Sunday, April 29, 2012

Free Film Festival Opening Weekend

The New Cross and Deptford Free Film Festival got off to a great start this weekend, even if the weather hasn't been ideal for the outdoor screenings!

The opening party was last Friday at the Old Deptford Police Station, with films showing in the old holding cells (there were more films on a human rights theme there on Saturday as part of Freedom Cells in the festival).

Also on Friday night there was a cycle powered outdoor screening of the last Harry Potter film at Somerville Adventure Playground.

On Saturday night, rain failed to stop Sherlock Holmes in Fordham Park thanks to a couple of gazebos. Tonight's Alice in Wonderland was moved from Sandbourne Road Community Garden to the Hill Station Cafe.

Plenty more coming up this week at Sanford Housing Co-op, the Big Red Pizzeria, Goldsmiths Student Union, Telegraph Hill Park, the Deptford Lounge, St Nicholas Church and other venues. Full programme here.

Please note that tomorow's (Monday) Lost Cinema of Deptford and New Cross history talk starts at 7:30 at The Big Red Pizzeria, not 8.00 as stated on some flyers.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Fascist attack in Lewisham today

Reports on Twitter and elsewhere that one person (and possibly two people) needed hospital treatment today after extreme right wing thugs attacked a socialist stall in Lewisham town centre.

I didn't see the actual attack, but it did not surprize me. As reported here yesterday,  Unite Against Fascism had announced that an anti-BNP cavalcade would be starting out from Lewisham Clock Tower at 11 am. I was down there at 11 and there was no sign of the lorry, but there was a very obvious group of about 10 -15 fascists standing by Lewisham Food Market and closely watching what was going on at the Clock Tower. They had scouts posted on corners nearby presumably looking out for signs of the cavalcade.

I got a good look at one of them as she came away from the group and stood at the bottom of Lee High Road  - a woman with dyed black hair, pale skin and an eyebrow piercing, wearing a black Paul's Boutique coat with a yellow cancer charity daffodil, probably about 5 foot six.  I think the rest were all blokes, mostly in their 20s or younger with various rain gear including at least one big umbrella [can I just be clear that I don't have a problem with eyebrow piercing or Paul's Boutique - the description is included because it might help the victims identify their attackers, not to make any snobby point about EDL dress codes].

I tweeted 'In Lewisham waiting for arrival of anti-BNP bus, ten or so moody looking possible BNP by clock tower'. After about half an hour it looked like the cavalcade wasn't coming. I heard that the lorry had technical faults and so wouldn't be coming to Lewisham, so I headed off.

As I was leaving I saw a couple of local Socialist Workers Party members on their way to set up their regular Saturday stall and warned them about the dodgy crew nearby. Fair play to them, they refused to be intimidated and went ahead as normal. Shortly afterwards they were attacked.

On Twitter the attack is being blamed on the 'English Defence League', but it's difficult to say whether they were BNP or EDL or both. The EDL did post a crowing message on twitter (laughably comparing their opponents to 'fascists').

No doubt they will be boasting of their audacity in operating in a multi-racial area like Lewisham. Hardly an act of great bravery though for the cream of the master race to attack two people selling papers, at least one of them a pensioner.

Presumably Lewisham police were sheltering from the rain in their huge station opposite the scene of the attack. The perpetrators were present for at least 45 minutes before the attack, can't believe that a group of young black men looking menacing in the same place would have escaped their notice.

Update 1 (Sunday 29 April): two further witnesses have left acccounts in the comments -

- 'I was there and helped one of the attacked men up. He must of been in his late 60's and was punched to the ground.The other guy was headbutted and looked like he had a broken cheekbone. I offered to take them to the hospital but they opted for an ambulance. No police anywhere even though it was opposite one of the biggest police stations in Europe. They wasn't just young, there was older guys in there 40's with them too'.

- 'I was there too. A group had gathered quite a while before and even though I had no idea of the planned meeting it was obvious they were up to something. Maybe 7 or 8 younger men plus an older man and the woman with Paul's Boutique coat. After attack they left laughing. They hardly ran. Very surprised police did not come at all during this time'.

Update 2 (Monday 30 April) - Lewisham Anti Racist Action Group  issued a press release last night about what happened:

'Two local  anti-racist pensioners  were viciously attacked and hospitalised  this Saturday by racist thugs who said they were part of a group known as ‘March For England’ which is  very closely linked to English Defence League (EDL) and the BNP. Andy Smith, a retired teacher and active in Lewisham Pensioners’ Forum and the NUT was viciously attacked as well as another local pensioner.

The attack appears to be in response  to a planned Unite Against  Fascism event  across south London  whose aim was to  discourage  people from voting for or supporting far-right racist parties in the forthcoming London assembly elections.  It  follows  the humiliation they received in last week’s ‘March For England’ Brighton demonstration where 1000 anti-racists succeeded  in reducing the far-right march to a miserable  and defeated mob.

The attack happened during a busy Saturday on Lewisham High Street whilst manning a regular campaign stall, one that has been active for over thirty years in Lewisham and an integral part of the local community. Shortly after 12pm the stall was thrown to the floor by an individual loitering in the area and according to witnesses, already there waiting for the local activists to arrive.

