Saturday, October 31, 2009

Spooky stone throwing in Peckham

A Halloween tale of ghostly goings on in SE15, 1880:

STONE-THROWING BY “SPIRITS”[The Theosophist, Vol. I, No. 12, September, 1880, p. 310]

'In the July number we reprinted from the Daily Chronicle an account of recent stone-throwings at Plumstead, England, by some mysterious agency. Among other cases reported in the English papers is one at Cookstown, near Belfast, Ireland, vouched for by the Daily Telegraph and the Belfast News Letter. The missiles in this instance, fell under the very eyes of the police without their obtaining the least clue. The Spiritualist cites another similar incident as having happened at Peckham in broad daylight, despite every precaution of the police to entrap any trickster. The editor says that Mr. William Howitt once collected a whole bookful of instances. The thing is well known in India, and that our friends in Europe may have the data for making comparisons, we will be glad if our readers will report to us cases that can be authenticated by respectable witnesses'.

Release the Bats

How about a seasonal South London-flavoured halloween post on bats?

1. Earlier this year, a survey in Southwark Park found that the relatively rare Leisler’s bat (pictured)– formerly known by the much better name of the hairy armed bat – was living there.

2. Sydenham Hill Wood is 'the home of the Woodland Bat Roost Project, funded by the SITA Trust with additional help and money from Southwark and Lewisham Councils. This project aims to improve the wood for bats, where at least five species of bat have been spotted' (more from London Wildlife Trust).

3. The excellent London Sound Survey has a new recording made earlier this month of a Pipistrelle bat flying back and forth along a path near the Ravensbourne river in Ladywell Fields, south-east London (if I understand correctly this is actually a recording of the bat's sonar, recorded on specialist equipment so that we can listen to something that is not audible by the human ear).

4. You can find out much more about bats, including how to be more bat-friendly, at the Bats Conservation Trust.

5. Nick Cave was once interviewed for the NME in The Montague Arms, SE15 . Before he became a national treasure he was very scary in The Birthday Party who released the excellent Release The Bats:

Friday, October 30, 2009

A Lens on Deptford - 1978

The following article. 'A Lens on Deptford', appeared in the radical magazine The Leveller (no.16) in June 1978. It was written by Sandy Craig with accompanying photos by Chris Schwarz. Very interesting - certainly suggests that not everything has got worse, which is important to recognise. For instance movements against racism have had some success since then, support for the BNP outside of London notwithstanding. If you recognise any of the photo locations post a comment.

In concerned-statisticians' and social justice seekers' computerese, Deptford is "one of the decaying heartlands of London", a "deprived inner-urban area", with a "low record of employment initiative", "inadequate housing supply" and "high intra-racial tensions".

There are 2,716 male unemployed in Deptford. That's 15%, and the percentage is higher for West Indians. Over the last decade there's been a net decline in jobs of over 20%. And now the power station is closing down. Meanwhile, there's fights at the dole offices ...

There's one of the largest doss houses in London in Deptford, Carrington House. A Victorian institution with turnstiles on the door, panda-cars carting back the dossers parked Sweeney-fashion outside, and 750 beds inside. Reporters and photographers not welcome. More dossers sleep in the disused Deptford Odeon across the road. Gypsy caravans on bomb sites and waste-ground waiting for redevelopment down the road.

And cramped rows of austere Victorian "artisan" terracing; clumps of red-bricked century-old tenements, gaze blankly across rubbish tips at the huge, futuristically-planned and graffiti-scrawled, housing developments and a sky-line prickling with tower blocks. All: "neither good enough to promote, happiness nor bad enough to produce hopelessness."

Yet, of course, with nowhere else to go, they defend what little they have. Students and other tenants on the Speedwell estate are about to be chucked out to make way for a new: housing complex. (Only, the Labour Council haven't even put a provisional date on when this will be built.) Their flats are cramped, with little light, few services and without bathrooms. There are few lights on the external stairs. But it's somewhere to stay.

Of houses in Deptford, 80% are council-owned. Under 5% are owner-occupied. Yet, the Tories campaign here on issues of Law and Order and "mugging". In neighbouring, middle-class Greenwich, where only about a third of the houses are council but where the percentage of blacks is much less, the Tories campaign on issues of "buying your own council house" and home improvement grants.
And race relations - how "good" are they? There's different measures: in the 1976 local council be-election the NF and National Party polled 44%. This was a freak result, but it resulted in the formation of ALCARAF (All Lewisham Campaign Against Racism And Fascism). Recently, they organised a Festival over three Saturdays which was attended by well over 5,000 people, black and white, all enjoying the stalls, theatre shows and the sounds.

On the other hand Deptford was one of the starting points for the "Stop Sus" campaign, because this is one of the worst areas for police harassment of black youth, where the police continually pull them in on "Sus" (suspicion). And the NF, though they don't have many activists in the area, pull in outsiders to capitalise on that ‘76 freak result (and, of course, the street-battles on 13 August 1977 in, Lewisham High Street). A few weeks after an NF meeting when it was suggested "to send the boot-boys in to burn down The Moonshot (a local West Indian club), the Moonshot was burned down. Police continue with their enquiries.

Life can get even heavier for West Indians and Asians. On 11 March an Asian student, Nyrup Reddi, was killed in a fight outside a party on the Speedwell Estate. He was killed by a gang of white youths. Witnesses from the party (who joined in the fight) state that Reddi was separated 'and taken around the corner by these white thugs. They are convinced this was a racial murder. There is, of course, no report of this "mugging" in the press.

Down in Deptford the Tories are even more overtly racist than Thatcher: when ALCARAF asked all the political parties not to share any election platform with the NF, only the Tories didn't comply. They went further and stated they would share their platform with the other parties, only if the NF were there.

