Monday, January 31, 2011

Glenn Tilbrook - free gigs in Charlton

Glenn Tilbrook, songwriter with South London legends Squeeze, is playing a series of free gigs on the next four Tuesday nights at the Anchor and Hope in Charlton (on the riverside at Anchor and Hope Lane, SE7)

Support on the first night tomorrow (February 1st) is Ceri James with Andy D.

A 'Black Fellow' in Deptford, 1839

In 1839 an official commission was 'appointed to inquire as to the best means of establishing an efficient constabulary force in the counties of England and Wales'. Their report makes interesting reading now, as it makes fairly explicit that in creating the police force a primary consideration was to be able to tackle popular protests - matters they considered included the 'effects of the use of violence to maintain wages', 'effects of the use of violent and illegal disturbance of the investment of capital' and 'disorganisation of the civil force for action in case of riotous disturbances'.

Another social 'evil' they considered needed tackling was 'vagrancy' and they took evidence on beggars, trampers, hawkers, 'travelling jews' and other itinerants. The following account mentions one such person who was apparently well known in Deptford:

'Beggars tramp about from town to town: there is a low lodging-house for travellers in every village: they tell that they are travelling to find workd, but pray to God they may never get it. They all go out 'to walk' in the mornings, and return at night to their lodging houses, where they lives wll, and spend the day's produce in drinking. They are merry fellows, money or no money, and laugh at the people for 'flats' They tell each other what houses are 'good' and arrange their districts so as not to interfere with each other. Every tramper is accompanied by his fancy girl or wife. A black fellow, who is well known about Deptford, and goes about the streets singing and dancing, takes his country journey with two women, and makes plenty of money to pay all their expenses'.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Holocaust Remembered in Bermondsey and Lewisham

Bermondsey bookshop Woolfson and Tay is hosting Living Imprint's Surviving History, an excellent exhibition on the Holocaust in Vilnius, Lithuania. It features a series of panels dedicated to survivors of a period in which ninety-five percent of the 240,000-strong pre-war Jewish population of Lithuania was annihilated, with text, photographs, and 'memory boxes' put together by artists.

The exhibition also features a series of Susan Weinberg's paintings inspired by a visit to Lithuania. I Was Here (below) was prompted by graffiti on the cell walls at the Ninth Fort located outside of Kaunas, Lithuania - a place where 50,000 Jews were murdered.

The exhibition is on until February 20th in the bookshop/gallery/cafe in Bermondsey Square, SE1

On Holocaust Memorial Day last week (27 January), Rabbi Dr Amit of Catford and Bromley Synagogue lit a candle in Lewisham Council Chamber in Catford to remember all those who lost their live in the Holocaust and other genocides.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Nigel of Bermondsey at Old Nun's Head

South London singer songwriter Nigel of Bermondsey is now hosting a FREE monthly night of music at the Old Nun's Head on the last Friday of the month. Tonight (28th January) there's this:

'On this month's bill, I have three wonderful acts for your delight and wonderment. From Norwood we have Paul Garside, kitchen sink troubadour extraordinaire. From Switzerland via Covent Garden and Walworth we have the amazing Karla, space indie meets Laurie Anderson with a healthy dose of electronica. And finally we have the truly unmissable John Constable aka John Crow singing shape shifting songs of the wild and the urban. He is 'like Shakespeare on acid' (Time Out)'

No doubt Nigel (who used to be in Britpop band Gay Dad incidentally) will also be singing some of his fine songs too. Here he is with Them Cross Bones, a song inspired by the old burial ground in Redcross Way, Southwark:

8:30 to 11:30 at the Old Nun’s Head, 15 Nunhead Green, London, SE15 3QQ. See you down there?

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Diversity at Chelwood - a cuts non-story

By devolving responsibility for making cuts to local Councils, the ConDem government is clearly hoping that people will get stuck into local arguments while they wash their hands and say 'well we didn't tell them to close libraries/nurseries/old people's clubs' (no they just pulled millions of pounds from local authorities in some of the poorest parts of the country). While it is inevitable that the current stage of anti-cuts protests are focusing on local council meetings where decisions are being made on cuts, it is important not to be confined to standing outside Town Halls. The anti-cuts movement needs to take it to a national level, in the same way that the local Town Hall anti-poll tax protests twenty years ago were followed by the huge anti-poll tax demonstration in central London in March 1990. With enough pressure even this Government could be forced to revise its funding allocations for future years - indeed they are already signalling that they might modify the proposed rise on fuel duty in the March budget.

The biggest dead end for anti-cuts campaigners locally is to get into the don't cut this/cut that instead mode, rather than challenging the national austerity measures themselves. Fair enough to scrutinise Councils wasting money on vanity projects, but get real - tens of millions of pounds withdrawn by the government aren't going to be saved by stopping printing a few leaflets or cancelling a Christmas party (not that most public sector workers ever get a free lunch from anyone - unlike many bankers). Cuts on this scale cannot be implemented without job losses and services closing down, and indeed that is exactly what the Government wants to happen.


A classic example of a misplaced response to cuts was a brief Twitter flurry last week - London Historians tweeted 'While libraries are axed, Lewisham Council advertising for an "Early Years Diversity Manager". #madness'. The source of this seemed to be a tweet from right wing blogger Old Holborn which said: '£45,000 a year for an "early years diversity manager" at ONE single school in Lewisham. MAKE IT STOP'. The subtext is pretty clear - Daily Mail-style outrage 'oh my god they're wasting money on politically correct brainwashing of our kids' (enter Melanie Phillips stage right).

So what is the truth of this story? Lewisham Council's website was indeed advertising for a Diversity and Inclusion Manager (incl. SENCO) at Chelwood Nursery School in Brockley - I have to declare an interest, my daughter went there and it is one of the best places for young children in South London.

The post being advertised was a senior teacher post, not a random consultant. All schools are legally required to have a Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator to make sure they cater for the complex needs of children with SEN and disabilities. They are also rightly required to make sure that children from different backgrounds all flourish in schools and don't get left behind because, for instance, their parents don't have English as their first language. It is entirely routine for schools to have one of their teachers combine the SENCO role with leading on some of these broader inclusion responsibilities, and in a school like Chelwood this is a key role. According to Chelwood's last Ofsted inspection - which incidentally judged it to be outstanding - 'Children come from eighteen cultures and a variety of ethnic backgrounds, and eleven languages are represented. About a third of children have learning difficulties and/or disabilities, and the largest group of these have speech and communication difficulties'. Providing specialist teacher support for these children is exactly what Council funding should be used for - but clearly the mention of the word 'diversity' is enough to prompt the Pavlovian call to cut this very important job.

