Monday, December 31, 2007

Lewisham Teddy Boy Trouble

The Lewisham Odeon, mentioned in the previous post on David Bowie, started life in 1932 as the Gaumont Palace and was demolished in 1991. In 1956, it was the scene of 'Teddy Boy' trouble, as reported by the Times, Times, 11 September 1956:

‘Police were called to cinemas in London and Liverpool last night to deal with disturbances among youthful audiences as showings of the film ‘Rock Around the Clock’... Police dogs were used to break up a crowd outside the Gaumont cinema, Lewisham, SE, where the same film is being shown. Trouble began during the performance when a youth jumped on the rail in front of the stage, walked along it and chanted ‘Rock – rock – rock’. Others teenagers ‘jived’ in the isles.

30 policemen arrived. One was knocked between two rows of seats when he tried to stop dancing. Police and commissionaires ejected about 50 youths. Six youths will appear in court at Woolwich SE today, charged with insulting behaviour outside the Granada cinema, Woolwich, where the film had been shown’.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Bowie at Lewisham Odeon 1973

David Bowie's gig at the Lewisham Odeon in May 1973 on his Ziggy Stardust tour was a life changing moment for some of those who were there. Boy George later recalled:

"The first time I saw DAVID BOWIE performing was on THE OLD GREY WHISTLE TEST, on TV. Everything changed, and that was basically the end of normality for me. I was obsessive about BOWIE. I saw my first ZIGGY STARDUST concert when I was 13 at the Lewisham Odeon - ZIGGY STARDUST AND THE SPIDERS FROM MARS - and followed him to every concert hall and radio gig. Saturdays and Sundays, and sometimes after school, I'd go to Beckenham on the bus and just stand outside his house and hang out with all the other fans. We'd talk about him nonstop, about his latest records. latest outfits, his boots, his hair. One day we were being quite noisy outside his home, and his wife, Angie, opened the window and shouted: 'Will you all fuck off!' It was the highlight of our year; we were all quite chuffed to be acknowledged."

There's an audio recording of part of the soundtrack and gig at Lewisham (the gig starts at about 6:40 with Wild Eyed Boy/All the Young Dudes/Oh you pretty things:

The day after the Lewisham gig, he moved on to the Winter Fardens in Bournemouth. There's a remarkable Nationwide TV report form this which gives a flavour of the time (not sure if there is any Lewisham footage in the video, most of it is from Bournemouth).

There's a bootleg of the whole Lewisham gig out there too, the full set list was apparently:

Ode To Joy
Hang On To Yourself
Ziggy Stardust
Watch That Man
Wild Eyed Boy From Freecloud/All The Young Dudes/Oh! You Pretty Things
Moonage Daydream
Space Oddity
The Jean Genie
Time Width Of A Circle
Let's Spend The Night Together
Drive In Saturday
Suffragette City
Cracked Actor
Rock'n'Roll Suicide
(updated 5 January 2012)

Friday, December 28, 2007

Don Letts in Forest Hill

I have been reading 'Culture Clash: Dread Meets Punk Rockers' (SAF: London, 2007), the autobiography of Don Letts, DJ, film-maker, member of Big Audio Dynamite and general mischief maker. Don grew up in Brixton, going to Christchurch Primary School and Archbishop Tennison secondary, but during the punk period when he was DJing at the Roxy club (early 1977) he 'moved to a grand old house in Forest Hil, built on the second highest point in London' with his then girlfriend Jeanette Lee - later a member of Public Image Ltd and later still co-owner of Rough Trade records. Leo Williams and JR, who were in black post-punk band The Basement 5, lived there and 'Both Joe Strummer and Chrissie Hynde also lived there at different times'.

Letts also mentions 'hanging out with John Lydon after the Pistols' gig at the Nashville. We went back to my house in Forest Hill and spent the whole night talking about reggae music and Jamaican culture'. 'After the shows at the Roxy, Chrissie Hynde, some of the Slits, the Clash, Generation X and the Pistols would hang out in Forest Hill, often all at the same time', while Letts spliced together the super 8 film that would become 'The Punk Rock Movie'. All in all, the house in Forest Hill sounds like a punk powerhouse. Not sure of the address or whether the present occupiers would necessarily want to know if they've read the book which also describes a sad teenage suicide in the house.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

BNP Ballet Groupie: the Lewisham Connection

The papers have been full recently of the story of the relationship between Simone Clarke, English National Ballet dancer, and Richard Barnbrook, British National Party councillor in Barking and Dagenham and the party's prospective candidate for Mayor of London. Among the ironies of this story is that Clarke has a mixed-race daughter and Barnbrook has previously gone on record as saying that "I'm not opposed to mixed marriages but their children are washing out the identity of this country's indigenous people."

Sadly for South East London, ballet groupie Barnbrook is from Lewisham. He was apparently born in Catford, and has boasted: 'I am a Streetleader for my local Council, which involves removing graffiti, antisocial behaviour and other forms of vandalism from South East London'. I believe that Lewisham is the only local Council in SE London with a Streetleader scheme, so assume that Barnbrook has been living in Lewisham until recently - although he now claims to be living in Barking & Dagenham, as required of a local councillor.

The racist BNP now seems to be targeting parts of Lewisham, particularly in the Downham area. Its London website recently boasted that 'The British National Party was out in force in south Lewisham last weekend (24/25 November 2007) as over 50 members put out around 25,000 leaflets urging local residents to vote for the party and our Mayoral candidate, Richard Barnbrook, in the GLA elections next May'.

As documented at Stop the BNP, the party are currently having some welcome internal disputes with splits, expulsions and accusations of illegal activity. Since the recipients of the leadership's bullying tactics have been other BNP members, our sympathy is limited. But we should bear in mind that organisations like this show some of their true colours in their internal dealings, and only wait the opportunity to apply similar, or worse measures to their real opponents. We might note for instance the history in Germany of the Nazi SD (the Security Service of the SS). 'Its initial task had been to spy on Party members, and thus to give the SS an ascendancy over the regular Party apparatus' (Hannah Arendt, Eichmann in Jersualem: a Report on the Banality of Evil) - soon its officers including Reinhardt Heydrich and Adolf Eichmann were rounding up Jews and others for extermination.

Check out Lewisham Anti-Racist Action Group for local plans to oppose BNP. And watch out for tutu wearing nazis in your area being followed by doe-eyed ex-porn film directors, er sorry streetleaders.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Deptford Odeon

This fine Art Deco building is the Deptford Odeon cinema, designed by George Coles in 1938 and sadly demolished in the 1980s. I believe it was on the corner of Deptford Broadway and Church Street. The photo is by Seadipper at Flickr.

It is amazing that buildings like this can be allowed to just disappear, so it is heartening to hear that progress has been made in the campaign to have the Rivoli Ballroom in Brockley listed by English Heritage. According to comments at Brockley Central, English Heritage may already have listed the ballroom, if not an application has certainly been submitted by people anxious to prevent its redevelopment.