And what about the Labour Party? They've been in charge of Deptford for decades. They've not provided any policies to halt the slide of unemployment and bad housing. (At the moment they're opposing the extension of the Fleet tube Line which might just bring back industry.) But while nationally they practise policies which are covertly racist, in Deptford things might change.

For there, we have Russell Profitt, a black left-wing Labour councillor. And there's the growing power of black and white grass-roots organisations like The Stop Sus campaign and ALCARAF. Fighting back. And despite their hardships, so do the people of Deptford. Making the best of someone else's bad job with fun, humour and vitality.

(This copy of The Leveller was found in the archive at the 56a Infoshop Social Centre, SE17. They have an excellent collection of radical literature, particularly from the 1980s and 1990s and are always interested in more, inlcuding from earlier periods. So if you have any old boxes of magazines, leaflets or other ephemera get in touch with them. On a personal note I would love to come across copies of the People News Service bulletins - a newsheet from the 1970s - as I am sure there would be some lost nuggets of South London history in them. If you have any you would like to donate, or even just lend for copying/scanning, please get in touch with Transpontine or 56a)

Thursday, October 29, 2009

The London Nobody Sings

The London Nobody Sings is a site I really should have come across before, as it's right up Transpontine street. The simple premise is to post a song about London, or a part of London, every day. This intersects with the ongoing project here of documenting and indeed encouraging songs about South East London. South London songs covered at London Nobody Sings so far include:

- Roots Manuva - Baptism - name checks East Street Market (as does Nine Below Zero's East Street SE17);

- Crisis - No Town Hall (Southwark) - 1979 punk single issued with the Peckham Action Group protesting against a plan to move Southwark town hall from Peckham.

- Roy Rankin & Raymond Naptali - New Cross Fire - another reggae track about the 1981 fire

- ATV - Fun City SE8: from their 1981 album Strange Kicks, Alternative TV/ATV sing of the delights of a weekend in Deptford High Street. Can't work out all the lyrics - help me fill in the gaps if you can - but it mentions the market, the Oxford Arms (a punk pub of choice at the time, now The Bird's Nest) and the Crossfields Estate: 'To go out shopping in the High Street, is the [?] of Deptford beat, the housewives chat and the barrow boys shout, it's Saturday morning and everyone's out, Fun City SE8, down the Oxford, Can't wait, Fun city 691, a barrel of laughs come and join the fun, The market's closed and it goes quiet, but not for long see the lights, the pubs open up and in we pour, we have a few drinks and we have more, when the pubs are all shut up, it's up the [?] for a knees up, Crossfields bannisters the sound of fun, when the pigs go come see everyone run'.

- The Slits - Difficult Fun - 'He's south of the river, he's restless and unsatisfied, He's searching forever for better but finds nothing ..." (maybe linked to the time members of the band spent hanging out in Forest Hill).

- Mica Paris - South of the River - great song from the Brockley diva.

Plus quite a few songs about Brixton and London Bridge.

I can't stop watching this clip of Sid James singing about Bermondsey from the 1964 film 'Three Hats For Lisa'. Sid , Joe Brown, Una Stubbs, Dave Nelson and Sophie Hardy dance down by Tower Bridge while Sid James sings 'Oh-ho-ho, Bermondsey, that's home to me. I'm longin' for the moment when I shall see the 'appy, laughing razor-slashed faces of the people I love. Back in Bermondsey I wanna be, 'cos the smuggled booze they've got is practically free. I've so many childhood memories of that quaint old fashioned town, there was a quaint old-fashioned schoolhouse, 'til the school kids burnt it down... I'm off to Bermondsey, oh gosh oh gee... I'd like cosh that cooper you see, who sent away to Holloway and Brixton all the people I love'.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

That was Deptford X

I managed to take in some of the recent Deptford X festival, including the Babylon showing reviewed previously. Other highlights included Patrick Hackett's Scape Boat, a boat made out of copies of the Financial Times, inviting various metaphors about the economic crisis (sinking ship of capitalism etc). For the duration of Deptford X it was parked on the grass in front of Laban. Not sure what happened to it in the end, I was hoping for some viking burial action with a blazing boat floating in the Creek but I suspect that the artist may have become quite attached to it. After all he won the Deptford X prize so might not have wanted to follow the commendable auto destructive art example of Gustav Metzger.

On Saturday 3rd October, there was the Deptford Marbles' Tea and Dance event, a collaboration between Artmongers and Laban students. There was tea and cake...

... and dancing. The dancers were remarkably unphased by their interaction with some of the interesting 'characters' who frequent that patch of Deptford Broadway and who occasionally joined in by wandering into the action.
Fred Aylward had two exhibitions. Before and After at the Albany included information about lost entertainment venues alongside photos of what has replaced them. Meanwhile at the Dog and Bell he showed a series of his watercolours depicting similar buildings in their prime. Places featured in the exhibitions include the Deptford Odeon, the New Cross Empire, the Albany Empire (in its original Creek Road location), the New Cross Kinema (most of which is still standing as the Venue) and the Electric Palace at 197 Deptford High Street - one of the earliest local cinemas, now Shades snooker hall. I was impressed that he had discovered a last trace of the Broadway Theatre behind the chemist on Deptford Broadway (the one featured in the picture above) - a sign saying 'Way Out'.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009


As Halloween comes round again, there will be the 12th annual Halloween of Crossbones event, featuring a performance followed by a candelight procession to the site of the Crossbones graveyard (Redcross Way, SE1), a paupers burial ground rediscovered during the 1990s Jubilee Line extension works. This year's Halloween event is fully booked, but there are monthly gatherings (7 pm on the 23rd of the month) to remember the poor and outcast dead who were buried there.

