Sunday, August 31, 2008

Stewart Home and Greenwich Park

Stewart Home's novel Memphis Underground features 'a stroll in Greenwich Park. I went up to the Observatory, where I'd participated in a Neoist Time Picnic in 1984. Somewhere I had a snap taken during the course of this do showing assorted retro-futurists, including myself, standing on the meridian line. A decade later I'd par­ticipated in a London Psychogeographical Association meet at this location... I'd been a regu­lar visitor to Greenwich Park over the previous twenty years, its dramatic rise and many curious features made it one of my favourite places in the whole of London. I took in the view across the Thames to the Isle of Dogs, then meandered past Queen Elizabeth's Oak and on to the gardens at the top of the park. After looking at the deer, and then the ducks in the pond, I sauntered along Charlton Way to Greenwich Point.

Pausing on the way to enjoy the open view to Blackheath, I wondered if I'd ever realise my long standing ambition to spend at leastt a few years living in this area. There would have been a time when it would have been easy enough for me to find a flat in East Greenwich with a rent I could afford, now even that was beyond me, and Blackheath? Well, I might as well forget about Blackheath, it had been expensive long before rising property prices made proletarian enclaves such as East Greenwich attractive to the upper-middle classes.

The view, or rather the lack of a view, from Green­wich Point was stunning. The City of London was wreathed in a miasma of smog. I could hardly make out the monumental architecture of the financial dis­trict. It was a shame I'd arranged to spend the evening in Stamford Hill, since the pollution that made my eyes sting and my throat smart also created spectacular sun­sets...'.

This comes from a section of the book where the author is apparently describing real events in his life as artist/writer/hustler/proletarian post-modernist, so I assume the Neoist picnic actually happened there. The London Psychogeographical Association interest in Greenwich is discussed more fully in an interview between Stewart Home and the Greenwich-raised writer Tom McCarthy.

The latter recalls 'The first time I met you [i.e. Stewart Home] was at seven minutes past two o'clock on the afternoon of the fifteenth of February, 1994, in Greenwich Park, South London. It was the hundredth anniversary of the death of Martial Bourdain, the French anarchist who'd blown himself up while carrying a bomb towards the Royal Observatory, and in so doing become the inspiration for Conrad's novel The Secret Agent. I wanted to do something to commemorate the event, and thought of phoning a bomb threat into the observatory, but chickened out and opted instead to create an organisation called the Society of the Black Glove whose members, i.e. myself and my girlfriend at the time, dressed up smart and went and threw down some flowers on the exact spot where Bourdain had died'.

Home replies that he was in the park on the same day for an event organised by his friend Richard Essex (who was the 'London Psychogeographical Association'): For a lot of reasons Greenwich became a focal point for a lot of what both of us were doing - partly because it was nice to go over there. A lot of that was destroyed in the build-up to the millennium, especially Greenwich as a centre for books, and the pie-and-mash shop Godards seems to have disappeared too more recently, which I've been going to for years; it is my favourite pie-and-mash shop in London. But Richard discovered this ley-line that went through Greenwich and across the river to the Isle of Dogs, and Canary Wharf Tower was a virtual pyramid and if you extended it down then the ley-line crossed the base of the pyramid' (in another of his novels, 'Come Before Christ and Murder Love', Home postulates a curved leyline between the imperial palaces at Greenwich and Richmond, linking Elizabeth I and her astrologer/magician John Dee).

All of this is a reminder that Greenwich Park is not simply a stage set for a heritage industry narrative of royalty and empire, but a place with a strong counter-history of unofficial encounters, subversions and feats of imagination. It seems to me that the unpopular proposal to use the Park in the 2012 Olympics for equestrian events (with a possible threat to trees) is tied in with this clash about what the Park represents. The Olympics proposal links in with Greenwich's history as a site for state pageantry and spectacles - horse events are very much tied in with royalty and the upper classes generally - whereas the opponents of this want to keep the park as a public space which people can use in many different ways.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Filming at the Rivoli

A discussion at SE23 Forum has alerted me to some recent filming at the Rivoli Ballroom in Crofton Park, apparently for Me and Orson Welles, a film due to be released next year starring Claire Danes.

The Rivoli also features in the recent film Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day, as seen in the following scene:

Monday, August 25, 2008

N-Trance at the Albany

RAR! at Deptford Albany is a busy all ages night (well 14+) put on my NXPromotions. As such many of the people who go were probably not born when Saturday's headliners N-Trance were on Top of the Pops with their rave anthem Set You Free in 1993. It was released on the PWL label, based at 222-224 Borough High Street, London SE1 - the famous hit factory where Kylie Minogue and co. recorded early singles

Also on the bill are A1 Baseline, Excentral Tempest, Toy Toy (electro-pop grrrl-punk explosion) and Dogshow Disco. £5 Entry. Saturday 30th August 2008, show starts 7pm. Curfew 11pm. Venue: The Albany Theatre, Douglas Way, London SE8. Advance tickets from Kate&Tristan shop @ New Cross Inn, 1 Clifton Rise.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Arthur Rackham - Transpontine Cockney

Arthur Rackham (1867-1939) was an illustrator best known for his work on fairy tales and children's books. He was also rather proud of his South London origins, entitling a 1934 self-portrait 'A Transpontine Cockney'.

