Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Tonight at the Monty

Music at the Montague Arms in New Cross tonight with the excellent Cordelia Fellowes & Co., The Faction (ex-RDF), The Optics and a Halloween set from Brockley Ukulele Group. See here for a review of last month's gig with a similar line up. 8 pm to late.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Eastern Promises

I've posted a bit before on David Cronenberg's use of local film locations - including the Crown and Sceptre in Friendly Street in Spider (2002), and the Deptford riverfront (Watergate stairs) in last year's Eastern Promises.

Last week I finally got round to watching Eastern Promises and it is an excellent (if bloody) film by any standards. The alleyway to the Thames in Watergate Street, Deptford, is the location for two important scenes at the beginning and end of the film, including this pictured scene featuring Naomi Watts and Viggo Mortensen. Croneberg said: '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.’

The Wimpy Bar in Southwark Park Road (next to the Blue Anchor pub in Bermondsey) also features in the film - the very same Wimpy outside which Ray Winstone's character punches somebody in Nil by Mouth (1997).

Friday, October 24, 2008

New Cross Seen: NME 2004

It's five years now since Angular Recordings put out their New Cross compilation and gigs at the Paradise Bar (now the Royal Albert) and elsewhere led to media excitement about the 'New Cross Scene'. Here's one of the original articles from NME in May 2004 - 'We Love New Cross':

Something's stirring in southeast London's self-styled rock n' roll borough - a DIY art-rock scene that's fast becoming the sound of the UK undergroundBritain rocks, but you knew that, right? All over the country, people are switching off the TV set and doing something less boring instead: forming bands, putting on club nights, running fanzines and getting the party started their own way. The indie success stories of the year - Franz Ferdinand and The Libertines - were not born from record company focus groups but from a DIY ethic involving everything from guerilla gigs in bedrooms to whole albums posted up on websites. The effect has been to create the kind of autonomous, get-up-and-go counterculture not seen since punk. And the most self-sufficient, productive, regional microcosm in the UK right now is in London.

New Cross is near Deptford, in the southeast London borough of Lewisham, an area famous mostly for Goldsmiths Art College. Shunned as a dump by people who think they're in the know about these things, it's a fiercely independent place where Starbucks has been refused planning permission and, at the next general election, looks like winning London its first Green MP. The seeds of the current revolution are scattered wide. Some people say it started when the Paradise Bar started its weekly Pop Of The Tops night, a cheap'n'entry Tuesday nighter with a music policy stricter than 'if you can get here, you can play', and a motto which states that "the word 'cool' actually means "tepid"". Others point to the formation of Angular Recordings, whose 'The New Cross' collection set a standard for young band compilations. Fashionable art-rock it might have been, but it also made no pretence of the fact that most of the tracks were no good - what it did do was provide a collection of tunes from an embryonic group of bands that sounded thrillingly alive. And along the way it unearthed Bloc Party and spawned the minor cultural revolution that was Art Brut's 'Formed A Band' - the single most accurate distillation of the area's DIY spirit.

To the band's guitarist Chris Chinchilla, the rise of New Cross has a lot to do with the rot setting in elsewhere in the city."Camden's lost it a bit. Every time you go there it's just so full of arseholes and scum and rubbish, it's dirty and people just can't be bothered. Things go round, places have their time and maybe Camden's had its time and it's time for somewhere else. I don't think it's New Cross' time yet, it's definitely East London's time, but southeast London could be next. Somebody's still got to build us a tube line first!"Yet Chris understands that the fringes are a good place to be. With no excessive media interest to stifle it, precious few A&R cheque books to cause rivalries between the bands and enough superstars of its own to be able to shun the celebrity system, New Cross' success is down simply to everybody seeing much fun they're having out there, and wanting a piece.

