Saturday, February 28, 2009

The Old Police Station, New Cross

This weekend (Saturday 28th February) sees the launch of a new art space in New Cross in a 1912 Police Station converted into gallery spaces and artist studios. The Old Police Station is at 114-116 Amersham Vale, SE14 (just right of the new police station).

The invite states: 'Laden with police processes and signage, the facility is an archeology of institutional structures with period rooms, cinematic prison cells, an old gym and operations yard. For the next 7 years, this architectural infrastructure will house 30 studios, multiple gallery and rehearsal rooms, independent project spaces, a potential residency programme, an on-line radio station - and a 'Members Club', the social hub of the building. Brought to you by Anthony Gross of temporarycontempoary [formerly based in the old Seager Distillery in Deptford], the Old Police Station is an artist-run project in the form of a 'do-it-yourself art centre' responding to the ever-increasing momentum of the local scene. It is an experimental cultural and economic model that aims at least for self-sufficiency'.

The launch party runs from 6 pm to 11 pm.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Goldsmiths Occupation

Earlier this month - from the 11 to 13 February - around 50 students at Goldsmiths students occupied the old Deptford Town Hall building in New Cross Road . They were successful in persuading Goldsmiths to offer two MA scholarships for Palestinian students of Al-Quds Open University in Nablus. The whole thing is documented on the Goldmsiths Occupation for Palestinian Scholarships blog.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Telegraph Hill Festival

The programme is out for the Telegraph Hill Festival (SE14/SE4), which runs from the 13th to the 29th March. There's lots of new events as well as festival perennials - this is its 15th year. Live music includes a jazz/world music night, Strawberry Thieves choir's night of radical song, an open mic night at Skehans pub, not to mention the community production of the Threepenny Opera. There is also a book group discussing the novel Waterland with its author, Graham Swift, who appparently lives locally. Full details at the festival website.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Telegraph Pub to Open

Tomorrow sees the Grand Opening of a new pub in New Cross/Telegraph Hill. Called 'The Telegraph a the Earl of Derby', as the name suggests it is effectively a refurbishment of the pub that has stood on Dennets Road for many years. However it's been a long time since the Derby closed, and there has been a comprehensive refit of the building. The owners seem to be Remarkable Restaurants who refurbished the George and Dragon in Acton, which has had good reviews.

They promise 'This is the pub Telegraph Hilll has been waiting for: real ales including London Pirde, Adnams, Chiswick Bitter, imported Czech Litovel lager. High quality modern British cuisine... real ales, real fires and real people'. It is officially open from 6pm tomorrow (Thursday 26th February).

Sunday, February 22, 2009

White Hart lap dancing a step nearer

New blackout windows in the White Hart in New Cross suggest that the landlord is pushing ahead with plans to turn it from a pub to a strip club - possibly called Unique's judging from the lettering on the windows.

Anyway the matter is due to be discussed at the Telegraph Hill Ward Assembly next Monday night, 7pm in the Honor Oak Community Centre, Turnham Road. There will also be a discussion on some of the wider issues at a meeting on 'Pornography and Feminism' at Goldsmiths College (Small Hall Cinema) in New Cross on Tuesday 24th February at 6pm. Angela McRobbie and guests will be debating 'the purported post-feminist liberation of pole dancing and the mainstreaming of porn'. Unfortunately I won't be able to make it, but would be interested in hearing McRobbie's take all on this, as she is one of the few academics to have written anything insightful about one of my passions, the politics of dancing.

Incidentally - and unconnected to the pub or the lap dancing row - last Friday's South London Press reports that a group of teenagers were apparently shot at last week by a youth on a bicycle at Queens Road/New Cross Road junction near to the White Hart.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Woolworths New Cross

The demise of Woolworths has prompted some memories of the long gone Woolies in New Cross, in particular its catastrophic destruction by a Nazi V2 rocket during the Second World War. On the 25th November 1944, the store received a direct hit and the explosion caused both Woolworths and the Co-op next door to collapse on shoppers. 168 people were killed and 121 were seriously injured, the biggest loss of life in the V2 weapon campaign. There is a plaque on the wall above the entrance to Iceland, which now occupies the site.

