Thursday, July 27, 2017

They Will Have to Kill us First - Mali music movie in Catford

Coming up at Catford Constituional Club on Sunday 31 July 2017 (7:30 PM - 10 PM), Catford Film are showing 'They Will Have To Kill Us First',  Johanna Schwarz's feature length documentary about Mali's musicians and their struggle to survice and perform under Islamist rule which banned their music. The event, which is being screened in support of of Lewisham Refugee and Migrant Network ,will include an interview and Q+A session with the Director at the end of the film. Admission is free, but let them know at their facebook event page if you are planning to come so that they have an idea of numbers.

Synopsis of film:

'Islamic extremists have banned music in Mali, but its world famous musicians wont give up without a fight. They Will Have To Kill Us First tells the story of Malis musicians, as they fight for their right to sing. With a specially commissioned soundtrack from some of Malis most exciting artists, the film features musicians: Khaira Arby, Fadimata Disco Walet Oumar, Malian superstar Amkoullel, Moussa Sidi and introducing Songhoy Blues.

Music is the beating heart of Malian culture, but when Islamic jihadists took control of northern Mali in 2012, they enforced one of the harshest interpretations of sharia law in history: They banned all forms of music. Radio stations were destroyed, instruments burned and Malis musicians faced torture, even death. Overnight, Malians revered musicians were forced into hiding or exile where most remain, even now. But rather than lay down their instruments, the musicians are fighting back, standing up for their cultural heritage and identity. Throughout their struggle, they have used music as their weapon against ongoing violence that has left Mali ravaged. They Will Have to Kill Us First sees musicians on the run, tells the story of the uprising of Touareg separatists, reveals rare footage of the jihadists, captures life at refugee camps where money and hope are scarce, charts perilous journeys home to war-ravaged cities, and follows our characters as they set up and perform at the first public concert in Timbuktu since the music ban'.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Elle Fanning in Brockey?

Walking past Brockley Social Club yesterday I noticed that there was a film shoot in progress. Quick bit of investigation - OK I looked at the sign on one of the vehilces - and it transpires that 'Teen Spirit' is the movie in question. Directed by Max Minghella, the film stars US actor Elle Fanning

According to Hollywood Reporter: 'Teen Spirit tells the story of a shy Eastern European teen who dreams of pop stardom to escape her small town and shattered family life. With the help of an unlikely mentor, Violet (Fanning) enters an international singing competition that will test her integrity, talent and ambition. Fred Berger (La La Land) is producing alongside Brian Kavanaugh-Jones under their Automatik banner, while Jamie Bell, who helped develop the screenplay with Minghella, will executive produce'.

The Social Club has been used a location before for its 1970s decor. I saw some filming there last year which I think was for the TV series Guerrilla, starring Idris Elba, which also has scenes shot in Deptford High Street.  I assume on this occasion it is standing in in this film for an East European small town drinking den.  

Elle Fanning in 20th Century Women (2016)

Monday, July 17, 2017

Music Monday: Peter Perrett 'How the West was Won'

'How the West was Won' is the new solo album from Peter Perrett (Domino, 2017).

Perrett is best known as the former lead singer of The Only Ones, responsible for one of the greatest songs of the punk era 'Another Girl, Another Planet'. He  was born at Kings in Camberwell in 1952, and after being kicked out of boarding school ended up at school in New Cross: 'My first school was called Bancroft’s on the edge of Epping Forest. I got a scholarship to go there because I was brainy. I got expelled from there when I was 15 and then went to Haberdashers’ Aske’s in New Cross. One of my classmates was [Cockney Rebel singer] Steve Harley – called Steve Nice back then. He was one of the only two people who were into Dylan; the difference was he was a skinhead and I was a longhair'.

After The Only Ones split up in 1981, Perrett 'vanished from public view. Sequestered in a crumbling gothic house in Forest Hill that he fortified against police raids, Perrett took and dealt heroin' (Alex Petridis, 2007)). I believe this house was in Manor Mount, SE23.  Perrett once told Mojo Magazine that while living here 'On two or three occasions we had the police living opposite us, for a period of months. I mean, they spent hundreds of thousands of pounds on operations to bust us, and they got close on a couple of occasions. Luckily, we lived in a fortress, it was impossible to get in. We’d watch them try and break the door down but the door was at the very top of a steep flight of stairs. So, they would have to try and run up the stairs, and they could never get full contact on the door with their battering ram – it just used to slide off'. Barney Hoskyns mentions that in this period he visited Perrett 'in his huge decaying home in Forest Hill, though my efforts to help him... were wholly in vain' (Never Enough: a way through addiction, 2017). I think Perrett later moved to Norwood.

