Thursday, November 29, 2012

Deptford Poundland Protest

Last Saturday there was a protest at the Poundland store in Deptford High Street, part of an ongoing campaign against shops involved in the workfare scheme ('Mandatory Work Activity') whereby unemployed people are made to undertake unpaid work. South London Solidarity Federation, who organised the Deptford action, point out that employers are using work placements to do work that they would otherwise have to pay staff to do - thereby actually reducing the real jobs available for unemployed people. 

Other companies have pulled out of the scheme following protests, including Holland & Barrett who were targeted in Catford and elsewhere.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

History Corner: Every Brick Tells a Story

On the Thames beach at Deptford there are various industrial archaeological fragments, each with their own history. Here are three bricks I came across recently.

This first brick is marked 'Glenboig'. The Glenboig Fire Clay Company was founded in 1865 in the central Scottish village. It had its own clay-mine as well as the factory which made the bricks. In 1901 clay miners staged a long and bitter 10 month strike; in 1909, four miners were killed in a roof fall. Glenboig bricks were exported all over the world, this one ending up on the shore of the Thames.

Thistle Bricks also came from Scotland, and were manufactured by John G Stein & Co. Its mine was in Castlecary.

A 1940 catalogue shows that Thistle bricks were designed for use at high temperature, such as in furnaces, and were composed of Silica, Alumina and Ferric Oxide.

The London Brick Company (LBC) was founded in 1900, not in London but at Fletton near Peterborough, where bricks continue to be made from 'Oxford clay' to this day. Brick production brought many Italian workers and their families to the area - in 1960, around 3,000 Italians were employed there by London Brick. 

So now you know, these bricks are not just random refuse. An experienced brick spotter would be able to date bricks such as these by changes in the lettering and fonts over time - not sure I have the time for that just now.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

DIY Home Insulation Workshop

This from Assembly SE8:

'As the winter brings the cold temperature, Assembly SE8 is hosting a workshop aimed at preventing energy wastage from the lack of insulation in London homes. The DIY home insulation workshop will take place the 2nd of December at Assembly SE8 spaces in the Old Tidemill school(Frankham street, SE8 4RN, Deptford)

It is kindly organised by Transition New Cross, a collective of locals promoting sustainability issues and engagement in the community. The workshop provides participants with easy to make insulation adjustments for the house and will cover the following topics and techniques:

- temperature management
- curtain making
- DIY door and windows sealing
- radiator reflector installations

After a small introduction and some considerations on insulation savings and principles, the previously listed techniques will be applied to the venue with the help of attendants. Materials are provided by the organisers and no building skills are required. For more information on the event please contact Carlo at 07826428494 or

The DIY home insulation workshop
Time: 11pm to 5pm
Date: 2nd December 2012
Location: Old Tidermill school (Frankham street, SE8 4RN, Deptford)
Organisers: Transition New Cross and Assembly SE8'

Monday, November 26, 2012

Music Monday: Triad God, NXB

This week, Vietnamese-Chinese rap from New Cross courtesy of Triad God. Vinh Ngan was born in Vietnam and raised in South East London. He put out a mix tape earlier in the year, mixed by Palmistry, and it has now been remastered and released by hip US label Hippos in Tanks.

Entitled 'NXB' (which apparently stands for New Cross Boys) the sound has been described by The Quietus as 'delicate Sino-grime style melodies with hip-hop leaning percussion, sub-bass and the sort of rain-soaked synths that have become something of a Hippos In Tanks trademark'. FACT magazine have described it as 'some of the most heady, wonderfully oblique music of year'.

The inspiration for NXB has been described by Vinh as 'South London New Cross, Peckham, China Town / Bar / Club / Casino / Temple/ 2pac & Edison Chen'.

Here's a mix Triad God did for SSENSE,combining Cantonsese rhymes with Chinese film and pop samples:

(thanks to Murray W for the tip)

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Huge demonstration to save Lewisham Hospital

This afternoon's demonstration against cuts to services at Lewisham Hospital was phenomenal. Speakers at the end said the crowd was estimated as up to 15,000, and as somebody who has been on more than a few demonstrations over the years, I don't think they were far out (I would say somewhere between 10 and 15,000).

The demonstration made its way from Lewisham town centre to Ladywell Fields and the hospital, and left nobody in doubt that the threat to close Accident and Emergency and other services is extremely unpopular.

The front of the march - the 'Florence wouldn't put up with this' banner was made by nurses at Kings College.
 What is the definition of a good demonstration? Well size is part of it. I know lots of people I know were there today, but I only bumped into a handful of them. That is a very good sign. 10-15,000 from one part of London over a local issue (albeit with national implications) would be remarkable at any time. In the rain on a cold November day it is something else.  I watched the whole march go by and joined in towards the end, by the time I got to Ladywell Fields I had missed many of the speakers - another sign of a demonstration bigger than anybody expected.

It must have been the biggest demonstration in Lewisham for at least 30 years - you would need to go back to the New Cross Fire 1981 or the anti-National Front demonstration of 1977 to find similar numbers, and those were national mobilisations. Today was mainly local people. 