A letter in the South London Press from somebody who was there recalls: 'The closing down of the Woolworths stores brought horrific memories back to me of the Woolworths store at New Cross Road, Deptford, which was packed with hundreds of Christmas shoppers in 1944 and received a direct hit [by V2 rocket]. A friend and I were at the scene within minutes. We gave an estimate of 800 people killed in the area. Bodies were put in Vestry Vans (dustcarts) by the score throughout the day. The government disguised the number to 170 to keep up people’s morale'.

It is undoubtedly true that during the war the government did disguise the extent of casualties in incidents like this, but it seems unlikely that the truth could be obscured for long after the war, and the 168 figure is supported by a list of those who died printed in 'Rations and Rubble: remembering Woolworths - the New Cross V2 Disaster, Saturday 25th November 1944' by Jess Steele (Deptford Forum, 1994). Still it's interesting that the story of many more dead has survived as urban folklore.

Another piece of folklore connected with this is the suggestion that the Woolworths that was rebuilt after the war (it reopened in 1960) was thought to be haunted and that a number of staff refused to work there as a result. The only source for this was an interesting site on Woolworths history that seems to have disappeared along with the company.

The Londonist has recently mapped all the V2 rocket sites in London.

Friday, February 20, 2009

This Heat

Excellent interview at The Quietus by Simon Reynolds with Charles Hayward about the great SE London post-punk experimentalists This Heat. Hayward mentions coming from Camberwell, going to Dulwich College with Phil Manzanera (of Roxy Music), squatting in Deptford, hanging out with Crass, and being inspired by fellow Deptfordites Alternative TV.
Two recording studios are highlighted, the famous Cold Storage: 'We came across this old disused meat fridge on Acre Lane, in Brixton. It had been turned into artist studios, Cold Storage. That gave us an incredible power base'; and the Workhouse on the Old Kent Road: 'we'd hooked up with Peter Jenner who ran this management company Blackhill Enterprises. Bit of a wide boy, he'd worked with Pink Floyd early on, Roy Harper, and at that time we hooked up with him he was having a lot of success with Ian Dury and the Blockheads. Jenner said: 'I've got half shares with Manfred Mann in this studio on the Old Kent Road called the Workhouse and while we're looking for a record deal for you, we’ll get you to start on that album...'

The latter, as mentioned here before, was where the Asda now stands, and was used by the Gang of Four, Ian Dury and many others.

Here's my favourite This Heat track, SPQR:

Charles Hayward is still performing in various musical projects, working at the Albany in Deptford with people with learning difficulties and doing stuff in his studio at Lewisham Arthouse on Lewisham Way.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

The Mysterium

Whether moden dance is your thing or not, this event tonight at the Old Royal Naval College in Greenwich sounds very intriguing - the building itself is interesting enough. I've just bought tickets and there's still a few left from Greenwich Theatre Box Office on 020 8469 9500 (£10, £8 concessions):

Moving Gallery – The Mysterium
7:00 pm Trinity College of Music, King Charles Court, Old Royal Naval College

Using all the spaces of Sir Christopher Wren’s great baroque building, TrinityLaban and guest artists create an interpretation of Alexander Scriabin’s strange artistic prophecy The Mysterium: ‘All will be participants…with visual effects, dancers, a procession, incense, and rhythmic textural articulation… mists and lights will modify the architectural contours…which will continually change with the atmosphere and motion of the Mysterium.’ Audience will freely move through the continuous simultaneous performances and installations - corridors, crevices, rooms, roofs, windows, staircases will all be used. Some will be areas just to peep into, others for interactive exploration.

