring food, can can dancers and Jason Donovan. That is the Rivoli isn't it?

Last month Kings of Leon played a gig there for Radio 1, and Brockley Central reports that Kenneth Brannagh's film My Week With Marilyn was being filmed there earlier this month, starring Emma Watson.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Telegraph Smears South London Activist

A sign that the current wave of anti-austerity protests is rattling some cages is some increasingly feverish 'unmasking' of activists in the pages of Tory newspapers. Among those in the firing line in the last couple of weeks has been Thom Costello - according to the Telegraph (13 November):

'He is the brilliant Oxford graduate with a burgeoning career in television, including a stint on Melvyn Bragg's The South Bank Show. But Thom Costello can also be unmasked as the ringleader of an anti-capitalist movement that is bringing chaos to high streets across Britain. Mr Costello, 22, has already orchestrated a protest against Vodafone, shutting down about a tenth of its stores over claims the company has evaded a £6 billion tax bill... Mr Costello, whose father runs a theatre in south London and who has accompanied his son on one Vodafone protest, founded UK Uncut late last month with a group of activists after a meeting in a London pub... After leaving Oxford, he briefly worked as a teacher at his old school Langley Park Boys School in Lewisham' etc etc

Liberal Conspiracy has dissected this story. Incidentally Langley Park is a comprehensive school in Beckenham in the borough of Bromley. Can't these illiterate journos even use google?

Monday, November 22, 2010

Hot Tap Theatre/Art Saves Lives in New Cross

Hot Tap Theatre has recently taken up residence in New Cross at a former industrial unit on the corner of Goodwood Road and Batavia Road (just back from Iceland on New Cross Road).

The theatre is one of the projects of Art Saves Lives, which is 'committed to finding space for any artist, writer or poet that feels for whatever reason they are marginalised by society, to help them to find and share their voice'. According to a profile in The Guardian: 'Hot Tap Theatre's creative director is playwright and artist Dean Stalham, who learned to write scripts while serving time in Wandsworth for dealing stolen art (Kenneth Clarke really should be paying attention). He set up umbrella organisation Art Saves Lives last year, and last month launched the 100-seat venue with the aim of staging six fresh plays by new writers annually. It's based in a defunct warehouse, the chairs are frayed old cinema seats, the stage was painted by homeless people, and the stage manager is Glaswegian Eve McDougall, who became an artist and author after being sent to prison for stealing food when she was 15'.

The current Hot Tap show (18th to 27th November)is 'The Disappearing Act', written and performed by Allan Royal and directed by Pam Brighton.

At the weekend they had a pop up Christmas craft fair (below) and they also host comedy and music nights.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

New Cross school students set to join protests

School students from Haberdashers Aske's Hatcham Academy in New Cross have pledged to walk out of school next Wednesday 24th November to take part in the national day of action against the education cuts. So far 100 people have signed up to the 'HAHC-Walk out in solidarity with day of action against education cuts' facebook page, where they say:


On the 24th of November there will be a national day of action against the cuts that are being taken to raise university tuition fees and cut all funding for arts and humanities at higher education level. Universities and schools alike will be taking a stand against the Tory and liberal democrats plans to make massive cuts to higher education.

We are asking YOU to join us in a mass walk out from the school. (Meeting in the Pepys site hall at 10:35, for an 11:00 leave.) We will march to goldsmiths, where we will meet with hundreds of other students. We will then travel to a rally that will be meeting at 12 in Trafalgar square, this will be followed by marching to a currently undisclosed location, due to possibilities of police intervention, the ending location will be announced closer to the event, but the meeting is Trafalgar square at noon!

So, if you want to fight for your right to a better education, for more chances in life and for the opportunity to have a qualification which doesn't put you in debt for the rest of your life, join us as we march out of the school and as we join the masses to battle against the unfair and unequal choices being made by the government. You saw what happened at the Tory HQ the other days. That was just the beginning. The future is now, and we are the future, so lets fight for a better one'

An article in Saturday's Guardian reported that thousands of school students around the country are planning to stage protests next week. It also interviewed Jack, a 15-year-old pupil at Haberdashers' Aske's Hatcham College:

'We're going to be the first generation of students to be given this rise in fees and we need to have our voices heard, and there's no other way to do it without disobeying. A couple of us went to Goldsmiths to meet some of the students who demonstrated the other week and it was great, there was a really great atmosphere, and they said they were really inspired by what we're doing. In a way they're fighting for us. And we've had support from other schools, and there's another school who are planning to do this too, a 6th form college in Greenwich...