Another sign of a great demonstration is there is an explosion of creativity, with home-made banners and placards. My personal favourite was the one above. Who knows what possessed a group of young girls to bring a banner quoting a Bonnie Tyler song on the march, but it was very apt: 'Every now and then I fall apart, and I need you now tonight, and I need you more than ever'.

'No taking services away, don't let people die, cuts cost lives'
A good demonstration mobilises way beyond the usual suspects. Of course there are the usual political organisation and trade union banners, they are part of it and have as much right to be there as anybody else. But they are a minority amongst a sea of people. Bob from Brockley tweeted today: 'Most diverse (ethnically, age, etc) demo I've been on. Really representative of Lewisham street'. He was right.

A good demonstration strikes a chord. Its meaning is immediately understood and shared by all who see it. Nobody in Lewisham needs anybody to explain why cutting back their local hospital is a terrible idea. They have been born there, seen their friends and family get well there, or sometimes die there. That is why shoppers were clapping as the demonstration passed, and why drivers stuck in the traffic were tooting their horns in support rather than getting angry.

'I could have died by the time the ambulance reached Woolwich'
photo by Nikki Spencer at Twitter
 It was good to see some banners from beyond Lewisham, like this William Morris-referencing one from Greenwich and Bexley Trades Union Council. This isn't just about Lewisham, the specific changes will affect South London more generally. And as all the 'save the NHS' chants recognised today, this is a national issue (actually an international issue of the conflict between human needs and austerity).

Of course, a good demonstration has music:

'We save lives, not money'
A good demonstration has a strong sense of purpose that mere weather cannot defeat.

South London Solidarity Federation banner amongst the umbrellas

'Matt Kershaw, Jeremy *unt's puppet, Lay off our A&E'

Lewisham Pensioners Forum banner on the march
So by these standards, today was certainly a good day. Will it prove to have been an effective demonstration, in terms of making a difference?  We shall see, this is just the start of the campaign - but a very good start. What is clear is that the overwhelming majority of people in the Lewisham and wider area are totally opposed to the closure of the Accident and Emergency department at Lewisham Hospital, and the threat to other services there. Fundamental questions are raised about the meaning of democracy by the fact that unaccountable hatchet men can even put forward this proposal, let alone that ConDem  politicians with no mandate to slash the NHS can consider rubber stamping such proposals. 

Next steps:

There is a Save Lewisham Hospital public meeting on Wednesday 28 November, 7 pm at Broadway Theatre, Catford, with speakers including local GP Dr Louise Irvine.

You can respond to the 'consultation' on the plans until 13 December, details here.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Save Lewisham Hospital: now is the time

Tomorrow is an important day in SE London with a demonstration at Lewisham Hospital to save its Accident and Emergency Department, as well as threatened maternity services. Never mind if you're the kind of person who doesn't go on demonstrations, never mind if you're cynical about whether it will have any effect, never mind if it's cold - you need to be there if you want Lewisham to continue to have a fully functioning hospital!

The Special Administrator's draft report into the future of South London Healthcare NHS Trust and the NHS in SE London  was published at the end of last month, and it was immediately apparent that there was a serious threat of Lewisham A&E being closed down in order to bolster the financial position of Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Woolwich, where Lewisham residents would be expected to travel for A&E instead.

As covered here before this would lead to longer journey times to Emergency Care for many people, and therefore a delay in accessing potentially life saving treatment. The journey time between the two hospitals is estimated by AA Route Planner at 22 minutes assuming normal traffic; Transport for London's journey planner suggests that the quickest public transport journey from Lewisham Hospital to Queen Elizabeth Hospital takes around 50 minutes during the day, including a 15 minute walk at the Woolwich end from the 54 bus stop.

Since then other aspects of this plan have become apparent. Firstly it is not just Accident and Emergency that is under threat at Lewisham. Closing it would have an impact on other parts of the hospital. For instance without Emergency Care on site, could Lewisham continue to deliver maternity services? Currently Lewisham handles around 4,400 births a year (see discussion at Clare's Diary).

The hospital's intensive care unit is also under threat. BBC reports that 'Seven consultants at Lewisham hospital have raised fears about the future of its intensive care unit. They say planned changes for the now dissolved South London Healthcare Trust (SLHT) would result in its closure. Several critical care beds in south-east London have been recommended for closure by the Trust Special Administrator (TSA) Matthew Kershaw... The seven consultants said the changes would "disproportionately hit critically ill patients from the most deprived areas of south-east London... Following implementation of your recommendations we fear that the residents of Lewisham will be forced to bear the brunt of this risk and have to travel to receive intensive care treatment possibly outside south-east London...All the hard work over many years of continuous improvement and dedication to helping the sickest patients in the borough of Lewisham will be destroyed".

It is also clear that there will be a negative impact on health services for people near to Queen Elizabeth Hospital too. How is its A&E going to cope with the increase in traffic from Lewisham? As Lucy Mangan argues in the Guardian, it is ludicrous to pretend  'that leaving one A&E department to service the 750,000 citizens of three boroughs wouldn't ultimately end in disaster in both human and economic terms'.

