Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Telegraph Hill 1856

Bill, a commenter at a previous post, has pointed me in the direction of an interesting 1856 map of London waterworks. As he notes, Telegraph Hill is clearly named as such on this map.

Immediately to the South West of Telegraph Hill, Nunhead Hill is shown - this is the area now partly covered by Nunhead cemetery.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Strange Sounds in Welling

A tale of strange noises in Welling - it's stretching it a bit to bring spaceships into this story!

A desperate couple are looking for clues to track down the source of a vibration which is making their lives a misery. The pulsating noise has kept Irene and Edward Funnell from a good night's sleep for 286 days and, despite attempts by a variety of authorities to find the cause, no-one knows where it is coming from. Mrs Funnell, 62, of Lovel Avenue, Welling, said: "Some people think we are mad, but we are just normal people."

The couple, who have lived in their home for 34 years, thought at first the low throbbing noise was the bass from someone's music. Then they thought it might be a lorry parked in the street with its engine running. But just before Christmas last year, 63-year-old Mr Funnell was woken up in the early hours by "an awful noise" coming from somewhere in the house. The couple got up and heard a hissing noi se as they searched for the source. They opened the back door and went outside.

Mrs Funnell said: "It was like a vibration in the head, but you could feel it in the air. My husband said he would not have been surprised to look up and see a spaceship. It was very frightening."

Almost the same spaceship comparison was used by Lord Philips of Sudbury last month to describe a mysterious hum which began in the Suffolk town in July and which has also not yet been traced. Mrs Funnell said: "We dread going to bed. We nod off but it is always broken sleep and we are awake by 3.30am. We get no peace and quiet any more."

The couple's landlord, housing association London and Quadrant, has been working to find the source of the vibration, taking apart the central heating system and checking the electrics and the drains...

(full story, 25 September 2008, here)

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Misty Morning Southwark Bridge

Thanks to Juleigh Gordon-Orr for this picture taken early yesterday morning from the Millennium Bridge looking towards Southwark Bridge.

Eleanor Marx in Sydenham

Sydenham Town has a nice feature of this month's unveiling of a blue plaque commemorating Eleanor Marx (1855-1898) at 7 Jews Walk, Sydenham. Eleanor is best known as the daughter of Karl Marx, but was a prominent socialist in her own right - for instance she was involved in founding the Socialist League with William Morris and others. While living in Sydenham she wrote for the socialist paper Justice on the women's question and other issues.

The Sydenham Town feature includes film of the unveiling with Sydenham Society historian Steven Grindlay providing details of her time in the house from 1895 to 1898. Evidently she bought the house with money left to her by Friedrich Engels, and was partly taken by the house because of its address - she wrote to her sister that she was 'Jewishly proud of her house in Jews Walk' (she was part Jewish).
Her relationship with Edward Aveling was falling apart at this time, despite her nursing him after an illness during which she pushed him around Sydenham in a bath chair, and she apparently poisoned herself (Grindlay has even identified the location of the chemist in Kirkdale which supplied the poison). The plaque opening also featured architectural historian Gavin Stamp and The Strawberry Thieves socialist choir leading the singing of the Internationale.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Dulwich Wood House

I was about to make a delayed post about finding a pub with a decent garden in South East London, recommending a trip to The Dulwich Wood House at 39 Sydenham Hill. It is very close to the entrance to Sydenham Hill Woods on Crescent Wood Road and is therefore ideal for a drink after walking the dog in the woods, as we did a few weeks ago. I was going to say that the pub managed to combine being a nice traditional pub feel rooted in the local area (with old newspaper clippings about the Crystal Palace on the wall), while offering what looked like a decent menu (albeit it a bit pricey and I didn't actually try the food). I was going to sing the praises of the bucolic garden overlooked by a veranda.

But then checking the details at Beer in the Evening I found that it is actually closed for refurbishment, with rumours of the restaurant being extended (presumably farewell to the veranda), the bar modernised and dogs being banned! Well I guess we'll have to wait and see what its like when the works finished - it will still be a pub in a great location with a decent garden. But let's hope it doesn't lose its pub character entirely, and let's hope too that they at least allow dogs in the garden - do they want to lose the 'just walked the dog in the woods and need a pint and something to eat' market (actually they probably do).