A group, taking photographs and staring menacingly at the activists started to gather near the clock tower. Before too long, they passed the stall en masse at which point an altercation began, with shouts and heckling from the racist group. In response to Islamophobic statements one pensioner approached them and received a vicious head-butt as an answer, throwing him to the ground . Another pensioner  intervened and was quickly surrounded, man-handled and flung to the floor receiving a knock to the head. Both had to receive medical treatment for their injuries.

Earlier in the morning a photographer was also attacked by the same group of racists and had reported the attack to Lewisham police station...'

LARAG is arranging a coach from Lewisham to Luton next Saturday May 5th to join the counter-demonstration to the planned EDL march there.  Call 07508 633 045 to book a ticket.

Andrew Smith: 'one of them headbutted me. I’ve got a possible fractured sinus and a tear to my retina' (story at Unite Aganist Fascism). 

[note on comments: I moderate comments on this blog, and I'm not going to approve comments from EDL supporters justifying the attacks. I've also had comments naming one of the people who may have been part of the EDL group. If you follow people like the (anti-EDL) EDLNewsXtra on twitter you will see the same name being mentioned, but I'm not going to put names on this site - I don't want to prejudice any future trial. UAF has also circulated photos of two people who they believe may have been involved].

Friday, April 27, 2012

Anti-BNP Cavalcade in Lewisham

Tomorrow morning a Unite Against Fascism cavalcade will set off from Lewisham clock tower and head to Brixton and beyond. They say:

 'UAF is organising a cavalcade across several London boroughs on Saturday 28 and Sunday 29 April as part of the campaign against the fascist British National Party in the London elections.We will be touring London to get the vote out against the BNP, which is aiming to secure a seat through the ‘top-up list’ in the elections for the Greater London Assembly. The danger is that the fascist party could regain a seat on the GLA with just 5% of the vote. This means it is very important to use your vote – casting your vote for other parties will help drive down the BNP’s percentage of the total poll.

We will be distributing thousands of leaflets to voters in busy parts of town and the cavalcade of vehicles will have live music from Love Music Hate Racism – including dhol drumming from the Dhol Foundation and soul, gospel and rap from Blessed Souls. We will be getting the message across loud and clear – use your vote against the BNP'.

It starts off tomorrow at 11am at the Clock Tower in centre, and will be opposite Brixton tube station around noon before heading off across London to Southall.

Further details here

Harry Potter at Somerville Adventure Playground

It's on! Yes today is the start of the New Cross and Deptford Free Festival, kicking off at  8 pm with a free outdoor showing of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 (final film in the Harry Potter series), in the grounds of the Somerville Adventure Playground in New Cross (Queens Road SE14 opposite the late lamented Montague Arms).

It's bike-powered cinema courtesy of Electric Pedals, so you can help power the film as well as watch it. Screening will go ahead whatever the weather and will  move indoors in the event of rain, so come along rain or shine!

Loads more stuff over the next ten days - Saturday night is a free open air showing of Sherlock Holmes in Fordham Park

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Skeletal punks 1991 and 2012

As discussed at Transpontine before, the Lewisham Arthouse building on Lewisham Way was a library until 1991 and was sporadically used for squat parties until the Arthouse took over in 1994. There was a Spiral Tribe party there in November 1991, and now I have come across this flyer for another 'free party' there on Saturday 28th September 1991.  'Live bands' were promised and the look of the flyer suggests it was probably fairly punky. Anyone remember it or other similar parties?

Then I came across this poster for a forthcoming gig at the New Cross Inn. On 5th May 2012 'Si and Breno celebrate 70 years with friends, bands and beers', with bands including Extinction of Mankind. Very similar skeletal crust punk imagery - could the same person be designing flyers in New Cross over a twenty year period? If you are the artist(s) let me know.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

History Corner: Lord Haw Haw

I've mentioned before that William Joyce, who as 'Lord Haw Haw' was the voice of the Nazis' English language radio broadcasts during the Second World War, had once been involved in the Conservative Party in Dulwich. I've been reading more about him in 'The Meaning of Treason' by Rebecca West (1965), who attended Joyce's treason trial at the Old Bailey.

Joyce  was born in New York in 1906 to a pro-British Irish family, and moved to London in 1921 after spending most of his childhood in Galway.  West's book combines details of Joyce's life with the most incredible condescension to South London. Indeed she even implies that Joyce's South London period partly shaped his destiny as a place breeding frustrated ambition in those to whom traditional routes to power are blocked:

'He came to London before his family; and his destiny sent him down to South London, and there was significance in that. South London is not the London where England can be conquered. It is not London at all, even calling itself by a vague and elided location. 'Where do you live?' 'South the river'. The people on the other bank never speak of their landscape as "north of the river". They may go down east, or up west, but they move within London, where the Houses of Parliament are, and the Abbey, and Buckingham Palace'.

Joyce's first London home was in Longbeach Road SW11, 'in one of those streets which cover the hills round Clapham Common like a shabby striped grey counterpane'. While here Joyce began studies at Battersea Polytechnic. When his parents came to London afterwards he moved into the family home at 7 Allison Grove SE21, 'a house as delightfully situated as any in London. Allison Grove is a short road of small houses which has been hacked out from the corner of the gardens of a white Regency villa in the greenest part of Dulwich'. Ironically the house was destroyed by a German bomb early in the war: 'Nothing remained of it except a hole in the ground beside the remains of a neighbour's basement'.

