Thursday, June 30, 2011

Thailand Bus Crash

Very sad news about three 19 year old lads from South London being killed in a bus crash in Thailand earlier this week. All of them had been at the Charter School in Dulwich. Another member of their party survived the crash and is now back safely in New Cross.


Morella (Trailer) from Lawrence Martin on Vimeo.

Morella is a new short film directed by Francesca Castelbuono, with Director of Photography Lawrence Martin (who some may recall as sometime Broca barista). As the trailer shows, there are some fine scenes shot in St Pauls Church in Deptford.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Nunhead FC

The Haberdashers' Aske's school playing fields on St Asaph's Road were once the site of a football ground. Not only that, but one of the greatest English sportsmen of all time started his career there.

Nunhead FC were formed in 1904 by the merger of Wingfield House FC (founded in 1888) and Honour Oak FC. They played at what was then known as Brown's Grounds. According to their Wikipedia entry, 'in the 1926-27 season, Nunhead reached the FA Cup second round, going out 2-1 to Poole from Dorset. The campaign was also notable for Nunhead setting a record for the highest victory by a non-league side in an FA Cup proper round match, they had beat Kingstonian 9-0, in the first round. In the league, the club rose to prominence by capturing the Isthmian League championship in successive seasons (during 1928-29 and 1929-30)... the Second World War saw the end of the club, they ceased day-to-day operations in 1941'. They were formally wound up in 1949.

The main stand burnt down in 1936, but as late as the 1970s a section of the terracing could still be seen next to the Athletics track.

A 1940s map at Southwark Council's excellent Historic Maps site shows that the ground stood approximately where the tennis courts are now, with its entrance seemingly on Ivydale Road. Note too that there was a 'miniature rifle range' there too.

Denis Compton started his football career at Nunhead FC in 1934 before moving to Arsenal. But he was best known of course as an England and Middlesex cricketer - and as the original Brycreem Boy:

There's apparently a book by Mike Blakeman called 'Nunhead Football Club: The Full History' (2000), will have to track it down.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Strike to close schools on Thursday

The national strike by education staff and civil servants on Thursday 30th June looks set to have a big impact locally.

On the school front, Martin-Powell-Davis from the National Union of Teachers reports that teachers will be striking at at least 70 schools in Lewisham, many if not most of which are expected to close for the day. A quick look round school websites confirms that on the secondary school front Sydenham, Forest Hill and Haberdashers Askes Hatcham College will all be completely closed with the exception of the poor year 12 students at the latter. Others have not yet publicly stated their position.

The strike is opposing cuts and changes to public sector pensions. Activists in colleges and other workplaces are planning to spread the action further with a range of protests planned, including a possible street party in New Cross. There's a Lewisham Strike Assembly meeting tomorrow night (Tuesday, 7:30 pm upstairs in the Amersham Arms) to plan for this and other ideas. Lambeth unemployed claimants are planning to join the picket line at Brixton Job Centre on the day.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

The Goldsmiths Tavern Remembered

An earlier post on the history of the Goldsmiths Tavern/New Cross House generated some great recollections and discussion. Now Rhian Jones has kindly offered her article 'Elegy on the Death of a Good Pub' first published in Smoke magazine (#7, 2005):

Number one on absolutely no one else’s list of Good London Pubs is the sadly defunct Goldsmiths Tavern. When I lived in New Cross as a student I didn't go near this place for months - it was open past 2am but was extremely dodgy in look and reputation, you heard various stories about plans hatched and deals done that would've made Guy Ritchie come on the spot.

My first Tavern experience came, like so many others, at the end of a very good night up and down New Cross Road when all other pubs had decisively shut up shop. So in we went, and yes, it was as skanky as it looked. You stuck to the floor. The gig/dance floor/backroom bit was too dark to see anyone who engaged you in conversation. The other backroom was reached by a system of connecting doors that led you through the women's toilets. The pool table never had all the requisite balls.

And yet. Good music and good people make for a good pub. The jukebox at one point seemed to have every single Clash album on it - even Sandinista. Hell, even Cut the Crap. And the jukebox was free. And there were random ska nights and punk nights and fetish nights and open-mic nights all over the shop.

