Sunday, December 31, 2006

Irish Dance Halls in London

My friend Myk had a Christmas leftovers party last night where people brought along unwanted presents and put them into a lucky dip. As a result I came away with a book I've been meaning to read since it came out, Joe Boyd's 'White Bicycles: making music in the 1960s' (Serpents Tail, 2005). Its a good read, covering his adventures in the US and British blues, jazz and folk scenes as a producer of Fairport Convention, Nick Drake and Vashti Bunyan.

Boyd was also one of the people behind the legendary UFO psychedelic club in Tottenham Court Road (1966-7) with the early Pink Floyd as the house band. One thing I hadn't realized before was that UFO was held in an Irish dance hall called the Blarney Club. This got me thinking about the untold influence of Irish dance halls on wider popular culture in London, as large places outside of the main music industry circuits and therefore available for people to use for more marginal and emerging musics.

In New Cross, the Venue was previously The Harp Club, and even before it changed names was being used for gigs and indie clubs. In Camden, The Electic Ballroom also started out as an Irish dance hall, whilst the Kilburn National has hosted The Pixies, Nirvana, The Smiths and The Sex Pistols (I saw The Wedding Present there once).

So endeth the final Transpontine post of 2006.

Drive carefully

It is traditional at this time of year to warn people to drive carefully. I would like to add that particular care should be taken if you are anywhere near cars being driven by the police in South East London, especially in the Shooters Hill area

Last week a 16 year old girl was killed just off Shooters Hill after a police chase 'Teenager Samantha Clark died after accepting a lift home from a party in a stolen 4x4, police said. The trainee legal secretary, 16, was killed when the Jeep Cherokee careered into a tree and burst into flames following a high-speed police chase... Flowers have been left at the scene of the crash in Plum Lane, Woolwich, alongside messages from family and friends. A spokesman for Scotland Yard confirmed that the silver vehicle was being followed by an unmarked police car with its blue lights and siren on (more)

There have been a number of other incidents in the same area. For instance, in June 2002 a 29-year-old female pedestrian in Shooters Hill was killed when hit by a police car.

A year later in June 2003 'Two police officers and a Kent man suffered serious injuries when their marked police car collided with the man's car... at the junction of Shooters Hill Road and Marlborough Lane, SE18. The two police officers, both men, suffered leg and chest injuries. One of the officers has been discharged from hospital, and the other officer is now in stable condition. The 53-year-old man, from Orpington, was cut from his car and taken to Kings College Hospital, where he remains in serious condition'.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Band of Holy Joy

We have lots of writing about music here at Transpontine, but not enough actual music. To correct this we are now going to try and include links to MP3s, concentrating on South London obscurities and otherwise unavailable stuff.

First up, The Band of Holy Joy, decribed in The Rough Guide to Rock as follows: 'Amidst the glossy, superficial optimism of a lot of mid-80s chart music, Band Of Holy Joy were lauded by the music press for bringing the dirt and hurt back into pop. The ramshackle line-up – acoustic instruments ranging from accordion to toy trumpet, and not a guitar in sight – invited comparisons with The Pogues, but there was something very English about a group steeped in lowlife London and happy to make something of it. What they made of it fitted the band’s name. Singer/lyricist Johny Brown supplied the words for strangely uplifting songs of urban angst that brought comparisons with Brecht and Brel, but were firmly contemporary, with privatization, Prince and E-type hedonism all targets for the densely detailed lyrics. The band grew out of a group of friends living in the New Cross area of south London, although Brown was originally from the northeast of England. A south-London indie label, Flim Flam, released their first records, the mini-album THE BIG SHIP SAILS (1986) and the full-length MORE TALES FROM THE CITY (1987)'.

As Deptford Fun City notes, Band of Holy Joy emerged from a squatting (later housing co-op) scene centred around Nettleton Road in New Cross. Vocalist Johny Brown told Melody Maker in 1987: 'It was at a time when New Cross was really brilliant... Me and Max used to live in a big house with Test Department. That was how Holy Joy were formed... in Test Department's basement where they rehearse. We found an old organ there. It was this big house with no windows. They had a black door with a wreath on it and the house was haunted’ (Melody Maker, 1987).

BoHJ’s 1986 album ‘More Tales from the City’ was recorded at Chocolate City in New Cross, a now vanished recording studio on New Cross Road (think it was where that now equally defunct night club stands between the White Hart and Besson Street). The band split up in 1992, although they did reform a couple of years ago.

Mad Dot, from 'More Tales from the City' includes the immortal lines: ‘I get the madness in my head, when I lie for days in bed, or when I walk up the New Cross Road, When I’m starved and I haven’t been fed'

Band of Holy Joy - Mad Dot (MP3)

Some of their later stuff is available at ITunes but not 'More Tales...', which defintely deserves a re-release.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Greenwich Solstice

I went along to a Winter Solstice celebration in Greenwich Park last week (22nd) arranged by the Tribe of Avalon. They very kindly asked me along to sing a song I have written, 'On Snow Hill', which refers to that hill in the Park. In his book, 'Goddesses, Guardians and Groves: the Awakening Spirit of the Land' (Capall Bann, 1996), Jack Gale associates Snow Hill with a Winter Goddess, a Snow Queen linked to the Saxon deity Holda. What is undeniable is that there are Saxon burial mounds on the hill, and nearby a filled in, but still noticeable well. It felt special singing the song at the well (the well gets mentioned in the song too), one of a number of site-specific singing sessions I've done this year. These have included singing 'Georgie' (a poachers ballad set in Shooters Hill) in Oxleas Wood at the top of Shooters Hill at the start of the South East London Folklore Society walk there in the summer, and singing with Juleigh 'The Only Living Boy in New Cross' as part of the Telegraph Hill Festival at Page Two in Nunhead. Next year I am planning to get the music project off the ground on a more regular basis with 'Winterland' (watch here for details).

Greenwich Park felt like a fitting place for the turning of the year, as this year a lot of threads of my life seem to have run through it. Back in April, there was Tom McCarthy and Rob Dickinson's excellent Greenwich Degree Zero exhibition at the Beaconsfield gallery in Vauxhall, based around an alternative history perspective on Martial Bourdin's death in Greenwich Park in an 1894 bomb explosion. I gave a talk at the exibition, 'Stargate SE8: time, space and parklife' which combined my local history and Association of Autonomous Astronauts interests. Jem Finer, Pogue and sound artist, was also on the bill and through meeting him we both ended up taking part in Brendan Walker's wonderful Fairground Thrill Laboratory at the Science Museum in the Autumn, an event that combined space-themed talks and music with a go on the Booster fairground ride.

Then of course there was the unforgettable wedding of fellow Transpontinians Scott and Clare in Greenwich Park, an event which showed that it was possible to have a ceremony in keeping with your beliefs without frightening the horses or the relatives. Jacqui from Tribe of Avalon conducted the wedding, Jack Gale talked briefly about the history and spirits of the Park, Scott & Clare led the leaping over the broomstick.

Frost Fair

I went to the Frost Fair at Bankside in the week before Christmas. Not quite up there with the historic fairs held on the frozen Thames, but there were lots of stalls and the Globe opened for a pound, with a short George and Dragon play on the stage. Angels were spotted on the Millennium Bridge (photo above). Of course this year a number of people have claimed to see a Thames Angel for real - there is even a Friends of the Thames Angel fan club (see also). Men in white frocks may not have been what they had in mind - but what else is an angel?

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

James Brown

So farewell James Brown... dead on Christmas Day, what an exit. I made a Christmas CD for friends this year and included his great 'Santa Claus go straight to the Ghetto' (could have put the Belle & Sebastian version on, but much as I love them no one can really cover James Brown).

The James Brown sound will always remind me of my early days in South London, just after I'd moved to Brixton in 1987. I used to go to Dance Exchange at the Fridge, with Jay Strongman DJing. It was the pre-house 'rare groove' period, with the music dominated by James Brown and his associates - among the biggest records were Brown's own 'Get Up Offa That Thing' and others made by members of his band, particularly Maceo Parker (Cross the Tracks - Maceo & the Macks) and Bobby Byrd (I know you got soul).

As well as the Fridge, there were other smaller clubs playing similar music in the area - there was Wear it Out upstairs in the Loughborough Hotel in Brixton, and Dance Chase above the Alexandra at Clapham Common. Another important night was Wendy May's Locomotion at the Town and Country Club in Camden, playing a mixture of funk and northern soul.