Rackham was born in 1867 at 210 South Lambeth Road, where he spent most of his childhood. His family moved a short distance to 27 Albert Square, Clapham Road in 1882 and to 3 St Ann’s Park Road, Wandsworth in 1885 (near Wimbledon Common). They regularly attended the Brixton Independent Church in Brixton Road and Rackham himself attended Lambeth School of Art (1884).

Source: Arthur Rackham: A Life with Illustration by James Hamilton (Pavilion, 1995)

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

The Angel of the Thames

I’ve got an interest in both visions, be they angels or dragons or aliens and south London. I’ve read an awful lot, and written a little, on the Angels of Mons case, where angels were sighted during the first engagement of the First World War and keep a collection of angel sightings to add to that.

I hadn’t heard of the Angel of the Thames, a supposed angel seen on the water from and around Jubilee Gardens on the South Bank. The most significant sighting was in 2006:

Student Jemima Waterhouse, 16, from Sheen, spotted the angel in May as she wandered down the South Bank to meet a friend.She said: "I felt a sense of calm spreading over me."It was comforting and familiar - a kind of peace that lasted for a while after."It is really hard to put into words, but I guess you could describe it as peace of mind."She quickly snapped the apparition (circled) hovering close to the Queen Mary floating restaurant on her camera phone but when she showed her friend the quality was poor.She added: "My friend remained unconvinced until we got the photo onto a computer that evening when the image became clearer and the outline of what could only be described as an angel became distinct."

This is from the (usually rather stoned*) South London Press, 15 September 2006, it also says:

“Eerily so far this year four people claim to have seen the angel near the London Eye and an internet cult is growing.”

“These sightings have prompted much online chat about the so-called Angel of the Thames.Already angel walks are being offered along the waterside and Angel T-shirts are available.One angel obsessive - who meets up with other people who have spotted the ghostly figure to share their experiences - thinks it must date back to the fire.”

There are three sites, Friends of the Angel of the Thames, Angel on the Thames and Thames Angel: A History of the Angle of Promise.

There’s claims of historical evidence and interaction on each site, the ‘Friends’ site claims folk have taken coach trips to see the angel since 1963 (though the 'Friends' of the Angel seem to be taking it all a little less seriously, there's a Pug dressed-up as an angel on their site).

Thames Angel gives a long chronology of sightings , from 1666 onwards, including five illustrations of the angel, eleven photographs (from Daguerreotype to digital) and one CCTV capture in 2089, presumably 2008.

No sources, journals, newspapers or chapbooks are cited for any of the illustrations or photographs, this angel very much has snow on it’s boots.

The one ‘engraving’ presented is there, among other places.

The angel has a suspicious white line all the way around it. I’ve not been able to find this angel in Gustav Davidson’s ‘Dictionary of Angels’ but I’m convinced I’ll be able to find it in a verifiably old picture that doesn’t feature a grim riverside view. And the ‘grim riverside view’ is, surely, available without an angel dropped onto the corner on a warehouse with a white line all around it.

There’s also this supposed photograph of Londoners watching the angel after the declaration of war in 1914.

Now, even I, a scruffy and regularly hung-over atheist, would be gazing in wonder at an angel on the Thames if I saw one. Why aren’t they all watching the angel hovering over the Thames? They seem to be looking everywhere but there.

(Oh, by the way, do please let me know if these links somehow break in the next few days.)

If only I lived with someone whose work desk in next to the Port of London Authorities’ archivist, who’ll have a vast amount of illustrations and records about life on the Thames through time.

Oh, hang on, I do.

Hopefully this is just the start of this. While I research, you may be interested in knowing that the web master of Thames Angel is giving a walk on 20th September, 6pm from Temple Station.
No price quoted. It may be interesting to pop along.

See also: Angel of the Thames Hoax and the Brockley Connection

*It was the South London Press who brought us Brixton squirrels on crack.

South London Pirates

Pirate radio is one of the often neglected benefits of living in London. There's far too much talk and not enough music on most of the official stations, and a narrow range of music. Outside of London there's even less choice. Over the years, pirate radio has led me to the odd party and turned me on to new music - I can vividly remember the first time I heard jungle, lying in Brockwell Park with my radio. Nowadays many of the pirates have websites where you can download podcasts of their programmes anywhere in the world, but you can't beat coming across something unexpected while fiddling around with the radio.

