Monday, May 31, 2010

British Sea Power

Not sure mentioning a South London location in passing is enough to be included in the Great Transpontine Songbook, but Carrion by British Sea Power certainly deserves an honorable mention:

Carry on inside of your heart
Under the brine you won't notice the dark
Can stone and steel and horses heels
Ever explain the way you feel?
From Scapa Flow to Rotherhithe,
I felt the lapping of an ebbing tide

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Death of a Brockley Suffragist - or not?

Here's an odd story from the struggle for women's suffrage. First of all, a report from Votes for Women, paper of the Women's Social and Political Union (WSPU) from November 21 1913:

Death of Suffragist Protester
'Death cannot kill what cannot die' - William Penn

With the deepest regret we have to record the death of William Edward Bethell, of Brockley, who, for bravely reminding a Cabinet Minister of the Government's duty to the women of the country, was so brutally injured on November 7 by the Liberal stewards who ejected him, that he has since succumbed to heart failure as a result of the treatment he received.

Mr Bethell's brother has more than once raised his voice at Liberal meetings on behalf of the women's cause, but last Friday week was the first occasion on which Mr William Edward Bethell determined that he too would join the band of brave protestors, who, although knowing beforehand what to expect, do not shrink from running the most serious risks to life and limb when they hear that a member of the Cabinet is to address a Liberal audience. So he was one of those who went to the North Camberwell Radical Club, Albany Road, on November 7, to remind Dr Macnamara, Secretary to the Admiralty, of the women's struggle for liberty that the Government are trying so hard to suppress.

A man and a woman, both of whom had dared to utter a Suffragist protest, were thrown out before him with considerable violence. Then his turn came. He rose to his feet and dealt his first and last blow in the cause of women's freedom. No sooner did he open his mouth to speak than he was set upon by a number of stewards, dragged out of the meeting, and so savagely assailed that his nose was broken and his knee put out.

The full particulars of what followed are not yet available, but it is known that he arrived home later in the evening, his knee and head in bandages, and was so ill that he was obliged to stay in bed all Saturday and Sunday. Being a bricklayer's labourer, he made an effort on the Monday morning (November 10) to go to work, but he rapidly became so much worse that he had to return home in the course of the day and again take to his bed. He never got up again. Last Sunday he passed away.

The report goes on to mention that his brother, whose address is given as 49 Hardcastle Road, Peckham, had been beaten up by stewards in a similar incident in August 1912.

But was the story true? A couple of weeks later The Times reported that police 'have been inquiring into the matter at Brockley and Peckham, but it is understood that they have been unable to trace the death of Bethell'. Furthermore 'Bethell's father, who lives at Coldbath-street, Brockley, states that his son William Edward went to Canada last year, and so far as he knows is still there'. The Times confirms that the North Camberwell meeting did take place, but reports Dr Macnamara's denial that there had been any violence (Times Dec 1 1913).

What's more a Bethell family history site shows that William Edward Bethell did indeed go to Canada, where he lived until his death in 1951 after an active life including being injured at the Battle of the Somme. It does confirm that he was a bricklayer when he arrived in Canada, and that his parents lived at 58 Cold Bath Street (now Coldbath Street, SE13).

As for the brother, Walter the source of the seemingly untrue story, the family history site states that he was born at 98 Foxberry Road, Brockley, and that in 1905 he was convicted of fraud. Was the suffragist death story an attempted fraud for financial gain? A mischievous or malicious prank at his brother's expense? Who knows...

Friday, May 28, 2010


There are elephants all over London at the moment, more than 250 in fact, as part of the Elephant Parade to raise awareness of the endangered Asian elephant. These fine specimens are next to the river by County Hall .

My favourite is this one by More London (Tooley Street, SE1), decorated with a map of parts of London.

It is surely the only Elephant in the world - indeed the only statue of any kind in the world - with the words 'New Cross Gate' written above its mouth.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Community Action Lewisham

Community Action Lewisham is a new activist group, planning to tackle issues such as housing and racism in the local area. They meet on the first Wednesday of the month upstairs in the Amersham Arms in New Cross. Next one is on Wednesday 2nd June, 7.30 pm.