New Cross Greyhounds

The New Cross Stadium has been mentioned here before - it occupied the piece of land now called Bridgehouse Meadows, and was next door to the old Millwall ground (and not far from the new one). It opened in the 1900s and closed in 1969 before being demolished in 1975. The picture below, from Millwall History, shows the two grounds in 1962 - Den on the left, New Cross Stadium on the right.

As well as speedway and stock car racing, the stadium was famous for its greyhound racing. There's a fantastic collection of New Cross greyhound badges at Greyhound Derby (have just reproduced a couple here to give a flavour).

The following picture comes from the Working Class Movement Library, and shows Manchester-born boxer Len Johnson at New Cross Greyhound Stadium in 1933. Johnson's boxing career was hampered by restrictions which prevented black boxers having a crack at title fights. He later got to know Paul Robeson and became a Communist Party activist. There were boxing matches at New Cross Stadium too, which presumably explains what Johnson was doing there - he is standing next to a sign which mentions Ted Broadribb vs. Joe Clifton, two interwar boxers.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Peckham & Walworth Videos

South London is the preferred location for video directors looking for a touch of urban realism. Here's a couple of examples I've come across recently:

The Arctic Monkeys' View from the Afternoon was filmed on the Ledbury Estate in Peckham:

Live with Me by Massive Attack (featuring the vocals of Terry Callier) was filmed on the Walworth Road and Brandon Estate.

Note that both feature some fine South London foxes!

Monday, January 24, 2011

SE London Anti-Cuts Diary

Various anti-cuts stuff coming up in next few weeks locally, including:

Southwark Save Our Services (against Council budget cuts) Tuesday 25th January, assemble 3 pm at Southwark Town Hall, Peckham Road SE15. The protest will then continue throughout the Council meeting which starts at 4 pm.

Wednesday 26th January: in support of the day of action against cuts to Further Education and scrapping of Education Maintenance Allowance, there will be a protest in New Cross, 12-3pm - meet outside Goldsmiths Library - BRING POTS AND PANS!!

Saturday 29th January: Students from South Bank University are organising a morning protest on before going up to central London for the national demonstration against fees and cuts. Everyone is welcome to join them at the LSBU students' union, Thomas Doyle St, SE1, for breakfast between 10-11:30 am to join the wider march about 12pm.

Lambeth Save Our Services: demonstration against Council cuts planned at Lambeth Town Hall on February 7th.

Greenwich Save Our Services: demonstration against Council cuts called for 12th Feburary 2011, assemble 11.30 outside Riverside House, Creton Street, Woolwich SE18.

Lewisham Carnvial Against Cuts, 19th February, meet 1 pm at Lewisham Town Hall (Catford) to march to Lewisham Library.

Transpontine on Resonance FM

I had the privilege recently of being featured on the excellent Lost Steps programme on Resonance FM. The programme, presented by Malcolm Hopkins, explores 'aspects of London's artistic and cultural landscape. Our guests are generally artists, writers, film makers, bloggers, academics, publishers etc'. I went down to the Resonance FM studio in Borough High Street a few weeks ago and the programme was broadcast this week. Have a listen:

Neil Transpontine, Lost Steps, Resonance FM, January 2011:

The conversation covers the Transpontine theatre, the New Cross Scene, the history of the New Cross Road, Geoffrey Chaucer, Deptford Broadway as the local speakers corner for suffragettes and Chartists, the 1890s anarchist bombs in New Cross and Lewisham, the 1977 anti-National Front demonstration, the 1981 New Cross Fire and sound system culture. Forgot the date of the Cornish revolt which ended on Deptford Bridge: it was 1497.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Tidemill says no

Deptford Says No to Tidemill Academy reports that governors at Tidemill Primary School have withdrawn their application to the Department for Education to become one of the Government's new primary academy schools.

The move follows an extensive campaign against the proposals by Deptford Says No! They have demonstrated outside the school, supported a legal challenge by a Tidemill parent and their posters are everywhere to be seen in the area. They also made a video which doubles up as an excellent documentation of the community around Deptford High Street today:

The decision by the Governors to withdraw the application seems to have been prompted by a reconsideration of the financial benefits to the school. Academies will receive their funding directly from the Government rather than via the local Council, and their budgets will increase. But they will then have to pay themselves for all the services that the Local Authority provides. So it's a moot point how much better off they would end up - never mind the fact that any increase in funding to academies would be at the expense of other schools (since the overall budget is not growing, an increase to academies could only reduce the budget share for the rest).

The Tidemill controversy has highlighted one of the many contradictions of government policy - the rhetoric is all about localism and the community owning its schools but in reality a handful of governors can vote through a drastic proposal whatever the community actually wants. Schools who expressed an interest last summer in becoming academies were put under enormous government pressure to apply as quickly as possible, with constant phonecalls from DfE officials. In the case of Tidemill the proposal was rushed through with meaningful consultation seemingly an after thought.
We don't have to attribute bad faith to those governors and staff who supported the bid. With an uncertain future for education funding, some schools are making the leap of faith that becoming an academy will give them more security. Some schools may benefit in the short term from this, others will fail, but the real issue is the broader picture. Apart from the negative impact on other local schools, academies are also paving the way for a break up of the comprehensive education system. The Government's aim is clearly for education to become a market in which individual schools compete with each other as businesses, with an increasing role for the private sector.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Desmond Dekker in Lewisham

Ska legend Desmond Dekker was born in Jamaica in 1941, but settled in South East London in the late 1960s, when his song The Israelites became the first reggae track to top the UK charts (in 1969).

According to Mel Wright:

'Settling in Lewisham, he lived in Leyland Road, Lee area. People noticed his dapper appearance strolling around Lewisham Market, leather pants and big rings on his gloved hands. He also played at The Albany in Deptford... Desmond Dekker continued to live at Devonshire Road, Forest Hill during Eighties and Nineties, still cutting a stylish local figure, wearing trousers cut high up the leg before they became fashionable. He cared about people in the area. In 2001 a local fan, Leroy Auguste was seriously ill in Lewisham Hospital after suffering a brain hemorrhage he was unable to speak. After being approached by the family Desmond called in on him and sang The Israelites by his bedside. It helped him to recover. Finally, moving to Thornton Heath, Desmond died unexpectedly of a heart attack at his home on 25th May 2006'.