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Catford prefabs to be saved?

Interesting article in today Guardian today about the Excalibur estate in Catford:

'When Eddie O'Mahony, then a newly demobbed sergeant with a wife and two infant sons, moved into his prefab bungalow in June 1946 he was told the hastily assembled timber panel home would last no more than a decade... Now, in a testament to both the unexpected longevity and historical significance of the prefab, almost 160,000 of which were hurriedly thrown up following the second world war to combat a crippling housing shortage, O'Mahony's home is likely to receive official protection in the next few weeks. The culture minister, Margaret Hodge, is expected to announce that the entire estate of 185 prefabs in Catford, south-east London, along with its rare, tin-roofed "temporary" church, should be given a Grade II listing." (full article here)

Monday, September 22, 2008

Nail the Cross this weekend

This Saturday 27th September 2008, No Pain In Pop and Adventures in the Beetroot Field present... NAIL THE CROSS a day of music and art across multiple venues and galleries in the heart of New Cross. The deal is people pay £15 and get a wrist band with which they go in and out of venues including Goldsmiths Student Union, Amersham Arms, New Cross Inn, Goldsmiths Tavern and The Walpole. It starts at lunchtime and carries on to the next morning. There's a good and diverse line up including Clinic, These New Puritans, Benga, Archie Bronson Outfit, Afrikan Boy, Hatcham Social and many many more.

You can buy tickets online or at the Amersham Arms, and then go to The Hobgoblin on the day and swap them for a wristband. The Hobgoblin itself will be open all day with 'Kelvstock' presenting music from 12 noon until nine, with free admission (i.e. you won't need a wristband or ticket). Local acts playing there will include Redgress Colletive, Little Devils, The Teenage Men, Cordelia Fellowes, Vikki G and Brockley Ukulele Group (who will be on around 6 pm)

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Welcome to students

Yes it's that time of year, a new crop of students from all over the country (and indeed the world) are coming to live in New Cross and the surrounding area, most going to Goldsmiths, some to Camberwell Art College, London College of Communications or the Laban. The 'student houses' in our street have new tenants and I've spotted a few groups excitedly exploring the area.

If any of you come across this site can I just say 'welcome to South East London'. Yes, you will meet some snotty folk who will resentfully blank you for being 'off the manor' and if you're very unlucky you might even encounter some scum who will try and part you from your wallet and mobile phone. But anyone with a spark of life must surely welcome the student population - OK like every other part of the community, they have their share of idiots - but lets face it New Cross would be socially poorer without students keeping the nightlife going, forming bands, and (in some cases) staying in the area after college and stopping the area stagnating.

When was Telegraph Hill invented?

In a previous post about Waller Road, I noted that the designation by some of the area South of New Cross Road and north of Brockley as the distinct area of 'Telegraph Hill' (rather than as part of New Cross) seems to be quite recent. It is not mentioned, other than as the name for the parks, in the memoirs of Eileen Elias, ‘On Sundays we wore white’ (London: WH Allen, 1978) which describe her childhood in the area from 1910 to 1920.

I was delighted to hear this week from Tony Robins, who grew up in the area in the 1930s and 1940s (his war time memoirs are available online here). Tony recalls: 'From 1930, the year I was born, to 1948 (National Service),we lived at 77 Kitto Road, on the corner of Erlanger Road. Nobody could live closer to both parks, and my sisters & I considered they were ours - I think nobody could possibly have spent more time playing in them than we did! We knew our address was 77 Kitto Road, New Cross, S.E.14., and always said we lived at New Cross, or New Cross Gate (or even just the Gate) - not at Telegraph Hill, even though the parks had that name. After the war, coming home by bus or tram either along the Old Kent Road or Queens Road, or the other way from Lewisham or Greenwich, when paying my fare I learned to tell the conductor simply "The Gate, please".

