Wednesday, September 30, 2009

A bomb shelter on Telegraph Hill

This fading sign is painted on the reservoir wall in Jerningham Road, SE14. It dates, I believe from the Second World War, when a big painted S with an arrow showed the direction and distance to the nearest air raid shelter. SE8ker has photographed lots of examples in Deptford and elsewhere.
But where was the shelter signposted in this example? The distance information is faded, but the arrow is pointing to the top of the road -was the shelter in St Catherine's Church or Aske's school, or somewhere else?

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

SE London Funky: Digital Holdings & Crazy Cousinz

There are lots of South London connections to the UK Funky boom, probably the most obvious is the important role of local DJ/producers Crazy Cousinz. Founder Flukes is from Forest Hill, while fellow member Kodi Starr started out as a producer at New Cross-based Digital Holdings - a film and music recording studio/production company based on the Juno Road industrial estate off Surrey Canal Road.

Crazy Couzins have had a hand in some of the big anthems of the last couple of years, the latest being Kyla's Daydreaming which they produced (and Crazy Couzin Paleface co-wrote), and which Digital Holdings have produced the video for with Jak Frsh directing:

The outside scenes seem to have been filmed at the top of a fire escape in Deptford - as you can see in this short film about the shoot.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Rail Cuts Campaigns

Campaigns against cuts to rail services in South London are gaining momentum on at least two fronts.

The Save Our South London Line campaign is focusing on Boris Johnson's decision, as Chair of Transport for London, to close the South London Line from 2012. This service runs between Victoria and London Bridge via Battersea Park, Wandsworth Rd, Clapham High Street, Denmark Hill, Peckham Rye, Queens Rd Peckham and South Bermondsey. It is one of the few services that directly links South East and South West London without requiring a journey into town and back out again, and connects among other things the hospitals at Kings and the Maudsley at Denmark Hill with Guys at London Bridge More details of the campaign here.

The Save Our South London campaign includes Southwark Rail Users Group, Clapham Transport Users Group and Lambeth Public Transport Group. They are holding a public meeting this week, Wednesday 30th September (6.30pm for 7pm-9pm) at the Institute of Psychiatry, 16 De Crespigny Park, Camberwell, SE5.

Meanwhile the Forest Hill Society and the Sydenham Society are amongst those opposing cuts to services to London Bridge from Brockley, Honor Oak Park, Forest Hill, Sydenham and other stations on the same line. Southern Railway, who were awarded the South Central franchise this summer, intend to cut evening peak services from May 2010, resulting in a 30% reduction to trains running to these stations (from 6 trains per hour to just 4 trains per hour). Daytime off-peak services will also be cut from 6 to 4 trains per hour, and as from December 2009 there will no longer have any direct trains from Charing Cross, journeys back from the West End will always involve a change at London Bridge late at night. Campaigners have launched a petition here.

(See also the various discussions on this at 'the glass is half full actually' Brockley Central)

Montague Close: a Southwark Sanctuary

Alsatia is a new historical blog dedicated to exploring the liberties and sanctuaries of London - areas which had some kind of legal autonomy up until the late 17th century and therefore offered some kind of refuge for debtors and others on the wrong side of the law.

There were several such areas in South London, one of which Alsatia has just covered: Montague Close, by what is now Southwark Cathedral.

The Southwark liberties are at the heart of local shamanic poet John Constable's Southwark Mysteries play cycle, performed in Southwark Cathedral in 2000. It has just been announced that a new production will be performed there next April - London SE1 has the full story.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Suicide burials talk SE1

Coming up soon at South East London Folklore Society, renowned folklorist Jeremy Harte is talking on 'Keep Death On The Road - Suicide Burials in Theory and Practice: Silently at midnight they dragged the body out to a crossroads, threw it naked into the pit and hammered a stake into pale flesh. Why the cruelty, why the fear? This two-thousand-year survey of outcast burials traces the manipulation of personal tragedy into symbolic ritual'.

Thursday, October 8, 2009, 8:00pm at The Old King's Head, Kings Head Yard, 45-49 Borough High Street, SE1 (facebook event here).

