Tuesday, March 31, 2009

John Cale in New Cross

Ecstatic Gaucho is a seemingly locally-based blogger with, for instance, posts on the Brockley snow bride and the New Cross Knight (of which more soon). But I was particularly intrigued by his mention a couple of weeks ago that he had ‘Just seen John Cale getting out of a black cab in front of Goldsmiths College as I cycled past’.

It is well known that Cale studied music at Goldsmiths in the early 1960s before heading to New York and forming the Velvet Underground. According to his autobiography, he was voted ‘most hateful student’ by college heads of department and caused a minor scandal at an end of year concert in 1963 by playing avant-garde pieces of music such as La Monte Young’s ‘X for Henry Flint’ accompanied by the radical composer Cornelius Cardew and a rowdy audience. He also got reprimanded on a teaching placement in a local school for reading a class of 8-year-olds ‘The Murders in the Rue Morgue’ - although the kids apparently loved it (Victor, What’s Welsh for Zen – the autobiography of John Cale, 1999).

In a 2003 interview he recalled a recent visit back to New Cross: 'I did go down to Goldsmiths and I thought my God nothing has changed. I mean the traffic is still shit. The way the whole convergence outside the building and everything else. The women’s dorm is gone which is a crying shame... I used to run upstairs up to the art department all the time. It was a lot of fun. They were all wearing mini skirts and you know, all the action was upstairs in the art department. I mean you’re around all these different kind of influences'.

Wonder what he was doing back in New Cross this month?

Picture: the world's coolest ever band, The Velvet Underground with Andy Warhol, John Cale sitting down:

Monday, March 30, 2009

David Jones

David Jones (1895-1974) was an Anglo-Welsh artist and modernist poet. He was born in Howson Road, Brockley and studied at Camberwell College of Art before being sent to fight on the Western Front in the First World War. Later he joined Eric Gill and others in the artists' colony in Ditchling (Sussex).

His best known work, In Parenthesis, is informed by his war experiences - Jones is listed as one of 16 war poets on a memorial in Westminster Abbey. According to the wikipedia article 'Jones continued to visit his family home in Brockley until the mid 1930s and some of his sketches depict the house and garden.' In any event, despite dying in Harrow, he was buried in Crofton Park.

Picture: The Maid at No.37 by David Jones (1926). I did wonder whether this might have been drawn locally, but I don't think it can be Howson Road as the houses there only have two storeys.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

London and Brighton

The London and Brighton pub in Queens Road (SE15) closed last year, another casualty in the replacement of pubs by housing: London & Quadrant Housing Trust are planning to redevelop the site with flats. For the time being though it is still functioning as some kind of social space, as the pub has been squatted and used for gigs and parties. It has also been redecorated on the outside with this mural:

Friday, March 27, 2009

The road not taken

Some literary graffiti appeared last week on this path in Elephant Road Park (behind the Elephant and Castle rail station). The quote 'Two roads diverged in a wood, and I - I took the one less traveled by,And that has made all the difference' is from Robert Frost's poem The Road not Taken.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Free Indiepop in Brixton

If indiepop is your thing, there's a great free gig tonight (Thursday 26th March) at Jamm in Brixton (261 Brixton Road) put on by the ever wonderful How Does it Feel. Line up includes:

Esiotrot - "Velvet Underground filtered through a secondhand tape-recorder and a collection of Postcard Records".

Hexicon - "the sound of mellow hillbillies tripping in the countryside," reckon Artrocker.

Allo Darlin' - "Ukulele-sporting former singer with The Darlings who plays infectious indiepop that sounds like a stripped down Camera Obscura"

Beacons - duo playing folk-tinged indiepop.Doors 7.30pmBeacons 8pm-8.30pmAllo Darlin' 8.45pm-9.15pmHexicon 9.30pm-10pmEsiotrot 10.15pm-10.45pm

Doors are at 7.30pm, first band on at 8pm, and it's all over by 11pm.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Greenwich Market

Greenwich Phantom brings the sad news of the closure of the 'village market' (that's the second-hand flea market), noting correctly that this was 'one of the very last bastions of old, scruffy Greenwich before we're forced to hand the baton of bohemianism over to Deptford, and acclimatise ourselves to a future of conformity and blandness'.