After a string of 1960s hits, interest in Dekker was reignited by the 2-Tone scene - in June 1980 he played with Madness and The Go Gos (who included Belinda Carlisle) at Lewisham Odeon. Later, in 1994, he played at Lewisham People's Day.
Here he is playing with some other SE London musicians (Jools Hollland and band) in 2004, not long before he died.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

'Sinn Feiners' in New Cross, 1921

In June 1921 the Irish War of Independence was at its height. In May 1921 Sinn Fein, the party promoting Irish independence, won 124 of the 129 seats in the Irish parliamentary elections. The parliament was dissolved and the British government ruled Ireland directly as a colony. There were violent clashes between the Irish Republican Army and the British forces, including the notorious Black and Tans. It was in this context that sabotage of the railways was attempted in London, including a taxi hijack drama across SE London - I assume the car hired in New Cross and then hijacked in Lee was the same one that ended up in the shoot-out in Bromley. A month later a ceasefire was agreed in Ireland paving the way for most of the country to become a sovereign nation.

'OUTRAGES NEAR LONDON (Ashburton Guardian, 20 June 1921)

Sinn Feiners last night attempted to set fire to a number of railway signal boxes around London. The most serious outrage was at Clapton, where the assailants fired revolvers and wounded the signalman, who managed to telephone for assistance. He reached the next box, where he was medically attended. The criminals at Southall poured oil on the instruments and the woodwork, after binding and partially gagging the signalman, who was just able to shout for help. Workmen from the locomotive works nearby arrived just in time to prevent the fire. A similar attack was made at Barnes, where the fire was extinguished before much damage was done. A party of gunmen hired a taxicab at New Cross at midnight and told the driver to proceed to Lee. When approaching Lee the men jumped out of the taxi and surrounded the driver. They bound him and threw him on the roadside, and then disappeared with the car.

Nine arrests have been made. Scotland Yard reports that the signal-box outrages are the work of Sinn Feiners. The men arrested are all Irishmen, aged from seventeen to twenty-four years. They were armed with revolvers and carried wire-cutters and paraffin. At Bromley (Kent), the police stopped a taxi-cab from which six armed men fired. The police returned the tire, wounding a man named Robinson, who was recently acquitted on a charge of incendiarism. He, with three others, has been charged with firing at the police. with intent to murder.

Further attempts were made to damage the London railways last night, sleepers on the Brighton line at Battersea were set on fire, but the flames were extinguished before serious damage was done.

Further attempts were made to damage the London railways last night, bleepers on the Brighton line at Battersea were set on tire, but the flames were extinguished before serious damage was done'.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Undercover in East Dulwich

The latest undercover police officer exposed for infiltrating activist movements was seemingly prepared to go to the lengths of living in East Dulwich as part of his deep entry into Reclaim the Streets. Oh and eventually marrying and having kids with one of the people he met during his time organising streets parties and carnivals against capital.

According to the Guardian tonight, 'By February 2000, Laura says, the pair moved into a flat in East Dulwich, which they adorned with Celtic and African patterned throws'. Her suspicions were only briefly aroused by the meticulous way he cleaned his walking boots!

I recognise Jim Sutton (or to give him his real name Jim Boyling) from my time in those circles, perhaps thanks to him there's a record somewhere in the secret files of my meticulous planning of the children's play area on the 1998 Brixton Reclaim the Streets party. No doubt that's why he was commended for 'outstanding devotion' to combating 'serious crime'. Wonder whether he spotted that the (now closed) cafe in Grace & Favour in North Cross Road (SE22) donated a batch of pastries to the party, as a result of which anybody who has bought a scented candle in there since is on a database of the dangerous? Maybe he was deployed to East Dulwich as a result, to keep a close eye on subversive currents among the emerging movement of mumsnetters and coffee enthusiasts.

People involved in activist scenes shouldn't get too paranoid about this. Of course they should always assume they're under surveillance but in the mean time those infiltrating have to work very hard to maintain their cover - looks like half the people driving vans and transporting radicals round the country were spooks, a service kindly funded by the secret state. Thanks guys!

Jim Sutton/Boyling - see Guardian article

In his 1926 study of police agent provocateurs in the Russia, Victor Serge noted that thousands of police agents didn't stop the overthrow of the Tsar. His advice to 'revolutionaries' would equally apply to 'activists' today: 'Be on your guard against conspiracy mania, against posing, adopting airs of mystery, dramatising simple events, or “conspiratorial” attitudes. The greatest virtue in a revolutionary is simplicity, and scorn for all poses ... including “revolutionary” and especially conspiratorial poses'.

Mick McManus

Growing up in the 1970s, Saturday afternoons were often spent watching wrestling on TV. The sport was massive, populated by larger than life characters with outlandish costumes. Mick McManus's nicknames were "The Man You Love to Hate" and the "Rugged South London Tough Guy", a diminutive London Irish fighter (he was five feet six) not averse to bending the rules.

Although TV wrestling became increasingly theatrical (everyone knew it was fixed - but who cared it as long as it was entertaining), McManus had been a serious fighter, winning his first British championship in 1948.

McManus was born Michael Matthews on 11 January 1928 in New Cross. According to a discussion at Downham Online, he was a member of the New Cross Tramways Swimming Club and was trained at the John Ruskin Amateur Wrestling Club - not sure where that was, but guessing Camberwell.

Evidently he also liked to sing country and western in his spare time - in that Downham Online discussion, somebody recalls hearing him sing in a pub 'next to and underneath Lewisham Odeon in the 70s'.

There is also New Cross folklore that at some point in the 60s or 70s he ran the Goldsmiths Tavern/New Cross House . Anybody know any more about this or have any tales of his SE London connections?
Here's a classic from 1976, Mick McManus vs. Kung Fu - note that on screen he listed as 'Mick McManus, New Cross'.

Update: 22 May 2013: Mick McManus died today, aged 93. Several obituaries recall that he was also known as 'the Dulwich Destroyer', not a very credible name for a hard man really.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Anti-Cuts Latest

After a break over Christmas, things are hotting up again in the movement against cuts.

Lewisham Anti Cuts Alliance

Lewisham Anti Cuts Alliance were out in the town centre on 15th January protesting at the threatened closure of the Opening Doors employment advice agency. They have a planning meeting tonight (Tuesday 18th), 7 pm upstairs in the Amersham Arms, SE14. There's also a plan for a Lewisham Carnival march against the cuts on February 19th.

Goldsmiths Fights Back

A new group at Goldsmiths is meeting this week, here's their call out:


The Government's destruction of education continues in the face of massive opposition from students. Meanwhile the management of Goldsmiths and other universities across Britain remain completely obedient to the ConDem programme and continue to ignore our demands.

Goldsmiths students and staff have already protested and occupied in opposition to the management and government’s attack on education. We intend to continue the struggle, and we are calling this meeting to bring people together to discuss the next step in the fightback at Goldsmiths.

Please come down and join us for an open discussion about the current situation. All students, academic and support staff, local anti-cuts groups, and supporters are invited to exchange ideas and work together to coordinate further action.