So when was Telegraph Hill invented? I believe that the Telegraph Hill Centre opened in 1968, and there was a community body called the Telegraph Hill Social Council around this time and into the 1970s. But I think these were conceived as serving the Telegraph Hill Ward, part of the Lewisham Council area that extends almost to Honor Oak. I think it was probably the designation of the Telegraph Hill conservation area in 1990 that created a sense of a more narrow boundary, defined by the housing built by the Haberdashers Company in the late 19th/early 20th centuries. This is the area focused on by the Telegraph Hill Society, rather than the more architecturally and socially mixed Telegraph Hill Ward.

None of this matters too much, names do shift and after all 'New Cross Gate' was a new name compared with Hatcham, the area's older moniker. But I do think when people make a point of saying they live in 'Telegraph Hill not New Cross' as opposed to 'Telegraph Hill in New Cross' they are kidding nobody but themselves. What worries me more is that the imagined geographic distancing easily slips into a social distancing, with some people perhaps believing that they are somehow superior because they live several metres higher above sea level than the folks down below.

This is what Tim Butler and Garry Robson found in their academic study 'London Calling: The Middle Classes and the Re-Making of Inner London' (Oxford: Berg, 2003), in which they describe ‘Telegraph Hill’ as a middle class ‘enclave’ marked by ‘an element of smugness that is somewhat off-putting’ and a ‘denial of the wider area (New Cross) in which Telegraph Hill is located’. This is something of a stereotype, but a recognisable one nevertheless.

Nunhead Arts Week

Nunhead Arts Week is on right now, highlights in the next week include:

Tuesday 23rd September: Writers’ Workshop - Southwark’s local historian Stephen Bourne, author of several successful Black History books, will be sharing his experience of writing for local and mainstream publishers.Venue: Nunhead Library Time: 7-9pm, free.

Thursday 25th September: Comedy night, with Radio 4’s Arthur Smith, Ben Butler and Emmi Ogle plus the regular ‘Pull The Other One’team. Venue: The Ivy House, 40 Stuart Road Time: 8.30pm. All Tickets £5 before 8.30pm.

Friday 26th September: Film Night, Dulwich Paradiso returns to Nunhead with the screening of mike Leigh’s “Happy-go-lucky”. Venue: upstairs at The Old Nun’s HeadTime: Doors 7.45pm. Film 8.30pm All Tickets £2 (inc membership).

Sunday 28th September: Nunhead Walk, local historian Ron Woollacott MBE will take you on a walk around historic Nunhead. Venue: Outside The Old Nun’s Head Time: 11.30am (Walk approx.1.5 hrs). Free.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Deptford 45s

"Deptford 45s are 7 x 3 min audio-visual remixes using audio & video recordings of sites identified as meaningful valuable to local residents. Trading as 'Deptford Tourist Board' through a market consultation stall local residents shared their insights into Deptford, which once recorded became the film's source material. The project captures Deptford through its current and expanding community's experiences of Deptford's everyday sites and sounds".

There is a free showing next Friday 26th September 2008, 6 - 9 pm, Deptford Arms, 52 Deptford High St, as part of Deptford X's 10th anniversary invited projects and the annual Artful Festival. Further details from the Deptford 45s website.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

White Hart Lap Dancing Saga Continues

Kenneth Linwood, the landlord of the White Hart in New Cross, has lodged a legal appeal against Lewisham Council’s decision not to grant a licence for striptease, lap and pole dancing at the pub. The first hearing for the appeal will come before the Magistrates Court on 15th October 2008.

It seems that the 'for sale' sign outside the pub has been there for a while (details here), rather than being prompted by recent events as I suggested earlier.

I think it's a shame that Ken has gone into this bunker mentality - it would have been better if he'd accepted that it was a mistake to close the pub and open a strip joint instead. There was overwhelming local opposition to his plans and he really is digging himself into a hole by appealing - because the fact is he needs people to come into his pub and he is making himself and therefore the pub increasingly unpopular.

Having said that, opponents of the plans will need to get their act together, as Magistrates Courts can and do overrule licensing decisions made by Councils.

See previous posts for the background to this row.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Artful: New Cross/Deptford history, music and weirdness talks

Artful 2008 runs for all of October, with lots of music, art and other happenings in New Cross and Deptford. The programme is being finalised but it will include a couple of talks by friends of Transpontine.