We should avoid the temptation to play Lewisham Hospital off against Queen Elizabeth, or to say 'make the cuts there instead of here'. The financial crisis at Queen Elizabeth is a result of a political decision to break up the health service into separate competing enterprises, and of the debts incurred through another political decision: to mortgage the future of the health service to private companies through the Private Finance Initiative scheme. The debts could be cancelled or paid off tomorrow by another political decision, so that doctors, nurses and other health workers can get on with providing the full range of healthcare at Lewisham and Queen Elizabeth for South East London.

Already around 700 people have turned out to a public meeting at Lewisham Hospital to oppose the plans (on November 8th). So many people turned up that overflow rooms had to be set up (see report by Andy Worthington). If everybody who went to that meeting brings five friends to the demonstration it could be one of the biggest protests seen locally for many years. Meet at 2 pm opposite Lewisham station for march to Ladywell Fields, join hands around hospital at 3 pm. Further information from Save Lewisham Hospital and Lewisham Keep Our NHS Public. There's also a follow up public meeting on 28th November, 7 pm at Catford Broadway Theatre.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Pepys Estate 1981

Last Saturday's Guardian came with a special booklet 'Photography: A Guardian Masterclass'. There was a photography competition to be on the front cover, and the winner was Rob Kenyon with a photograph taken on the Pepys Estate on Deptford.

It wasn't until I checked out the Guardian webiste that I realized that the photograph wasn't recent. Rob says: “This shot was taken at Eddystone House on the Pepys Estate in Deptford, south-east London. I was the photographer for the Albany Summer Playscheme just after the 1981 Brixton riots. We had just finished our two days on site, helping the local kids in their production: The Funky Riot, a musical on roller skates. As we were packing the van, I noticed this girl trying to go downstairs on her skates. I never got to find out who she was, or get her a print. I wish I could.”

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

History Corner: The Fifth Monarchists, 17th century London religious radicals

In 1660, the monarchy was restored in England after 11 years in which the country had managed fine without a King. Charles II wasted no time in tracking down and killing the 'regicides' associated with the execution of his father, King Charles I, at the end of the English Civil War in 1649.

The first of the regicides to be hanged, drawn and quartered was Thomas Harrison, who was executed at Charing Cross. He had been one of the Fifth Monarchists, a radical current who believed that the age of earthly kings was over and that Christ would soon return and bring about social justice.

In the aftermath of Harrison's execution, a group of Fifth Monarchists decided to stage an uprising.  On 6 January 1661, around 50 Fifth Monarchists headed by Thomas Venner (a wine-cooper), set off from their meeting house in Swan Alley, off Coleman Street in the City of London. Their manifesto 'A Door of Hope: or a Call and Declaration for the gathering together of the first ripe Fruits unto the Standard of our Lord, King Jesus' called for the abolition of imprisonment for debt, the end of the death penalty for theft, and other social reforms, as well as for the overthrow of the monarchy. After several days of fighting, they were defeated. Venner and ten others were hanged for treason.

In the aftermath of the rising, the government rounded up all kinds of religious dissenters, including Quakers, Baptists and Congregationalists. Their meetings were banned, and thousands were jailed: 'Some 400 Baptists and 500 Quakers were arrested in London alone... So many sectaries were committed at the Croydon sessions for refusing to take the oath of allegiance that Sir John Maynard wondered where they could be detained... According to Maynard, the leader of the Croydon sectaries, Dr Bradley, was allowed by the jailer to 'imprecate destruction on the kings and all the Royall Line, in that which they call there devoction"'.

Despite this repression, dissent continued - including in Southwark and Deptford. In 1661 it was reported to magistrates 'that dissidents were meeting daily at the Southwark home of George Tutchins. Having failed in Venner's attempt, he allegedly said, they would rise again on the next moonlit night, and this time would have the use of fifty five barrels of powder stored in Deptford'.

An intelligence report in March 1661 'noted that a Deptford radical was expending funds to win supporters in the army, while another report of about the same date indicated that ministers in the west who were managing a design were corresponding with the Congregationalist Ralph Venning, lecturer at St Olave's, Southwark'. There were clashes between radicals and conservatives at the time of parliamentary elections in 1661 (albeit elections in which many did not have the vote):  'in Southwark, where there was a long-standing radical community, the Presbyterians, Congregationalists, Baptists, and Quakers, under the leadership of Colonel George Thompson and Captain Samuel Lynn, were unable to prevent the election of four conservatives. Once their defeat was apparent, the radicals drew swords and fought with the supporters of Sir Thomas Bludworth'.

Another hotbed was Lee - then in Kent, now part of Lewisham. 'Because it was only a few miles southeast of London, it was easily accessible to radicals from the City. On 1 October [1661], a number of ex-Cromwellians were at Lee, including Colonels Robert Blount (or Blunt) and Thompson along with three other officers. The pulpit at Lee was open to virtually all comers. In the opinion of the informer Edward Potter, its congregation of more than a hundred would "prove as Dangerous to the government of England as any if They are not sudenly prevented". The minister at Lee, William Hickocks, contributed to such fears by preaching that the saints must be willing to die for God's cause'.

