Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Nawal el-Saadawi in New Cross today

The Egyptian feminist and activist Nawal el-Saadawi is speaking at Goldsmiths in New Cross this afternoon at 4 pm, in a discussion with Raymond Lotta of the Revolution newspaper USA about the prospects for revolution in North Africa and the Middle East.

Saadwai, who is nearly 80 years old, was jailed by the Egyptian government in the 1980s and recently took part in the protests in Tahrir Square.

Location: NAB02, New Academic Building
Cost: Free
Department: Centre For Cultural Studies
Time: 31 May 2011, 16:00 – 18:00

All welcome, the New Academic Building is on the main Lewisham Way site, go through the old building to the grounds at the back and the NAB is the new building on the right.

Utrophia on the Move

Utrophia has been running as an arts/music space for a couple of years in the old ice cream factory at 136 Tanners Hill in Deptford, but they have to move out by the end of June as the building is due to be demolished to make way for housing.

There's a few final events next month, including a Norwegian artists' group show from 6th-18th June entitled Show Me Your Chakra! and an Alt Folk night on 18th June with This is the Kit, Rozi Plain and Mouth 4 Rusty. The moving out part is on 24th June with an 'evening of art, music, homemade food, performances, film and more to say farewell to the Ice Cream Factory'.

But all is not lost. Utrophia have moved before - they were originally at The Engine House at 49 Greenwich High Rd, and also ran the Deptford Properly cafe for a while (now the location of Deptford Deli). And they will shortly be moving again into another yet to be disclosed address.

I picked up a few books and other bits at their jumble sale last week. Deptford Market style I feel obliged to put one of them back into the public realm, at least digitally. This Jewish New Year prayer book was published in New York in 1911 and is now in pretty bad condition, with woodworm holes and a broken spine. It seemingly belonged to one M.L. Davidson of San Diego, California, who has signed the title page. Elsewhere is the hand written date 9 September 1911, perhaps the date the book was bought - Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year occurred on 22 September that year. Who knows how the book ended up in Deptford, but any descendents stumble across this, they can have it.

There's an interview with Utrophia over at Alternative SE4

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Skint Video back in Deptford

Skint Video were a popular Deptford-based duo on the London comedy/music circuit in the 1980s, featuring on the bills of numerous benefit gigs at the time of Thatcher, poll tax and the miners strike, as well as on the Red Wedge comedy tours with the likes of Lenny Henry and Ben Elton.

Steve Gribbin and Brian Mulligan met at Goldsmiths in the late 1970s, and got together as Skint Video in 1983. An earlier version of the duo with Gribbin and John Ivens had played their first gig at Woolwich Tramshed in May 1982, as Steve Gribbin recalls, 'in an evening entitled 'Utopian spacelines Comic Cabaret'. There was a saxophonist on roller skates, a nude male stand-up and a very angry performance poet... it was right in the middle of the Falklands War, we were all paranoid that they would bring back National service. I was in a double act called Skint Video... we used to act out films... someone called out 'raging Bull'... I don't remember much after that!'

Their best known musical parody was their Cops on 45 medley in 1985, featured as single of the week in NME.

Anyway this very afternoon - Sunday May 29th - they are playing a rare reunion gig at the Duke in Deptford, one of the local venues they played at back in the 1980s. They say: 'In the spirit of artists recreating classic albums live Skint Video will perform their NME single of the week Cops on 45/ Rogues (or at least as much as they can recall) at the Duke in Deptford on May 29th - a return to the scene of their triumphant 1985 gig where the beer ran out but the laughs flowed like the Creek which passes within yards. We will play some other tunes too including all of the songs from the Glee Skint Video episode which we turned down after intense negotiations as not in keeping with our image. In deference to the changed times, the show will be at 2pm and suitable for children'. Although it's free entry, there will be a collection for the UK Uncut Fortnum 145 campaign (i.e. for those arrested in Fortnum and Mason's on the March 26th demonstration).

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Zoia: Cthulhu in Southwark Street?

The current exhibition at the Menier Gallery (Southwark Street SE1), features very striking work by Ukrainian-born artist Zoia Skoropadenko. The subject matter of the Torso photographs is composed from seafood (octopus to be precise), assembled to resemble the human body.

© Zoia Skoropadenko

Not surprizingly this put me in mind of HP Lovecraft, the photographs conjuring up the nightmarish beings of the Cthulhu mythos. Perhaps Cthulhu himself with his 'awful squid-head with writhing feelers', or the strange creatues found by scientists in Lovecraft's story At The Mountains of Madness:

'Single stalks three inches diameter branch after six inches into five substalks, each of which branches after eight inches into small, tapering tentacles or tendrils, giving each stalk a total of twenty-five tentacles. At top of torso blunt, bulbous neck of lighter gray, with gill-like suggestions, holds yellowish five-pointed starfish-shaped apparent head covered with three-inch wiry cilia of various prismatic colors. Head thick and puffy, about two feet point to point, with three-inch flexible yellowish tubes projecting from each point. Slit in exact center of top probably breathing aperture. At end of each tube is spherical expansion where yellowish membrane rolls back on handling to reveal glassy, red-irised globe, evidently an eye'.

