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.


Jane Young said...

It is sad I too make up imaginary owners when I find such things

Anonymous said...

thanks for another interesting story Trans!