Joyce was active in the Conservative Party's youth wing, the Imperial Youth League and later the Tory Party proper. He was also involved with the British Fascists from 1923 to 1925, who provided security for Conservative Party public events - Joyce prided himself on being a street-fighter and claimed to have helped the notoriously brutal Black and Tans in Ireland in their efforts to suppress Irish nationalists. It was in this physical capacity that Joyce sustained his striking scarred face during a fight while defending the platform at a 1924 Tory election meeting at Lambeth Baths in Battersea. In 1927 he married and  moved to Chelsea where he remained a Conservative Party activist until 1932 when he joined Oswald Mosley's British Union of Fascists. He subsequently became its Deputy Leader and Director of Propaganda.

Crystal Palace

In 1933 he was back in South London, living in in Crystal Palace in 'a home which, though cheap and unfashionable, possessed its picturesque distinction. He was staying in a flat in a road clinging to the top of an escarpment in the strangest spot in the strangeness of South London. It was far south of the river, where the tameness of town overspreads hills which, though insignificant in height, are wild in contour; and if it covers them with the tame shapes of houses it has to stack them in wild steepness. But above this suburban precipice the buildings themselves were wild with the wildness sometimes found in Victorian architecture. Outside the windows of his flat in Farquhar Road, two towers ran up into the sky and between them the torso of the Crystal Palace was at one and the same time a greenhouse and a Broad Church cathedral... A little way up the road was the Crystal Palace railway station, the most fantastic in London, so allusive, particularly in its cast-iron ornamental  work, to uplifting Victorian festivity that it wold not be surprising to find its platforms thronged by a choir singing an oratorio by Parry or Stainer.. It was from this flat, on 4 July 1933, that William Joyce addressed the application for a passport which cost him his life'. It was as a holder of a British passport that Joyce was later convicted of treason. His lawyer argued in his trial that he was technically a US citizen and therefore could not be guilty of treason to the British state, but Joyce had spent years arguing that he was British with the passport application the clinching evidence.

Joyce in Germany with his wife Margaret

Joyce split with Mosley in 1937 and founded the British National Socialist League, even more rabidly anti-semitic than the BUF. He moved to Germany just before the outbreak of war in 1939, and worked for the Nazi propaganda effort all the way through to their defeat in 1945. After being captured and brought back to England, Joyce was detained in Brixton prison, Wormwood Scrubs and finally Wandsworth, 'a shabby old prison, black as a coal tip, set among the trodden commons and the discoloured villas, the railway viaducts and the long streets of little houses, which lie "south of the river". The last days of his life in London were to be spent only a mile or two from the house in Longbeach Road where it had begun'. He was hanged for treason in January 1946.

Incidentally Joyce's daughter Heather Piercey ended up teaching in Deptford, trying to atone for his anti-semitism by promoting links between Christians and Jews (see this 2005 interview).

(See also Nickel in the Machine - The Execution of Lord Haw Haw at Wandsworth Prison in 1946, from where I sourced the photos).

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

A Little Book About South East London

As part of their work in encouraging potential students to choose Goldsmiths, the college has produced 'A little book about South East London'. It's kind of a print version of the film they produced last year, and features the New Cross House, Panda Panda, The London Particular and many other places. 

Some good advice in it from Joe, manager of the New Cross House: 

'Do you have any top tips? Follow local blogs like Transpontine ( 
and  Brockley Central (
 to find out about what’s happening in the neighbourhood'.

Techno-Soul n'House

I had  a good night out at the Bussey Building (CLF art cafe) in Peckham on 13th April, with late 1980s hip hop legends The Jungle Brothers on stage all the way from New York. They did not disappoint, working their way through many of the classics from the period when as part of the Native Tongues posse with De La Soul and A Tribe Called Quest they redefined the possibilities of hip hop. Straight out the Jungle, I Got it Like That and I'll House You all got an airing.

This was one in a series of events promoted by CLF (The Chronic Love Foundation) under the banner 'An Exhibition of Sound', a kind of sonic chronicling of the history of dance musics.  The line up for 'Chapter5 - Techno-soul n'house' on Friday June 29th includes three more pivotal figures.

Adamski was one of the first home grown live perfromers in the early acid house scene, probably best known for the track Killer which launched Seal's career.

Eddie Fowlkes was one of the originators of the Detroit techno sound.

Paul Trouble Anderson has been an important figure in London house and funk since the 1980s when he was a DJ on Kiss FM in its pirate radio days.

Detroit Techno: The Creation of Techno Music (High Tech Soul) 
- featuring Eddie Fowlkes

Monday, April 23, 2012

Music Monday: The Who in South London

The Who were really a West London band, but one of the most influential English bands of the 1960s and 1970s established themselves on the South London gig circuit and at their 70s peak played two iconic gigs at Charlton football ground.