The new album is not dissimilar to The Only Ones output of nearly 40 years ago- songs of love as a metaphor for addiction and vice versa, performed in a world weary tone. But this time underpinned by a note of defiance as a survivor; as he sings on 'Something in my brain':

'Just like the experiment with the rat,
He could choose food or he could choose crack.
Well the rat he starved to death
But I didn't die, at least not yet'

Sunday, July 16, 2017

I Want Your Love

'I want your love' - tape on metal box, Peckham Rye/Nunhead Lane junction.
But are they referencing Chic or Transvision Vamp?

Monday, July 10, 2017

Music Monday - Tom Misch - South of the River

Tom Misch has a new single and it is a proper transpontine neo-soul anthem entitled South of the River. It has a bit of a disco feel to it including a nice violin line from Tobie Tripp as a one man Philly string section and a fusiony keyboard solo from Rob Araujo.

The East Dulwich multi-instrumentalist and producer is definitely going places, headling venues like Somerset House when he hasn't even released a full album yet. Tom Misch has though put out lots of great material on his soundcloud site, collaborating with artists including Loyle Carner and Carmody. If you like this track check out his 'Beat Tape 2' and more recent 'Revere' EP.

Thursday, July 06, 2017

Green Onions and Red Lion - healthfoods, vinyl and coffee in Clifton Rise SE14

Tucked off the New Cross Road in Clifton Rise SE14, Green Onions has been going for about 18 months offering a great combination of healthfoods and vinyl.


Out front there's vegan goodies, gifts and all the tea bags...

Head to the back though and there's racks of vinyl from Spotty Vinyl Records... some great finds to be had for all you crate diggers, with new stock every week.

I was sorely tempted by a couple of disco 12"s, maybe next time. Don't think they had this soul classic though...

Green Onions is open every day, including until 7:30 pm Monday to Friday, so handy for popping in on the way to or from New Cross Gate if you're commuting.

Also in Clifton Rise you can now get a really good coffee (not to mention plenty of food) at the new Red Lion Coffee Company. I know there's no shortage of cafes in the area, especially up near Goldsmiths, but lets just say coffee quality can be variable if you are as fussy as me.

Red Lion is on corner of Clifton Rise and Batavia Road near to Fordham Park.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Music Monday: Mirage - 1980s Brockley Brit Funk

There was food, music, books and sunshine to be had in Crofton Park earlier this month (3rd June 2017) with stalls along the main road as part of  Croftest in the Brockley Max festival. Some fine soul and house music was being played by the sound system outside First Glance hair, with the DJ announcing that one track was by a band from Brockley in the 1980s - Mirage.

Naturally that got me curious...
Mirage were a brit funk outfit who released Summer Grooves (backed with Love and Devotion) on Flamingo Records in 1980 (see discogs entry). It was produced by Colin Green at Trident studios in Soho. I don't think it was a big chart hit but has been recognised since  - it is included on Joey Negro's fine collection Backstreet Brit Funk (Z Records) and was used as the signature tune for the Radio One Roadshow for some time.

Another single, As From Now (backed with Luckiest People) was released on Copasetic Records in 1981.
I can't find out much more about them - Morris Michael was keyboardist in the band and wrote the songs,  I believe he is still recording/performing as Mo Michael though these days he plays the blues.

Does anyone know anymore about the Brockley/Lewisham connection to this band?

Monday, June 19, 2017

Music Monday: Jem Finer's Longplayer

Jem Finer is probably best known as a member of The Pogues, for whom he co-wrote the Christmas favourite The Fairytale of New York and the transpontine anthem Misty Morning Albert Bridge. In recent years he has focused more on his work as a sound artist and composer, most notably composing the awesomely ambitious 'Longplayer' - a piece designed to last for 1000 years, and which in fact has already been playing since the start of this century (including at Trinity Buoy Wharf on the Thames at Poplar in East London).

It is essentially an optimistic work, assuming that the species will survive that long and that humans will still be co-operating to make and appreciate music centuries into the future.

The Longplayer Trust established a partnership with Goldsmiths in New Cross and as part of this the innaugural Longplayer Day is taking place thi Wednesday 21 June, from noon until midnight. with free events taking place across London. It all starts in Goldsmiths Great Hall, followed by  Siswå Sukrå - a Javanese gamelan group - performing on Goldsmiths Forecourt at 1:25 pm. Other locations include Margaret McMillan Park in Deptford - where The Study Group will be performing Pauline Oliveros' summer sostice piece, Welcoming the Light and The Greenwich Foot Tunnel, where Violinist and composer Angharad Davies will be performing. Deptford percussionist Charles Hayward will be performing on the Thames shoreline at Newcastle Draw Dock, and it will all finish at the lighthouse at Trinity Buoy Wharf where Jem Finer will give a short talk.

I've been to a Longplayer event at the lighthouse before and it is quite mesmerising, as well as being an interesting location right next to where the River Lea flows into the Thames.