If you are a facebook user, check out the Save the Rivoli group.

Friday, December 21, 2007

New Cross Xmas 1884: the Fun, the Frolic and the Mirth

Plenty of Pantomime action across South London this Christmas, with Aladdin at the Broadway Theatre in Catford, the Tinderbox at Deptford Albany and further afield Peter Pan in Bromley.
Nothing in New Cross itself, unlike in 1884 when 'the Great National Xmas Fair and South London Healtheries' took place in New Cross Public Hall. For 6d admission the attractions, as advertised on this poster, included Athletes, Juggling, Circus, Knife throwing, Swings, Theatre, Pantomime, Aunt Sally and Marrionettes.

Another poster for this event, held in the British Library's excellent Evanion collection of theatre memorabilia, provides more detail promising "Grand circus including the choicest gems of equestrian art! The most accomplished athletes and gymnasts! the most amusing, funny & grotesque clowns! the clever stud of trained horses and ponies! in fact the best circus in or out of London. … A Richardson's show! - on a scale not attempted in England for the last 50 years, the Grand Spectacular Pantomime entitled 'Harlequin Black Eyed Susan or the Black and Blue-Eyed Captain', supported by well-know London artistes...Burlesque, Comedy, Drama!". All this plus The Crown Minstrels ('a talented troupe of Negro Minstrels, Manager Mr. J. De Voye'), 'Phantasmagoria, or ghost illusions. Under the able direction of Mr. J D Humphreys' plus 'Peculiar dwarfs', 'Giant Ladies', elephants, leopards and performing camels. In short 'The Fun, the Frolic and the Mirth'.

I'm not sure where in New Cross the Public Hall stood, but the poster stated that for this event it was enlarged to hold 20,000 people. Also I have no idea what 'South London Healtheries' denotes. Any information/ideas welcome.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Xmas Card of the Year

My Favourite South London Christmas Card Award 2007 goes to this one received at work from the friendly architects at Cottrell & Vermeulen, a practice based in Iliffe Street, SE17 (near the Elephant and Castle) - think that's where this photo was taken.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Live at the Montague Arms

I mentioned WMFU's collection of London songs last week, looking around its archive I find that as a public service they have also uploaded for your listening pleasure recordings of 'The Two Petes', legendary house band at the Montague Arms in New Cross since the early 1970s. Included is an unbelievable medley of Macarthur Park with 70s instrumental popcorn which really does have to be heard to be believed, not to mention a cover of Neil Young's After the Goldrush 'in a club style' as Vic Reeves used to say.

More about these records here. I haven't been down to the pub on a Sunday afternoon for a while - are they still going strong?

Monday, December 17, 2007

Earl Grey and The Tea Ladies

I didn't managed to stay for the whole show at the Pullens Centre (Crampton Street, SE17) yesterday, so missed Bucky and Butcher's Boy. But in addition to sampling cake and mulled wine I did get to see Earl Grey and the Tea Ladies and enjoyed their versions of film themes played on trombone, trumpet and accordion. As well as 'Moon River', 'The Good, the Bad & the Ugly' and 'The Godfather', they finished off with an instrumental version of 'Anarchy in the UK'. Afterwards there was a few short films, including Chris Jones stalking pigeons and crows in Burgess Park.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Folk Yule

A good night of story and song at South East London Folklore Society's Folk Yule on Thursday night, upstairs in the Old Kings Head by London Bridge. Music included Richard Sanderson's electronic settings of folk songs such as Hares on the Mountain, complete with some fine bird song samples; Hawthorn Well singing Twickenham Ferry; and me singing a couple of south london songs - On Snow Hill, about Greenwich Park, and The Old Kings Head about, well, that's self explanatory (see Transpontine Sound, my embryonic music site). There was also a story about a Christmas tree by Penny Hedge and some entertaining anglo-saxon riddles from Sarah Rundle.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Lewisham Rail Crash

Fifty years ago, on the 4th December 1957, 90 people were killed in the Lewisam Rail Crash just outside St John's railway station. In thick fog the 4.56pm Cannon Street to Ramsgate express collided with the stationary 5.18pm Charing Cross to Hayes train. The impact brought down the Lewisham to Nunhead railway bridge, which collapsed onto the first three carriages of the Ramsgate train. Last week's Newsshopper includes people's memories of the event, and there was a memorial service at St Johns Church.

Last month was also the 40th anniversary of the Hither Green rail crash on 5 November 1967, in which 40 people died.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Bucky & Butchers Boy

Festive Sunday afternoon fun this weekend at the Pullens Centre, Crampton Street SE17 (near Elephant & Castle) with a gig featuring Bucky and Butchers Boy. All this plus cake and short films!
Sunday 16th December, 1 to 7 pm.

Pan's Labyrinth at Cafe Crema

One of my favourite films is being shown next week in New Cross at Cafe Crema, where South London Solidarity Federation/Class Acts presents Pan's Labyrinth. Guillermo Del Toro's Oscar-winning fairytale for adults is set in Spain in 1944 at the end of the civil war where the conflict between Francoists and the last anti-fascist partisans is mirrored in a young girl's encounters with good and evil in the underworld.

Wednesday 19th December 2007 at 7.30 for food, 8.00pm for film. £4 including veggie food at The Café Crema 306 New Cross Rd SE14.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

More London Songs

WFMU is a New Jersey-based freeform radio station, a bit like London’s Resonance FM. On its blog, David Noades has posted a remarkable collection of London songs – a mixture of music hall, comedy and other ‘light entertainment’ gems mostly recorded in the 1960s and 70s. It’s the kind of stuff that you would only find by trawling through charity shop vinyl and listening to some dreadful records – actually a lot of the tracks he posts are dreadful but strangely compelling to Londonists, crap cockernee accents and all. Among the transpontine numbers are Dick Emery’s Bermondsey (‘outside the pub on a Saturday night you can take part in a heavyweight fight’) and a version of Lambeth Walk by 60s TV hostess Monica Rose (thanks to Bob for spotting this one).

As a further contribution to this collection, I have just posted a Youtube clip of the strange spectacle of Fozzie Bear singing the music hall number Wot'cher (Knocked Em in the Old Kent Road) on The Muppet Show complete with Pearly King outfit! American child star Shirley Temple also sang this in the 1936 film Little Princess (clip also on Youtube).

Wotcher (Knocked 'Em in the Old Kent Road)

Yes, it's Fozzie Bear singing the South London music hall classic on The Muppet Show!

Thursday, November 29, 2007

The Weird in New Cross

I don't work or study at Goldsmiths College in New Cross but have recently woken up to some of the wonders therein - particularly the fact that they frequently hold free events open to the public featuring top class international speakers. In the past few weeks, as well as taking part in the Lewisham 77 event, I've listened to Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak and been present at a fantastic event featuring Paul Gilroy and Linton Kwesi Johnson playing reggae records and riffing about African consciousness.