(I believe today is the last day of the exhibition)

Friday, May 27, 2011

Last minute plan for New Cross Library?

Along with other Lewisham libraries scheduled for closure, New Cross library will be closing tomorrow. Unlike the others, Lewisham Council has not yet put in place a plan for another organisation to take it over.

I still haven't heard a convincing reason why this is the case - Eco Computer Systems put in a bid to run New Cross as well as Crofton Park, Sydenham and Grove Park libraries, and was considered fit to run the other three. The transfer of libraries in this way falls a long way short of a properly funded and staffed library service, but at least it keeps some kind of semi-public space going.

It's true that Deptford library isn't far away for the fit and mobile, but it's not in easy walking distance of New Cross for some older people, parents with young children or school parties. And Deptford library is a long way from the west end of New Cross, where let us not forget Lewisham were promising a new library on Briant Street - presumably that site will remain derelict for the foreseeable future, now that the housing that was there before has been demolished.

But there may be another plan (or two) for New Cross Library on the horizon. Seemingly last night there was a meeting at the Hill Station in Kitto Road of a New Cross People’s Library Steering Committee to try and put together a last minute bid to run the library. Anyone want to update us on what happened?

Update: this initiative seems to have grown out of the Save New Cross Library campaign. It seems to have the support of Telegraph Hill Labour Councillors among others.

Cinema event at Cuming Museum

I enjoyed the Museums at Night event at Southwark's Cuming Museum this month (13th May). It was loosely themed around the cinema, starting out with Chris Roberts giving a quick overview of teddy boy riots at the Coronet Cinema and other tales of Elephant and Castle 'juvenile delinquents' including the Elephant and Castle mob and the Forty Elephants female shoplifting gang. The Lava Link in Camberwell was also mentioned, one of the country's first roller skating rinks in the late 19th century - with a floor supposedly made from volcanic lava from Vesuvius.

Martin Humphries talked about the Cinema Museum, based appropriately enough in a former workhouse building in Lambeth where Charlie Chaplin once stayed (2 Dugard Way, SE11). The place is a cornucopia of cinematic artefacts - posters, furniture, fittings, even some very natty usherette uniforms which the Cuming staff modelled on the night. I must check out the Cinema Museum sometime, their exhibits includes some stuff from the Gaumont Cinema in Lewisham. They actually have a couple of talks coming up on June 11th going into the history of the Trocadero and other Elephant and Castle cinema buildings in more depth.

Andrew Pavord from Southwark’s film office talked about film making in the area today - not just crime shoots on the empty Heygate but all kinds of other movies, adverts, TV programmes and music videos. The biggest movie shot locally recently was The King's Speech, with Iliffe Street on the Crampton estate transformed into a 1940s street scene.

Vanessa Woolf-Hoyle gave a magic lantern display, telling the story of Peter Pan using some original slides from a century ago. Her lantern is a refurbished original, rescued from Nigel of Bermondsey's grandmother's attic in New Cross.

Incidentally, the Trocadero on New Kent Road by the Elephant had musical as well as cinema signficance - Buddy Holly and the Crickets played their first UK gigs there in 1958, attracting a crowd of 4500 over two sets . The great Paul Robeson also appeared there, I believe in the 1930s.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Albert Lee and Blackheath Bohemia

I've mentioned SE London guitar hero Albert Lee here before. Lee became famous in the 70s for his high speed country guitar sound, playing in bands alongside the likes of Eric Clapton, Emmylou Harris and the Everley Brothers.

Country boy: a biography of Albert Lee by Derek Watts includes more information about his early life, and indeed what teenagers were getting up to in late 1950s/early 60s South East London. From a Romany family background, Lee grew up in Kidbrooke Park Road and went to Dreadnought primary school, Calvert Road (later to become Annandale) then Roan School for Boys on Maze Hill. After leaving school in 1958 he got a job at the Plan Reproduction Company in Brockley.

He and his mates hung out at the Rendezvous Coffee Bar in Blackheath village, the local version of the American-style bars of Soho. Another key meeting point was a basement falt on Shooters Hill Road, owned by two ballet dancers, Noel Bronley and Gordon Williams. The former, known as Bron, taught at a a Blackheath dancing school and allowed pupils and friends to use their flat for parties and on Sunday afternoons 'it became a sort of informal club for teenagers, where they could meet and play records'. One former party goer recalled it as a 'drop-in for the arty' while another recalled: 'They were a very odd couple – very Bohemian for the late 50s and and avant-gardish. I remember the evening of the Ouija board or Bron doing a bit of ballet'. There was drinking, dancing to a wind up gramophone and bands rehearsing, playing and recording. Lee and friends had a skiffle band, and there were also trad jazz afficianados there (it must be said that some locals at the time have a less charitable view of what went on in a flat where adults presided over teenagers drinking and much else).