Angular's other great find were Bloc Party, the post-punk politicists whose early gigs sparked a signing frenzy that's picking up further fire with their ace new single 'Banquet'. And though the real stars of the New Cross scene are the freaks and characters that congregate around the Paradise Bar - people like Unemployable Welsh Scum DJ troupe, or resident celebrity Mickey Pearce from Only Fools And Horses - the community has turned into a hotbed of new bands. You might not have heard of situationist punks Corporation: Blend, or indie intellectuals The Violets, or twisted rockers Saint Rose; you might never hear of them, but that's not the point. All of them are keeping the community alive with guerilla gigs, and the understanding that these should be nights to remember rather than dreary showcases designed to angle for a record deal.

New Cross might have been another fly-by-night local scene had the people involved not realised what they were onto. A disparate group with a near-psychotic level of civic pride have set up the Music Tourist Board, promoting the self-styled borough of Rocklands, with the ultimate aim of getting the area declared an independent rock'n'roll republic. Trixie McNaughty, promoter of Pop Of The Tops, thinks it is already."You say tourist board and people think of Old England, Beefeaters and the royal family and all that," she says. "But the real tradition in this country is rock'n'roll, it's the freaks and the wierdos and the musicians doing it for themselves."I've just been to all these meetings," she continues, "and you know how the council are usually, 'Oh, what do you want, rock'n'roll nutters' but they were actually all saying 'We love what you've done in the last few months', and they're gonna make the borough of Lewisham a rock'n'roll borough. Rock'n'roll will take a lead in how we do things!"

And you shouldn't underestimate their potential. Last month, people power defeated an attempt by a local Nimby to block the renewal of the Paradise Bar's Public Entertainments Licence. Meanwhile, there's a second Angular compilation in the offing, record deals surely waiting for Bloc Party and Art Brut, and a host of even more new talent, as well as phase two of the Music Tourist Board, with the very real possibility of taking the cause to Europe.

So with the UK rocking, southeast London appears to be burning. And while the first rule of any scene is to deny there is one if you're part of it, the second is to shout it down and shout your own up. Over to you, people...

Tuesday, October 21, 2008


South East London is not well-served for bookshops. My New Cross/Brockley/Deptford homeland is pretty much a desert. Likewise Camberwell, which just a few years ago had at least three, and Elephant & Castle since the now permanent closure of Tlon - though 56a Infoshop is still keeping the flag flying for radical literature.

Still, all is not lost. There's the newish and arty Review bookshop in Bellenden Road, Peckham. A bit further afield (for me) there are two really good independent bookshops. The Bookseller Crow is in Westow Street, Crystal Palace (and it has a blog too). When I bought my copy of The Day The Country Died : A History Of Anarcho Punk 1980 To 1984 a while ago, they told me that Joy de Vivre from Crass used to work there. Being in Crystal Palace there are also lots of places to grab a coffee and eat nearby, my favourite being Domali with its famous vegetarian fry-ups. If you're driving you can park for free behind Sainsburys, check out the garden centre and the quirky Haynes Lane indoor market - the latter with some good second-hand bookstalls itself.

Kirkdale Bookshop in Sydenham has been going for forty-odd years. Upstairs it has a good selection of new books, downstairs a second hand section including lots of interesting London books. It's also just down the road from Blue Mountain cafe and near to Sydenham British Rail.

Both worth making the journey if you don't live immediately nearby.

Metal at the Montague

Short film about the Montague Arms on a rock/metal night put on by South of the River Electric and featuring Taming The Insane, Oryx and The Moon - plus a short interview with landlord Pete recalling past comedy nights there with Jim Davidson, Mike Reid and Jimmy Jones.

Monday, October 20, 2008

White Hart Latest

As previously reported here, the landlord of the White Hart in New Cross is appealing against the decision of Lewisham Licensing Committee to refuse permission to convert the pub into a lap dancing/striptease club. Lewisham Council is defending the appeal and a date has now been set for the 13th and 14th January 2009 at Bromley Magistrates Court.

People who submitted letters and other evidence to the original hearing do not need to write again as these automatically become part of the papers for the new case. The hearing will be in public but you will not be able to speak unless you have been specifically called to appear.

