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.