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Graffiti Ghosts

The Ruinist has a good post - The Eclipse and Re-emergence of Something - on some fading South London graffiti. Among other things he finds traces of the 1980 fight against the National Front in Walworth (there's still the painted word SCARF - for Southwark Campaign Against Racialism and Fascism - on Amelia Street), and establishes that 76 Peckham Road was a mid-1970s anarchist publishing hothouse.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Little Bazaar

I know this is the third post this week on the Amersham Arms, but bear with me because this weekend sees the return of A Little Bazaar - kind of alternative jumble sale and craft market with cakes. The market runs on 27th September & 4th October, from 1pm-7pm, admission is free. They're pitching for the student pound, but everybody is welcome.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Fred Aylward/Deptford X

Loads going on for Deptford X festival from 25 September to 4 October. I'm looking forward to Fred Aylward's Before exhibition of photos of lost local entertainment venues showing at the Albany Cafe - and his Before & After exhibition of watercolours of buildings that no longer exist at the Dog and Bell. Linked to this is a showing at the Albany next Tuesday 29 September (7:30 pm) of the classic reggae film Babylon, much of it filmed in the Deptford area. If you stick around you can join a wander from the Albany to the Dog & Bell afterwards pointing out some of the spots featured in the film and exhibition.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Night of a Thousand Stars

Going out this Saturday (September 26th) to the Grand Vintage Ball at the Rivoli Ballroom in Brockley Road. Should be a good night, but as always on the rare occasions when I go to the Rivoli nowadays I am hoping to recapture some of the magic of one of the best nights out there has ever been (for me at least) in Brockley or anywhere else - Club Montepulciano's Night of a Thousand Stars.

The club started out at the Rivoli some time in 1997 I believe - anyway I know that I went to the 4th night there on Saturday 27th September 1997 (flyer below) and at that time it was running more or less monthly in Brockley. The club promised 'style, glamour, comedy, dancing, cocktails and kitsch' and it always delivered.

The host was Heilco van der Ploeg with the Montepulciano house band Numero Uno - among other things they did a cover version of the Cadbury's Flake advert song from the 1970s ('tastes like chocolate never tasted before'). The format was usually a floorshow featuring a mixture of cabaret and dancing turns. Among the former I recall seeing Jackie Clune doing her Karen Carpenter routine, Earl Okin and burlesque act Miss High Leg Kick; among the latter were Come Dancing finalists like The Kay and Frank Mercer Formation Dance Team.

Then the DJs took over - usually Nick Hollywood and the Fabulous Lombard Brothers - playing kind of loungecore kitsch, but always very danceable - Shirley Bassey, Tom Jones, Peggy Lee, Perry Como and Andy Williams. The latter's House of Bamboo was something of an anthem - anybody who ever went to that club must surely have a flashback if they hear the line 'Number 54, the house with the bamboo door...'. The dance floor was invariably packed with a mish mash of styles - mods going through their paces in one corner, couples doing ballroom and Latin moves, and disco bunny hands in the air action (that was me anyway).

Xmas 1997 flyer

There were themed nights too. Moon over Montecarlo was themed around Motor racing, complete with an 8 lane Scalextric track.

There was a 1998 Halloween Night of a Thousand Vampires featuring one Count Alessandro, who performed a punk-flamenco-operatic version of Psycho Killer before wandering through the crowd biting necks with his vampire teeth. Sometimes there was a casino - but not for real cash - or you could get even get your haircut.

If all of this sounds a bit too arch, I must emphasise that it wasn't full of people being cool or ironic in a detached sort of way. It was a full on 90s clubbing scene with drink, drugs, sex in the toilets and other madness (well I can only speak for my friends). As usual in clubs when the queues for the women's toilets got too long, the women invaded the men's toilets and I remember seeing one woman peeing standing up at one of the urinals.

But above all else there was dressing up. I went to lots of clubs at that time with supposed glamorous dress codes - Renaissance, the Misery of Sound - but none came anywhere close to Night of a Thousand Stars. And while at these glam house nights, dress codes were arbitrarily enforced by bouncers to create some kind of dubious sense of style elitism, at the Rivoli nobody had to dress up to get in - but everybody wanted to. It was a mass of sequins, feather boas, suits and dresses in velvet and fake fur (zebra, patent snakeskin you name it), sombreros... There was a real sense of entering a fantasy world where every man and every woman was a star.

Planning what to wear was all part of the fun, sometimes I would go up to Radio Days (retro shop in Lower Marsh, Waterloo) to buy a new shirt especially. Feeling like a million dollars, and thousands of pounds in debt - I'm still paying off my credit card bills from that extravagant time, but that's all part of the proletarian dandy experience.

The other star was the venue itself - the red velvet and chandelier splendour of the Rivoli Ballroom. I'm not sure exactly when the club finished in Brockley - I think it was some time in 2000 and the rumour was that in all the time it had been running the venue had never really had a license for late night drinking. It moved on to the Camden Centre and Blackheath Halls but I don't think it was ever the same. I went to the latter in 2003 and it just didn't have the stardust.
Xmas 1998 flyer

It was all very handy for me living within walking distance, but it wasn't 'a local club for local people'. People came from all over London - one flyer said 'Get out your A-Z'. When the club closed, the taxi rank up the road was transformed into a post-ballroom chill out as the best dressed queue in town hung around chatting and waiting for a lift home. Bliss was it in that Brockley dawn to be alive.