The pirates are still in a healthy state in South London. On Monday, driving between Sydenham and New Cross I picked up the following stations:
  • Metrolove (92.2 fm) - soul, r'nb, hip hop, ragga - back on air despite being raided recently. According to this week's Mercury (13/8), it had been broadcasting from a garage behind the Jasmine House Estate , Wickham Rd in Brockley until Ofcom raided it on 7 August, taking away £5,000 of equipment including a sound system due for use at Notting Hill Carnival
  • Unknown fm (90.6 fm) has been going for 10 years, with a diet of every kind of house music. And unlike some pirates which seem to exist mainly to promote events and club night, the focus really is on the music.
  • Rinse fm (100.4 fm) has been broadcasting for 14 years and is one of the best places to keep up with the latest mutations in London dance music (grime, dubstep, funky etc.)
  • Selectuk (99.4 fm) - more house and garage.
  • Xtreme (101.8 fm) - soulful house.
  • Freeze (92.7 fm).
  • Live fm (101.5 fm) .

I also came across a non-pirate I hadn't heard before, South London Radio (107.3 fm). It proclaims itself as the station for 'Lewisham, Bromley, Croydon and the surrounding areas' . Lots of classic 80s and 90s soul/funk when I was listening (Loose Ends -Hangin' on a String, Incognito - Don't you worry about a thing), plus local news on the hour - they covered the White Hart lap dancing row.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Montague Arms 1989 - Shane MacGowan, Mark E Smith & Nick Cave

Prompted by a comment to an old post I have tracked down a legendary NME interview from 1989 (25th February) with Sean O'Hagan and James Brown interviewing Mark E Smith (The Fall), Shane MacGowan (The Pogues) and Nick Cave (The Birthday Party/Bad Seeds), conducted in the Montague Arms in New Cross. The whole article has been reproduced on The Quietus website

'A bottle's throw from Millwall FC, The Montague Arms, a mock Gothic fun pub for morbid tourists, plays host to a bizarre summit meeting. Amidst stuffed horses' heads, skeletons on bicycles and mocked up corpses, three of contemporary music's most infamous individuals are gathered at the NME's request. Shane MacGowan of the Pogues, Mark Smith of the Fall and Nick Cave all share an outsider's attitude that informs their respective musical output. Both championed and castigated for their obsessiveness and extremism, this unholy trio are dogged by reputations that precede them. That they agreed to such a meeting is surprising. What ensues is inspired and insane by turns. The fractured and, often fractious, conversation sprawls between the amiable and the aggressive- Presley to Nietzsche, songwriting to psychology, football to fanatics'.

It all ends up like this: 'Things fall apart. The unholy trinity climb on the pubstage. MacGowan on drums, Smith on guitar and Cave on the organ. A jam of sorts ensues- The Velvets meets Hammer Horror with a hint of Acid House. Totally wired. Summit mental'.

The interview is worth reading in full, never mind the New Cross connection, I can't imagine the current dumbed-down NME printing a verbatim account of musicians arguing about the relative merits of Brenday Behan and Nietzsche down the pub.

Thamesmead Big Cat?

Yet another SE London big cat story, from the Newshopper (11 August 2008)

A Beast of Bexley-type creature is believed to have been spotted in Thamesmead. The sighting happened at around 3am on Saturday morning (August 9) in Goldfinch Road when a man was woken up by something screeching. He looked out of his window and saw a small animal racing along the pathway followed by a larger one.

The man, who did not want to be named, said: "I saw a black animal rolling on the grass between two trees. I thought to myself, 'Bloody hell! That's the biggest moggy I've ever seen', and then thought, 'It must be a dog'. However, its head was cat-like and its tail was very long. It walked to the left to some bushes and I moved the other curtain but couldn't see it."

The sighting was reported to Neil Arnold, the founder of the Kent Big Cat Research group, which studies eyewitness reports of large exotic cats. He believes the creature, which has become known as the Beast of Bexley, is a black leopard. The Beast' has also been seen at Welling, Erith, Bexleyheath, Belvedere, Bromley, Abbey Wood and towards Dartford.

More Transpontine big cat stories

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Deptford Mice

As somebody noted in a comment, my recent round up of Deptford stories left out The Deptford Mice Trilogy (and various spin-offs) by Robin Jarvis, a series of children's books.

The books include a number of Greenwich and Deptford locations, including St Nicholas Church, the old Deptford power station and the Cutty Sark. The friendly mice 'honour the green spirits of the land as Man once did and every spring they hold a celebration for the awakening year, calling to the Green Mouse to ripen the wheat and see them safe' (The Dark Portal), whilst their enemies the sewer rats perform dark sorcery on Blackheath for their evil god Jupiter (SPOILER ALERT - who turns out to be a cat!).

