Saturday, September 29, 2012

Three young people killed in two weeks

All the UK tabloids have the story of Megan Stammers on the front page, the teenager who ran away to France with her teacher. Pleased as I am that she is safe, I can't help noticing that the lives and indeed deaths of other young people just don't seem to be deemed of national significance. Here's a few sad South London stories from the past couple of weeks:

- On Thursday night, 15 year old Junior Nkwelle was stabbed to death on the Loughborough Estate in Brixton.

- The day before, Wednesday 26 September,  a 21 year old man was stabbed to death on the Aylesbury Estate in Walworth.

- Two weeks ago, on the 14th September, 14 year old Kevin Ssali was stabbed to death after getting off a bus in Burnt Ash Road, Lee. A 17 year old from New Cross has been charged with his murder.

- On that night too, a 19 year old was stabbed and critically injured in New Cross Road.

To be fair some of these stories have had brief mentions in the national media, but the tone of 'another stabbing in London' quickly dismisses them. Three young people killed in South London in two weeks should be a national scandal, and you can't help thinking that if the victims had been pretty white girls it would be.

Second thoughts, 2 October: reading back over this a few days later I still agree with the thrust of my initial reaction, but perhaps it was a bit clumsy to bring Megan Chambers into the story. She's got her own problems which I don't want to belittle. And I certainly don't want to suggest that terrible things don't happen to 'pretty white girls'. I guess the wider point though is who gets constructed in the mainstream media as deserving of sympathy, and it does seem to be that measured simply in terms of the amount of sympathetic press coverage, the lives of young people stabbed to death (many, but not all of them, young black men) are afforded less value. Kevin Ssali had been missing from home for some time before he was murdered, his worried family weren't on the news.

I do think racism has something to do with this, even if we want to use the term 'institional racism' whereby the fact that black people end up being treated worse is the salient point, whether or not the individuals making decisions are personally prejudiced. Linked to his is an implicit notion of what kind of people it is imagined that a newspaper's audience will relate to as 'one of their own' and what kind of people are the 'others' they fear. And there is also the fact that sometimes there isn't a straightforward good vs. evil morality tale - some of the people who get stabbed might be involved in violence themselves. But even when the latter is true, we mustn't lose sight of the broader tragedy - why are young people killing each other? There is no straightforward answer or solution, but to acknowledge its importance in the first step.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Blavatsky and Blondie

Coming up next month at South East London Folklore Society:

'Gary Lachman will be giving a talk on the celebrated occultist, Madame Helena Petrovna Blavatsky’s time as a resident of London. Author of “Isis Unveiled“ & co-founder of the Theosophical Society, Madame Blavatsky is a hugely influential figure in modern esoteric history. Gary Lachman is an author of books on the meeting ground between consciousness, culture, & the western inner tradition. His new book “Madame Blavatsky: The Mother of Modern Spirituality” is published by Tarcher/Penguin'.

The talk takes place on Thursday, October 11, 2012, 8:00pm at The Old King's Head, Kings Head Yard, 45-49, Borough High St., London SE1 1NA, all for less than the price of a pint ( £2.50/£1.50 concs).

The Norwood Connection

There should be some good South London content in this. When Blavatsky moved to London in 1885 she lived at Maycot cottage in Upper Norwood (Crown Hill), where she spent her final six years writing The Secret Doctrine. WB Yeats describes a visit there: "I found Madame Blavatsky in a little house at Norwood, with, but, as she said, three followers left" (having been exposed for some fraudulent practices). Yeats was surprised that a cuckoo hooted him from a clock that had apparently stopped: "I wondered if there was some hidden mechanism and I should have been put out, I suppose, had I found any, though Henley had said to me, 'Of course she gets up fraudulent miracles, but a person of genus has to do something' (Yeats, The Trembling of the Veil, 1922).

Another visitor recalled: 'I first met dear old “H. P. B.,” as she made all her friends call her, in the spring of 1887. Some of her disciples had taken a pretty house in Norwood, where the huge glass nave and twin towers of the Crystal Palace glint above a labyrinth of streets and terraces. London was at its grimy best. The squares and gardens were scented with grape-clusters of lilac, and yellow rain of laburnums under soft green leaves. The eternal smoke-pall was thinned to a gray veil shining in the afternoon sun, with the great Westminster Towers and a thousand spires and chimneys piercing through. Every house had its smoke-wreath, trailing away to the east' (Charles Johnston, Theosophical Forum. 1900)

One of Blavatsky's best-known followers was Annie Besant, the well known feminist, birth-control advocate, and political radical. Annie Besant had also lived also lived not far away in the 1870s, at 39 Colby Road SE19. Another leading Theosophist was the American Colonel Olcott. On September. 29 1889 he gave a lecture at the Hatcham Liberal Club, New Cross described as his 'largest audience of the season'.