Lee's skiffle band mutated into a rock and roll band which used to play at the Rivoli ballroon in Crofton Park every Sunday, tuning up in the men’s toilets before going on stage for three half crowns each. There is a picture of the band playing there in 1960

Lee's best known song is Country Boy, co-written with Ray Smith in their early 1970s band Heads Hands and Feet.

The song was later an American country hit for Ricky Skaggs, a long way from Kidbrooke Park Road.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

A police informer in 1926

There's been lots of recent controversy about police spying on radical movements (including the case of 'under cover in East Dulwich'), but of course the practice is nothing new. During the 1926 General Strike, an informer was unmasked in Lewisham, as Roger Geary recounts in his book 'Policing Industrial Disputes: 1893 to 1985' (Cambridge University Press, 1985):

'As well as raiding the premises of publishers and arresting Communists there is some suggestion that Special Branch officers acted as agent provocateurs. For example, a mysterious sympathiser seemed rather anxious to supply the Westminster Strike Committee with ammunition. The Committee was convinced that the man was a police agent. Similarly Lewisham Council of Action suspected a man called Johnstone, who was the local secretary of the Unemployed Workers Committee Movement, of being a police informer. Their suspicions turned out to be justified for when Johntone committed suicide shortly after the strike both his wife and his mistress admitted that he had been in the pay of Scotland Yard. His mistress revealed that Johnstone had occasionally invented the reports he had sent to his masters and that once the police had challenged the authenticity of the information he was providing. After this incident Johnstone, not unreasonably, became convinced that there was at least one other police informer in the London District Countil whose reports were being compared with his'.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Moonbow Jakes in Margate

Do you miss Moonbow Jakes? Not so long ago the cafe/bar occupied the space now filled by the Brockley Mess, and before that there was the cafe in New Cross. Moonbow John McKiernan is still doing interesting stuff locally, such as helping to put on the Brockley cemetery remembrance events.

For the summer only a temporary Moonbow Jakes will appear in Margate, opposite the lido in Cliftonville, a 3 minute walk from the new Turner Contemporary Gallery. There's a Private View on Thursday 26th May from 6pm, then it's open over the bank holiday on Saturday 28th May and Monday 30th May from Midday to Midnight

You are 'Welcome to play, perform, dance, sing or just drink beer and get sun-burnt on the beach opposite' at Moonbow Jakes, 18 Cliff Terrace (opp Lido), Margate, CT9 1RU (picture is of the place before its reinvention as a little slice of South East London on sea).

Pubs Living and Dying

Pubs are too good an idea to die out, and recently we have seen two iconic South London hostelries refurbished and re-opened: the New Cross House (ex-Goldsmiths Tavern) and the Thomas a Becket on the Old Kent Road (opposite Tescos on corner of Albany Road). I haven't been into the latter yet, but looks good from the outside.

Plenty of places seem to be thriving, for instance I had a drink in the Elephant and Castle last week - the successor to the pub that gave that area its name is not much to look at from the outside, but it has a good atmosphere and plenty of people were enjoying its Thai food as well as the beer.

Elsewhere though, pubs continue to close. On Walworth Road both the Temple Bar and the Beaten Path have closed recently.

If pubs are closing, other businesses seem to be doing fine in the economic downturn. Next to the Beaten Path is Payday Loans, Temple Bar is rumoured to be in line to be replaced by a Poundland store. Legal loan sharks, pawn shops, pound shops, betting shops -the spreading retail architecture of poverty and hopelessness in the less affluent high streets of South London.

Meanwhile elsewhere in Walworth, the Crown on Brandon Street has closed after 130 years. Local campaigners are concerned that having failed to secure planning permission to turn it into flats, the owners - Terramek Ltd - might consider demolishing it to make way for new build housing.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Blurt at the Fox & Firkin

'Leftfield noise' from Blurt on Saturday 28th May at the Fox and Firkin, 316 Lewisham High Street. The band have been going in various incarnations since 1980, when they released their first material on Tony Wilson's Factory records.

Friday, May 20, 2011

You don't look at their faces: Tina Turner in the Rivoli Ballroom

So you come home from the pub and watch loads of old videos on the TV and before you know it, inevitably, there's some footage of your favourite South East London dancehall -Brockley's Rivoli Ballroom.

The start of the 1985 video for Tina Turner's Private Dancer sees her walking around the Rivoli dancefloor for this sex work ditty penned by none other than sometime Deptford council tenant Mark Knopfler (of Dire Straits).