Full details here

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Laurie Grove Baths event at Goldsmiths

An interesting event coming up tomorrow night (Thursday 15 June 2017, 5:30 to 8:30)  at Goldsmiths focused on the Laurie Grove Baths. This building hosted swimming pools and public washhouses for a hundred years or so before it closed in 1991 and was taken over by Goldsmiths, for among other things, artist studio space. I've written about its history here before. More recently I came across this tragic episode-

'Dives To Death In Baths

Large crowds at Laurie Grove Baths, New Cross, London, saw Arthur William Burgess, 29, of Biggin Hill, Kent, dive to his death. Burgess climbed to the top diving board, piunged into 6ft. of water and struck his head on the bottom. Mr. A. J. Gould, baths attendant, of Deptford, dived fully clothed and brought Burgess to the surface. Artificial respiration was administered, but Burgess was dead when he was examined at hospital in Deptford' (The Newcastle Sun, New South Wales, 18 Nov 1952)

'Slippages and Water Matters: Inheritances of the Laurie Grove Baths

Slippages and Water Matters is an exhibition opening with panel discussion followed by drinks and snacks. It marks the launch of Water Cultures - a series of public work on the urban sociology of water, organised by the Centre for Urban and Community Research. Slippages is an exhibition co-curated by the Feminist Methods Masterclass. It features work by Katerina Athanasopoulou, Yani B, Ama Josephine Budge, Hari Byles, Clare Daly, Chloe Turner, and Santiago Rivas.

Over the years the Laurie Grove Baths has been used as a place for washing, swimming, dancing, playing music, wrestling, boxing, bowling, fine art, and urban research. In this exhibition we immerse ourselves in work which exposes and explores slippages; institutional, emotional, social, historic. This collection of collaborative work speaks about the slippery qualities of inheritances such as these, and the ways that humans, non-humans, materials and things have occupied, subverted and transformed them. How do we continue to do so?

Exploring topics from gender, to mental health, ecologies, colonial legacies,  knowledge production, graffiti, and more, we occupy toilets, waiting rooms, and stairwells. The panel discussion will feature:

- Les Back, talking about his work on the local history of The Baths;
- Sophie Watson, discussing her research elsewhere in London on water as material for public space, 
- Alison Rooke in conversation with the authors of the installations.

The event will be followed by drinks upstairs in the Council Room.

Water Cultures is a series of collaborative public work, organised and supported by CUCR on the urban sociology of water'.

The event will take place in  Laurie Grove Baths, 21 Laurie Grove, London SE14 6NH.

credit : Francisco Calafate-Faria

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Hissing Queen Victoria 1888

When 19th century writers referred to transpontine theatre houses, on the wrong side of the river from high culture and power, they seem to have particularly had in mind the Royal Surrey on Blackfriars Road.

I recently came across this review of a night there in 1888 - a reminder that in some parts of London, Queen Victoria was very unpopular at this time:

'I went on Saturday to the Surrey Theatre see In the Ranks and... to study the audience. The play was badly acted, but the scenery was rather good. One incident I may mention. A mother goes down to some barracks to see her son, a private soldier, and proposes to kiss him. The son objects to being kissed, saying that he is "serving the Queen.” The mother replies, "She wouldn't mind a mother kissing her own son, for she's got a mother’s heart herself.” Now the author obviously intended that that sentiment should be cheered, and so it would have been at any West-end or provincial theatre. But at the Surrey it was hissed. I am afraid the Socialists, Anarchists. Atheists, and Republicans are getting too much influence in that part of London' (Croydon Advertiser and East Surrey Reporter - Saturday 24 March 1888).

Friday, May 26, 2017

Beating the Bounds in Penge and Lee

On this day in 1881, a 'beating the bounds' procession took place in Penge. As reported in The Beckenham Journal and Penge and Sydenham Advertiser, Wednesday, June 1, 1881:

'The ancient custom of beating the bounds was observed with all due ceremony in Penge on Thursday the 26th being Ascension Day. Some 18 boys from various schools in the Hamlet, with willow wands, to which were attached ribbons and bells, started from the Vestry Hall shortly after 10 o'clock in the morning, under the direction of Mr C.W. Dommett, the vestry Clark, and Mr A. Wilson, assistant overseer, many of the vestry men being also present and joining in the procession. The party was followed by a wagonettte containing ladders etc required to surmount some of the obstacles which were encountered. At important points of the boundary the custom of "bumping" was duly observed, to the great delight of the boys, if not of some of the elders. During the journey the party availed themselves of refreshments kindly provided for them at the residences of Dr Gibbes and Messrs T. Bugler and W. Matthews. Fortunately the weather was fine, or the day would have been far from pleasant for those concerned. A number of the overseers, vestry men, and others interested in the hamlet met at the vestry Hall in the evening and partook of an excellent dinner'.
Beating the bounds processions took place in many parishes until the 19th century. According to folklorist Steve Roud they involved 'walking around the boundaries of the parish both to check that there had been no encroachments or illegal building, and to make sure that everyone knew the extent of the parish in detail... In the days before accurate maps, it was essential that the knowledge of boundaries was passed on to younger generations... The participants often carried flexible wands, and when they reached a particular boundary marker they would literally beat it with their sticks. In many cases, boys were whipped with the wands at each stone, or bumped on them, or even held upside down. Sometimes they were encouraged to run on ahead to find the next marker and the first one there was rewarded. It was also thought important, even perhaps legally binding, that the whole of the boundary be followed, at least by a representative. Boys were therefore useful to scale walls, crawl through hedges, wade through ponds – wherever the official boundary took them' (Steve Roud, London Lore, 2008).
Roud also mentions that Penge was 'for centuries a detached part of Battersea parish given to them in the year 957'. The parish records of St Mary's Church, Battersea, record officials 'agoeing the bownds of the parish at Penge' in 1661 and on other occasions.
Beating the Bounds processions have been revived in a number of places in recent years as a way of celebrating local history and geography. In Penge, there is a  Beating the Bounds walk on Sunday 4 June starting at 2.30 pm from  Alexandra Nurseries, 56B Parish Lane, SE20 7LJ. In recent years there have also been Beating the Bounds processions in Nunhead, and in Lee where last month (April 22) Dacre Morris and Blackheath Morris beat the bounds of the old Dacre estate.
Dacre Morris beating the bounds April 2017