In 1662, 'Concerned about meetings of armed dissidents near Deptford in January, the king directed a constable with a band of volunteers to seize all concealed weapons in Blackheath Hundred. In March, London authorities discovered that the grocer Thomas Bone had some twelve pounds of powder and six bullets. Bone not only had ties to the Fifth Monarchist preacher Anthony Palmer, who told him "thes times cannot last long" but was also sending provision to men incarcerated in the Tower for treason'.

In another planned rising (the 'Tong plot' of 1662), conspirators considered a plan to seize the king 'at Camberwell on one of his biweekly visits to Henrietta Maria at Greenwich'.

Re-enactment 2013

Inveterate agitator Ian Bone and others are planning a film/history walk/re-enactment of Venner's 1661 rising early next year. He says:  'On January 6th we will be laying a wreath in Swan Alley off Coleman Street in memory of  Thomas Venner and  his fellow Fifth Monarchists who courageously rose  up here  against the return of the monarchy in 1661'. Meet in Swan Alley at noon - more details here.

Not sure if Ian Bone is a descendent of the Thomas Bone mentioned above, or whether his current home in the borough of Croydon is anywhere near the haunts of the anti-Royalist preacher Dr Bradley.   (Most of the information above, and all the quotes, from 'Radical Underground in Britain, 1660-1663' by Richard Lee Greaves)

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Farewell St David Coffee House... for now

Decided to treat ourselves to an early morning coffee today at one of my favourite places, St David Coffee House in Forest Hill. Sadly when we got there we found that it had closed at the weekend, with this poster in the window:

It seems that Dan and Lisa, who have been running at, are moving away. It will though be reopening under new management - though I imagine that Dan is taking his Belle and Sebastian vinyl collection with him.

Anyway we went on to Blue Mountain in Sydenham where Christmas in on the menu with homemade mince pies. Apparently their branch in Northcross Road, East Dulwich, is re-opening tomorrow after refurbishment.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Music Monday: Koder

This week let's check out Lewisham rapper/grime artist Koder (he's on twitter here).

According to his Reverbnation biog:

'Hailing from Brockley, South London the aspiring rapper has been writing from the age of 13. “Rapping was a way for me to express my feelings about the circumstances of my life, rather than sit and cry I’d grab a pen and paper and start writing, Music became my escape from the world and everything in it”. In the summer of 2007 Koder featured on the popular track Where We Come From by the SE Collective, produced by Flukes of Crazy Cousinz, the infectious track achieved heavy rotation on Channel AKA and received a wealth of positive feedback... Koder continued recording applying the finishing touches to his debut mixtape which was released on 14 April 2010... Koder kept the buzz active with his latest feature on I’m A Star, a catchy grime track which features 13 of the top MCs from across London which included Maxsta, Kozzie, Sickman and Deekay'.

The video for SE Collective's Where We Come From features the Catford cat (pictured below with Doubles), Lewisham police station and the murals by Brockley station.

Koder's AClub freestyle includes the invitation 'Meet me at Brockley Bridge' and confirms if you didn't know it already that 'We've got North, West, East but the party's here in South'

Koders's 2012 SB.TV slot includes the great SE London line 'had her dancing like she was doing Laban' (he does say that doesn't he?).

Also absolutely love this Otis track by Koder with Penelope P (Nadz) - looks like it was flimed on the South Bank:

Sounds so soulful don't you agree?

All of which goes to show, if you didn't already know, that there's some amazing talent and creativity out there on your doorstep.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Royal Albert for Sale

Last week's Transpontine pub round up mentioned that the New Cross Inn is up for sale. Now it seems that another key local pub, The Royal Albert, is also up for sale. To be precise the terrace of buildings from 460-464 New Cross Road, which includes The Royal Albert, is on the market.  As well as the pub, the site includes three other Victorian buildings, two with shops on ground floor and flats above, and one next to the pub not currently in use. There is also an empty site behind the terrace (see photo below).

Worryingly it is being marketed by Kalmars in the 'development sites' section of its website. However, there is no reason to think that there is any immediate threat to the Royal Albert. TBAC Ltd signed a 15 year lease for the pub in 2009, so there's another 12 years to go on that (I believe TBAC is associated with Antic who run the pub). Antic are adamant that there is no danger to the pub.

The Royal Albert has a long history stretching back to the mid-19th century. At times it has been an important music venue. In the 1970s Kate Bush was among those who played there. Local band Rubber Johnny, who grew out out of the Albany in Depford, played a Friday night residency there from around 1978-1981.  The picture below shows the band playing there, as well as the mural in the pub.

picture by Steve Golton from a set from this time at Flickr
Later it became the Paradise Bar. The flyer below is from a 1992 event promoted by SYLVIA (Support Your Local Venues and Independent Artists) promising 'Deptford Beat bands' including The Proles and Moral Panic.

1992 flyer from set of Proles flyers by mdx at flickr
In 2003/4, the Paradise Bar was the centre of the 'New Cross scene' associated with Angular Records and Caffy St Luce's Pop of the Tops night. - Bloc Party, Art Brut and The Long Blondes all played early gigs there  (happy days). When Antic took it over in 2006 it reverted to its original name, and is now a very comfortable pub with good food and drink.