Everyone's ideas and input are welcome, and we hope that this meeting will help us to both regroup and expand.

Who we are:

Goldsmiths Fights Back is formed out of those involved in recent occupations and is open to anyone who wants to resist the imposition of fees and cuts at Goldsmiths and beyond.

What unites us:

We are a group that has come together in opposition to the cuts, in education and across the public sector.

Education is a right for all!

We act in solidarity with all those affected and all groups organising in resistance against these ideologically-motivated attacks on the whole of society.

What we aim to do:

Take action to oppose and resist the Government that is orchestrating these cuts, and the institutions that are attempting to impose them.

Raise engagement with the issue of the cuts and their impacts, amongst Goldsmiths students and the wider community.

Build a network with other university occupations, schools and sixth forms, workers and communities.

Imagine and demonstrate a new educational paradigm, and a society that is equitable, just and creative.

Venue details: The Stretch, Student Union, Goldsmiths College, 8 Lewisham Way, London SE14 6NW.

For more information contact:'

Arts Against Cuts

Jack Hutchinson reports on the Arts Against Cuts event in Camberwell last weekend.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Darcus Howe on the New Cross Fire

Darcus Howe gave his perspective on the 1981 New Cross Fire in an interesting article in the Guardian today. Howe was a key figure in the New Cross Massacre Action Committee, and along with Linton Kwesi Johnson was involved in the Brixton-based Race Today Collective. In the article he provides some background on how the Black People's Day of Action demonstration came about:

'It was clear by the Tuesday following the fire that Caribbeans were on the move. An "assembly of the people" was declared by a crowd of about 500. All decisions about how we responded to the police and the authorities were to be taken at this forum. On the following Sunday 2,000 people gathered at the Moonshot Youth Club, paid their respects to the dead and devoted themselves to the struggle for justice.

The assembly took evidence from all those at the party. We were able to track the police investigation and discovered very quickly that they were forcing statements out of those who attended the party without lawyers or parents present...

Out of the blue a call for a public demonstration received a standing ovation and I was voted the organiser. The following morning I headed to Liverpool, then to Preston, Bradford and Leeds to gather support. Nottingham and Birmingham followed. The day before the demonstration the Daily Mail reported that several partygoers had been arrested and that charges would follow. It was a barefaced lie'.

Darcus Howe still argues that the fire was caused by a racist firebomb attack, a view he has consistently maintained down the years. He made similar points in a 2004 New Statesman article after the second inquest failed to resolve the cause of the fire, and in 1999 article, Why I still believe the New Cross Fire was a massacre.

As reported here previously, this view is not shared by some of the survivors and victims' families. However that does not mean that it can be rejected out of hand. Since the police failed at the time and since to solve the case, all possibilities have to be considered. The response to the article in the Guardian (see comments) shows that some people have seized on the possibility that the fire wasn't started by a racist attack to undermine the legitimacy of the anger that arose in 1981. As I have suggested before, whether or not the fire was actually directly caused by racism, the official response to it was shaped by racism just as surely as the reaction of black people at the time was shaped by their experience of racist attacks and police harassment.

Interesting in his 2004 article, Darcus Howe draws comparisons with the Stephen Lawrence case where some of the detectives involved were alleged to have some dubious if not corrupt criminal connections:

'I have lived at several addresses in Sarf London. I once worked as a gardener keeping Blackheath clean and tidy, and I taught at South-East London Technical College. I dived in and out of basement parties and carefully chosen pubs, carried a knife after dark, crossed the road whenever a group of white boys was coming from the opposite direction, and avoided the police like the plague. Police and whites alike enjoyed "nigger-hunting". At the time, Sarf London had only a handful of young blacks about and racism was writ large. When I reminisced with a senior police officer 30 years later, he intimated that the area had always contained a number of brutal and corrupt officers.

Villainy, one of the hallmarks of Sarf London, tempted officers into a world of greed. Both blacks and whites were good for a kicking and a frame-up. This state of affairs went unchallenged until second-generation blacks, born in the area, matured into adulthood. Stereotypes then hardened. Black resistance was deliberately misinterpreted. We were now violent and prone to disorder. Black youth was demonised. So when the Ruddock party exploded in flames, the police at once homed in on black youngsters. A fight between them had caused the fire, they said. Yet the first policeman on the scene told Mrs Ruddock that two white men had firebombed the party. He disappeared, never to be seen or heard from since. Stephen Lawrence's stabbing was at first seen by the police as the death of a violent black youth who had got his come-uppance'.

Again, whether or not there was a racist attack on this day in New Cross 30 years ago, there is a strong case that at least some police officers either didn't take it seriously enough or jumped to wrong conclusions that led them to miss other leads.

Howe concludes his article this week by stating that 'Over Deptford a racist stench continues to pollute the air. The educational institution built in memory of Stephen Lawrence was desecrated with racist graffiti most foul. Plus ça change'. He is right that racism still exists, but I'm not sure that nothing has changed. At the Albany event last Friday people acknowledged that there are new problems, most notably the fact of young people killing each other. But the open racists round here have at least been marginalised by a mixture of migration and shifts in people's ideas- there's no way the BNP could hope to win half the votes in a Council election, as their predecessors did in Deptford at one point in the 1970s.

See also:
New Cross Fire Remembered at the Albany
New Cross Fire: the Bleakest Moment

Also at Deptford Visions, a memory of a racist conversation in 1981

Joy Orbison - Ladywell

Joy Orbison (real name Peter O'Grady), in case you don't know, is a cutting edge producer operating in that sonic world where garage, dubstep and all the other offspring of the hardcore continuum interbreed with interesting results. Intriguingly his latest release on his own Doldrums label features a track called Ladywell.

So wonder why this track seemingly references part of Lewisham? In interviews Joy/Peter is sometimes described as living in South London, but in this one he says that he lives 'not too far from Croydon

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Immigration raids in South London

Oops posted this twice in error - post is here

New Cross Fire Remembered at the Albany

The Albany was packed last Friday for the Remembering the New Cross Fire 30 Years On event. It was a moving and uplifting night, which began with a short audio-visual presentation on the fire and its aftermath, soundtracked by extracts from Linton Kwesi Johnson's New Craas Massahkah poem:

This was followed by a very evocative film made at the time, Blood Ah Go Run. It started out with the funeral of brother and sister Yvonne and Paul Ruddock, who lived in the house where the fire took place (looked like the service was at St Paul's Deptford). The film then documents the Black People's Day of Action of March 1981, showing the demonstration heading from Fordham Park, past New Cross Gate station, down Queens Road to Peckham, up Walworth Road and on to Blackfriars Bridge via Elephant and Castle, before heading on to Fleet Street and central London (it ended up in Hyde Park).