Monday, May 22, 2017

Election street art

So far the General Election street art hasn't been too extensive.

I did spot this grime artists/rappers supporting Labour poster under the railway bridge at Brockley cross.

Among those featured is Brockley's own Novelist. Up at the top of Pepys Road SE14 you can still read the 'Novelist - pave the way' graffiti in the road (this photo actually taken last November).

Walking down Nunhead Lane I noticed this Theresa May-mocking 'Strong and stable my arse' poster, one of a number around London. It was revealed today that the artist Jeremy Deller is responsible for them. This particular example was just down the road from where he went to primary school - St John's and St Clements's by Goose Green in East Dulwich.

Update 28 May 2017:

Spotted in Telegraph Hill upper park (Kitto Road SE14) this morning - Theresa May as 'PredaTory'

(just to be clear - it's only one piece, included a few photographs to show scale and also detail - text looks different depending on angle)

Monday, May 15, 2017

Linear Obsessional Festival in Deptford and Hither Green

Hither Green-based experimental/improv label Linear Obsessional Recordings (LOR) has a busy weekend coming up with a two day festival starting out on Saturday (20/5/2017) with a gig at Vinyl Deptford:

'Live Music from 5pm with

Tom Jackson, Daniel Thompson, Jacques Duerinckx & Matthieu Safatly - acoustic free improvisation from this specially assembled Anglo/Belgian quartet - clarinet, guitar,soprano sax and cello. Expect intricate flowing absorbing interaction.

Jo Thomas - astonishing electro-acoustic composer - Her music captures a combination of refined and raw sonic matter, and is utterly absorbing. Her work has won awards and been performed around the world

Stephen Shiell - Sculptor, field-recordist and environmental musician is working on a new album for Linear Obsessional - here's a rare chance to see him perform solo and in a confined space!

Ne...t - Net is the project of Finland based composer and electronicist NE.Trethowan whose Linear Obsessional album "Grammostola" recieved extraordinary reviews. This is his UK debut and he will be working with modular synth and samples. He has new release imminent on Whitelabrecs.

James Worse - writer and poet James Worse is a "master of the surreal spoken word" (the Quietus) whose melifluous, extraordinary wordplay is compelling and irrestable.He was invited after his extraordinary contribution to the LinOb "Utterances" compilation-

Starting the evening- a first performance for a trio of three LinOb artists-
Phil Durrant, Phil S. Maguire and Richard Sanderson
(modular synth, tiny electronics and melodeon respectively) creating an enveloping slowlydeveloping wave of sound.

Admission - a donation of £5
Food, Drink, Coffee,Tea Vinyl Reords and Linear Obsessional material available'

Day Two is on Sunday when as part of the Hither Green Festival LOR will be taking over Manor Park from 12:30, starting out with a free event including interactive sound sculptures and an open access al-fresco drone from multiple musicans throughout the park. From 4 pm there will be a gig in the Arts Cafe in the park with Oren Marshall (tuba), Greta Pistaceci (theremin), Ed Lucas and Danile Kordik (sax/electronics) and Me, Claudius (avant noise dub) -£5 donaton for indoor gig in Cafe.

If you want to take part in the drone performance contact Richard Sanderson ( - virtuosity not required, in fact postively discouraged  - the idea is for the public to wander through a park  enlivened by long, softy played sustained tones on  all kinds of instruments mutating slowly over a two hour period down by the banks of the River Quaggy.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

A not so joyful sound - noisy singing in New Cross church, 1866

From 1866, the tale of an unusual protest in a New Cross church -deliberately singing loudly and out of tune!