This was also one of the last remnants of Greenwich's former status as a second hand book centre (other than the excellent Halcyon Books). I used to like to trawling through the stalls for the kind of obscure out of print books that you didn't even know you were looking for. And of course there were the characters on the stalls. Last year when I picked up a copy of Stewart Home's Mind Invaders book there, the stallholder - without any prompting from me, or awareness that I know Stewart - told me solemnly that Home was a member of the OTO magical order! Of all Stewart's achievements, managing to create a persona that has entered into the folklore of conspiracy-minded South London market traders must be one of the greatest.

There are still some 'nice' things to be had in the main Greenwich Market and elsewhere, but that's just the trouble. If you're not looking for something nice like a Christmas present for your mum, there's less and less to be found in Greenwich and certainly very little unexpected.

All is not lost, there are a still a few interesting stalls in the second hand market next to the cinema, and I gather that some stalls may be moving up there from the village market. But that really could be the last stand for second hand Greenwich.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Jade Goody of Bermondsey

Every paper today seems to have the face of Jade Goody on the front page today, following her death at the weekend. I've certainly got nothing to add, but one thing that has really bugged me in the last few weeks coverage has been the constant reference to her selling her dying moments to the press in order to ensure that her kids get a good education.

Of course I've got nothing against her wanting to give her children a good start in life but there's a sub text here - the suggestion that you can only get a good education by paying for it. Perhaps also a suggestion that in places like Bermondsey, where Jade grew up, comprehensive schools can only turn out people who have never heard of East Anglia. Or less subtly, that working class people are thick (although it might be possible to rescue a few of them if they are removed from their social environment).

The thick proles line was certainly pursued by The Daily Mail in an infamous 2007 article about Goody's old school: 'Here come the kids out of Bacon’s College, Rotherhithe, South-East London. Their faces were mostly deep inside sinister hoods and they were arguing all the way along the pavement. Jade walked home this way. Bacon’s was her school. She learned a lot in there. How to become a millionaire was the best. She almost certainly could get herself defined as a moron. Look the word up. She qualifies' etc. etc. (shamefully The Daily Hate is actually printed just behind the school in Surrey Quays, but I bet their journalists never set foot in the area unless they are on a search and destroy mission).

The fact is that Bacon's is very good state school which aspirational parents from far and wide would kill to get their kids into. Perhaps Jade's dad could use Goody's money to buy a house in the catchment area, then they can get a good education for free!

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Nunhead Cemeteries

If you have any time tomorrow (Sunday) you must get down to the 'Nunhead and District Municipal Museum and Art Gallery' at 80 Gellatly Road SE14 - your last chance to see it between 2 pm and 6 pm. Coming under the umbrella of the Telegraph Hill Festival Open Studios it so much more than 'come and look at my etchings and have a glass of wine'. It is a vastly ambitious reimagining of the history of the local area, with tales of archaeology, music hall, space exploration and much more. All this and artefacts from The Nunhead Cemeteries complete with fanzine and this text purporting to be from Simon Reynolds' Rip it Up and Start Again: post-punk 1978-84:

'Looking back at the post-punk landscape we see a zone dominated by the tower blocks built by the successful career bands, skyscrapers made from albums, music paper cuttings, CD reissues, and adoring retrospectives in glossy magazines. What is often overlooked are the derelict buildings, abandoned vehicles and urban detritus left behind by the many outfits who flickered briefly in this explosion of creativity and just as quickly vanished without trace.

The paradigmatic example might be The Nunhead Cemeteries, a band who have disappeared from the record just as surely as if they had been interred in the vaults of the South London Victorian burial ground from which they took their name. Their existence is only attested to in contemporary local fanzines with micro-circulation (notably the equally obscure Thy Nunheed Chronicle), and they seemingly left behind no sonic echo whatsoever. Recently however, a few demo tracks from late 1978 have surfaced online, providing a tantalising vista of one of the many lost highways of the post-punk period.