I've never done anything like this before but it feels really brilliant to have some say in it all, to have some power over what's going on. We've had students who say this isn't going to get you anywhere. But where do they think saying 'this won't get you anywhere' is going to get them?"'

Seems like other schools will also be affected. There was a meeting last Thursday in Brixton of South London Further Education Students Against the Cuts to organise for the November 24th demonstrations. It included school students from Lambeth Academy, Dulwich Charter, Haberdashers Askes, Graveney School, Sydenham, Elm Green and Harris Academies as well as FE students from Lambeth College. Here's a short film from the meeting of an anti-cuts rap by an Aske's student:

The 2003 Protests

In this country it is quite rare for school students to take action in this way, unlike in France where in the recent struggles against pension changes students from the Lycées were prominent on the streets as they have been in previous social movements. In Britain protesting school students are still often treated as naughty children rather than as young adults.

The last time there was significant agitation amongst school students was back in March 2003 when, just before the invasion of Iraq, thousands of them walked out of school and converged on Whitehall to stage a demonstration. On that occasion too, students walked out from Haberdashers Aske's in New Cross and some of them were interviewed in The Times (20 March 2003):

'A clutch of 14-year-old girls from Haberdashers’ Aske’s in New Cross, South London, said that teachers had refused to let them stage a protest outside the school, even though they had parental permission.

“They threatened us with suspensions and detentions. Someone set off a fire alarm and the fire brigade arrived. We distracted the teachers, legged it and got the train here,” Naomi Benjamini said. “It’s important that we show Tony Blair we are against war. Our opinion matters as much as anyone’s.”

Sam Kinloch, 14, was one of of about 70 pupils who ran out of lessons at Langley Park School for Boys in Bromley, South London, and caught the train into town. He said: “It’s my first time on a protest, but I’ll be back when war is declared. It’s a brilliant atmosphere and there’s so many people from school here so we shouldn’t get into trouble.”

(Posters for this week's protests on the walls of Goldsmiths College)

Feralis at Bearspace

© Suzanne Moxhay

I went down to the Bearspace gallery on Deptford High Street last week to take a look at Feralis, an exhibition by digital artist Suzanne Moxhay. Her work has quite a Lovecraftian feel - swampy landscapes, where the human presence has been overwhelmed by uncanny natural and supernatural forces. My particular favourite was the Feralis image itself, with this towering entity emerging from the forest. The exhibition runs until November 27th.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Nail the Cross 2010

For the last couple of years Nail the Cross has been held as a night of music events spread across New Cross venues. This year, it's taking place in one main venue: the Bussey Building Warehouse in Peckham (133 Rye Lane). No Pain in Pop have assembled an impressive line up on Saturday 27th November including a live set from Hyperdub electronica darlings Darkstar. Catch 'em before they win the Mercury Prize. More details here.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Lewisham Cuts Latest

There was a demonstration at last night's meeting of Lewisham cabinet, called to discuss cuts. East London Lines reports that 'The meeting had to be adjourned for over thirty minutes after dozens of protestors packed out the cabinet chamber and shouted down the Mayor’s opening statements'. Nevertheless, nearly £12m of cuts were agreed for next year.

Lewisham Anti Cuts Alliance has called another demonstration for the Lewisham Council meeting on Monday 29th November, 6:30 pm at the Town Hall (Catford). They say: 'Come and tell the councillors to vote against the cuts, outside (and inside) the council meeting. No closures of libraries, Early Childhood centres, Open Doors advice services, no job losses, no privatisation! We know many councillors do not want cuts, but feel pressured into voting for them. Our message to them is simple: Vote for what you believe in, how would you even consider any other action?'