Early Who

The band started out as The Detours, and one of their first regular gigs was at the Paradise Club in Peckham (3 Consort Road). They played at least five gigs on Friday nights there in the summer of 1962, with bassist John Entwistle recalling 'The first time we turned up to play, there was hardly anybody there, just some girls. Around 10 o'clock, their boyfriends all turned up with bloody noses and black eyes. It turns out they'd been at another club and started a brawl. What we didn't know is that the other club would come by the following week and it would be our turn to get our gear trashed'

On Friday 13 September 1963 they played for the first time at the Glenlyn Ballrom in Forest Hill (15 Perry Vale).  On 3 January 1964, the Detours supported the Rolling Stones at the Glenlyn, and a few weeks later (24th January) they supported The Hollies at the same venue. Then on 14 February they supported Carter Lewis and the Southerners there.

At this point they changed their name to The Who, and on Monday 16 March they started playing a regular Monday night residency at the Glenlyn. Over the next few months they played at least 15 more gigs at the Glenyln, including most Monday nights and some Fridays too. As they became more famous they returned to the Glenlyn - playing there for instance  in January 1966. So they must have played in Forest Hill at least twenty times.

(source for most of the above: 'Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere: The Complete Chronicle of the Who 1958-1978' by Andrew Neill and Matthew Kent).


By the early 1970s, The Who were one of the biggest bands in the world. In 1972, drummer Keith Moon compered a gig at Crystal Palace Bowl featuring The Beach Boys among others.

Keith Moon at Crystal Palace 1972

Then the band headlined two huge gigs at The Valley, home of course of Charlton Athletic FC. The first took place on 18 May 1974, with The Who headlining an event that also featured Lou Reed, Humble Pie, Bad Company, Lindisfarne, Maggie Bell and Montrose. Around 50,000 people attended.

The crowd at the Valley in 1974 - photo by Chris Keegan from UK Rock Festivals

Two years later, on 31 May 1976, they returned - this time with support acts including the Sensational Alex Harvey Band, Little Feat, Streetwalkers and The Outlaws. This was part of their Who Put the Boot In tour, which also featured gigs at Celtic and Swansea football grounds.

There's loads more about the Charlton gigs at the excellent UK Rock Festivals site, including photos, set lists and memories - see here for 1974 and here for 1976.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Heaven, Baby

The Harts Lane Community Studio is an empty garage in the road next to Sainsburys in New Cross, one of the vacant Lewisham Council buildings recently occupied by People Before Profit.

Yesterday they had a one day Pop-up Arts Show there ('Heaven, Baby'), along with an impromptu street party complete with food and bands playing on the roof just like The Beatles' last gig.

Work by Andrew Clarke
I only caught the end of it, but there was some strong work on display. It wasn't labelled so I'm not quite sure who produced what  -so if I've got any of the attributions wrong please let me know.

A Rachel House piece - punk icons Patti Smith, Ari Up and Poly Styrene:
 'To be normal is not a healthy aspiration'

Installation by Katie Surridge

Painting by Boudicca Collins

If nothing else, the event highlighted how empty buildings can be quickly transformed into interesting social spaces with a bit of imagination and daring.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Immigration Fishing Expeditions

Last week in New Cross Road, there was a combined police and Borders Agency operation. A witness from South London Solfed describes
'On my way to work this morning I found the bus stops around New Cross bus garage swarming with police and UKBA immigration officers. I saw a man being questioned by immigration officials and surrounded by several police under the bus shelter... a bus stopped and people started piling out. I spotted a plain clothes officer (see hoody in pic) eyeing someone up and start moving so I shouted at him. I asked if he’d seen someone he didn’t like the look of and made everyone aware that he was an immigration officer (probably police in hindsight)... The most interesting part of our discussion was when I asked him on what basis he was stopping people. He told me that they were stopping men from African countries such as Ghana as there is a “big problem with them around here”. 

'According to UKBA enforcement guidance and instructions Chapter 31.19 pg 21. “an Immigration Officer (IO)may not stop an individual based upon their racial appearance and race or colour can never be the basis of the IOs “reasonable suspicion” that someone has committed an immigration offence”... So the hooded man was probably police, picking up people based on race to hand over to the Immigration Officers with clipboards. This is known as a Crime Reduction Operation (aka a CROP) and seems, unfortunately, to be legal'. 
I have seen similar operations in New Cross before, as well as in Peckham and at the Elephant and Castle. They are essentially fishing expeditions which rather than responding to crime are focusing on people going about their daily business. People who left their kids at school and set off to work can find themselves suddenly detained because they don't have the correct documents. Of course they are self-justifying in that if you trawl through a group of people you are bound to be able to find some minor ticket offences, drug possession and immigration paper irregularities so that a press release can trumpet that 'X arrests were made', but these do nothing to address the real problems of burglary, rape, robbery and other violent crime that most people would view as priorities.

Another fishing expedition was carried out at the Coronet at Elephant on February 25th, when Latin American people waiting to see Puerto Rican singer Don Omar were targeted. According to a report in community newspaper The Prisma 'a short while before the concert room’s doors opened people were already queuing to go in. Suddenly, they saw how the police began to arrive and walk along the queue line, and all of a sudden they started to ask for ID... they started to separate those who did not have ID and put them into vans'. Around 90 people were detained, and an unknown number were deported (further discussion of this at People's Republic of Southwark). Since when have people in the UK had to carry proof of ID?