On Tuesday 14th October, Neil Gordon-Orr will be giving a talk (with music and visuals) on 'Deptford Fun City: the musical history of New Cross and Deptford', covering everything from music hall through to punk, reggae, Britpop and beyond. It takes place in the Deptford Arms, Deptford High Street at 7:30 pm, and admmission is free.

Thursday 30th October sees Scott Wood leading The Dark Arts Walk, starting outside The Hobgoblin Pub, opposite New Cross Station, at 7pm. The walk will take in New Cross and Deptford's strange and ghostly folklore and history. Ghosts and ghost hunters, witchcraft and the devil, an exploding chip shop and boozers from beyond the grave.The walk will take approximately an hour and a half and will end with a pint at the Dog & Bell, Prince Street.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

New Cross Pub News

There is a 'For Sale' sign up on the White Hart Inn in New Cross. The landlord has come in for a lot of local criticism after his ill-judged attempt to turn the place into a lap dancing club, but as we've said before it would be a great loss if there was no longer a pub in this key location on the junction of Queens Road and New Cross Road. Still with the Hatcham Liberal Club still unsold and falling into disrepair just round the corner, you wonder who's going to buy it. If I won the lottery I'd probably take them both and turn them into utopian palaces of drink, food, dancing and sociability, but that doesn't seem too likely.

Meanwhile there is a lot of building work going on at the former Earl of Derby in Dennetts Road, with an extension downstairs and a function room upstairs. The whole exterior of the building has been painted so somebody's making a real effort, which is great as I feared this was going to be another vanishing pub replaced with housing. Not sure exactly what's planned, but the owners are Remarkable Restaurants Ltd who refurbished the George and Dragon in Acton, which has had good reviews - so expect food as well as drink.

The Working Class Goes to Heaven

Some radical films at the Elephant and Castle this Friday night, with 'Workers leaving the Factory' by Harun Farocki followed by 'The Working Class Goes to Heaven' (La Classe Operaia va in Paradiso) by Elio Petri - a 1971 film about the struggles of an Italian factory worker.

Date: 19 September, 2008, 7.00pm for 7.30pm start at The Pullens Centre, Crampton St, SE17.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Walking New Cross (10): St James

St James is a small, quiet road in New Cross that is today entirely devoted to education and religion. Goldsmiths College occupies most of the former houses on the east side of the street, and one of its hall of residence (Loring Hall) is on the other side. St James Church of England Primary School has two sites – the main school and opposite it its nursery building.

A fine tree (False Acacia?) outside St James School

At the end of the street, the former St James Church building (built in 1853) still stands.

For some years it housed the Laban Centre for Movement and Dance before it departed to its new purpose-built dance building on Deptford Creekside. When Laban was in New Cross it was headed for some time by the US dancer Bonnie Bird, who invited the composer John Cage (her former accompanist) and Merce Cunninham to run workshops with students at Laban in July 1980; Cage and Cunningham performed in in the Great Hall at Goldsmiths (details in this list of Cage’s work). Among the graduates of Laban here was the choreographer Matthew Bourne, well known for his adaptions of Swan Lake and more recently Dorian Gray. Today the old Laban buildings seems to be used by the Creative Lewisham Agency.

Next to it is the new Church building, which dates from 1982:

On the side of the old Church is small garden of remembrance. There is a memorial to local people who died in the First World War and another for the 1939-45 dead ‘in Remembrance of all who died in this Parish through Enemy Action – called from World at War into his Kingdom of Peace’.

This is poignant, for at the other end of the road, on the corner of New Cross Road, the ‘temporary’ low rise buildings occupy the site of second world war bomb damage – directly opposite the Iceland store stands where on 25 November 1944 the Woolworth’s shop sustained a direct hit from a V2 rocket, killing 168 people – the worst attack of the war.

The quiet road of today has also seen less serious violence, from the religious riots of the 1870s outside the church, to the 1977 ‘Battle of Lewisham’ when anti-fascists gathered material from this road to throw at the National Front marchers.