Meanwhile there's a Rally against cuts to education and public services at 6:30 PM on Thursday 25 November in the Great Hall at Goldsmiths in New Cross, with speakers including Tony Benn, John McDonnell MP and others. The rally is supported by staff and student unions at Goldsmiths.

Hollow Legs - Goldsmiths Tavern to go Gastro?

Hollow Legs in a New Cross-based food blogger - don't check out the site if you're feeling hungry , though actually just looking at it will probably make you hungry. There's a few entries on local food, including a Vietnamese supermarket on New Cross Road, Thailand restaurant, and The London Particular cafe.

On twitter Hollow Legs announced yesterday 'Citizens of New Cross! We are getting a new pub, courtesy of Capital Pubs, in the new year. Exciting'. Capital Pub Company run the Victoria (former Wishing Well) in Peckham/Bellenden, The Actress and The Bishop in East Dulwich etc. Seems that it's the Goldsmiths Tavern that's getting the gastro makeover - presumably a new name too. That place has seen it all over the years, gay pub, techno/punk/'crusty' pub, Gil Scott Heron, Mixmaster Morris, Vic Reeves... Now it looks like the foodies' turn, as most of Capital's pubs seem to have quite an emphasis on eating.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Arun Ghosh at the Albany

As part of the London Jazz Festival, Arun Ghosh will be playing at the Albany theatre in Deptford this Saturday 20 November at 8pm:

'Iconoclastic clarinettist Arun Ghosh presents Afrocoustics & Indo-vations – a visceral, fiery, pan-cultural mix of multiple horns, koras and percussive drive. "West Bengal meets West Africa" in powerful contemporary musical narratives that traverse the world jazz terrain whilst remaining firmly rooted within the best of eclectic and eccentric British tradition'.

Tickets: £10, £8 concs. The Albany, Douglas Way, Deptford, London SE8 4AG

If you're like me, you'll want to know whether it's the kind of jazz you like or the kind you don't like. So check out Arun Ghosh performing Dharmatma - sounds good to me:

Death of ex-Duke Landlord

Yesterday's South London Press reported the death of Erich Höfer, ex-landlord of The Duke pub in Deptford from 1977 to 2000. During the later 70s/1980s, the pub became an important music venue. His son Karl recalls: 'We had loads of local bands including Squeeze and Dire Straits. The Flying Pickets used to play there before they were number one in the charts for Christmaas 1983 and they gave my dad the gold disc for the pub'.

Crosswhatfields? has more on Erich, including a picture of the 1982 mural on Crossfields estate (Cremer House) which depicts him behind the bar of the pub.

Funeral details for Friday 19th November: "It begins with 10am mass at Our Lady of the Assumption Church in Deptford, then on to Charlton cemetery for around 11.30am where he'll rejoin Anna and Aidan, and then on to The Duke from around 12.30 onwards. All are welcome. Flowers are fine or donations to cot death research (fsid.org.uk/), whichever people prefer".

This photo was taken in The Duke in around 1980, and shows a band called The Hornettes. It was taken by Colin Bodiam from his excellent collection of Deptford music photos:

See also Bobby Valentino's account of The Duke this period, in particular his band The Electric Bluebirds.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Somerville Adventure Playground

Somerville Adventure Playground in New Cross has had a facelift recently, with a new star mural painted by young volunteers from the Orange Rockcorps in September. My friend Colin Brown led the painting of the old Simpsons murals it replaced back in the 1990s, they were good at the time but were in disrepair. The playground has been in Queens Road now for 40 years.

Rockcorps did an even bigger splash at the playground the previous year, with actor Ashley Walters (ex So Solid Crew) and singer Just Jack helping out (the latter performed his song The Day I Died in the playground for the volunteers):

Volunteer Spotlight - Just Jack at Somerville Adventure

Monday, November 15, 2010

War Lore - a tale of Barnes Wallis

Although many people have marked another remembrance day, it is clear that as far as the World Wars of the Twentieth century are concerned 'remembrance' in the sense of living memories of people who died in those wars is fading fast. There's hardly anybody left who remembers the First World War, and those who remember the Second are disappearing fast. Most of those who do remember have childhood memories, so what people recall is often a mixture of lived experience and the stories they heard later about what happened. Of course these stories are sometimes interesting in themselves even when they are not necessarily true.