Most of the arguments were raised in the original hearing, but if you have significant additional evidence that could affect the outcome of the case you could contact licensing@lewisham.gov.uk.

New Cross Column to be Moved?

Transport for London is applying for planning permission to move the ventilation column on the traffic island at the junction of Queens Road and New Cross Road. As part of a new traffic scheme, the plan is to widen the pavement outside the White Hart pub and put the pillar there. At the same time the railings and old public toilet signs would be removed, and the existing island would be no more (though there would still be a smaller one).

The pillar is actually a Grade II listed building, and for good reason. It is a Ventilation Pipe to the now closed underground public toilets built in 1897 by Greenwich Board of Works. The column is of an Egyptian pattern and was designed by the Scottish architect Alexander 'Greek' Thomson. The design was first used for six lamp standards outside his Egyptian Halls, Glasgow. The pillars were cast in the Saracen Foundry of Walter Macfarlane & Co. in Glasgow. Alongside a similar pipe nearby in Clifton Rise this is believed to be the only example of the architect's work in England. I agree that something needs to be done about the traffic - the road between the island and the White Hart is dangerous because it is confusing which direction the traffic is coming from. But the pillar is integral to its present location with the railings and toilet signs, which it would be a shame to lose. It would be far better to look at reopening the toilets or even using them for something else - underground toilets have been converted for all kinds of use across London and beyond.
You can check out the details here at Lewisham Planning's site but you only have a couple of days to express your views - the closing date is 22nd October. You can submit your view to planning@lewisham.gov.uk, the reference is DC/08/69826.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Gun Crime

Depressing story in the Guardian today about the career of a pistol, used at least seven times in less than two years - including a murder in Brockley and other shootings in Brockley Cross, M-Blax nightclub in Peckham and the Cube nightclub in Camberwell - where a man got shot in the thigh for bumping in to somebody.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Deptford Arms Talk

Tuesday's talk at the Deptford Arms on the musical history of New Cross and Deptford threw up a few new (to me) local connections.

One of the emerging themes of my research into this is that the amount of sustained musical activity in the area is not a result of some magic creative dust (well there might be some powders involved, but whether they promote or impair creativity is another matter), nor is it solely due to having Goldsmiths in the middle of the area (though that is definitely one contributor). A key factor has always been the availability of cheap/free places to live, rehearse and play music, with for instance local housing co-ops like Nettleton Road and Sanford being significant musical hubs.

So it was good to hear of some recent Sanford musicians. Apparently the bassist of New Young Pony Club lived there until recently...

... as did a couple of members of Spektrum (this is Kinda New):


Some other stories people came up with:

- Richey Edwards sometimes hung out on Crossfields Estate with Detpford-based Manic Street Preachers roadies.
- Futures nightclub was on Deptford Broadway where the Lady Florence Institute is now.
- The shop at 21 Deptford High Street that was the 1960s Soul City (Europe's first specialist soul shop) was later used as the base for Deptford Fun City records.

As always, keep the stories coming in if you have memories of any of this or related tales.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Good Shoes in Deptford

Good Shoes - The Photos on My Wall, a video shot in Deptford in 2006. But where? Looks like an interesting semi-derelict place - or maybe a place roughed up to look semi-derelict. The round window as he comes downstairs might be a clue. I wondered whether it might be somewhere in the (now demolished) Seager distillery?

They have also of course sung of the joys (or otherwise) of Morden in South West London.

Friday, October 10, 2008

New Cross Hip Hop and Grime

Google doesn't always give you what you want. Searching for some recent urban music from this part of the world threw up some strange results. I searched under "New Cross" grime and google came up with 'Did you mean: "new cross" crime ' (no, cheeky bastards). Deptford threw up Lewisham Deptford Conservatives (not linking to them on principle): 'We need to tackle crime, grime and litter', as well as a reference to the 17th century indictment of Sir Thomas Grime of Lewisham (good MC name, someone should use it).