Heilco van der Ploeg went on to open the Kennington tiki bar, South London Pacific. I thought I saw him pushing a buggy round Brockley last year.

More details of the Grand Vintage Ball here.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The Amersham Arms Pandas RIP

A commenter on the previous post bemoans the departure of the Amersham Arms panda mural - so for her and any others missing our furry friends here they are, as they were before this summer's redecoration of the pub:

The pandas were painted by Thom Glen. You can see the full gallery of the new wall paintings at the Amersham Arms at The Beer Gallery.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Amersham Arms Murals

The outside of the Amersham Arms in New Cross has been redecorated recently, with a design by Jamie Brown apparently inspired by Kraftwerk. Do the coloured bars, like those on a mixing desk, actually represent a track by Düsseldorf's finest?

Round the side there's this mural by Gemma Correll.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Bold Vision for Telegraph Hill Centre

Bold Vision are having an open day today (11-2) up at the Telegraph Hill Centre (Kitto Road) to keep people informed and involved in their plan to create a new community space/cafe there - the photo above is of their earlier event in June. The current thinking is that the emtpy undercroft of the building - underneath the now closed Cafe Orange - could be converted into usable space.

I wish them well, but it would surely make sense to bring the upstairs ex-Cafe Orange space back into community use too. Since the Cafe closed it has been rented out by Askes school for use as a Sixth Form Common Room, presumably to get the smoking sixth formers off the streets at lunchtime. This really shouldn't be a long term arrangement - after all the Telegraph Hill Centre was built specifically to be just the kind of community space that Bold Vision now envisage. Call me a hopeless utopian but my vote would be to create a community cafe downstairs and then reopen the library that used to be upstairs!

UB40 in Deptford

A commenter at a previous post has pointed us in the direction of UB40's 1983 version of Many Rivers to Cross - the video of which was made in St Pauls Church, Deptford.

According to a discussion a the UB40 Bulletin Board, the choir in the church that day also included Aswad, Eek a Mouse, Ruby Turner, Jackie Graham, Feargal Sharkey (lead singer with the Undertones) and the late Phil Lynott from Thin Lizzy. I also spotted Musical Youth. All this and lots of polystyrene snow. It was directed by Bernard Rose who went on to be a Hollywood director, responsible for films including Candy Man and Immoral Beloved.

Musical Youth in the pews

Exit to fake snow

Feargal Sharkey in red hat

Ali Campbell in pulpit

(updated with stills, October 2015)

Friday, September 18, 2009

Folkus Festival at Sanford Walk

Tomorrow (Saturday 19th Sept) the Folkus Festival takes place at Sanford Housing Co-op in New Cross. The event marks the 30th anniversary of the Co-op and as well as lots of music, that old bus that has been there for ever is going to be turned into a temporary cinema by the folks from Exploding Cinema and friends.
Sanford Walk, SE14, Noon till late (films from 9 pm)

Men with Carts Films

Full Unemployment Cinema's September free screening is a Men With Carts Double Bill featuring:

MAN PUSH CART (87mins) - a 2005 American independent film by Ramin Bahrani that tells the story of a former Pakistani rock star who now sells coffee and donuts from his push cart on the streets of Manhattan.

BOROM SARRET (20mins) - the 1966 cinematic debut of Senegalese novelist Ousmane Sembene and the earliest film directed by an indigenous filmmaker in sub-Sahara Africa, it centres on the life of a horse cart driver in Dakar.

Come along to 56a Infoshop, 56 Crampton St (off Walworth Rd), Elephant and Castle, on SUNDAY SEPTEMBER 27th at 6pm.

UFOs over Streatham?

Claims of strange lights in the sky over Streatham in the last few weeks:

'On Tuesday night at around 10.30pm Gary Richardson, 42, was out walking his dogs when he saw a UFO displaying unusual-shaped lights slipping silently over Mitcham towards Streatham, before suddenly disappearing. Three weeks ago TV editor and sci-fi fan Mark McConnell called the Guardian newsroom reporting that he had seen a similar object, three lights giving off a dull glow, hovering 200ft over St George's hospital on the night of August 14'.

Full story in This is Local London, 12 September 2009

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Dorian Gray at the Old Royal Naval College

I went to Greenwich Picture House last week to see the new Dorian Gray film. In between moans about its divergence from the Oscar Wilde storyline I noticed that some of it was filmed nearby in the Old Royal Naval College in Greenwich.