If some post-punk bands relished the careful cultivation of an intellectual aura, even they still bore the marks of an insular Anglo-Saxon culture of hostility to critical thought. Reference points such as Dostoyevsky (Magazine) or Wittgenstein and Gramsci (Scritti Politti), all long dead, hardly attested to an engagement with the cutting edge of contintental debates around feminism, Marxism, post-structuralism and psychoanalysis. Even when Scritti got around to mentioning Jacques Derrida, in their 1982 song of the same name, they mispronounced his surname.

On the evidence of these few poorly recorded morsels, The Nunhead Cemeteries were precociously up to date. (Disco)urs Amoreux takes its name from Fragments d’un discours amoreux by Roland Barthes, only published in France the year before (1977). Presumably they themselves translated the parts of the text they read in the track, since this was several months before the appearance of an English translation published under the name A Lover’s Discourse.
Skank Bloc Brockley also suggests a Parisian connection, quoting from Toni Negri’s ‘Marx beyond Marx’ talks on the Grundrisse given at the Ecole Normale Superieure in ’78. The track seems to be an oblique answer to Scritti’s Skank Bloc Bologna, citing a chunk of that groundbreaking work on racism, Policing the Crisis (1978) by Stuart Hall and others – to hint perhaps that antagonisms between police and black youth on the streets of South London were at least as important as the Euro-Communist town halls ‘somewhere in Italy’. Brockley is the area immediately adjacent to Nunhead, the birthplace of Lovers Rock and close to the scene of the violent anti-National Front protests of the 1977 Battle of Lewisham.

What caused the demise of The Nunhead Cemeteries is unknown. Perhaps they were just too clever by half in a time of Peter and the Test Tube Babies and ‘Batman in the Launderette’. It was to be almost twenty years before such intelligence was again to find even a marginal foothold on the fringes of popular music and it is perhaps no surprise that members of The Nunhead Cemeteries are believed to have been involved in Dead By Dawn, the Brixton-based mid-1990s speedcore-Deleuzian war dance machine that combined club nights with intense practico-theoretical discussions'.

The Museum is playing a demo tape from the band - we hope to put up the recordings here shortly.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

The Mysterium in Greenwich

Last month's Moving Gallery -The Mysterium - a collaboration between Deptford's Laban dancers and Greenwich's Trinity musicians - more than lived up to its promise, in fact it was one of the best Transpontine nights out for some time. The grand buildings of the Old Royal Naval College (now home to Trinity College of Music) were transformed for the night into a space for numerous music and dance performances.

Review at History is Made at Night

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

BUG meets Superman

Brockley Ukulele Group's most recent Sunday session at the Amersham Arms (8th March) was fairly packed and was enlivened by the support of Superman Revenge Squad. The latter had some good pop culture referencing storytelling songs (did I imagine it, or did one song really mention Brookside's Billy Corkhill?), with rapid fire spoken word sections. A couple of songs about his beloved Croydon too - one of which, When Everyone's Dead, imagined spending the end of the world as the last man alive wandering around the Whitgift Centre.

BUG's next Sunday Uke Box is at the Amersham Arms on April 12th - flyer below.

(nb - the photo on the flyer was taken in Washington in 1920, it is not actually a photo of BUG!)

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Brockley Graffiti

The hoardings around the site of the demolished Maypole pub in Mantle Road are becoming something of a street newspaper with a running commentary on the state of the economy. Last year there was some anti-Gordon Brown graffiti there, the latest offering on the recently replaced hoardings just says 'Good Morning Capitalism, Morning!'

I guess it's supposed to be a little reminder to Brockley Station commuters that they are working for 'The Man' - like anybody needs reminding (and as every good Marxist knows, the people working for capitalism are also those with the power to change it). Alternatively it could be interpreted as a slightly more abstract site specific slogan referring to the derelict site and the absence of the promised building work there - an example of the new dawn of capitalism unable to deliver on its promises to meet human needs (in this case housing)?