Bloc Party at Paradise Bar 2003
(from set of photos by Paul Madden at flickr)

Although there seems to be no reason to worry now about the future of the Royal Albert, the fact remains that a property developer could buy up the site with a longer term ambition to redevelop it. That is happening to pubs all over the country, including just down the New Cross Road where the recently closed Walpole faces demolition to be replaced by a hotel. Perhaps we shouldn't wait until the places we value are about to shut down before we take action to preserve their future. For a start, anybody can recommend that a building be listed by English Heritage (details here). And there is also the option of getting a pub listed as an 'asset of community value' as Southwark Council have done for the Ivy House in Nunhead.

Update 19th November: just realized that Bill at Deptford Misc has previously researched the history of the pub, starting out with this early history: 'The first recorded mention of the Royal Albert Public House was when Frederick Andrew Hall was granted a license for the premises on 6th September 1848. On the 1851 census Mr Hall is described as a Master Bricklayer aged 47, born in Plumstead employing 10 men; his wife Elizabeth aged 60 was born in Rotherhithe. Three children Betsey 36 , Harriet 23 and George 20 (a Carpenter) are listed along with Ostler John Dickenson 22 and Pot Boy George Runham 14. Apart from Betsey who was born in Rotherhithe (presumeably Elizabeth's daughter by a previous marriage) they were all shown as born in Deptford'. Lots more here:

A lot of owners, licensees, bar staff and drinkers have passed through since 1848, which only serves to highlight that whoever currently owns old pubs like this really only have temporary custody of them before they pass them on. They shouldn't be able to wipe out decades, even centuries, of continuous social life in pursuit of a short term property deal. But that's exactly what countless owners of these buildings are being allowed to get away with.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Thierry Christian-Gnanakumar RIP

The young man killed near to Lewisham library last Saturday night has been named. According to tonight's Standard:

'A promising student who moved to London “for a better life” was battered to death while out celebrating a friend’s birthday. Police are hunting a gang after Thierry Christian-Gnanakumar, 22, was savagely attacked in Lewisham at the weekend. The undergraduate, who was studying biomedical science at East London university, was taken to hospital with severe head and face injuries, but died hours later. Today his distraught family issued a desperate plea for information to help track down the killers.

They said: “The assault happened in a very public place. A lot of people probably walked past. We would just really appreciate any information that anybody has. His life was taken away so young – he didn’t deserve that.”

Speaking to the Evening Standard at their home in Catford, they described their son and brother, the youngest of three siblings, as “extremely generous”. They said: “When his friends needed money or a shirt he would just give all of his stuff away for anyone - he would not think twice about it. He was shy, but very open when with people he knew very well. Everyone would say he always had a smile on his face. He enjoyed being with his friends, playing basketball and having a good time, but also spending time with his mum. He just could not wait to graduate – he only had six months left to go. He will be very much missed by all of us.”

The family are originally from Sri Lanka, but previously lived in Paris, before moving to London eight years ago.  "We came here for our education and to try to get a better life,” they said. “We never expected this to happen.”

Police were called to reports of a disturbance on Lewisham High Street around 9.20pm on Saturday. When the paramedics arrived, a friend who had called 999 was holding Thierry in is arms and shouting his name. The family said he was rushed to King’s College Hospital in Denmark Hill, but died in the early hours of Sunday. Three men have been arrested in connection with the incident and released on bail until later this month. Anyone with information should call the police on 020 8721 4805 or contact Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111'.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Professor Green in New Cross

Professor Green was spotted in New Cross last week, including at the Hill Station cafe in Kitto Road. As he was also tweeting about house hunting last week, the rumour has started that he was looking to buy a house in the area. We shall see... Maybe Millie Mackintosh can move in too - bring on 'Made in Telegraph Hill'.

Of course there are musical factors that might attract Professor Green to the far-famed Blue Borough. He has recently recorded a track with Lewisham rapper Dru Blu.

And did you know that on one of his early tracks, he sampled an anarcho-punk classic by a band who once lived in Forest Hill?

Hard Night Out (2009) samples Tube Disasters (1981) by Flux of Pink Indians. As mentioned here before, Derek Birkett from the band lived in Forest Hill in the 1980s and built up his One Little Indian records from there, helping to launch Bjork's solo career among other things

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Save Telegraph Hill Playclub (and the rest)

A meeting was held at the Barnes Wallis Community Centre in New Cross last Saturday to launch a campaign to save Telegraph Hill Playclub (once known as the One O'Clock club when it opened at that time). The parent and toddler facility in Telegraph Hill Park, Erlanger Road SE14, has provided a place for many years for parents, childminders and other carers to bring their pre-school children to play and socialise.  As a result of Government cuts to children's services, its future funding from Lewisham Council is in doubt - though no final decision has been taken.

Of course anybody can bring their kids to the park, but the Playclub offers something different - a dedicated indoor and outdoor space for younger children with their parents. On cold wet days in particular, places like this are invaluable. Children get to play with their peers and learn how to get on with each other, parents get an opportunity to get out of the house and meet others without the pressure to spend money or suffer the scowls of the kind of people who moan about children being seen in cafes.

