Saturday, October 30, 2010

Demonstration against Lewisham Library Cuts

A really good turnout on the demonstration today against the threatened closure of five Lewisham libraries. More than 200 people set off from outside Crofton Park Library.

The march headed off down Brockley Rise and then along the South Circular to Catford.

Lewisham Pensioners Forum turned out on the march...

As did St Hilda, or to be more precise the banner of St Hilda & St Cyprian's Church in Crofton Park:

Outside Lewisham Town Hall there was a rally, with a 'Lewisham Libraries' coffin being delivered.
Blackheath and Crofton Park banners outside the Town Hall:

Lewisham People Before Profit - 'Books not Bail outs'

All in all a good day, the only dischord being at the beginning where local Labour MPs Joan Ruddock and Heidi Alexander were almost drowned out by hecklers when they spoke. I'm all for people criticising Labour councils for implementing the cuts as well as the Tory/Lib Dem government for imposing them, and a bit of heckling's fine by me. But one of the good things about the march was that it wasn't just the usual Lewisham politicos, I spoke to some neighbours and work colleagues who had come along with kids and some of them felt uncomfortable with the rancour. If the anti-cuts movement is going to involve people like them, perhaps activists need to be a bit less self-indulgent. Just because what you're saying may be correct, it doesn't mean that you have no responsibility for the impact of how you say it or the atmosphere it creates. Plus chanting 'Labour Out' on its own -as some did - seemed rather a strange slogan and let the ConDems off the hook - remember their local reps are absurdly arguing that cuts in Lewisham are nothing to do with them!

October Plenty in Borough Market

A cornucopia of fruit and vegetables at the October Plenty/Apple Day celebrations at Borough Market last Sunday 24th October, complete with the Corn Queene (above) and The Berry Man (below), courtesy of The Lions Part.

Friday, October 29, 2010

James Blake - New Cross 'post-dubstep wunderkind'

New Cross-based James Blake - an ex-Goldsmiths student described recently in NME as 'London post-dubstep wunderkind' - has had two EPs out on R&S records this year - CMYK and the new Klavierwerke. With snatches of melody appearing and vanishing and beats emerging in the fog, comparisons with Burial are inevitable - but he has a very distinct sound of his own.

Courtesy of a Radio 1 appearance and a cover of Feist's Limit to your Love he now looks set to cross over big time, with this beautiful song due to be released next month.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Save Lewisham Libraries Carnival Procession

The campaigns to save five Lewisham libraries threatened with closure have joined together to call a 'Carnival March and Procession' this Saturday 30th October.

The procession will leave from Darfield Road SE4 (to the side of Crofton Park Library) at 12.30 pm and follow the route from Brockley Rd, via Stondon Park, Brockley Rise, left into Stanstead Road (A205 South Circular), along Catford Hill/Catford Road arriving at Lewisham Town Hall, arriving at 1.30 pm approximately.

The organisers say: 'Please muster at 12.15 at Crofton Park Library, wearing bright clothes and come with bells and whistles to join the Carnival march of protest. Alternatively join us along the route'.

Details of how to contact the five local campaigns (New Cross, Crofton Park, Blackheath, Sydenham and Grove Park) can be found on The Friends of Sydenham Library blog

There's a report at Green Ladywell about a meeting on the future of Crofton Park library. I'm not sure I go along with the tactics of some campaigners which involve coming up with alternative options for running the libraries. This might be a fall-back position, but the point isn't just to keep buildings open but to have properly staffed and resourced libraries. The movement against cuts risks being defeated before it really gets off the ground if campaigners buy into David Cameron's Big Society rhetoric about local communities doing the work for free that people used to be paid to do properly.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Anti-fascist film night in New Cross

At Cafe Crema tomorrow, Thursday 28th October, South-East London Unite Against Fascism and Lewisham Anti-Racist Action Group present three anti-Fascist short films and Q and A with invited speaker. The films include:

-‘Who shot the Sheriff?' - a film that charts the history of Rock against Racism and Love Music Hate Racism.

- ‘East End United’ about the response by the community to the threatened English Defence League march in Tower Hamlets this year;

- a film about the Battle of Lewisham, when local people, a brick's throw from where Cafe Crema is now, confronted the National Front in 1977.

£6 entry includes polenta or cake and wine at Cafe Crema, 306 New Cross Road. 7.30 doors: 8.15 film.