There's another event on this weekend on The Weird, expect lots of Lovecraftian business and a presentation by Mark K-Punk on The Door and The Wall (a story by H.G. Wells). Not sure I can make it this Saturday, but there's more about it here.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Blake in South London

Today is the 250th anniversary of the birth of William Blake, visionary poet, artist, and radical. Blake spent part of his adult life in Lambeth at 13 Hercules Buildings, but he was familiar with many parts of South London.

From childhood he spent time wandering all over London and famously had a vision of angels in a tree in Peckham Rye. This is commemorated today in a mural near Goose Green (East Dulwich) . The incident is related by Blake's first biographer, Alexander Gilchrist:

"On Peckham Rye (by Dulwich Hill) it is, as he will in after years relate, that while quite a child, of eight or ten perhaps, he has his "first vision." Sauntering along, the boy looks up and sees a tree filled with angels, bright angelic wings bespangling every bough like stars. Returned home he relates the incident, and only through his mother's intercession escapes a thrashing from his honest father, for telling a lie". Where exactly this took place is unknown; Peckham Rye at that time covered a much larger area than the current park. Blake's writings are full of references to the South London landscape:

"Wild Thyme from Wimbledon's green and impurpled hills" (Milton).

"Hand had his Furnace on Highgate's heights and it reached To Brockley Hills across the Thames" (Jerusalem).

"Jerusalem came down in a dire ruin over all the Earth, She fell cold from Lambeth's Vales in groans and dewy death" (Vala, or the Four Zoas)

"The Surrey hills glow like the clinkers of the furnace; Lambeth's Vale Where Jerusalem's foundations began, where they were laid in ruin... Return, return to Lambeth's Vale. O building of human souls!" (Milton)

"...from Lambeth We began our Foundations, lovely Lambeth. O lovely Hills of Camberwell, we shall behold you no more in glory and pride, For Jerusalem lies in ruins and the Furnaces of Los are builded there" (Jerusalem)

See also Dance of Albion. The mural on Goose Green in East Dulwich was originally painted by Stan Peskett in 1993.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007


I cannot contemplate going for a wander without plotting where to stop off for refreshments en route. My current favourite is Brocca in Brockley (directly opposite Brockley station), where I've got in the bad habit of making myself late for work by having a 'quick' breakfast treat. As well as very reasonably priced coffee and cakes they have a small library of books you can borrow.

Saturday mornings sometimes find me in the Laban centre in Deptford Creekside. The cafe there is right next to the Creek, depending on where you sit you can have a good view of the river, and of course you will be sitting in one of the most interesting new buildings in London. It's run by Feast Your Eyes ('the ethical catering co-operative') and you don't have to have anything to do with the dance classes to enjoy its food and drink. Anybody can pop into the cafe in the daytime Monday to Saturday.

Friday, November 23, 2007

New Cross Soundscape

Richard at Baggage Reclaim has posted a sound recording of one of his favourite London sounds, to be found on the train 'somewhere between Lewisham and New Cross ... Every morning I take the 7.07 train from Hither Green, which is mercifully quiet, and listen to the sound on this recording. I think it's the sounds of the springs below the carriages compressing and expanding as the train sways from side to side. The sound seems to run through an almost musical sequence of harmonics". Check it out - it does sound like some strange mechanical singing.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

The Magic Theatre

OK I know this site recently has got a bit obsessed with The Rivoli Ballroom, but we have to mention an exciting development this weekend - a new club night:

'The Magic Theatre is the first of a series of club nights at the Rivoli Ballroom in south-east London beginning with Act I on Saturday, November 24. The club is the place to go for everyone of any sexuality and gender identity who loves to dress up and dance. The Rivoli Ballroom is one of the most dramatic and beautiful venues in London, and is a magnificent stage for costumes and outfits that are quirky, sensual and/or spectacular. It is a perfect place to make a grand entrance, and to dance until you can dance no more. Doors open at 6pm for the Dressing Room, pre-club Costumier (Prangsta Website) and Make-up Service with professional nail technician. The club opens at 8pm, with a DJ, live band and performance artists. We are licensed until 2am. Dress Code: Dress UP! Tickets at £12 are available on the door or through Ticketweb".

More details here.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Agent Provocateur at the Rivoli

...and another Rivoli Ballroom shoot, this was from Agent Provocateur 2005 website. Designers Large explain: 'The theme this year was magic. Shot at the Rivoli Ballroom in Brockley, we were immediately inspired by Victorian Music Halls, Vaudiville and turn of the century circus posters'.

There is certainly something erotically charged about the Rivoli's red velvet, not to mention the sense of being in a film set with all the possibilities of re-invention and role play. Night of a Thousand Stars, which was held there in the mid to late 1990s, was certainly one of the sexiest clubs I've been to. I will post some flyers and memories here soon, or at least those that are decent.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Another Rivoli Shoot

Here's another suspected Rivoli Ballroom fashion shoot, spotted in 'Glamour: Britain's No.1 Women's Magazine' and featuring Hannah Murray and April Pearson, also known as Cassie and Michelle from Skins. My informant wishes it to be known that she didn't buy it, it came free with another magazine honest!

More Cronenberg in Deptford

Following recent post about David Cronenberg's Eastern Promises and its Deptford location, a comment has alerted me to the director's previous film, Spider (with Miranda Rcihardson and Ralph Fiennes). The commenter suggests that the Crown and Spectre in Friendly Street was used as a location in this film.

Confusingly, a detailed article about the production of film states 'As most London pubs have been modernized, finding period ones proved difficult. The Salisbury was found in Haringey, and the other pub, The Dog and Beggar, in Deptford'. I am not aware of any 'Dog and Beggar' pub locally (there is of course 'The Dog and Bell'), so I think this is wrong - the fictional pub in the film is called The Dog and Beggar, I assume that the Crown & Spectre is the actual location, especially as the landlady in the pub says so!

I suppose the only way to be certain is to watch the film and then check out the pub. Any volunteers?

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Peckham Literary Festival

Peckham Literary Festival starts tomorrow, with four days of interesting events kicking off at Review book shop (131 Bellenden Road) with Jenny Turner talking at 7:30 on Muriel Spark's novel 'The Ballad of Peckham Rye'.

Final event on Sunday 18 November (6pm) sees Mervyn Millar, one of the puppeteers on 'WarHorse', currently at the National Theatre, talking about the process of creating the show with its life-sized horse puppets. The talk will be followed by a programme of short performances by students of puppetry from the Central School of Speech and Drama. This takes place at Sassoon Gallery, 213 Blenheim Grove (behind Bar Story).

All events are free, but some have limited places and require booking in advance. Check website for details.

Eastern Promises

I haven't been to see Eastern Promises yet, the new David Cronenberg film, but Deptford Dame has and notes the 'appearance of a shadowy Deptford location - not once, but twice in the film! The alleyway leading to the river on Watergate Street is apparently a very good place for getting rid of unwanted bodies. According to one of the film's shadier characters, "the current keeps the bodies under the surface until it gets around the corner"... cut to low tide scene next to Thames Barrier'.

