Monday, July 30, 2007

DIY punk night

This week at Camberwell Squatted Centre (192 Warham Road), a night of free DIY punk featuring:
- Kleber Claux "anarcho casio pop and analogue synthesizer punk" live and direct from melbourne australia
- plus South London's own butchers boy (not the Scottish indie-poppers Butcher Boy).
8 pm start.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Lewisham '77

On 13 August 1977, the far-right National Front attempted to march from New Cross to Lewisham in South East London. Local people and anti-racists from all over London and beyond mobilised to oppose them, and the NF were humiliated as their march was disrupted and their banners seized. To mark the 30th anniversary of the 'Battle of Lewisham' a series of commemorations are planned in the area where it took place, including:

- a walk along the route of the march/counter-protest, including people involved at the time. This will start from Clifton Rise, New Cross at 3 pm on Saturday 15th September 2007.
- a half day event in New Cross on Saturday 27th October 2007 (2pm start - venue to be confirmed) with speakers, films and a social event in the evening.

More at

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

The Tower

Finally got round to watching The Tower last night, BBC's documentary about life on the Pepys Estate in Deptford. The programme attempts to wrestle some human interest from the contrast between the Pepys Estate council tenants and the affluent residents of the Aragon Tower, the former council block sold off to developers Berkeley Homes and converted to 158 luxury flats (riverside views now being too good to waste on the poor, evidently). According to Planet Pepys things might not be quite as they appear - as with most 'reality shows' there is a suggestion of scenes being staged or even semi-scripted.

Still some truth still shines through. Last night's episode followed the wedding plans of couples on both sides of the social divide, with the universal theme of love and marriage on the one hand and on the other the different class experiences of havng to get into debt to buy a ring rather than having parents buying you a starter home overlooking the Thames.

See also Andrew; Ragged School; Kate

Monday, July 23, 2007

The Old Ones take East Dulwich

I was talking to a friend last night who had been doing some writing, in a HP Lovecraft style, about Cthulhu slumbering from its sleep in Camberwell. He had become rather disturbed the next day to find an image of Cthulhu appearing mysteriously on a sign at the end of his road.

It now seems that the vision he saw was actually work in progress by Dean Kenning for his exhibition 'The Dulwich Horror- H.P. Lovecraft and the Crisis in British Housing'

The window exhibition runs at Space Station 65 in Northcross Road, East Dulwich until September 2nd, with the launch this Friday 27th July, 6.30-8.30 2007 and a closing event with performances on Sept 2nd 2007 (all welcome to both events).

According to the blurb 'The outside walls of rented accommodation constitute a vast advertising billboard for Estate Agents. They appear without warning. ‘TO LET’, ‘LET BY’ - they never seem to come down. If you live in rented accommodation, your home has been branded: you are a temporary occupant subject to the authority of the property owner and his agent. For The Dulwich Horror ‘TO LET’ signs across London will form the canvas onto which Dean Kenning will paint images representing the supernatural and monstrous entities from H.P.Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos. Horrible alien beings such as Yog Sothoth, The Outer Ones, and Great Cthulhu himself are famously beyond description (the sight of such creatures would drive any human over the edge of insanity). Nevertheless, Kenning will have a go'.

Sounds great, but must admit my favourite remains the lego Cthulhu.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

History from Below in Kennington Park

As part of Alt.Space Festival 2007 Tom Roberts and Anthony Iles will meet in Kennington Park this Saturday to give a short talk and distribute the pamphlet: ‘All Knees and Elbows of Susceptibility and Refusal’ a collection of extracts and commentaries on the making of ‘history from below’:

"The phrase ‘history from below’ is the product of a group of French historians known as the Annales school. It is their description of an approach to subjects and areas previously considered historically unimportant. In England this approach was taken up by a group of Marxist historians who developed a set of methodologies and a worldview at odds with existing Marxist and historiographical orthodoxies. In 1946 a group consisting of E.P. Thompson, Christopher Hill, Roger Hilton and Dona Torr among others formed the Communist Party Historians Group. Their aim was to draw out forms of agency that had been hidden by traditional approaches to history. Along with Raphael Samuel, CLR James and Peter Linebaugh we take this loose grouping as the starting point for the making and study of history as a contested field in which ‘the below’ plays an active role.

Kennington Park has been the scene of radical debate, publishing and political organisation (public speaking, meetings, protests) as well as the enactment of the powers of the State (hangings, enclosure, policing). The pamphlet looks at the methodologies of the historians from below as they worked to change their own contemporary system of knowledge production in relation to the self-produced, self-distributed knowledge of their subjects."