This is a popular film location - up there with Borough Market - according to the Old Royal Naval College website: 'Big-screen blockbusters shot in recent years include The Mummy (1999), Shanghai Knights (2003), National Treasure (2004), The Queen (2006), Amazing Grace (2006), Starter for Ten (2006), Eastern Promises (2007) and The Golden Compass (2007). The Old Royal Naval College has thus been host to a star-studded cast, which includes amongst others Helen Mirren, Hugh Grant, Sharon Stone, Keira Knightley, Owen Wilson, Jackie Chan, Nicole Kidman, Simon Callow, Naomi Watts, Rowan Atkinson and Andie McDowell'.

Other films that have used it include Quills, The Madness of King George, Four Weddings and a Funeral, The Mummy Returns and Lara Croft: Tomb Raider. Oh and a 1993 episode of Dr Who.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Saturday Night Blues at the Monty

A new monthly blues night is starting up The Montague Arms (Queens Road, SE15) this Saturday 19 September. First band up is The Blue Bishops -'The band features Geoff Grange who has played and sang with Bill Wyman's Rhythm Kings and Andy Fairweather Low among many others, on vocals, lead guitar and blues harp. Special guest for this gig is Jon Noyce on bass (Jethro Tull and Gary Moore Band)'.

Tickets are £5.00 on the door, and the shows will be on the 3rd Saturday of each month.

Skating Rink Mania in New Cross 1876

'The "Rink"' Mania: The secretary to the New Cross and Lewisham Skating Rink Company has been summoned to the Greenwich Police Court to answer the charge of keeping a disorderly house - namely, the skating rink in question - without having obtained a license for the performance of music. A number of the neighbouring residents complained that they were annoyed by the strains of a brass band and by the assembling of people whom the rink attracted to the place. The magistrate said the matters would have to be decided by an indictment preferred at quarter sessions, and it was arranged that this course be adopted'
(Penny Illustrated Paper, London, 24 June 1876)

I assume this was ice skating or could it have been roller skating? And where was the rink?

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Palace Puma Again

We love a good South London alien big cat story, even if as sceptical Forteans we keep an open mind on whether there's really anything out there more mysterious than a misrecognised dog or domestic cat. Latest tale of a tail is from Crystal Palace:

'A mysterious animal dubbed the Palace Puma has been spotted again. Two 14-year-olds claim to have seen the big cat - first spotted in Woodland by Fox Hill last month - outside Crystal Palace Park two weeks ago. Kaz Johnson-Salami said he was walking along Thicket Road at 7am when he saw a cat “the size of a Great Dane”. The Streatham teenager, who was staying with his sister in Crystal Palace, said: “We saw it on the other side of the road. It was a huge black cat with bright eyes.'

Full story at Newsshopper, 7 September 2009

Monday, September 14, 2009

Seizure on Harper Road

Roger Hiorns caused a stir last year with his work Seizure in an empty council flat at 151-8 Harper Road, SE1. It was created by filling the flat with copper sulphate solution, leaving it to crystalise, and then pumping out surplus liquid to create a crystal cave. On the back of it Hiorns was nominated for the Turner Prize. Thanks to the recession, the planned demoliton of the flats has been delayed so it has been reopened for a second look. You've got until October 18th to get down there, and it's well worth it - it's beautiful.

It's open Thursday to Sunday from 11 am and admission is free. More details at Artangel.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Borough Market Filming

Borough Market is a bit of an old standby film location. In the last week there's been filming there for Swinging with the Finkels, a swinging couple rom com with Mandy Moore and Martin Freeman.

Other films shot in the immediate area include Bridget Jones's Diary (Bedale Street is the scene of the fight between Huw Grant and Colin Firth, and the location of Bridget's flat above The Globe pub), and Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels (the gang live at 15 Park Street). Where did they film that? also identifies Entrapment (1999), French Lieutenant's Woman (1981), Harry Potter And The Prisoner Of Azkaban (2004), Howard's End (1992), Wilde (1997) and The Young Americans (1993). It also features in Keep the Aspidistra Flying and 101 Dalmatians.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Grand Vintage Ball at the Rivoli

At the glorious Rivoli Ballroom on Saturday September 26th there's a night of vintage clothes, cool music and cabaret:

'The first ever Grand Vintage Ball will be a night of glam music, mindboggling feats of derring-do and decadence. Whilst the powdered preening pansies fight it out at London Fashion week, to see styles plundered from the past, the event will show the real sartorial creativity and design London has to offer. Just like music sampling, which involves rifling through the past with scant regard for periods, styles and eras, the ball will be a non purist homage to the past. Held in the sumptuous environs of the Rivoli Ballroom in Brockley, South East London, the night is the perfect opportunity for the Retrorati and the Sartorial Intelligentsia to don their best vintage and retro outfits and enter the ultimate Vintage Attire Pageant, where they can be crowned Best In Show'.