I heard some interesting New Cross war folklore this week, when a senior citizen told me his war stories. He could still recall his windows being blown in as a three year old in Loughborough Junction. But then he told me about the engineer and weapons designer Barnes Wallis- that he lived in New Cross (true - his father Charles was a doctor and there's a plaque at 241 New Cross Road; he later lived at 23 Pepys Road); and then that Wallis had tested out his a prototype of his famous bouncing bomb in an underground area at New Cross bus station (then the tram station), specially filled with water for the occasion. I've never heard this and I don't think it's true - the tests were actually carried out near Herne Bay in Kent. Has anybody heard this tale or a variation of it before? Wallis's childhood home in New Cross Road was more or less opposite the tram station, maybe that explains how the story came about.

Sunday, November 14, 2010


A glamorous night coming up at the Ivy House on Saturday December 4th, with Brockley Jack Film Club taking a holiday from their usual venue to bring a touch of 1920s Soho to Nunhead.

They will be showing the 1929 silent movie Piccadilly, starring Anna May Wong as a Chinese dancer in the West End. I've seen this film before and there's some great nightclub footage from the Cafe de Paris. To add to the atmosphere on the night there will be an evocative improvised score performed by acclaimed Russian accordionist Igor Outkine (who himself has appeared in Cronenberg's film Eastern Promises). There will also be classic cocktails at the bar.

Piccadilly with Igor Outkine from BrockleyJackFilmClub on Vimeo.

Further details from Brockley Jack Film Club (tickets are £8).

Saturday, November 13, 2010

The Man with the Flower in his Mouth

The London Particular cafe (399 New Cross Road) is being transformed into a theatre space in the evenings for the next few weeks, with Metta Theatre in association with Greenwich Theatre presenting The Man with the Flower in his Mouth: 'An all-night café, just gone midnight. A traveller waits peacefully for her morning train. A man appears. The man with the flower in his mouth - a clown, a mad-man, a philosopher - strikes up a conversation, and turns her world upside down'. With Samuel Collings, Liana Weafer and Jessica Guise, adapted and directed by Poppy Burton-Morgan.

Dates - Wed to Sun, 10th Nov to 5th Dec., Times 7pm and 8.30pm (running time approx. 55 mins)
Price - £10. Details/tickets from Greenwich Theatre.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Cinderella and other Panto Action

Can't believe the Pantomime time of year is coming round, but there's no getting away from it.

First up is an amateur (but no doubt accomplished) production of Cinderella at the Telegprah Hill Centre, Kitto Road, SE14 to raise funds for Bold Vision - the folks behind getting the Hill Station Cafe going. There are 4 performances: 2 in the afternoon and 2 in the evening

Friday 26 Nov – doors open at 7pm (showtime 7.30pm)
Saturday 27 Nov – doors open at 4pm (showtime 4.30pm)
Saturday 27 Nov – doors open at 7pm (showtime 7.30pm)
Sunday 28 Nov – doors open at 4pm (showtime 4.30pm)

Tickets cost £11 for Adults and £5.50 for children, students, pensioners and the unwaged.
There will be a bar at Hill Station Café with a selection of drinks and snacks before and after the show and during the interval, You can book at http://www.boldvision.ticketsource.co.uk/

Greenwich Theatre are also putting on Cinderalla this year (25 November - 9 January 2011). At the Broadway Theatre in Catford, this year's Panto is Beauty and the Beast, opening on December 10th.

(see earlier post for a little Transpontine Panto History)

Thursday, November 11, 2010

New Cross students and staff in the front line

Yesterday's inspiring education demonstration in London included hundreds of students and staff from Goldsmiths in New Cross. I noticed that a Goldsmiths anti-cuts banner was one of those flying from the occupied roof at Millbank, and East London Lines reports that five Goldmsiths students were among those arrested.