Friday, August 15, 2008

White Hart Lap Dancing Application Refused

Lewisham Council's Licensing Committee last night rejected the application from the landlord of the White Hart in New Cross for a license for lap dancing, pole dancing and stripping. Apparently the meeting was well attended, with nine objectors speaking. The committee retired for an hour and a half before announcing its decision (there are some report backs at the the Telegraph Hill Forum). There remains the possibility of an appeal against the decision, but I hope the landlord will think again.

Although I opposed the plan (see earlier posts) I do not wish to join any kind of witchhunt to force the landlord out of town. I really hope that the pub survives, in fact part of the reason why I objected to the lap dancing plans was that it would no longer really be a public house. I have had a couple of memorable drinks there myself and chatted to the landlord who was friendly enough to me. It could certainly do with brightening up a bit, but the place has plenty of potential, a good location and space for music and dancing.

The landlord is not without his supporters, but some of them are not really helping the future survival of his pub. Over at the Millwall fans forum House of Fun, there's been some discussion about this, basically suggesting that people should stop worrying about strippers when there's more important things to oppose like an Afghan Community Centre in the area and 'a dubious club a few doors up, looks like an Africans only place' (presumably a reference to Scenarios - get up to date lads, it's been closed for ages). The same guys regularly seem to spend more time on the forum spouting racist nonsense about everything under the sun than talking about football - though they do get pulled up on it by other Millwall fans who are definitely not all racists, contrary to popular prejudice and BNP/NF fantasies.

Someone posted some anonymous comments here last night too seemingly implying that the closure of local pubs was the result of some liberal lefty drive which was forcing 'common white people' to move to Bexleyheath. Well I've posted lots here against closing local pubs and about the history of 'common white people' (like me), but I also think 'common black people' are just as much part of our area. Why shouldn't there be an Afghan Community Centre in New Cross, there's plenty of English people in Aghanistan, most of them in uniform admittedly.

People who really care about pubs surviving should think about whether their behaviour is part of the problem. Because who really wants to take their kids or girlfriend/boyfriend to a pub that is dominated by racist pissheads giving off loads of attitude to people they judge as 'off the manor'.

(Comment welcome but racist comments will be deleted - if you don't like it start your own blog)

Nail The Cross

Nail The Cross is a one day music and arts festival taking place across a number of local venues - including The Amersham Arms and The New Cross Inn - on September 27, from 3pm to 5am.

Confirmed to take part so far are These New Puritans, Archie Bronson Outfit, Banjo or Freakout, Clinic, Heartbreak, Ox. Eagle. Lion. Man., S.C.U.M, The xx, and Wild Beasts. DJs will include Benga, Dan j. Spinney (AITBF), Casper C, Domino Records, Loefah (DMZ), Lost In Paris djs, Oneman, Matty White Heat, No Pain In Pop, Rough Trade Records djs, stopmakingme, Tiger (This Is Music), Tomb Crew, Vitamin Club and Young Turks.

Tickets for the event. organised by Domino Records, Adventures In The Beetroot Field and No Pain In Pop - are £15 from here. Official festival site with full bill and venue details here.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Sydenham Hill Woods Continued

Following the recent post about Sydenham Hill Woods, Michael has sent in this old photo of the bridge there. Not sure when this was taken, but clearly it was before the railway closed and was overgrown by woodland. The Crystal Palace to Nunhead Line apparently closed in 1954 - more details at Abandoned Stations including a map of the route, which included a stretch by the side of the Horniman gardens.

Artful Doings in Area 10

So I get an from a local wizard email telling me:

Psychological Art Circus are hosting 4 nights of live performance, music and installation. Please check for program. doors open 8pm till late every night. £5 entrance

It's at Area 10 Project Space, Eagle Wharf Peckham Hill Street London SE15 5JT, starts today, 14th August until Sunday 18th August and the program lists theatrical and music performances that have peaked my curiosity.

'The Veil & the Husband's Tale' , 'Chicken, Egg, Laptop...' and 'Undercrown' all sound like intriguing theatrical pieces while there's a musical performance at then of each night, the quirky, jittery jazz of The London Snorkelling Team tickling me best in my more unorthodox places.

Most of the performances are repeated each night with a different musical ending, which seems a good idea. The whole event has the air of most art events I attend about it: I don't pretend to totally understand what's going on but it looks and sounds pretty good.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Montague Arms: Best Pub in the Country?

Big splash in tonight's London Paper with the headline 'The best pub in the country is in... New Cross'. The story goes:

'An eccentric local boozer in New Cross has been named best pub in Britain. The Montague Arms - whose bizarre decor includes a human skeleton perched on the bar and an embalmed zebra peering out from a horse-drawn carriage - tops the list in a new book, the Rough Pub Guide: A Celebration of the Great British Boozer.