Obviously the streets around Telegraph Hill park aren't the most deprived in Lewisham, but the club and indeed the park attracts people from all kinds of backgrounds from New Cross, Honor Oak, Brockley and beyond. In any case, 'middle class' parents also suffer from the kind of isolation and post-natal depression that places like these help to counter.

The playroom has been under threat a number of times before - I remember going to protest meetings more than ten years ago when I took my own kids there. In the past it has pulled through. This time round the fight will be harder because of the scale of Government cuts. Two years ago the replacement of Sure Start funding with the Early Intervention Grant for children's services was accompanied by a big reduction in funding. While final funding for 2013-14 has not yet ben announced,  the Local Government Chronicle reported last week  that 'Councils’ funding for their own early intervention projects is set to plunge by more than £430m over the next two years, according to government figures seen by LGC - much more than originally thought'. That amounts to a 17% reduction in funding for Councils' children's services next year, with further cuts in the folowing year.

Save Telegraph Hill Playclub has a facebook page; email, sign
I gather that users of the Deptford Park Playclub are also concerned about the future of the similar service there - they too have launched a petition. Lewisham's website also lists Playclubs in Friendly Gardens SE8, Forster Park (Downham) and Grove Park SE12.

(this morning  - Tuesday 13th November - a London Tonight film crew are expected down to Telegraph Hill to cover the campaign - please come to centre at 10.30am if you would like to show your support)

Monday, November 12, 2012

Shia LaBeouf in The Hobgoblin SE14

I noticed on Twitter last week that people were saying that US actor Shia LaBeouf was drinking in the Hobgoblin in New Cross. Last Wednesday for instance,  Seun Ogunsakin ‏tweeted 'In the Hobgoblin with Shia Labeouf! #Surreal! New cross seems to be coming up haha'.

This morning the story made The Sun, so it must be true!

'Hollywood star Shia LaBeouf got into a scrap — while drinking in a student pub in a scruffy South London suburb.  Regulars at the Hobgoblin in New Cross were stunned when the Transformers actor walked in with Mia Goth, his co-star in new film Nymphomaniac.  Shia, 26, spent several hours drinking and happily posing for photos with fans. But the mood turned sour when a student prankster pinched the star’s baseball cap — a souvenir from Laos in Asia — and refused to give it back.  A scuffle broke out and drinkers had to separate the pair before Shia left in a taxi. Police were not called.

One witness said: “No one could believe that a well-known Hollywood star had rocked up at a bar in dingy SE14. Everyone was getting their photos taken with him. The scrap all started when this guy took his hat. I think he was just joking, but Shia didn’t like it.  The guy just took it off him and wouldn’t give it back. He tried to get it back and they ended up tussling. It was handbags really. But it shows that even Hollywood stars can’t avoid grief down this way.” Landlord Mark Harris confirmed Shia was in the pub with model and actress Mia, 19. Mark said: “Her mum lives just down the road. She came down to see her mum and he tagged along. He did get a bit frustrated and there was a bit of a scuffle.”

Shia and Mia (or shiamia as they may be known one day if their relationship develops further) are both in the new Lars Von Trier film Nymphomaniac along with Charlotte Gainsbourg, Christian Slater, Willem Dafoe and Uma Thurman - if you spot any of them in the Hobgoblin, give me a call!

Shia after his brush with 'scruffy South London'
(OK it's him in Transformers)

Mia Goth - from the mean streets of SE London?

South London Pub News: Good and Bad

More bad news on the pub front with the closure of Lewisham's only gay bar, a threat to close a good pub in Catford, and Greenwich Council refusing permission to open a decent new pub in Woolwich, among other things. Good news is that all of these have resulted in people campaigning, with a possibility of making some real progress in some case.


Two8Six, Lewisham's only gay pub, is boarded up. More than a hundred people attended a public meeting to oppose the closure last month  (26 Oct) at Lewisham Town Hall, organised by Lewisham LGBTQ+ Community Involvement Group. According to Pink News (1 Nov. 2012):

'Hundreds of residents in the London Borough of Lewisham are fighting to restore a popular gay pub. The Two8Six venue, on Lewisham High Street, was recently shut after the offshore property firm, Mendoza Limited and their management company Golfrate Limited, forced the closure of the pub by sending in bailiffs and changing the locks. At an LGBT community meeting last week, Stephen Thompson, the former licensee of Two8Six, said: “[Golfrate] are claiming that they took this action because I owed them rent when in reality it was because I refused to surrender the upper floors of the building and evict my staff from their homes... This pub has been closed, not because it isn’t profitable, but because an offshore property developer with no connection or concern for Lewisham, wants to make money out of the land value of the pub and placed unreasonable demands on my business including raising the rent from £38k to £60k.”'

photo by Ewan-M at Flickr

Catford Bridge Tavern

Hundreds of people have filed objections to planning permission for a plan to close the popular Catford Bridge Tavern, SE6 (formerly the Copperfield) and replace it with a supermarket. The plan highlights the complexity of who makes decisions about the future of pubs. The pub is run by Antic, who have a Tenancy at Will  from Punch Taverns, who lease it from DVS Property Ltd. The latter have submitted the planning application to Lewisham Council.