Oh yes and there’s the cows! To encourage recycling, these bins have been decorated by Artmongers with a sign inviting people to ‘Feed the Cows’.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Oldest graffiti in South London?

Walking through the Cold Blow Lane railway tunnel yesterday I noticed that the graffiti I photographed earlier in the year has been obliterated. As I said at the time, this was a museum of graffiti going back at least 30 years, so it's a shame it has been thoughtlessly painted over.

Let's try and find the oldest graffiti in South London - make sure you photograph any contendors quickly because it might not be there for much longer. So far the Cold Blow Lane 'T.Rex' graffiti is the oldest confirmed, assuming it was contemporary with the band it must have been painted in 1977 at the latest (when the band's singer Marc Bolan was killed), and in all probability in the band's peak period of 1972-73 - making it 35 years old at the point it was painted over.

Walking New Cross (9): Goodwood Road to Sterling Gardens

Goodwood Road runs down to a dead end from New Cross Road, with the Rising Sun cafe (formerly Moonbow Jakes) and Shalom Rev Christian bookshop occupying the corners. It is a bit of an architectural hotchpotch - a 19th century terrace, industrial buildings of various dates in different states of disrepair, and more or less brand new student accommodation sharing buildings with the New Cross Dialysis Centre and the New Cross NHS Walk-in Centre (below). The latter is something everyone round here should know about it - it is open from 8 am to 8 pm, Monday to Saturday and can treat minor injuries and illnesses without an appointment.
On the telephone lines across the road there are a couple or pairs of trainers hanging in the air - an international phenomenon and the subject of urban folklore.

Auburn Close is a small estate squeezed in between Goodwood Road and the railway line, managed by Wandle Housing. Further down, an alleyway at the bottom of Goodwood road has a chalked anti-violence message on the wall (Right Peace, Wrong Piece).
It leads through to Southerngate Way, with lots of small cul-de-sacs running off it (Pear Close, Tarragon Close, Silver Close, Woodrush Close, Redstart Close, Sorrel Close). This is a residential area (early 1990s?) and if not as green as the names might suggest, it is surprisingly leafy with lots of bushes and trees at the front of people's houses. See, for instance, these palm trees in Pear Close:

Another alleyway at the north end of Tarragon Close brings you out in Sterling Gardens, fairly modern flats, now best known as the scene of the brutal murder of two French students earlier in the year. Wandering around this new housing, much of it quite anonymous and featureless, even bland, caused me to reflect on how places acquire a history. I guess even the most apparently soulless places get woven into personal histories as people are born, play, fall in love, grow old and die there. These interconnecting intimate memories weave together a local community sense of place, into which are woven too the recollections of more dramatic events - wars, crimes, riots, the achievements of those who lived there and went on to be writers, footballers, pop stars... So in New Cross, as everywhere else, every street has a story even if it can't immediately be read off the buildings like in places with more obviously 'historic' architecture.

On Southerngate Way (left) and Goodwood Road (right) there are surviving stink pipes, sewage ventilation pipes first put up in Victorian times to clear noxious gases from the sewer system. For years I thought these were just lamposts with the lights removed, now I know differently and keep spotting them everywhere.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Bill Alexander, an International Brigadier in Sydenham

Time Out London has started a series about London park benches and who they commemorate. This week's issue (11 September 2008) covers a bench in Mayow Park, Sydenham that is dedicated to 'Bill Alexander and Phil Jessamy, good friends of the park and active peace campaigners'. Apparently both were members of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, and with Bill's wife Lena formed a group in the early 1980s called Sydenham Against Cruise Missiles. Fellow member Hillary Jarrett recalled: 'Some amazing art work was produced, including a terrifying poster depicting the effect of "One cruise missile on Sydenham"'.

Bill Alexander (1910-2000, pictured) grew up in Hampshire and joined the Communist Party in 1932, taking part in the the anti-fascist 'Battle of Cable Street' and then joining the International Brigades on the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War (at the time he was living in Southwark). In 1938 he took over for a while as commander of the British battalion in Spain, before being wounded and invalided back home. In the 1960s, Alexander moved to South London, working as a chemistry teacher at Sydenham Girls School. In retirement, he became secretary of the International Brigade Association, and published British Volunteers for Liberty, an account of the International Brigade in Spain. In 1996 he returned to Sapin with other surviving volunteers and was awarded honorary Spanish citizenship. He died on 11th July 2000, aged 90 years.