Thanks to them I just found out that there's also a Food not Bombs group locally:

'Bexley/Lewisham/Dartford Food Not Bombs is a group of volunteers who take good quality within-date food which would have been thrown away by businesses, cook it up, and distribute it to homeless hostels and day centres... We collect food from Kelsey's Farm, Ruxley Farm Shop and Swanley Bakery (Sidcup and Swanley branch), and then cook and serve it up at St Mungo's Pagnell Street, a homeless hostel near New Cross station'.

Joe Grind

More South London rap, this time from Joe Grind (think Giggs is his brother). Step Back features the Aylesbury Estate, Portland Street, Bells Garden Estate, Peckham Hill Street and various other Pecknam and Walworth locations.

Won't repeat what I said about Giggs here before, but same applies.

(thanks to B. for spotting this)

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Walking SE1 (1): Trinity Church Square

Rambling a little further afield than the New Cross, Deptford, Brockley Transpontine heartland, the first in a new series of wanderings through SE1 (who knows maybe eventually I will get to wander all the streets in the SE postcode area, but that may take some time).

Anyway to start with here's Holy Trinity Church, in Trinty Church Square in Borough (historically known as Trinity Square). Built in the 1820s it has been out of use as a Church since the 1960s and is now the home of Henry Wood Hall, a rehearsal and recording space for the London Philharmonic and other orchestras. Among the musical luminaries who have used its facilities are Leonard Bernstein and György Ligeti.

The statue in the foreground has some interesting folklore. I have read the tale several times that it is the oldest statue in London, a medieval depiction of King Alfred the Great moved to the square from Westminster Hall. However an alternative theory has recently been put forward that it was in fact the work of the sculptor James Bubb and was made at a similar time to the construction of the church (i.e. 1820s).

The arguments are quite convincing, namely that it is the wrong shape and material to be one of the Westminster Hall 14th century statues. The 'oldest statue in London' theory seems to date back to the 1920s - a 1911 survey of Royal statues in London mentions it as the only London statue of an early English king, but makes no claims for its antiquity. Indeed it was stated at the time that the oldest statue in London was actually of Queen Elizabeth, in St Dunstans Church, Fleet Street (report of a lecture on London statues by FW Hill, Ottowa Citizen, 17 April 1911).

Trinity Square was developed at the same time as the Church by Trinity House, the body responsible for lighthouses. Indeed rent and other income from the square is a significant source of revenue for the lighthouse authority. The body had its origins in Deptford - indeed its full name is the 'Corporation of Trinity House of Deptford Strond'. But that's another story.

Monday, May 24, 2010

East East London

A great exodus from South East London yesterday on the first full day of the extended London Overground East London Line, celebrated by Brockley Central and others. I went to Columbia Road flower market in the morning and then back again to a party in Mare Street, Hackney later on. Left the party at 9:45 pm, took two buses to Dalston Junction and was back in New Cross Gate by 10:30. Others headed to Brick Lane and Spitalfields. Seemingly, as Diamond Geezer reports, many from the other side of London took the train south to check out what we have to offer. Must have been like this when the Berlin wall came down!

As I said here before, the Line could shift people's mental geography of the city to an East/West polarity rather than just a north/south divide: 'By directly linking Croydon and Hackney (or at least Dalston) via Brockley and New Cross it could generate a sense of East London that crosses the river. Today when people talk about East London they generally mean the Eastern part of the city north of the Thames, whereas in Victorian times for instance, Deptford was often described as being in East London'.

D.O.A: Canadian punk in New Cross

Canadian punk band D.O.A. toured the UK in 1990. Their last gig was in New Cross, and they split up soon after (though they later reformed). In his book 'I, Shithead: A Life in Punk', Joe Keithley from the band recalls the famous hospitality of the Venue's bouncers:

'Our last show of that tour was in London at the Venue in New Cross on JUne 7. The show was packed and we played a raunchy set. I was hoarse as hell. There was a shitty aspect to the show. The club had hired rugby hooligans to do securtiy. We couldn't see much from the stage, but Jay Scott had a bird's eye view of what was going on from the closed-circuit camera in the club's office. The bouncers were roughing up the punks at the door and bashing anybody who had been thrown out of the pit. One kid got really hurt, and somebody called the cops. Scott could see the bouncers running to throw their brass knuckles and the small truncheons they had been carrying into a bucket. The bucket was hidden in a back room before the cops arrived and the bar manager helped hide the blood evidence'.

Here's their 1980 anthem World War 3:

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Goldsmiths Students Not Suspects

Students and staff at Goldsmiths in New Cross have been mounting a vigorous campaign against the new 'points based' system for immigration.