Touched by your presence dear

Oh so what's the Blondie connection? Well the first time I heard the word 'theosophy' was in their 1977 hit 'I am always touched by your presence, dear' which includes the line 'Coming into contact with outer entities, We could entertain each one with our theosophies'. The song was written by early Blondie bassist Gary Valentine, who also wrote another Blondie favourite, X-Offender, and played on their debut album. Valentine left the band in 1977 when they were on the verge of internaional fame, and went on to be a writer under the name Gary Lachman... the very same, all the way from CBGBs to the Old Kings Head in Borough High Street.

Blondie in 1977, Gary Valentine Lachman on the right.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Out of the Cage

An interesting free event coming up courtesy of Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance:

Out of the Cage! (26 Oct 13.00h–23.00h, King Charles Court, Old Royal Naval College, Greenwich)

'John Cage (1912-1992) was an American composer, music theorist, writer, and artist. A pioneer of indeterminacy in music, electroacoustic music, and non-standard use of musical instruments, Cage was one of the leading figures of the post-war avant-garde. He was also instrumental in the development of modern dance, mostly through his relationship with choreographer Merce Cunningham.

Join us for an extraordinary day of activity featuring a multitude of musicians, dancers, and other performers simultaneously animating a labyrinth of rooms and spaces in the Old Royal Naval College, Greenwich. The audience is ambulatory wandering freely through a myriad of spaces, performances, and installations. Three concerts punctuate the ‘Happening’ as resting points in the 10 hour maze of sight & sound discoveries.The evening concert will include a UK première of Cage’s The City Wears a Slouched Hat for six hats, percussion and ensemble'.

Back in 1980, as mentioned here before, Cage and his partner/collaborator Merce Cunningham took part in a summer school at Laban when it was in New Cross, concluding with a big performance at Goldsmiths.

I went to The Mysterium in 2009, a similar Trinity Laban event at the Old Royal Naval College, and it was one of the most memorable nights out I've had in London - an amazing building with all kinds of beautiful things happening in it.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

New Cross News

New Cross News is a new community newsletter for SE14, with the first issue just published. It includes local news and listings. You can download a copy from:

Among the news I picked up from it was the fact that there's a local project called Eat a Rainbow Food Co-op: 'Buy fresh fruit and veg from a stall run by local people, where all the money goes back into improving the stall and the area. Outside New Cross Post Office 9 am -1 pm',

There's also a new New Cross blog - New Cross Crawler - which already has reviews of several key local pubs and news about the planned redevelopment of the 'Surrey Canal' area around the Millwall ground.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Dogs of Old London

Spitalfields Life has a fine gallery of old London dog photographs, from the Kennel Club archive no less where they were deposited by collector Libby Hall.

I picked up a couple of SE London photos from this selection. This one is by W.Pearce, 422 Lewisham High Street:

And this one was taken by James Crowhurst, 50 London Road, Forest Hill. His studio was there from 1894 to 1899, so we can confidently date this as being from the late 19th century:

Sunday, September 23, 2012

More UKBA raids

The UK Borders Agency continues its harrassment of migrant communities in South London.

Last week three people were arrested in a raid on Tiendas del Sur shop at Elephant and Castle (pictured below), an area that is a major centre of Latin American social life in London

Earlier this month a Lewisham restaurant, Everest King Curry on  Loampit Hill, was fined £15,000 following a raid last year which saw the arrest of 3 members of staff from Sri Lanka. Two of them were later deported despite having claimed for asylum. Deportations to Sri Lanka have been widely criticised because of the continuing use of torture and other human rights abuses against the Tamil minority there.

UKBA has a number of Local Immigration Teams carrying out these fishing expeditions. The Bexley, Greenwich, Lambeth and Southwark LIT is based at Becket House, 60-68 St Thomas Street SE1 (near London Bridge Station). The Croydon LIT and the Lewisham & Bromley LIT both operate out of Electric House at 3 Wellesley Road, Croydon.