It runs from 8pm -1am, and tickets are £14.99 plus booking fee. More details at the Grand Vintage Ball blog. Sounds tempting... a return to the magic times of Club Montepulciano's Night of a Thousand Stars? (legendary 1990s club at the Rivoli).

Friday, September 11, 2009

"I'm an old bag from Deptford"

I was tempted to say, 'does she even know where Deptford is?' but it seems this picture of the Duchess of Cornwall (or plain old Camilla Parker-Bowles as she was once known) was taken on a visit to the 999 Club (a local charity) in Deptford Broadway yesterday.

All over Battersea

It's been a while since I posted on South London Songs - basically the never ending effort to catalogue songs that reference a Transpontine location. Battersea is a bit far from our New Cross/Brockley/Deptford comfort zone but is undoubtedly south of the river and therefore eligible for inclusion!

So let us tip the hat to Stephen Patrick Morrissey for his song 'You're the One for Me, Fatty', the chorus of which features the immortal line 'All over Battersea, Some hope and some despair'

What is about Moz and Battersea? He played a gig at Battersea Power Station in 1997 and the place also features on the back cover of his 1990 Bona Drag album. There's also a bootleg of a 1991 Morrissey gig in Cologne with the title 'Battersea Patisserie'. Anybody know why?

Thursday, September 10, 2009

New Cross Fire Death

From This is London (9.9.09):

A fire at a block of flats in New Cross in which a man died has sparked a murder inquiry.
Emergency services were called to the flats in Avonley Road at 1pm yesterday (September 8), where they found the body of a man on the second floor. Firefighters helped several people to safety from the Filton Court flats but the man, believed to be in his 50s, was pronounced dead at the scene. Police have not yet identified the man but say they are treating his death as suspicious. A post-mortem examination is due to take place today at Greenwich mortuary. A second man, aged 51, was rescued from the fire and taken to hospital where he was later arrested in connection with the police inquiry.

Some photos of this at Flickr.

Scadbury Manor Open Day

This weekend there's a chance to visit an archaeological site and nature reserve at Chislehurst in the borough of Bromley. Orpington and District Archaeological Society are hosting open days on September 12 & 13th 2009 (2.00 to 4.30 pm) at the remains of the Scadbury moated manor, within Scadbury Nature Reserve.

Scadbury was the country pad of Sir Thomas Walsingham, the favourite wine merchant of Queen Elizabeth I. It was also the birthplace of Sir Francis Walsingham, her spy master general. The warrant for the arrest of the playwright Christopher Marlowe was raised at Scadbury in 1593, shortly before he was murdered in Deptford. Marlowe is known to have stayed at Scadbury.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Write Now at Brockley Jack

Are you an unsung playwright? The Brockley Jack Theatre has just launched Write Now - 'a new play season aimed at promoting and celebrating the creative talent of southeast Londoners. Write Now is inviting scriptwriters and theatre companies with a strong connection to southeast London to submit a new play to the theatre for consideration. Three plays will then be selected to be performed during the Write Now season at the Brockley Jack Theatre in February 2010'.

Guidelines and application form are available to be downloaded from the Brockley Jack website.
The Deadline for Applications is Friday 16 October. Further information from: Karl Swinyard, Theatre Manager, The Brockley Jack Theatre, 410 Brockley Road, London SE4 2DH, admin@brockleyjack.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Frog Morris Pirate Night at the Montague Arms

Coming very soon (8.30pm, Thursday 10th September) 'FROG MORRIS PRESENT...PIRATE NIGHT AT THE MONTAGUE ARMS' (289 Queens Road, SE15). They say 'Come down to London’s favorite Pirate Pub this Thursday for an evening of art, music and comedy before we set sail for the land of Frogstock... Join us of evening of pirate music with The Lazy Dog Crew. There will be tall tales, fishy jokes and sing along sea shanties with Capatin Steve Bowditch and his shipmates. Don’t miss your chance to say you saw the Lazy Dog Crew first at the Montague Arms, these boys will soon to be the talk of the seven seas. And that’s not all...'. Variety acts include comedian James W Smith, 'Artist and explorer Daniel Lehan' and performance art striptease from Princess Knickers. More information at Facebook Event.