Last night, the following statement was issued to members of Goldsmiths UCU (the union for college teaching staf):

'We the undersigned wish to congratulate staff and students on the magnificent anti-cuts demonstration this afternoon. At least 50,000 people took to the streets to oppose the coalition government’s devastating proposals for education.

We also wish to condemn and distance ourselves from the divisive and, in our view, counterproductive statements issued by the UCU and NUS leadership concerning the occupation of the Conservative Party HQ.

The real violence in this situation relates not to a smashed window but to the destructive impact of the cuts and privatisation that will follow if tuition fees are increased and if massive reductions in HE funding are implemented.

Today’s events demonstrate the deep hostility in the UK towards the cuts proposed in the Comprehensive Spending Review. We hope that this marks the beginning of a sustained defence of public services and welfare provision as well as higher education.

John Wadsworth, President GUCU; Des Freedman, Secretary GUCU'.

GUCU have apparently been criticised by Downing Street as 'irresponsible' for this statement, according to today's Evening Standard.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Austin Osman Spare: Fallen Visionary

This week is the last opportunity to see the fantastic (in every sense of the word) Fallen Visionary exhibition at the Cuming Museum in Southwark, featuring the work of Austin Osman Spare (1886-1956).

There's a nice historical continuity, as one of his first exhibitions was held in the same building in 1904 (the Cuming is the same building as the library), as reviewed in the Daily Mail from that year:

'Southwark does no go to the Royal Academy, but Southwark is, in its own way, interested in art and in a very particular way in the art of the youngest exhibitor at the Royal Aacademy, Mr Austin Osman Spare. For the benefit therefore of the dwellers in his native borough some sixity original sketches by the boy artist are now on view at the Newington Public Library in Walworth Road. Austin Spare hails from the neighbouring Kennington Road, is the son of a retired policeman, and is possessed of a versatile and often very erratic fancy... A weird fantasy runs riot in nearly all the sketches. Monsters of horrible form, decadent shapes and grotesque allegories fill the glass cases'.

The fantasy element developed over the years, with Blakean paintings featured magickal themes.

'Gaia with a Yellow Shawl'

The exhibition does justice to that side of his work, but also to the later paintings he did of local characters from the pubs, markets and doss houses of South London. Some of this work was actually displayed by Spare in pubs. For a show at the Temple Bar (284-6 Walworth Road) in 1949 he wrote: 'Why a show in a Tavern? My answer: it is democratic and gives a chance (where necessary) to people who normally have little time to visit the more orthodox places which often entail dress, tickets, fees, etc., and my other friends and clients might find it an interesting change.'
The writer Clifford Bax worried that South London was bad for Spare, writing in 1936: ''When we met at a Lyons teashop I recognised at once what an odd and charming person he is. I liked his brawny build and the thick tough strength of his hair. I noticed that he was pallid, and wondereed if the air and the food of the Borough were good for him'. But Spare lived on, surviving the destruction of his home during the Blitz.

Interestingly the exhibition features a painting of Joyce Cary (below). The Irish writer is believed to have partly based the artist character of Gully Jimson in his novel The Horses Mouth (1944) on Spare. As previously established at Transpontine, Cary spent his early childhood in New Cross (Kitto Road) and Nunhead.

(see previous post for more details of where Spare lived in South London; exhibition closes on Sunday 14th November.)

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Up the Line Remembrance 2010

Up the Line, a Remembrance event with a difference in Brockley and Ladywell Cemetery, takes place this Thursday November 11th. People are invited to remember the war dead in a candle lit walk through the cemetery, with music, poems, film and dance performance along the way. Brockley-based leading classical pianist Julian Jacobson will be among those taking part. People can arrive at any time between 7 and 8:20 pm and wander through at their leisure, but there will be a children's lantern procession at 7:30 pm. Admission is free (click flyer to enlarge).

Keith Richards: Smoking in New Cross

Goldsmiths' lecturer and activist John Hutnyk seems to have an uncanny knack for sniffing out New Cross drug stories in celebrity biographies. It was he who first drew my attention to Russell Brand's early chemical experiments in SE14.