(See previous report on operations in New Cross and Elephant)

Friday, September 21, 2012

Sydenham School History

Sydenham School (Dartmouth Road SE26) is holding an event tomorrow to celebrate its 95th birthday, with music, performances, an art exhibition and more. It's a good school (a parent writes) which this year got its best ever GCSE results. Not to be confused with a similarly named private school not far away (Sydenham High).

Whatever your views about single sex education, the fact is that most secondary schools were primarily for boys until advocates of women's education founded schools like Sydenham. On its website there is a fascinating archive of school magazines going back to the 1920s which show how the winds of first wave feminism and suffragism blew through the streets of Forest Hill in the early days of the school.

In 1919-20, the History Club was seemingly where it all happened. A debate on 'The Entrance of Women into Parliament will be for the Welfare of the Nation' saw the motion proposed by Elsie Greenman 'carried by twenty-two votes to four'.  In June 1920 'Miss Dawson spoke on the subject of Guild Socialism'.

The image below is from The County Secondary School, Sydenham, Magazine and Chronicle, 1922:

New X-ing

New X-ing starts tonight, two weeks of free live music, dance and spoken word performances. Part of the thinking behind it is to bring together Goldsmiths and Trinity Laban with the wider community in New Cross and Deptford, and all events will be taking place around an outdoor stage at the New Cross end of Lewisham Way, by Goldsmiths librrary.

Is starts tonight with music from Too Many Ts, Rabbit and Sound System Social Club.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Freedom for Birth Film

Coming up tomorrow (Thursday 20 September, 7:30 pm), a free showing of the film  'Freedom for Birth' at the Hill Station Cafe, Kitto Road, SE14. It is one of over 1000 screenings taking place internationally tomorrow to launch the film. Freedom for Birth say

'In many countries around the world, women are being denied the most basic human right of autonomy over their own bodies. They cannot choose how and where to give birth. Those that persist in their desire to have a normal, physiological birth are sometimes forced by judges to surrender to surgery or threatened with having their babies taken away by child welfare services. 

In many countries, if a woman wants to have a home birth supported by a midwife, those midwives face criminal prosecution. Some midwives, like Ágnes Geréb in Hungary, are even imprisoned. Freedom for Birth calls for radical reform to the world’s maternity systems so that these Human Rights violations stop and women are afforded real choice as to how and where they give birth'.

As today is the anniversary of my own beautiful daughter's home birth in SE14 I say this is a cause to support! 

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Camberwell History Walk

Past Tense, purveyors of London radical history, are doing a free walk on SUNDAY 7 OCTOBER:

'Rare Doings at Camberwell - you are now enterin' SE5... Featuring rioting Chartists, leninist artists, General strikers, anti-fascists, squatted streets and centres, the fight for the right to live, and the mad and proud.

Meet 2pm, on Camberwell Green, by the corner of Camberwell Church Street, London, SE5.

This walk is free! It is also all interactive: so bring your own tales and memories of the area... We’re not experts, we’re always learning, and we welcome your contributions.

The walk should last about an hour and a half to two hours… and end in a decent pub.

Who polices the police?

Lewisham Anti-Racist Action Group (LARAG) have a public meeting coming up on  Tuesday October 2nd from 7pm at Goldsmiths College, New Cross.

The meeting will be on the subject ‘Who Polices the police’ and will feature a short film, then a discussion with Marcia Rigg-Samuel (brother of Sean Rigg) and a speaker from the campaign group Inquest. LARAG say 'This is an important meeting given no police officer has been successfully prosecuted despite 1439 deaths in custody or following police contact since 1990, of which 199 were from the black and minority ethnic community'.

Sean Rigg, aged 40, died at Brixton police station in 2008 shortly after being arrested and restrained. At the inquest into his death at Southwark Coroners Court last month, the Jury criticised both the Police and South London and Maudsley NHS Trust (Sean was being treated for schizophrenia).

Monday, September 17, 2012

Trading Tatiana

'Trading Tatiana' by Debi Alper (2005) is very much a South London novel. The main character is Jo, an ex-heroin user living in 'Boddington Heights', a tower block on the Old Kent Road. She gets involved with helping Tatiana, a Ukrainian sex worker running in fear for her life.