Here's a new short film about the site, focusing on its links with sex workers (historical accounts refer to a Single Women's burial ground, presumed to include the prositutues of the many Southwark brothels):

Here's another film with a bit more of the wider context:

Monday, October 26, 2009

A Chartist Church in Deptford

One strand of the radical Chartist movement was Christian Chartism, some of whose adherents created their own churches which put into practice the democratic principles of the movement. One such church was in this area; according to Mark Hovell's book The Chartist Movement, 'at Deptford there was established a "Working Men's Church," whose members were said to study the New Testament in Greek' (his source is the Chartist paper, Northern Star, October 30 1841). I wonder where this was?

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Hollaback UK: South London Sleaze

Via Swimsuit Issue (cool Transpontine-linking feminist blog) comes news of the start of Hollaback UK, 'a place for women to fight back against street harassment. Whether you're commuting to work, out shopping or going for a night out - you have a right to feel safe where you live'. It is based on the US (and indeed now global) Hollaback phenomenon whereby women not only describe their experiences of harrassment, but post photos of the offenders online (see for instance Hollaback NYC).

The UK version hasn't got any photos yet but it already has some depressingly familiar stories, including this 'South London Sleaze': 'I'm from South London and this happened to me this morning. I got off the bus on the way to work and a man standing outside a shop said 'hey sexy'. I ignored him and carried on walking and he started to follow me!! He said 'hey, I'm talking to you, where are you going?'. I kept going, didn't turn round. As I was walking into my work he yelled through the doors - 'Bitch! What makes you think you're so f****** special?'. Nice'.

Chaucer: robbed in Hatcham

Some people like to look back to a golden age of crime-free New Cross, but I'm not sure how far back you would have to go to find it. Presumably further than the 14th century, when Geoffrey Chaucer was robbed in Hatcham, as the area was known in those times. As A.W. Ward described it in his biography:

'Though by the latter part of the year 1391 Chaucer had lost his Clerkship of the Works, certain payments (possibly of arrears) seem afterwards to have been made to him in connexion with the office. A very disagreeable incident of his tenure of it had been a double robbery from his person of official money, to the very serious extent of twenty pounds. The perpetrators of the crime were a notorious gang of highwaymen, by whom Chaucer was, in September, 1390, apparently on the same day, beset both at Westminster, and near to "the foul Oak" at Hatcham in Surrey'.

I wonder where the 'foul oak' was? Presumably somewhere on Watling Street (now the A2/Old Kent/New Cross Road), the old road from London to Kent upon which the pilgrims of Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales tell their stories on their journey from Southwark to Canterbury.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Nail the Cross

Didn't make it down to No Pain in Pop's Nail The Cross the weekend before last, an all day and all of the night music festival spread across various New Cross/Deptford venues. There's a good review of it though in this week's NME, which starts off: 'Nail the Cross is a mini festival. In the south London hinterland of New Cross. In October. Limitations aside, it boasts a line-up so ahead of the curve that most of these artists – from dubstep’s new blood to the more esoteric fringes of indie – could look over their shoulders and thumb their noses at the zeitgeist trailing wheezingly in their wake'.

Trailer Trash Tracys are great by the way - the NME review is not far off in describing them as sounding like 'Camera Obscura’s Tracyanne Campbell slurring over JAMC guitars', which couldn't be more me unless they also had Frankie Knuckles remixes. As far as I know, they are not from SE London, but they have manifested on the earthly plain via the New Cross portal of No Pain in Pop so can we count them as part of the Transpontine Great Work?

Brockley Ukulele Group October & November

Brockley Ukelele Group's session at the Amersham Arms on Oct 11th had a good crowd, with the usual uke box 'shout the number, and we play' format. A couple of new members made their public singing/strumming debut.

There's an unbiased review at ЯocktobeR, whose author is documenting 31 consecutive nights of London music-making (the following two photos are from there):

The November session is on Sunday 8th November, 8:00 pm.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

No Pain in Pop Halloween Party

No Pain In Pop presents a Halloween party on Friday 30th October 2009 at Goldsmiths Student Union in New Cross. Impressive line up including:
The Bug ft Flowdan - 'Claustrophic bass from London's most visionary producer, complete with rumbling rhetoric from Roll Deep's Flowdan'
Teengirl Fantasy - 'Equal part weird cut & paste ambient compositions and high-energy dance anthems'
Gold Panda - Pitchfork endorsed organic frequencies and stomping sub-bass.
Deep Sht - Crestfallen slowgaze from heartfelt romantic Tom Watson and co.
DJs Cooly G - 'The first lady of funky, Hyperdub's deep house superstar' and Joy Orbison - 'Rolling, soulful and very danceful, Croydon based producer'
Advance £6 tickets here , on the door : £5 NUS / £7.. Student bar prices / Funktion One soundsystem / Music over two floors / Fancy dress (facebook event here)

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Post Strike in SE London

Looks like the national post strike is going ahead tomorrow, with SE London expected to be one of the strongholds of strike action. In an earlier walkout in July, there were picket lines outside all 28 delivery centres in south-east London, including New Cross, Peckham, Kennington, Mandela Way and Catford. Out of a unionised work force of 1,500, only 28 people went to work (see report).

I would urge people to look a bit further than the short term inconvenience of not having mail delivered and understand some of the wider issues in this dispute - there's a good article by a postie at the London Review of Books which explains some of the context. The post office may be a dry run for the future of public services, with increased casualisation, attacks on pension rights (work till you drop), reduced services etc. All the indications are that whoever wins the election, public sector workers will be expected to pay for the cost of bailing out the banks, while top bankers continue to pay themselves big bonuses.

There's a meeting tomorrow night (Thursday 22nd October) to set up a Southwark Postal Workers Support Group - 6:30pm at the Unison Office, 1st Floor, 177-179 Walworth Road London, SE17 1RW (telephone: 020 7525 6030). Anyone know if anything similar is planned in Lewisham?

See also Uncarved 'Granny Smith Doesn't Matter Anymore'; Stroppyblog; David Semple and Dave Osler at Liberal Conspiracy.