Next up was a panel discussion facilitated by Kwame Kwei-Armah with three key people involved in the movement that emerged in the aftermath of the fire. Menelik Shabazz made the film Blood Ah Go Run, and was involved in the New Cross Massacre Action Committee as the representative of the Black Liberation Front. He has gone on as a film-maker to make films including Burning an Illusion and The Story of Lovers Rock (not fully released yet, but have seen an early version of it and it's great), and is involved with BFM Media. Shabazz compared the policing of the demonstration to the recent 'kettling' of student protests, recalling that the police stopped the march by Blackfriars Bridge where there was a brief confrontation before the demonstration was able to continue (the film shows people struggling to pull back people from being snatched by the police).

Professor Gus John described his work with the Black Parents Movement in mobilising support for the New Cross Fire demonstration in Manchester and across the north of England. He also recited Martin Carter's poem Death of a Comrade with its closing lines 'Dear Comrade, if it must be, you speak no more with me, nor smile no more with me, then let me take, a patience with a calm, for even now the greener leaf explodes, sun brightens stone, and all the river burns. Now from the mourning vanguard moving on, dear Comrade I salute you and say, Death will not find us thinking that we die'.

Alex Pascal was the presenter of Black Londoners at the time on BBC Radio London, one of the few black voices in the mainstream media. He described how he used the programme as a platform to spread information about the New Cross Fire and to launch an appeal to raise funds for the families of the victims.

Charlie Collins (aka Sir Collins) was in the audience, and was invited to say a few words. His son Steven died in the fire, where he had gone to provide the music. Mr Collins ran the famous Four Aces club in Dalston for many years, where he planted 13 trees in memory of the fire's victims. The club has now been demolished and those trees lost, but to replace them 13 new trees are being planted in the public square next to the new Collins Tower.

After an interval there was some excellent spoken word performance and music. Courttia Newland read his poetic short story Flight of Freedom; Zena Edwards sang a Zulu prayer accompanied by kalimba (thumb piano), making beautiful music that put me in mind of Alice Coltrane. El Crisis performed an amazing piece of songful fastchat rhyme that got me wondering at the power of the unaccompanied human voice to carry melody, meaning and rhythm and hold a crowd transfixed.

The night concluded with two of the legends of Lovers Rock, Carrol Thompson and Janet Kay, performing some of their hits, including the former's I'm So Sorry and the latter's Silly Games. There was something poignant about the crowd singing along nostalgically recalling their youth, which the fire's victims never grew up to look back on. Songs like these would have been the last things those children ever heard.

So congratulations to the organisers, and a reminder too of the importance of the Albany as a crucial hub of Deptford social and cultural life for so many years. Profits from the event will go to the local Irie Dance Company, a youth project based at the Moonshot Club.

The fire remembered on Radio 4

The fire was remembered again on BBC Radio 4's Saturday Live where one of the guests was
Wayne Haines, a survivor of the fire. Wayne was DJing at the party and warned people when he saw smoke on the ground floor. But fire spread quickly up the stairs, leaving no means of escape but the upper floor windows. With railings below, jumping out was also very dangerous. Wayne himself tried to climb down a drainpipe but it broke and he fell from the top of the house on to the outside toilet. He was critically injured and spent months in hospital.

Wayne's testimony was a reminder that the New Cross Fire is not just a historical event, but part of the daily experience of those who were there down to the present. As he says:

'I got burnt from my fingertips to the tops of my shoulders. I'm lucky my face came back. I smashed my hip up, I walk with a walking stick every day of my life for the last 30 years. This never goes away, it can't go away, I have to look at myself every day in the mirror... I carry the physical scars... but it's the mental scars that the other people carry that has them in a worse state than me.

There are a lot of people who aren't getting through even now, there are 56 injured from the New X fire that nobody talks about... I have a friend now who 30 years on, who phones me... because the nightmares are back, he can't sleep..

There are 14 children most of them had great glittering careers to look forward too... you've got 56 people walking around and still living in 1981 and here we are in 2011'.

Like many of the families, Wayne no longer believes that the fire was caused by a racist attack or a petrol bomb, but the exact cause of what started the fire in the ground floor living room remains a mystery. But as Gus John remarked at the Albany, the reaction to the New Cross Fire has to be understood in the context of the time - the fire may not have been caused by racism, but there was racism in the response (and lack of response) of the police, press, and government, and who knows whether young people at the party might have ended up being framed for the killings if the investigation hadn't come under such close community scrutiny?

Two more events

A reminder that there's a memorial service at St Andrews Church, Brockley this afternoon at 3 pm with speakers including George Francis, Chair of the New Cross Fire Parents Committee.

Then on Tuesday 18 January a plaque will be unveiled at the scene of the fire, 2pm at 439 New Cross Road, London, SE14.

See also: New Cross Fire - the bleakest moment for an account of what happened

If you like Lovers Rock, check out this great mix by John Eden and Grievous Angel. John was at the Albany on Friday too.

Tea Dance in Greenwich

Is your New Year's resolution to join a gym and run up and down the hills of SE London already fading? Perhaps you need to ease into physical activity a bit more gently... how about a tea dance?

'Greenwich Dance invites you to enjoy a traditional tea dance on Saturday 22 January. The Hugh Ockendon Band will provide live music, whilst dancers take to the floor to revive the waltz, the Cha Cha Cha and the Lambeth walk amongst others. Time: 2.00- 4.30pm. Cost: £5 (£4 conc). Venue: Greenwich Dance, The Borough Hall, Royal Hill, London, SE10 8RE . For more information call 020 8293 9741'.

Friday, January 14, 2011

New Cross Fire Memorial Service

I am going to the New Cross Fire event at the Albany tonight, but there's also a memorial service on Sunday 16 January (3 pm) at St Andrews United Reform Church in Brockley. As pictured here recently, the church features a stained glass window dedicated to the fire's victims.

The church was strongly linked to the tragedy, with many of the young people who were in the fire having attended the youth club at the church.

The youth club was mentioned by Les Back in a recent interview on reggae sound systems in the 1970s and 1980s:

'Any available space would be used. There were dances on Lewisham way opposite the college in houses. Lots of dances happened at the Moonshot youth club, so many dances there. And what kind of space is that? Well actually it was a gym. Lots of dances were in the place where the basketball court was. In Brockley, places like St Andrews church. There was a very radical, open minded vicar in charge who opened the church, they had dances in the church. Lewisham way youth club, regular dances there. They weren’t night clubs, they weren’t tailor made because there weren’t any tailor made spaces in those days'

(full interview at Tropical Waste)

Telegraph Hill Festival Production 2011

The Telegraph Hill Festival Production is an annual event that takes local amateur dramatics to another level, with an all ages cast of over a hundred, along with numerous musicians and stagehands.