If that sounds a bit grim, the book is actually quite lightly written with comic touches and a plot that keeps the pages turning. Among other SE London elements the novel includes:

- a circus on Peckham Rye;
- a friendly housing co-op in the Kirkwood Road/Gordon Road area of Nunhead/Peckham (not named but described as 'running from a low-rise estate at one end down to Nunhead Green at the other');
- a stall on Greenwich market;
- an agorophobic candle maker in New Cross;
- a dramatic encounter in the National Maritime Museum.

Alper has written a number of books and seems to have led an interesting life, including a spell in the actual Shangri La Housing Co-op in Peckham in the early 1990s (the Co-op in the novel is called Nirvana instead). An earlier novel, Nirvana Bites (which I haven't yet read), is also set around the fictional Peckham co-op.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Sound Clash at the Albany

Coming up at the Albany in Deptford on Saturday 22 September, 9pm - 6am:

'Three sound systems under one roof in a thunderous showcase celebrating 30 years of grassroots music from South East London. Featuring King Tubby's HiFi, Trevor Sax & Sax 3 and Unit 137 Sound. Hosted by Don Letts.

Local reggae sound system lovers, and those from further afield, will know the Albany’s corner of South East London as a crucially important area in the genesis of UK reggae sound systems.

To celebrate the history of sound system culture, Trinity brings together three hand-built sound systems and their crews. Sound System Social Club will see both veteran and brand new UK sound systems play under one roof and flex their muscles as they battle in a musical sound clash. The winner will be determined by the roar of the crowd...'

People Before Profit Housing Conference

Lewisham People Before Profit are holding a conference on the future of social housing tomorrow. They say: 'A housing crisis is engulfing Britain.  Housing benefit costs spiral; homelessness increases; private rents soar; council rents rising to 80% of private rents; squatting is criminalised; thousands of homes lie empty. All these issues will be addressed at next Saturday's conference, to be held from 11am to 5pm at All Saints Community Centre, New Cross Road, SE14 5DJ on corner with Monson Road.  Come along and give us the benefit of your ideas and experiences'.   

There will be workshops on 'Which option for Lewisham’s Council Housing? Changes to housing and
council tax benefit and the consequences of the new ‘Universal Credit’; Setting up a housing
co-operative; Property guardians; Combatting the new law on squatting; and much more!'

Thursday, September 13, 2012

'William Blake - Visionary Anarchist'

William Blake - Visionary Anarchist is a group show in the Freedom Gallery of work inspired by Blake. The Gallery space is upstairs in Freedom Bookshop, the long established anarchist bookshop in Angel Alley, 84b Whitechapel High Street London E1 7QX (next to Whitechapel Art Gallery). The exhibition continues until September 30th.

Blake's Peckham visions (discussed here before) feature as a key point of reference, including John Riordan's great illustration 'William Blake and the Angels of Peckham Rye':

A poem by John Crow, with crochet by Katy Kaos, also alludes to this: 'On Peckham Rye I walked with Blake, I asked if we could see, Where he once saw the Angels, Bespangling a tree. But Blake he smiled, then on we strode, And never saw the tree. Conversing with Angels, In Eternity'.

An issue of Papakura Post Office zine produced for the exhibition includes some more related reflections in an essay entitled Blake's Absence by John Cunningham:

'Walking around Peckham Rye Common in 1767 the young William Blake glimpsed a vision of angels glittering in the branches of a tree. In the UK PLC of the 21st century this would be the imaginary jittering of an imbecile, a child that might prove not only unfit for future work but would probably be unfit for anything much except remedial education, therapy and pills. Even in Blake’s time Mommy Blake had to dissuade Daddy Blake from thrashing him. Angels seem wholly absent from Peckham Rye in 2012, unless one is occasionally conjured up from the skunk smoke of bored teenagers or the desperate yearnings of the Sunday leisure time of middle class families. Needless to say, angels are more likely to respond to the former than the latter...

X: Do you think Blake actually saw an angel on Peckham Rye Common that day in 1767?
Y: I don’t know, it’s hard to put oneself in the field of vision of a ranting non-conformist like Blake. If he did I like to imagine that through the cross hatch of messianic time Blake glimpsed the slightly demonic angel that the painter Paul Klee dubbed ‘Angelus Novus’. Claws, staring eyes, out stretched wings: an angel that the Kabbalistic Marxist Walter Benjamin thought of as being a witness to the ongoing catastrophe  of capitalist history. The ‘angel of history’, condemned to always be looking back
at the accumulated debris but awaiting her chance to become one with profane time and redeem this through destruction. It’s in Benjamin’s Theses on History'.