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Attempted Murder in Penge

I had the good fortune at the weekend to be invited to a party at the Magic Circle HQ near Euston, the home of stage magicians. Yes, there are shrines there for David Nixon, Ali Bongo and Tommy Cooper.

There's also a small museum with a fine collection of old posters. There's one from the Crystal Palace and this one: 'Illusions never before ATTEMPTED as thrilling as MURDER are being performed by the great Horace Goldin IN the Empire Theatre PENGE - all the week twice nightly'.

Horace Goldin (1873-1939), born Hyman Elias Goldstein, came to London via Lithuania and Nashville. Not sure when he was in Penge, but the Penge Empire opened in 1915.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Folk nights in Nunhead and Deptford

Kit and Cutter

Kit and Cutter used to run a delightful folk night at the sadly-missed Deptford Arms, including a memorable night last year when I shared the stage with Martin Carthy (OK I wasn't actually on the stage at the same time, but I did give a little talk on May Day as part of the same event).

Anyway the good news is that they are back in the area, putting on a night at The Old Nuns Head, SE15, on Saturday 21st May 2011 (7:30pm, £5 to get in). Line up includes:

Jeff Warner: 'Among the nation’s foremost interpreters of traditional music, from the lumber camps, fishing villages and mountaintops of America, Jeff’s songs connect 21st century audiences with the everyday lives–and artistry–of 19th century Americans. Jeff grew up listening to the songs and stories of his father Frank Warner and the traditional singers his parents met during their folksong collecting trips through rural America. On a whistle stop visit to these shores, catch him while you can…'

Wagon Tales: 'Push the tables against the walls – the Wagon Tales are an energetic bluegrass band who play up tempo bluegrass with a raw blues sound. They pride themselves on their rich vocal harmonies and the ability to create a good old knees up'.

Breakspears Southern Harmony Singers: 'twelve-strong group following the tradition of Sacred Harp singing from a 200 yr old songbook of gallant, rousing anthems, saturated in 4-part harmonies and intricate lyrical layers'.

Facebook event details here.


On 18th June, there's Alt Folk Night 4, the final music night at Utrophia in the old ice cream factory at 136 Tanners Hill, Deptford SE8. Folie à Deux presents This is the Kit, Rozi Plain and Mouth 4 Rusty.

Tickets are £6 and can be purchased here.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Deptford Memento Mori

'A chronicler who recites events without distinguishing between major and minor ones acts in accordance with the following truth: nothing that has ever happened should be regarded as lost for history' (Walter Benjamin, Theses on the Philosophy of History)

For previous generations, the stone skulls outside of St Nicholas Church in Deptford were a reminder of the constant presence of death in life. Today that function is performed by Deptford Market, where the remains of house clearances displayed for sale are a sad reminder that all those mementoes, trinkets and photographs that we lovingly hold on to will one day be separated from us and left as context free items on a market stall or in a skip.

I love looking through, but I always feel sad that deeply personal items are being cast to the winds rather than finding a home with descendants or loved ones. The impression remains that perhaps the owners have died or gone into a home with no one who cared enough to take on their worldly goods. In my mind I reassemble these fragments of a life and try and imagine what kind of person left these scattered traces - was it an older gay man who collected these theatre programmes, beefcake photos and Liberal Party conference proceedings? Or am I just imagining that this person even existed? Perhaps these bits and pieces all come from different people, all jumbled up. I did toy with doing an art installation based on presenting a collection of random artifacts from Deptford Market as a museum of a single (imaginary) individual's life.

Luckily there are those amongst us who want to rescue some of these items on the verge of disappearance for the historical record. Germaine Arnold is creating a fascinating archive of Deptford Market gems. Among my favourite items are a 1930s South East London Amateur Football League handbook (thrill to the exploits of Brockley FC); a (1950s?) wedding photo by John C Platt of 56 Lausanne Road, SE15; and a 1916 wedding invitation for Phoebe Adelaide Dickens & Charles Marks, with the compliments of 'Mr & Mrs C Marks, 60 Billington Road, New Cross' (partially reproduced below) .

I have a few Deptford market classics which I've been meaning to post for a while - watch this space.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Downtown Soulville

A Northern Soul night in Nunhead - sounds enticing:

'DOWNTOWN SOULVILLE returns for a another night of Northern Soul in one of the best venues in South London - the fantastic pannelled room above the Old Nun's Head. As some people said after the last event, 'that room was made for northern'. There's also an absolutely cracking sound system.

FREE entry, 8 - 2am, Saturday 28th May at THE OLD NUN'S HEAD, Nunhead Green, SE15 3QQ.