Still did come across this, Destination Deptford (via YY Dexter):


Also this, Monson Bloodset - New Cross:

Like this one musically, and extra points for it being about New Cross, not sure about some of the sentiments - 'Hld tite all da Monson Soldiers'. Does the world really need any more soldiers, official or unofficial? Increase the peace people, make music not war.

Anyone got any other local recommendations on a grime, hip hop or dubstep wavelength?

Thursday, October 09, 2008

South London Ghost Trains

South London is not so well served by the London Underground as the other side of the river, so unsurprisingly it doesn't figure so strongly in the new book Haunted London Underground by David Brandon and Alan Brooke (History Press, 2008). Still there are a few spooky stories from the transpontine zone.

- The Crystal Palace tunnel runs between Gipsy Hill and Crystal Palace stations: 'This tunnel is reputed to be haunted. Many years ago a track-maintenance worker was run down and killed by a train in the tunnel. He was decapitated in the process. His ghost has been seen on many occasions wandering disconsolately around the tunnel'.

- Another tunnel on the short lived Victorian 'pneumatic railway' between Sydenham and Penge became the subject of an urban myth when the railway closed and the tunnel was bricked up - the legend was that an abandoned carriage had been bricked up inside with 'a grisly cargo of skeletal passengers'. The tunnel is thought to have been subsequently destroyed.

- Elephant and Castle Underground Station: staff 'have experienced the sounds of someone running towards them mainly when the station is closed but no one can be seen'. People travelling northbound on the Bakerloo Line from the Elephant have seen 'the sudden reflection of a ghost-like face staring back even though no one is sitting nearby'.

- The London Road depot of the Bakerloo Line, beneath street level by St Georges Circus/Lambeth North: staff have reported strange 'metallic-sounding tapping noises as if an old-fashioned wheeltapper was a work' and seen 'shadowy figures' with blurred edges 'passing hither and thither in the sidings'. 'Another apparition in the area is that of a nun, She is thought to have been connected with a nearby convent school'.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

It's the end of the world as we know it

Never mind credit crunch and financial crisis - on February 1st 1775 some people round here really did think that the end was nigh. According to the Annual Register for that year: 'A most violent storm of wind and rain did incredible damage in and about London, and on the river Thames. The people about Deptford and Greenwich had been alarmed with the reveries of а сrazy prophet, who had predicted that on this day these towns were to be swallowed up by an . earthquake; and on the breaking out of the storm, it is said, some of the inhabitants were weak enough to leave their houses, and to fly to London'.

It is thought that Charles Dickens might be referring to this episode in the opening chapter of A Tale of Two Cities, set in 1775, which mentions 'a prophetic private in the Life Guards... announcing that arrangements were made for the swallowing up of London and Westminster'.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Trojan Sound System at the Amersham

This Saturday night, October 11th at the Amersham Arms in New Cross: 'Legendary reggae selectors, The Trojan Soundsystem, make a rare full crew South London appearance, taking over the Amersham for an unforgettable night or reggae riddims and dubplates. And also the legendary Jerry Dammers from The Specials is stepping behind the decks to share some audio love'.

The following week at the same venue (Saturday October 18th), No Pain in Pop present The Bug ft Flowdan (Ninja Tune).

Monday, October 06, 2008

Black Redstart

I have seen swans, herons and cormorants in Deptford Creek but never a Black Redstart. Not that I've ever gone down there in full twitcher mode with binoculars etc. but it would be nice to see one as it is a rare bird in the UK, with this one of the few areas it is found. When the Laban centre was built in Deptford they included a rubble 'brown roof' which the birds apparently favour, and there is also a Redstart Close in New Cross named in the bird's honour.