Free Indie Pop in Brixton

How Does it Feel? present another fine night of indie pop in Brixton this Thursday 22nd October, with a great line up including

Tender Trap - legendary indiepop outfit, fronted by Amelia Fletcher of Talulah Gosh/Heavenly fame.

MJ Hibbett And The Validators - from Leicester with humour. If you like Half Man Half Biscuit, this could be your cup of tea.

Leaving Mornington Crescent - dreamy indie pop duro from Malmo in Sweden (not Camden as the name might suggest)

Hissing At Swans - 'ramshakle ukelele and 80's keyboard demo collective from Essex/East London'

Unbelievably it's all free - at Jamm, 261 Brixton Road, SW9 6LH, 7.30pm (facebook event details)

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Harlan County USA

Full Unemployment Cinema have a film show coming up this Sunday (Oct. 25th), this months it's Harlan County USA from 1976: 'Barbara Kopple’s Academy Award–winning Harlan County USA unflinchingly documents a gruelling coal miners’ strike in a small Kentucky town. With unprecedented access, Kopple and her crew captured the miners’ sometimes violent struggles with strikebreakers, local police, and company thugs. Featuring a haunting soundtrack – with legendary country and bluegrass artists Hazel Dickens, Merle Travis, Sarah Gunning, and Florence Reece – the film is a heartbreaking record of the thirteen-month struggle between a community fighting to survive and a corporation dedicated to the bottom line'.

5 pm at 56A Infoshop, 56 Crampton St (off Walworth Rd), Elephant and Castle. Admission free.

One Eye Grey Halloween Events

One Eye Grey are hosting a series of Halloween themed events on the 27, 28 and 29th of October.

The first is the latest in their series of scary bike tours - Terrible tides and deathly docks: 'This one takes in plague pits, ghostly polar bears, spectral cats and nobility. There are also well hung pirates and hanging judges amongst the cast of Wapping tales and Thameside shocks on this cycle ride around the docks and old canals of Ratcliffe Meeting point: Spike on London Bridge (South Side of London Bridge). Time: 6.30pm, Tuesday 27th October 2009. This is a free event but as numbers are limited you must book through and obviously bring your own bike'.

On Wednesday 28th 7.30 – 10.00, Dark Waters at Brockwell Park Lido (Dulwich Road, SE24) features 'Scary stories and strange folklore at the poolside. Nigel of Bermondsey will play some haunting tunes and writers from the 21st century penny dreadful One Eye Grey will tell frightening and unusual Herne Hill tales including the one about the mermaid in the lido. Richard Woodhouse will read extracts from his novel Deathless which is set around a strangely familiar, yet clearly other, Brixton in which the Effra can still be waded through and the lido chefs will whip up a ghoulish goulash for the occasion. Free event but if you are eating it might be wise to book a table and as always we’d like to know if you coming too

Then on Thursday Spectres at the feast features table top ghost story telling at Dirty Dicks in Bishopsgate.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Positive Place Closes

Sad to hear of the closure of Positive Place in Deptford, where support for people living with HIV & AIDS in South London has been provided for the last 8 years.

The charity has gone into liquidation and has had to hand 52 Deptford Broadway back to the owner. A statement posted on their website last week announces that a new Board of Trustees has been formed, and is highly critical of what it describes as the 'bad governance, highly questionable behaviour and financial stewardship' of previous Board members'. Whether anything can be salvaged from the wreckage remains to be seen.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Cinema Typhoon

On Mondays in October and November at Goldmsiths in New Cross, Alternative Studies for Asias presents Cinema Typhoon, featuring films from different regions in Asia with music as a theme.

Tomorrow night (Monday 19th), they are showing All About Lily Chou-Chou (2001), written and directed by Shunji Iwai:

'This film portrays juvenile problems (bullying, shoplifting, rape, etc.) in Japanese society by describing the real/virtual ambiguous relationships between a particular group of youths. While struggling socially, they turn to the music of the singer Lily Chou-Chou, and unwittingly connect with one another virtually on an Internet fan site. The original story for the film was based on an experimental site managed by Shunji Iwai to produce a participatory novel. In addition, the music of Lily Chou-Chou originally made for the film (performed by Japanese singer, Salyu) became popular among the fans of the film and Salyu. The film incorporates the real and the virtual on multiple levels while obscuring the borders of our real life and virtual worlds'.

Next week (October 26), it's Sleepwalking Through The Mekong (2007), a documentary about the Cambodian music scene.

Details of future films here. All films start at 6pm in the Small Cinema of the Richard Hoggart Building (that's the modern building with the curly sculpture on top), admission is free and all are welcome.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

The virginal brides file past his tomb

Here comes Halloween and a screening of 80s vampire film The Hunger at Broca Food Market. Come along to watch David Bowie, Catherine Deneuve, Susan Sarandon et al at 9 pm on Thursday 29th October. Oh yes and it has Bauhaus 'Bela Lugosi's Dead' on the soundtrack.

Details: Broca Food Market, 209-211 Mantle Road Brockley SE4 2EW. Doors open at 7pm. Bloody Northern Bingo at 8pm. Entry/Member Fee: £3/ Dress Code: 80's vampire chic, no fangbangers. Cocktails 'a la Rouge' or True Blood. Free Snacks.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Homeward Bound

At the Dog and Bell in Deptford a couple of weeks ago I noticed on the wall the lyrics of a folk song (a sea shanty to be precise) called Homeward Bound. It includes the lines 'And now we haul to the Dog and Bell, Where there's good liquor for to sell. In comes old Archer with a smile, saying: "Drink, my lads, it's worth your while."For I see you are homeward bound,I see you are homeward bound.

I made a mental note to post on this as part of the ongoing collection of South London Songs, now I've noticed that Deptford Misc has already done so, as well as establishing that David Archer was the landlord of the Dog and Bell in the 1820s.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

The Lottery of the Sea.