Spinners on the night:

JOEL MASLIN (100 Club, Va Va Voom, Crystal Palace Soul)
SAM WALLER (aka Southern Sam)
JAKE LINGWOOD (Downtown Soulville, Stag O Lee, Crystal Palace Soul)
OLLIE LAILEY (Crystal Palace Soul)
WILL NICOL (Gentleman's Pinch, Big Fun)
STEVEN TWIGG (fantastic collector with some great tunes)

Expect plenty of sixties soul and crossover, with a nice dash of R&B and funk to boot. It's all about the party. A whole lotta shakin is likely to be going on.'

Facebook event details here.

Dale Farm Info-Night in Camberwell

The Ratstar squatted centre in Camberwell (298 Camberwell Road, Camberwell Green, SE5 0DL) was the scene of much police activity in the lead up to the recent royal wedding, but is still functioning - albeit without electricity.

On Wednesday 18th May (7:30 pm) they are hosting a candlelit Info-Night for the Dale Farm Solidarity Network. They say:

'Dale Farm is the largest 'unauthorised' Gypsy & Traveller site in the country. Hear how Basildon Council, in Essex, is prepared to spend upwards of £8 million to evict the people of Dale Farm from their own land. Hear how the people of Dale Farm are determined not to be moved. Find out how YOU can get involved in supporting the resistance of Dale Farm.

Residents of Dale Farm will be speaking. We will also have a speaker to talk about the repression of Roma/Gypsy/Traveller people across Europe. Live music from ROMANY and FLORENCE JOELLE'.

Sydenham Hill Station

On a sunny day outside of the morning and evening rush hours is there a more pleasant way to get around London than on the overground train system? Some of the stations are oases of calm and beauty, probably none more so than Sydenham Hill Station, with its long platform surrounded by trees on both sides.

The station straddles the social divide at that the far south end of Dulwich, with one platform approached from College Road, home to the public school, and the other approached from the back of the Kingswood Estate, managed by Southwark Council (click map to enlarge).

The station opened in 1863, and its location is a testament to the local politics of land ownership - Dulwich Estate fought to keep railway lines only at the edge of its estate.

Pissarro painted a scene nearby in 1871. The vantage point is evidently just north of the station (looking in the direction of West Norwood cemetery) and although the station itself is not shown the smoke from a train as it makes it way along the cutting can be seen on the right of the picture. The picture is known as 'Near Sydenham Hill'.

See also: Camille Pissarro's Lordship Lane Station.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

New Film Club in Deptford

number82 is a new art space in Tanners Hill, with projects including a film club. They are starting off with 'This is London!', a London themed film season, with documentaries from the BFI archive and films based around London.

First up on Thursday 19th May from 7.30pm is Patrick Keiller's London (1993).

Then on Thursday 2nd June they are showing The Pleasure Garden, a 1952 film directed by James Broughton. I haven't seen this and it sounds like essential viewing for fans of interesting films with South London locations: 'Filmed among the ruins of The Crystal Palace Terraces, The Pleasure Garden is a poetic ode to desire, and winner of the Prix de Fantasie Poetique at Cannes in 1954. Made by the American poet James Broughton, the film features Hattie Jacques and Lindsay Anderson, with John le Mesurier as the bureaucrat determined to stamp out any form of free expression. Lovers of the history Crystal Palace will find much to treasure in this 1950s time capsule of a film, which shows the Crystal Colonnade and the bandstand (both later demolished), the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve Memorial, and much of the statuary which was to be auctioned off in 1957. The history of the Crystal Palace also comes alive in The Phoenix Tower, presented here as an extra'.

Later in the season there's London in the Raw on 15th June Wednesday, Bronco Bullfrog on 29th June, a night of short films by the artist William Raban (6th July) and Sally Potter's Gold Diggers (20th July). More details of the programme here.

Tickets are £6 (including popcorn!), please email hello@number82.org to book a seat. number82 is at 82 Tanners Hill, Deptford SE8 4PN.

More film bits:

Bob from Brockley on Film in Lewisham in the Age of the Big Society .

Brockley Jack Film Club on Lewisham's Lost Cinemas.

South East London Film Clubs Network - making up for Lewisham's lack of a cinema.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Peckham Rye in Bloom

The Sexby Garden in Peckham Rye park is lovely at this time of year.

The garden was orginally laid out in the 1890s, and was restored in 2004/5. According to London Gardens Trust: 'Peckham Rye Common has been a popular open space for centuries. Over the centuries local residents battled to prevent development of the common. Finally in 1868 Camberwell Vestry purchased the rights of the Lord of the Manor of Peckham Rye to preserve the common as a public open space. Pressure on the space led the authorities to extend the public open space by the purchase, for £51,000 in 1892, of the 51-acre Homestall farm next to the common. This was laid out as Peckham Rye Park by Lt-Colonel J.J. Sexby, the London County Council's first Superintendent of Parks. Over 100,000 people attended its opening in May 1894'.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Friendly Street

Not every day a CD is launched named after a Deptford street, but such is the case on Thursday 12th May when Paul Astles and Bobby Valentino will be launching their "Friendly Street" collection. 8.30pm at the Wickham Arms, Brockley, SE4.