There will be a chill-out room where listeners can lounge on pillows and be wafted away by sensuous colours and sounds, a construction of hoses and tubas, an Oracle, a Horror Chamber, an Aviary of interactive technology with music and birds, an homage to Rebecca Horn’s suspended grand piano (Concert for Anarchy, Tate Modern) where a corridor of practise rooms periodically erupts in pandemonium, a final denouement with the entire Trinity String Faculty creating Stephen Montague’s Snowscape, and many other surprises.The host of performers and creators include Daryl Runswick, Linda Hirst, Dominic Murcott, Oren Marshall, Kathy Crick, Gill Clarke, Martin Hargreaves, Nicholas Quinn, Rosemary Brandt, GéNIA, Philip Colman, Robert Coleridge, John Drever, Ian Mitchell, Charlotte Darbyshire, Susan Sentler, Alice Sara, GiGi Grady, Heni Hale, Jonathan Chadwick (AZ Theatre) and students and alumni from TrinityLaban.

Conceived and directed by Douglas Finch and Lizzi Kew-Ross. As the experience of this production doesn’t involve a precise beginning, audience are invited to enter the show any time between 7:00 and 7:30. The final performance with ‘Snowscape’ will happen in the courtyard at approximately 9:15. (Butler’s Bar will be open from 6:30 to 9:30)

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Fuck the Whiteboard

Your ear to the ground, finger on the pulse Transpontine (er... actually I read it in Time Out) brings you news of Fuck the Whiteboard, a project by New Cross photography student Al Harley and Russ Tannen. Basically it involves going round to clubs and bars and getting the slightly worse for wear punters to write messages on a white board. Their blog features local nights at Goldsmiths Students Union and Amersham Arms (below).

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Shunt and Other Uke Adventures

A busy week for Brockley Ukulele Group ended up with playing the Valentines Day party at the Amersham Arms last Saturday.

On the previous Sunday at the Amersham, BUG's monthly Sunday Uke Box session included guest appearances by Jude Cowan, The Strum Pets and Post-Puke (picture below), the latter a duo playing uke-accompanied cover versions of post punk songs by the likes of Bauhaus, Public Image Limited and The Cramps. BUG debuted a couple of new covers including Hefner's The Day that Thatcher Dies and Manu Chao's Desaparecido

Then on Thursday BUG played at the amazing Shunt Lounge, a complex of brick tunnels, shadows, art installations and performance spaces under London Bridge station. After about 45 minutes the PA blew, cutting the set shorter than planned - never underestimate the power of the uke! Shunt is being moved out later in the year to make way for part of the Shard of Glass building site, so get down there before it closes. It opens Wednesday to Sunday nights and has a late bar (entrance inside London Bridge tube on Joiner Street - posters below are on the wall at Shunt).

BUG will be playing a short set at the Montague Arms next Tuesday night (24th February) and then will be hosting their next Sunday Uke Box on March 8th at the Amersham Arms. Support is the hotly tipped Croydon singer Superman Revenge Squad, so get there in good time - 8 pm start, admission free.

Deptford Albany

Too much good stuff coming up at the Albany in Deptford to put here - besides you can check their website for yourself. Among the dates I have already put in my diary are a free Saturday afternoon Unplugged session with Glenn Tilbrook from Squeeze on Saturday 28 February; 24 Hour Poetry People with raps and rhymes from the excellent Excentral Tempest and Ventriloquist on Friday 20 March; and a Charlie Dark/Blacktronica club night on Saturday 4 July.

Monday, February 16, 2009

A lickle facktri up inna Brackly

Linton Kwesi Johnson published his poetry collection Inglan is a Bitch in 1980. LKJ is certainly one of South London's most distinctive voices - based for years in Brixton, he also studied at Goldsmiths in New Cross.