Monday, March 16, 2009

Telegraph Hill Open Studios

It's the Telegraph Hill Festival Open Studios this weekend, a chance to see the work of local artists and let's be honest have a nose around to see how people have decorated their houses and whether their bookshelves suggest an interesting backstory. I am particularly intrigued by this one:

'Nunhead and District Municipal Museum and Art Gallery: The Trustees of the Museum invite you to the final opening of the Museum prior to its closing for major rebuilding on the 100th anniversary of the death of the Museum's founder, George Alfred Gellatly. Saturday 21st March and Sunday 22nd March, 2 pm to 6 pm at 80 Gellatly Road, SE14 5TT'.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Hels Bels Tels

Don't know how I haven't come across Hels Bels Tels before, seeing as this blogger is Catford based and seems to have good music taste. Thanks to her I now know that earlier this month a band called Los Mondo Bongos played at Dirty South (Lee High Road) featuring Mike Peters (the Alarm), Pablo Cook & Smiley (Mescaleros), Derek Forbes (Simple Minds) and Steve Harris (Gary Numan's band).

Thursday, March 12, 2009

New Cross - New Shoreditch (again)

An article in last week's Time Out looked at the mushrooming of new clubs in South London, declaring that: 'Like a herd of hedonistic herbivores, the capital’s clubs have sought out fresh pastures south of the river. We map out London nightlife’s new southern stomping grounds'.

The sub heading 'Peckham and New Cross: The new Shoreditch' is hardly unprecedented - Time Out last called New Cross the New Shoreditch in 2007, and a few years before that the Standard declared it to be the New Hoxton (see here).

The acutal article is a bit more measured, acknowledging that 'Since the closure of the East London Line in December 2007, the clubbing majority has largely avoided New Cross and Peckham. The Amersham Arms is one of the only establishments left in New Cross offering hip late-night DJs, while in Peckham, warehouse labyrinth Area10 continues to host music and alternative performance. But the area’s isolation has given rise to another wave of more underground merrymakers. New artist-led project LuckyPDF is hoping to turn the area into an arty club hub once more. Among its many exhibitions in the lime-green Unity Centre, it throws monthly happening Nightfever where live bands meet Afro-inspired DJs and steaming noodles. There are also events at the Bussey Building, a looming former cricket bat factory that’s home to hundreds of artists. When the East London Line reopens in June 2010, the scene is set to erupt'.

Hmmm, the area's lively enough with gigs etc. but one pub with DJs and the odd art night hardly makes it clubbing central, compared with say Vauxhall or the London Bridge area also mentioned in the article.

Strangely no mention of the only actual medium size nightclub in New Cross - still packing them in after 20 years (longer if you count it's previous incarnations), even if it's no longer hip enough to feature on the Time Out radar. I refer of course to The Venue. Must admit I haven't been there for years either, but Darryl at 853 reports that a good night out is still to be had there.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Waldron Health Centre Consultation

Lewisham Primary Care Trust is consulting on plans to make the Waldron Health Centre in New Cross into a ‘GP-led health centre’, open seven days a week, from 8am-8pm. The plans have been criticised by some doctors and others, on grounds including its impact on other health services and on the quality of the relationship between GPs and patients - as well as concerns about putting the running of the centre out to tender.

Tomorrow night (Wednesday 11th March) there is a meeting to discuss this at the Amersham Vale Training Practice, Stanley Street, SE8 - 7 pm start. The meeting has been called Keep our NHS Public and Lewisham Pensioners Forum.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Kingsley Amis on New Cross

Kingsley Amis is certainly not my favourite South London writer - if he can be termed one on account of having been born in Clapham. His late period novel 'Stanley and the Women' (1984)includes a snooty anti-South London rant:

'It was raining busily away when I started on my dis­agreeable journey. I took the Apfelsine through the middle - straight down the hill, along past the office, across Blackfriars Bridge, to the Elephant and into the Old Kent Road... South of the river I was on home ground, or not far off. By the time I got to New Cross I had come to within five miles of where I had been born and brought up.