(more posts on Blake)

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Build the Lenox project

The proposal to build a replica seventeenth century ship in Deptford sounded like a fantasy when people first started floating it, but it now seems to be gaining some momentum. The would-be developers of the Convoys Wharf site on the riverfront have come under pressure to acknowledge the site's history as the location of the Royal Dockyard, and seem to be coming round to allowing space for the project in their plans. Further details at Build the Lenox.

The original Lenox was a Restoration warship built at Deptford and launched in 1678.

(pictures of the remains of the Dockyard, as uncovered by archaeologists earlier this year:

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Millwall Dressing Room

One of the hidden sites of SE London - the Millwall dressing room:

The showers

The baths

The visiting team's dressing room is directly opposite, and both are just by the tunnel. Coming out of their dressing room, visitors have this helpful message to help them find their way to the pitch:

When they come off the pitch the first thing they see is this reminder 'This is the Lions Den':

Monday, September 10, 2012

Music Monday: The Noisettes

The Noisettes released their third album, Contact, last month. The band's Dan Smith and Shingai Shoniwa met back in the 1990s at Brits School in Croydon. Although no longer living locally, the latter grew up in Brockley, as Laura Barton wrote in the Standard (10 August 2012):

'Now a resident of Chelsea, Shoniwa grew up on a council estate in Brockley, raised by her mother after the death of her father when she was just 11. From an early age she seems to have been instilled with a sense of performance: attending shows at The Africa Centre, jamming with her musician uncles, working as a burlesque dancer in Lost Vagueness and dreaming of becoming an actress or joining the circus... Smith, the son of a Trinidadian poet mother and Scottish painter father, hails from Croydon but now lives in Brighton'

An earlier interview has a bit more about here upbringing: 'Shingai was born in 1980 in Brockley, Southeast London, ‘deep in Del Boy country’. Her parents had both emigrated from Zimbabwe a few years previously; her father an academic and her mother from a family steeped in music. ‘All of my mum’s brothers were musicians. My mum used to put on concerts at a club called the Africa Centre in the 1990s. So the music was always there.’ Her father died when she was 11 and around that time she was sent to Malawi to live with her grandmother – the de facto village tailor – for two years. Back in London she went through several secondary schools, trying to find one that would let her study drama. ‘Acting was my first passion. I was doing amateur dramatics from when I was 11 to about 15. I joined a theatre company called Second Wave in Southeast London and got amazing acting training.’

Sunday, September 09, 2012

Mat Fraser

One of the surprizes of the Paralympics closing ceremony tonight was seeing Mat Fraser drumming as a guest with Coldplay.

Mat, who was disabled as a result of thalidomide, has has quite a big stage, TV and film profile over the last few years. But we remember him as a stalwart of the 1990s South London squat party scene, including playing with the band The Grateful Dub at Cool Tan in Brixton and other places.

Another London

This week is the last chance to see 'Another London: International Photographers Capture City Life 1930-1980' at Tate Britain (it closes on 16 September). As other reviewers have noted,  I'm not sure that much of it really offers a view of  'another' city - if anything it suggests that great international photographers visiting London tended to reproduce a very familiar version of the city with guardsmen, buses, city gents in hats and cockney characters on market stalls. That was after all what the agencies and magazines they were working for expected to see - artfully executed tourist imagery. Of course there are still some great photographs which capture lost moments, like Edouard Boubat's picture of the 1950s working river by Tower Bridge, or Martine Franck's photo of a bored child in Greenwich at the time of the 1977 silver jubilee.

Another London gets better as you go around it though, and the last half of the exhibition lives up to its title with photographs documenting less commonly seen parts of London. I particularly liked Al Vandenberg's images of 1970s counter-cultural London and Neil Kenlock's pictures from the same period of Black Londoners. They may both have been migrants, from the US and Jamaica respectively, but both were settled in the city when they took their photos. Perhaps you really need to be embedded in a place for a while to step beyond the usual cliches. 

Neil Kinlock's photograph of the aftermath
 of a racist attack in Balham in 1972

One of Vandenberg's photos - featuring Lemmy (centre)
I also liked Leonard Freed's 1971 pictures of Hassidic Jews, though for a Londoner what is frustrating about these images and so many others in the exhibition is that they are simply labelled as London -whereas what you really want to know is whereabouts in London?