This year's Production is Zoe, written by New Cross-based John Lunn - award winning composer of music for films and TV shows such as Bleak House, the Turn of the Screw and Downton Abbey.

Registration takes place on Sunday 16th January St Catherine's Church, Kitto Road SE14 as follows:

- Reception, Years 1 to 6 and Adults 3-4pm
- Secondary and Young People 4-5.30pm
- Backstage, Set and Costume, Crew Admin and any other offers of help come either time.

All ages and experience welcome! Production Dates 26th and 27th March at St Catherine's.

If you fancy taking part come along and give it a go, last year for instance some Goldsmiths music students joined in and lifted the musical quality - at least compared with my singing.

Part of the cast in last year's production of Stephen Sondheim's Sweeney Todd

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Arts Against Cuts in Camberwell

In December the Arts Against Cuts long weekend at Goldsmiths in New Cross brought together arts students and anti-cuts activists and spawned lots of ideas and protests. This weekend (Saturday 15th and Sunday 16th January) there's another one at Camberwell College of Arts, Wilson Road Building (off Peckham Rd). Here's the call out:


Following on from the fantastic Long Weekend at Goldsmiths in December, the Turner Prize and National Gallery teach-ins, the Book Block and the many occupations and actions that emerged from that weekend, this Saturday 15th and Sunday 16th Arts Against Cuts are organising another weekend of action, planning, imagining, working and thinking together.

The schedule below has been drawn from the great list of proposals sent in. There will be lots of free space for anyone who wished to put forward ideas on the days, organised spontaneity.

* Saturday Creche all day
10 – 11 Breakfast (BYO)
11 – 12 Open Meeting
12 – 5 Parallel Spaces and Open Spaces Including…
* The Art of Direct Action, John Jordan talk and Workshop
* Posters and Graffitti in 1968 Atelier populaire oui, Aterlier bougeois non, talk and print making workshop, Warren Carter Jess Baines, Jo Robinson
* Radical Education Workshop with Radical Education Collective
* What shall we do with our cultural institutions? Precarious Workers Brigade
* Paid Not Played Choir & Political Music Collective music and lyric workshop
* Alter/ate Mobile Slogan Factory/ Counterproductions and CGTV
* Screen printing and Banner Making all day

10 – 11 Breakfast (BYO)
11 – 12 Open Meeting
12 – 5 Parallel Spaces and Open Spaces Including…
* Object Sabotage with Evan Calder Williams, & Mute
* Mapping and Connecting with Trade Unions
* Video Box – 1-minute videos and Communist Gallery
* Book Block workshop
* Debt and Slavery, David Graeber
* Theatre of the Dead/ Dual Power – Planning for the 29th
* Fact Sheet Workshop and Free School
* EMA working group – Planning for 18th and 19th
* International Student Discussion/ Chelsea Project

After party gig with Chicago Boys in Camberwell.

Arts Against Cuts was initiated across London Art Schools last Autumn. We want to reclaim the public, critical space that universities and art schools should be, transforming those buildings into art schools for the future, bringing together art students, artists, cultural workers and those fighting the cuts from across the UK to share in defiance against the relentless marketization of our education and our lives. We will share knowledge and skills; we will collaborate across disciplines, ages and backgrounds; we will turn our imagination and desires into tools of disobedience. We will make sure that all the knowledge, ideas,tools and projects which emerge from the event will be disseminated and put into action in streets and public spaces across the country and be shared by all those in the anti-cuts movements. The Direct Weekend will be a feast of non stop workshops and presentations, slide shows and films, how-to sessions and skill shares, and a free space for spontaneous creation of events, actions and expressions. Its not important what art is but what it does, and right now it has the potential to turn the crisis of cuts into an opportunity for change'.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

New Cross Fire: the bleakest moment

My first memory of New Cross comes from around 1981, years before I lived here. I was in the back of a car being driven by a friend's parents across London to Kent, in the days before the M25 made it possible to drive around London instead. In the traffic jam we stopped by the haunting burnt out shell of a house, which we immediately recognised from the TV coverage as the scene of the terrible New Cross Fire.

On Saturday 17th January 1981, a 16th birthday party was held at 439 New Cross Road for Yvonne Ruddock. In the early hours of the next morning, a fire broke out and 13 young black people, all between the ages of 15 and 20 years old, were killed. Yvonne Ruddock was among the dead. One survivor killed himself a couple of years later, so the death toll is often given as 14.

There's an excellent BBC Windrush Years documentary about the fire, first broadcast in 1998, which you may be able to find online. It describes the New Cross Fire as ‘the bleakest moment in a decade of alienation and bitterness', and includes interviews with people who were at the party. Sometimes the actual event gets lost behind its political and cultural significance - we must never underestimate the horror of the night, with the terrible injuries, physical and mental, suffered by the survivors, and the dreadful scenes that greeted emergency services and others when they arrived at the house. Harry Powell, a witness, recalled: ‘I lived on Alpha Road... as I turned the corner I realized there was kids ... jumping out of the window, fire was blazing, screaming’.

Shocking too was the racist response to the fire, with abusive letters sent to victims’ families. In this climate, it is not surprising that many believed that that the fire was the result a racist attack and the police initially suggested that it may have been caused by a firebomb – a theory they later rejected in favour of claiming that the fire had been started following an argument in the party.

Local black people recalled that there had been other racist arson attacks in the area. In November 1977 a newspaper reported that a National Front meeting had included talk of burning down the Moonshot, a New Cross youth club popular with young black people. On December 18th, it was indeed gutted in a firebomb attack and had to be rebuilt.

The Albany in Deptford was a centre of local anti-racist activity, including ‘Rock Against Racism’ gigs, a three day ‘All Together Now’ festival, a benefit to scrap the suss laws and a successful anti racist show called ‘Restless natives’. On the 14th July 1978 the Albany (then at 47 Creek Road) was gutted by fire. The next day a note was pushed through the door of the building saying ‘GOT YOU’.

Back in January 1971, in nearby Ladywell, three petrol bombs had been thrown into an African-Caribbean party in Sunderland Road, seriously injuring several people. Two white racists were later jailed for the attack, and as with the New Cross Fire ten years later, the police were accused of inaction. In fact in the following week, the police arrested eight members of the Black Unity and Freedom Party in a fracas on their way home from visiting the fire’s victims at Lewisham hospital. A march by 150 black people and supporters to Ladywell police station a few weeks after the fire saw further arrests.