There is clearly at the very least an element of racial profiling which determines 
where these operations take place and who gets viewed as 'suspicious'. No doubt rounding up Australians going to a rugby match would find a fair few overstaying on their visas, but I can't really imagine it happening.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Save the Ivy House!

Sad news that the Ivy House pub off Peckham Rye (Stuart Road SE15) looks set to close. As posted on South East Central today:

'Yes, the rumours are true. This Sunday (April 22nd) will be our last day of trading. The gorgeous, lovely people at Enterprise Inns have finally managed to sell The Ivy House and are kicking us out in a stylish and classy last-minute way. On Monday one of South London's most iconic venues will be boarded up.  As far as we know it's been sold to developers and will never re-open as a pub again.

We're obviously gutted, after just 10 months we were really starting to turn this place into a popular and lively pub and venue. Lots of great stuff was already booked in for the next few months, all now sadly cancelled... Our final 5 days:

Wed - Hankdog's Easycome Acoustic Club
Thurs - Silent Film Night - Nosferatu (1922), with live accompaniment from musical genius Igor Outkine
Fri - Private party in the ballroom, front bar open as usual
Sat - Comedy Club - Scott Capurro, Steve Best and more
Sun - Big fat leaving party

Massive thanks and love to all the people who've supported us in our time here, we've had some amazing nights and met lots of lovely new friends.  I hope you'll be able to join us for a goodbye drink before the end of the week, we plan on going out with a bang rather than a whimper - watch this space for details of our 'closing down/drink the bar dry/so what if it's a school night' party on Sunday. For those of you who'll miss the pizzas the most, get yourselves down to The Joiners Arms in Camberwell - same recipe, same chefs, same awesomeness.

Big Love,
Nick and the whole Ivy House team'.

Photo by Ewan Munro at Flickr

Ivy House and Newlands Tavern

With the recent demise of the Montague Arms in New Cross, we now look set to lose two of the best music pubs in South London.

I've had some memorable nights at the Ivy House, notably Brockley Jack Film Club's showing of Piccadilly and indie-pop lovelies The June Brides. As noted at Transpontine before, the pub has a long history as a music venue, 'particularly in its previous incarnation as the Newlands Tavern when it was a key point on the 1970s pub rock circuit in the lead up to punk. Bands that played there at this time included Eddie and the Hot Rods, Flip City (with Elvis Costello), The Kursaal Flyers, Kilburn and the High Roads (with Ian Dury), The 101ers (Joe Strummer's pre-Clash band), Dr Feelgood and Johnny Sox (with Hugh Cornwall, later of The Stranglers). According to 'No Sleep Till Canvey Island - The Great Pub Rock Revolution' by Will Birch, Graham Parker and The Rumour rehearsed and debuted there in 1975.

It's not over yet...

Some pubs die on their feet because nobody wants what they have to offer anymore, but this is not the case with The Ivy House. It's been coming along fine since its latest relaunch last year. The problem is that like many other pubs it is owned by one of a small number of corporate pub chains - in this case Enterprise Inns -  with no real commitment to pubs as local social spaces, especially if they think they can make a short term profit by selling off pubs to developers. Nunhead is what estate agents call 'up and coming', so no doubt the pub site has value as potential space for housing. Never mind the long term needs of the people in that area for places to eat, drink, be merry, dance, listen to music and watch movies.

Still the strategy of selling off pubs for housing is dependent upon Councils agreeing to give planning permission  to change the use of historic buildings like the Ivy House (an application to have the building listed is currently being considered by English Heritage). In Deptford recently, Lewisham Council refused planning permission to demolish the Lord Clyde, as reported by Deptford Misc:

'The Lord Clyde public house building has been identified by the local planning authority as an undesignated heritage asset, which has both historical value and architectural character and adds positively to the local distinctiveness of the area. Inadequate justification has been provided for the demolition of the existing building, and as such its demolition would result in an unacceptable loss of a heritage asset and consequently would result in unacceptable harm to the character and appearance of the surrounding area'.

So while sadly it looks like the present tenants of the Ivy House are facing imminent eviction, it's certainly not out of the question that the pub could be saved if enough people make a fuss.

Update, Friday 20th April - there is now a Save the Ivy House group on Facebook and Twitter. The former has picked up over 1000 members in the last two days. More importantly the digital outrage has been followed through with some real community organising, with people meeting last night at the pub to discuss what to do next.

History Corner: Police clash with Deptford Irish 1869

Deptford had a significant Irish population in the 19th century with a frequently antagonistic relationship with the police. According to Kent historian Carolyn Conley: 'the Irish at Deptford frequently gathered on Saturday night for street dances. If local merchants complained, the police came in to disperse the dancers, with predictable results. The Irish resisted police interference, a brawl broke out between the Irish and the police, and at least one Irishman was arrested as a an example' (The Unwritten Law: Criminal Justice in Victorian Kent, Oxford University Press, 1991).