The title poem of Inglan is a Bitch mentions a crockery factory in Brockley (Brackly) - does anybody know if there really was such a factory? Anyway here he is performing it back in the day:

dem have a lickle facktri up inna Brackly
inna disya facktri all dem dhu is pack crackry
fi di laas fifteen years dem get mi laybah
now awftah fiteen years mi fall out a fayvah

mi know dem have work, work in abundant
yet still, dem mek mi redundant
now, at fifty-five mi gettin' quite ol'
yet still, dem sen' mi fi goh draw dole

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Cafe Crema this month

Various events at Cafe Crema this month...Align Center

Thursday film nights: Feb 26th - Like Water for Chocolate; March 5th - Bergman's Wild Strawberries (£6 includes film plus polenta or homemade cake and a glass of wine...Arrive at 7.30 for food; film starts at 8.15)

Music nights: Thursday 19th Feb - 'London's finest rocksteady/ska band, The Delegators (£6); Friday 20th Feb - Cafe Crema piano jam...'New Orleans New Cross. Bring your banjoes, trombones, ukuleles, tambourines and voices. Piano's just been re-tuned and is now at concert pitch' (free); Saturday 28th Feb -The Woodsmen 'jiving country-noir hillbilly blues' (£6)

Cafe Crema, 306 New Cross Road London SE14 6AF. 2mins from New x Gate tube and mainline. Easy on buses. mob 07905 961 876/ 07905 552 571.

Amersham Arms Jumble/Craft Sales

I went along to the Amersham Arms in New Cross Road yesterday afternoon where Little Bazaar were holding an event - something between a cutesy/indie craft fair and a jumble sale, with stalls selling records, cakes, clothes, quirky jewellery etc. I gather that they will be putting on similar events every third Saturday afternoon of the month. Meanwhile, another group of people are putting on a monthly Saturday afternoon jumble sale, so the net effect will be a fortnightly jumble/craft sale in the back room of the pub - by my reckoning the next one will therefore be on 28th February.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Harry Brown

If you were around the Heygate Estate (Elephant and Castle) late last night you might have noticed a riot in progress, complete with petrol bombs and police snatch squads. But it wasn't for real - it was staged as part of the filming of a movie, Harry Brown, that features Michael Caine as a vigilante war veteran standing up to the young criminals in his area. Not sure about the slightly dubious 'Broken Britain' premise, but its interesting to see Caine returning to the area he grew up in.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Back of a Lorry in New Cross Road

The old Watling Street - now the A2, and in our part of town the New Cross Road - has been the main route between London and Dover since at least Roman times. So for thousands of years people entering London on their way from continental Europe have passed along it, including many fleeing wars, perecution and poverty. I love seeing the coaches from Poland, France etc. going along the road, with people staring out at New Cross as one of their first sights of London.

Unfortunately not everyone is made welcome. I felt very sorry for the 11 people pulled out of lorries by police last week. As reported in the Mercury: 'Police arrested 11 suspected illegal immigrants after stopping three Swiss-registered lorries in New Cross. The convoy of bright red vehicles, from the Basel-based Möbel furniture company, was stopped in New Cross Road, close to New Cross railway station, on Tuesday of last week'.

Who knows how many thousands of miles they had travelled or how much it cost them - no doubt they are now in prison (sorry 'detention centre') for the crime of being born in the wrong country with the wrong papers, with their brief view of New Cross no compensation at all.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Too Many Broken Hearts Have Fallen in the River

South East London Folklore Society are hosting a Valentine's event with a twist this Thursday 12th February with Chris Roberts your guide for a walk with the title 'Too Many Broken Hearts Have Fallen in the River' and featuring headless queens, golden castration devices, deceased lovers and phantom ex-wives. All these as well as voodoo, why life is cheaper on the surrey shore, sex, suicide and showmen on Tower Bridge and the usual medley of monsters, myth and folkloric fun and games you'd expect from SELFS opener for 2009.

It starts at 7.30pm at Hayes Galleria, London Bridge and ends about 90 minutes later (via London and Tower Bridges) with a chat about south east London folklore and mysteries at the Old Kings Head, Borough High Street. Walk is about ninety minutes and cunning weaves it's way along from London Bridge over Tower Bridge and back over London through Borough Market.

You might also want to put the date of the next SELFS event in your diary. On 12th March, David Boyle will be talking at the Old Kings Head on 'Fairy Superstition: Puck, Robin Goodfellow, the little people and other visitors'.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Walking New Cross (12): Briant Street

For many years after the Second World War, London was dotted with bombsites. Today a new kind of wasteland is beginning to emerge, of building sites abandoned as the global crisis continues.