They say that the 'rules represent a serious threat to campus democracy and freedom of speech. They require non-EU students and staff to have biometric ID cards, involve demands on the financial background of applicants and mean that staff are obliged to report students to the UK Border Agency when they have not attended regularly'.

The Students not Suspects campaign has highlighted a number of cases where this bureaucratic nightmare has resulted in serious disruption to students' lives. The campaing has held a number of big meetings at the college and has produced some snazzy t-shirts for both students and staff. The staff version, below, states 'we are not border agents' - since the rules do in effect ask college staff to become an extension of the border police.

The latest initiative is a petition to Pat Loughrey, the new Warden of Goldsmiths, calling on the college managment to support the campaign:

'I am writing to express my grave concerns with the implementation of the UK Border Agency's (UKBA) Points Based System of Immigration (PBSI) at Goldsmiths. By imposing the UKBA's agenda of national security and border control on universities, PBSI has effectively turned students into suspects and staff into border agents. These xenophobic and reactionary tendencies run counter to the openness and free exchange of ideas necessary for research, teaching, and learning to occur.

Furthermore, the UKBA has transferred the financial and administrative burden of PBSI, which is considerable, onto individual staff and students, resulting in elevated workloads and stress. By increasing the cost and complexity of the visa application process, the UKBA has rendered universities less accessible and less welcoming to non-EU nationals, thus potentially damaging the reputation of higher education in the UK. The result will be less cultural and social diversity in higher education, to the detriment of Goldsmiths and the sector overall'.

You can read the full petition here - signatures are being collected until May 25th.

Given that this is an area with a high migrant population, it would be good too to link with non-students in the area who are also at the receiving end of Border Agency attention. For instance, in October 2009, the Bromley and Lewisham local immigration team raided homes across the area, detaining a Bolivian man in New Cross Road, two Turkish men in Pomeroy Street, a Nigerain woman in Catford and a Brazilian man in Forest Hill (Border Agency press release, 29 Oct. 2009; see also this raid in February 2009).

The Border Agency are sometimes to be seen out on force on New Cross Road, mounting joint operations with the Transport Police. The deal seems to be that if someone is caught with the wrong ticket or not enough money on their Oyster card they can then be questioned by the Border Agency and ultimately detained. A similar proposal in Arizona has quite rightly been criticised as outrageous, but nobody much seems to notice that it is already happening here. Perhaps next time this happens in New Cross, students and others should demonstrate against it.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Free Film Screenings at Broca

A couple of free film screenings coming up at The Broca (4 Coulgate Street, Brockley, London, SE4 ) courtesy of local author and activist Andy Worthington.

Thursday May 27, 7 pm: “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (Dir. Polly Nash and Andy Worthington, 2009 ). This new documentary tells the story of Guantanamo, focusing on three British prisoners and providing a powerful rebuke to those who believe that Guantanamo holds "the worst of the worst."

Tuesday June 1, 7 pm, “Operation Solstice" (Dir. Gareth Morris and Neil Goodwin, 1991) - rare screeing of this documentary about The Battle of the Beanfield, on the 25th anniversary of this often-overlooked confrontation between travellers/political activists and the State (under Margaret Thatcher). I have seen this a few times and it is essential, if harrowing, viewing.

Both films followed by a Q&A with Andy who has written about both subjects. Copies of his books "The Guantanamo Files," "The Battle of the Beanfield" and "Stonehenge: Celebration and Subversion" will be for sale at these events.

Friday, May 21, 2010

South London Folk Blog

South London Folk Blog is written by Dick Philpott, a singer who put on an open mic night at the Nelson Arms in Wimbledon. As the location suggests, Dicks's focus is on the western lands of South London. Good to see that he has himself contributed to the ever expanding Great South London Songbook, as he has released an album called South London Stroll featuring a sad love song to the River Wandle entitled 'The River is Dead'.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Brockley Max 2010

Loads going on at the Brockley Max festival from May 28 to 5 June: music, dance, comedy, art... You can download the full programme here, so I'll just mention a few of the music events for now. It all kicks off with the opening night (Friday 28th) from 4:30 pm in the streets by Brockley station, with bands/performers including Anita Maj, Ben Travers, Jake Twyford, Matt Dolphin, Monkey Rush and Brand Nu, bands from the Felix School of Rock, Mazaika and the Montage Theatre street Jazz dance group (last year's opening party was fun in the sun). Later that same night (9 pm), local singer-songwriter Ceri James is at the Wickham Arms - nice guy with nice voice.