Date: 3PM, 21st July, 2007. Meet: Oval Fountain, Kennington Park opposite Oval Tube station

A PDF version of the pamphlet is available for download here; More info and resources: More information on the history of Kennington Park can be found at Wikipedia and in Stefan Szczelkun’s Working Press pamphlet Birthplace of Peoples’ Democracy (RTF file).

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Lewisham Bloggers Drink

I went out for a drink last Friday at the Honor Oak, the occasion being a meet up of Lewisham Bloggers. Present and correct were Bob from Brockley, Walking the Streets of Forest Hill, SE23 (Robert), Not Really a Diary (Max), Someday I will treat you good (Andrew), The Man from Catford (Henry), Forest Hill Society (Max), Fork Handles (Adrian), Wulf's Web Den, Green Ladywell (Sue) and Last Bus Home. Tempted as I am to theorise about the reconstitution of digital networks in the the flesh, lets just say a good time was had (we were last to be kicked out of the pub) and I felt terrible the next day. The heading of this post is Lewisham Bloggers Drink - the last word is a verb rather than a noun.

Updated 23 July 2007: Bob reminds me of something I forgot in my happy state - that on the way back several of us stopped outside 22a Stondon Park, where there is a plaque commemorating its former resident Jim Connell, writer of The Red Flag. And guess what song we decided to sing? Apologies to the current incumbents, but hey I guess that's part of living in a heritage site!

Montague Music Returns

According to Sump Puppy, The Montague Arms in New Cross is getting its music licence back on the 26th July. The venue apparently had its music licence temporarily suspended by Lewisham Council because music promoters using it had been flyposting in the area. This does seem bizarre, we are not talking about commercial operators plastering the area with huge posters - most of the posters for Montague events are photocopied A4 and their presence on the streets of New Cross is a welcome reminder that there is life here apart from traffic and Sainsburys.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Disappearing Deptford? (2): OneSE8

Following my recent post on the Distillery site in Deptford, Inspector Sands (who among other things runs the Charlton blog, All Quiet in the East Stand) commented that 'OneSE8 set the pace for this, I'm afraid - handy for the Canary Wharf so you can block out your neighbours'. So let's turn our attention to the OneSE8, St James Homes' new development alongside the railway line on the other side of the main road from Deptford Bridge station.

Once again there's a certain reticence in the official publicity about the location of this site. First of all the name is misleading - its actual postcode is SE13 not SE8. Presumably SE13 (Lewisham) has even less appeal than SE8 (Deptford). We'll let this pass, as it is clearly located in Deptford - or maybe not if the developers are to be believed. The home page of the official site doesn't mention the location, and the location page starts off as as follows: 'Commuting is a doddle. Greenwich is on your doorstep and just a stones throw from OneSE8, Deptford Bridge DLR provides a direct link to the Docklands, the City and the West End. Canary Wharf with its interchange to the Jubilee Line and rest of the tube network is just 12 minutes away'. So no mention of Deptford as such, other than the reference to Deptford Bridge station.

Elsewhere on the site Deptford does get a grudging look in... under the subheading 'Greenwich... in no time'. We are told that the site is 'Perfectly placed between Deptford, Greenwich and Blackheath' [not on the Deptford/Lewisham border].... Brimming with enthusiasm and bursting with potential, Deptford has a new lust for life – you can see it in the architecture, the gallery openings, new bars, restaurants and clubs'. Hmm, actually Deptford has always been lively and remains so in ways which prospective wealthy property investors might not find so amenable.
The most revealing insight into the thinking behind OneSE8 comes in the hilarious promotional video for 'The ultimate in urban chic lifestyle'. No Deptford reference here, instead the proximity to Canary Wharf is stressed and of course 'Greenwich is only a couple of minutes away'. Not that there's any need to go out all , with a gym, personal trainers, swimming pool and in-house bar and restaurant all on site, the latter able to 'deliver food and drink to your door' in case walking downstairs is too much.

Most bizarre is the cult-like conformity suggested: 'At one se8 it’s all about living life in a young and dynamic community' and true to form everybody in the video is white, affluent looking, skinny and aged 20-35. But wait, what's this - a black face? Funnily enough he is the concierge and he knows his place - ‘they’re there to make your life easier'. You couldn't make this up could you?

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Disappearing Deptford? (1): The Distillery

Deptford is a prime target for property developers at the moment, with major building projects and other sites being snapped up. As a poorish run-down part of London, nobody could argue that people need better housing and facilities, but unfortunately most of the development doesn’t have local working class people in mind at all. On the contrary, the main emphasis is on luxury flats with their own private facilities – not only will the people living in them not need to have anything to do with the local area, they will apparently not even need to know that they live in Deptford at all!

Let's start with the Distillery, a 26 storey tower block being developed by Galliard Homes (artist's impression, left). Its location couldn’t be any more Deptford, situated next to Deptford Bridge on the site of the Old Seager Gin Distillery, more recently home to music rehearsal rooms, art spaces, a skateboard ramp and numerous other small projects.