One incident along these lines took place in 1869 with riotous scenes in Deptford being the subject of two court cases. Although dancing is not mentioned, the police dispersing a social gathering was the spark for the conflict. And while the nationality of the accused is not specifically stated, it is evident from the surnames of those arrested and of the witnesses that at least some of them were Irish. The case was first heard at Greenwich magistrates, as reported in The Times (9 August 1869):

'At Greenwich, Patrick Connolly, aged 26, Thomas Mansell, 34, John Kirkby, 55, and Johanna Welling, 35, were brought up for final examination charged with being concerned in a riot in Deptford, and seriously assaulting several constables of police... It appeared that on the night of Thursday the 22nd [July] the prisoner Connolly, who has been nine times convicted of assaults upon the police, was causing a disturbance in the High Street, Deptford and when requested to leave by Police Constable Garley he made use of vile language. PC Beard went to Garley's assistance, and on being asked by him to leave, Connolly struck him a violent blow in the mouth and ran away.

The constable pursued him and recaptured him, and then a crowd assembled, bricks and stones were freely thrown at police, by which time others had arrived, and the tradesman in the locality had to close their shops. On police constable Edwards attempting to get Connolly to the staton he was thrown by him violently on the curbstone and Connolly again ran away, but was recaptured. Beard received a violent blow in the eye, which blinded him for the time, and had rendered him unfit for duty since.

The prisoner Mansell then took a prominent part, and attempted to rescue Connolly from Edwards, who received a violent blow upon the face, which knocked him down. When on the ground he was kicked in the ribs, and Mansell, Kirby, and the female prisoner were distinctly sworn to as throwing stones which struck the police'.
The scene of the events, pictured in 1865. According to Old Deptford History, this was taken from the north End of Deptford High Street 'slightly right shows the entrance into Old King St which went into Watergate St at the far end. To the left we can see New King St. All this area was demolished to make way for Evelyn St to join up with Creek Road' . The buildings pictured would be about where the Harp of Erin pub and Methodist Hall now stand.

The prisoners were refused bail and committed for trial at the Old Bailey. The transcript of the trial  on 16 August 1869 at Old Bailey Online shows that the police version of events was contested by witnesses.

PC Frederick Gurley told the court there: 'On 22nd July, at 7.30 p.m., I was on duty in High Street, Deptford, and saw thirty or thirty-five persons at the bottom of the street, blocking up the thoroughfare on the pavement, and causing an obstruction—I spoke to Connolly who was there, and told him to move on—he said that he should not—I said that the shop-keepers complained that respectable people could not pass, and begged he would move away—he said, "No, I shall not, not for you; I shall stand here just as long as I like"—I asked him civilly to move again—he said, "No, I shall not, not for a b—like you"—I went into High Street and got the assistance of Beard, we returned together, and Connolly used very bad language—Beard asked him to move away and not make a disturbance there, upon which Connolly struck him a violent blow on the mouth with his fist, and ran twenty yards down King Street—I ran after him and caught him... a mob got round, and stones and brickbats were thrown in all directions.'

Other police officers described the crowd as about 100 strong and claimed that they had not use their batons. However, witnesses for the defence told a different story. Elizabeth Mansell told the court: 'I live at 18, New King Street, Deptford, and am Mansell's brother's wife—on the night of the 22nd July, when the police attempted to take Connolly, Mansell was standing by but took no part in it—I was looking at the man who knocked the policeman down, it was none of the prisoners... they had Connolly down and had their knees or their boots on his stomach—I have been fifteen years in this country and I never saw such treatment before—their staves were out and they knocked him about fearfully—to the best of my opinion they were drunk... they had all got their staves out, hitting Connolly over the head, and kicking him—I did not see him do anything to them'.

Mary Leary of  22 Barnes' Alley, Deptford said that 'I saw Connolly lying on his back in the road, and the four policemen beating him with their staves—I asked a policeman not to kill him, and he turned round and struck me on the arm'.

Kate Mahoney denied that the female accused had thrown any stones: 'I live in Queen's Court, opposite Mrs. Willing—on 22nd July, when the mob came, her door was shut; her lodger came and opened it and she came out and folded her arms, and never stooped or turned, and I saw the police pass by a step or two, and drag her by the shoulders—there are no loose stones in the court—she did not throw stones—she had her arms folded till the policeman dragged her by the shoulders'.

At the end of the trial, Connolly and Mansell were found guilty of assaulting police and sentenced to two years and one year in prison respectively, but Willing and Kirby were found not guilty.

[nb The Times reports refers to Johanna Welling aged 35; the Old Bailey reports to Johanna Willing aged 37]

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

New Cross Gate Street Art

I went out with my camera last week to capture some nice graffiti on New Cross Gate station, but it had already been painted out. 

Not sure why they bothered, a cute image saying 'smile' was hardly offensive. Luckily Nigel of Bermondsey had already got a photo of it:

Anyway there was plenty more still to see in the immediate vicinity. If you come out of the station, turn left, and then look over the wall, you will see this fine piece, or rather pieces, as I believe it is the work of at least three separate people/crews. There is the first New Cross appearance of the white stag (previously spotted in Lewisham - see here and here), looks like it was painted on the background of some pre-existing graffiti. Then somebody has painted a tree above it (signed 'seven'). For more on the white stag, keep an eye on Wildcornerz.