On Thursday 3 June, Brockley Central will be promoting a music evening at the Ladywell Tavern. No news yet on the line up, but their night last year was apparently really good.

2000 Troubled Teenagers

Ten years ago today - that is May 20th 2000 - I was at the Paradise Bar (now the Royal Albert) in New Cross Road for the legendary '2000 Troubled Teenagers' night. Well legendary for those who were there, as it was in the pre-blogging days of the early internet there's barely a trace of it online, so now is the time for a very late review!

(programme cover - click to enlarge)

The event was styled 'An evening dedicated to the Scottish group Belle & Sebastian', and basically consisted of a packed bar of B&S fans dancing to lots of B&S with some tracks by The Smiths and various indie-poppers. I seem to recall some Japanese people playing B&S cover versions too. A whole night of B&S was not enough for some - I think some people had a picnic first on Greenwich Hill to get in the mood. Yes it was arguably the peak of B&S obsessive fandom, though I'd still say they are my favourite band of the 1990s (and indeed still made some great tracks in the noughties).

There was a competition to make plasticine models on a B&S theme, inspired by the line in the band's song Expectations about a girl 'making life size models of the Velvet Underground in clay'. It was won by a girl who made a sculpture entitled 'Fox with a Sombrero to Wear in the Snow' (referencing another B&S song, Fox in the Snow).

There were also some free gifts like this Isobel Campbell hairclip (picture from Bus Stop at Flickr).

I believe the night was mainly put on by DJs Joe Egg and Nervous Stephen Fowler. Joe also put on gay indie/retro nights at the Paradise Bar. I see from the programme that Harriet Vine and Rosie Wolfenden were also involved, the founders of Tatty Devine jewellery. The name of the night comes, inevitably, from a yet another B&S song, Beautiful: 'If you knew what's going on in her life, There'd be two hundred troubled teenagers to sit with her. And to talk to her'.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

For Catalonia and St George

On St George's Day round Borough market last month there was a bit of Catalonia/England link up with food and music to remind people that it was also La Diada de Sant Jordi, when lovers exchange books and roses in Barcelona (a connection also made at Shunt this time last year).

The best thing was that it was a very sunny Friday and there were lots of people out drinking in the streets from lunchtime onwards.

Outside Southwark Cathedral (and elsewhere in the area too), the Lion's Part theatre performed a George and Dragon folk play.

Around the pubs there were also quite a few drinkers dressed up in various George and Dragon outfits. I started off the evening pondering whether, as Billy Bragg would have it, these stories and symbols should be actively wrestled from the BNP, English Defence League and co. who lay claim to them (on the same day the BNP launched its unsuccessful election campaign with a press conference where Nick Griffin was flanked by some bruiser dressed up as St George). By the time I'd moved from Brindisa, to the Market Porter and on to the Miller in Snowsfields I'd stopped pondering as my critical faculties dissolved in the drunken bonhomie.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Ask Johnny Dee

Transpontine got a mention in the Guardian's weekend Guide last month (24 April), on a list of London blogs in the internet picks of the week. Described as 'South-east blogzine on Deptford punks, Peckham rappers and the Brockwell Lido squatters' we were in good company with The London Nobody Sings, Jane's London, Boris Watch and Shady Old Lady.

The Guardian column is written by Johnny Dee, once immortalised in The Chesterfields 1987 indie pop anthem Ask Johnny Dee. I wonder if they ever played at The Fountain (now Noodle King), Deptford indie pop central in the late 1980s?

Monday, May 17, 2010

The Damned, Croydon and Deptford

The Damned were the first UK punk band to release a single (New Rose in 1976) and the first to get an album out (Damned Damned Damned in February 1977). The band had a strong Croydon connection. They played there first gig there, at a free festival, and bassist Captain Sensible (Ray Burns) was working as a cleaner at Fairfield Hall when he first met drummer Rat Scabies (Chris Millar).