At the same venue, there's a gig on Saturday night (30th Oct) featuring The A Train ('Sublime country/folk rock with a nod to Bob Dylan and the Byrds - "a lovely, earthy, organic sound" Tom Robinson BBC 6 Music'); George Leitenberger ('Tom Waits meets Jacques Brel'. £5. 8 ‘til late. Licensed.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Red Cross Bards

Last month (September 15th) I took part in Red Cross Bards, an evening of Southwark songs and poems in Redcross Garden. It featured, among others, Nigel of Bermondsey and Vanessa Woolf-Hoyle (pictured above), John Constable and Katy Carr. At the end of the night we moved to the gates of the Crossbones burial ground, where I sang a song inspired by another South London graveyard - Nunhead Cemetery:

Monday, October 25, 2010

Lost Steps: Haunted London

Transpontine contributor Scott Wood was interviewed on Resonance FM's great London show, Lost Steps, last week along with Camberwell-based artist Sarah Sparkes. The theme was Haunted London, with some South London tales including an underground ghost at Elephant & Castle; a fearsome 'thing' upstairs at the Thomas a Becket pub on the Old Kent Road; a spook that was said to get into bed with guests in a house in George Lane, Hither Green; a thirsty ghost in 1804 at St Pauls Church in Deptford said to climb out of a coffin and demand ale; and the 1948 dancing girl of One Tree Hill.

There's an interesting exchange on the significance of ghost stories, with presenter Malcolm Hopkins suggesting that 'behind every haunting there's got to be a story.... whether you believe in the haunting or not becomes irrelevant because the actual snippet of social history you get tells you a lot about London at a particular time'.

As Scott put is, 'the ghost is almost an oral memorial... a memorial that's not physical but is passed between people so they don't forget the stories of what's happened to people'. Examples include ghost stories as folk memories of World War 2 disasters, such as the haunting of the (now closed) Kings Arms on Peckham Rye said to be related to its bombing during the War, or stories related to the New Cross V2 explosion in 1944.

You can listen to the whole show at the Lost Steps website.

Check out more of Scott's London ghost and other spooky lore at the Londonist.

Scott is also hosting a Peckham ghost walk on Halloween and a London Bridge ghost walk on 27 October - details here.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Eyes Wide Open at Brockley Jack

Brockley Jack Film Club are showing the film Eyes Wide Open tomorrow night (Monday - details here) - Haim Tabakman's 2009 movie centred on the gay relationship between two Orthodox Jewish men in Israel.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Albert Dolphin - New Cross Hospital Hero 1940

Tuesday's Telegraph reports that Lord Ashcroft has a new book out called George Cross Heroes - the George Cross being awarded since 1940 for acts of civilian bravery. The literary efforts of the Conservative Party's bankroller and tax avoider are not normally a subject of interest in the Transpontine milieu, but it does apparently feature an entry on a genuine local hero:


Rank/title: Mr

Unit/occupation: Hospital porter

Date of bravery: September 7 1940

Gazetted: January 17 1941

On September 7 1940 – the start of the Blitz − Germany switched tactics. It halted its successful blanket bombing of Britain’s RAF bases and instead targeted, first, London and then other British cities. As darkness fell, wave after wave of planes swept over London, dropping their bombs predominantly in the east of the capital.

Some 430 people died that night. Among them were four nurses who had been killed when a bomb landed on the South Eastern Hospital in New Cross, south London. The victims had been standing on the ground floor of the kitchens of Ward Block 1.

Another nurse, who had been in the ward kitchen on the first floor, had been thrown through the collapsing floor and had ended up in the passage of the ground floor. She was still alive, but seriously injured, and her legs had been trapped by some of the falling masonry. Those who rushed to help her included Albert Dolphin, a 44-year-old hospital porter.

Dolphin was a married man who had worked at the hospital for more than 20 years. As he and others worked frantically to free the nurse, one of the surrounding walls gave a loud crack. The would-be rescuers had time to move away and all of them, except Dolphin, retreated. Instead, the porter flung himself over the woman’s body. In doing so, Dolphin took the full weight of the falling masonry and was killed.

His selfless act was not in vain. The nurse was later pulled, alive, from the rubble, and Dolphin’s posthumous GC was announced just over four months later, his citation ending: ‘There is no doubt that Dolphin, although aware the wall was about to collapse, deliberately remained where he was and threw himself across the nurse’s body in an endeavour to protect her. This he succeeded in doing at the cost of his own life.’

