Wednesday, August 17, 2005


Along with everything else, we collect portrays and appearances of south-east London in films here. This may not exactly count but I think it’s worthy of note. Steamboy is the new anime by Katsuhiro Ôtomo, the gent who borough Akira to the screen. It’s a fantastic steam-punk adventure set in an alternative Victorian England during the Industrial Revolution. It’s a tale of imperial might versus newly fledged capitalism and the battle to between greed and idealism, identified as father and son, over the future use of technology.
A large part of the action, including the climax that does drag a bit, takes place on ‘Steam Tower’ a vast, steam powered building, all giant pistons, cogs and boilers, that has been built next door to the site of the Great Exhibition by a mysterious, almost certainly American, corporation. The for the purposes of the anime (cartoon, I mean) the site of the Great Exhibition has been moved from Hyde Park, among other Hyde Park landmarks, (before being moved to Sydenham) to an area of London that great resembles Greenwich Peninsular.
That’s the site of the Millennium Dome”, whispered Carthy, as we watched steam-ships sail past the Crystal Palace and the twin-towers of what is now the Maritime Museum are panned over.
There’s a scene where bobbies pour off of boats to storm the Steam Tower, arriving straight at the doors of Steam Tower. The peninsular holds other wonders too, the Albert Hall is there, Nelson’s Column is there and that huge arch, which is at the Victoria corner of Hyde Park (can’t remember the name of it) is there too. It’s large pats of London’s street furniture place in Greenwich to set a scene of wealth and culture.
Steam Boy
All of which then gets destroyed by steam-driven soldiers and tanks whilst Robert Stephenson, the steam-railwayman and colleague of Brunel, coordinates the British forces from the north side of the Thames (more inventors should be action-heroes!).

See Steamboy, if you get the chance, and be warmed by south-east London making a fine, first appearance into the wonderful world of Japanese animation.

Monday, August 15, 2005


On returning and not having a camera on me.

I've been travelling a lot recently, hence the silence at SELFS and the lack of my own riffs on Transpontine, leaving plenty of room for Neil’s eloquent entries.

Got back from the Isle of Wight last night and I’ve still got the Baltic lands of Estonia and Finland rolling away in my head but a walk home from Brockley station to home last night helped remind me why I’m here in the first place.

(I’m still failing to spot the
Beast of Sydenham whilst travelling between Brockley and East Croydon though.)

The floral murals by the cab rank are a cool bit of folk-art, it’s a triptych, painted in differing shades for each section, blue, orange and green and hides fairies, cats and goodness knows what else within the tangled images.

Some of us know this area is magical by looking it up in books, others go out there and create the magic and others walk about and know.

The selection of vegetarian junk-food in the Costcutter, opposite the Brockley Barge is pretty magical too, better than the behemoth Sainsbury that squats by the New Cross Gate train tracks. Brockley, as is often reported at the
Wickham Arms, has the densest population of artists in Europe, is there a density of veggies there too (or could you only refer to a ‘density’ of McDonald’s regulars or a ‘density’ of people who prefer thick-crust pizza?)

At the top of Shardeloes Road was a big bloke is a frock. It was a silvery frock that contrasted against his black skin in the twilight and it had am alien luminescence about it.

A similar bloke the same style of frock came out of the corner-shop at Brockley Cross and I spotted a third in the phone box across the road, having a bit of a natter. The outfits were good, though they showed a bit too much of what was underneath when the wind blew against them. I wondered if they’d been locked out of their church, it looked like church-wear and it was Sunday evening, hence the phone call. Or were they Christians from another planet, hopefully nicer than the ones we usually get round here.

As a rule, I’m not really in to church-goers but men in random silver frocks is something a grubby urban streets needs, now and then.

What I do like is food foraging, there’s a untapped larder of wild food in London, especially down in our part, so the kids picking the blackberries that were hanging down over the
huge poem that runs along the top of Shardeloes Road was a fine thing to see.
If only I had the camera, and they were nearer the word ‘Eat’, that stands out tall and proud on that wall that would be one of the best photographs ever.

This area is urban but it’s still wild, just ask the foxes, frogs, birds and plants. I get hops coming in a month, bluebells in the spring and plenty of local birds and insects feeding off the pear and apple trees in my back garden. This place is alive, there’s life crammed into every single crevice. We’re part of that, not always the best part, but we’re part of it and that’s good.

When I got home I also saw that, unsurprisingly, the Brazilian Jazz Hippies that live above us haven’t got round to building their sweat-lodge at the bottom of the garden yet.

It’s good to be home, for now.

Listen this Thursday

This Thursday (18th August) features two nights of left-of-field musical talent, do go and have a sniff if you're free. The Wolfgang Bopp post fantastic posters up around New Cross way, each month's poster has a photograph with figues in it, one of which has the head of a gentleman with a funny hat and huge beard superimposed over it's own head. Every month, a new picture and the same, wildly bearded face. It always cheers me up.

This month they have bands redcarsgofaster, "giving post-rock a much-needed post-punk kick up the arse", they say and This Et Al, the slightly less encouraging (to me) "Smithsian melodies with an ethereal shoegazing aesthetic" though it you've ever wanted to look at Morrissey with a bright-red 'Mickey from Lush' bob then this may, or may not be, you're lucky night, you 30-something indie kid, you.