The location is mentioned by Cronenberg in an interview in Time Out: ‘When we found Watergate Street in Deptford, which is where the body is dumped into the river during ‘Eastern Promises’, I found that very few Londoners knew of it. People who’ve seen the movie ask me where it is. It’s a place where women and children came down to the river to say goodbye to sailors.’ I gather there's also a scene with Naomi Watts eating in a burger bar in Rotherhithe.

For other South East London film location see previous posts

Sunday, November 11, 2007

All roads lead to New Cross

Disco Riot Romance, previously a big night in Plymouth, is putting on its first London night at the New Cross Inn on Tuesday 13th November. Live music from The Starts plus DJs.
Meanwhile Big in Japan, previously a big night in Bournemouth, have started a monthly night at The Amersham Arms, next one on December 5th.

Rivoli Ballroom

A sumptuous photo-shoot in yesterday's Guardian magazine shot in The Rivoli Ballroom in Brockley. Photos like these are a reminder of why it would be a tragedy if this place closed. The building itself is nothing special from the outside (presumably why it's not listed) but the red velvet interior is unique, hence its use in various videos and films - as well as for its primary purpose of dancing. The famous Club Montepulciano nights of the 1990s are long gone, but there are regular jive nights there and more.

Not quite sure of what's happening with the Rivoli right now - Brockley Central broke the news that it was for sale for a cool £10 million. However the Estate Agent entry now says that its not on the market. Most worrying on the latter is the reference to it not only as a ballroom but as 'a plot of land described as oblong and measures 15,000 sq ft in size'. The prospect of the maple dance floor being torn out to make way for flats makes the heart sink.

Monday, November 05, 2007

A Greenwich Suicide

While politicians continue to scapegoat migrants, some are paying the price, as this story from last week's Newshopper shows: 'A Nepalise man took his own life after struggling to settle in England, an inquest heard. Bodh Paudyal was found by his wife, Gayatree Timsina, in the morning of July 6. He had cut his neck with a razor at their home in Myra Street, Greenwich. The 47-year-old was taken to Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Woolwich, where he died the following day due to lack of oxygen to the brain caused by blood loss. The engineer arrived in the UK in 2005 but was unable to get a job for which he was qualified. Southwark coroner John Sampson said a note left by Mr Paudyal said he been distressed because he thought people were spreading rumours he was in the country illegally. The coroner recorded a verdict Mr Paudyal took his own life'.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Fred Copeman, a Deptford socialist

Interesting article by Jonathan Derrick in The Lewisham Local History Society Journal about the colourful life of Fred Copeman, a sailor who played a leading role in the 1931 Invergordon mutiny and then settled in Deptford where he joined the Communist Party, living with local CP activists Kath and Sandy Duncan. He was jailed in Brixton Prison and Wormwood Scubs for his activities with the National Unemployed Workers Movement in the 1930s, and then went to Spain to fight in the International Brigades, becoming at one point the commander of the British Batallion.

At Lewisham Registry Office in 1938 he married Kitty Banks, who he had met through the Deptford Young Communist League (her parents ran Lewisham Socialist Sunday School). The reception was attended by CP leaders Harry Pollitt and Tom Mann, but within a year Copeman had left the party - a visit to the Soviet Union seemed to have been the turning point, when on a visit to a factory he observed the same working conditions he had fought against at home (see article here). He went on to be a Lewisham Labour councillor in the 1940s and 50s, and died in 1983.

Friday, November 02, 2007

London Pubs

Next Thursday (8th November) at South East London Folklore Society, Antony Clayton (author of Subterranean City) talks on 'The Folklore of London Pubs'. As usual it's at The Old King's Head, Kings Head Yard, 45-49, Borough High St, London, SE1 1NA. Talk starts at 8.00pm, £2.50 / £1.50 concessions.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Trains to Brazil

Today's conviction of the Metropolitan Police for the the 2005 shooting of a Brazilian man, Jean Charles de Menezes, reminds me of one of the best songs of last year, Trains to Brazil by The Guillemots.

Although written in 2002, it's name was changed to mark the killing of De Menezes in Stockwell tube station - which I guess almost qualifies it for inclusion in our South London songs list. The lyrics of the song, with their references to 'prophets and their bombs' also gained an added poignancy in the aftermath of the tube and bus bombs of 7 July 2005.

Nights at the Albany

Some interesting nights coming up at the Albany in Deptford.

From the 8th to 10th November Don Letts presents 'Speakers' Corner': 'A new live music theatre performance, spearheaded by film and music maverick Don Letts that seeks a contemporary response to the 200th anniversary of the abolition of the British slave trade. Seven lyricists including rapper and poet Skinnyman, human beatboxer Mad Flow and spoken word artist Malika Booker, will examine the concept of slavery in 2007’s multi-cultural generation, from political asylum through to the influence of Hip Hop’s bling culture'. Don Letts seems to be around a lot locally at the moment, DJing at The Amersham Arms and the Love Music Hate Racism gig at Goldsmiths in the last couple of weeks. I know he used to live in Forest Hill, not sure of his current locale.

They've also got Charlie Dark doing a kids show and a gig from Duke Special (November 21st) - a man who wrote a song, Brixton Leaves, after a gig at The Windmill.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Deptford Pudding

Deptford Pudding is apparently a kind of bread pudding with added lemon. The old recipe for it is up on The Great British Cookbook. Anybody tried it or know anything about its history?

Sunday, October 28, 2007

South London Nights Out Dancing: 1954

From the South London Press, 30th April 1954, here's some adverts for going out dancing at the Wimbledon Palais, the Brixtoria Ballroom Club (205 Stockwell Road), Joyce Harrison's School of Dancing at the Peckham Unionist Club (Commercial Way, SE15) and Geoff Holden's School of Dancing (34 St Mary's Road, SE15).

Friday, October 26, 2007

Lewisham '77 events

Two events coming up to mark the 30th anniversary of the anti-fascist Battle of Lewisham. First up tomorrow night (October 27th) is a Love Music Hate Racism gig at Goldsmiths Student Union (all welcome) featuring among other things a set by Don Letts.

Then in two weeks time (November 10th) there's a free half day event, also at Goldsmiths in New Cross, with films and speakers.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

South Eats London

South Eats London is a new night at the Deptford Arms by the people who used to do the excellently-named Short Skirt Long Jacket. They promise 'the shiniest in new electro, indie and artpop', this week featuring 'Dora Brilliant, the low-fat ghost music of Hong Kong In The 60s and the bubble-like dreampop of Shimura Curves. And its all FREE!' on Saturday 27th October, 8 pm - 1 am at The Deptford Arms, 52 Deptford High Street.

Friday, October 19, 2007

New Cross Stock Car Racing

Stock Car racing is a motorsport based around the premise of using ordinary cars rather than special racing cars. In its early days it seems to have been a chaotic affair of bangers smashing into each other and turning over.