There is a whole lot of information about Deptford Creek and other London habitats at this site. They note that in the 1960s 'with the regeneration of the Barbican the population crashed and although there is still the odd pair recorded in the City, the black redstart’s distribution has gradually moved eastwards along the Thames. In the ‘70s and early ‘80s there were still a few pairs breeding in the docks and along the South Bank but as these areas were regenerated so the black redstart’s numbers diminished'. Lets hope that regeneration doesn't have the same impact on the bird in Deptford - or maybe the global financial crisis has come to its aid.

As you can see it looks a bit like a robin, but is black with a red tail. Anyone seen one?

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Down at the Creek

As part of the current Deptford X art festival, Fran Cottell has placed gold balls at various locations in the area, apparently referencing the stone globes seen on local buildings such as the Royal Naval College in Greenwich and St Pauls Church, Deptford and the gold ball of the pawnbrokers sign. St Nicholas, to whom Deptford's oldest church is dedicated, is the patron saint of pawnbrokers as well as sailors and children. This example is by the Creekside centre.

Sometimes I have the heretical thought that there might be too much art in Deptford - or perhaps rather that the area is in danger of becoming over-overlaid with artistic meanings to the exclusion of other versions of what the area means to people. On the other hand work like this does make you pause and notice the strange beauty of places you might otherwise pass by. And anything that gets you out on to the Ha'penny Hatch footbridge to admire the view over the Creek can only be a good thing.

Thanks to Juleigh Gordon-Orr for the photographs.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Hobgoblin and Montague Arms Music

A busy week in the ongoing adventure that is Brockley Ukulele Group. Last Saturday we played at The Hobgoblin (below), a challenge making ourselves heard with our small instruments and a big garden full of people drinking in the sun. Still some people were singing along with our version of Half Man Half Biscuit's Light at the End of the Tunnel.

As we were paid in beer my recollection of the other people playing is a bit hazy. I know that Vikki G has a good voice and did a Prince song, and Adam Ashton played some casio accompanied self-styled 'hardcore homo' tunage. Then its a blur.

Fortunately when we played at the Montague Arms on Tuesday (the first of Kelvin B's Girls in Bikinis nights), we were supporting two other bands from Saturday and I was able to give them the attention they deserve. The Faction is the latest manifestation of some time 'crusty' dubsters RDF (Radical Dance Faction), a band who I saw many times in the 1990s at South London squat parties and festivals including the Deptford Urban Free Festival in Fordham Park. Chris Bowsher's deadpan anarcho-dread poetics still sound very striking. I would never have imagined that I would end up on the same bill with a ukulele - watch out for that uke-dub soundclash!

Next up on this very eclectic night was the Cordelia Fellowes Experience. They were outstanding, Cordelia herself with a good jazzy/blues voice that reminded me of Madeline Peyroux but a lot more energetic. Check them out if you get the chance, they will be back at the Montague Arms on Tuesday 28th October - as will Brockley Ukulele Group.

To play on the stage at the Monty is a great honour - the 'best pub in the country' (it's official), the place where Nick Cave, Mark E Smith and Shane MacGowan once drank together, and where I saw the Gang of Four (with Phil Jupitus standing behind me). All this and a stuffed zebra.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

New Cross 'Unglamorous' Shock

Deptford Girl mentions, regarding Princess Beatrice's arrival at Goldsmiths College, that Deptford has always been a royal slum. Indeed slumming it at college is nothing new - although Princess B. is apparently not actually living in the area, preferring the accommodation in St James Palace.

Still we have to take issue with the Daily Mail which reported that 'Beatrice picked Goldsmiths in unglamorous New Cross to study because it is one of the few universities to offer the degree course that she wanted'. New Cross is surely a glamourfest compared to the Tory Party conference and other horror shows promoted in the Daily Hate.

New Girl on the Block

... or new on the blog, Deptford Girl has just started out, with a just a couple of posts so far including an overview of the mysteries of Deptford High Steet.