The Wolfgang DJ's play "twisted rock n roll, retro grooves and bleak disco" and the venue is the sacred ground of The Montague Arms, 289 Queens Road, New Cross, London SE15 2PA. Nearest stations: New Cross & Queens Rd, Peckham.

Entry is £3, doors, 8.00pm – 12.15am, if you need to know anything else, email Wolfgangbopp here.

Also on Thursday night from 8pm, also £3 and also something I've not made it to yet (so all reports gratefully recieved) is the Camberwell music night Echo Chamber at the Funky Monkey, 25 Camberwell Church Street Camberwell SE5 8TR (Buses 36, 136 and 171 from New Cross).

Appearing is Mark Pilkington's new muscial thingy Raagnagrok, who're a "synth 'n' sitar sounds" duo as well as the band Striplight, whom, Mark has found out through diligent research, style themselves as "Noir-wave angular artsters" though perhaps are more like "Jangly indie shouty popsters".

The night will also feature Petris and DJ and MCing spots from the resident resonance trio of Sculpture/Dan Hayhurst, Clive Graham and Richard Thomas. Go on!

Friday, August 12, 2005


More ritual goings on on the River Thames. A couple of weeks after Christians beat the watery bounds of the parish of Deptford by boat, Buddhists and others this week 'floated lighted candles on the Thames' to commemorate the dead of Hiroshima and Nagasaki while on their way from Westminster Cathedral to the Peace Pagoda in Battersea Park.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Free Ronnie Biggs

Former great train robber Ronnie Biggs is apparently seriously ill in Belmarsh prison. Why is he still being kept in prison several years after he voluntarily returned to Britain? He is old and sick and obviously no threat to anyone. It seems he is being punished not just for the audacity of the original robbery in 1963 and subsequent escape from Wandsworth Prison but for making the authorities look stupid in all the years on the run in Australia and Brazil, for the crime of obviously enjoying himself including making ropey records with ex-Sex Pistols.

Biggs once saw a bit more of South London than the inside of the hospital wing of Belmarsh. After escaping from Wandsworth, he hid in Dulwich, Bermondsey and Camberwell before making his way to France. Legend has it too that the robbers celebrated their success with a drink in East Dulwich at The Cherry Tree pub (now called the New Hamlet Inn, opposite the train station).

Image is from Stencil Revolution

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Saturday, August 06, 2005

Deptford, Opium and the East India Company

Last month 'A mediaeval cermony called beating the bounds was held to mark out territory in the Thames and protest at plans for flats and recycling facilities on Convoys Wharf. Canon Graham Corneck, of St Nicholas Church, Deptford, and the Bishop of Woolwich, Christopher Chessun... led the proceedings from a tug boat' (Mercury, 27 July 2005).

There is a certain irony in the Deptford riverfront at Convoys Wharf being bought up by a Hong Kong based property company (see below), since the existence of Hong Kong as a business enclave came about as a result of the activities of an organisation closely linked with Deptford - the East India Company.

I was reminded by my holiday reading of W.G. Sebald's 'The Rings of Saturn'(1998) of the Opium War, a British government war for drugs in the nineteenth century: 'In 1837 the Chinese Government had taken measures to prevent opium trading, whereupon the East India Company, which grew opium poppies in the fields of Bengal and shipped the drug mainly to Canton, Amoy and Shanghai, felt that one of its most lucrative ventures was in jeapordy... In the name of Christian evangelism and free trade, which was held to be the precondition of all civilised progress, the superiority of western artillery was demonstrated, a number of cities were stormed, and a peace was extorted, the conditions of which included guarantees for British trading posts on the coasts, the cession of Hong Kong, and, not least, reparation payments of truly astronomical proportions'.

As Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak notes in her 'Critique of Postcolonial reason' (1999), the East India Company was 'the first great transnational company', establishing the British Empire in India and forming the state in its image: 'The governments of India were the Company's governments, the army the Company's army'. The Bengal famine of 1770, which wiped out one in six of the local population, can be viewed as the Company's famine.

From 1600 until 1782 the East India Company stores were based at the Stowage site on the river at Deptford, the location for the new Millennium Quay housing development. One thing that hasn't changed over the centuries is the ownership of large chunks of the Deptford riverfront by multinational corporations - from the East India Company, to Rupert Murdoch's News International to Cheung Kong, who recently bought the Convoys Wharf site from Murdoch.


Friday, August 05, 2005

Electric Six in New Cross

Detroit’s Electric Six (Danger! High Voltage!) are playing a gig in the basement of The Venue, New Cross on September 2nd, hosted by XXIV Records' I SWEAR I WAS THERE club. This intimate show will warm the band up for a major festival in Spain the following day. Limited tickets will be available from this weekend for £10 via

In October there's a huge amount of music and other stuff happening in New Cross and elsewhere as part of 'Artful - a non conventional convention of entertainment and exhibition'. We will be posting more details of events as they are firmed up, but check the Artful website for updates.