Its local significance is that according to Pete Marsh (from where this fine picture was sourced), the very first stock car race on British soil took place at the New Cross speedway stadium, off Ilderton Road, on Good Friday, 16th April 1954. A 26,000 sell-out crowd attended with as many as 20,000 more were locked out of the packed venue.

The South London Press reported of the night: 'This is not a sport for the statistician, beyond a pure record that a French driver won the final. Thrills and spills are the points that count with the crowd. It gives them the thing they want in speedway, tumbles and accidents without anybody getting hurt... Cars were bumped and rolled over and over with their drivers getting out afterwards without a scratch. Wings were wrenched off as cars jostled for position. The ladies were there , and to show that the female sex give nothing away to the to the men one English girl driver won her heat. Unfortunately she was the centre of a three way crash in the final and never finished' (SLP 21.4.1054).

Two weeks later 48 drivers attempted to 'turn over or wreck each other in their bid for the £50 prize for the winner of the final'. The competitors included East London's 'Oily' Wells, the crowd's favourite on the first night, ex-New Cross speedway star George Craig and two women - 'English girl Tanya Crouch and French driver Michele Cancre d'Orgeix' (SLP 30.4.54). Not long afterwards, Stock Car racing left New Cross for Harringay in north London.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Magda Pniewska

Let's not get too carried away with our New Cross beautiful neighbourhood hype.

Passed this memorial to Magda Pniewska, 26 year old Polish care worker, on the way to work yesterday. She was on her way back from work at Manley Court Nursing Home home when she was shot dead in John Williams Close, New Cross.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Kender Street Art

I like these pictures on the hoardings around the building site on the corner of Kender Street, New Cross.

Better still, is it true they're building a new library there (among other things)? Possibly even one that has more than a handful of books and opens a bit more often than the current one in New Cross.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Shoreditch is dead, long live New Cross?

On the back of publicity about the re-launched Amersham Arms, there's been a proliferation of articles in the London papers talking up the area. A piece in Time Out this week declared 'Shoreditch is dead, long live New Cross'. Meanwhile, the Standard declared that 'Something hip is happening in New Cross', printing a picture of Sophie and Ian from Rubbish & Nasty as well as bigging up the Amersham Arms.

The discovery of New Cross is a hardy perennial that seems to crop up on a recurring cycle. A few years ago the Standard published a two page spread on New Cross called 'Welcome to the New Hoxton' (9 July 2004). Around the same time, there was all the music press interest in the 'New Cross scene'. An article in NME (27 October 2005) declared that 'there are a hundred bands, fanzines, DJs and micro-labels doing exciting, inspiring stuff'.

We like to see some acknowledgement that there is life in South East London, but at the same time we don't really want to become the new anywhere else especially if its means the life being squeezed out of the area by rising rents and prices.

It is noteable that some of the 'scene' landmarks mentioned in the 2004 Standard article have already vanished. Moonbow Jakes, described as the 'New Cross artists' hang out and cafe' has closed, while the Temporary Contemporary gallery in the Seagar Distillery was displaced to make way for the Distillery development.

There's a great quote from Ian McQuaid in the latest Standard article: 'The scene is thriving, they say, partly because it is difficult to get to, meaning that locals are forced to stay local. "It is very insular here," says McQuaid. "They're about to shut the East London line for five years to build the extension. By the time they come back we'll all have sprouted claws and wings."'


Bounty: A Case of Preposterous Optimism is an exhibition on at the APT Gallery in Deptford Creekside, featuring work by 16 artists.

The story of the Bounty, and Fletcher Christian's mutiny against Captain William Bligh, has been mythologised in Hollywood and other versions, but it is also a story very much rooted in local history. The Bounty sailed from Deptford in October 1787, on a journey planned to take breadfruit plants from Tahiti to grow on the slave plantations in the West Indies. Indeed pots for the voyage were actually made at a pottery on Creekside itself, possibly even a pottery known to have stood on the current site of the APT gallery.

There's a couple of free talks coming up at the gallery linked to the exhibition. Next Thursday 18 October 2007 at 7 pm Scott Plear presents 'Don’t let truth get in the way of a good story', focusing on interpretation of the Bounty story in film.

Amersham Arms relaunch party

The launch party for the newly refurbished Amersham Arms in New Cross on Thursday was a good one, with The Rakes headlining. It was a bit of a coup seeing them in a small venue (the pub holds 300), as they now sell out the Brixton Academy (which holds 5000). Unsurprizingly, it was packed.

The Amersham Arms is going to be a real addition to South London nightlife, with something on every night of the week. I know it's been a good music pub for years, but it had got a bit stuck in the rut of late. I was pleased to see that the new owners seem to be going for a diverse music policy, rather than just wall to wall lowest common denominator guitar bands. There's Dubdisco next Wednesday with Don Letts DJing, and Redbricks Festival of Folk next Sunday 21st October. Today (Sunday) would be a good time to check it out if you're curious, with free entry to Sunday Best from 5:00 pm featuring Radio One's Rob Da Bank. If you get there early you might even be able to grab one of the big sofas.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

53 bus

Last Thursday, Robert Elms invited people to tell tales about places along the 53 bus route, from Plumstead, through New Cross and on to Elephant and Castle. People called in with memories of the ruins of the original Arsenal ground in Plumstead, the Plumstead Radical Club, a 1960s mechanised street sign in New Cross featuring a man climbing up and down a ladder, and the Age Exchange reminiscence centre in Blackheath. Not to mention George Dyer, the legendary Walworth Road mod tailor - inevitably Robert Elms is having a suit made for him there . You can listen to it again until next Thursday.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Bolivian event in Camberwell

The United Nations recently approved the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples around the world. To celebrate, a Bolivan community group is holding a day of music and dance in Camberwell this weekend. The Bolivian Federation in the United Kingdom event takes place at Synergy, 220 Farmers RoadLondon SE5 0TW on Sunday 14th October 2007 from 1.30pm to 10pm . Ticket £5.00, the proceeds will go to help a Bolivian family in need.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Anubis Returns

Last week a giant statue of Anubis, Egyptian god of the dead was floated down the Thames. The 25-foot fiberglass representation of the jackal-headed god was taken down the river on the back of a cargo ship to Trafalgar Square, before being moved to various locations around the capital.

Basically it's all to promote an exhibition, "Tutankhamun and the Golden Age of the Pharaohs," opening in November in Greenwich at O2. But the veneration of Anubis is nothing new in South London. In 1996 a Roman cemetery was excavated by archaeologists in Southwark in Great Dover Street (part of the original Kent Road). The grave of a young woman included several lamps with images of Anubis, as well as one with a gladiator image, prompting (probably unfounded) speculation that the grave was of a female gladiator.

Pretty Polly of Deptford

Another South London song to add to the list. Pretty Polly of Deptford comes from The Universal Songster (1834). The full version includes spoken interludes, which I haven't included here.

Air—" Meg of Wapping."—(C. Dibdin.)