On the other side of the road there's this piece, signed 'Bad Cat 175' among others. What does ADNS stand for? The clue is is in the line written above the big letters: 'Always Doin' Night Shift 2012'.

Next to it there's a big eye, signed 'nem' as was the painted out 'smile' figure on the station: 

Something completely different next to the Hobgoblin pub, painted vegetables mural at Dig This Nursery Garden Centre:

Monday, April 16, 2012

Music Monday: Skinny Lister

Skinny Lister were featured on Transpontine a couple of years ago, a South East London folky outfit playing out at places like the Birds Nest (Deptford), Jam Circus (Brockley) and the Ladywell Tavern (the latter a Brockley Central gig), Now they look set for bigger things, signing for Sunday Best records (run by East Dulwich resident Rob da Bank) and currently touring the States where they have played everywhere from SXSW in Austin, Texas to Los Angeles.

Their first single on Sunday Best was released last week, featuring two fine tracks. 'If the gaff don't let us down' is a Pogues-style singalong shanty,  described by  the band's Dan Gray as follows: 'This self penned Skinny ditty is about longing for and returning to "dear old Deptford town"' where we all met up and started to play music together'. Dan and the band have put together a nice playlist of London songs for Q, explaining: 'London is close to all our hearts. Having fled our home towns and villages for the draw of its bright lights and all its promises; the band met, lived and loved in this great city... London is what brought Skinny Lister together and it continues to inspire us in our song writing as it has inspired those before. Even after many years living in the city, its romance doesn't fade. On these rotten streets our best days have been spent.'

  'we'll sail away tomorrow, back to dear old Deptford Town'

'The Plough and Orion' is a beautiful romantic song with video to match.


Their debut album is due soon, and to celebrate their return from the USA they are playing a free gig this Wednesday at the The Ship in New Cavendish Street, on stage at 7 pm.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Here comes May Day again

This time last year I published my history pamphlet May Day in South London, which as the name suggests looks at the different ways people in this part of the world have commemorated the season with May Queens, chimney sweep processions, horse parades, trade union demonstrations, anarchist protests and much more. I sold most of the print run at various events, online and in bookshops including Bookseller Crow and 56a Info Shop. There's about 15 hard copies left, so if you want one you'd better order quick (details in box to right), though you can also get an electronic version.

Amidst a flurry of activity for May Day 2011 I gave a talk on it at South East London Folklore Society (Old Kings Head, SE1) and also, briefly, at a Lewisham Anti Cuts Alliance event at the then occupied ex-Job Centre on Deptford High Street. A nice mix, as one of the themes of the text is the way that the seasonal 'green' elements of May Day have been intertwined with the radical 'red' elements over the years.

I also did the rounds of various May Day related activities, including the opening of the Brixton Windmill, which  featured a May Queen on May 2 2011:

And the Deptford Jack in the Green procession through Greenwich on May Day itself:

I also went on the Cool Tan May Day walk  from Tate Modern to Camberwell Green on May 21st 2011.

Elsewhere there were May Queens in Petts Wood, Orpington and at Hayes Common in the borough of Bromley.

At St George's Roman Catholic Cathedral in Southwark, up to 2,000 people from all over the world took part in the annual Mass for Migrants on May 2 2011- May Day also being marked as the Feast of St Joseph the Worker.

So what's happening this year on and around May Day? Let us know.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Deptford Street Art

Something wicked this way comes - at Deptford station

Latest decoration of the Deptford Project railway carriage in Deptford High Street

2006 mural at the Ahoy Centre on the riverfront

Into the blue

A little teaser -where is this mysterious blue labyrinth?
And what lies at the end of it?

Update, Monday 16 April:

As a couple of people identified correctly in the comments thread, this passageway is on Watergate Street, Deptford and leads to Watergate stairs down to the River Thames (or the beach at low tide).

The wooden passageway has been constructed to maintain access during the building works at the adjacent Paynes and Borthwick Wharves site. Work has restarted there after a delay of several years, and the passageway has been repainted blue. It gives the approach to the river a certain majesty, though the previous paint scheme had a certain poetry too - white boards extensively decorated by local youths for whom this is a place to hang out:

Thursday, April 12, 2012

People Before Profit Occupations

People Before Profit are continuing their occupations of empty council housing, with their first action of this kind in Greenwich. They say:

'Supporters of Greenwich People Before Profit have occupied a huge house that has been left empty and neglected by Greenwich Council for two years. All the families living in the house – at 88 Eltham Road near the western border of the borough – were evicted by the council. As far as we know, the evictions took place after the leaseholder couldn’t afford to renew or extend the lease. The building had been half-heartedly secured, so it was not difficult for campaigners to gain access. We found that the overall condition of the house was good – although there is work to do, with wires and copper piping severed, floorboards lifted and a section of ceiling down. Previously the house was divided into seven flats and we will try to make as much of it as possible habitable.

If anyone would like to help work at the house, or give support in other ways, please come to our next meeting on Saturday 14 April at 2.00 p.m., at 88 Eltham Road, or email

Greenwich People Before Profit is following the example of our counterparts in Lewisham, who occupied five long-term empty council houses in February. They are refurbishing them for homeless families to live in. Given the need for social housing in the borough, and the particularly serious housing problems for young people, it is scandalous that this property has been empty for two years. We want to make it habitable.