The website for this coyly refers to ‘a high growth regeneration opportunity in SE8’ but declines to decode this (SE8=Deptford). In fact Deptford is nowhere named on the site, and anyone reading it might think it was somewhere else entirely. We are told that it is ‘Situated just 12 minutes from Canary Wharf, where employee numbers are set to rise from 78,000 up to 160,000 by 2012, these luxurious city styled apartments are a major new residential and investment opportunity’. There are two pictures of Canary Wharf, across the river, on the homepage, and several pictures of Greenwich on the site – none of Deptford.

Elsewhere on the site we are again told that ‘with prime access into the Capital’s major financial hub, it is destined to become the new benchmark for luxury living in South East London’. In other words what is being created is a dormitory for well-off City professionals (can we still call them yuppies? – I think we can) in denial of living in an area with some of the worst deprivation in London.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Magic and medicine in the Middle Ages

South East London Folklore Society presents this week:

Thursday 12th July: Catherine Rider - Magic and Medicine in the Middle Ages

"It happened once in Paris that a certain sorceress impeded a man who had left her so that he could not have intercourse with another woman whom he had married." Catherine discusses her research for her Katherine Briggs award winning book "Magic and Impotence in the Middle Ages."

SELFS meet every second Thursday of the month 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.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Tour de Deptford

Down to Deptford this morning to watch the Tour de France whizz by on Creek Road, lots of people lining the route and some getting into the swing of it with banners.

We had some biscuits from the small French market in Evelyn Street, and then wandered down the High Street where the Made in Deptford festival included stilt walkers, live music and a man drinking a pint of beer balanced on his head (through a bendy straw) while juggling knives. Popped into the Deptford Arms (great bit of street art on the side of it, shown below). At the Bear cafe they were giving away free tea, coffee and cake. They even put on sunshine.

All in all, I had a bit of a francophile weekend as by then I'd also watched two French films on DVD (Jules et Jim and Le Rayon Vert). Finished off with reading some Guy Debord, Situationist Theses on Traffic (1959), where he critiques the notion of urban architecture being based around the circulation of cars (though his prediction that we would be all be flying one person helicopters within 20 years was wide of the mark!). One of the nice side effects of the Tour coming through Deptford was that Church Street was more or less closed for traffic except for pedestrians and cyclists.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Windrush to Lewisham

I've been reading Windrush to Lewisham: Memoirs of 'Uncle George' by W.George Brown (London: Mango Publishing 1999), an interesting account of one of the earliest post-war migrants from Jamaica to South East London.

Brown came over on the famous SS Empire Windrush voyage in 1948, and like many other passengers initially lived in temporary accommodation in a deep shelter in Clapham. After several other temporary lodgings he bought a house in 1952 at 79 Lewisham Road and got involved in fighting racism in this part of the world.

As he describes it, ‘I discovered that there were a few pubs in South East London who deliberately refused to serve coloured people. Some were rudely abused by customers of these pubs… In some cases it was so bad that on many occasions the coloured man could only ask someone inside the pub to purchase drinks for him. That person would hand the drinks to him outside the door’. In 1953, Brown joined with others to set up the Anglo-Caribbean Association and Club to provide practical support and social activities for West Indians and their friends. He and colleagues went round to pubs operating a colour bar and demanded to be served, arguing their right to do so with landlords and threatening to publicly expose them in the press if they refused. A similar campaign was mounted in dance halls.

The Anglo-Caribbean Association held its first big meeting in 1954 at the Amersham Arms in New Cross, and held dances and social events at Laurie Grove Swimming Baths and Deptford Town Hall before it secured its own social club in 1959 at 113 Breakspears Road. The following year the club moved t0 229 Greenwich High Road, and later changed its name to the Commonwealth Association and Club. In its early days the Association faced organised racist opposition, its organisers received abusive phonecalls and notes, and in 1954 a sign with a fascist symbol was left outside the the Royal Albert in Blackheath Road where they were planning a meeting. It read 'Keep Briton White' (sic) - spelling was never the fascists' strong point. But thanks to the efforts of W.George Brown and others the overt colour bar was broken down in South East London.

The picture was taken in the Anglo-Caribbean club.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Cool Italian Films in Camberwell

Two interesting films by Elio Petri coming up at the Camberwell Squatted Centre this month.

On Wednesday 11th July, it's THE WORKING CLASS GOES TO HEAVEN.

The following week, 18th July, it's INVESTIGATION OF A CITIZEN ABOVE SUSPICION, a 'disturbing portrait of police power as played out through twisted
eroticism and State repression'.

Both films start at 7:30 pm, free/donation.