But their early rehearsal studio was in Deptford. Their original manager was John Krevine, who owned the Acme Attractions shop in the Kings Road. The latter sold retro clothes and was a key hang out/breeding ground for early punk; Don Letts worked in the shop, playing reggae. According to Scabies: 'John Krevine saw this whole kind of group/punk thing going on and it was initially him who offered to manage us and it was him who had the warehouse down in Deptford that we used to go down and rehearse'. Captain Sensible recalled 'We rehearsed in Krevine's storage arch in Deptford which was an opportunity to purloin some of his retro garb while there'
(quoted in The Roxy London WC2: a punk history by Paul Marko).

So it may very well have been in a Deptford railway arch that one of my favourite tracks of all times was first written and rehearsed. For me the first 30 seconds of New Rose still constitute the most exciting introduction to a song imaginable - the opening quote from the Shangri-Las 'Leader of the Pack' ('is she really going out with him?') , the powerful drums, then Brian James's guitar chords, then the punctuating 'Ah' before the song takes off... perfection.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Burgess Park history

Burgess Park is such a huge, well-established green space that many people don't realize that it was once a densely populated area of housing, demolished by bombs and slum clearance (an area sometimes known as North Camberwell). If you want to know more about it, there a talk and slideshow on its history, entitled 'Bibles, Baths and Bombs' at East Street Library, 168-170 Old Kent Road, SE17 next Thursday 20 May, 6 - 7:30 pm.

Cuming Museum and Carnaval del Pueblo

The Cuming Museum on Walworth Road was fairly packed on Friday for its Museums at Night event, with a talk on its Lovett collection of urban folklore by Keith from the museum and Chris Roberts telling some Walworth tales.

There's a temporary exhibition on at the moment telling the story of Carnaval del Pueblo, the annual Latin American carnival held in Southwark, with costumes, masks and background information on display. Worth checking out, it runs until May 28th.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

A Banquet at Crystal Palace, 1860

On a market stall in East Dulwich I recently came across a clipping from the Illustrated London News. It is undated, but various stories on it suggest that it was from Summer 1860. It includes an illustration and account of a banquet at Crystal Palace with guests including Gladstone (then Chancellor of the Exchequer) and 'many members of Parliament and eminent scientific literary men':

'On Saturday week Sir Joseph and Lady Paxton gave a charming fete at their beautiful residence, Rockhills, adjoining the Crystal Palace... After enjoying a promenade in the grounds attached to Sir Joseph's villa, the company, at seven o'clock, proceeded to the north wing of the Crystal Palace, where an elegant dinner was served, covers being laid for 350 persons. After the banquet a ball was improvised, and at ten o'clock the whole upper range of fountains in the Crystal Palace gardens were set in motion, and illumined with various coloured lights, the effect of which upon the falling water was singularly beautiful'.

Quite a party evidently.

During this period too, the Crystal Palace became a key theme in Russian literature, as Sarah J Young (a CP based lecturer in Russian) discusses at her blog. Essentially the argument was between the writers Chernyshevsky and Dostoevsky. The former, active in revolutionary politics, used the Palace on Sydenham Hill as an image of utopia in his novel What is to be Done? The latter, who wrote about a visit to the Palace in 1863, saw the Crystal Palace and indeed the whole utopian impulse as a doomed attempt at a rationalisation of human life that could never banish the human taste for doubt, suffering and chaos.

Sarah has also started exploring wider depictions of the Crystal Palace area in literature. Some of them I had heard of, but I had no idea that 'Lawrence Durrell’s The Black Book (1938) is set at the Queen’s Hotel (in the novel called the Regina) on Church Road, Crystal Palace'. More to come apparently.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Bob Marley in South London

Robert Nesta Marley died on this day (May 11) in 1981.

Back in 1999, I was playing three-sided football in Kennington Park with the Association of Autonomous Astronauts (a long story) and somebody told me that Bob Marley had played football of the more traditional two-sided variety there.

I filed this away in my brain and then remembered it today - prompted via twitter that this was the anniversary of the great man's death. A quick google search shows that this was apparently true. In fact the wikipedia entry for Kennington Park states that in 1977 Marley frequently visited the Rastafarian Temple in St Agnes Place, next to the park, while he was in London recording the Exodus album, and that 'He also enjoyed playing football with friends in the park'.

According to Bob Marley Archive, he also played a number of South London gigs including:

1972 - July 22 - Grand Midnight Dance, Commonwealth Social Club, Croydon.
1972 - August 27 - The Telegraph, Brixton.
1973 April 29 - Mr. B's, Peckham.
1973 -May 13 - Mr. B's, Peckham.
1980 - July 07 - Crystal Palace Bowl (some photos of that below)

Can anybody out there truthfully say they were at any of these, or have any other South London Tuff Gong stories?