Albert Dolphin is listed on a memorial mural in Lewisham Shopping Centre. The Deptford Ambulance Station now stands on the site at 1 New Cross Road. For similar stories, see Deptford's and Lewisham's Local Heroes from the Blitz at WW2Talk.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Cuts - do it French style?

Tomorrow's a big day for anyone working for South London's biggest employers - Councils, NHS, Colleges and other public services - as the government announces the scale of its spending cuts. With the Tories already predicting a loss of 450,000 public sector jobs, and other predicting up to 750,000 will go, things are going to get very tough indeed. Never mind they say, the private sector's going to create jobs to replace them - yeah right, maybe we can all flip burgers instead. Actually the burger flippers and coffee makers are also going to be in trouble, with all those cash strapped public sector workers and unemployed counting their pennies.

As just one example, here's an analysis of the potential impact on Goldsmiths in New Cross 0f the proposals put forward in the Browne Report on the funding of higher education:

'On Tuesday the Browne report came out, recommending removing the cap on tuition fees. This was followed by an email from the Senior Management Team (SMT) predicting Goldsmiths would lose £15m per year from its teaching budget for the next few years.

The level of projected cuts which could result from the implementation of the Browne report is unlike the scale of what any of us have ever faced. What would a 20% cut would do to our jobs, courses, libraries, facilities, support services?

Also, what would happen if students were expected to pay £7,000 a year, or possibly more, in fees? This would result in England having the the most expensive public degrees in the world, with families having to shell out between £76,000 and 136,000 to put two children through university.

If there is an open market in fees, this will create a 2-tier university system, with the most well-resourced universities charging the highest fees, and the most under-resourced universities charging the lowest. This would drastically exacerbate inequality in education.

The report also proposes to create a market in student places which it suggests will facilitate a large reduction in public funding which 'may be equivalent to removing all funding from anything other than priority subjects'. Goldsmiths, because it focuses on arts, humanities and social sciences, will be particularly vulnerable. Because of this, it is especially important that we rise to the challenge.

The scale of the cuts will require a response that is immediate, powerful, united and effective. We need to combine all our educational, campaigning and mobilizing skills to make the strongest possible protest to government. We urge everyone to attend the demonstration on the 10th of November . We also encourage you to participate in other anti-cuts actions, including: the march at 4:30pm on the 20th of October at Lincolns Inn Fields (; the Lewisham Anti Cuts Alliance public meeting at Goldsmiths, at 7PM, also the 20th of October, and the SERTUC march on the 23rd of October (assemble 11AM Chalton Street)

SMT have a responsibility to join our campaign to defend education. We call on them to not accept the Coalition Government's argument that there is no alternative, or the cuts for which they have no mandate. We also call on them to defend Goldsmiths' unique character as an institution that both supports cutting edge research and also has a strong widening participation agenda. We ask them to support our campaign against education cuts and to put pressure on politicians, particularly Liberal
Democrats, to stick to their pre-election pledge.

(Joint statement from student and staff unions - Goldsmiths Students' Union, Goldsmiths UCU and Goldsmiths Unison - thanks to
Another Green World)

No doubt about how far the Tories want to go in using the financial crisis as an opportunity to implement long-cherished plans to decimate the public sector - the question is how far they will get away with it. Maybe we should take some lessons from France and not wait until it's too late to make a fuss.

Goldsmiths students will be meeting outside the the university library at 3.30pm tomorrow and then making their way to the anti-cuts rally in Whitehall, scheduled to start at 6 pm. No doubt many South London public sector workers will also be heading down to Downing Street tomorrow night.

Marty Wilde: Charlton's finest?

Welcome to another South East London hyper-local blog - The Charlton Champion kicks off with a list of 10 great things about SE7. Well if they ever get round to a top 10 of Charlton singers, a space must surely be reserved for Marty Wilde. Born in Blackheath as Reginald Leonard Smith in 1939, he lived in Greenwich and went to Halstow Road Primary School and then Charlton Central Secondary Modern School. He started his own band, Reg Smith and the Hound dogs, before he was signed up - and renamed - by Larry Parnes as one of the wave of late 1950s English rock'n'roll singers.

Marty is also, of course, the father of Kim Wilde - and co-wrote the great Kids in America. Less well-known is his less successful attempt to reinvent himself in the early 1970s as glam-rocker Zappo. Yes, that's him, pictured below.

Monday, October 18, 2010

I was wandering in transpontine London...