Soon electronic beats would begin to squeeze out the 1970s funk sound, but James Brown provided the DNA for the next wave of dance music through the endless sampling of loops from his band (where would Public Enemy and many others have been without them?). There is always hyperbole when somebody dies, but I can honestly say anybody's who's been out dancing in the past 40 years should raise a glass tonight to the Godfather of Soul.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Back to 1995

As a compulsive hoarder of flyers and other ephemera from many years of parties, gigs and rampages through the streets, it is gratifying to have finally found a use for them in the last couple of years since I got my scanner working - yes, posting them on sites for other obsessives to go, wow, that was quite a night etc. etc.

I've just posted a mid-1990s batch over at Urban75 in their Lost Squats of Brixton section, including some from the legendary Cool Tan parties in the former dole office on Colharbour Lane and one from the Bar Sate industrial night at 121 anarchist centre on Railton Road.

I've also been sticking up photoes at UK Decay, an absolute treasure trove for anybody interested in punk rock in Luton (mainly ex-Luton punks like myself).

Flyer for a 1995 party at Cool Tan in Brixton, featuring Luton-based free party drum'n'bassheads Exodus Collective. I recall that Luton electronica outfit Click Click played that night. This is a real period piece with a reference to the recently passed Criminal Justice Act (clamping down on raves) and 'cold taps turned on' referring to unscrupulous clubowners trying to force e'd up dancers to buy water from the bar by turning off the taps in the toilets.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Music Monday: Status Quo

[post updated September 2021, following death of Status Quo bass player Alan Lancaster]

Status Quo were one of the most successful British rock bands from the late 1960s to the early 1980s, 'Rocking All Over the World' but with roots in Forest Hill and Peckham

Lead singer and guitarist Francis Rossi spent his early years in Forest Hill (Mayow Road and Perry Rise), where he attended Our Lady and St Philip Neri RC primary school. His Italian extended family ran the local ice cream trade with vans and a shop, Rossi's Ice Cream in Catford Broadway. In his autobiography 'I Talk Too Much' Rossie mentions going to 'Len Stiles Music on Lewisham High Street. This was a record shop that also sold musical instruments including electric guitars. Len Stiles was the place where you hung around smoking your Nelson cigarettes and yacking about music'.  Later Rossi moved to Balham where his family ran a sweet shop, but after getting married at Peckham Registry Office he set up home in Forest Hill.

Bass guitarist Alan Lancaster meanwhile grew up in Cator Street, Peckham. He and Rossi met at Sedgehill Primary School in Beckenham where they first started a band - initially in a Kenny Ball style trad jazz trio! Switching to guitars they played their fist proper gig at the Samuel Jones Sports Club in Lordship Lane SE22.

Rehearsing in a garage next door to the RAF Air Training Corps centre in Lordship Lane (not far from the Horniman museum in what is now Highwood Close) they poached drummer John Coghlan from another band rehearsing at the barracks. Coghlan was from Dulwich and went to Kingsdale school. Now known as The Spectres, the band played other local venues such as El Partido in Catford, the Bromley Court Hotel and in 1967 Abbey Wood park with Pink Floyd.

After hooking up with guitarist Rick Parfitt while working at Butlins in Minehead they became 'The Status Quo' in 1967, later dropping the 'The'.  Their first gig with new name was at The Welcome Inn in Eltham and their first hit 'Pictures of Matchstick Men' came the following year in 1968, a slice of English psychedelia-lite. In the early 1970s the band began adopting the denim-clad rockier image and sound that they became famous for.  

There’s a 1972 Status Quo photo shoot in Peckham, this one is by the Peckham Unionist Club which was apparently on corner of Peckham Hill Street and Commercial Way

Must admit I had an early teens Quo moment before I got into punk. Their style/sound became a bit of a cliche, but is is time for a critical re-appreciation? Some of their peak period stuff has this almost Krautrock drone like repetition and is pretty powerful.


Saturday, December 16, 2006

Gone to the Dogs

Went for a walk along the River Ravensbourne from Catford to Ladywell last month, came across the remains of Catford Dogs Stadium - the sign and the entrance block seem to be all that's left, with the rest demolished. Can't say I was ever a regular punter, but I did get taken there once as a leaving present from a job. I quite like the current melancholy dereliction, no doubt soon it will be a building site.

Further along the river was looking beautiful, towards the Catford end it does feel quite rural, if you screen out the buildings at the edge of your vision.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Punk in South London

I wasn’t sure about reading ‘Punk Rock: an oral history’ by John Robb (Ebury Press, 2006). Sometimes your love for things can be ruined by them being over-mythologised and analysed, and I’ve rationed my reading of punk books on this basis. This book is quite refreshing though as it is entirely in the words of people involved in British and Irish punk up until about 1984. Along the way, some of the myths about punk are quietly demolished. For instance the notion of punk emerging in opposition to all previous musical trends doesn’t hold water when you find out that most of the key players were obsessively involved, if only as fans, in all kinds of pre-punk scenes – not just Bowie and Pub Rock (the approved influences), but also the 70s underground of Hawkwind and the Pink Fairies.

So what about South London connections? Well the Bromley Contingent of Siouxsie, Billy Idol and co. has been well documented before, as have the Croydon connections of The Damned, but I hadn’t realized that the latter’s Rat Scabies and Captain Sensible met while working at Croydon’s Fairfield Halls, taking in everything from Jerry Lee Lewis to Mrs Mills. The Damned rehearsed in a Bermondsey warehouse owned by their early manager, John Krivine (who was also behind the shops Boy and Acme Attractions)

The Sex Pistols first proper rehearsal was upstairs in the Rose and Crown in Wandsworth (John Lydon had earlier made his way to the Crunchie Frog pub in Rotherhithe for a rehearsal in August 1975, but the rest of the band failed to show up). A key early gig was the following February at Andrew Logan’s Valentine’s Night warehouse party at Butler’s Wharf in Bermondsey, featuring Jordan jumping on stage to have her clothes ripped off by Lydon, who then started smashing up the equipment. The gig had an electrifying effect on Mick Jones and Brian James, seeing the Pistols for the first time and inspired to follow suit (eventually forming The Clash and The Damned respectively).

TV Smith and Gaye Advert of The Adverts started out in a flat in Clapham when they first moved up to London from Devon, while Colin Newman of Wire lived in a ‘very rough squat in Stockwell’. Don Letts, a key figure in the punk-reggae crossover as DJ at the Roxy club ‘lived in a house in Forest Hill with five other rasta brethren: Leo Williams who was later in Big Audio Dynamite and Dreadzone, JR, Tony and my brother. We were really the staff, the doormen at the Roxy’. Mark Perry of Sniffin’ Glue and Alternative TV gets his say (‘We were working class kids from Deptford. We weren’t middle class ponces from Bromley or Chelsea’).

The book follows through to second wave of punk bands and its various sub-genres such as anarcho-punk. It also attempts to rescue the reputation of Oi bands, misunderstood as right wing skinheads when they were actually working class socialists if the book is to be believed. In this category come Deptford’s The Business, whose guitarist Steve Kent recalls ‘I was living in Deptford in the early punks days. Some friends of mine found out that punk groups were playing at the famous Kings Head in Deptford, which later went on to be the subject of the Conflict song. We had a punk gang down there on Friday and Saturday nights, which was the punk night, and there would be bands in the punk room’.

Above all the book conveys the excitement of rapidly expanding possibilities, of Do it Yourself mayhem and violent reaction from shocked patriots and passers-by.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Solstice Satire

Saturday 23rd December 3pm

Bring a song, story or poem. Cozy up around a campfire or inside our yurt. Hot chai and mince pies on the go. Food donations or other welcome.

One Tree Hill allotments(KEEP OFF PLOTS). Entrance half way up Honor Oak Park Road beneath the trees. Ring the bell.

Friday, December 08, 2006


The Monkees' movie HEAD is being shown next Wednesday 13th December in New Cross. The film, plus delicious veggie food, costs a mere £4. At Cafe Crema, 306 New Cross Road. 7.30pm for food, 8.00pm for the film.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Modern Antiquarian

Getting increasingly addicted to The Modern Antiquarian, a fantastic compendium of stone circles and other ancient sites in UK and Ireland named after Grandmaster Julian Cope's book of the same name and subject. Most London sites have long since vanished, but there are still a few burial mounds to be found, including at Winns Common (Plumstead), Shooter's Hill (Shrewsbury Tumulus) and Wimbledon Common.