Briant Street, in the ‘Kender Triangle’, is supposed to see the flagship for New Cross regeneration – the scene for a new public realm with housing, a health centre and a library. But work on the building site has ground to a halt as the private developer involved in the project has pulled out.
Capitalism functions (when it does) through a series of bets on the future. In the case of a project like this, investors are betting on being able to sell off private housing for more than it costs to build, and in turn betting that there will be people with the means to buy them. Today all bets are off, with a collapse of confidence in the future. The knock on effect is that regeneration plans for affordable housing and community facilities are under threat, as these have been based on another kind of gamble – that Council-owned land could be sold off for private housing at sufficient value to pay for these plans, or that private developments would generate large capital receipts that could be re-invested in community facilities. These bets too are off.

Meanwhile behind the hoardings on Briant Street there is a strange, almost lunar landscape. Mountains of rubble from the council housing demolished to make way for the new development, a crater-like hole in the ground, and an icy ‘lake’.

Most of the rest of Briant Street is blocks of flats, including the newish Pankhurst Close. There is also a London Electricity Service Station.

At the end of the street, on the corner of New Cross Road, there is another kind of dereliction – a boarded up pub, most recently known as ‘Down the Hatch’.

It’s easy to be depressed by sites like this, when you think of all the wasted potential to meet people’s needs that is represented by empty buildings and building sites. But the skills and resources to turn them into something useful are still here – wasted too at present in the form of laid-off building workers and warehouses full of unsold building materials. We just need to find another way of using them.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

BNP in Bexley

Dave Hill on last week's East Wickham (Bexley) council election, with the alarming result: Con 798; BNP 790; Labour 700; LibDem 564; English Democrats 128.

(h/t 853)

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Electric Elephant

The Walworth Road is fine for egg and chips (and you can chat to Frankie Fraser while you're eating them should you so wish), but it's not great for coffee. But now just off the Walworth you can get decent coffee, not to mention some reasonably priced fresh sandwiches and pastries, at the new Electric Elephant cafe. It's at 186a Crampton Street, open from 7:30 to 5:oo pm, Monday to Friday, 10 am to 3 pm on Saturday. If you go on a Thursday or Friday afternoon you could combine it with perusing the radical literature at 56a Info Shop and picking up some bargain veg at the Fareshares Food Co-op, also both on Crampton Street.

New (old) station for Brockley?

The fascinating Subterranea Britannica includes an account of the lost Brockley Lane rail station, which closed to passengers in 1917.

Standing on Brockley station platforms today you can watch trains pass overhead on the line that heads up to Nunhead and beyond. At one time these trains stopped at the nearby Brockley Lane station.

All that remains of the old station are the steps up to the former entrance on Brockley Road by Brockley cross... ...and the former stationmaster's house opposite. There was also a subway (presumably still there) from the entrance to the platform.

Nobody talks about new rail stations nowadays, but given that these trains still pass through Brockley is it really unimaginable that they could stop there once more, giving direct access to Victoria?

Presumably 'all' it would take would be some stairs, a couple of platforms and some kind of link to the existing Brockley station (so that you wouldn't actually need a separate station). The land where the old platforms stood is still unused, behind the hoardings at the corner of Mantle Road. Come to think about it, you could access platforms there directly from the existing northbound Brockley station platform.

(by the way, railway modelling enthusiast has done an elaborate model of a fictional Brockley Green station).

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Snow Holiday

It feels like the winter Grand National Holiday is coming to an end, more cars on the road and sad looking half-melted snow sculptures. Still it was fun while it lasted. Some curmudgeonly characters have complained about the disruption to the usual work/school grind, but it's been great to see whole parts of the City turned into a playground for children of all ages, sledging on plastic trays, building snowmen and throwing snowballs.

Here's a few photos - from the top: Telegraph Hill top park on Monday; snowman in Telegraph Hill Park; snowman (or is it a snow-woman?) in Gellatly Road; side of a van in Drakefell Road.