Fierce Women and some more Southwark folklore

This Thursday May 13th at South East London Folklore Society, storyteller Janet Dowling talks on Fierce and Fearlesss Women in traditional stories: girls and women who go on adventures, get into scraps, and don't need rescuing! 8 pm start at The Old King's Head, Kings Head Yard, 45-49 Borough High Street, SE1.

The last SELFS event I went to was the excellent Southwark Lore back in March at the Old Mayfair Carpet Gallery (301-303 Borough High Street, SE1), a pop up gallery that has since popped off. That night featured a glittering array of south london mythologists including John Constable performing parts of the Southwark Mysteries (subsequently performed in full at Southwark Cathedral last month); Nigel of Bermondsey singing songs including one about Crossbones cemetery; Scott Wood performing his story The Temple of Bacchus (imagining pilgrims visiting the off license of that name in Camberwell in the hope that it is an ancient site), accompanied by the electronica of Richard Sanderson; Vanessa Woolf-Hoyle and Niall Boyce telling chilling tales of Bermondsey in the Blitz and time travel at the George Inn respectively; Chris Roberts extolling the wonders of Walworth Transpontine, talking about the Lovett collection of good luck charms, held in the Cuming Museum.

On the latter subject, this Friday May 14th sees an evening of Superstition and folklore , 6pm - 8pm at the aforementioned Cuming Museum, The Old Town Hall, 151 Walworth Road, London, SE17 1RY (admission free). As part of Museums at Night 2010 there will be a chance to get up close and hands on with some of the museum's stranger objects and the Lovett collection of charms and superstitions. A chance also to share your own superstitions, stories and charms - bring them along if you have them!

Monday, May 10, 2010

They fell asleep - a Nunhead cemetery song

Written especially to be performed at this year's 'Nunhead & District Museum and Art Gallery', 'They fell asleep' by 'The Nunhead Cemeteries' (featuring one Neil Transpontine) is a song made up of lines from gravestones in Nunhead Cemetery:

The darling, the tender
Devoted and treasured
Who fell asleep
Who fell asleep

Beloved, departed
The deeply regretted
Who fell asleep
Who fell asleep

The fair and faithful and the bright
Alive at noon but dead at night
Who fell asleep
Who rest in peace

The angel, the mourned
Whose time was too short
Who fell asleep
Who fell asleep

True friend, only son
Life’s race well run
Who fell asleep
Who fell asleep

Left behind the sorrowing
Death divides, memory clings
They fell asleep
Their end was peace

Loved and Lovers
Daughters and Mothers
Together blessed
In peaceful rest

Who fell asleep
Who fell fell asleep

Download here: They fell asleep - The Nunhead Cemeteries

Friday, May 07, 2010

May Uke Box

Brockley Ukulele Group are putting on their next monthly Uke Box session at the Amersham Arms in New Cross this Sunday 8th May. Admission free, 8 pm start. Great flyer!

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Music at Cafe Crema

Coming up at Cafe Crema, 306 New Cross Road, SE14:

Sat 8th May: The Lucky Strikes plus Reverend Jim Casy. The Lucky Strikes are a blues/Americana five piece delivering tales of outlaws, desperadoes and chain gangs in 1930s Mississippi. Heavy guitars, impassioned vocals, and bluegrass fiddle and banjo. They hale from Southend but dress like the James Gang. Reverend Jim Casy are honky-tonk-rockabilly preachers.

Sat 15th May: Tina Pinder plus New Orleans New Cross Honky-Tonk Acoustic Jam. Tina plays 'swamp music from the Lea Delta'. Her smoky voice and guitar picking bring you blues-riddled songs of heart-stopping drama, in a Tom Waits-meets-Melanie chocolate-and-gravel concoction. Followed by the monthly-ish jam around the old piano.

Both shows, doors open 8pm, admission £3.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Stories and Songs for South London

This is happening on Sunday May 16, 7: 30 pm onwards:

'Stories and Songs for South London at the New Cross Inn SE14: London dreamtime will tell tales of monsters in the Blitz, Nigel of Bermondsey will sing lovely songs including One Eye Grey, This is How it Feels and Maximum Wheelie. Stu will play the dulcimer, Chris will do an acoustic set and Jackie will read her own true story of children on fire from "Smoke" magazine'.