Yule be sorry if you miss it

South East London Folklore Society returns with Folk Yule: an evening of story telling, song, acoustic music, traditional and magical games and other (mostly) carbon neutral entertainments. You're welcome to join in with a song, story or some other entertainment.

Thursday 14th December, revels shall commence from 8pm in the upstairs room of The Royal George, 85 Tanners Hill, Deptford, London, SE8 4QD. Just off the Lewisham Way. (map here). A £2.50 donation is requested to cover room hire and other costs.

Contact scott@selfs. or clare@selfs.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

I'm Your Fan

Greenwich Picturehouse are showing Leonard Cohen: I'm Your Man next week, a documentary about my favourite Jewish Buddhist Canadian singer-songwriter. Should be good, even if features a tribute concert with obligatory performances from U2, Rufus Wainwright and others not worthy to touch the hem of Len's garment.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Sympathy for the Devil

Watched Sympathy for the Devil last night, Jean-Luc Godard’s film structured (very loosely) around The Rolling Stones recording their greatest song. I am not a great fan of The Stones but this song has a particular resonance as the track always played as the last record at The Venue in New Cross during many 1990s indie-nights, with hundreds of drunk people 'whoo whooing' in chorus for most of the song.

In musical terms the film demonstrates what a triumph the recorded version is in comparison with some of the dire earlier takes. Also noteable is that Keith Richards plays bass throughout with ostensible Stones bassist Bill Wyman relegated to Maracas.

But this is radical avant garde 'cinemarxism' circa 1968, so the music is only one element of a collage with elements including a narrator reading political porn (‘Foster Dulles went inside to order Princess Beatrice a Molotov Cocktail’) , staged scenes of armed Black Power activists in a car scrapyard down by the Thames and a parody of the banality of interviews with a young woman pursued through a wood answering in monosyllables to questions like 'Do you feel exploited from the moment you step into an interview?' and 'Do you think drugs are a spiritual form of gambling'. Meanwhile figures pop up in the London landscape painting graffiti about Viet Nam.

God knows what the later Sir Michael Jagger made of it all, though apparently even this version was too much of a compromise for Godard whose final take left out a complete version of 'Sympathy for the Devil' only for the film to be edited to include it at the end without his consent over images of fighting on the sand in a section entitled 'Under the Stones the Beach'.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Life is Cheap

A horrific story on the front page of this week's South London Press (17.11.2006), which for some reason isn't on their website at present:

A corpse was left rotting for weeks after council officials failed to help a man living in a cleaning cupboard, it was claimed today. The man, an immigrant from Togo known as Atayi, was found after residents reported a sickening smell. Police went to a cupboard used to store cleaning products at Perronet House in Elephant & Castle at 12.15pm on Wednesday. After smashing down the door officers found the body of the man, in his late 40s. Cops at the scene told people living on the second floor the man was thought to have been dead for at least three weeks.

People who live in Perronet House told the South London Press Atayi had been working in the block but lived rough so he could send as much money as possible back to his wife and children in Togo. Early reports suggest he died from carbon monoxide poisoning - it is believed as a result of cooking on a camping stove - but a full post-mortem is expected today. Questions are being asked of Southwark Council after claims they had been told the man was squatting in the 8ft by 4ft cupboard as long ago as May but failed to act. It is said that Atayi worked as cleaner for the council and was therefore able to get past security doors at Perronet House....."

Although this an extreme case, it is indicative of the conditions of migrant workers in London today, people who may be branded as 'illegal' and denied rights such as access to healthcare, but who are relied on to the dirty jobs that nobody else wants to do. People who work as low paid cleaners in every office in town, paid a pittance and making profits for multi-national cleaning firms like ISS. If you feel the urge to do more than sigh and turn away, you might want to check out the Justice for Cleaners campaign which is organsing two weeks of action in support of ISS cleaners next week. This isn't just a London issue either, check out the current Justice for Janitors strike in Houston, Texas.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Strange vehicles of South London (1)

This Russian T-34 tank has been situated at the corner of Mandela Way and Pages Walk (just off New Kent Road) for a few years. From time to time it gets painted - at one time it was pink, but this is its latest colour scheme.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006


After the recent Nunhead Black Panther incident, we now have reports of vulture sightings in Richmond Park and Beddington sewage farm, near Croydon.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Ladywell Pool Saved

Well done to Save Ladywell Pool campaign - Lewisham Council has now reversed its decision to demolish it to make way for a much-needed new secondary school. The school will be built instead at Lewisham Bridge. Details here

Your Arsenal

Down by the River Thames at the site of Woolwich Arsenal today, many of the old buildings still standing from when it supplied guns and ammunition for the Empire, but now being turned into luxury flats.

My great great grandfather, Thomas Cook, worked there in the 19th century and his father and grandfather before him (in the 1851 Census, Thomas junior is listed as a 'laboratory boy' and his father as 'labourer, Royal Arsenal'). Later Thomas's sister Jane worked there as a teenage 'cartridge maker' while another brother, John, worked as a 'metal turner' in the Royal Laboratory.

You can only take nostalgia so far, and it is surely better that these buildings are now homes instead of factories producing lethal weapons for the British army. Still, once again I ponder the irony of riverside locations where the poor once lived and worked becoming, in the words of a brochure I picked up today, spaces for 'bespoke penthouse living'.

On another tack entirely, entering the site from Beresford Street, there is an unusual weather worn statue (above) bearing the plaque 'Deus Lunus - late Roman work, brought from Egypt'. Any ideas what a statue of a moon god is doing at Woolwich Arsenal? It stares across to a fine 1764 sundial, complete with moon and St George & Dragon imagery (below).

Saturday, November 11, 2006


Tales of a Nunhead micro-brewery, anyone?


I've also been intrigued by Witcomb cycles, an ancient looking bike shop in an even more ancient looking building in Deptford. Now thanks to Slightly Lost in the World you can read the full story of its pivotal role for the global cyclist massive. Must get the two wheeled monster out of the cellar.


In a Peckham art squat today it's the last day chance to take in Openlab 3, featuring 'Installations, sonic interventions, video works, animations, digital musics' from more than 20 artists and musicians engaging 'in the aesthetics and politics of Free Open Source Software'. It's open from 1 to 7 pm, with performance from 4 pm at The Midnight Blue Gallery (autoitalia south-east london gallery), 82-86 Queens Road, Peckham.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Lost Penguin Found in New Cross

Strolling down the New Cross Road last Saturday afternoon I stumbled across a gig at Rubbish & Nasty by Lost Penguin. It was great, amidst the retro clothes and vinyl in the shop there was a riot of fuzzy bass, shouty boy/girls vocals, drum machine and korg synth noises, stripy jumpers, yellow jackets and more. Ever in search of the Riot Grrrl revival (OK I know it never really went away), I am pleased to report that some of their faster tracks reminded me a little of Le Tigre.

Anyway there's more free music action on Saturday afternoons until Christmas, with Tea and Toast Band tomorrow at 3 pm, and a Wonktronica Showcase on 18th November. All at 308 New Cross Road.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Dis-Orient X

'Ten years after the book Dis-Orienting Rhythms: the Politics of the New Asian Dance Music (zed books 1996) we've decided to have a party (or a wake) and discuss, and dance, about the new world disorder.

3pm start - speakers - Sonia from ADFED, Anamik Saha of Goldsmiths, Sanjay Sharma, Aki Nawaz showing the new Fun-da-mental video, & panel discussion... finish 6pm

Followed by Dis-Orient X club night 7.30 - 12with Aki Nawaz from Fun-da-mental and SPARK! on the decks.

Friday 17 November @ New Cross Inn.

A benefit for the 1857 Indian war of Independence Commemoration Committee. Donations at the door. All welcome'.

How does it feel? gig at the Windmill

Our fave indie-pop night, How Does if Feel? are putting on a gig on Thursday November 9th at The Windmill, Blenheim Gardens, Brixton. The line up is
Francois/Amida/The Steadies/The Darlings and it all starts at 8pm, a mere five pounds entry.

Francois are described as 'Bookish boys with library tans singing', Amida as 'quietly cool, gloriously romantic, indie pop janglers'. The Steadies reference 'Nick Drake and Belle & Sebastian and every loveable acoustic
dreamer going'. The Darlings remain a mystery, but doubtless have impeccable music taste.

Radical film night in New Cross

Class Acts presents a double bill of cinematic delights plus yummy food.