For all I knew, this part and that part had been different then, built at different times with different ideas, anyhow not interchangeable. That was no longer so, if it ever had been, unless perhaps you happened to have an eye for churches. Not that I cared, of course - I had left South London for good as soon as I had the chance. And yet in a sense what I saw from the Apfelsine was the same as ever, was cramped, thrown up on the cheap and never finished off, needing a lick of paint, half empty and every­where soiled, in fact very like my old part as noticed when travelling to and from an uncle's funeral a few weeks back. Half the parts south of the river were never proper places at all, just collections of assorted buildings filling up gaps and named after railway stations and bus garages. Most people I knew seemed to come from a place - Cliff Wain­wright and I got out of an area. This might have spared us various problems'.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Vege Breakfast at McLarens

The search for the perfect vegetarian breakfast is a lifelong quest. For me there are a number of essential agreements - eggs, mushrooms (not tinned), some kind of vegetarian sausage/bacon and some kind of potato product (such as hash browns. Price is also a factor - it should be roughly equivalent to the cost of meaty fry up in a local cafe (i.e. not restaurant prices).

For many years my favourite was the breakfast at Domali, the excellent vegetarian cafe in Crystal Palace. But now it has been pushed into second place by the breakfast at McLarens Bar and Grill in Honor Oak Park.The vege breakfast there includes scrambled egg, tarragon sausage, cherry tomatoes, mushrooms, potato wedges, beans and four slices of toast. Extra points for having a home made sausage rather than using a supermarket bought one and for offering (without being asked) an extra sausage when I said I didn't want beans. Extra extra points for running over the road to buy a new bottle of tabasco when they realized that the bottle I'd asked for was empty. All this for £4.45.

Lots of other good food on the menu including vegetarian dishes but it may be a while before I get beyond the breakfast.

(evidently I am not the only one who thinks so - see this analysis of the breakfast)

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Wild Horses and Peacocks on Sydenham Hill

There was some speculation in the comments to an earlier post about the mysteriously run down mansion on Sydenham Hill -a mystery partially solved by this strange story from the South London Press last month (23 Feb 2009):

'The Asbo owner of a mansion that was home to The Beatles has fled to the US owing thousands in court costs after mistreating animals. Tracey Thier, 48, had horses, peacocks and more than 60 Alsatians roaming around her 50-room Beltwood House home in Sydenham Hill, Dulwich. The animals attacked each other and people visiting or walking past the building. One woman’s injuries were so severe she needed plastic surgery.

Dogs would escape and attack members of the public, get electrocuted on railway lines and run into roads, causing traffic accidents. When Southwark council officers went to the Grade II listed mansion, there were so many puppies on the premises it was impossible to count them. Thier was given an Asbo banning her from keeping animals in December 2007, but breached the order four months later. Before she could be sentenced for the breaches, she fled the country and is believed to be hiding in the US'.

Apparently Beltwood House was sometimes used for club nights as La Funk Royale . There seems to be some doubt about the extent of The Beatles connection. At Sydenham Town Forum somebody quotes The Beatles Diary which states that on 29 August 1969 'George and several busloads of journalists attended the Apple Press launch of the Radha Krishna Temple’s first recording, 'Hare Krishna Mantra', in the gardens of a large country house in Sydenham. Indian food was served but no alcohol' - the assumption being that this was Beltwood House. Anybody know any more?

(there's some more pictures here).

Update: some discussion on this at East Dulwich Forum - apparently Beltwood was a students residence for radiography students at Kings College Hospital/Normanby College in the 1980s (and maybe earlier). Some memories of parties there too.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

The Brixton Gay Community of the 1970's

Interesting event being put on by the Gay and Lesbian Humanist Association:

'Squatting in Brixton: The Brixton Gay Community of the 1970's: A talk based on new research by Dr Matt Cook, Senior Lecturer in History, Birkbeck College .The South London Gay Liberation Front, the journal Gay Left and the Brixton Faeries were each linked to the squatting community, which in the mid 80s was absorbed into the Brixton Co-op. This talk describes the genesis and contours of the community, and explores the attempts by those involved to live differently'.

It takes place on Friday 13 March 2009, 7:30 - 9:00 pm at the Conway Hall Humanist Centre, 25 Red Lion Square, Holborn, London WC1 4RL (0207 242 8032).

Sunday, March 01, 2009