Here's what the Oxford English Dictionary has to say about the word Transpontine:

1. That is across or over a bridge; spec. on the other side of the bridges in London, i.e. south of the Thames; transf. (from the style of drama in vogue in the 19th century at the ‘Surrey-side’ theatres), melodramatic, sensational.

1844 ALB. SMITH Fort. Scatterg. Fam. ix, It was Monday evening, sacred to the pits and galleries of transpontine theatres. 1860 MRS. W. P. BYRNE Undercurrents Overlooked I. 78 The..Metropolitan theatres, cispontine and transpontine. 1876 C. M. DAVIES Unorth. Lond. 130, I was wandering in transpontine London one Sunday morning. 1882 H. DE WINDT Equator 132 Triana, a transpontine suburb [of Seville], is worth a visit in the daytime. 1901 Scotsman 9 Apr. 5/4 A new drama strongly seasoned with transpontine flavour.

2. [f. L. pontus sea.] That is across the sea; on or from the other side of the ocean, spec. the Atlantic, i.e. North American.

1891 R. L. STEVENSON Let. Oct. (1923) XXII. 414 The last four chapters of The Wrecker!.. Ours is such rude, transpontine business. 1920 Times Lit. Suppl. 15 Apr. 232/2 She [sc. an American writer] has investigated her subject with typical transpontine enthusiasm. 1922 JOYCE Ulysses 416 Thou sawest thy America, thy life~task, and didst charge to cover like the transpontine bison.

I hadn't realized that the word was sometimes used to refer to America - a usage that seems to have faded, not surprizingly as of course there is no bridge across the Atlantic!

Friday, October 15, 2010

The Rivoli Ballroom: the kitsch and the glamorous

In the mid-1990s, Helen Thomas and Nicola Miller, two dance researchers from Goldsmiths, undertook a research study into ballroom dancing and tea dances at the Rivoli Ballroom in Brockley. It includes some interesting historical material about the place, stating that the building that is now the Rivoli was originally 'a purpose-built 600-seater cinema, which opened in 1913 as the Crofton Park Picture Palace'. Renamed the Rivoli in 1929, it 'closed its doors as a cinema in 1957. It became a dance-hall in 1960 and subsequently for several years, like a large number of old cinemas, it became a bingo-hall, with dancing on Tuesday and Saturday evenings. In 1970 it closed for refurbishment, and two and a half years later it was reopened as a dedicated ballroom'.

There is also some very evocative description:

'The decor of the ballroom is fashioned on the lines of the grand Viennese ballrooms of the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. In the 1920s, the newly-created palais de danse, such as the Hammersmith Palais, which opened its doors in 1919, aimed to cater for the urban working classes who wanted dance in the new styles, but could not afford to frequent the exclusive West-end hotels and restaurants where their more wealthy peers danced. With their large halls and spacious, sprung floors to dance on, to the sounds of the latest music played by full live bands, the palais were designed to give the appearance of luxury and grandeur for the pleasure of the working classes that had formerly been reserved for those higher up the social scale. The Rivoli Ballroom evokes the earlier past of the great balls and the more recent 'retro' style of the palais de danse...

The walls of the hall are lined with red velour, with patterned panels encrusted with diamente and gold-painted wood-panelling. There are 200 wall-lights which highlight the opulent appearance of the red and gold. The tables and the red velvet seating are set around the edge of the sprung maple dance-floor, with two revolving glitter balls, three large chandeliers and numerous smaller ones hanging down from the ceiling. There is a raised stage across the breadth of the far end of the hall, large enough to take a small dance band, complete with sound system and a large selection of dance records. There are two bars, a rather sumptuous 1960s one with gold flock wallpaper and matching upholstered seating, and a more everyday bar/buffer reminiscent of a 1950s ice-cream parlour, with booth seats...

Stepping into the ballroom at the Rivoli on a Sunday afternoon when the competition is in full swing proved to be a fascinating and bewildering experience. To begin with, the sight of the lavish, yet mannered, styling of the contestants as they swished effortlessly across the floor doing their set pieces, bathed in the light of the chandeliers, and set against the backdrop of the red and gold decor, with onlookers dressed in ordinary clothes, and other contestants in their ballroom best, standing or sitting around the edge of the floor, was so other-worldly that it seemed as if we had been dropped into a period film-set designed to exude the kitsch and the glamorous in the same instant'.