If you don't know who they are, check this.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Ghosts of London

This Thursday at South East London Folklore Society, Nigel of Bermondsey will be talking and singing on 'Ghosts of London - An exploration of capital haunting in story and song: Phantom riveters, escapees from dream menagerie and malevolent clothing. Nigel Of Bermondsey is a purveyor of psycho-geographical songs and stories from Bermondsey, South London. Also songs and tales of Wapping, Rotherhithe, Walworth, and presently, the area within the London Orbital'.

Thursday, May 12 · 8:00 pm at The Old Kings Head, Kings Head Yard, 45-49 Borough High Street, SE1. Facebook event details.

Brixton Windmill Re-opens

A couple of thousand people took part in the opening event for Brixton Windmill last week (Monday 2 May), with a May Day parade making its way up Brixton Hill to Blenheim Gardens.

The Ashby Mill was built in 1816 and remained a working mill until 1935. It has been restored as a result of the efforts of the Friends of Windmill Gardens and others.

Music was provided by the No Frills Band (they play a folk session on the last Friday of the month at the Grosvenor in Stockwell - I used to sometimes play in a session with some of them at the Duke of Edinburgh in Brixton way back in the 1990s):

... and the Endurance Steel Orchestra:

The Windmill will next be open to visit on Saturday and Sunday 14th & 15th May from 2 pm to 4 pm.

Monday, May 09, 2011

Darren Jay, Greenwich Junglist

Darren Jay was one of the original London Jungle DJs, and indeed still plays out. This interview comes from the dance magazine Eternity (Issue 28) in 1995, and describes his SE London roots, growing up 'on a council estate in Greenwich' and going to reggae blues parties before coming across the Tunnel Club in Greenwich around 1988 where Micky Finn was DJing: 'At that time The Tunnel Club was playing out Acid House with the likes of Todd Terry, Fast Eddie, CC Rogers, Micky Finn and Jarvis'.

The Tunnel Club was in the old Mitre pub by the entrance to the Blackwall tunnel from 1983 to 1988 and was run by the late Malcolm Hardee as a comedy club as well as hosting music nights. It closed following a police raid.

[click on images to enlarge]

A period raving lead to Darren Jay's breakthough into DJing: 'There was a party called Asylum which was held at London Polytechnic in Woolwich. I managed to blag my way into playing by telling the guy who ran it that I had been playing for a couple of years. There was about 1500 people there and Micky Finn was palaying straight after me. Luckily I played OK and since then I have never looked back' (assume this was at Thames Poly). Jay and Finn went on to become part of the AWOL crew who put on a famous drum and bass club in Islington and later at the Ministry of Sound.

Here's an extract from a 1999 Darren Jay set at Helter Skelter featuring MCs Juiceman, Riddla & Ranger D:

Got any good Tunnel Club or Asylum stories, or indeed any other SE London ravin' memories?

Sunday, May 08, 2011

Silver Screens of Southwark

For Museums at Night 2011 next Friday 13 May, the Cuming Museum will be having an early evening event themed around 'Silver Screens of Southwark', to include:

- An opportunity to get a closer look at objects from the Cinema Museum’s incredible collections;
- Chris Roberts, London writer and erstwhile editor of the 21st Century penny dreadful One Eye Grey will recount Teddy Boy riots in Elephant and Castle cinemas in the 1950s;
- Martin Humphries from the Cinema Museum will talk on the Cinema Museum and early cinema;
- Andrew Pavord from Southwark’s film office will discuss modern filming in Southwark.

6 to 8 pm at 151 Walworth Road, SE17. Details here.

I recommend that you also check out the discussion about this on Resonance FM radio show Lost Steps.

Saturday, May 07, 2011

New Cross House opening

Monday sees the full opening of The New Cross House, the refurbished former Goldsmiths Tavern. I went down to take a look last week, and it's pretty impressive.

The wall between the front bar and the large back room has been knocked through to create a large open space, complete with a new pizza oven. The food is mainly in the under ten pound bracket, with quite a few vegetarian options (not just pizza).

It is the freshly decked outside area at the back that has the real wow factor. If you've been there before you may remember there's an outbuilding there, perhaps originally a stable. Think it was where the barbecue was located in the 1990s GMT. Anyway it now has a new floor in it to create a kind of two storey outdoor snug complete with table football. It felt like being in a bar in Italy or Greece, mind you it had been a sunny day!