Allan Sekula's The Lottery of the Sea: A Screening and Discussion

'Shot in the Netherlands, Spain, Greece, Japan and other maritime countries, Allan Sekula's epic video essay The Lottery of the Sea (2006) reflects on globalization and the sea. Sekula overlaps memories and stories of sailors, dockworkers and displaced populations together with references to movies and myths. The overarching frame for this complex work is Adam Smith's vision of maritime labour and trade as a form of gambling. The screening (179min) will be followed by a roundtable discussion on political aesthetics and the challenges of representing contemporary capitalism in its multiple and contradictory social and geographical dimensions'.

Followed by discussion with Gail Day (Leeds), Steve Edwards (Open University), David Mabb (Goldsmiths) and Alberto Toscano (Goldsmiths). 1.00pm - 6.00pm, Saturday 17 October 2009, Small Cinema, Richard Hoggart Building, Goldsmiths, University of London, Lewisham Way, London SE14 6NW.

Arranged by The Xenos research group at the Department of Sociology, Goldsmiths. If you wish to attend please contact Alberto Toscano (

Participatory Economics Talk

Participatory Economics is a radical current which seems to be based on reimagining a world beyond capitalism based on collective decision-making, but without the top down planning of state socialism. Must admit that's where my knowledge of it ends, not sure how this differs from good old fashioned anarchism (but there's a debate on this very subject here). But if you want to find out more you can go along to a talk and workshop with Ed Augustin from the Project for a Participatory Society at Goldmsiths in New Cross on Wednesday 21st October, 5 - 7 pm in Room RHB 137a (all welcome - i.e. you don't have to be a student).

My Tiger My Timing

Londonist has an interview with New Cross band My Tiger My Timing, complete with a photo that appears to have been taken in Telegraph Hill Park. And indeed in the interview they recommend that people 'Go to the top of Telegraph Hill park and watch the sunset over London and then go down the road to the Montague Arms and have a drink with the skeletons and zebras there'.

I love this band and also love the fact that I share a postcode with an outfit cool enough to be named after an Arthur Russell track. I was fantasing over the summer about making it to the recent conference on the latter in New York, but maybe we could just have our own Arthur Russell festival in New Cross.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Elton John, Brockley and Gun Crime

From Bromley Times, 14 October 2009:

'A man who shares his name with a multi-millionaire rock star faces robbery and firearm charges. Elton John, 50, of Brockley Road, Brockley, has been charged with conspiracy to commit robbery and the unlawful possession of a firearm with intent to commit an indictable offence.He appeared at Tower Bridge Magistrates Court on Monday alongside Mark Ruddock, 45, of Linden Grove, Peckham, after they were arrested in Downham Road, Bromley on October 9'.

More Deptford Street Art

Mural in the space behind the Deptford Project cafe, off Deptford High Street (click to enlarge)

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Tasty! talk at Deptford Deli

Announcing the second in TASTY! Diners Club talks - Bread Hacking, Social Baking:

'Is there anything better than waking up to fresh bread baked by yourself? What about fresh bread baked by yourself using local leaven / yeasts? Share Guilherme Zühlke O'Connor’s thoughts and techniques on bread making, hacking culture and the love of creating, sharing and adapting. Hear how to make bread, share your recipes (and, or your code) and learn more about hacking as an activist model. Hacking for hackers and non hackers alike beyond the realm of computer programming. Geeks and Non Geeks more than welcome!

TASTY! talks aims to bring people together to share coffee, cakes, ideas and knowledge. The talks will bring in speakers concerned with issues of Art, Sustainability and Technology. Future talks include Urban Bee-keeping and Greening the Internet.If you have a talk you would like to propose or have any questions please contact Anita -

Where: Deptford Deli, 4 Tanners Hill Deptford SE8.When: Thursday 15th October 2009. 7pm. £1.50 gets you a tea or coffee, a cake and the talk.Capacity is limited so get there early

Hatcham Social

Indie band Hatcham Social are taking the memory of that lost New Cross watering hole across the world. A article in the US Paste magazine explains the SE14 connection:

'The members of Hatcham Social used to live in London neighborhood New Cross. New Cross used to be called Hatcham, and it featured a watering hole called The Hatcham Social Club. The band took the name without asking, and now the club is for sale. Hatcham Social bassist Dave Fineberg, 28, says he’d like to buy it if his career ever takes off, but for now he’s living in Northwest London with his parents. “None of us really have any money,” he explains.
Perhaps that’ll change once his band’s debut, You Dig The Tunnel, I’ll Hide The Soil, starts circulating stateside. It’s an old-fashioned post-punk record that echoes the classic British bands of yore. “We like the trebly sound on the guitar,” Fineberg says. “And I play the bass, but I like to have a more trebly sound on the bass, because I think you get more clarity in the notes.” The angular “Hypnotise Terrible Eyes” sounds like an early Smiths outtake, the jangly “So So Happy Making” could be mistaken for Orange Juice, and the album’s woozy lead track is called “Crocodile,” sharing its name with an Echo & the Bunnymen album'.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Where to find a policeman (1879)

From Dickens's Dictionary of London, by Charles Dickens, Jr. (1879):

'Fixed Points (Police). The under-mentioned places are appointed as fixed points where police constable is to be permanently stationed from 9 to 1 am. In the event of any person springing a rattle, or persistently ringing a bell in the street or in an area, the police will at once proceed to the spot and render assistance...