Don't know all these folk, but Nigel has a lovely voice and this sounds right up Transpontine street. £2 in.

Lord Haw Haw of Dulwich

Did you know that Britain's most famous Nazi was once a Dulwich-based young Conservative?

William Joyce, was born in New York to a Southern Irish loyalist family. According to Martin Pugh: 'After his family settled in Dulwich in 1923 he joined the Junior Imperial League, the youth organisation of the Conservative Party, but he felt betrayed by the British establishment for abandoning the Union with Ireland. Increasingly consumed with hatred towards Catholics, Communists and Jews, he saw fascism as the best means of prosecuting his crusade against his and the nation's enemies' (Hurrah for the Blackshirts! Fascists and Fascism in Britain between the Wars).

Pugh states that Joyce joined the British Fascists in December 1923, though he seems to have been active in Conservative politics for longer. After becoming prominent in Mosley's British Union of Fascists (a different organisation from the earlier BF), Joyce left for Germany in 1938. From there he famously broadcast Nazi propaganda, earning the nickname Lord Haw Haw. He was executed in 1946 for treason. So his youthful ambition of becoming the Conservative MP for Chelsea was not to be realized!

A number of sites refer to the story that his family home at 7 Allison Grove, SE21, was one of the first hit by a German bomb in the early days of the Blitz. Whether this is true or folklore I am not sure.

See also: Pro-fascist Tories in 1930s Lewisham

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

BNP Thug Life

One of the alarming aspects of a potential increase in votes for the BNP on Thursday is that this could be accompanied by an upsurge in violence from emboldened racist/fascist thugs.

There have been several attacks in South London during the election campaign. Yesterday, Cormac Hollingsworth, standing as a Labour candidate for Council in South Bermondsey, was leafleting an estate in the area 'when he was punched three times in the face and kicked. Meanwhile the attacker kept up a stream of insults and shouted pro-BNP slogans' (full story at TMP online). South Bermondsey is the only Southwark ward where the BNP is standing a candidate in the election, represented by Nigel Seary of Nelson Square, SE1. I suppose there's some comfort to be taken that they couldn't get anyone to stand who actually lives around the South Bermondsey/Blue Millwall heartland.

Meanwhile David Clarke, the BNP candidate for Heathfield ward (Croydon Council) was convicted last week of two separate assaults on anti-racist campaigners who had been giving out leaflets outside East Croydon station. Full story at Croydon Advertiser.

Room at the Top (of Pepys Road?)

The 1959 classic film Room at the Top is 'a savage story of lust and ambition' set in Yorkshire. However, according to film location site Reel Streets the closing shots were actually filmed in Pepys Road, New Cross. Looking at these, I think they are right. The car seems to be heading up to the junction of Pepys and Musgrove Road (on the left).

What do you think?

Sunday, May 02, 2010

Kit and Cutter May Day Special

Kit and Cutter's May Day special at the Deptford Arms last night was really special. It was packed, as indeed it should have been for the presence of one of the most important figures in the last 50 years of English music - Martin Carthy. His two sets were great, a mixture of some of the finest played guitar tunes you are ever likely to hear with awesome folk songs. As a nod to his South London audience he sang Georgie, a song about poaching and gallows on Shooters Hill. A few years ago I sang this on Shooters Hill at the start of a South East London Folklore Society walk. Let's just say his version was better!

But his was not the only good voice on display. Keith Kendrick and Sylvia Needham were a revelation to me, they sounded amazing. Highlight for me was Ball O'Yarn - a song that begins 'In the merry month of may, when the men were making hay...' is followed by a predictable end nine months later.

Club hosts Kit and Cutter also sing beautifully - would like to see them do a full set some time. The Belles of London City coped admirably with the small and crowded stage to perform some high energy morris dancing (they recently explained it all to Paul Morley - check video here).

So obviously it was a great privilege for me to share the bill with this lot. The Neil Transpontine contribution was a short talk/slideshow giving a quick history of May Days in South London (will post up the talk later in the week).

That was the last Kit & Cutter at the Deptford Arms, as the pub looks set to be bookiefied. I am sure putting on a folk club there with its smelly toilets and noisy drunks in the public bar has been a bit of a challenge, but it's great to see this kind of music filling rooms in high street pubs. Hopefully they will find another venue soon not too far away.
(see also review at Crosswhatfields?)