Are the contradictions of this exhibition simply about different perspectives of London, or are they representations of the real contradictions of London? In their essay accompanying the exhibition, Ben Gidley and Mike Gidley suggest the latter: 'London has always had an anachronistic relationship to England and Britain, and to Englishness and Britishness. In this representative photographic collection, we see images of pearly kings, milk bottles on the doorstep, guardsmen in bearskins, monarchist crowds and timber-lined pubs that point backwards to an imagined old England that tourists come here to see, while the modernity of its traffic and the relative exoticism of its hippies, Black Panthers and punks suggest a London jerked out of England by war and dislocating change' (in 'Another London: International Photographers Capture City Life 1930-1980', edited by Helen Delaney an Simon Baker, Tate, 2012)

Saturday, September 08, 2012

Aquarius Music Festival

Last Saturday's Aquarius Festival was a revelation, partly because despite living nearby I had no idea that there was a golf club and course on the Honor Oak reservoir site in Marmora Road SE22.

But it was the quality of the music that made the event, with a stage outside...
Josienne Clarke and Ben Walker on the main stage, singing songs of their own
and others by Sandy Denny and June Tabor.

...and a crowded indoor space hosted by East Dulwich folk club The Goose is Out.

Multi-instrumentalist Robin Gillan performs The Bonnie Bunch of Roses, singing through his banjo for some added reverb!

Middle Class Sound System in the area
No Frills Band - sorry for poor photo - it was dark in there!

The Goose is Out have plenty more coming up, including their regular free singaround session tomorrow night (Sunday 9th) at The Mag, 211 Lordship Lane, SE22. Forthcoming gigs include The Askew Sisters on Friday 14 September and the legendary Dick Gaughan on Friday 28 September. Full details at their website.

Friday, September 07, 2012

Bosci returns at the Nunhead Open

Lots of interesting work this weekend in Nunhead Open 9, the Open Art Exhibition at The Old Community Centre, 56 Nunhead Lane, London SE15 3TU.

Among other things, the exhibition includes the return of Brian McKenzie's Animal Within, featuring the lifesize animal-man 'Bosci'. Earlier this year, Bosci briefly took up residence in the chapel in Nunhead Cemetery, but was removed after one day of its planned three month installation following a couple of complaints. Now he's back in a little dark room with his straw bed - come and view him by torchlight.

Nunhead Open is open from Midday to 5pm on Saturday 8th and Sunday 9th of September 2012 (admission free)

Thursday, September 06, 2012

Musical Youth at New Cross Inn

'Musical Youth' are playing at the New Cross Inn on Saturday 8th September, still musical if no longer particularly youthful. Back in the early 1980s they had a huge international hit with 'Pass the Dutchie', but made a couple of anthems with some other good tunes.

The band were originally from Birmingham, but Pass the Dutchie was actually produced/mixed in the Old Kent Road at The Workhouse studio (488 Old Kent Road) on the site of what is now the Asda supermarket.

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Nunhead Experience

Enjoyed the Nunhead Experience festival on Sunday, part of  the Elephant and the Nun - a weekend of events in open spaces across Southwark. Some good music in the marquee with its cycle powered sound system. Here's Nunhead Folk Circle performing.

I also caught some music in Burgess Park and at the Aquarius Golf Club in Honor Oak - further report to follow on the latter.

Monday, September 03, 2012

Goldsmiths support for London Met students

Eyebrows were raised last month when Goldsmiths in New Cross advertised for the post of 'UK Borders Agency Compliance Officer'. The duties were set out as follows: 'you will be responsible for ensuring that Goldsmiths maintains its status as a Highly Trusted Sponsor under Tiers 2, 4 and 5 of the United Kingdom Border Agency's Points Based System. Key tasks will include advising academic, professional and administrative staff across the institution on Tier 2 and Tier 4 PBS sponsorship duties, reporting and auditing requirements, and working with senior managers to ensure that appropriate systems and processes are developed and that the day-to-day operational activities at Goldsmiths comply with all relevant aspects of UK Government legislation in relation to international student and staff recruitment'.

The existence of the post highlights the extent to which colleges (and indeed employers) are now expected to act as an arm of the Government's immigration authorities, carrying out checks on students and workers that were previously the responsibility of immigration officers. The consequences of being judged as not implementing policies properly have been spelt out at London Metropolitan University in the last week, with its 'Trusted Sponsor' status withdrawn, and thousands of international students there being told they can't complete courses.