Beckenham - bridge, by railway station
Bell-green, near gas works, Lower Sydenham
Bickley-br, near railway - station (during whole 24 hours)
Centre of Lawrie-pk, Sydenham
Corner of Court-la, Lordship-la, Dulwich
Corner of Nelson-st, Wyndham-rd, Camberwell
“Elephant and Castle,” Newington Butts
Forest Hill railway-station, Forest Hill
Hamlet-rd, Anerley-rd, Upper Norwood
Junction of Brockley and Lewisham-roads
Junction of Brockley, Manor, and Cranfield roads
Junction of five roads, Plasstow-green
Junction of four roads, Norwood Cemetery, Lower Norwood
Junction of four roads, Sydenham-hill
Junction of New-cross and Lewisham roads
Kent House-nd, Lower Sydenham-rd
“Lion,” Camberwell-gate
Nunhead railway-station (during the whole 24 hours)
Peckham-rye, south end of Rye-la
Railway station, Queen’s-rd, Peckham
Southend-rd, Lewisham, or “Green -Man”
The corner of Crescent, Southampton-st, Camberwell
“The Swan,” Peckham-pk-rd
Thurloe-pk-rd, Dulwich railway station, Dulwich Trafalgar-bridge,
Trafalgar-rd, Old Kent-rd
White-gate, Champion-hill, Camberwell


At Market-hill, Woolwich
At the bridge over the Surrey Canal in the Old Kent-rd
Centre of Blackheath-village
Junction of Blackheath-rd, Lewisham-rd, and South-st, Greenwich
Junction of numerous roads leading into High-street, Deptford
Junction of Plough-rd and Lower Deptford-rd with several other streets, Rotherhithe
Lee Bridge, junction of Lewisham-rd, Lewisham High-rd, Lee-rd, and Granville-pk
Opposite Greenwich Church
The Broadway, Deptford'.

(Interesting that Brockley and Sydenham came under the police Camberwell division. The full list also includes Southwark, Lambeth, Clapham and Wandsworth locations in South London)

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Blackheath Foot'n'Death Men

At his Baggage Reclaim blog, Richard Sanderson celebrates the recent 40th anniversary of the Blackheath Morris Men. As he mentions, they started out at Goldsmiths College in 1969 and were originally known as the Blackheath Foot'n'Death Men. At their inception they were very much part of the freak counter-culture, playing free festivals and benefit gigs.

International Times, the main newspaper for this scene, mentions them several times. An alternative gossip column refers to an early (presumably) drunken incident: 'Long haired Morris dancing crew (Blackheath Foot & Death Men) in intensive training for Summer Festivals and Civil Insurrection narrowly escaped arrest after ejection from Woolwich Indian Restaurant due to the role of a meat cleaver in the performance of their traditional English dance' (IT, 11-25 February 1971).

Then there's is an advert for the Nasty Ball: '2 February, all night at Bumpers, Coventry Street, London W1. A great party in support of the Nasty Four, and Nasty Tales, shortly to be prosecuted for "obscenity". Tickets £1, 9.00—6.00 a.m. Why not come along and join us and the throngs of happy hippies bopping away the midnight hours.........Nasty bands include Hawkwind, Pink Fairies, Brinsley Schwarz with Magic Michael, Linda Lewis, Blackheath Foot'n'Death Men, Sonic Seven, Skin Alley, Steve Peregrine Took and there'll be movies, (very nasty!) greasy food and much madness'...... (IT 27.Jan-10 Feb 1972. Richard has the poster for this event here - Nasty Tales was an underground comic that was the subject of a 1973 obscentity trial - there's lots about it at Funtopia).

Finally there's the advert reproduced here from March 1972 (click to enlarge). 'Frendz and Greasy Truckers present Mutual April Fool and Idiots Party' with 'Help Yourself, Stars, Skin Alley, Blackheath Foot'n'Death Men, Serge, Mike Griggs... Free food plus stalls, horror films, DJ Andy Dunkley'. The event took place at Seymour Hall'. Frendz was a Ladbroke Grove-based underground zine, Greasy Truckers an alternative music promoter that put on free and benefit gigs.

Blackheath Foot'n'Death Men also played at the legendary Greasy Truckers Party at the Roundhouse in 1972, featuring Hawkwind. They danced on stage with the band Skinner's Rats (not sure where the advert below is originally from - I found it at Starfarer).

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Sad to Say I Must Be on My Way

Lovely film from the multi-talented Katian Witchger, sometime Brockley Ukulele Group stalwart, bidding farewell to London on her return home across the Western Ocean. Check out the mouse's adventures at Nunhead and Elephant and Castle.

Friday, October 09, 2009

Transpontine is Five

Transpontine is five years old today. The first few posts, from October 9 2004, pretty much set the tone for what was to come- music at the Montague Arms, a talk on witch trials at South East London Folklore Society, Cafe Crema film nights in New Cross and concerns about building on Deptford Park.

The idea for Transpontine grew out of a period when there just seemed to be lots going on around New Cross and Deptford which was barely being documented. There was a grand notion of maybe connecting up some of the people creating interesting situations locally, or at least helping to make people aware of each other. Whether or not much of this cross fertilisation has happened, Transpontine has hopefully at least opened up a few doors by letting people find out about things they didn't know were happening.... or happened... or should never have happened.

Another notion was of redressing the balance in the Matter of London. There seemed to be lots of interest growing in London history, psychogeography etc. but with South East London barely figuring. Since Transpontine started, South London blogs have mushroomed to the extent that earlier this year Peter Watts asked at Time Out's Big Smoke blog Why are London's best bloggers from South of the River?:

'when it comes to blogging, the south wins hands down, and the south-east in particular. Browse our links if you don’t believe me. Over in the Kentish corner of London we have Greenwich Phantom, Brockley Central, Transpontine, Deptford Dame, Blackheath Bugle and Charlton’s 853, while in Stockwell there’s the excellent Onion Bag Blog. There are dozens more such locally focussed blogs in this extraordinarily fertile area of London'.

So in that respect, perhaps Transpontine and some of the other blogs mentioned have subtly shifted the mental geography of London. In which case, 1109 posts might not have been entirely wasted!