'Twas at Greenwich fair, I shall never forget,
When my messmates and I were all merry
At the Ship pretty Polly of Deptford I met
Whose cheeks were as red as a cherry.

Her eyes shot a four-pounder plump through my heart,
And though love I had always called folly,
I spilt all my grog o'er a messmate so smart,
While looking askew at Miss Polly.

So I looked like a lubber, my messmates all laughed
While Pardon I asked of Miss Polly.

But you know, British sailors for trifles don't stand,
And Polly forgave me so sweetly,
That I asked, when the fiddler struck up, for her hand,
For at dancing I can jig it featly;

But while we were footing it, 'twas love, I suppose,
Though she smiled, I was all melancholy,
For right I went left, jibbed, and trod on her toes,
Missed stage, and came down with Miss Polly.

So we called 'Jack's alive,' and I footed away,
And came in for a kiss of Miss Polly.

So my heart struck its colours, but don't go to think
I struck only because she was pretty;
I found she'd a heart that could part with the chink,
When distress came athwart her for pity.

She was none of they vixens who scratch out your eyes,
Tip you faintings, and all that queer folly,
Could work at her needle, make puddings and pies
And wa'n't that a charming Miss Polly ?

So she blushed her consent, and a license I bought,
And next day I married Miss Polly.

Friday, October 05, 2007

South London Spooks

No, not MI6 at Vauxhall. We're talking the supernatural/imaginary/anomalous phenomena for which there is a perfectly rational explanation - take your choice, or in true Fortean style keep open the option that all or none of the above may be true.

Any way, on 11th October South East London Folklore Society presents Patsy Langley talking on Ghosts of South London, with a particular focus on Borough and surrounds. 8 pm at the Old King's Head, Kings Head Yard, 45-49, Borough High St, London, SE1 1NA, £2.50 / £1.50 concessions.

Not sure if I can make it due to being treble booked, so I will throw in my own tale now. One of my neighbours in New Cross thinks they've got a haunted piano, or a house haunted by a ghost that is partial to tinkling the ivories. There was the time she thought her daughter practicing the piano, but she was actually in another room; the time she heard the piano being played in the night; the time everybody in the house was sitting down to dinner and they all heard some strange piano music (described as like fairy music). They live in a Victorian terrace on a busy road, so you could explain it as neighbours' noise, passing car stereos, or a hallucination. If you want to explain it by something else, why pick on ghosts (spirits of the dead), rather than say aliens or fairies? I guess that's folklore, the stories we tell to make sense of the things that don't appear to fit in with our habitual way of seeing the world.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Lewisham '77 Conference - November 10th

30 years after the mass anti-National Front protests in New Cross and Lewisham, Lewisham '77 is holding a half-day conference on November 10th 2007 at Goldsmiths College in New Cross (1 pm start, admission free). The conference will provide an opportunity both to remember the events of 1977 and to reflect on their significance for today. It will include a photographic exhibition, videos, and an interesting panel of speakers including:

-Professor Paul Gilroy - sociologist, ex-Goldsmiths lecturer and author of Ain't No Black In The Union Jack and The Black Atlantic;
- Balwinder Rana and Ted Parker - veterans of Lewisham '77 and the Anti-Nazi League;
- Martin Lux, author of Anti-Fascist: A Foot-Soldier's Story;
- Dr William(Lez) Henry - former Goldsmiths lecturer and South London reggae DJ, author of What the Deejay Said: A Critique from the Street.
- speakers from Lewisham Anti-Racist Action Group (LARAG) and No One is Illegal.

Check the Lewisham '77 website to keep up to date with details.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Amersham Arms to reopen

After being closed for refurbishment for the summer, The Amersham Arms is set to re-open in New Cross on 12 October. The people behind The Lock Tavern in Camden are the new owners.

Those who worried that the pub might lose its musical character under new management can relax . It will include a 300 capacity live venue, Sunday carvery, gallery upstairs, smaller live stage, and late license from Thursday - Saturday.

Events in the first month will feature Ross Allen , Alice McLaughlin, FourTet, They Came From the Stars I Saw Them, Hatcham Social, The Gluerooms Halloween Special, Twisted Charm, Don Letts, MaryAnne Hobbs and loads more.

Save Cafe Crema

Cafe Crema in New Cross Road is apparently facing eviction by its landlord, Goldsmiths College. The Cafe is a popular student hangout, also known for its film shows and other events.

I'm not sure how imminent this threat is, or whether it extends to the other shops in that stretch, including Prangsta and Rubbish & Nasty. It does highlight once again the role of Goldsmiths as a major property owner/developer in the area - over the past 20 years or so it has expanded to take over a Church, former primary school, former Town Hall and the Laurie Grove Swimming Baths. It would be a shame if it now used its wealth/power to close down one of the few points of interest in the anonymous traffic corridor that is New Cross Road.

Supporters are asked to pop down to 306 New Cross Road to sign a petition. Inevitably there's also a Save Cafe Crema group on Facebook.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Free Parties

Tonight (Saturday 29th September), Reclaim the Beach are planning an end of summer party at the beach on the South Bank. Should be easy enough to find, look out for a bonfire.

No more parties though at Crystal Palace, where over the summer there have been a number of unofficial events in the subway under Crystal Palace Parade. Bromley Council say they have stepped up security to prevent access to the subway, which is a Grade 2 Listed Building in its own right. The acknowledge that there has been no damage to the subway, an impressive crypt like structure built in the 1850s to provide access from a now-closed railway station to the Palace.

Friday, September 28, 2007

No one is illegal

A sad story in the South London Press today, eight people arrested at a building site in Clyde Terrace, Sydenham in a raid by police and the Border and Immigration Agency who 'checked identity documents to establish whether employees had the right to work. The men arrested are from Cameroon, Jamaica, Ghana, Nigeria and Ukraine. Steps are now being taken to remove them from the country'. A couple of weeks ago there was a similar tale, with three workers from Iran, Iraq and Kosovo arrested at a car wash in Lewisham Road. Fishing expeditions for so called 'illegal' workers seem to be becoming increasingly common round here - earlier in the year I came across a big immigration/police operation in New Cross Road. They seemed to be going on to buses and checking people's tickets - anything unusual and people were getting passed to immigration people to check their papers. Behind all these stories are human tragedies - parents who went out to work in the morning and didn't come back to pick their kids up from school, lovers who were forcibly separated.

What is shocking about these stories is the assumption that people who are just going about their daily lives without harming anybody can be treated as criminals, arrested and locked up in detention centres just for having the wrong papers - and that this should be regarded as normal. The South London Press car wash story even invited readers to phone Crimestoppers to 'report suspected illegal workers'. A dangerous trend in which whole categories of people, rather than actions, can be classified as illegal and in which Gordon Brown can revive the 1970s National Front slogan of 'British Jobs for British Workers' and barely raise an eyebrow.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Greenwich Phantom

Greenwich Phantom has provoked some intense debate with a post criticising New Capital Quay, a new luxury gated community by the river in Greenwich.