Ballroom Blitz by Helen Thomas and Nicola Miller is published in Dance in the City, edited by Helen Thomas (Pallgrave Macmillan, 1997) .

Skateboarding row on last lap?

The dwindling band of opponents of a skateboarding ramp in Telegraph Hill lower park, New Cross, are mounting a rearguard action against it as the date looms for Lewisham Council to give it the final go ahead.

A leaflet has been circulated with all kinds of alarmist language about 'saving the park', noise and antisocial behaviour. Its arguments have been thoroughly demolished at Brockley Central so I won't labour the point here.

Like many people I am not actually that excited about whether there is a skateramp in the park or not. But those in favour have campaigned for it, those against likewise, and the outcome is a limited, low impact scheme that will simply turn a tarmac path into a facility for young people to use. The park won't be destroyed, and the sky won't fall in. Maybe in ten years time it will be incredibly popular, maybe it will be under-used, in which case at some point it can be replaced by whatever people are into then.

Clearly the argument here is no longer about the merits of skateboarding facilities, but about a particular group of Telegraph Hill residents feeling enraged that for once they might not get their own way.

Their claim that there has not been sufficient consultation is particularly spurious - I can't think of a local issue that has been subject to so much discussion, with hundreds of people taking part in public meetings. More to the point, and unlike in most 'consultation' exercises, the plans have actually been changed to take into account the concerns raised by objectors.

What the diehards actually want is not more consultation but the right to veto things that don't accord with their own views, regardless of what other people want. Unfortunately for them, their scaremongering tactics seem to be backfiring with even people who initially opposed the plans now hoping that they go ahead.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

New Cross Library Latest

The shutters at New Cross Library have been redecorated with the slogans 'Save Our Libraries' and 'Save New Cross'. The campaign to save the five Lewisham libraries threatened with closure is still going strong with a march with a carnival flavour planned for Saturday 30th October,
starting outside Crofton Park Library at 12pm, to arrive at the Town Hall by 1.30 for a rally.

Meanwhile Brockley Central reports that local Tories have pledged that they would save the libraries from closure if they were running Lewisham Council. What a nerve - do they really think we are too stupid to notice that Councils are planning cuts because the ConDem government is slashing funding to public services.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

South East London Coffee, 1914-1950

Previously on Transpontine, we looked at the state of play for coffee provision in New Cross, Deptford and Brockley from 1888 to 1900. Moving on to the turn of the First World War, the Post Office London Directory 1914 shows that three 'coffee rooms' had survived from 1900, but all with different proprietors: Albert Barnes was now running 2 Coulgate Street near Brockley station (site of a coffee shop since at least 1888); Jn. Coudray was listed as being responsible for 111 Tanners Hill in Deptford (possibly Jean - Coudray is a French name); and Albert Smith was at 1 Lewisham High Road (now Lewisham Way) in New Cross. In addition two new coffee rooms had opened in Brockley/Crofton Park: Mrs A. Merry at 354 Brockley Road and William Biggs at 74 Brockley Rise.

The First World War seems to have done for the Brockley coffee boom, with no survivors by 1919. Mrs E. Coudray (perhaps the widow of John?) was now running 111 Tanners Hill with Mrs Ellen Louisa Leaver at 1 Lewisham High Road. A new cofffee room had been opened by George R. Gatland at 67 Pomeroy Street.

Five years later, in 1924, Mrs Coudray was still going strong at at 111 Tanners Hill and Alfred Leaver was now at 1 Lewisham Road. 67 Pomeroy Street was still open, now run by George Pingram, with new local competition just down the road at no. 49 (Thomas Bradley and Mrs Elizabeth Maud).

By 1933, 49 Pomeroy Street had closed, with Pingram still running the coffee room at 67 Pomeroy Street. Florrie Taylor was at 111 Tanners Hill, but other than that there was nothing doing on the local coffee front. I guess coffee might have been available in some other local premises though - the directory now said under 'Coffee Rooms', 'See also Dining Rooms'. 310 Brockley Road - home of the Coffee Palace in 1900 - was now a Dining Room run by Frank Relf. But I am not going to be distracted now into the wider history of cafes and restaurants.

In the middle of the Second World War, 1942 seems to have seen the beginnings of a coffee revival, but at none of the pre-war venues. In New Cross there were coffee rooms at 142 New Cross Road (Mrs Ada Padley) and 29 Clifton Rise (Thomas Yarnton); in Deptford at 10 Childers Street (Reginald Chutter) and 427 Evelyn Street (Louise Gasper). Brockley was crawling back into the coffee world with a coffee room in Mantle Road run by Samuel Clarkon (no number given).