Brockley Jack Film Club

The Brockley Jack Film Club now has its own website, setting out details of its monthly screenings. Next up on Monday October 19th is the excellent Milk, with Sean Penn.

Dinner Against Deportations

The Stop Deportation network is holding a Dinner against Deportations in Waterloo on October 20th promising 'Delicious food and updates from community campaigns against deportations'. They say:

'Come to socialise & strategise. Come to meet groups and individuals campaigning against the Home Office's latest move to deport as many people as possible, share information and make useful links. Mass deportations are posing a new threat to communities in the UK. At least six mass deportation flights between 27 August and 22 September have deported people to Nigeria, DR Congo, Jamaica, Cameroon, Afghanistan, Iraqi Kurdistan. To protect ourselves against these attacks on our communities we need to be united, build connections, share information and support each other'.

Tuesday, 20th October, 6-9pm at Waterloo Action Centre, 14 Baylis Road, Waterloo, London, SE1 7AA. Free or donation . Contact 07506 904269 or for further details.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

BUG at the Amersham

Fresh from supporting Boney M (or a version thereof) in Lewisham last month, Brockley Ukulele Group are back at the Amersham Arms this Sunday 11th October for their monthly ukebox session.

September's Amersham Arms session was a busy night with BUG introducing new material including Chumbawamba's Add Me and Justin Timberlake's Sexy Back.

This weekend it's an 8 pm start, admission free.

Samaritans in Fordham Park

Last month's Samaritans Community Event (on 12 September) was a low key but pleasant afternooon of local musicians and stalls in Fordham Park. It marked 40 years of the Lewisham Greenwich and Southwark of the Samaritans, and also the fact that they have recently moved to a new office at 1 Angus Street, SE14 (they were previously at 362 New Cross Road).

The Samaritans provide confidential, non-judgemental emotional support to people experiencing feelings of distress or despair, including those which may lead to suicide. If you are interested in volunteering or helping out, you can call the branch on 020 8692 5228. If you want advice and support please call 08457 909090.

The new office on Angus Street, next to Fordham Park, is the white building on the right of the above photo. The building on the left is the former Dewdrop Inn, a pub from 1787, and a legendary punk/indie/crusty drinking hole in the late 1980s/early 1990s. It has recently been converted to housing.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Montague Arms Thursday Night

Another Frog Morris Thursday Night cabaret of eccentric acts at the Montague Arms tomorrow from 8.30pm featuring...

Daren Callow - special feature set from our singer songwriter
Martin White - musical Comedy
Bread and Circuses - performance art with acrobatic animals and bread rolls
Daniel Lehan - quite and noisy poetry
Simon Clinton - stand-up comedy
Mark Quinn - stand-up comedy
Dave the Security Guard - stand-up comedy

Montague Arms, 289 Queens Road, New Cross SE15

Kennington Acoustic Night

There's a folk gig tonight (Wednesday 7th October) in Kennington. It's an acoustic fundraiser for London No Borders, a group fighting against migration controls, featuring:

* SKINNY LISTER - folk/acoustic []
* STEVE FERBRACHE - acoustic []
* MW BEWICK - folk []
* EMMA SCARR - folk/americana []

Upstairs at The Dog House, 293 Kennington Road, Kennington SE11 6BY(Buses: 3, 59, 159; Tubes: Kennington, Oval). 7:30 pm start.

Louis Futon

Spotted in Copperas Street, Deptford - an abandoned mattress, but apparently a designer model: 'Louis Futon'.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Cycle power vs. defrocked priest on Nunhead Green

I didn't manage to get to as much of last month's Nunhead Arts Week as I'd hoped, but the cycle powered sound system on Nunhead Green Day (September 16th) was pretty impressive.

The music on the stage faced competition from local dancing defrocked priest and sometime Britian's Got Talent contestant Neil Horan. He seemed to have gate crashed the event by setting up outside with an amplifier for some of his unique Irish traditional dancing, along with signs exhorting 'People of Nunhead read the Bible' and 'Peace Dance for a New World - the Grand Prix and Marathon Priest'. All sounds very quaint and harmless, but you might take a different view if you were the Brazilian marathon runner whose chance of a gold medal he ruined at the 2004 Olympics. He also has some very dubious political views - in 2006 he was locked up in Germany for trying to stage a one-man pro-Hitler demonstration.

Monday, October 05, 2009

A Blind Beggar in Deptford (1881)

In his book Life in the London Streets (1881), Richard Rowe describes the blind beggars of the capital, including an encounter with one on a bus in Deptford:

'One day in a "Nelson" omnibus I fell in with a tall man, dressed in clerical-looking clothes, not nearly so greenish-brown and threadbare as those a good many overworked London curates are obliged to wear. Misunderstanding, or pretending to misunderstand, some remark I had made to a companion, the tall man began to lecture me loftily on the ignorance and inhumanity I had displayed in sneering at those whom it had pleased the Almighty to deprive of sight, quoting Scripture largely against me. I had said nothing about blind people, and did not know, until I looked at him closely, that the man was blind. However, as I thought that I had wounded his feelings, I apologised for the unintentional offence I had given him, and we got into conversation, throughout which he maintained a de haut en bas tone towards me, laying down the law most oracularly, but throwing out hints now and then about money, which when I heard them I could not understand.

At last the bus pulled up in Deptford Broadway, and the blind man got out, graciously allowing me to shake hands with him, in token that he bore no malice, before he departed. When he was gone, a man at the top of the bus burst into a roar of laughter. "Do you know who it is," he said to me, "you've been talking so respectfully to all this time? The old rogue's a blind beggar. He lodges somewhere about here, - not in Mill Lane, he's a cut above that. He's got a pitch just now in the New Kent Road, and rides to business and back again just like any City man." A few weeks afterwards I came upon my blind friend holding forth in his professional capacity to a congregation of half-a-dozen at a street corner in Camberwell, and found that he had given me a good bit of his street sermon in the omnibus'.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Anybody lost some legs?