'The Free Voice of Labor-the Jewish Anarchists' tells the story of the anarchist movement among Jewwish immigrants to the USA from the 1880s until the final days of the Jewish anarchist newspaper 'Freie Arbeiter Stimme' in the 1970s.

'An injury to One- the Frank Little story' tells the story of the mysterious death of the Wobbly organiser Frank Little in 1917, following his radical organising of the workers of the Anaconda Mining Company. The film includes music from Low, Jim O'Rourke and William Oldham.

Wenesday 15th November, 7.30 for food, 8.00pm for film. At the Cafe Crema, 306 New Cross Rd, SE14. Only £4 includes delicous veggie meal.

Further information from

New River

'The roving South London Radical History Groupies are going to walk along the south end of North London's New River and do a bit of sightseeing, and politico-historical chattering along the way... the idea is to meet up at Turnpike Lane tube at 2pm on Sunday 26th November and work our way down the river, stopping at Clissold Park cafe for a cup of tea, and then on to Sadlers Wells. After that we can wander back to Angel or Chapel Market to hang out in a pub and maybe try one of the "eat as much as you like" buffets... bring umbrellas, gossip and chat about historical spots we pass...'

For further information, or to be added to the SLRHG mailing list, contact

Sunday, November 05, 2006


Good to see James Righton of 'new rave' instigators The Klaxons giving South East London its dues in the NME student guide (October 2006). Among his five favourite London places he lists are the Montague Arms in New Cross, the Skillian Centre rehearsal studio in Deptford, the Wah Wah squat in Peckham and the silver box in the middle of the Elephant and Castle roundabout, a 'portal to another dimension' where he once spoke to a fox!

Friday, November 03, 2006

Beast of Nunhead

'Interesting if true' report in the South London Press (20 October 2006) about a possible Alien Black Cat sighting in Nunhead:

Panther prowled into my lounge

A space scientist had a close encounter of the furred kind when a black panther called at his home. Astro physicist Brian Shear claims the big cat walked into his living room and settled on his settee in the early hours of Thursday.

Brian said: "It had green eyes and was between four to five feet long, nose to tail. This was no pussycat. It didn't miaow, it growled. I'd been sitting in my armchair when it walked in. I didn't try to get too close to it because I was concerned it might bite me. I just sat there and talked to it like you would a normal pussy cat. I said, 'Hello puss, where've you been then?' and it just growled. It seemed quite content and I didn't feel threatened. I don't think it would have harmed me.It seemed familiar with humans."

The 64-year-old diabetic said he had woken up at his home in Nunhead Lane, Nunhead, feeling ill and opened his front door to let some air in but got the uninvited house guest instead. After an hour the cat left Brian's home and disappeared towards Dulwich.

It is not the first time a big cat has been reported in South London. Last year dad-of-three Tony Holder said he was pounced on by a large cat-like animal in the backyard of his Sydenham home. Armed police patrolled the neighbourhood for several days afterwards and people were warned not to use local parks. Experts suspected a black panther had leapt at Mr Holder.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Ghosts and Monsters of south-east London

Samhein is over but today is the Day of the Dead.

SELFS is resting at the moment ('retreating to jump further' as they say) but we're still doing the odd bit. I'm giving a talk on the 'Ghosts & Monsters of Brockley & Surrounds' at Moonbow Jakes coffee shop and bar from 8pm tonight.

That'll be strange and fortean things happening in Brockley, Nunhead, Honor Oak, Lewisham, Deptford and Sydenham. There'll also be a couple of other local writers doing readings.

Sorry it's late notice, I didn't have a time until this morning, but I hope someone could come along.

Moonbow Jakes Brockley: 020 86949128

325 Brockley Road, London SE4 2QZ.

Find them equidistant between Brockley (turn right and up Brockley Road) & Crofton Park (turn left and down Brockley Road)

Train stations. Buses 122, 171, 172 & 484

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Royal Albert

Went for a drink at the Royal Albert this week (460 New Cross Road), formerly the Paradise Bar. It's a perfectly fine pub for a beer and a chat, run by Antic, the firm behind the East Dulwich Tavern, Dogstar (Brixton) and various other South London watering holes.

Still even as I sat on a comfortable sofa I couldn't help missing the scruffy glamour of the old Paradise Bar. In fact my sofa, under a stuffed bird of prey, was at the very spot where the stage used to be, with its plastic flashing disco floor. Was this really the place which just two or three years ago helped launch Art Brut, Bloc Party, The Long Blondes and many others? Actually a quick check on Google shows that it was three years ago this very night that Bloc Party played there. The Art Brut gig was an Angular records launch, a night when I climbed up on that stage myself to talk a bit about my Deptford Fun City book. Anyway enough instant nostalgia, for a reminder of what it was like check out this short film of Clor playing at the Paradise Bar.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Mules etc.

Haven't really done enough justice here to the Artful festival, suffice it to say that there's still plenty of music and other fun to be had before the end of October, including Shot by Both Sides tomorrow at the Venue in New Cross:

Line-up is:
Skiffle, music hall, hillbilly knees-up and jug-band blues fed through a new wave mixer.

Taut, angular melodies, skewed punk/funk and fuzzy electronics, evoking Can, Magazine & PiL.

Balmy kaleidoscopic pop, complete with kitchen-sink melodies, kazoos and bent psych-folk.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Notes from the Island

Notes from the Island is a project exploring the mysteries of the traffic island at the junction of New Cross Road and Queens Road: 'The Island welcomes everybody. Every day many visit and thousands pass close by, though few notice it. It is a place of brief encounters, of buried secrets, of moments glimpsed in rear-view mirrors. A brief pause on a journey. The Island has no border controls, no prisons, no buying and selling. Is it a utopia? Perhaps it could be, a sanctuary of non-interference amidst the surveillance cameras'.

As a contribution to Artful month, Notes from the Island will be collaborating with You are here but why? on some exploratory mapping of the Island at 3 pm on Sunday 15th October 2006. After a guided stroll around the Island 'we will consider ways of mapping the Island and the routes through and around it in time and space. If its raining we will be in the White Hart pub opposite'.

Radical Stuff at Goldsmiths

5pm on Thursday 12th October (This Thursday), Town Hall Pirates present 'The Weather Underground' a documentary by Sam Green and Bill Siegel about US urban guerillas of the late 1960s/early 1970s. Somewhere at Goldsmiths, venue to be confirmed but wander around looking for posters and you should be able to find it.

Then on Thursday, November 2 at 5.30pm there will be a commemoration of the Hungarian Revolution of 1956 in Room 143 of the Richard Hoggart building of Goldsmiths College, Lewisham Way, New Cross, London, SE14. The meeting is sponsored by Revolutionary History journal and the London Socialist Historians Group.

Friday, October 06, 2006

March for Migrants Rights

Tomorrow (Saturday October 7th 2006) the London-wide 'March for Migrants' Rights' is taking place in Southwark demanding an end to detention and deportations, and equal rights for migrants and refugees.

It start at 12 noon by the Imperial War Museum (Geraldine Mary Harmsworth park) before heading up Borough High Street and past Becket House, a government reporting centre for asylum seekers in St Thomas Street, SE1.

It's all part of an international day of action. Further details here and at No Borders London.

Update: Report on march

Several hundred people took part in the March for Migrants' Rights today in South London, starting off from the Imperial War Museum and marching up Borough High Street before pausing at Becket House in St Thomas Street, a Home Office 'reporting centre' where asylum seekers have to report and may be detained without warning. The march finished with a rally in Tanner Street Park in Bermondsey.
Banners on the march included the new No Borders London one making its debut, as well as Southall Black Sisters, Latin American Workers Association, Bolivia Solidarity Campaign, Barbed Wire Britain, International Organisation of Iranian Refugees and many others.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Pull Tiger Tail in New Cross

The Wolfgang Bopp presents;

Pull Tiger Tail

Pull Tiger Tail – Selected on the Guardians weekly playlist and making Steve Lamacq froth at the mouth like a rabid badger in a sherbet factory, Pull Tiger Tail are certainly on somewhat of an upward trajectory. They have already appeared in session on John Kennedys XFM show and have been described by the NME as “the sound of the summer”…well its Autumn now but you get their drift. If you listen to any radio station other than Magic FM you will likely have heard their marvellous Animator single and then have had it stuck in your head for the a week.