Gordon Giltrap: a Deptford Guitar Hero

Gordon Giltrap is probably best known for his work from the 1970s, in particular the track Heartsong, but he has 40 years of performing and recording acoustic guitar behind him dating back to the 1960s folk clubs. According to his website:

'Gordon was born on 6 April 1948, at the British Home for Mothers and Babies in Brenchley, Kent. The son of a labourer, he grew up in an austere but protective community of terraced houses in Deptford, south-east London. His obsession with stringed instruments began nine years later, when a friend turned up at the house with an out-of-tune Spanish guitar. Keen to encourage his new hobby, his parents bought him a plastic ukulele with a picture of Elvis on the headstock, then a Martin Coletti archtop jazz guitar with a sunburst finish and a brown canvas case. Without a teacher to guide him, Gordon unwittingly taught himself a hybrid technique of plectrum and little finger, but in doing so, created the individual sound that is still his trademark'.

Good to hear that he started on the uke, there's a stool with his name on it at Brockley Ukulele Group!

In 1969, Giltrap took part in a festival at Goldsmiths organised by Malcolm McLaren, then a student at the college. Seven years before becoming manager of The Sex Pistols, McLaren had his first go at 'the Great Rock’n’Roll Swindle' when he advertised a summer free festival at Goldsmiths with claims that Pink Floyd, The Rolling Stones and John Lennon were 'awaiting confirmation'. Naturally they didn’t turn up, but thousands of people did. The local paper(Kentish Mercury 10/7/1969) reported that music was supplied by 'Local folk singer and guitarist Gordon Giltrap' and 'local folk trio the Strawbs'. The report was headlined 'Free festival, free beer, free shambles' and made much of the presence of 'dolly birds' and 'girls [that] seemed to strut about with an "I’m groovier than thou" expression' (every Goldsmiths girl's perogative, now as then). A debate featured radical psychiatrist RD Laing, the Scottish writer Alexander Trocchi and an intervention by a Women’s Liberation group complaining about the all-male platform.

Anywhere, here's Giltrap performing his best known track, once used as the theme tune on the BBC's Holiday programme:

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Albert Lee: a Greenwich Guitar Hero

Guitar legend Albert Lee played at Greenwich Dance Agency last week. Lee is best known for his work playing with Emmylou Harris and Eric Clapton. He was born in Shropshire but grew up in South East London. He told last week's South London Press (26 September 2008) that his family were driven out of Greenwich by a V1 rocket bomb in World War Two, but moved back after the war to live in Tunnel Avenue.

'My father worked at the gas works close to where the Dome now sits. When the family grew up we moved up to Kidbrooke where my folks lived until about 1996; I lived in Kidbrooke, Blackheath Village and Charlton. There was a lot of extended family the area. The Lees are Gypsies who had long since given up the road. The schools that I attended were Dreadnought, Calvert Road [later to become Annandale], then up the hill to the Roan School'.

Here he is on fine form with his song 'Country Boy':

Café Crema Autumn Nights

Coming up at Café Crema in New Cross, a new series of Thursday film nights. Tickets (£6) include the film plus 'either a hot main meal or a glass of wine and some very nice home made cake like proper rice pudding and cream or sticky chocolate brownies'

Romantic moves set in France seems to be the theme for the next couple of weeks. Tomorrow (Thurs 2nd Oct.) its Amelie, next week (Thurs 9th Oct) Chocolat. Doors open 7.30, films start at 8.

They are also going to be part of the Latin American Film Festival with screenings on Sat Nov 15th and Sun 16th.

... and on Nov 22nd there's music with Tragic Roundabout - 'Punky-ragtime clarinet/accordion/banjo-led festival favourites. With tables and chairs cleared away for dancing this night will be a cracker'. 8.30 til late, tickets: £6, fully licensed.

Café Crema is at 306 New Cross Road, London Se14 6AF. 2mins from New x Gate tube and mainline. Easy on buses. …mob 079o5 961 876/ 07905 552 571. See also www.cafecremaevents.co.uk for information. You can also book the venue your own private film nights/gigs etc.