Throughout the 1970s there had a significant far right presence in south East London. In 1976, the National Front and the National Party achieved a combined vote of 44.5% in a Deptford council by-election. And on 13 August 1977, a National Front March to Lewisham started in New Cross, in Achilles Street by Fordham Park. The clashes between the NF, anti-fascists and the police on that day became known as the Battle of Lewisham.

But it wasn’t just the possible racist attack that inflamed anger. While local community activists like Sybil Phoenix rallied round to support those affected, there was little or no official support, not even the usual messages of condolence from the Queen or the prime minister. The police interrogated party goers as if they were criminals rather than victims, and the press reporting was largely unsympathetic. As Linton Kwesi Johnson recalled ‘a lot of people were angry... not just about what happened, but about the way the whole business was handled by the police and the way it was reported in the press and the media'.

On the Sunday following the fire a mass meeting was held at The Moonshot Club, attended by over 1000 people. From that meeting there was a demonstration to the scene of the fire, which blocked New Cross Road for several hours. A New Cross Massacre Action Committee was established and organised weekly mass meetings in New Cross. It also called the Black People's Day of Action on Monday 2nd March 1981.

On a wet working day, at least 15,000 (some say 20,000) marched over a period of eight hours from Fordham Park to Hyde Park with slogans including: 'Thirteen Dead and Nothing Said', 'No Police Cover-Up', 'Blood Ah Go Run If Justice No Come' – the largest single political mobilization of black people ever seen in the UK. LKJ was a steward on the march, and remembers that 'all along the march we kept on picking up more people... school children were climbing over fences to come and join the demonstration in Peckham'. Other walked out of their workplaces to join in.

The march passes Clifton Rise in New Cross

Although the march was mainly peaceful, The Sun reported it with the headline: ‘The Day the Blacks Ran Riot in London’, with other press reports featuring headlines like 'Black day at Blackfriars' and 'When the black tide met the thin blue line'. Paul Gilroy, who took part, relates that 'we were deeply disappointed that the justice in our claim and the tragedy itself was still considered to be secondary to the sensation'.

Black People's Day of Action - the New Cross Massacre Action Committee banner on the march

Thirty years later the families of those who died still have no answers. A second inquest in 2004 recorded an open verdict, and nobody has ever been charged. Many now query the racist attack hypothesis, but the sense of injustice remains. Playwright Rex Obano, who is helping to organise the memorial event at the Albany on Friday, was featured in an article in The Guardian this week. He stated: "To me, the New Cross fire, the fact that no one in authority seemed to care, forced the black community to unify, to find its voice in a way it hadn't before. This politicised people from all over the country. They marched in protest: thousands of people on a workday. I was 13 at the time and I always thought the older generation was comparatively passive. New Cross shows it wasn't like that at all. They dealt with so much. There had been other uprisings. But this was a line in the sand."

It is no coincidence that in the month following the New Cross Fire demonstration, Brixton erupted in the first of what was to be a long hot summer of riots in cities across the country.

See also: New Cross Fire remembered at the Albany and on Radio 4

(updated post, March 2016 - the original post included clips from the BBC documentary mentioned, but these have now been taken down from youtube)

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Brockley's Elton John Convicted

Brockley's own Elton John was today convicted for armed robbery. The Bexley Times reports:

'Two walkie-talkie carrying and balaclava-clad armed robbers have been found guilty of a series of robberies and firearms offences whilst driving around on a stolen bike stealing cash boxes from guards.

Elton John, 51, of Brockley Road, Brockley, and Mark Ruddock, 46, of Linden Court, Linden Grove, Peckham, were found guilty at Woolwich Crown Court on today (11) of five robberies of cash boxes in Welling, Blackheath and West Wickham.

The pair were arrested on October 9 2009, while driving round south-east London, with a loaded handgun, on a stolen motorbike, looking for cash in transit vans to rob before they were arrested in Downham. John and Ruddock were found guilty of conspiracy to commit robbery and unlawful possession of a firearm with intent to commit an indictable offence following five robberies... '

Well I'm sure the robberies were no joke for the staff at the Co-op on Shooters Hill Road (among other places), but you've got to have some sympathy for a man in prison with a name like that, even if previous highway robbers on that stretch of road fared much worse - Shooters Hill Police Station was apparently built on the site of the old gallows.

Anyway here's an appropriate song by his namesake (from the soundtrack of the lovely film Elizabethtown):

Residency at the Royal Albert

The Royal Albert is a fine pub, even if for some of us it's hard not to recall some great music nights in that place when it was the Paradise Bar. You know you go in there and there's some terrible football on the screen and you stare in to your pint and wistfully mumble about the night you saw The Long Blondes or Art Brut or even spent a whole evening at a Belle & Sebastian fan convention.

But hey it's not as if they don't have any music there now, and among other things there is a montly DJ residency by er... 'Residency' (Alex Cordiner and Richard Goff) playing house, electro, disco, indie, pop and whatever else takes their fancy. It's not so much a club, more just a night in the pub with some decent music, though you're welcome to try out a few moves. Their next session is next Friday the 14th January.

Alex Cordiner produces music under the name Lusty Zanzibar - among other things he has been working with the great singer Billy Ray Martin on The Crackdown Project - this is a cover of the Cabaret Voltaire track Crackdown:

Monday, January 10, 2011

Kent-Surrey Border, SE4

New Cross once straddled the border of Surrey and Kent, before local government reorganisation pushed the boundaries of these counties to the outer reaches beyond the London Boroughs of Bromley, Croydon, Bexley and Sutton.

On Vesta Road SE4 there's still an old county boundary marker. Walking up towards the roundabout at the top of Jerningham/Pepys Roads you are historic Kent, until you pass the post:

Walking down the road towards the railway line and Shardeloes Road you are passing from Surrey into Kent as you go past marker:

Today the top of Vesta Road also marks the border between SE14 and SE4.

(I updated this post in light of advice from Malcolm Bacchus in comments - the post tells you where you are not where you are going so if you see Surrey you are still in Surrey, and the same for Kent)

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Plough Monday Folk Dancing in Greenwich

Tomorrow (January 10th)is Plough Monday - in agricultural times the day to get back to the Plough after the festive period. As per usual the Fowlers Molly Dancers will be out and about dancing and making music in Greenwich. The pubs are as follows:

Ashburnham Arms, 25 Ashburnham Grove, Greenwich, Greater London SE10 8UH Meet from 7.30pm to dance at 8pm,

The Morden Arms, 1 Brand St, London SE10 8SP Dance at 8.45pm,

Richard the First, 52-54 Royal Hill, London SE10 8RT Dance at 9.30pm.