In terms of clientele, the Tavern felt a bit like a scuzzier version of the canteen in Star Wars. I had some of the most interesting, strangest, scariest and most amusing conversions of my life in there. Everyone was a refusenik of some sort: students who hated students, local petty criminals who wished they ran a bookshop in the West Country, struggling artists who really should've been civil servants (and vice versa). And you know what? No one even pretended they were minor celebrities of any description. That wasn't the point of the place. The most famous regulars I encountered were Eastenders’ Joe Absalom, the unnameable Only Fools and Horses actor who played Mickey Pearce, and someone who claimed to be the Super Furry Animals' sound engineer, but probably wasn’t. There were even moments when you and your companions would feel like the most celebrated people in there. It was gloriously unpretentious and accepting. If you wanted to pose, you could bugger off to East London.

I must admit that the Tavern appeared to degenerate in its final months. More than once I'd walk up New Cross Road and have to keep on walking, seeing its corner cordoned off in black-and-yellow tape and, once, a pool of blood outside the entrance. Finally there came the Tavern's Last Stand, when a probably justified but somewhat gratuitous looking police raid shut it down during the early hours of an otherwise nondescript night in the spring of 2003. The street filled up with ejected punters and bemused onlookers. Rumours persisted after the event that a couple of die-hard regulars had linked arms and attempted to form a protective cordon across the entrance, to no avail. A now highly-respected figure in the anti-fascist wing of student politics was said to have climbed up the drainpipe of the squat across the road, whose Trustafarian occupants resolutely refused to send reinforcements, shouting rebukes along the lines of 'Call yourselves fecking bohemians?' All it needed was Bogart standing on the stairs while we all sang La Marseillaise.

So that was that. And they could have left the shell of the Tavern alone, but to add insult to injury, if you're ever down SE14 way these days, you'll see it’s become one of several creepingly gentrified salsa-class-and-tapas bars, plastic, sterile and catering for townies downing overpriced beer before staggering off to the Venue, and for students who know no better. And they call it the Goldsmiths Tavern, still, but it's not and never will be.

Rhian Jones (XRhianJones on twitter) now publishes Velvet Coalmine blog.

Update January 2024: A few people in comments have mentioned George Napier, pictured below. George was sadly stabbed to death on 10 November 2000 while working at the Paradise Bar in New Cross Road. He was 36 years old at the time, and left behind 3 children

Saturday, June 25, 2011

The Sky was Crying: A Deptford Story

Previously at Transpontine we featured a 1978 poster from the Albany in Deptford for a series of Rock Against Racism gigs with artists including Dire Straits, Misty, The Ruts, Patrick Fitzgerald, Menace, The Fabulous Poodles and the Brockley Boogie Band (the poster was designed by Colin Bodiam).

Those nights are the subject of a play being performed by Lewisham College students next Tuesday June 29th. The play is 'The Sky was Crying: A Deptford Story', written by Jon Turner. He helped promote the 1978 gigs as part of Combination theatre company, and performed with his band Rubber Johnny.

The play takes place in the Tressillian theatre at Lewisham College on Lewisham Way at 4 pm and 7 pm, free entry for students and OAPs, £5 for the rest of us.

(for more on 1970s anti-racism see Lewisham '77)

Thursday, June 23, 2011

The Ramonas at New Cross Inn

The Ramonas are the UK's foremost - and quite possibly only - all-female Ramones tribute band. And they're playing at the New Cross Inn on Saturday 2 July.

Various other punky outfits supporting including The Rivalries, Paperjets, The Tantrums. £4 in, tickets and further details here.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Siberia SE1

One of the hazards about working in South London is that it's very near to Westminster. This means that politicians looking for a quick photo opportunity can jump into their chauffeur-driven cars and head down to some place they couldn't find on a map to show how down with the people they are.

An old Etonian prime minster who wants to show he cares about education? Why not come to a perfectly good South London school you wouldn't dream of sending your kids to and pretend you have spoken to more than a couple of black people in your entire life? Hosting a visit by the President of the United States? Why not come down to another school you wouldn't dream of sending your kids to and play table tennis?