Now at his Trinketization site he has uncovered this gem from Keith Richards, from his new autobiography Life, about an early tobacco experience with his grandad Gus:

'Gus never bored me. On New Cross station late at night in deep fog, Gus gave me my first dog end to smoke. “No one will see.” A familiar Gusism was to greet a friend with “hello, don’t be a cunt all your life.” The delivery so beautifully flat, so utterly familiar. I loved the man. A cuff round the head. “You never heard that.” “What, Gus?”

Monday, November 08, 2010

Goldsmiths Occupation

Around 40 students occupied the old Deptford Town Hall (now of course a Goldsmiths building) last Wednesday and Thurday in protest at education cuts and the proposed increase in students fees. Effigies of David Cameron and Nick Clegg were strung up on New Cross Road next to a banner saying 'Education for the Masses, not the Ruling Classes'.

For the occupiers' own account, and the messages of support they received, see here. Here's a short film showing some of the banners and chalk graffiti:

See also report at News Shopper.

Saturday, November 06, 2010

Going Underground

Next Thursday November 11th at South East London Folklore Society there's a double bill presentation on Subterranean London folklore.

Scott Wood will be telling Urban Legends of the London Underground with ghosts, ghouls, friendly terrorists and secret tunnels. Antony Clayton will talk about the new edition of his book Subterranean City which updates developments in the hectic life of Underground London, it’s folklore and mythology.

It takes place as usual at The Old Kings Head, Kings Head Yard, 45-49, Borough High Street, SE1. 8 pm start, all for the price of a pint.

Master Shipwright's Revelry

Kit & Cutter's ambitious folk nights at The Deptford Arms are much missed (I took part in their fine May Day Spectacular). Tomorrow night (Sunday November 7th) they are back in Deptford for a one-off special, a unique musical event at the Shipwrights Palace. To be honest this will be worth going to for the venue alone, never mind the diverse menu of top-notch music. There's only a few tickets left, but there will also be a few on the door. Ful details follow:

'Master Shipwright's Revelry: Sunday November 7th 2010, Watergate Street, Deptford, SE8 3JF, 4pm til late, £15/£10

So Kit & Cutter was cut adrift from our home on Deptford High Street and in the intervening months we’ve been mulling and floating along, wondering where we might wash up… And now we're back with a lifesaving hand from our friends at The Magpie's Nest for the biggest event we've ever attempted:

A twilight festival of sea songs, sessions, fireworks and folk on November 7th. In a secret Palace. In Deptford. The Master Shipwright’s Palace in Deptford, is opening its doors for the evening’s events (which take place in the private house's grounds, unique riverside wooden theatre and ballrooms), include performances by artists from the esoteric end of modern folk and world music, and art noise including: Spiro, Princes In The Tower, Mamane Barka (from Niger), Perunika Trio (from Bulgaria), City Shanty Band, Boat Band, Kidnap Alice, Keith Kendrick & Sylvia Needham, Ladywoodsman, Nick Hart …and more

Musicians amongst you please BRING YOUR INSTRUMENTS as there will be an open session and opportunities for floor spots. Throats and hips will be necessary for the singing and dancing.

There will be food, there will be drink, flotsam, jetsam, sparklers, spectres... There’ll also be a fire-lit ritual for a drowned sailor with river burial procession (we're not quite sure what this is yet but it will be invented shortly), plus lectures on London’s river faring traditions.

Tickets are £15 (bargain!) available from: http://www.wegottickets.com/event/95723

Unless you arrive via the river in which case you get in free'.

Friday, November 05, 2010

Rabbit on the Run

Deptford improv duo Rabbit feature Tom Scott (Reeds, Strings & Electronics) & David Aylward (Drums & Percussion). They are playing out a couple of times in the next week, starting out on Sunday November 7th with a free all dayer at 303 Camberwell New Road. They are on in the afternoon.

Then on Saturday 13th November they are playing an evening gig at the Deptford Deli, 4 Tanners Hill SE8. It's a 7:30 start, £5 in (£4 concessions).

Top Ten Transpontine

Transpontine is officially the Best Dressed Chicken in Town. Or something like that.