'Unseemly conduct at church

For the last fortnight or three weeks the congregation worshipping at Saint James's Church, Hatcham, have been annoyed by the conduct of a female, determined to make her voice heard above all others in the responses, and in the singing adopting a completely different tune. The cause of this is wholly annoyance to the officiating clergymen and churchwardens, the woman having been removed from some office in the church, since which this unseemly conduct has been displayed; but surely the officials have some means whereby the annoyance and irreverence may be put a stop to'

(Kentish Mercury, June 22, 1866)

St James, Hatcham, built in 1854 - now used as part of Goldsmiths with the church relocated to a new building next door

Saturday, May 13, 2017

A Joyful Noise Unto the Creator SE17

At a neighbour's moving house sale earlier I picked up a vinyl copy of Galliano's acid jazz album 'A Joyful Noise unto the Creator' (Talkin Loud, 1992). Looking at the cover photo I thought I've been to parties on roof tops like that in the Pullens Estate off Walworth Road. And looking in more detail at the background I think you can make out the now demolished Heygate Estate and the Newington Library building on Walworth Road.

Compare building on right of background with Newington Library picture below (not curved roof with two windows underneath, and chimney stack on right of building)

Any one no any more? No doubt somebody who knows those streets better than I will be able to narrow down the location further.


Rob Gallagher, lead singer of Galliano, has confirmed photo was taken on roof of his flat on the Pullens and that Constantine Weir, the band's other regular vocalist, lived round the corner. Interesting times in which different scenes overlapped and flowed into each other. I went to some 'acid jazz' nights like Flipside at Iceni in Mayfair and was also very politically active in that post-poll tax period, then came the anti-rave Criminal Justice Act and the road protests at Claremont Road and Newbury, and Galliano got amongst it with their last album 'The Plot Thickens'  aligning themselves with that movement.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Laura Misch - Playground - soulful South London sounds for summer days

I'm loving 'Playground', the new album by Laura Misch. Self-produced at home by the multi-talented singer, saxophonist and ableton whizzkid from East Dulwich, it has a much fuller sound than you might be expecting from that description. Laura is the sister of Tom Misch, and while there is a similarly mellow vibe she has her own distinctive sound -  lush layers of jazz-tinged neo-soulfulness and understated beats.  You might have heard her on Gilles Peterson's Radio 6 show last weekend. This could be the soundtrack to a languid summer, when the sun comes out.

She has some gigs coming up locally at Bermondsey Social Club next month, which I think is already sold out, and at Peckham Rye Music Festival this weekend where I think she is playing on the Saturday.

Yes she painted the cover too


Tuesday, May 09, 2017

Medals for Lewisham's Kent AC in London Marathon

Media coverage of the London Marathon tends to concentrate on either the international elite runners of the very front or the fancy dress charity runners further back.

In between are the many serious club runners running for personal bests and at the faster end competing for both the English and British Marathon Championships, which are held within the London Marathon.

The recent 2017 London Marathon turned out to be a great day for Lewisham-based Kent Athletic Club, who had more than 50 runners taking part. In the English championships, based on the cumulative times of the three fastest finishers from English clubs, Kent AC women came first and Kent AC men came second. In the British Marathon Championships, which includes any club from Great Britain, Kent AC women were pushed into second place by the Scottish team Metro Aberdeen while are the men also secured the silver position.

Kent's Amy Clements was the second fastest woman overall outside of the elite field and in fact she had a faster time that several of the elite runners.

England Athletics Marathon Team results from 2017 London Marathon

Kent AC, who are based at the Ladywell arena behind Lewisham hospital, are now firmly established as one of the top long distance running clubs in the country. As well as competing at the sharp end of events like London marathon, the club has training groups for all levels of ability from parkrun improvers to Olympic athletes. The club also has some very talented sprinters including Olympians Jack Green and Conrad Williams.

Membership for adults is only £35 a year, but if you would like to try out a session before deciding whether to join you would be welcome at the track on a Tuesday night, starting at 7 pm.

Monday, May 08, 2017

Little Earthquakes... Independent Records Labels & SE London

The joint Independent Label Market/London Brewers Market in Greenwich on Friday night (5/5/2017) was good and busy, with music, food and drink stalls and Lewisham's Unit 137 Sound System shaking the rafters of the indoor market.

I wrote the following piece for the programme giving a quick overview of independent labels associated with SE London, in particular New Cross/Deptford/Lewisham. I say 'associated with' because you can't necessarily pin down the label based on an office/mailing address. So for instance, I included Stay Up Forever, arguably an East London label, on the basis of tracks being recorded in Deptford (the Punishment Farm studio mentioned was originally upstairs in the now closed Harp of Erin pub, then known as Round the Bend, on New King Street). Similarly I mention No Hats, No Hoods on basis of association with Lewisham artists, though its address is in E2.

Little Earthquakes that changed the world

In 40 years of  vinyl, cassettes, CDs and digital downloads, the independent labels and artists of South East London have helped launch and popularise whole genres of music. Some of these little earthquakes have ended up shaking the world, at least those parts of the world ready to be shaken by a guitar riff or a bass wobble.