Fear of Flying

Fear of Flying – Described as “very promising” by the clued up folk at Soundsxp, Fear of Flying have been signed up to the Young and Lost label along with PTT. Their single “Routemaster” garnered much critical praise, and we will be delighted to see what all the fuss is about this Friday.

Date: Friday 6th October
Doors: 8pm – 12.15am
Price: £4 on door
Venue: The Montague Arms, 289 Queens Road , New Cross, SE15 2PA
Tel: 0207 6394923
Nearest Tube: New Cross Gate
Nearest BR: Queens Rd , Peckham

Saturday, September 09, 2006

The Mystical Forest

South East London Folklore Society, 11th September: Jack Gale – London's Green Web

Jack Gale is a pagan and magickal writer on much experience, warmth and wisdom and tonight he shall be discussing London's "mystical forest". South London features heavily in the talk and Jack in an expert in the magickal history of south-east London. At the Spanish Galleon in Greenwich at 8 pm.

Contact SELFS and Subscribe to SELFS newsletter.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Autum walk from the wood to the River

On Sunday 17th September there will be a chance to explore the sites of ancient rites, apparitions, folklore and natural wonders with Pagan Federation South East London and South East London Folklore Society. Join them for a Sunday afternoon picnic and stroll along part of the Green Chain Walk, from Oxleas Woods to the Thames Barrier.

The walk starts at Oxleas Wood (meet by the café at 1pm) and finishes by the Thames, and will wander through the ancient woodland of Oxleas and the hideaways of highwaymen before taking in the site of Charlton's notorious Horn Fair (where apparently men `quite frequently wore women's clothes and amused themselves by striking women encountered on the fairground with sprigs of furze') and stopping to picnic near Charlton House, haunted Jacobean mansion. Then onwards for deer and peacock-spotting and over a Roman hill fort before passing a modern stone circle on the way to the Thames.

It's also international Chalk4Peace weekend, so people are encouraged to bring chalks if they feel so inclined.

For further information contact or

Reservoir Reservations

At the top of Telegraph Hill, on Jerningham Road in New Cross, there is a walled off covered reservoir site. The reservoir is apparently now redundant, and St James Homes is planning to build 13 houses on the site. In the mean time, the site is a nature reserve in all but name. Human visitors are not encouraged, which for me makes it somehow more appealing as a kind of Secret Garden (I must scale the wall before they build on it). Anyway not everyone's happy with the loss of this green space, and there's a public meeting on the 11th September at 8 pm to discuss the plans. It takes place at the Telegraph Hill Centre (next to the Church at the top of the hill), where the plans are currently on display in the foyer.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006


At the Photographers Gallery there's an exhibition of stills from Michelangelo Antonioni's classic swinging London movie Blow-Up, including some set in south east London locations. There's a shot of David Hemmings emerging from a building with a sign saying National Assistance Board Camberwell Reception Centre - this is the old Spike homeless hostel in Consort Road, SE15 which features at the beginning of the film. Part of this is still standing and has been squatted for several years, with the Council recently granting a licence.

There are also a number of photos of Maryon Park in Charlton, a crucial location where Hemmings' photographer character inadvertently takes pictures of the crime which is central to the film's plot.

Also on at the Photographers Gallery is an exhibition of photos from the London Fire Brigade archive. Thrill to the sight of a 1951 bus crash in the Walworth Road, chortle at a 1947 image of a 'boy being rescued from a milk churn' in Lambeth. My favourite was of a fire in Lyndhurst Grove SE15 in 1963 seemingly contributed to by the haphazard piles of books stacked all over the house including up the staircase. There but for the grace of God go I...

Both run until September 17th and are free. The Gallery is at 5 & 8 Great Newport Street, London WC2H 7HY (Nearest tube Leicester Square).

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Green Gatherings

A couple of interesting sounding green events coming up locally. On Monday 28 August there's a Green Man Fayre at the One Tree Hill Allotments, behind Honor Oak Park train station, SE23. Its on from 12 - 6 pm and costs £2. More information about the allotments from South London Permaculture.

Then on Sunday 3rd September there's an invitation to picnic at the Brockley Common Opend Day (next to Brockley Station). It's on from 12 noon to 4 pm. More details from Brockley Cross Action Group.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Shot by Both Sides

Shot by Both Sides promise 'A spektakular soiree of degeneracy and bloodlust' in the Basement Bar at the Venue in New Cross on Friday (August 11th), featuring three bands: 'Luxembourg (Extravagant and alluring 5-piece angular pop, with a similar swaggering spirit to Roxy Music or early Suede), The Low Edges (Widescreen melodies and Spector-ish atmospherics from band who cite classic novels and folk tales as influences) and Gifthorse (Bedsit glamour and arch, sardonic lyrics from tragic romanticists). All this plus DJs playing '60s garage, northern soul, motown, funk and - cripes - indie until the wee hours'. Its on from 9pm-2am (£4/£3 NUS). [apologies - earlier version of this post had the wrong date - good news is you haven't missed it]

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Return of the Daisy Age

It has been brought to our attention by Drumz of the South (who were drawn to our attention by Uncarved) that hip hop legends De La Soul are playing for free in Croydon this weekend.

Whatever happended to the cosmic dream?

Shame about Syd Barrett. Its well known that he went to Camberwell Art College, but did he play music locally with any early Pink Floyd incarnations? Where did he live/hang out when he graced the streets of South East London? Was 'Piper at the gates of dawn' inspired by a night wandering on acid through Burgess Park? (OK I'm making this up). Who knows?

Friday, July 07, 2006


A dark (ex) Church, all that is visible are ten glass bowls, each containing an image of the sky. Lift up a bowl and the sounds of the place are triggered, the significance being that each is a location marked by a death. Over the past two years Graeme Miller has visited places around the world where migrants have fallen from aircraft - stowaways who have hidden in the wheel bays of planes, only to fall to their death as the planes approach airports and lower their wheels.

Miller's installation 'Held'is a very powerful work that breaks the silence about the many deaths caused by the efforts of Fortress Europe to deny sanctuary to those fleeing war, persecution and poverty. United Against Racism have tracked more than 7000 such deaths since 1993, including the death of a man who fell from the sky at the Sainsburys in Richmond pictured in one of Miller's images shown above.

'Held' is on until July 16th (Thurs - Sun, 11-5) at Dilston Grove, the former Clare College Mission Church, in the Southwest corner of Southwar Park (see map). Try and get along if you can.

Lewishambles People's Day

Too much to do this weekend, as well as stuff we've already mentioned it's Lewisham People's Day Festival tomorrow in Mountsfield Park, Catford, with a Rocklands stage showcasing south east London talent including STREET VIBES + CHET + THE DARLING REDS + INDIGO MOSS + DEXY + THE FAIRIES BAND + FRUIT MACHINE BLUES + CERI JAMES / DREZONE / MALMO + THE MOON (all for free).

In the evening, Tom Hingley (from Inspiral Carpets) is DJing at Dirty South, while down the road at the Fox in Lewisham there's a 2bob night with J D & The Longfellows, The Singing Loins + Blah Blah Blah (also free entry ).

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Austin Osman Spare

South East London Folklore Society presents

10th July: Geraldine Beskin – The Life of Austin Osman Spare

The proprietress of Atlantis Bookshop casts her research skills on to the life of south-east London’s own artist, magician and god-less father of Chaos Magic, Austin Osman Spare.

SELFS meets every second Monday of the month upstairs at The Spanish Galleon, 48 Greenwich Church Street, SE10 9BL. Talks start at 8.00pm and costs £2.50 / £1.50 concessions.

Greenwich Mainline & DLR: Turn left from the main exit, walk about 5-10 minutes, the Galleon is on your right, at the cross-roads.

Cutty Sark DLR: Turn left from the station, right when you get to the road, the Spanish Galleon is across the road.

Buses: 177, 180, 188, 199, 286, 386.

Bopp Hops on to World Cup Bandwagon (but late)

The unredoubtable Wolfgang Bopp just popped this into our electronic box:

"One week has nearly passed since England’s ignominious exit from the World Cup and we at the Bopp feel it is only right and proper to offer a musical pick me up to the disenchanted residents of London.

To fulfil this task we have engineered a line up of immense quality, if we do say so ourselves.

The Wolfgang Bopp presents

Fury of the Headteachers
Hailing from Leicester we have we have Fury of the Headteachers a band with an astonishingly brilliant name and a portfolio of tunes to match. They have already featured in session on 6music and their live show has been called “breathtaking” by Soundsxp. Intriguingly described as sounding like “the Buzzcocks underwater” by the Daily Record we look forward to them gracing The Montague.