Here's some film of the Fowlers Molly dancers in action from December 2005, outside the John Evelyn pub in Deptford when it was still a pub:

Saturday, January 08, 2011

Those Dancing Days in New Cross

Came across this film of Swedish indie-pop band Those Dancing Days at Goldsmiths Student Union in New Cross in November 2008. Sorry I missed that gig, I love their theme song.

Friday, January 07, 2011

Miley Cyrus and her New Cross Tattoo

I have google alerts set up for New Cross and Brockley. This means that every time there is a news story for either of these, I get sent an email (try it for your pet subject if you haven't already). Of course this results in a lot of false positives - I now know far more than I ever need to know about Brockley Whins in Tyneside, and I have lost count of the number of stories I've opened which turn out to be about 'New Cross border agreements between country x and country y'. I gave up with a similar experiment for Deptford after a couple of weeks of being overwhelmed with news about Deptford, New Jersey.

Had a very disappointing one today - headline 'Miley Cyrus Debuts her New Cross Tattoo'. What? Miley got pissed on a trip to London and ended up at Fantasy Tattoo (actually just in Nunhead) or Kids Love Ink (Deptford)? We've all done it. Or maybe she's had a tattoo of the Venue, Goldsmiths College or The New Den to remember happy times in South East London?

No sorry, none of these things. She's just had a really lame tattoo of a cross on one of her fingers. Could have done a lot better if she had turned up at Fantasy or Kids Love Ink. I have a very nice love heart with wings done by 'Swedish Tommy' at the former all those years ago. Come on Miley, next time you want a tattoo come down our way and get it done properly.

Thursday, January 06, 2011

New Cross House/Goldsmiths Tavern: some historical notes

The Goldsmiths Tavern in New Cross has been acquired by Capital Pub Company, which owns another 31 pubs in London, including both The Actress and The Bishop in East Dulwich. Contracts have been exchanged with completion due next month, followed by refurbishment and reopening around Easter. With pubs closing all over the place it's a relief that there will continue to be a pub here. Capital's other pubs seem to have a good reputation with beer lovers and while there will be a strong emphasis on food my impression is that it will be at the more affordable end of 'Gastro' rather than a full on restaurant masquerading as a pub. Interestingly, according to Hollow Legs, they intend to rename it as the New Cross House (see also discussion at Brockley Central). Those who remember various Goldsmiths Tavern golden ages may baulk at this but actually the New Cross House was its original name, as you can see from the top of the current building. And rather than the pub taking its name from the area, the area actually seems to have taken the name from the pub.

According to Christopher Hibbert and Ben Weinreb's London Encyclopedia, New Cross 'takes its name from an old hostelry and coaching house bearing the sign on the Golden Cross, which was famous for centuries'. Presumably at some point this pub must have been replaced with a new building, hence 'New Cross'. The diarist John Evelyn, who lived in Deptford, wrote in 1675 that he met a friend at 'New Crosse' in his coach before travelling down through Kent and on to France.
Darriel Spurgeon states in his 'Discover Deptford and Lewisham' (1997) that the area 'is said to have taken its name from an old pub, New Cross House, 316 New Cross Road, now known as the Goldsmiths Tavern, the present building being of 1895'. Others have suggested that the New Cross Inn - opposite the New Cross House - is on the site of the original pub, but it seems that the New Cross House/Goldsmiths has the greater claim.

The New Cross House was on the border of Kent and Surrey and next to the original New Cross turnpike where travellers heading into London had to pay to continue on the road. The tollgate opened in the early 18th century and remained there until it was moved to the junction of the New Cross Road with Peckham Lane (now Queens Road) in 1813 - near the present White Hart pub.

This picture shows the tollgate in 1783 - the New Cross House sign can be seen on the left:

This image from the excellent Ideal Homes website shows the New Cross House in 1856:

Like other pubs, the New Cross House was not just a place for eating and drinking but an important centre of social life. For instance, in 1871, the London, Brighton, and South Coast Railway Servants' Benevolent Fund held its annual meeting 'at Mr Gordon's, the New Cross House, New Cross, on Wednesday evening, July 16'.

In the 1950s, the pub was associated with local gang the New Cross Boys and was smashed up in a battle with rival South London gangsters, as described in Brian McDonald's book Elephant Boys. Later things must have calmed down, because there seems to have been a folk club there in the early 1960s.

I am not sure at what point it changed name to the Goldsmiths Tavern, but when I first went there in the late 1980s (1988?) it was a gay pub. I recall dancing to Bronski Beat or something similar.

The Goldsmiths Tavern was where comedians Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer started their show ‘Vic Reeves Night Out’ in 1988 (they had first met in a Deptford bar called Winsons’, where Vic was performing his 'Variety Palladium'). Music for some of their New Cross nights was supplied by Eddi Reader and Mark Nevin, soon to have a hit record as ‘Fairground Attraction’. After Vic and Bob’s Thursday night shows became too big for the Goldsmiths, they moved to The Albany Empire and then on to TV.

Mixmaster Morris also ran a club called The Gift there.

In the 1990s the punky/squattty/alternative crowd that used to hang out in the Dewdrop Inn in New Cross gravitated to the Goldsmiths. I used to go there sometimes for techno nights, here's some notes I made in September 1997: 'From the outside it now looks like a squat, a badly painted sign reading 'GMT Lager Daleks', the front plastered with posters. There's music every night and a 2 am bar. The relevant poster read 'Dekode - Tekno Upload - Bangin' Acid Tekno Trance'. Inside anti-vivisection and anti-arms trade posters on the walls, stickers around the bar and in the toilets (Millwall Anti-Fascists, Anti-Fascist Action, Anti-Election) but even here there was some 'Princess Diana, dearly loved, sadly missed' graffiti in the gents - is there no refuge? At the back of the pub is a big room with a sound system, camouflage netting for that free party effect and the dancefloor. Beyond that is a yard outside, a South London drug den with loads of people smoking. Presumably the barbecue is to disguise the smell' (of cannabis). As well as techno/drum'n'bass nights, there were punk and ska gigs. The Inner Terrestials recorded their Escape from New Cross album there in July 1997 . It was also during this period that Gil Scott Heron played a gig in the pub, as recalled here. Local band The Cherry Reds had a song called Lager Daleks on their 2004 album Fairytale of New Cross.

Inevitably it was eventually closed down following a big police raid and re-opened in 2003 in its current incarnation, originally with an Italian restaurant upstairs. Lately there have been funky and r'n'b nights there, not sure how they have gone.

So now a new chapter is set to begin, but the story definitely isn't over...

If you have memories/photos/flyers of the Goldsmiths Tavern/New Cross House in its various incarnations let us know.

Update June 2011: see also The Goldsmiths Tavern Remembered