Homelessness is rising again. Government figures show that in the last quarter of 2011, homeless applications were up by 18% across England and 36% in London. London rents are unaffordable. We hope everyone in Greenwich, including the council, will support our action. The Empty Homes research group says that Greenwich has 3416 empty homes: 362 belong to the local council, the rest to housing associations and private landlords. Why can’t these properties be put back to use?'


Meanwhile Lewisham People Before Profit have extended their campaign to target empty social housing belonging to other landlords:

'tipped off that London & Quadrant Housing Association was selling off houses at auction we decided to investigate. We visited 34 Hazeldon Road, Crofton Park, at viewing times and found two purpose built flats in need of redecoration but in perfectly good structural condition. The auctioneers' catalogue showed a guide price of £275,000 to £300,000 for the whole building, not giving first time buyers the option of buying just one of the flats.

We occupied the flats on Tuesday 27th March, shortly after the last viewing had been held and have cleaned the flats thoroughly, changed the locks and had the steel security doors removed. We have written to L & Q asking them to make the flats available to families from Lewisham's housing waiting list and are awaiting a response. We have had several enquiries and the first family is moving in this weekend'.

Five Council homes put up for auction by Lewisham Council remain occupied (see previous report at Transpontine), as well as a vacant garage on Hart's Lane, New Cross (next to Sainsburys). The latter was originally offered up for auction with the five houses - there are plans to convert into a temporary community/arts space.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

History Corner: the Prendergast Murals

In the main hall at Prendergast girls school on Hilly Fields SE4 there is a set of striking pastoral murals dating from the 1930s.  At that time the school was called Brockley County and was a boys school (if you go into the Brockley Mess cafe today they have a large photo of boys eating at the school).

The painting was undertaken by a group of students from the Royal College of Arts - Evelyn Dunbar, Mildred Elsie Eldridge and Violet Martin - along with their tutor Charles Mahoney (aka Cyril Mahoney, 1903-1968). They started the work in 1933, with the finished results being officially opened in February 1936. Dunbar (1906-1960) went on to be the only official female war artist in the Second World War, noted for her paintings of Land Girls and nurses (including at St Thomas' Hospital).

The five panels were loosely based on the fables of Aesop and other writers, in addition to s 39-foot panoramic view of the school and Hilly Fields. It was Dunbar who painted 'The Country Girl and the Pail of Milk (above)', with her sister Midge as the model. M.Elsie Eldridge painted 'Birdcatcher and the Skylark', and Mahoney 'Joy and Sorrow'. They were painted directly on to the plaster in wax.

Mahoney's sketch for Joy and Sorrow panel, painted on paper in 1933
(from Liss Fine Art)

Dunbar was chiefly responsible for the balcony panorama. According to Dr Gill Clarke, Dunbar's biographer:  'In order to complete her preliminary sketches, which took 3-4 months, and to get the best view of the extensive buildings, Dunbar had to ascend the water tower of Lady Well Institution. In the Kent Messenger (January 1935), she described how she had to squeeze through a small trap-door and climb on to the top of an extremely narrow shaft, which led on to a tiny railed platform on the edge of the lead roof of the water tower, more than 100 feet above the ground. 'It was like being on a gas stove', Miss Dunbar told a Kent Messenger representative, 'and it was so hot with the sun beating down mercilessly that the water in my paint nearly boiled'' (Clarke's biography is entitled 'Evelyn Dunbar: War and Country').

Panorama of Hilly Fields and School

The murals gained national recognition at the time, and more recent appreciation led to them being listed in the 1990s. They were unveiled on February 21 1936 by the then education minister, Oliver Stanley. The Times reported: 'An example that might well be followed has been set by the Headmaster of the Brockley County School, Hilly Fields, SE4 [Dr G.I. Sinclair], who some time ago offered to Sir William Rothenstein, then Principal of the Royal College of Art, an opportunity for some of his students to execute a series of mural paintings in the school hall... The work has taken about three years to execute, the expenses of the artists being paid out of a small fund created from the profits on meals at the County School'.
Detail of panorama of Hilly Fields and School (photo from Decorated School blog)
- note schoolboy reaching over fence

In his speech, Stanley talked of painting on walls as 'the oldest form of artistic expression' and joked that 'in no other school in the country had the boys the opportunity of  using that form of expression in any other way than in the caricature of the headmaster on the wall' (Times, 22 February 1936).

Detail of panorama of Hilly Fields and School (photo from Decorated School blog)
The murals are quite hard to get decent photographs of - I tried and failed, and found some online. So if you get the chance to see them in situ, take it.

Further appreciation of Dunbar at Paint Drops Keep Falling and of the murals at the Decorated School.

Dunbar at work in the School,
(from St Barbe Museum & Art Gallery)

Ladywell water tower, Dressington Ave SE4, from where Dunbar sketched Hilly Fields.
Built 1898-1900 for St Olave's Union, home to 'aged and infirm'
designed  by Ernest Newman, the founder of the Art Workers Guild