I've never met a normal person from Leicester. I've met some nice people from Leicester, don't get me wrong, some of my best friends are from Leicster, but none of them are ever anywhere near what you'd call 'normal'.

Anyway, back to the Bopp:

From Sheffield in the Peoples Republic of Yorkshire Redcarsgofaster who were so good when they played the Bopp last summer we have asked them back. Described by Drowned in Sound as “utterly fantastic” they are recipients of probably the best line of any review I have ever seen courtesy of Joyzine; “People are shaking their heads in disbelief; looking at each other the way couples do after the birth of their first child” high praise indeed. Needless to say it seems we are far from being the only ones who love this band.

+ Wolf Gang DJs playing out twisted rock n roll, retro grooves and bleak disco… Date: Friday 7th July Doors: 8pm – 12.15am (bands finish 11pmish) Price: £3 Venue: The Montague Arms, 289 Queens Road, New Cross, SE15 2PA
Nearest Tube: New Cross Gate
Nearest BR: Queens Rd, Peckham

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Red Thread

Here's an interesting thing that came my way via the SELFS chat list and Rocklands. Bonnington Square is nice, it feels like how the sixties must have been.

"""""" let's get straight to the point... i'm putting a kinda 'secret' red thread festival on on the 9th july in bonnington square, vauxhall,and i'm gonna need some help!! it's got a good chance of being fairlychaotic but it should be a riot if everyone get's on board.. the square itself is a really quaint slice of urban bohemia, just south of theriver and well out of the public eye. everyone's invited and it's allfree so START TELLING EVERYONE!!!

we ain't gonna do much traditionaladvertising so it's up us lot to get a crowd down.. doing it this meanswe should only attract cool heads!! the line up so far reads.. LIAMFROST, THE MONKS KITCHEN, THE BRIAN JACKET LET DOWN, JOHN STAMMERS and PETE GREENWOOD. plus a load of eccentric locals who wanna do their ownthing! IT'S GONNA BE A GREAT AND UNIQUE DAY OUT! things kick off with apaganesque animal procession round the square at 2 o'clock [damn work means I'll miss that, I love a procession, I do], then music all day. there's beautiful community gardens to lay about in and loads of random entertainment planned, feel free to get involved, if you wanna dress up, do magic or be a human fruit machine?!? your welcome to!! spread the word and enjoy!!! x x x """""""""

Friday, June 30, 2006

Open Air Poetry Night in Southwark

in association with Bankside Open Spaces Trust
presents Red Cross Bards

6.30 to 8.30pm on Tuesday July 4th 2006
Red Cross Garden, Redcross Way, London SE1
Tube: Borough or London Bridge Bus: 133, 35, 40 and many more

A summer¹s evening of inspirational poetry and song in Red Cross Garden - hosted by John Constable (aka John Crow, author of The Southwark Mysteries) with guest poets Liza Hayden, Niall McDevitt, Christopher Twigg - and YOU!

Red Cross Cottages were built by Octavia Hill to improve the lives of the poor in what were then London¹s most deprived and violent slums. The cottages form a stunning backdrop to these beautiful Victorian gardens in the heart of the city. The gardens were recently restored by BOST, complete with pond and fountain. Southwark poet John Constable will perform his own work inspired by the history of the area, along with leading exponents of visionary poetry and song. Audience members will also be invited to perform a short poem of their own.

Together we'll reclaim the Red Cross of St George, celebrating south London¹s multicultural heritage. (* The last half-hour of the performance may overlap slightly with the first half-hour of the World Cup semi-final. If so, for those who honour the Muse but need their fussball fix, we'll feature a short poetic commentary on ze game, before decamping to one of the many local big screen pubs to watch the rest of the match.)

all welcome : free entry: free refreshments Funded by Borough and Bankside Community Fund

Thursday, June 29, 2006

So farewell then....

This sad bit of news just came through from Ian of the band 23Frames.....

The inevitable occured this week when we finally received the letter - "Redevelopment of the Old Seager Distillery" We have to be out by September.

We knew it was coming but it still feels like such a shock,especially when there is stilll so much going on there. There are four bands and two painters who share our studio (The Polling Station) and we'll all be without anywhere to work this Autumn.

Displaced, as will Temporary Contempoary, The Mash Potato gallery & many, many other groups of artists, muscians, acrobats etc. What a shame. Dunno when exactly they plan to bulldoze the building, but I hope at least some of it is protected. Luxuary Apartments all round, then.

Will Deptford even exist in 10 years time?

That question is up to us all to answer.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006


Guilfin, the excellent alternative listings site is back and starting from scratch.

Be sure to be part of it.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Camberwell Degree Show

Lots of good stuff at the Camberwell College of Arts Summer Show, on all this week ('Felt Window', Juleigh Gordon-Orr's human hair and glass piece, is in the third floor painting studio).

I also checked out the Goldsmiths degree show a couple of weeks ago, I didn't think it was as strong but it was worth a visit just to go out on the terrace of the new Ben Pimlott building in New Cross. Yes you get to stand outside next to that scribble sculpture with fanastic views across London.

Nick Nicely

For some time we've been trying to track down an early 1980s psychedelic track called Hilly Fields (1892)by Nick Nicely. In an interview at the time he explained: "Hilly Fields is a large park in South London, close to where I live. It's a beautiful place. And the area where I live still retains a lot of the atmosphere of the 1890s - all late Victorian houses, really wonderful. All the songs I wrote are situated in this part of London, Brockley. And Hilly Fields... I used to go there a lot in various stages of high, stoned, tripping, and that's where the song comes from. It's about someone who goes to hilly Fields and then disappears.... and that someone could very well be me, tripping out".

Now comes the news that on 18th July 2006 there will be a gathering of Nicely enthusiasts at Hilly Fields, possibly even an appearance by the man himself. Further details here

Summer Solstice

The Summer Solstice passed in various ways in South London. I went to Burgess Park, where Christopher Jones launched his new booklet ' I saw a tiger running wild... on the trail of Burgess Park' (published by Past Tense) accompanied by reading, incense and people in animal masks. It all took place on the bridge in the park that once spanned the now filled in canal.

On Lambeth Bridge, the Tribe of Avalon Summer Solstice ritual ended with offerings of flower petals on the waters of Goddess Tamesa, deity of the River Thames.

Others stayed up (or got up very early) to see the sun rise in Hilly Fields.

....we love bears....

29.06.06 [that's this Thursday] SUPERBOMPERS the new project from Need New Body/HIM's Tookie Sherman & agaskodo teliverek, hungarian duo presenting angular energetic rock epics
in conjunction with the bearspace private view for the exhibition Kounosuke Kawakami - Mindustrial Evolution. another perfect time to get your compilation 03

£3 voluntary contribution starting at 7.45

Bear Space, 154 Deptford High St London SE8 9PQ

Happy Birthday to Glue

The Glue Rooms are always good but this month is extra special (this is via Disinformation who gave a mind-melting show at Corsica Studio's under the Elephant a couple of years ago...)

Disinformation vs. Strange Attractor perform "CircuitBlasting" at The Glue Rooms (3rd Birthday Party),Amersham Arms, 388 New Cross Road, London, Wed 28 June2006, 7 to 11pm (bar till 12), £3, nearest BR and tubeNew Cross.

Full line-up also includes Bela Emerson,Led Bib, Sudden Infant, Temperatures, Complete Idiot,Uniform, DJ Tendraw & The Gypsies Dog, DJ Body Damage,DJ Possibly Sick, and (Disinformation remixer and Wireguitarist) Bruce Gilbert.

DJ Tendraw also gave an ace performance at the Seager Distillary at the end of May as part of a DIY response to the 'Made in Deptford' party. It was mostly to the indifference of the bastards with expensive haircuts, though.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Psychic Experiment

Throughout June and July you can take part in a parapsychology experiment investigating psychic ability and beliefs about luck and the paranormal. David Luke is inviting voluteers to give up 20-30mins of their time in SE London as part of his PhD project. The researcher will come to you in SE London, or you can come to Goldsmiths in New Cross. Volunteers will also be entered into a draw for a cash prize. For further information call or text 07727 681832 or email

Friday, June 23, 2006

Balata in Brockley

Next Thursday at the fantastic Rivoli Ballroom in Brockley there's a benefit git for children in the Balata refugee camp in Palestine. Artists/musicians performing includeDavid Rovics,Attila the Stockbroker, Strawberry Thieves Socialist Choir, Doc Jazz and Zaid Tayem.