Aiming to put the spotlight on the few genuine pubs that have not been shut down, replaced by theme bars or by Gordon Ramsay-style gastropubs, the tome pinpoints a total of ten London hangouts which it says we cannot afford to lose. The Montague has been run by landlord Peter Hoyle since 1967, when it was "full of gangsters" before he reinvented it as a community local with lots of live music. Even Sir Paul McCartney once played an impromptu gig there and New Year's Eve celebrations include live renditions of London classics like The Lambeth Walk... The Rough Pub Guide by Robin Turner and Paul Moody will be published by Orion on 16 October.'

Monday, August 11, 2008

Bankside hoardings and a mystery movie

The building work at Tate Modern on Bankside is surrounded by hoardings that have been decorated with large reproductions of newspaper clippings about the local area. There are some intriguing snippets, mostly undated fragments that leave you wanting the fully story. This section seems to refer to a number of film and TV locations. For instance there is a paragraph saying “A film that will show South Londoners as the warm-hearted, decent people they are, instead of third-rate gangsters and crooks, is being made. The film, being shot entirely in South London, starts at the King’s Arms, Walworth Road’. Does anybody have any idea what film this refers to?

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Deptford Creek Giant

This sculpture of the 'Deptford Creek Giant' was made by children on a sculpture course at APT Gallery last week, part of the Creekside Summer College programme of activities involving APT, Laban, Creekside Education Trust and Trinity College of Music.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

White Hart Lap Dancing Application - Licensing Committee

The papers have been published for the Lewisham Council Licensing Committee meeting on Thusday 14 August at 6:30 pm. The meeting will take place in Committee Room 4 of Lewisham Town Hall and will be open to the public.

The meeting will only be considering three applications, the most contentious of which is the application from the White Hart pub at 184 New Cross Road for strip tease and lap dancing. The application from landlord Kenneth Linwood makes it clear exactly what is proposed: 'I wish to provide entertainment, being striptease and lap dancing. I would like to have the dancers during the day and evening. Approximately 8 dancers at any one time' with facilities including 'dance floor, tables, a booth for private dancing and poles for pole dancing' (no mention of what the hotel rooms upstairs will be used for). Proposed opening times are given as 2:00 pm to 2:30 am, seven days a week.

A huge number of objections have been lodged to the application, as well as some statements of support. The landlord has collected eight pages of signatures on a petition in support of his application, and there are seventeen pages of signatures on a petition headed 'No to a Lap Dancing Club in New Cross Gate'. In terms of letters and emails, there is only one in support of the application, and 140 against. Those registering objections include local councillors, Joan Ruddock MP, the Metropolitan Police, local churches (All Saints and St Catherine's), the Queens Road GP Practice (near to the pub), Eaves Housing for Women, the Hair & Beauty Studio and Parkers Estate Agents. I am not normally to be found in such respectable company, but reading through the various letters has strengthened my opposition to this proposal.

A lot of people talk about the negative impact of the proposal on the immediate area. The fact is New Cross feels like a traffic corridor with little public space. Whatever people think about the progress of regeneration in New Cross, the plans for a new library and health centre, plus a pedestrianised area, at least offer the possibility of the 'Kender Triangle' being a public area where local people might feel safe and comfortable. Obviously having a lap dancing club in the middle of it makes a mockery of that vision. Unfortunately these objections might not carry much weight in their own right, as the Licensing Act 2003 allows a narrow range of reasons for license applications to be refused.

I was particularly struck by the views of women who will have no choice but to pass by the White Hart because of its proximity to the only road crossing at this end of New Cross Road and Queens Road - and who fear sexual harrassment from drunk punters standing outside for a smoke or coming out afterwards. One letter states: 'As three young women living locally, I can guarantee that our lives would be affected by such a club being allowed to open. I believe that permitting longer drinking hours in a venue where unfulfilled sexual titillation is at the core, is a recipe for disaster once customers leave the pub'. Another says: 'I already feel that I have to go out of my way to walk on the other side of the road when coming from or going to the bus stop, particularly at night, as I feel unsafe around that stretch of road. The club is likely to make matters much worse, attracting to the corner people who have not only drunk a lot, as now, but who are also excited and eager to exploit women. I assume that any of them who want to smoke will have to congregate outside anyway. If I, or any woman walk round that corner, we would either have to run the gauntlet of the gathering or step out into the very busy road'.

I would recommend that people attend the meeting of the Licensing Committee and be prepared to back up their written objections in person if needed. Further details of the meeting should be available from

One thing that has surprized me about this whole affair is how easy it can be for contentious applications to get through without anybody knowing about them. Many people only found out about the White Hart application at the last minute - through the South London Press, at this site, Brockley Central and emails from friends. When I first heard out about it I could find no details of the application on the Lewisham Council website, and reading through the officer's report on the application I can see why. It states 'The application was advertised in accordance with the regulations (premises and Loot 9 July 2008)'. Who reads Loot?! What about local papers and what about the Council website?