According to Graham Stevenson's Compendium of Communist Biography, Sydenham was 'a part of London that long boasted a Communist Party branch with the highest concentration of veteran and well-known leaders of the Party'. These included Ida Fisher who 'worked as a doctor in Sydenham for many years' and 'was personally closely associated with Robin Page Arnot and other veterans who were registered as her patients' (she died, aged 69, in 1986); and Alec Miller, a veteran of the 1930s unemployed and anti-fascist movements who was Chair of the Sydenham branch of the CP when died in 1986.
Bill Alexander was not the only Commander of the British Battalion in Spain with a South London connection; as we've mentioned here before Fred Copeman - later a Lewisham Labour Councillor - was also in this position for a while. Personally I am ambivalent about the International Brigades - in Spain, under instructions from Stalin, the Communist Party ruthlessly suppressed other left-wing and anarchist groups who were also fighting Franco. But I can see that many of those who volunteered to fight in Spain had noble motives in wanting to do something practical to halt the advance of fascism (see Bob from Brockley for lots of links to ongoing discussions about all this).

Thursday, September 11, 2008

BUG Blog

Brockley Ukulele Group now has its own blog, declaring 'We play the ukulele. In Brockley. Loud.' BUG have a couple of gigs coming up in New Cross, playing at The Hobgoblin on Saturday 27th September (6 pm) and at The Montague Arms on Tuesday 30th September (8:30 pm).

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Scott McQuire talk at Goldsmiths

Interesting talk coming up at Goldsmiths by Scott McQuire:

'In May 2007 global media giant Google launched ‘Street Views’, an application enabling users to access a digital archive of street level photographs taken across five cities in the United States. By mid-2008, the service covered over 50 US cities, and was also launched in Australia and Japan, with more countries in the pipeline. In this paper, I want to locate ‘Street View’ within a history of urban representation and metropolitan discourse. Beginning from the invention of photography which initiated new systems of ‘mapping’ urban space in the 19th century, I will trace the ways that the convergence of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) with distributed networks and mobile media initiates new struggles over public space'.

Scott McQuire is Associate Professor in the School of Culture and Communication at the University of Melbourne. His most recent book The Media City: Media, Architecture and Urban Space was published in the Theory, Culture and Society series by Sage in 2008.

The talk is on Tuesday October 21, 2008, 7:00pm - 9:00pm, in the cinema at Goldsmiths College, New Cross. Admission Free, All Welcome.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Rats, London and Folklore

This Thursday (11th September) at South East London Folklore Society, Paul Cowdell will be talking on 'Rats, London, and Folklore: 'You're *how* far from a rat?'. He says: 'I’ll talk about my research into urban beliefs about rats and previously-recorded folklore about rats as well as the natural history of rats and their environments. I’ll look at how rats are used to represent the Other, and how beliefs about rats change from rural to urban settings. What distinguishes London’s ratlore from that of other cities, and what it might tell us about Londoners’ attitude to their home.'

It happens 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 , a map is here.Talks start at 8.00pm. £2.50 / £1.50 concessions. All Welcome.

Another SELFS-related event on 30th October sees Scott Wood leading The Dark Arts Walk. Join Scott outside The Hobgoblin Pub, opposite New Cross Station, at 7pm for a walk taking in New Cross and Deptford's strange and ghostly folklore and history. Ghosts and ghost hunters, witchcraft and the devil, an exploding chip shop and boozers from beyond the grave.

The walk will take approximately an hour and a half and will end with a pint at the Dog & Bell, Prince Street. This walk is part of the Artful festival and is in conjunction with "Stories from another London" magazine One Eye Grey.

Deptford in Vogue

The Standard reports that in the new Vogue magazine's "Don't Miss" list, 'The best café slot is dedicated to The Deptford Project, a traditional British café housed in a converted Sixties railway carriage. It sits in the old railway yard at Deptford Station and is the centrepiece of an attempt to brighten up the high street. It includes a lavatory in a shed done up as a shrine to Elvis and a weekend creative industries market.'