As leaked earlier in the week by London Foodie, blog ranking site Wikio has created a new category of 'Top London Blogs' and Transpontine is in at number 10. The rankings are seemingly compiled on the basis of how often other sites link to your site, rather than number of visitors. So it's how much you're talked about that counts, rather than how much you're read. That obviously creates some distortion - clearly The Londonist (no.15) has a somewhat wider reach than Transpontine.

You have to take all this with a pinch of salt, especially as the number one site doesn't even seem to be a London blog at all - it's actually an architecture magazine. Good to see though that the South East London massive heavily is represented in the higher reaches - as well as Transpontine, 853 is at number 4, Brockley Central at no. 6, Blackheath Bugle at no.14 and Greenwich Phantom at no.17 (see what I did there? If we all link to each other we'll stay cruising the upper echelons of the chart). They do have the interweb in north London don't they? (OK there's a couple of Hackneyites in there). Actually taking the East/West rather than the North/South divide, it looks like West London is nowhere. Guess they don't need to stake a claim online - they already own the rest of us, or think they do.

Been said before, but 'you say South - we say run tings'.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

The Groundhogs

The Groundhogs were one of the top London bands in the 1960s British Blues boom, moving on to a more experimental direction that has earned the appreciation of the krautrock/psychedelia archdruid himself among many others. According to Wikipedia and other sources, the band started out in New Cross.

The early origins of the band are described at The Groundhogs Archive: 'In the early 1960s Tony McPhee was working for Post Office Telephones and joined his work mate John Cruickshank's band, which was then called 'The Dollarbills'. Neither liking the name or the 'pop' music they played, he persuaded them to start playing Blues and R&B after he had seen Cyril Davies and the All-Stars playing at the Marquee club and suggested 'Groundhogs' as a name for the band, after a track on John Lee Hooker's album 'House of the Blues''.

Would like to know more about their New Cross years, like where did they live, were they part of any local music scenes etc. ?

Here's their Daze of the Week from the 1969 album Blues Obituary:

Thanks to Richard S. for spotting this New Cross connection

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Roll Deep & Alesha Dixon in Peckham

The new Roll Deep single, Take Control, features Alesha Dixon. The video was filmed in the multi-storey car park in Peckham, including Frank's Campari Bar on the roof

Thanks to Camberwell Online on twitter for spotting this first.

Monday, November 01, 2010

Radical history snippets: Creative University and Consciousness Raising

One of my history addictions is looking through the listings pages of old publications to see what interesting things people were up to in the area in ye olden days.

At last week's Anarchist Bookfair in London I was in my element. At the Housmans stall I looked through some old copies of the paper Freedom and came across this little snippet from December 17 1966:

'Free University, The Creative University of S.E. London is currently being set up for courses in radical, progressive and unconventional subjects, and invites all intellectuals, artists, social reformers and students'.

Courtesy of a search in Google Books I can see that Anarchy magazine, January 1967 (also published by Freedom Press) included a notice stating that 'The Creative University of South-East London has been set up along similar lines to the Free University of New York and the Free University of Milwaukee'.

Efforts at creating non-institutional projects to share learning were manifold in the 1960s and 1970s, and have revived in recent years (see for instance the current London Free School, not to be confused with the Conservative educational initiative of a similar name). In Notting Hill, the 1966/67 London Free School famously acted as a launchpad for the early Pink Floyd, even if it's wider aims don't seem to have been realized.

Did the Creative University of SE London ever get beyond the ideas stage? Does anyone know or remember? Was there any connection with the later teach-in/free festival at Goldsmiths in New Cross, organised by Malcolm McLaren and others in 1969?


At the Feminist Library stall I also picked up an old copy of the feminist magazine Spare Rib from December 1983. A feature of the women's liberation movement at that time was the proliferation of 'consciousness raising' groups, gatherings of women to discuss their lives and support each other. In 1983 there was evidently established CR groups in Rotherhithe/Deptford/Greenwich (Anna and Tyra were listed as contacts), in Camberwell/Peckham (Sandra) and Clapham/Balham (Maria). Debbie in West Dulwich/Crystal Palace and Jane in Croydon were looking for others to start groups in their areas.

South London feminist histories and memories also gratefully received.