See also: result of application.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Sydenham Hill Woods

Took the dog for a walk today in one of my favourite local spots, Sydenham Hill Woods. In the woods there is what appears to be the ruins of a chapel - in fact it is a Victorian folly, built to look like a ruin in a garden which then covered part of the area.

At the other end of the wood there is this bridge. Today all that is underneath are burnt out stolen scooters, and the view is of woodland.

In 1871 Camille Pissarro stood on this bridge and painted the railway line heading down to Lordship Lane station - the course of the former is now the main track through the woods.

Nearby on Sydenham Hill there is an elaborate roadside memorial commemorating the death in a car accident of 30-year-old Michael Maloney in July 2007. Unusually the shrine includes an engraved stone as well as the more usual flowers and photographs.

DPM Graffiti Crew Jailed

There is a growing campaign in support of the five members of the DPM graffiti crew jailed at Southwark Crown Court last month. Five men from South London have been jailed for up to two years for painting on trains and stations.

- Andrew Gillman, 25, from St John's Hill, Battersea: 2 years custodial sentence.
- Ziggy Grudzinskas, 25, from Ulundi Road, Blackheath: 18 months custodial sentence.
- Slav Zinoviev, 25, from St John's Hill, Battersea: 18 months custodial sentence.
- Paul Andrew Stewart, 26, from Manor Lane, Lewisham: 18 months custodial sentence.
- Matthew Pease, 24, from Manor Lane, Lewisham: 15 months custodial sentence

Three others received suspended sentences. The organisers of the Support DPM petition argue that:

"-Graffiti is a non-violent crime and these men represent no threat to society.
-Graffiti is a mainstream art form and the messages given in our media and general culture are confusing, these young men sought fame in a way that Banksy is celebrated for, they were incarcerated!
-These young men have otherwise clean records.
-The judge accepted that none of the defendants are at any risk of re-offending.
-Of all of the controversial activities that young men engage in today in modern society, graffiti is at least constructive and creative.
-Graffiti is a wonderful thing and as a society we have to develop ways to bring it into the mainstream rather than ostracising it’s perpetrators.
-Even Judge Christopher Hardy himself said:"It would be wrong of me not to acknowledge that some examples of your handiwork show considerable artistic talent, part of what is now known as the graffiti subculture and on the way to being recognised as a valid form of art.
- MOST IMPORTANTLY-These young men have a lot to offer to society. This is not achieved by incarceration. A community order for those who were imprisoned would have enabled them to give back to society and would have been far more appropriate".

Another of those jailed, Ziggy Grudzinskas, a 25-year-old Camberwell College art student, has pointed out the irony that on the day they were sentenced, Tate Modern was holding a major street art exhibition: “I stood there completely baffled for about an hour outside of the Tate to tell you the truth. I quite like it but it really confused me a lot. I know that half, if not all of the graffiti that is on the Tate Modern building is done by people who do illegal graffiti or have done illegal graffiti and have made their name doing that. It is like they’re saying ‘yeah we’re on the edge of the law yet we’re being shown by one of the biggest galleries in London. And it’s sponsored by Nissan!”. Grudzinskas has previously been commissioned by Greenwich Council to run street art workshops for young people.

Meanwhile a New York gallery has held an event in support of those convicted at Southwark. "DPM – Exhibit A", at the Anonymous Gallery Project in SoHo, included photographs of the convicts' work alongside copies of their charge sheets.

It appears that British Transport Police could have stopped the DPM crew earlier on by arresting them when they had evidence against them. Instead they chose to allow them to continue while they conducted a two year investingation in order to secure a conspiracy conviction and the maximum sentence to send a wider message and deter others. You don't have to be a street art enthusiast or agree with people decorating trains to recognise that these young men do not belong in Wandsworth Prison (where they were sent after the trial).

See also: Better Never Than Late for more on the Tate/DPM contradiction; The Ruinist prefers honest old-fashioned vandalism to street art.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

William Morris and South London

William Morris was an active socialist as well as artist and writer. His well-documented life gives an insight into the extent of socialist and radical movements in South East London during the 1880s and 1890s, as well as artistic and musical scenes. The following extracts from The William Morris Internet Archive : Chronology cover his South London engagements in this period (I have not included his house in Bexleyheath or his workshop in Merton).