Inspector Sands has weighed in, particularly mocking the suggestion that we should be grateful because our little corner of the world would be a cultural and culinary desert if it wasn't for the money being spent by the inhabitants of similar developments - You should be grateful we moved here, poor people.

Following our previous posts on Disappearing Deptford it is interesting that somebody commenting at Greenwich Phantom took great umbrage at the suggestion that Millennium Quay wasn't in Greenwich - this development is in the London Borough of Greenwich, as are many other parts of South East London that nobody would call Greenwich, but is most definitely on the Deptford side of Deptford Creek, whatever estate agents might say.

Some fundamental questions in this debate about regeneration, gentrification and public space that I shall return to when I have the time to collect my thoughts.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Deptford Arms

A new, free weekly Sunday night acoustic session starts at the Deptford Arms starts tomorrow, 23rd September. The opening night features The Redgress Collective, Hand Hat and Juke Joint Jones.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Essential Music

Last Bus Home has alerted us to the closure of Essential Music, the bargain CD shop in Greenwich market. I am sad when music or book shops close, to me they are more than just places which sell commodities since what they sell can open up windows into other worlds. More specifically they often function as places to come across like minded people and to circulate information about interesting things going on locally - so at Essential there were always flyers about local gigs and clubs as well as a great selection of music (especially indieish stuff). The late lamented Homeview video in Brockley had a similar vibe, in fact I think there was at least one person who worked in both - I always assumed that she must be one of the coolest people in South East London as a result.

More worrying still, Neil from Essential suggests that the demise of the shop is a foretaste of the further redevelopment and gentrification of Greenwich:

'Greenwich is run by Greenwich Hospital [ Basically the Government] which is supposed to be a charity for Royal Navy casualties - That is where the money is supposed to go. Oh, all of a sudden it doesn`t make enough profit despite having sold off the Royal Naval College to create Greenwich `University` [Basically pay-as-you-go]. So, Greenwich must now become a theme-brothel for stylish sophisticates [They wish] and New City overspill. No singing, no dancing, no playing of instruments, no gladrags. [Can I just mention the ONLY place I have EVER been refused entry to is the Lawrence Llewelyn-Bowen-decorated INC Bar, although I guess a somewhat worse for wear Jamie Reynolds didn`t help - I expect they`ll let him in now].
We`re out of there. Mass exodus. Start barricading Deptford'.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Lewisham Bankrobber

The video for Bankrobber, one of The Clash's best songs, incudes a 'bank robbery' in Lewisham Town Centre - watch out for the clocktower.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Migrating University

The Migrating University is an initiative started by some people around Goldsmiths in New Cross, but aiming to involve the wider community in free, non-institutional and critical thinking and doing. Specifically the aim is to link in with the forthcoming No Borders camp against the building of a new detention centre at Gatwick airport - so the theme of the Migrating University this weekend at Goldsmiths is 'No Detention, No Deportation, No Borders in Education: Freedom of Movement for All'.

The event starts on Friday 14th September 10.30 and continues with two days of workshops, films and discussions, ending up with joining the Lewisham 77 walk on Saturday 15th September at 3 pm (by New Cross Inn). The aim is to reconvene the Migrating University at the No Borders camp near Gatwick next week. For details of the programme see John Hutnyck's blog, Trinketization.

Nunhead Arts Week

It's Nunhead Arts Week coming up (14-23 September), some interesting stuff including a local history walk, a folk night at the Old Nun's Head and an Irish folk night at Page 2.

Richard Cabut (known to some of you I'm sure as Richard North) has written a short story, How It Ends, for the festival which will be available in Nunhead Library during the Arts Week - or you can email for a PDF version. More details at the Nunhead Arts blog.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Stones & Bones of London

Interesting talk coming up next week at South East London Folklore Society, with Rob Stephenson on 'Stones & Bones of London' - the stories of strange stones and unusual bones in London. Rob is the convener of London Earth Mysteries Circle, so really knows his stuff.

Thursday, September 13, 2007 at The Old King's Head, Kings Head Yard, 45-49, Borough High St, London, SE1 1NA. Nearest stations are London Bridge and Borough. It is just off Borough High Street.Talks start at 8.00pm £2.50 / £1.50 concessions. All Welcome.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Some new Brockley blogs

...well new to me anyway.

The Coterie of Zombies is 'about one man, his boyfriend, his best friends and a bunny in Brockley. It's about art, knitting and gay sex'. Zombiemaster Howard James Hardiman is currently working on a participatory art project in Brockley where he's asking people to put in pictures of the local area under monsters, giant ants, zombies and their ilk to be displayed during October at the Broca café. It's called Brockzilla and people have until the end of September to submit pictures.

London SE4 is Brockley's only Italian language blog in which Moya writes a 'Blog di arte, cultura e tutto quello che (mi) capita a Londra... '. My own knowledge of Italian doesn't run much further than 'autonomia operaia' and 'Bella Ciao' but good to see anyway.

Camberwell Eviction

Camberwell Squatted Centre was evicted unexpectedly this morning by a van load of High Court bailiffs and 2 vanloads of police, who climbed in to the building at 4.30am and surprised the occupants. We had some good and interesting times there over the past 6 months, with music, film, politics, chat and even a bit of dancing.

There's a meeting tomorrow, Friday 31st August at 8pm, to plan the next move. It takes place at 56a Info Shop, 56 Crampton St, London SE17.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Fabric of Society

Fabric of Society is a piece of participatory public artwork facilitated by Artmongers at Café Orange/Telegraph Hill Centre on Kitto Road, New Cross (next to Telegraph Hill Park). To celebrate ts completion there's a picnic on Saturday 8th September, 12 to 3pm.

The great sandal strike of 1977

With the craze for brightly coloured plastic shoes sweeping the country this summer, here's a lesson from history for any schools thinking of denying the right to wear crocs! The following report was published in the Mercury, 7th July 1977:

Schoolkids went on a sandal strike - and won. Pupils at Sedgehill School, Bellingham, were told the could not wear their colourful plastic sandals in school. But a group of them organised secret meetings to plan a strike. And when the break-time bell rang pupils claim 500 stayed in the playground. One of them Sharon Williams, 14, of Morley Road, Lewisham said: 'One of the teachers came out and threatened the boys with a beating and girls with suspension. Some went back and the rest stayed'.

Veron Smith, 15, of Erlanger Road, New Cross, said: 'We said "Give in and we'll go in and do our work" and they did. The next day they announced we could wear them'. A teacher, who asked for her name to be withheld, said: 'They were told they could not wear them because they were dangerous and bad for their feet'.

After the strike last week, which lasted 15 minutes, some of the leaders claim they were picked out for punishment by being sent home. One of those sent home, David Fisher, 15, of Southend Lane, Bellingham, said: 'The plastic sandals are just cooler in the summer. I don't know why they are supposed to be dangerous. It was the deputy head, not the headmaster who stopped us wearing them'.