A Lewisham Council report earlier this year reported that the number of pubs in Lewisham fell to 92 in 2011 from 145 in 2001.

The Woolwich

Meanwhile in Woolwich, local blogs such as 853 have been campaigning against the decision of Greenwich Council to refuse planning permission for Antic (who run Royal Albert in New Cross as well as Catford Bridge Tavern) to open a new pub, The Woolwich, in the town centre.  A revised planning application has been submitted and early signs are that it may have more success.

Brixton: George IV and Hootenanny

In Brixton campaigns are being waged in relation to two of my old locals from when I lived over there. Over 100 people attended a public meeting about plans to replace the George IV pub on Brixton Hill with a Tesco Express. The once popular music pub played host to early Basement Jaxx nights, not to mention me dancing to Northern Soul, but has been empty for a while. A couple of weeks ago the building was squatted by opponents of the plan.

A petition has also been launched (signed by 2500 people so far) against restrictive licensing conditions at Hootenanny on Effra Road. The music and drinking venue opens until 3 am, but are being told they cannot admit anybody until after 11 pm.  The owners say that they may have to close unless these restrictions are lifted. The venue has been a late night place for decades, in its previous incarnations as the Hobgoblin and George Canning.

Ivy House

Some good news in relation to another pub and music venue, the Ivy House in Nunhead. The pub closed earlier this year and had been put up for auction last month by the property developer who bought the building from its previous owners, Enterprise Inns. However, campaigners have successfully lobbied Southwark Council to have the building listed as an  'asset of community value' under the new Localism Act. This doesn't mean the pub has definitely been saved, but it will make it harder for the building to be used for other purposes as 'The fact that it is on the list will be treated as a 'material consideration' for planning purposes. This means that it should be taken into account by the Council in deciding a planning application (including for change of use) or an appeal against a planning decision' (see article by campaigner Tessa Blunden in The Guardian). If nothing else the decision buys time for campaigners to come up with alternative plans to get the place up and running again.

New Cross Inn

The New Cross Inn (SE14) is up for sale. Christie + Co  state that it 'has been instructed to obtain bids for a substantial freehold investment in London. The New Cross Inn is a distinctive building with Victorian features including a domed turret and arched windows. It is in a prominent position between New Cross and New Cross Gate stations.The investment is split into two distinct businesses and has recently undergone an overhaul with capital expenditure of £80,000. There is a ground floor and basement live music bar with a 10-year free-of-tie lease and a current rental income of £36,000. The upper floors are presently operated as a hostel with 80 beds, a 10-year lease and a rental income of £60,000. Christie + Co is inviting bids for the freehold investment with a guide of £1,200,000'.   There doesn't appear to any immediate any direct threat to the pub's future, but longer term that may depend on the interests and intentions of whoever ends up buying the building.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Goldsmiths Talks: Silvia Federici and Peter Saville

Some interesting free talks coming up at Goldsmiths in New Cross - you don't have to be a student to attend (see events calendar for full list).

On Monday 12th November there's a Lecture by Silvia Federici to launch  her new book: 'Revolution at Point Zero: Housework, Reproduction, and Feminist Struggle' (PM Press, 2012). The  event, organised by the Centre For Cultural Studies takes place in  LG02, New Academic Building at 6 pm. Federici is a feminist activist who has been writing about the politics of housework and much more from within a broadly autonomist marxist framework since the early 1970s.

On 28th November, there's a  Contemporary Art talk by Peter Saville, best known for his design work with Factory records - including the iconic Joy Division. Location: LG02, New Academic Building 17:30 - 19:00

Friday, November 09, 2012

Florence back at the Rivoli

Back in July 2009, the launch party for Florence and the Machine's debut album took place at the Rivoli Ballroom in Crofton Park. Last night Florence returned to the Rivoli for a special concert for BBC Radio 2.

As Brockley Central reports, during the course of the gig Florence sings the praises of Brockley Cemetery: 'It's so wonderful to be home - and here of all places... It is such a pleasure to be back at the Rivoli Ballrooms and also just to be back in Brockley. I actually spent quite a large bit of time here at one point, 'cause I was having music lessons here and I used to hang out in the graveyard. And actually, strangely a small bit of inspiration came from that graveyard 'cause I did used to do handstands and hang out there. And if anyone knows the lyrics to Only For a Night - a small portion of it comes from Brockley Cemetery. That and other cemeteries across England...  But we've been home not for that long and actually driving through South London, just kind of... it's been really... South London, yes!'.

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

South East London Fire Stations Under Threat

Tomorrow (Wednesday 7th November) firefighters from all over the country will be converging on London for a lobby of parliament in protest against cuts to the fire brigade. In London, a leaked report due to be considered by the London Fire Authority on 22 November recommends the closure of 17 stations with the loss of 600 jobs. South London will be particularly badly hit - local stations on the closure list include:

- New Cross (Lewisham borough);
- Downham (Lewisham borough);
- Peckham; (Southwark borough)
- Southwark (Southwark borough)
- Woolwich (Greenwich borough);
- Clapham (Lambeth borough).

It goes without saying that this will put lives at risk - by definition the further fire engines have to travel to the scene of a fire, the longer it will take to get there.