22 February 1884: Morris was scheduled to deliver 'Useful Work versus Useless Toil' before the Invicta Club at the Club's rooms in William Street, Woolwich. 9 May 1884 : Morris wrote to Henry Cornelius Donavan declining his request to stand as a candidate for the board of Greenwich Zoo [where was Greenwich Zoo? - sounds like a case for the Phantom]. 8 September 1884 : Morris delivered 'Misery and The Way Out' before the Borough of Southwark Branch of the Social Democratic Federation (SDF) at the Queen's Bench Coffee Rooms, 23 Southwark Bridge Road, London. 25 January 1885 : Morris gave an unnamed lecture to the Woolwich Branch of the SDF in Woolwich. The Daily News printed an article in which it was stated that `Mr. William Morris, the poet of English Socialism - and of other things besides - will issue the first number of his new journal The Commonweal next Wednesday.' 22 February 1885 : Morris was scheduled to deliver 'Useful Work versus Useless Toil' before the Southwark Branch of the Socialist League (SL) at the Forester's Arms, 62 Blackman Street, London. 29 October 1885 : Morris was scheduled to give a lecture at a meeting sponsored by the South London Branch of the Socialist League at the Camberwell Radical Club, Gloucester Road, Peckham. It is unlikely that this lecture was given as he was still suffering from gout. 7 January 1886 : Morris was scheduled to deliver 'How We Live and How We Might Live' at a meeting sponsored by the South London Branch of the Socialist League at the Camberwell Radical Club, Gloucester Road, Peckham. 12 January 1886: Morris delivered 'Socialism' before the Peckham and Dulwich Radical Club at 144 Rye Lane, Peckham. 12 May 1886: Morris was scheduled to give a lecture at a meeting sponsored by the Woolwich Branch of the Socialist League at Woolwich. 9 February 1887 : Morris delivered a lecture before an unnamed 'goody-goody literary society' at a schoolroom on Peckham High Street. The meeting started with prayers and ended with a blessing. Canon Ripley was chairman of the meeting. 31 March 1889 : Morris was scheduled to deliver 'Equality' at a meeting sponsored by the Southwark and Lambeth Branches of the SDF at the Nelson Coffee Tavern, Westminster Bridge Road, London. 4 June 1889 : Morris was scheduled to deliver `Monopoly' at a meeting sponsored by the Northern Radical Club and the Southwark and Lambeth Branches of the SDF at 108 Westminster Bridge Road, London.

7 January 1894 : Arnold Dolmetsch had lunch with Morris and Burne-Jones to discuss the prospect of the Kelmscott Press publishing an edition of early English songs (this project was never completed). Dolmetsch introduced Morris to early instrumental music around this time. He wrote: 'One memorable day, in 1894, Burne-Jones brought Morris to one of my old English performances in Dulwich. He understood this music at once, and his emotion was so strong that he was moved to tears! He had found the lost art! (c.f. 21 September 1896).' 14 January 1894 : Morris lectured on 'Early England' at a meeting held at the South London Art Gallery, Peckham Road, London.

Deptford Pink

The Deptford Pink (Dianthus armeria) is extinct as a wildflower in the area that once gave it its English name. In 1633 it was common enough for a herbalist to write: ‘There is a little wilde creeping Pinke, which groweth in our pastures neere about London, and in other places, but especially in the great field next to Deptford, by the path side as you go from Redriffe to Greenwich' (Thomas Johnson's edition of Gerard's Herbal).

Deptford Pink

A number of websites (including this one) repeat the suggestion that the plant's English name is a misnomer, that the plant identified in 17th century Deptford was probably Maiden Pink (Dianthus deltoides), and that Deptford Pink (Dianthus armeria) probably never grew here. I would like to see the original source for this claim - is it an opinion or an accepted fact?
In any event both kinds of Pink are threatened in England, so lets try and get some of both planted across South East London. A few years ago at a local history talk in Use Your Loaf (Deptford High Street) I gave away some Deptford Pink seeds. If lots of people planted seeds in their gardens, parks, borders bit of wasteground, we could re-establish a viable wild population. You can buy the seeds cheaply and easily from the many seed suppliers online (e.g. Secret Seeds).

Maiden Pink

Monday, August 04, 2008

Deptford Stories

A would-be literary pedant (OK it was me) was spotted in Greenwich Waterstone's earlier today tut-tutting over the display of London novels. Next to various works by Iain Sinclair and Peter Ackroyd were copies of The Deptford Trilogy by Robertson Davies. The only problem being that the Deptford in this trilogy is not in South East London - it is a fictional Canadian village based on the author's home of Thamesville, Ontario (confusingly the real life Thamesville is on a river Thames and in area called Chatham-Kent!).

So what novels and short stories are actually set in our Deptford? Well for a start there's ‘The Adventure of the Deptford Horror’ (1953), a Sherlock Holmes story by Adrian Conan Doyle (son of Arthur). In this tale giant killer spiders from Cuba are used to deadly effect in ‘a lane of mean slatternly houses sloping, so far as I could judge from the yellow mist that was already creeping up the lower end, to the river's edge... Usually I am not unduly affected by my surroundings, but I must confess that I was aware of a feeling of depression at the melancholy spectacle that lay before us’.