The punk period saw the first big explosion of DIY music and independent labels.  Miles Copeland named his label  Deptford Fun City because, according to Jools Holland, ‘he had been so amused by Deptford High Street, never having seen or heard anything like it before’.  A major aim was to release early tracks by Greenwich’s Squeeze, who included the young Jools on keyboards. Squeeze were soon to be recognised as some of the best songwriters of the New Wave period but as well as their sweet melodies Deptford Fun City released some of the more experimental sounds of the post-punk period by Alternative TV, the band founded by Deptford’s Mark Perry , the sometime editor of legendary punk zine Sniffin’ Glue.

Reggae sound system culture was another key ingredient of the SE London social/sonic mix in this period, and this too found expression through influential independent labels.  Dennis Harris’s Eve Records in Upper Brockley Road was to give birth to the Lovers Rock label in this period, popularising a new style mix of reggae rhythms and soulful vocals that remains part of the palette board of pop down to the present.

In the early 1980s, a new industrial sound began to emerge that included  noise made from bashing metal and other found objects.  The pioneers of this in the UK were Test Dept; like many bands at this time, they self released early material on cassette, before moving on to vinyl and releasing records on their own Ministry of Power imprint on Some Bizarre records.

The Band of Holy Joy started out in similar milieu – some of them even sharing a house with members of Test Dept in New Cross -  but their songs of love, despair and the city took them in a different direction. Their breakthrough record  was the 10” EP ‘The Big Ship Sails’ released on Flim Flam records in 1986. Flim Flam was an independent label  as well as a club of the same name that took place at the Harp Club in New Cross – later to become The Venue.  It was started by BOHJ and Beloved manager Robert Lancaster with each record given a ‘Harp’ serial number presumably in reference to the New Cross club.

Back in the late 1970s, Counterpoint record shop in Forest Hill was the main local outlet for punk and new wave records. Owner Andy Ross was in band Disco Zombies who released their 'Drums Over London' single on their own South Circular Records in 1979. Fast forward ten years and Andy Ross was working for indie label Food Records when he went to check out a band called Seymour featuring a couple of students from Goldsmiths in New Cross. He persuaded them to change their name and signed them - you might have heard of Blur.

In the 1990s electronic music explosion, a specifically London contribution  was the Acid Techno sound pioneered by the Liberator DJs  - the 303 drenched banging soundtrack to London free parties. Many of the classic tracks were released on Stay Up Forever  records, and recorded at D.A.V.E. the Drummer’s Punishment Farm studios in Deptford. International techno/speedcore label Praxis Records also sold records for a while from a shop on New Cross Road in that period.

The early noughties saw a revival of intelligent guitar based  bands and a key label was Angular Recording Corporation, founded by ex-Goldsmiths students Joe  Margetts  and Joe Daniel.
The release of the  ‘The New Cross’ compilation CD album in 2003 by Angular Recording Corporaton and associated nights at the Paradise Bar (now Royal  Albert pub)  led the music press to talk of the ‘New Cross Scene’ .  While not all the bands were actually from the area it was through Angular’s New Cross portal that bands like Bloc Party, Art Brut, These New Puritans, The Long Blondes and Klaxons had their first releases. Angular was founded by two ex-Goldsmiths students, Joe Daniel and Joe Margetts.

Following in Angular’s footsteps, No Pain in Pop  was founded by Tom King and Tom Oldham in New Cross in 2008, putting on nights in local pubs before releasing a diverse range of material from indie pop to post-dubstep – and the UK release of the 1st album by Grimes,  Geidi Primes.

A recording studio on the Juno Way industrial estate in New Cross helped launch another new sound on the world, with Defenders Entertainment releasing Crazy Cousins’ ‘UK Funky’ tracks  including their highly influential remix of Kyla’s Do You Mind (2008) – later covered by The XX and sampled  by Drake on ‘One Dance’ (2016). Also from New Cross,  Andy Blake’s disco/house label  Dissident Distribution released a critically acclaimed series of  limited issue 12" singles from 2007 to 2009.

The spirit of Dissident and Andy Blake’s ‘World Unknown’ clubnights have informed the most recent wave of ex-Goldsmiths upstarts known as The Rising Sun Collective. Along with labels such as Squareglass they are carrying the torch for S.E. D.I.Y. with a series of parties, mixtapes, and vinyl releases spearheaded by artists such as A House In The Trees and Semi-Precious.

The recent upsurge in 2nd wave grime is giving birth to may new independent labels as artists seek to take control of their careers. Brockley’s finest Novelist has launched his own Mmmyeh Records,  having first come to prominence as part of grime collective The Square with their famous Lewisham McDeez track released on No Hats, No Hoods.  Independent labels have come a long way since the first punk and reggae 7 inch singles, but the DIY spirit lives on.