I haven't actually tracked down the original Vogue article yet, but will be scouring the magazine racks tomorrow.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Deptford X

'Deptford X presents Ghost Trade and the Spectre of Change, 26 September – 19 October 2008 (Thu – Sun), 4 weeks of contemporary visual art in SE8 celebrating 10 years of Deptford X. Marking a seminal time in Deptford’s history, curator Julia Alvarez draws out the different aspects of trade associated with Deptford and the marks and symbols these trades leave behind through an extensive programme of exhibitions and events in and around SE8.

Ghost Trade and the Spectre of Change includes one day projects from PILOT:, CollectingLiveArt, and Ding Dong Twist Club (featuring the launch of Deptford X’s anniversary book by Bob & Roberta Smith); plus on-going installations such as Sarah Baker’s new video work, Studs, a remake of The Stud, the screen adaptation of Jackie Collins’ best selling novel; a new setting of Yinka Shonibare’s White Flag at Half Mast, originally commissioned by the Hayward Gallery; a site-specific installation drawing on the legacy of the pawn brokers’ symbol from Fran Cottell; an upside-down harbour in Deptford Creek by Helen Barff; and Pavement Sonnets, Deptford Scars, an audio-walk made up of interviews, history, and site-specific sounds specially created for Deptford X by Ben Cummins.Most events are free, no need to book. Further details at http://www.deptfordx.org.'

Sunday, September 07, 2008

In Bow as it is in Lewisham

The Star of the Sea, Joseph O'Connor's novel of the Irish famine and emigration, features an episode in the London criminal underworld where the following parody of the Lord's prayer is used:

Our old guv'nor,
which dosses in Lewisham
swelled by thy moniker
Thy racket be come;
thy crack-job be done,
in Bow as it is in Lewisham.
Scalp us this day our lump of lead
and let us be bailed for our dodges;
as we backslaps the pox-hounds and Berkshire Hunts
what dodges agin us. (The bumsuckers.)
And jemmy us not into lushery or lurks
but send us skedaddling from blaggery.
For thine is the manor, the flash and the bovver.
Till mother breaks out of the clink. Amen.

Not sure if this is an original nineteenth-century rhyme, or one of the author's many capable pastiches of 1840s literary forms. Does anyone know?

Friday, September 05, 2008

New (to me) blogs

A couple of blogs that have come across my radar recently

- Faded London celebrates the overlooked traces of the past - fading 'ghost' signs, manhole covers and obsolete street furniture, like cattle troughs. The focus is a bit more South West than South East London, but hey.

- Jam Circus, top Brockley watering point, has set up its own blog with news from the bar and other local bits and pieces.

Boozin' of the 5000: free punk festival

This weekend (Saturday the 6th and Sunday the 7th of September) sees the "The Boozin' Of The 5000", a punk festival taking place across 4 venues in New Cross and Deptford: The Birds Nest, The Deptford Arms, The Goldsmiths Tavern and The New Cross Inn. Around 60 bands will be playing everything from anarcho-punk to dub reggae, psychobilly to ska-core. More details at the festival myspace site

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Dave Courtney and South London Raving

Raving Lunacy: Clubbed to death – adventures on the rave scene (2000) is by Dave Courtney - sometime East Dulwich resident, former Southwark Council dustman (at Grove Vale depot), and celebrity villain. Must admit I’m not big on the loveable gangster genre, violence isn’t glamorous - it’s brutal, bloody and leaves behind grieving children who are damaged for life. In this book, Courtney plays up to his image and some of the stories can no doubt be taken with a pinch of salt. Still, he does a service in documenting the early days of acid house and raving in late 80s/early 90s South London.

By his own account, Courtney went to some of the first 'acid house' events in London - Shoom in Thrale Street, Southwark and the parties held in old prison museum in Clink Street by London Bridge: 'The Clink was wicked... Very druggy and very housey place, full of proper hardcore havin'-it-larger's in there. And it was good cos it had all these individual cells so it was like having loads of little VIP lounges'.