Doyle was not the only writer to see Deptford as a suitable setting for crime. A murder in a Deptford almshouse features in Molly Brown’s restoration mystery ‘Invitation to a Funeral’ (1995), while in ‘Go’ by Simon Lewis’ (1998), the story starts in a Deptford nightclub presided over by murderous gangsters, before moving on with its backpacker characters to Goa and Hong Kong. In ‘The Family Arsenal’ (1976), Paul Theroux uses the area as the base for a group of urban guerrillas, living close to ‘the river at Deptford, showing like a band of bright snake scales; but the snake lay hidden, and here when the wind was right on the creek it was a smell – a tidal odor of mudbanks and exposed pebbles, a blocked sink holding a dead serpent’.

There are also fictional accounts of the death of Christopher Marlowe, most notably ‘A Dead Man in Deptford’ (1993) by Anthony Burges, in which Marlowe is ‘soothed by the noise of the waterside taverns, where there was much hard drinking’ in an imagined 16th century Deptford: ‘the shipbuilders early awork… A faint stink from the Queen’s slaughterhouse. But was not the whole land her slaughterhouse? A firmer stink from the tanneries. Inland gulls wove over the waters and crarked. Sails, sails, a wilderness of them’. A more outlandish fictionalisation by Rosemary Laurey, ‘Walk in Moonlight’ (2000), has Marlowe as a vampire, although I must confess I haven't actually read that one yet.

Anyone know any others?

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Ritualism and Riots in New Cross

This current disputes in the Anglican Church, including at this week's Lambeth conference, put me in mind of a previous dispute in the Church which led to riots in New Cross.

In the 1870s St James Church, Hatcham, was the scene of bitter religious controversy, at the centre of which was the Reverand Arthur Tooth (1839-1931) appointed vicar in 1868. Tooth was on the Anglo-Catholic wing of the Church of England, and among other innovations at St James he founded a Community of Sisters, an orphanage (which served as the choir school of the church) and a Lady Chapel. With others at St James he founded the Guild of All Souls, a body which exists to this day.

Tooth (pictured) fell foul of the Public Worship Regulation Act, designed to stamp out Roman Catholic ‘ritualism’ in the Church. In 1876 he was formally notified of intended prosecution under the Act, with the charge including 'the Use of Eucharistic Vestments, Lighted Candles, Incense, Mixed Chalice, Eastward Position, Genuflexion, Elevation of the Host, the sign of the Cross at the Absolution and Blessing, the singing of the Agnus Dei'.

The threat of the law was backed up by Protestant mobs who rioted regularly at the Church on Sundays between Christmas 1876 and January 21 1877, smashing windows and storming the doors. Tooth ignored a Court order to stop his Catholic practices and the day after the final riot, he was arrested in Borough High Street, and jailed for several weeks in Horsemonger Lane Gaol for contempt of Court. After being released in ill-health, Tooth returned to New Cross and in defiance of the ban climbed in through a window to celebrate Mass one last time.

Today hardly anyone bats an eyelid if someone lights a candle in an Anglican church, who knows one day gay and women priests will be treated as equally uncontroversial.

The current St James Church dates from 1982, but parts of the original 1853 building remain in use by Goldsmiths College.

Source: documents on Arthur Tooth at Project Canterbury.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Normal Service Resumed

If you tried to access this site earlier today using Internet Explorer you would have been unable to do so. Apparently anybody who uses the Sitemeter counter on their site is having the same problem - the only solution (at least until Sitemeter change their new software code) is to remove Sitemeter, which I have done for now.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Ghost Rider

London: hot, smelly and yet, once you get out of the west end, pleasingly empty over August. So why not get on your bike?

London story magazine One Eye Grey, artisan grid-iron vendors Witcomb Cycles and intimidatingly-thighed peddlers Southwark Cyclists present two sociable, after work guided rides (same ride, two different days) called Fright Bikes.

Meeting at Southwark Needle on the south end of London Bridge at 6.30pm, Thursday 7 and 28th of August. Tours are free and last about two hours please register your interest through One Eye Grey or Southwark Cyclists.

Ghostly polar bears, well hung pirates, the origin of the jolly roger, ghostly barmaids and phantom hunts can be expected to be mentioned if not actually seen. Two scary cycle rides from London Bridge to Deptford with occasional stops to hear ghastly tales and local folklore. Ending up in the lovely Dog and Bell in Prince Street, Deptford around 8.30pm....shadows permitting.

On the subject of One Eye Grey, Issue 5 has been out a couple of months now, offering seven fantastical London stories for £2.50. South East London features in tw stories, my own effort The Temple of Bacchus, the alternative history of a Camberwell offie and a sinster tale of an Anerley raven.

It can be bought from these vendors, and is always looks out for further stockists.

South East London News You May Not Care About. One.

Number one in an occasional series

Peter Andre sang at a concert last week. It was at Invicta Primary School Assembly in Blackheath, South London.

From Popbitch