As stated in the previous post, there was a London coffee boom in the 1940s and 50s as new espresso machines were introduced. This pattern seems to have been repeated locally. In New Cross, 142 New Cross Road was still going (now run by Thomas Ball), as was 29 Clifton Rise (still run by Thomas Yarnton). There was also a new coffee room at 253a New Cross Road run by Angelo Borg (Borg is a common Maltese surname). In Deptford there were now coffee rooms in Deptford Market (Mrs M Batholomew); at 41 Deptford Church Street (Mrs Ivy Mitchell) and 192 Deptford Church Street (Charles Frederick Axford); 421 Evelyn Street (Louise Gasper - seemingly moved a few doors down since 1942, unless there was a typographical error); and 19 New King Street (Samuel Judson). Brockley was still a bit subdued on the coffee front, with still only the Mantle Road coffee room (now run by Joseph Stephen Hill).

So here's the survey summarised:

Coffee Rooms in Brockley, Deptford and New Cross, 1888-1950

This tells us a few things - 1950 was the peak year for coffee in this period; 111 Tanners Hill was the longest established coffee premises (1900-1933, perhaps longer); and Brockley declined as a place for coffee after the First World War, maybe taking nearly a hundred years to recover!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Gabrielle - 'Brockley Girl'

Singer Gabrielle was recently featured on Sky Arts' 'Soundtrack to my life', talking to Cat Deeley about her musical career. In it she described herself as a 'Brockley Girl' and talked about her time at school locally, including the role of her English teacher in encouraging her musical interests and memories of running round the school singing Diana Ross's My Old Piano.

She went to what was then called Samuel Pepys Secondary School in Wallbutton Road, now the site of the Crossways Academy.

Here she is on Top of the Pops in 2000 singing 'Rise' (featuring the best use of a Bob Dylan sample in a pop song?):

Halloween Ghost Walks in South London

As well as preparing for a talk about a Manx talking mongoose on 14 October, that's a talking mongoose on the Isle of Man, not a talking mongoose without a tail, South East London Folklore Society are giving two south London ghost walks in the run-up to Halloween.

Reserve a place by emailing Scott at South East London Folklore Society.

Walk details are as follows:

London Bridge Ghosts and Magic Walk
27 October 6.30pm-7.30pn(-ish)

Meet for your bowler-hatted guide on the south eastern side of London Bridge by the Southwark Needle and Evans Bike Shop for a riverside and Borough back-street tour of Southwark’s ghostly and magical past and folklore. Hear legends of London Bridge; see the site of the wizard’s garret, sacred shrines, violent wives from beyond the grave, haunted hoof-beats and the sad, scary and silly ghosts of Bankside.

This Halloween walk is about an hour and also covers haunted pubs, Crossbones Graveyard, Austin Osman Spare, the legend of Mary Overy and an occult duel with an undead baker.

The Peckham Ghost Trail 
31 October 3pm-5pm

Meet your bowler-hatted guide at Honor Oak Park Station at 3pm, this Halloween walk ends at Nunhead Green at approximately 5pm.

Follow in the footsteps of the Peckham Ghost, a mysterious masked figure intent on terrifying Victorian south London in strange and unusual ways. On the way from Honor Oak hear of the ghosts and legends of Peckham, One Tree Hill, Nunhead Green reservoirs and the undead bank clerk of Nunhead Cemetery.

This walk is just under 2 hours long with regular breaks, some steep climbs and some stony ground.

Over the river SELFS are also doing walks around Green Park and Westminster on 28 October and Smithfield on 29 October.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Alice in Lewisham

Over the Halloween weekend, Teatro Vivo ('the company who brought you Supermarket Shakespeare') present Adventures in Wonderland at Manor House Library, Old Road, Lewisham SE13:

'a curious and interactive, promenade journey inspired by Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass. Staged in a Grade II listed Manor House, Wonderland will come to life. But banish those Disney images; this is the dark, dangerous and anarchic Wonderland of Carroll’s imagination.This is a site specific sensory spectacle for adults and young people where you can follow the strange characters and backwards riddles to discover scenes, installations and games relating to Alice’s adventure'.