As explored at Transpontine before, this is an iconic pub with New Cross the area actually named after the New Cross House. In its long history it has been through many transformations, some of them still fondly remembered. Now with a substantial facelift it awaits its public. Who knows exactly what kind of pub it will be this time? The great thing about pubs is that ultimately it is the people who choose to go there and the things they do that create the atmosphere.

It certainly won't be like the 1990s Goldsmiths Tavern with its 'crusty' outlaw vibe, but that was very much a product of the times and its musical, social and cultural environment. You couldn't recreate that now if you wanted to - and I am sure Capital Pubs who now own it don't want to! But it has every chance of it becoming a vibrant social space where people can eat, drink, listen to music, laugh, argue, fall in love and all the other things that human beings do in public.

The last section of original tiling in the New Cross House, probably dating back to when the current building went up in the late 19th century. The newly refurbished pub features a specially designed wallpaper based on these tiles.

More reviews and photos at Brockley Central, Hollow Legs and Deptford Dame.

Saturday things to do

Going for a Song are holding their monthly vintage jumble sale at the Amersham Arms in New Cross this afternoon (just opened and carries on until 6), with accompanying open mic music session. If you can't make it today, it happens on first Saturday of every month

Tonight there's a 'micro festival' and party at the squatted former United Services Blub at 60 Manor Avenue, Brockley (home for a while to the People's Picturehouse 'secret' cinema). They say: "The old servicemen have finally been given their marching orders, so to celebrate all the life that has passed through the doors of number 60, say thank you to our wonderful neighbours and squeeze some of the talent that is fairly bursting out of Brockley and the surrounding area, we're having one last party. It's a South London love-in, alright, and there's plenty to love...". Lots of music and other good stuff.

Friday, May 06, 2011

How does it feel to be loved? C86 Special

If you like a bit (well a lot) of jingly jangly indie-pop, you might want to join me and others of that ilk tonight at The Canterbury Arms in Brixton for How Does in Feel to be Loved? This month it's a C86 special - a cassette compilation issued with NME in 1986. They say:

'As this year marks the 25th anniversary of the release of the seminal C86 compilation, we thought it would be a nice idea to hold a night to celebrate the songs of the C86 era. We'll be playing a ton of classics from 1986 and 1987, as well as songs from C86 itself.

Expect to hear:

Another Sunny Day * The Bodines * The Brilliant Corners * The Close Lobsters * The Clouds * The Corn Dollies * The Farmer's Boys * The Flatmates * The F...ield Mice * The Go Betweens * The Groove Farm * The Haywains * The Hit Parade * The House Of Love * The Housemartins * James Dean Driving Experience * The Jasmine Minks * The June Brides * Kitchens Of Distinction * The Loft * McCarthy * Monochrome Set * The Motorcycle Boy * My Bloody Valentine * The Orchids * The Pooh Sticks * Primal Scream * The Sea Urchins * The Shop Assistants * The Siddeleys * Strawberry Switchblade * The Trashcan Sinatras * The Wake * The Waltones * The Wolfhounds * 14 Iced Bears

Please note: This is an indiepop special, so for one night only we won't be playing any soul or sixties stuff.

Guest DJs: Emma and Ian of Pocketbooks'.

Check facebook event for further details.

Thursday, May 05, 2011

Rod Stewart and the McCartneys at Lewisham Odeon

The Beatles played at Lewisham Odeon twice in 1963, but that wasn't Paul Mc Cartney's last time on the stage there.

In November 1974, The Faces with Rod Stewart played three nights at Lewisham Odeon. One night Paul and Linda McCartney came along to watch, the former having recently written the song 'Mine for Me' for Rod. So Rod called the two of them up on stage to sing along. Footage of the gig surfaces sporadically on youtube - here's a very poor image from it.

...and also a (watermarked) picture taken backstage at the Odeon

Anybody out there who was at this gig?

(updated March 2013)

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Groombridge Place

One of my favourite places to take kids is Groombridge Place Gardens and the Enchanted Forest near Tunbridge Wells in Kent. It's about an hour's drive away from New Cross/Brockley, but has a couple of signficant local connections as we shall see.

Really there's two parts to it. The Enchanted Forest is a child-centred woodland walk, with walkways, animals (including pigs and peacocks) and best of all some giant tree swings.

At different times there are various other activities, such as facepainting, storytelling, birds of prey displays etc.

Then, with the kids probably too tired to run around anymore, you can visit the formal gardens of Groombridge Place. The moat dates back to an earlier manor house which from about 1400 to 1600 was the home of the Waller family. The poet Edmund Waller - after whom a school is named in New Cross - was descended from this family, but did not (contrary to what I once thought) live at Groombridge as it had been sold by the time he was born.

The current house itself was built for Philip Packer in 1662, and his friend John Evelyn helped him design the gardens. Evelyn of course lived in Deptford at Sayes Court, with its own famed gardens.