Monday, September 07, 2009

New Cross Evacuees

From a Telegraph story on Women in World War 2:

'As an evacuee, Betty McDonnell swapped the overcrowded streets of London for the lush and restful lanes of Sussex. 'I'd never been to the country before,' says Betty, 78, who cuts a tidy figure and has a mind for detail; she can still remember the blackberries she picked on her first day (and the wasp that stung one of her classmates). But then being evacuated changed Betty's life. 'We were really lucky,' she says.

Betty grew up in the packed, terraced streets of New Cross, south-east London, where her father was a caretaker at Goldsmiths College. The family rented a house with a resident landlady. So Betty, her two sisters, her mother and father lived in just three rooms. There was another drawback: Betty was a sickly child. 'I used to get bronchitis every December and was ill right up until Easter.'

Betty's poor health was inextricably linked to the London air. 'We lived right near the Thames in an industrial area. I can still remember the hooters of the ships on the river and the fogs. You couldn't see anything. There used to be a yellowy mist.' Betty was eight and a half when war broke out and it was only a matter of weeks before her mother was packing Betty's woolly vests and liberty bodice into a carrier bag. 'There were a few arguments. My mum didn't want us to go, but Dad insisted. Mum came around, realising that what he was saying made sense.'

On 3 September 1939, the day war was declared, Betty, her younger sister, Stella (their elder sister, who worked in a factory, stayed behind), plus most of their school-friends and teachers climbed on a steam train at New Cross Gate station and arrived two hours later in a different world. Betty and Stella went to live with the Coshams, an elderly couple in Ringmer, East Sussex. 'They had this beautiful cottage with a thatched roof and a lovely little garden. They were a really nice couple. They said, "This is your bedroom." I'd never seen such a big bed!' Betty, who'd only ever been out of London to go on holiday to Clacton or Ramsgate, went for country walks, drew flowers and felt like a heroine from one of her much-read girls' stories. And her health improved.

Other children were less happy. 'Lots ran away or went back to London, and unfortunately some of those got killed in an air-raid. It made me feel awful.' In 1940 the girls' mother joined them in the country, and they ended up lodging with the Fennells, a childless couple: 'Mum became very good friends with them.'

After the war Betty trained as a typist; in 1953 she married Guy McDonnell, who worked for the gas-light company. She was living in Lewisham and pregnant with her youngest son when she had 'the surprise of my life'. The Fennells had left their house to Betty and Stella – an 18th-century house in Lewes. Betty bought her sister out in the early 1960s for £600. They sold it 11 years ago for £170,000 to buy a bungalow in Seaford. 'It turned me from a Londoner to a country woman,' she says. 'We had the house for 32 years and it gave us a very nice retirement.'

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Sacred Turf and Holy Places

Next Thursday (10th Sept), South East London Folklore Society presents 'Sacred turf and holy places: Football stadia and worship - With the football season underway again what better time to explore the supernatural side of soccer as well as football's folkloric roots? Chris Roberts will discuss not only cursed and haunted London grounds but some of the superstitions around the beautiful game'.

At The Old King's Head, Kings Head Yard, 45-49 Borough High Street, London, SE1 1NA.Talk starts at 8.00 pm, £2.50 / £1.50 concessions.

Friday, September 04, 2009

Broadway Theatre

Another of the great lost treasures of South London, the Broadway Theatre, New Cross, opened in 1897, became a cinema in 1911 and was demolished in the 1960s. The architect was WGR Sprague, who also designed the still standing Notting Hill Coronet. It was situated on New Cross Road/Deptford Broadway, opposite Deptford High Street, on the corner of Tanners Hill. It seems to have been generally known as the Broadway Theatre, New Cross rather than the Deptford Broadway Theatre. And you could get the tram there too!

More information at Cinema Treasures, Theatres Trust and Arthur Lloyd.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

The 'Chicago Martyrs' and South London

The sentencing to death and ultimately execution of four anarchists in Chicago in 1887 was an international cause celebre among working class and radical movements across the world. As contemporary reports in the anarchist journal Freedom make clear, this included agitation in London (with William Morris, George Bernard Shaw and Annie Besant amongst those involved) with South London meetings in Peckham and Lambeth.