Des Freedman of Goldsmiths lecturers' union UCU has criticised the action:

'The UK Border Agency’s decision to revoke the licence of London Metropolitan University to recruit and teach international students marks the latest stage of the government’s assault on higher education. Some 2,700 students from non-EEA countries now face deportation for the crime of having chosen to study at a popular and multicultural institution, widely respected for its widening participation profile. This applies both to those on their way to London to start their degrees as well as those in their final year of study, perhaps only a dissertation away from a degree.

The UKBA claims that it has identified ‘serious and systemic failings’ concerning the University’s monitoring of language qualifications, immigration status and attendance and that, despite several warnings, London Met has failed to deal adequately with the problems. Yet, from what we can gather, the numbers involved are tiny and involve only a very small minority of international students. If there are serious problems with checks, why should thousands of innocent students be penalised for the failure of the institution fully to carry out its responsibilities? (read full article here).
Goldsmiths UCU and National Union of Students have issued a joint statement: 'Goldsmiths Students Union and Goldsmiths UCU send their solidarity to all staff and students at London Metropolitan University affected by the UKBA’s recent decision to revoke the University’s licence to recruit and teach international students. This is not simply a question of systems and procedures but a political attack on the right of international students to study in the UK and is based on fundamentally discriminatory legislation which collectively treats students from outside the EEA as suspicious and ‘bogus’. The UKBA’s decision is completely disproportionate and will penalise thousands of students who entered the UK in good faith and with a genuine desire to study. We call on the Home Office to issue an immediate amnesty to existing students at London Metropolitan that will safeguard the futures of those promised an education in the UK. We further pledge our support to campaigns organised by students and staff at London Met to challenge the UKBA’s actions'.

You can sign the petition calling for an amnesty here:

An 'Amnesty for London Met Students' protest has been called for this Wednesday, 1 pm at the Home Office, Marsham Street, SW1P

Deptford Art This Way

Corner of Resolution Way and Deptford High Street

Party gone out of bounds

A surreal sight in the window of Party One Stop (novelties/party supplies shop) at 374 Old Kent Road.

Sunday, September 02, 2012

Max Bygraves (1922-2012)

Max Bygraves, who died this week, was one of the biggest stars of  British 'light entertainment' in the the post-World War Two period.

His roots were among the dockers of Rotherhithe, where he was born close to Surrey Docks in Swan Lane Buildings (council flats) in Rotherhithe Street in 1922. His father was a casual dockworker as well as a boxer who fought under the name Battling Tom Smith. They were a Roman Catholic family, presumably of Irish origin like many who worked on the docks, and Bygraves went to St Josephs School in Paradise Street. According to his autobiography (Max Bygraves in His Own Words, 1997), he sang in the school choir including at a concert in Westminster Cathedral.

After leaving school, he worked as a messenger and runner for an advertising company and then a carpenter before joining the RAF during the war. His impersonations of comedian Max Miller earned him the nickname 'Max' - his real name was Walter William Bygraves. Apparently Bygraves had seen Miller perform at the New Cross Empire.

Bygraves got married and had a child during the war, and the young family lived in rooms in Plumstead Common and Woolwich before Max became a star via a BBC ex-servicemen's show.

According to Cinema Treasures, Bygraves' 1956 film Charley Moon was filmed in the New Cross Empire with 'many scenes filmed in the auditorium, on-stage and brief exterior shots' (including presumably the 'If I had three wishes' scene, below):

(The Empire, which was in Deptford Broadway on the corner of Watsons Street, was closed in 1954 but was used a location for films before it was demolished in 1958. Cinema Treasures reports that as well as Charley Moon, it features as an opera in Errol Flynn and Anna Neagle's "King’s Rhapsody" and in the 1956 film "The Long Arm" starring Jack Hawkins, with 'brief exterior shots and a side alley, plus a scene in the auditorium').

Saturday, September 01, 2012

Free jazz and a tree for Lol Coxhill

Nice event in the delightful oasis of the Herb Garden (McMillan Street SE8) last Monday. To commemorate the life of saxophonist Lol Coxhill (as discussed here before), there was a gathering with live free jazz and a tree planting.

The magnolia tree for Lol

David Aylward bangs the gong
There's some music at the Herb Garden this afternoon (Saturday 1st September) with Charles Hayward and others 'Blowin' for Lol' from 5 pm to 7 pm (see Deptford Misc for more details)