Thursday 28th October - Sunday 31st October, Tickets: £10/£5. Concessions via website:

Saturday, October 09, 2010

New Bookshop in Bermondsey

There can never be too many bookshops and libraries in the world, so welcome to Woolfson & Tay, the new bookshop/cafe/gallery in Bermondsey Square SE1. They've got lots of events planned, including a monthly open mic poetry session. Extra points for having a Walter Benjamin book in the window.

Friday, October 08, 2010

A.L. Lloyd, Crooms Hill Balladeer

Further to the recent post on South East London folk music connections, a Transpontinian has been in touch to confirm that the great folk singer/collector/writer A.L. ('Bert') Lloyd lived and worked at 16 Croom's Hill in Greenwich from 1948 until his death in 1982. Not sure how involved Lloyd was in specifically SE London music making, but at one point he was involved in music sessions at the Richard I on Royal Hill - a pub that still sometimes resounds to folk music courtesy of occasional visits by Blackheath Morris and the Fowlers Troop.

The full story of Lloyd's life is the subject of a forthcoming biography written by Dave Arthur, but suffice it to say it includes sheep farming in Australia, the Communist Party, a key role in the 1950s folk revival, and collaborations with everyone from Ralph Vaughan Williams to Fairport Convention.

For a couple of years in the 1950s, the Lloyds had a lodger - the young Peggy Seeger.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Chartists Rising

Did you know there's a new theatre in New Cross? Hot Tap Theatre is at 20-32 Goodwood Road, SE14 and on 14th October Hayley-D Theatre will be presenting a production of Chartists Rising, a play by Sam Dowling about the life of William Cuffay, the son of a former slave who became a prominent activist in the Chartist movement.

Tickets are £10 (£7.50 concessions), available from Zeata Tickets (0844 7404305).

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Kidbrooke and the birth of comprehensive schools

Great to see a new blog, Kidbrooke Kite, giving due coverage to that corner of South East London.

As a little welcome present, here's a very topical tale. In 1953, London County Council announced that a new school in Kidbrooke would be London's first comprehensive school:

'Mr J. Brown, education officer of the London County Council, said tonight that the council felt that as people had to live and work together in a community there was no reason why they should not be brought up in a school community. He was addressing a meeting of parents at Eltham, S.E., at which he explained the council's proposal to merge six south-east London schools, including Eltham Hill girls' grammar school, into Kidbrooke Comprehensive School, for 2,000 people.

The new school, which would be the first of its kind in London, would be completed in 18 months time. The staff would be drawn from the existing schools and would number 100. Mr Brown admitted that the principal would not know her pupils as intimately as did head mistresses of smaller schools, but each teacher would be expected to get to know 30 girls well and to follow their scholastic careers closely. The comprehensive school would cost £75,000. Every consideration would be given to meetings girls' educational requirements for whatever occupation they wished to take up' (Times, 3 March 1953).

The following year, the Conservative Minster of Education over-ruled the LCC, agreeing for Kidbrooke to go ahead but stopping the closure of Eltham Hill grammar school(March 3 1954). This was a very contentious issue - there had been a petition against the closure of Eltham, but other schools felt that allowing Eltham to opt out threatened the viability of the new school: 'The staff and head mistress of Charlton Secondary School for Girls yesterday sent a telegram to the Minster of Education stating that they deplored her decision to "interfere" with the plans of the LCC to set up a comprehensive at Kidbrooke and protested at the exclusion of Eltham Hill Secondary School from the scheme' (March 4 1954).

The matter was discussed in Parliament, with Herbert Morrison (Labour MP for Lewisham South) accusing the Minister of party political bias, asking 'Did she or did she not encourage the London Conservative Party organization to involve themselves in this matter and give them some impression that she would support their efforts to oppose it?' (Times, 14 May 1954).

The Bus Strike

The school did open in September 1954, but transport arrangements for it prompted a bus workers' strike. Drivers at the New cross garage walk out against the introduction of a new schedule for the route 70 bus, brought in by London Transport 'to cope with additional traffic caused by children going to the new comprehensive school at Kidbrooke' (Times, 15 Sept 1954).

The strike affected buses across South East London: ''Six hundred drivers and conductors at the New Cross garage of London Transport, who began an unofficial strike on Wednesday, voted last night to continue the stoppage which now affects nine routes.' The Transport and General Workers Union called 'a delegate conference of busmen from every London garage' to discuss the dispute (17 Sept 1954).

After three days on strike, the bus workers decided in a meeting in Deptford to return to work - management agreed to 're-examine the complaints of the bus crews' (Times 18 September 1954).