Date and Time: Thursday 29 June at 7.30 pm. Location: Rivoli Ballroom, 350 Brockley Road, London SE4 2BY. Tickets: in advance £10 (unwaged £7), at the door £12(unwaged £10). For tickets and further information email or call 07723 015926.

Solstice Party

There's a party tomorrow night at the Beaconsfield gallery in Vauxhall- no less than the Mother of all Parties for the summer solstice. Details are Saturday 24 June 2006, 8pm - 3am, with live music, experimental electronica, performance, film, eclectic DJ¹s including Spring Heel Jack, Daniel Figgis, Fallen Leaves, Susannah Hewlett, Fairlights, DJ Tendraw & The Gypsies Dog, Dr Valentine & Suzywan, Sanda
Kolar, Howard Jacques, Northern Roses, Annie Davey. Admission: £6 (£4 concessions).

I can't make it personally, but I can vouch for it being a cool place with nice people. You can hear it live on Resonance 104.4 fm, though I suspect that may be a poor substitute. Beaconsfield is at 22 Newport Street, Vauxhall, London, SE11 6AY (020 7582 6465).

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Wicker Man in New Cross

Tomorrow night (Thursday 15th June) sees a showing of The Wicker Man at Cafe Crema. £6 gets you a meal and lots of Christopher Lee and Britt Eckland. Films start: 8.00pm. Doors open 7.30.

Cafe Crema are hosting an 'I love London' film festival next month, with a selection of iconic London films.

Friday, June 09, 2006

I Hear a New World

I hear a new world (I hear a new world)
Calling me (calling me)
I hear a new world (I hear a new world)
Calling me (calling me)
How can I tell them (how can I tell them)
What's in store for me? (what's in store for me?)

A world that is, for one night at SELFS and for the duration of this newsletter, free of the world cup is in store, I promise you.

This month's SELFS has it all, a musical genius, songs inspired from beyond the grave, drugs, dabbling in the occult and a tragic ending. I'm dead excited (as ever). Details on John Repesh's talk about Joe Meek are below.

12th June: John Repsch – The Music, Magic and Madness of Joe MeekJoe Meek is the cult British composer who dabbled in the occult and wrote amazing and sometimes chart-topping songs about séances, satellites and aliens.

Writer and environmentalist John Repsch wrote the biography of Joe Meek in 1989. Bizarre and fascinating though Meek's life story was, Repsch had to publish it himself.

The book has since spawned a BBC 2 'Arena' documentary, an avalanche of CDs and is scheduled to be made into a film this year starring Rhys Ifans.

SELFS meets every second Monday of the month upstairs at The Spanish Galleon, 48 Greenwich Church Street, SE10 9BL. Talks start at 8.00pm and costs £2.50 / £1.50 concessions.

Greenwich Mainline & DLR: Turn left from the main exit, walk about 5-10 minutes, the Galleon is on your right, at the cross-roads. Cutty Sark DLR:

Turn left from the station, right when you get to the road, the Spanish Galleon is across the road. Buses: 177, 180, 188, 199, 286, 386.

Contact: or

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Boppity Bopp

Lucky Soul + Autokat + Wolf Gang DJs playing out twisted rock n roll, retro grooves and bleak disco…

Friday 2nd June Doors: 8pm – 12.15am (bands finish 11pmish) Price: £3 Venue: The Montague Arms, 289 Queens Road, New Cross, SE15 2PA ()

Nearest Tube: New Cross Gate

Nearest BR: Queens Rd, Peckham

Tuesday, May 30, 2006


Me and Clare joined in on the Lewisham Walking Festival on Tuesday but tagging along on a walk around Ladywell.

I just fancied a walk around some semi-local environs as well as wanting to see the site of the actual Ladywell. There’s been some debate amongst locals interested in things like ‘healing wells’ about the actual location of the Ladywell so I thought I’d been shown by experts.

First, though, we started in Ladywell and Brockley Cemetery, they used to be separate but the wall between them was knock down in the seventies when Deptford borough was absorbed into Lewisham. We visited the grave of Sir George Grove; editor of Grove’s A Dictionary of Music and Musicians is buried (one for Neil there) and a mournful statue of a young girl which is a monument to a Victorian teenage girl murdered in Eltham.

It was paid for by public subscription which struck me as a bit more tasteful than putting flowers on the site of her murder. She’s tiny, for the pregnant seventeen year old she’s supposed to represent

The Victorians were into permanent statements like statues, I suppose, while we’re into some strange cross between sentimentality and morbid curiosity. I noticed some harden wax from a melted candle of the ground, either an offering, like Kitty Jay's Grave in Devon or the mark of that strange, graveyard dwelling nocturnal pack of creatures: the lesser-spotted morbid teenage drinker.

Can’t find a picture of the monument on the web; there were also some brilliant modernist graves, mostly in the Brockley section, that were a relief from all the cracked and sombre (but still breath-taking) Victorian angels. Once I’ve got a new battery in the camera I’ll head down there and take a few photographs to show anyone who’s interested. I’ve notices that photographs of graveyards are popular.

Local shop keepers and police chiefs were honoured and flora and fauna was admired. It dawned on me that Clare and I were just about the youngest people on the walk and probably the sanest. I think all small-interest groups have got a particular level of eccentricity among them. Friendly bunch though, the Ladywell Society; they meet once a month in the waiting room of Ladywell Station to discuss local history and issues, which all seems impossibly arcane to me.

We stopped at the grave of the poet Ernest Dowson, who I’ve been trying to find for ages, and I was pleased to see that lavender and wild flowers were growing from his dilapidated grave and a rosary had been hung from the broken headstone. The bloke giving the walk said there are often offerings left on his grave.

We left the cemetery are the Ladywell end and walked down the hill toward the Ravensbourne. The names of the streets to our right were shown to be named after relations of the developer who put these houses up in Ladywell. Hence names like Francemary Road, Arthurdon Road and Elsiemaud Road. The developer himself gave his name to Chudleigh Road.

A plaque on 148 Ladywell Road describes a well, now dry, that was visited for “medical purposes until the 19th century”. It’s in the back garden, apparently.

This, though, is not the ‘Ladywell’. That, too, has dried up and the picturesque wall and little roof, in true well style, has been knocked down and now replaced by an exact replica. It sits in the car park of a training centre run by Lewisham council and can be found just off Slagrove Place, on the left after the old workhouse gates.

Go and have a look….

Sunday, May 28, 2006


Lewisham No2ID is the local branch of the national campaign against compulsory identity cards. The law has now been passed, so from 2008 you will have to attend an appointment to be photographed, have your fingerprints taken and iris scanned, or be fined up to £2500.

ID cards could still be killed off by mass non-compliance, as happened with the poll tax in the early 1990s, and No2ID is encouraging people to pledge to refuse to co-operate. More invasive surveillance is under discussion, including contactless or radio frequency ID chips in passports which can be read remotely, enabling the passport holder to be tracked without them even having to show their documents to anybody.

There are many arguments against ID cards, like the fact that they would actually make little difference against the threat in whose name they are justified – the July 7th bombers made no attempt to conceal their identity, presumably they wanted to be known and recognised as 'martyrs'.

But for me, there is a simple test to be applied to these and similar measures, which I call the Primo Levi test. Levi, who survived Auschwitz, reminded us that similar atrocities were always a possibility, and that we 'are so dazzled by power and prestige as to forget our essential fragility... close by the train is waiting'. In his excellent Between Camps, Paul Gilroy reflects that 'Levi’s argument should not be an open licnese to indulge in paranoia. It loses none of its force when we appreciate that the trains are not necessarily being loaded right now in our own neighbourhoods. Fascism is not permanently on the brink of assuming terroristic governmental power. His point is more subtle. If we wish to live a good life and enjoy just relations with our fellows, our conduct must be closely guided not just by this terrible history but by the knowledge that these awful possibilities are always much closer than we imagine. To prevent their reappearance we must dwell on them and with them'.

The Primo Levi test involves simply asking whether a power would make persecution (and maybe worse) easier if it fell into hands so inclined. It should be obvious that very few Jews in Europe would have survived the Holocaust if the Nazis had simply had to press a button to identify who and where they all were. Of course no one imagines that fascism is on the cards here (anymore than many imagined the possibility of the Holocaust in Germany beforehand), but recent history in various parts of the world hardly give grounds for confidence that anywhere is immune to the possibility of mass repression and state terror. In any event, Levi is surely right that the safest course of action is to assume that it could happen (even if in the remote future) and act accordingly.