A key figure in the decision about London fire brigade cuts is South London Conservative James Cleverly, the Chair of the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority as well as leader of the London Assembly Conservative Group (he is the Member for Bexley and Bromley). Having failed to get elected in Lewisham as a councillor, mayor and MP, we hope he's not going to take his revenge by closing down fire stations - at the same time as some of his party colleagues are planning to close down the Accident & Emergency department in Lewisham Hospital (where incidentally Cleverly was born). I'm sure it's just a coincidence that all of the proposed South London closures are in Labour boroughs.

Monday, November 05, 2012

Spike Milligan's Grave

Spike Milligan (1918-2002) was born in India but spent many of his formative years in South East London from the age of 12 in 1931. As mentioned here before, he went to Brownhill Road School and then to St Saviours School in Lewisham High Road. In 1933 his family rented part of a house at 22 Gabriel Street, Honor Oak Park, later moving to 50 Riseldine Road nearby.

In 1934 Milligan got a job at Stones' Engineering in Deptford (Arklow Road) and later worked at Chislehurst Laundry. After being sacked from a tobacconist for stealing cigarettes he worked as a labourer at Woolwich Arsenal.  Meanwhile he had won a crooning contest at the Lady Florence Institute in Deptford, come second in a talent show at Lewisham Hippodrome and sung at St Cyprians Church Hall in Brockley and Ladywell swimming baths. He taught himself the ukulele, bass and trumpet and guitar ("My mother bought my first guitar for eighteen shillings from Len Stiles’ shop in Lewisham High Street") and took music classes at Goldsmiths in New Cross. He played with local dance bands including the New Era Rhythm Boys and Tommy Brettell's New Ritz Revels in South London dance halls.

In a 1970 interview he recalled 'we used to go to the jazz sessions at the rhythm clubs. Do you remember the rhythm clubs? The Number One Rhythm Club—and the local one, at the Tiger’s Head at Lee?'.

In 1940 he joined the army, after a period of out-patient treatment at Lewisham Hospial for back pain apparently caused by overdoing weightlifting at Ladywell Recreation Track in an effort to impress the women working at Catford Labour Exchange ('Spike Milligan' by Humphrey Carpenter). Returning after World War Two, Milligan moved in with his parents for a while at 3 Leathwell Road, Deptford, before leaving South London and finding fame through the Goon Show on radio.

Spike Milligan gave a less than romantic view of 1930s South London working class life in his poem 'Catford 1933':

The light creaks and escalates to rusty dawn
The iron stove ignites the freezing room.
Last night's dinner cast off popples in the embers.
My mother lives in a steaming sink. Boiled haddock condenses on my plate
Its body cries for the sea
My father is shouldering his braces like a rifle,
and brushes the crumbling surface of his suit.
The Daily Herald lies jaundiced on the table.
'Jimmy Maxton speaks in Hyde Park',
My father places his unemployment cards in his wallet - there's plenty of room for them.
In greaseproof paper, my mother wraps my banana sandwiches
It's 5.40. Ten minutes to catch that last workman train.
Who's the last workman? Is it me? I might be famous.
My father and I walk out are eaten alive by yellow freezing fog.
Somewhere, the Prince of Wales and Mrs Simpson are having morning tea in bed.
God Save the King.
But God help the rest of us.

Last week on a day trip to Dungeness and Rye in East Sussex I came across Spike Milligan's gravestone in the churchyard of St Thomas' Church in Winchelsea, where he is buried along with his wife Shelagh. Milligan spent his later years  at Udimore, a village near Rye. The grave reads 'love, light, peace - Terence Alan (Spike) Milligan CBE KBE, 1918-2002... writer, artist, musician, humanitarian, comedian' and famously includes the line in Irish Gaelic  'Duirt mé leat go raibh mé breoite' - 'I told you I was ill'.

Saturday, November 03, 2012

Cools Cats: New Cafe in Camberwell

Cool Cats' Cafe, a new cafe in North Camberwell, opened yesterday at 149 Southampton Way SE5 on the corner of Bonsor Street -a site that had been derelict for years.

After a quick visit, I can report that the coffee is very good.

The cafe features an exhibition of local photographs by Rod Doyle.

Friday, November 02, 2012

New Cross and Deptford Free Film Festival 2013

Last Spring's New Cross and Deptford Free Film Festival was a great success with all kinds of interesting events happening across SE8/SE14 (see report here). My personal favourite was seeing Pasolini's Gospel According to Saint Matthew in a dark St Nicholas Church.

Planning is already starting for next year's festival, with a meeting taking place on Monday 26 November, 8.00 upstairs at the Amersham Arms in New Cross. If you've got an idea for a film, cinema-themed event or interesting venue, or you just want to help out, come along.

Thursday, November 01, 2012

Cowboy Rhos Botwnnog

We don't get enough Welsh language country-folk bands playing in New Cross. Cafe Crema are putting that right next Friday 9th November with a gig by Welsh Music Prize nominees from the Llyn Peninsula, Cowbois Rhos Botwnnog.

8 pm start at Cafe Crema, 306 New Cross Road SE14 6AF. Free entry (hat will be passed for donations).