You can check out tracks from some of these on the accompanying Spotify playlist here:

1. Alternative TV – Action Time Vision (Deptford Fun City, 1978)
2. Brown Sugar - I’m in love with a dreadlock (Lovers Rock, 1977)
3. Test Dept - Fuckhead (Ministry of Power, 1986)
4. Band of Holy Joy - Rosemary Smith (Flim Flam, 1986)
5. Star Power  – Nothing can save us London (Stay up Forever, 1994)
6.  Long Blondes - Autonomy Boy (Angular, 2004)
7.  Veronica Falls – Beachy Head (No Pain in Pop, 2010)
8.  Kyla – Do you Mind, Crazy Cousinz remix (Defenders Ent, 2008)
9.  Cage & Aviary - Giorgio Carpenter(D‎issident,  2007)
10. The Square - Lewisham Mcdeez  (No Hats, No Hoods, 2015)
11. Semi Precious - No Distractions (Squareglass, 2017)

Limited for time and space for this article,  there's a lot more that could have been included. Johny Brown  from Band of Holy Joy has asked me about Desperate Bicycles, arguably the DIY label pioneers of the punk period. I did consider them but wasn't sure about extent of their SE London connection. Think first single was recorded in Dalston, but their 1978 'New Cross, New Cross' EP on their own Reflex label apparently followed a period rehearsing in New Cross. He also mentioned Bastard Haircut records, associated with Brain of Morbius. 

As covered at this blog before, there were other New Cross reggae labels in late 1970s/early 1980s, including Fay Music, Studio 16  and Sound City Records. 

In wider SE London beyond Lewisham, there's lots more to consider, perhaps most significantly on the punk front Conflict's Mortarhate label, starting out in Eltham, and One Little Indian which started out with Flux of Pink Indians in Forest Hill

Loads of dance labels out there of course, could have mentioned Controlled Weirdness' Unearthly records (including his great South London Bass track).

Who would you add to the list of SE London independent labels?

Thursday, May 04, 2017

Independent Label Market in Greenwich

This Friday night (May 5th 2017), a free night of music at Greenwich Market:

'Independent Label Market, supported by Sound Performance are excited to announce the launch of their debut Night Market, South of The River at the historical Greenwich Market! As usual we'll be joined by London Brewers' Market providing refreshment from some of your favourite breweries so make sure you don't miss out!


!K7 Records
37 Adventures
Accidental Records
Africa Seven
BBE Music
Bella Union
Be With Records
Bureau B
Cadiz Music
Casbah Records SE10
Earth Recordings
Emotional Response
Far Out Recordings
Fire Records
First Word Records
Gare du Nord
Hospital Records
Pie & Vinyl Records
Recards - The Record Playing Birthday Card
Secretly Group
Slowfoot Records
Sound Performance
Strut Records
tapete records
Unit 137
White Peach Records


6:30 Heavenly
7:30 Profusion (First Word Records)
8:30 Squareglass
9:30 Rising Sun Collective


The Five Points Brewing Company
Partizan Brewing
Orbit Beers
Bullfinch Brewery & Tap Room
The Gipsy Hill Brewing Co.
The London Beer Factory
Canopy Beer Company
The Brockley Brewing Company
Bianca Road Brew Co

I have written a short article for the programme on the history of independent labels in South East London, so look out for that.

Monday, May 01, 2017

Music Monday: Lisa Knapp - Til April is Dead: A Garland of May

What could be better for May Day than a whole album of May Day themed songs? Beautiful singing combined with found sounds, birdsong and spoken word samples - including what sounds to me like folklorist Steve Roud on the opening track. The Guardian review likened her vocals to a 'south London Björk', though I don't think that fully does her justice. Guests include Graham Coxon and David Tibet.

(for more on May Day folklore, history and politics see May Days in South London - Neil Transpontine - free pdf pamphlet)

Sunday, April 30, 2017

May Day 1894: Peckham anarchists in Hyde Park

'The May Day demonstrations - The London anarchists - Violent scenes'

'A demonstration arranged by the Social Democratic Federation was held today in Hyde Park. The processionists, who did not exceed 3000 in number,  were for the most part orderly, and included contingents from Camberwell, Hammersmith, Bow, Bromley, Deptford, Greenwich, etc. Among the speakers were Dr Aveling, Messrs Keir Hardie, W Morris, J H Watts, P Curran. Congratulatory telegrams were sent to workers assembled throughout the world urging them to neglect no means towards their emancipation from wage slavery, and to work unceasingly for the establishment of the international co-operative Commonwealth, in which all the instruments of industry will be owned and controlled by the organised communities. The International Anarchist Communist group from Peckham brought a black banner inscribed "away with authority and monopoly, with free access to the means of life".