(Brockley Central and Caroline's Miscellany have more local photos)

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Snow blocks Tory New Cross Invasion

Snow and ice came to the aid of New Cross yesterday, as it prevented a visit by Tory leader David Cameron and his new pal Carol Vorderman. They were apparently due to visit Haberdashers' Aske's Hatcham college (sites in Pepys and Jerningham Roads) to launch a new inititative on teaching maths.

Brockley Central has already noted that 'Vorderman is uniquely qualified to lead such a project, having capitalised on her adding-up skills to trouser a fortune plugging loan companies to the innumerate' (see Recess Monkey for more details of her dubious doings). In any event, even if Vorderman can add up that hardly makes her suited to reviewing the complex task of teaching numeracy. Still who needs educationalists when you can get washed up celebrities to determine education policy?

Wonder why Cameron chose Aske's? Politicians of all colours normally want to use schools within a short hop of Westminster (i.e. in inner London boroughs) for their publicity visits, and it is very hard for a school to say no to a visit. So maybe we shouldn't read too much into it. On the other hand, Telegraph Hill is the kind of demographic - often leftish middle class with memories of the days when the word 'Tory' was inevitably followed with the word 'scum' in everyday conversation - that Cameron hopes to swing with his faux 'I am a nice caring Liberal' routine. Whether the senior management of Aske's are cosying up to to Tories is another matter- even if the school does seem to go for a pseudo-Etonian ethos of private school trappings (ludicrous gowns for instance) and Victorian homilies ('serve and obey' is the school motto - hardly likely to encourage independent learning).

Anyway, snowballs at the ready in case there's an attempt to restage this visit.

New Cross Inn in February

Lots of good stuff happening at the New Cross Inn this month. I won't list everything (you`can check for yourself at their myspace site), but a few highlights include:

- Thurs 5th Feburary - Ladyfest Goldsmiths - Celebrating Women's Creativity with bands including Toy Toy, Tiny Tigers, We Rock like Girls Don't, Helen McCookery Book, Bobby McGee and The Lovely Eggs.

- Mon 9th February -I SHOOK THE ROYAL THRONE - live hardcore punk from The Shitty Limits, Broken Arm, Fashion, The Sceptres.

- Every Tueday - 15 MINUTES OF PHAMOUS open mic night. Turn up early to get a slot.

Monday, February 02, 2009

Turner on Nunhead Hill

Tate Britain has a large collection of sketches and notebooks by the artist JMW Turner (1775-1851) including this sketch believed to have been painted from Nunhead Hill looking over towards St Paul's Cathedral.

Turner was obviously spending a lot of time in what is now South East London (then the rural Kent/Surrey border) at this time: in the same period (1796-97) he also painted Lewisham church, a kiln at Lewisham in the snow, a windmill on Blackheath, Greenwich Hospital from Crooms Hill and other local scenes, collected in what is now called the Wilson Sketchbook.

Nunhead Hill is now more commonly known as Nunhead Cemetery. There is still a clear view of St Pauls from the viewing point at the west end of the cemetery (go in the main entrance, turn right and follow the main track as it goes up to hill until you come to a bench facing towards central London). It is possible that the track on the left of the sketch is what is now Brockley Footpath - shown as a well defined track on maps from that time, and now running just outside the cemetery wall.

Misty view of St Pauls from Nunhead Hill/Nunhead Cemetery - I am sure on a clear day a good photographer could do better!

(thanks to Alan McArthur for spotting the Turner picture)

Sunday, February 01, 2009

White Hart saga continues

The row goes on over the White Hart in New Cross planning to close as a pub and become a private members strip joint instead. Following the landlord successfully appealing to the magistrates court to overturn Lewisham Council's opposition to this, the Council's Licensing Team have arranged a public meeting to discuss it. It takes places on Monday 16th February, 7 pm to 9.30 pm, at the Barnes Wallis Centre, 74 Wildgoose Drive, New Cross. Further information from