Some of the features of Evelyn and Packer's garden remain (see detail at London's Lost Garden)

A number of trees also remain from the 17th century garden, including this mistletoe-bearing apple tree.

Groombridge Place has featured in a number of films, most notably the 2005 version of Pride and Prejudice (with Keira Knightley) and Peter Greenaway's great 1982 film 'The Draughtman's Contract'

Tip: take a picnic and eat in the fields outside before you pay to go in, there's plenty of space. Obviously you don't have to have kids to go, the gardens are worth a visit. Peaks season it's £10 in for adults, £8.45 for children (prices include admission to Enchanted Forest and formal gardens) so it does work out quite expensive if you are in a big group - though there are some family ticket deals and children under three are free.

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

New Cross GP critiques NHS changes

Confused about the NHS 'restructure' and what it really means? This excellent film by Anne-Marie Sweeney produced for Keep Our NHS Public and Health Emergency features Dr Louise Irvine, a GP at the Amersham Vale Practice in New Cross (based at the Waldron Health Centre). She gives the clearest explanation I have heard about this so far, highlighting how-

- the changes will result in GPs being given responsibility to make cuts, policing their clinical decisions to save money at the expense of parents needs;
- GPs will be encouraged to give contracts to provide health services to multinational companies competing with NHS hospitals, effectively privatising the provision of health care;
- a competitive market will undermine collaboration betwenen GPs, hospitals and other health services.

Wake Up Call Episode 2 "A Betrayal of Trust" from Health Emergency on Vimeo.

(nice footage of Deptford High Street too)

Monday, May 02, 2011

Reggae Legends in the Area

Some reggae legends playing out in South London in next ten days.

On Saturday 7th May, Deptford Dub Club at the Albany presents a sound clash between Adrian Sherwood (On U Sound) and the Mad Professor. Is there anybody one or both of these guys haven't worked with? (Massive Attack, Lee Perry, Sly & Robbie, Sade, Nine Inch Nails etc. etc.). I drove past the Prof's Ariwa studio last week, in White Horse Lane just down the road from Crystal Palace football ground. One memorable night many years ago I saw Tackhead at Brixton Academy, Sherwood's project with Doug Wimbish, Keith Leblanc and Skip McDonald - previously with the famed Sugarhill Records house band.

Then on Thursday 12th May, Jamaican dancehall star Yellowman is playing at the Hootananny in Brixton. Had to look twice when I heard this, couldn't quite believe he was going to be in what was once my Brixton local (in its George Canning days). But apparently he has played there before, in 2009.

Tidemill School D-Day?

As reported here in January, governors at Tidemill Primary School in Deptford withdrew their initial application for the school to become an Academy.

However, they are now considering re-submitting a revised application, with the decision one way or another due to be taken at the School's Governing Body meeting on Wednesday 4th May. Deptford Says No, the parents and community campaign against the academy plans, has called for a mass picket of the school in Frankham Street on Wednesday from 5:30 to 7:30 pm to show the governors the strength of local feeling.

The Government's Academy and Free Schools initiatives aim to create an education marketplace in which individual schools are directly funded by the Government rather than via local Councils. Further down the line it is likely to involve a much greater role for private companies in profiting from education and a threat to national pay and conditions for teachers and other school staff. However senior managers can earn higher salaries, and as a recent survey shows, many heads in academies are earning in excess of £100,000 a year.

Sunday, May 01, 2011

Henry Cooper RIP

Boxer Henry Cooper died today, two days short of his 77th birthday.

Cooper grew up on Farmstead Road on the Bellingham council estate. He went to Athelney Road School in Lewisham, and when he left school he worked as a roofer in Evelyn Street, Deptford and as a sheet metal worker in Sydenham. He later recalled: 'In my day, if you came from a working class area, there were two ways out – football and boxing’. After amateur boxing with Eltham Amateur Boxing Club, he turned professional under the management of Jim Wicks.

Wicks opened a boxing gym above the Thomas a Becket pub on the Old Kent Road. Cooper returned there in 2008 to open a Southwark Council blue plaque and recalled that for 14 years from 1954 he trained there up to 5 or 6 times a week. He is also remembered in the name Henry Cooper Way, a road in Eltham.

At the time the blue plaque was unveiled, the pub was closed and functioning as an art gallery. Good news is that the Thomas a Becket has just re-opened as a pub - a pretty historic one, as mentioned here before it has connections with David Bowie, Burl Ives and the film Performance as well as Henry Cooper.

Jack in the Green 2011

The Fowlers Troop Jack in the Green had its annual May Day parade in Greenwich this afternoon. Tourists enjoying the sunshine in the park reached for their cameras as the Jack made its way from the Plume of Feathers on one side of the park to the Richard I on Royal Hill on the other, just two of the stops on an epic musical pub crawl of local inns.