In November 1887, Freedom, A Journal of Anarchist Socialism reported:

'A succession of meetings have been held during the past month to protest against the infamous sentences of death and imprisonment passed upon the Chicago Anarchists. The largest of these meetings, held at South Place [Red Lion Square], Oct. 14 was organised by a representative committee of English Socialists- Anarchist and Democratic. A resolution declaring our comrades' condemnation to be an attack upon freedom of speech and public meeting, of vital concern to the working classes all over the world, was enthusiastically and unanimously passed by a crowded audience of English workers. The speakers were the Rev. Stewart Headlam chairman of the Guild of St. Matthew, William Morris of the Socialist League, J. Blackwell of the Social Democratic Federation, Annie Besant of the National Secular Society, G. B. Shaw of the Fabian Society, G. Standring of the Radical Federation, Tarleton of the Hammersmith Radical Club, H. George, one of the unemployed workers of London, "Stepniak," the well-known Russian author and revolutionist, and P. Kropotkine and C. M. Wilson of the Freedom Group. A cablegram of sympathy with the agitation of the American workers was despatched to the Leader, New York, during the meeting. Messages of sympathy were received from the Sheffleld Socialists and many Radical clubs and workmen's associations.

Other meetings, smaller but no less enthusiastic, have been held by the London Anarchist Groups and Socialist League at the Hall of the Communist Club, by the Hackney Branch of the S. D. F., by the Tower Hamlets Radical Club and Peckham Reform Club, and in the open air at Hoxton, by the Sheffleld Socialists the Clay Cross Socialists, the Scandinavian Workmen's Clubs of London, and by the Dublin Labour League Resolutions of protest against the sentence and of sympathy with the condemned men have also been passed at the London and country branches of the Socialist League and S. D. F., and at the London Radical Clubs.

Meetings continued to be held in the aftermath of the executions. In October 1890, Freedom advertised another public meeting scheduled for November 10th at South Place Institute (Conway Hall, Red Lion Square) to commemorate the executions, with speakers including Louise Michel (sometime East Dulwich resident), Peter Kropotkin (sometime Bromley resident - Transpontine)and Henri Malatesta. It also reported that The Freedom Group had arranged related local meetings as follows:

Thursday Nov. 6, Scandinavian Club, Rathbone Place, Oxford Street, W.
Friday Nov. 7, Gleicheit Club, Old Street, St. Lukes Saturday Nov. 8, International Workingmen's Club, Berners Street, Commercial Road, E.
Sunday Nov. 9, Autonomie Club, 6 Windmill Street, Tottenham Court Road.
Sunday Nov. 9, Lambeth Progressive Club, 122 Kennington Road, S.E.

The same issue also advertised a series of forthcoming anarchist meetings in London, including further meetings at the Lambeth Progressive Club and one at the Lewisham and Lee Liberal Club:

- Freedom Group holds meetings on Saturdays in Hyde Park, at 4 p.m., and on Sundays at Hampstead Heath, at 11.30 am.
- St. Pancras Communist-Anarchist Group holds meetings on Wednesdays at 8 p.m., in Prince of Wales Road, Kentish Town, near "Mother Shipton"; and on Sundays in Regent's Park, at 3 p.m.
- Blast London Communist-Anarchist Group holds open-air meetings on Sundays at 11.30 a.m. outside Hoxton Church (bottom of New North Road) and at 3.30 p.m. in Victoria Park. Comrades are earnestly invited to roll up and support.

- Lewisham and Lee Liberal Club, Camden House, 170 High Street, Lewisham. On Sunday October 26th, at 8 p.m., J. E. Barlas, "Principle v. Expediency."
- Lambeth Progressive Club, 122 Kennington Road, S.E.-Sunday October 12th, at 8. p.m., Peter Kropotkine, "Anarchist Communism." Sunday October 26th, at 8 p.m, Tom Pearson, "Organisation Free and Unfree."
- Anarchist League (Individualist) holds open-air meetings on Sundays in Victoria Park, at 11.30 am.; Hyde Park, at 4.30p.m.; and discussions in the hall of the Autonomie Club, 6, Windmill Street, Tottenham Court Road, at 8.30 p.m.
- The Cosmopolitan Research Association meet every Wednesday, at 8.30, at Temperance Bar, 46, Wharfdale Road, King's Cross, for the discussion of all questions which affect the working men's interest. All inquiries, address Secretary, C. Grason, 22, Middlesex Street, Euston Road.

I haven't found out much more about the Lewisham and Lee Liberal Club. The Liberal and Radical Year Book 1887 gives its address as The Clarendon Rooms, Lee Bridge, with its President a J.Glode Stapleton of 47 Lee Terrace and its Honorary Secretary F.E. Marshall Steele. Stapleton seems to have become an early member of The Fabian Society, demonstrating that Radical, Progressive and Liberal Clubs in this period covered a fluid spectrum of opinion - anarchists, socialists and liberals.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

BUG September Session

Brockley Ukulele Group's next Sunday Session at the Amersham Arms in New Cross takes place on Sunday 13 September from 8 pm (admission free). That's Buster Keaton wielding the uke in the photo by the way.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Ceri James on the plinth

South East London-based songster Ceri James has one of the hour slots on the Trafalgar Square plinth tomorrow (Wednesday 2nd) at noon. He will be performing songs from his new album, Win, Lose and Some You Can't Tell, and you will be able to watch it all live at One & Other.