By 1959, when a delegation of Japanese women trade unionists visited the UK, Kidbrooke Comprehensive School was sufficiently established to be included in their 'tour of British institutions' (Times, January 16 1959).

The history of post-Second World War education could be written through the lens of Kidbrooke school. Its early years show that the comprehensive experiment was undermined from the start in areas like South East London where grammar schools were allowed to continue to exist on the outer edges. Furthermore the actual implementation of comprehensive schools embodied two potentially contradictory impulses - on the one hand a socialist desire for a classless quality education, on the other hand an economic imperative to create larger institutions so that the new system did not extend the level of resources, staffing and support offered by the older grammar schools to the masses, but instead created huge, impersonal education factories.

As Michael Gove and co. set about trying to dismantle comprehensive education the question is not whether it has 'failed', but whether it has really ever been tried.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

London Particular

Finally made it down to The London Particular, the newish cafe at 399 New Cross Road (it's in the same block as the Walpole, across the road from the Amersham Arms). Great coffee and I also had a bowl of soba noodles, freshly cooked from scratch with aubergine, courgettes etc. Will definitely be going back.

Monday, October 04, 2010

In Kharms Way

Next Friday at the Arthouse in New Cross there's a rare chance to see In Kharms Way, a performance of Danil Kharms texts by Ted Milton (of sometime Factory band Blurt) & Sam Britton:

'"In Kharms Way" is Ted Milton's and Sam Britton's co-operation around Russian absurdist writer Daniil Kharms, in whom Ted found something like a forefather for his own literary style. The works of Daniil Kharms (1905-1942, Russia) bring to the front of our collective consciousness a final, desperate image of the human condition. 'In Kharms Way' presents a snapshot of this reality, animated and shot into the present via the eager, intense vocalisation, saxophone playing and puppetry of Ted Milton and Sam Britton's deconstructed, rewired laptop computer. The piece was first presented in 2OO1 at the Rotozaza Connexions Festival in Paris and the performance developed over the next year, even with Ted slipping back in his role as puppeteer since 15 years. An acompanying book has been published, in the style of the Pagan Strings series. "In Kharms Way" was taken on tour in 2002 and 2003 across Europe'.

Here's a clip of an earlier performance:

Support is from Rabbit, featuring Tom Scott ( Saxes & Electronics) & David Aylward (Drums & Percussion) - David has recently been touring as drummer for Blurt.

Friday 8th October 8 pm at the Arthouse, 140 Lewisham Way £5 [£4 concs].

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Black History Month in Lewisham

Some interesting events in Lewisham for Black History Month (October). There's a black history walk through New Cross and Deptford with S.I. Martin on Saturday 23 October, 11 am (£5, book tickets through New Cross Library).

At Downham Library next Thursday 7 October there's 'Soundtracks to South London life' (7.00-8.30 pm): 'Patrick Vernon of Every Generation Media and lecturer and DJ Dr Lez Henry, author of What The Deejay Said identify the music, clubs, festivals and threads which counted in South London from the 70s through to the 90s'. Sounds good - check out this short film about South London reggae sound systems featuring Dr William Henry aka Lezlee Lyrix.

Saturday, October 02, 2010

New Cross Seasonal Customs

Yes, the ancient seasonal customs are being celebrated in New Cross in the great folklore emporium that is Sainsburys. Get ready for Halloween...

... or if you want to plan ahead, come along and meet Santa:

(pictures taken today)

Friday, October 01, 2010

Another Deptford Pub lost to Bookies?

Felt sad and resigned in Deptford High Street at the weekend to see the former Deptford Arms now fully up and running as a Paddy Power bookies. If that wasn't bad enough I was sickened to read at Deptford Dame that yet another pub looks set to go the same way. The John Evelyn in Evelyn Street closed 'temporarily' a couple of weeks ago and is now displaying notice of an application for a gambling licence for... Paddy Power.

I've got nothing against gambling on principle, but when a whole area is dominated by betting shops and there is hardly anywhere left to sit, drink and chat, something is seriously wrong

Amidst all the rhetoric about the Big Society the reality in poorer areas is that financial crisis + austerity = social decay, intensified poverty and a golden age for loan sharks, pawnbrokers, addiction and desparate gambling in the search for a miracle way out. Never mind 'casino capitalism', how about 'bookie barbarism'? I've lived through the 1980s once already thanks.