All of this is quite apart from how similar powers are already being used within this country to criminalise human beings whose only crime is to be born to parents without permission to exist here – witness the fingerprinting of children under five in asylum centres in Croydon and Liverpool.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Brockley Max

Brockley Max is on from June 2 to the 10th with various arts, music and other events happening across SE4.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Is there Life on the New Cross Road?

Alexi Sayle once asked 'Is there life on Mars? Is there life in Peckham?'. Sometimes I ask the same question about the New Cross Road in the day time when not much seems to be happening except the traffic and Sainsburys. However there are some hidden gems. Yesterday I had a fine cup of coffee at Cafe Crema (306 New Cross Road). The Cafe itself is hardly hidden, but did you know it's got a big outside space at the back where you can sit in the sun on a summers day? They also have film showings there, with something coming up tomorrow night (Thursday).

Then there's Morph records in the basement of the Rising Sun cafe at 275 New Cross Road (between New X gate station and New X Library). Morph has a good selection of low price vinyl and CDs, especially indie stuff, and you can also pick up music from local bands, flyers etc. Definitely worth making the trip down stairs for.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Walk the Line

Lots of interesting strolls around South East London this month as part of the Lewisham Walking Festival. Among the highlights still to come are a Ladywell history and nature walk tonight (meet 7 pm at the Gatehouse, corner of Ladywell Cemetery at Brockley Grove and Ladywell Road), a New Cross allotments walk tomorrow and a wade through the mud of Deptford Creek at low tide courtesy of the Creekside Centre. If you'd prefer to arrange your own walk when its more convenient, you can download lots of guided walks from London Footprints, including some Deptford walks.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Seager Sunday Session

Seager Distillery Sunday 21st May, a squat party/free festival vibe upstairs in the old gin factory in Deptford... bands playing at a stage in the corner, the best I saw intriguing angularists These New Puritans, Southenders apparently raised on a diet of This Heat, Can and Mark E Smith, missed The Violets but I am sure they were good because they are... projections on the wall, computer animations ('Mortal Kombat animations of a morris dance' says Scott), tv sets, fabric hangings, obligatory man walking around with rat on shoulder, chill out area with massage table and cups of tea for a donation ('did you put that bottle top in'/'No I put a pound in'/'In an ideal world they'd be equivalent'/'in an ideal world we wouldn't need either'), big sound system downstairs in the Mashed Potato Gallery blasting out 'Welcome to Jamrock', messy, busy, noisy, smoky, fun.

9 Days That Shook South London

South London Radical History Group are discussing 'The General Strike: History and Myth' this week on the 80th anniversary of the nine days when millions went on strike in support of the miners. The meetings will feature short presentations on how the strike was organised in South London, followed by a discussion about what it was all about. It takes place on Thursday 25th May, 8 pm at the Pullens Centre, 184 Crampton Street, SE17 (five minutes from Elephant and Castle). Admission is free.

Saturday, May 20, 2006


Next month's Scumfest 2006 promises three days and nights of international anarcho-punk madness, with gigs at the Grosvenor in Stockwell (17 Sidney Road, SW9) to benefit Women Against Rape and other worthy causes, plus a Pirate Punx Picnic. It all happens from Friday 16th to Sunday 18th June.

Deptford Through the Looking Glass

More stuff happening in SE8 this weekend than I've got time to put down here let alone go to - the full programme is at Made in Deptford.

This afternoon sees 'Deptford Through The Looking Glass' a fashion wonderland in St Pauls Church Yard featuring Rubbish Fairy, Ragz N Bone, Holly Berry aka Reclaim Fashion, Artmongers & Prangsta Costumiers.

Tomorrow (Sunday 3 pm) I am doing my 'Deptford fun city' talk at the Albany, covering the musical history of New Cross and Deptford with sounds and images(admission free). After that I will be hot footing it to the Open Arts Platform at the Old Seager Distillery (opposite Deptford Bridge DLR) where between 4 pm and 12 there will be live music including Klaxons, Man Like Me, The Violets, 586, These New Puritans, Team B & Cleckhudders Fax 'with a support cast of performers, magicians, poets & fools filling the gaps in between' (bargain £1 entrance).

Friday, May 19, 2006

Music for One

Interesting sounding night tomorrow (Saturday 20th May) at the Pullens Centre, 184 Crampton Street SE17. Music for One features sound artist Sherry Ostapovich collaging experimental guitar with filmscape narratives by Neng Yu and Mari King. Also on the bill are John & Carina and Butchers Boy. It all starts at 7 pm.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

How does it feel to be loved?

Finally made it down to London's premier indie pop club How Does it Feel to be Loved? on Friday. The dancefloor of the Canterbury Arms in Brixton was packed with people gyrating to the likes of Belle and Sebastien ('Dog on Wheels'), The Smiths ('Bigmouth Strikes Again'), Decemberists, Velvet Underground, and strangely, Nick Drake (I love Nick Drake but would not put him at the top of a DJ list of dancefloor anthems!). Guest DJ was Clare Wadd, once of Sarah Records. The club plays Motown and Girl Group classics as well as indie pop, which is very welcome as a lot of indie/alternative music is based on an imagined rockist trajectory back to punk which denies soul/pop influences. For me there is a definite thread of broken hearted yearning for a better life from a female (or non-blokey male) perspective linking Diana Ross and Dusty Springfield to Morrissey and Stuart Murdoch.

Recently I've been reading Sunset Song (1932) by Lewis Grassic Gibbon, a (the?) great Scottish novel which includes the following reflections on melancholy music: 'it came on Chris how strange was the sadness of Scottish singing, made for the sadness of the land and sky in dark autumn evenings, the crying of men and women of the land who had seen their lives and lovers sink away in the years, things wept for beside the sheepouchts, remembered at night and in twilight. The gladness and kindness had passed, lived and forgotten, it was Scotland of the mist and rain and crying sea that made the songs'. Take away the references to Scotland and this is as a good a definition of soul music (or maybe before that the blues) as you will find, and indeed of much later music dismissed by the compulsively chirpy as twee miserabilist shoegazing.

A singer must die

Sad news reaches us of the death of Grant McLennan, singer/songwriter with legendary Australian band, The Go Betweens. Listen to 'Spring Rain' or 'Streets of Your Town' and see if you can find anything better. Yeah I know Australia is a bit far South to be included in a South London blogzine, but hey we're not parochial, and anyway The Go Betweens did play at the Deptford Albany and the Half Moon Herne Hill in their time (see list of gigs here).

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Made in Deptford Music Talk

Loads of stuff going on in two weeks time at the Made in Deptford festival weekend, with music and arts action galore.

As part of it I will be doing a talk (with music and pictures) at the Albany on 'Deptford Fun City: a ramble through the musical history of New Cross and Deptford', from music hall to the present. It takes place on Sunday 21st May at 3 pm, and admission is free.

By the way has anybody come across a CD called 'Sing Out Deptford'? Last time I gave a version of this talk somebody told me that this exists and includes a version of 'the Deptford Dip' - a 1930s dance hit. I would love to track this down.

On a more up to date musical note, our attention has been drawn to this interview with Danger Mouse of Gnarls Barkley about his time living in these parts, even it wasn't such a happy experience: "'I fucking hated it,' he says. 'London just beat me down, man. I was working in a pub in London Bridge for two years and taking the bus home to New Cross every night. I was just working, trying to meet the rent. I didn't see the sun for, like, three weeks and I was broke and single. It wasn't what I expected.'"

Monday, May 01, 2006

Deptford Jack in the Green

May Day was seen in fine style in Deptford today with the Jack in the Green procession through the streets and pubs of the area, with the Jack (that's the foliage pyramid above) accompanied by dancers, musicians, drinkers and of course a bear. Fowlers Troop have been doing this for a few years now, but this year they were joined by some new faces such as the Prangsta crowd, creating a big sprawling carnival atmosphere. Lots more pictures at Baggage Reclaim.

Shape Moreton

Tomorrow night at the Amersham Arms in New Cross sees 'Shape Moreton: forward sound' a night of 'songs, instrumentals, soundfields, improvisations' featuring Charles Hayward and other free music luminaries. It starts at 9 pm, entrance is £5 (£3 concessions)