Found objects in Telegraph Hill Park last week - abandoned mannequin legs

Banksy in Croydon?

New graffiti in Beddington Farm Road, Croydon -Arrested Motion thinks its a Banksy and has lots more pictures.

Update 11 October - apparently this location is more properly Sutton though it's on the Croydon/Sutton border -and it has now been more or less obliterated by rival graffiti.

Friday, October 02, 2009

More on the St Catherine's Church Fire (1913)

We've covered the 1913 fire at St Catherine's Church, Hatcham, here before. The fire at the Kitto Road building was believed at the time to have been started by supporters of the campaign for votes for women.

Here's another picture of the event, published in The New York Times, May 18 1913. The article reports that the church ‘was destroyed by fire... presumably by a suffragette “arson squad”'.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Babylon returns to the Albany

A full house at the Albany in Deptford this week (Tuesday night) with an appreciative crowd cheering at the end of a showing of Franco Rosso's fine film Babylon. The event was arranged by Fred and David Aylward as part of the Deptford X festival, to accompany the former's exhibition there (of which more in a later post).

The film is centred around the lives of those involved with a South London reggae sound system struggling in the face of racism from the police, employers and neighbours. What gave the film showing at the Albany a particular charge was not just that much of it was filmed in surrounding streets in Deptford with many local people as actors. The whole idea of the film grew out of the Albany (then it's earlier Creek Road location), as Rosso recalled in this interview:

'At the time both Martin Stellman [the film's co-writer with Rosso] and I worked at Albany Empire where they had a youth theatre for kids who were seen as really hopeless, but were in fact terrific. The hall was being hired by black kids who had their own soundsystem and they had to have a staff member because everyone was terrified to leave them on their own, and they asked us "would you sit in with us?". So we volunteered and Babylon really grew out of that because virtually the story of the kids was there, the fights and everything - it was very educational.

There was also a church at the bottom of the garden that had a soundsystem every Friday night. It was all coming together, the soundsystems, the kids, it was all really multi-racial. It was more by accident that people were mixing, than by design, but it was the atmosphere of the time and we were really just observing it and being there. As we were writing the story for Babylon, two guys from the soundsystem would come in and we would say "OK, this is it", and they would say "Oh I like that", or "No, that wouldn't happen", and then they would actually speak it to us, so the whole script was written in patois - it was very much done with them.

In another interview, Martin Stellman recalled:

The stories behind Babylon came from the kids we were working with and also from Franco and I going out separately or together with sound systems. Dennis Bovell, for instance, was busted and ended up in prison. The original script was longer, and had a whole second half that was set in a borstal.

Local people were recruited to take part in the film from the Albany's Combination Theatre group (which I believe Stellman was involved with), its Basement Youth Theatre group as well as other local venues such as the Moonshot Club in New Cross.

Thirty years later - Babylon was filmed in early 1979 and released the following year - it has become a time capsule of period clothes, cars and street scenes. The director was clearly looking for some suitable scenes of urban decay - alleyways, estates, boarded up buildings - and Deptford seems to have had plenty to offer. The whole area of 1980s housing immediately near to the Albany today (Vaughan Williams Close etc.) was, at the time of filming, empty Victorian terraces and bomb sites, surrounded by corrugated iron and awaiting demolition.

This has vanished completely, but other locations in the film are still to be seen and after the showing David Aylward took us on a short tour pointing out some of the surviving places featured in Babylon. These include:

- the railway arch used by the sound system, round the back of Deptford rail station in Ffinch Street, now part of the Titan Business Centre.

- the crypt of St Pauls Church, used for the soundclash scenes with the real Jah Shaka versus the fictional Ital Lion (the latter's music supplied by Aswad).

- the garage on Watson's Street where Blue (Brinsley Forde's car mechanic character) is sacked by his racist boss (played by Mel Smith) - still there today as Watson's Garage and Tyres.

- Deptford High Street - the (now closed) Windsor Castle pub is among the buildings seen in the film.

Other places visible in the film include Brixton market, the Silwood and Pepys estates in Deptford, the Dacre Arms (Blackheath) and the Venue in New Cross - there's a scene of people flyposting on the latter, putting their posters over others advertising the opening night of Cheeks nightclub, 18 Deptford Broadway.

In Babylon, the racist brutality of the streets is contrasted with the (intimately shot) spaces of respite where black people come together - sound system nights, engagement parties, churches and Rastafarian gatherings. In all of these sanctuaries music is central. It may not offer magical protection - the tensions of survival still explode along the competitive edge of the soundclash - but it inspires and acts as a rallying point. The film ends with the sound systems hastily packing up as the police raid, leaving Blue standing firm and chanting over the closing credits; 'Babylon brutality, We can't take no more of that.'

Babylon is an important social document, but it would be a mistake to view it as a straightforward representation of reality. It is after all a story, and just as the sharp eyed will spot some of the editing tricks (people skipping between locations shot in Brixton and Deptford in the course of a single scene) those who were there at the time will no doubt have their own take on the accuracy of the film's characters and dialogue.

But at the very least it directly connects, via the real people and places it includes, with the lived histories of the period. A time when the National Front was confronted as it marched through New Cross (1977), and when both the Moonshot (1977) and the Albany (1978) were set ablaze in suspected fascist arson attacks.

Babylon was remastered and released on DVD last year - so you've got no excuse for not watching it. Franco Rosso, the director, comes from a London Italian family and spent his youth in the Brixton/Streatham area before going to Camberwell art college. He also directed Dread Beat an' Blood, a documentary about Linton Kwesi Johnson. Martin Stellman also wrote the screenplay for Quadrophenia and wrote and directed For Queen and Country.