Ceri played at our South London Songs session at last year's Hillaballoo, singing his ode to Deptford Broadway.

Monday at the Climate Camp

Spent a pleasant Bank Holiday afternoon at the Climate Camp on Blackheath, joining in some workshops and generally chewing the ecological cud. There was quite a spectrum of ideas, and some quite healthy debate. By no means everybody there was a 'lifestylist' - by which I mean people who think you can change the world just by persuading individuals to change their patterns of consumption, never mind the fact for huge swathes of the world's population the problem is that they don't have the opportunity to consume enough to live a decent life. Must admit my main reaction to the Camp, given the generally low level of social movement activity at the moment, is to say 'at least they're having a go' rather than be over-critical (I know I'm going soft).

My main regret was that I didn't get to have a go on the pedal powered-hovercraft!

Having the camp here may have lost it a strategic focus (when it was at Heathrow the location directly linked to the movement against airport expansion), but it did at least open the possibility of a broader range of encounters and for others outside the activist milieu to have some involvement. See, for instance, Greenwich Phantom and Blackheath Bugle's participation - particularly like the latter's maps (shame we haven't got a map of Wat Tyler's 1381 encampment!). Owen Hatherley also has an interesting take on it - I like his notion of combining the sensibility of the fairground (pleasure machines, speed, futurism...), also on Blackheath, with a politics of social change represented by the camp.

I came across the following leaflet at the camp, which appealed to me with its attempt to locate the movement within the geography and history of Blackheath:

Some notes on our location

‘When adam delved and eve span, who was then the gentleman?’

Welcome to the Commons! Welcome to the Climate Camp! Welcome to the Future!

From this heath in 1381, preacher John Ball gave probably the country’s first speech against the class ridden nature of society. What better place to continue the struggle for social justice and the fight against climate change?

This year's Camp for Climate Action is on Common Land. Commons are open to all. The commons of London were fought for, campaigned for, saved by the work of Londoners to be a vital lung for ordinary people. We live better because or their work. This is a public, open space. That is why we must take extra care of it this year. We recognise this could be a challenge, but we like it that we are open, public, visible. We don't want to be marginalized, hidden or ignored. We are a necessary contribution to the landscape in these unstable times.

Moreover, the notion of the Commons is one we must protect in these times of increasing privatization. The land and the air and the sunshine and the rain are a commons. The atmosphere is a commons and it is the pollution of the corporations that is poisoning it. Then they try to divide it with carbon credits and sell off the right to pollute it some more! Always the rich try to control and commodify in order to gain more wealth. It is because we want a common heritage for all that we address the root causes of climate chaos and say we must target capitalism and the privatjsation and commodification that arises from it.

The site has huge historical connections. It has long been used for political demonstrations, suffragette marches, rallies; fairs have continued here since medieval times. Most famously, it is where the Peasants Revolt led by Wat Tyler assembled in 1381 in their struggle against bad government and unfair taxes.

We think it's worth noting that as the police launch their charm offensive and the government says they lead the world on climate issues, that Wat Tyler was murdered, the other leaders executed, and the King's promise to agree to the people's demands were revoked - as soon as the revolt was no longer seen as a threat.

Less famously, the Kentish rebellion of 1450 assembled here too. 5,000 workers and peasants marched on London bad government and unfair taxes. Again. They too were promised deals and pardoned and then they too were executed and repelled.

We can learn from history not to trust those in power, but we needn't be downhearted. Those struggles through the ages are why we have the vote, more rights, fewer working hours, freedom to travel. They were not given by the state, they were taken by the people.

And so it is with climate change. We must change the status quo to save the day.

Within sight of the towers of the city, we come to remember a world where their values do not rule. Our buildings may be lower, but our reach is much wider. The bankers and the clerks who everyday ignore the disasters that their decisions cause, cannot hide for ever, and nature will not bail them out.

We are also on our site with our own boundaries. Creating our own boundaries means we can be adaptable and have a better chance of dealing with police attempts to disrupt deliveries or access.

Lastly, the meridian line. Here we are on a line that has been used to measure the world from, a line to measure time by. That measurement formed one of the bases for colonialism, but we can choose to see its symbolism rather differently. We see that it is time for a new time, time for different values, time for a culture based not on short term profit and resource extraction, but on long term thinking, ecology and mutual aid.