The Commonweal Anarchists held a meeting close to the Federation meeting place. At one platform a speaker was hurled from his place and the red flag was torn to pieces, but, protected by the police, the speaker managed to escape before receiving further injuries. Several disturbances occurred, but none of a serious character. There was a large body of police in attendance. After the excitement had subsided the anarchists restarted the meeting, when speeches were delivered by Samuels, Mowbray, and Louise Michel, who was followed by a man named Tochatti. He was frequently interrupted with cries of "shut up" and finally thrown to the ground by a crowd, by whom he was roughly handled. The police, after much exertion, rescued Tochatti and started him in the direction of the marble arch, where he was again set upon, and received several ugly blows on the head and face. The police again intervened, and to Tochatti was eventually placed in a cab in a very exhausted condition and driven away.

(Daily Express, 2 May 1894; James Tochatti (1852-1928) was a Scottish-born anarchist living in Hammersmith. For more on the Peckham anarchists of this period see Pressure Drop in Peckham by Nick Heath at libcom; the Paris Communard exile Louise Michel's time in South London is covered in this earlier Transpontine post; see also William Morris and South London)

My historical overview of 'May Days in South London' (50 page pdf pamphlet) is available as a free download here

Friday, April 28, 2017

1977 'Battle of Lewisham' plaque

August this year sees the 40th anniversary of the demonstrations and clashes of the 'Battle of Lewisham' when thousands of people turned out to oppose a racist march from New Cross to Lewisham by the far right National Front. Goldsmiths is leading on a number of events to commemorate the 1977 protests which are recognised as a turning point in the fight against fascism at that time.

Among the initiatives is the installation of a commemorative maroon plaque on New Cross Road. But how should the plaque be worded? You can have your say by voting on a number of suggestions or indeed coming up with your own idea before midnight, this Sunday 30th of April.

I was involved in a similar commemoration on the 'Battle of Lewisham' 30th anniversary in 2007. This included a conference at Goldsmiths and a history walk which I helped lead and that included different perspectives from people who had been involved on the day. There were some great material produced and collected from all this - see the Lewisham 77 blog -  and Goldsmiths historian John Price hopes to build on it for this August's events.

To find out more about the project including how you can get involved and upcoming events, visit

Photo of police atempting to clear anti-racist protestors from Clifton Rise, 13 Aug. 1977 (© Peter Marlow) - in this photo you can see the New Cross House in the background and the corner of the New Cross Inn on the right. The protestors are clustered round what was then the public toilets on Clifton Rise.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Peckham Soul brings Togetherness to Beckenham

I love Beckenham Place Park with its green spaces, woodland and grand old mansion house, so good to see that there are some interesting things going on there to encourage other people to come along and discover it. Personally I mainly go there to run (among other things there's a newish parkrun every Saturday morning) but I might be tempted to try out something even more athletic with some northern soul moves - which I always imagine I am capable of after a few drinks...

'With the best in Northern Soul, classic Motown, Stax, funk and disco, your host DJ Craig Jamieson (Peckham Soul / South London Soul Train), takes you on a dancefloor trip through the world’s most life affirming music. A season of Peckham Soul events taking place in in the summer  splendour of Beckenham Place Mansion... In this time of nastiness, we say -, Trump…No, Togetherness …Yes!'

This weekend will feature a DJ set from Ben Ayers from Cornershop, after that the monthly line up will include: 

May 27th Andy Lewis (Paul Weller Band & Acid Jazz) DJ Set
June 24th Special Guest T.B.A
July 29th Eddie Piller (6 Music & Acid Jazz)
Aug 26th Belle & Sebastian (Chris Geddes DJ Set)
Sep 30th Special Guest T.B.A

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Cutty Sark - Camberwell Now

Last weekend 40,000 people including both myself and the world's greatest endurance runners ran round the Cutty Sark in the course of the London Marathon. The week before thousands more were in the area for the Tall Ships festival. Since the ship was first put in in dry dock in Greenwich in 1954 it has become an iconic part of the SE London landscape.

The Cutty Sark was built on the Clyde in 1869 and in its heyday transported tea and possibly opium between Britain, China and India. For me, it has an ambivalent meaning as simultaneously a loved local landmark (mile 6 and a bit of the marathon no less); an impressive product of the ingenuity of human labour (my dad did his engineering apprenticeship in the Clyde shipyards, obviously in a later period, so I have a romantic appreciation of their products);  a vehicle of both colonial plunder and global connections.

Some of this ambivalence is expressed in the song Cutty Sark by Camberwell Now from their 1983 album Meridian (1983):

I dream of empire, I dream of sailing ships
A fortune beneath their decks
Heavy with cargo, copper and ivory

I cross the ocean from one land to the next
I trade the space between, I cross the ocean
I trade the space between

Up in the crow's nest or down in the hold
I hear the ocean sing to me
It sings to me of another way of life
I ignore it, I choose to ignore it

I work with chart, compass, latitude, longitude
A world of reference points
To cross the ocean, measure the space between

Still this singing insists and insists
Won't go away, won't leave me be
It sings to me of another way of life
I ignore it, I choose to ignore it
I ignore its melody

Camberwell Now were formed in 1982 by Charles Hayward and others previously involved in influential experimental band This Heat.