Headmaster James Turner declined to comment. An ILEA spokesman said: 'It was just a handful of pupils at the end of break discussing these plastic sandals which a member of staff though were slippery. The headmaster examined the sandals and felt that though they were unsuitable, they could still be worn'.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

East Dulwich UFO?

From South London Press (9 August 2007):

'Stunned star spotters were shocked to see mysterious lights flying above East Dulwich on Saturday, fuelling rumours of secret military experiments or visitors from the space in the area. Lawyer Richard Pringle, 33, of Peckham Rye, was walking home with his flatmate about 11.30pm when he spotted the UFOs rise above the Crystal Palace skyline.

He said: "We were both completely sober and we could see a row of four lights coming up over the hill and over Dulwich Village. If it was a plane you would have said it was at about 15,000 feet and you couldn't see any lights flashing or anything, you could just see a constant orange glow". Mr Pringle said the lights were followed by two more chains of four lights which moved as if propelled by an engine. He added: "There is no way you would have normal planes flying like that. People have said it's possibly planes from a military base nearby."'

Some discussion of this too over at the East Dulwich Forum, with suggestions including Chinese Wedding Lanterns, and account of the sighting (presumably from same person):

'Me and my flatmate (both rational professionals and sober at the time) were walking up peckham rye on the east side of the common at about 11 pm on saturday 4 august and saw 3 or so lines of quite small orange fiery lights, each line with about 4 lights in it, moving almost vertically up from the horizon near crystal palace masts, then, when they were fairly high in the sky, their trajectory flattened out sharply and they began to travel east over east dulwich and peckham rye. the speed and altitude were similar to that of a jet plane, but the flight path, formation, numbers and appearance were quite different. we watched for a few minutes. we left the road and went into our apartment building to get binoculars and look from our roof terrace; in the couple of minutes it took to get there, they had disappeared. did anybody else see this?'

The MOD wesbite records another sighting in East Dulwich on 19th January 2003 at 1 am, with a description of 'Lights, that were formed in a worm shape, wriggling around in the sky'.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Sterile Neighbourhoods Act

A couple of weeks ago, some people organised a community event called Hillaballoo in Telegraph Hill Park, New Cross. They were unlucky with the weather - it rained all day - but a steady stream of people came through and enjoyed the views from a camera obscura set up in the park. In time honoured local tradition, the event was publicised with flyers in the area put up on trees. One of the organisers has now been cautioned by Lewisham Council for putting up the posters, and told that any further occurrences could face a fine of £75 a poster. Apparently the new Cleaner Neighbourhoods Act forbids such things. Following the suspension of The Montague Arms' music licence for similar offences, it seems that the Council has launched some kind of zero tolerance campaign against posters.

The trees in the area are mostly hardy London planes and their bark is certainly robust enough to cope with staples and drawing pins, so I don't think there's a green argument here. For years they have functioned as a kind of community newspaper, carrying news of lost pets, meetings, car boot sales, gigs and other events in local schools, pubs and community centres. I have never seen this abused by people mass flyposting for commercial advertising, and if people do put up something out of character they just get pulled down - a kind of communal editing of the local street paper. It will be a real loss to the area if this is destroyed.

Lewisham has apparently proposed a community notice board as an alternative, but unless there are lots of them this will hardly suffice. The point about the trees is that they are located all over the place and seen by people as they walk around, unlike say a board in a park which only a minority will see. The point is also that there should be a public sphere in which people can communicate with each other without needing to fill in forms or otherwise seek the permission of the Council or other authorities.

This is not just a Lewisham issue - the Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act 2005 gives powers to Councils to impose on the spot fines for flyposting, dogs, noise etc. Most of these things were already covered by previous legislation, so people could be prosecuted if the offence was serious. Now they don't need to go through the trouble of actually involving the courts where evidence can be challenged. Lewisham do however have discretion in how they implement the Act.

Everybody wants 'cleaner, greener, safer neighbourhoods' (to use the Government jargon) but do we really want sterile neighbourhoods where every social interaction is regulated by the local or national state and harmless community posters are banished? Please don't tell me this is making my neighbourhood safer - there were three burglaries in my road last week and my partner had her handbag snatched! One of the things that does make communities safer is a flourishing civil society where people meet each other, talk to each other and look out for each other. Precisely the kind of things that events like Hillaballo encourage. But if people can't promote them with posters, how are we even going to know they're happening?

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Brockley Tea Factory

The conversion of the Tea Factory at Brockley Cross to loft flats is continuing, not sure yet whether there will be a bar/cafe on ground floor as suggested, but this was included in the planning permission for the site

The original building dates from the 1940s, and yes was used for storing and blending tea. Apparently the tea company had a previous building on the same site that was damaged during World War Two.
I can't pass on without mentioning the casual racism of the image of the development posted on the developers' website and displayed in giant version on the Endwell Road site itself. Yes everybody in this image of Future Brockley is remarkably light-skinned, especially compared to the actual people you are likely to encounter standing there now or in the shops round the corner. Is this the not so hidden subtext of all those articles in the Evening Standard and elsewhere about Brockley being 'up and coming'?

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Ziggy: Made in South London

David Bowie's origins in the suburbs of South London have been well-documented, but until recently I hadn't appreciated the specific role of Beckenham as the incubator of his legendary Ziggy Stardust look/persona.

According to 'Moonage Daydream - The Life and Times of Ziggy Stardust', it was while living at Haddon Hall, a decaying gothic mansion at 42 Southend Road, Beckhenham, that Bowie and friends put the finishing touches to Ziggy.

Bowie had the ground floor of the now-demolished house from 1969 to 1973, painting the ceilings silver and holding parties in the garden. The Ziggy outfits were stitched together at Haddon Hall under the direction of clothes designer Freddie Burrett (known as Burretti), and the songs that became The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars were rehearsed in an impromptu studio created under the stairs, as well as at the Thomas a Becket pub in the Old Kent Road.

The haircut was done by Suzi Fussey, who worked opposite the Three Tuns in Beckenham in the Evelyn Paget (now Gigante) hair salon - although she apparently copied the design from a magazine. The famous red and black platform boots were made by Stan Miller of Greenaway and Sons in Penge.

More on the Beckenham connection here.

Friday, August 03, 2007


Connoisseurs of interesting talks about South London are spoilt for choice next Thursday 9th August.

At Camberwell Squatted Centre, South London Radical History Group present 'Underground Lambeth' covering secret bunkers, lost rivers, junk-filled basements... all the stuff hidden beneath the streets and houses. 8 pm start at 190 Warham Street (free).

Meanwhile at Review in Peckham, Chris Roberts (One Eye Grey) presents 'Disappearing dancers, Pagan Estate Agents, Angels and Faceless Nuns', a talk about these as well as other singular Peckham and London Folklore, Ghost stories and other ephemera. 7:30 pm at 131, Bellenden Rd, SE15 4QY, tel: 020 7639 7400.