Soon he started a club of his own: 'near the Elephant and Castle, I found a viaduct arch beneath the mainline railway track running over John Ruskin Street... The Arches was the first all-night, illegal rave in London... All the other clubs in London shut at about 2 am but mine was still banging at 8 o'clock in the morning! ... Under this great big curved, black and red railway arch roof there was the scaffolding gantry holding the DJ on the decks, massive speakers either side and the lights hanging above; and below that this heaving mass of lunatics just going completely mental, arms in the air, whistles and foghorns blowing... Steam and joint smoke hung like a fucking fog, people were dancing on speakers and scaffolding... we'd have a girl walking round in a Playboy Bunny outfit with an ice-cream tray round her neck full of ready-rolled spliffs for a quid each - Get yer Joints 'ere!' And big plastic dustbins filled to the top with ice and free apples and Ice-pops... we had a mad mixture of people: from hardcore ravers, professional clubbers, black geezers, white geezers, plenty of women, football hooligan nutters going all smiley, hardnuts softened by Ecstasy... I had names DJing there before they became superstar DJs like they are now - Danny Rampling, Carl Cox, Fabio & Grooverider, Brandon Block'.

The police at the nearby Carter Street station were not happy, and eventually it was raided by 'army of 150 police, with some fuckers called No 3 Area Territorial Support Group in flameproof overalls, bulletproof body armour and steel hel­mets with radio microphones, carrying an angle grinder, a hydraulic ram, sledgehammer'. 26 people were arrested and one person was apparently later jailed for five years for his part in running the club.

Later he was involved in putting on free open-air raves - 'I bought a massive removal van with a diesel generator ·and drove in on to fields or grasslands. Tooting Common was one. Peckham Rye was another... I'd open up the back of the lorry, set up the DJs decks and put these dirty big speakers outside. We'd get eight, nine hundred people up there really going [or it. Speakers booming it all out. And cos I didn't charge no one the law had a job Slopping me doing it. It just started attracting loads of gay blokes, which is something I hadn't counted on. But then it was the Common, the well known shag-spot for gay geezers doing some fresh air cruising, so I guess it made sense'.

He also ran a club for a while at the Fitness Centre in Southwark Park Road: 'It used to be the hottest place. It was this windowless basement space made for about 30 geezers to work out in; not two hundred people to get off their tits'.

Then he put on a club called 'Crazy Mondays', at Futures on Deptford Broadway, a club owned by Harry Haward (later as a 'retired gangster', the Chair of Deptford Action Group for the Elderly): 'It ran from 6 a.m. Monday morning till about 2 p.m. in the afternoon... there was villains, hardcore ravers, pimps, prostitutes, drug dealers, lap dancers, strippers, drag queens, club owners, club promoters, club dancers, celebrities, sports stars (Nigel Benn and Gary Mason were there), doormen, bar staff, waitresses, croupiers, gamblers, cab drivers, sex club people - basically, mostly everyone that had· worked over the weekend in the nightclub trade watching other people having a good time, all came down to mine to have their own'.

Courtney was evidently in that generation of crooks who saw the money-making opportunities in the club scene but he is also obviously a true believer, extolling the wonders of ecstasy and raving in breaking down racism in London and challenging his own anti-gay prejudice.

Anyone remember any of these nights/places? Where exactly was Futures? There was apparently also a club night there called The Treasury. Memories/flyers of any South London clubs, parties and gigs always welcome

Mark Ronson at the Hatcham

The Hatcham social club in New Cross has been closed for over a year and still seems to be for sale, but I notice that the video for Mark Ronson's version of Oh My God (featuring Lily Allen) was filmed there. It's a cartoon Lily in the video, but Ronson was evidently really there, as were The Kaiser Chiefs, who did the song originally.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Mysterious Mitcham

Mitcham is undoubtedly in South London, but is a bit too far west for our usual Transpontine coverage. On the other hand it does have in James Clark a chronicler of the urban folklore and general weirdness that is right up our street. So take a look at Mysterious Mitcham for the full low down on Mitcham Fair and its grottoes, the Phantom Cyclist of Mitcham Common plus many other tales of ghosts, UFOs etc.