Want to show that you care about the NHS while you plot to hand over chunks of it over to your donors in the private sector? Why not come down to Guys Hospital, after all it's just over the river? God help any conscientious 'public servant' who should object to any aspect of such spectacles. So spare a thought for David Nunn, a surgeon at Guys who dared to interrupt a media blitz on a ward there with messrs. Cameron & Clegg standing around the bed of someone who was presumably too sick to run away. The surgeon has now apparently voluntarily requested indefinite leave, in the same way no doubt that many voluntarily confessed to trotsykist-fascist-deviationism in the days of Stalin (OK I exaggerate for effect - I know that Guys isn't the Gulag).

It put me in mind of the Thatcher period when her habit of turning up at the bedside of disaster victims led to the distribution of spoof 'Thatchcard' donor cards saying: 'In the event of an accident, the holder of this card wishes it to be known that he/she does not wish to be visited by Mrs Thatcher in any circumstances whatsoever'.

(image of Thatchcard from Max Atkinson's blog)

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Telegraph Hill Solstice Parade

'They gathered at the bottom of the hill to start their Solstice procession. It was the time of the sun at its height, the longest days. A time to mark the flaming wheel of the year. The time of midsummer’s eve, of fairies in the glimmering night. The time too of the Feast of St John the Baptist, of whom it was said ‘he was a burning and a shining light’.

They looked back to the midsummer processions and pageantries of old London. A time of ‘bonfires in the streets’ and tables ‘furnished with sweet bread and good drink… whereunto they would invite their neighbours… to sit and be merry with them in great familiarity.. These were called bonefires’ [i.e. good fires] because they ‘made of bitter enemies, loving friends; and also for the virtue that a great fire hath to purge the infection of the air’

A time of summer flowers in bloom, of doors ‘shadowed with green birch, long fennell, St John's wort, orpine, white lilies, and such like, garnished upon with beautiful flowers… also lamps of glass, with oil burning in them all the night’ (John Stow, A Survey of London, 1603).

‘Then doth the joyful feast of John The Baptist take his turne,
When bonfires great, with lofty flame, In everie towne doth burne;
And young men round about with mades, Do dance in everie street
With garlands wrought of Motherwort, Or else with Vervaine sweet’ (Barnabe Googe, 1570)

A time too of parades of ‘Sword players, Trumpeters on horsebacke’, archers, minstrels, morris dancers and Giants. And they too did gather behind a giant bedecked in the greenery of the season; some called him the Garlick Man for hadn’t this hill once been called Plow’d Garlick Hill, when it had been a place of fields and gardens?

And though many houses had been raised out of the London clay, there were parks and gardens here still, and places where the fruits of the earth were growing. It was a time to ‘wander everywhere’, ‘Over hill, over dale, Through bush, through briar, Over park, over pale, Through flood, through fire’ (A Midsummer Night’s Dream). And so off they wandered in their Telegraph Hill Solstice Parade, from pub to park, past schools and streets, climbing up to the top of the hill of the beacon where another Saint of the fiery wheel was remembered. And there they did make merry...'

(The Telegraph Hill Solstice Procession made its way this evening from the Telegraph Pub, round Telegraph Hill lower park, up Arbuthnot Road to Common Growth community garden, then via Jerningham and Kitto Road to Telegraph Hill Top Park. There were bemused motorists, drums, recorders, and a bit of dancing at the end, and the strange figure of 'The Garlick Man' - yes those are garlic bulbs for eyes).

Other Solstice stuff: Darryl (853) and Francis Sedgemore cycled from Greenwich to Primrose Hill to greet the solstice dawn in the Midsummer Madness ride.

Monday, June 20, 2011

London Pub Wars

OK 'pub wars' is a bit of an exaggeration, but there's certainly some vigorous business manoeuvring going on .

The Capital Pub Company own 34 pubs across London, most notably locally they recently relaunched the New Cross House (formerly the Goldsmiths Tavern). They also run the Victoria in Peckham, the Florence in Herne Hill and both the Actress and the Bishop in East Dulwich.

The larger Fuller, Smith and Turner is both a pub owner and a brewer. They have pubs in Rotherhithe and Bermondsey (including The Leather Exchange in the latter) and also run The Pilot in Greenwich, though they don't have much presence further south in London.

Now Fuller's has made it clear that it wishes to take over Capital Pubs. Its bid to buy it has been rejected by the Capital board, but the Financial Times reports that an attempted hostile takeover might be on the cards, with Fuller's trying to buy up shares in Capital to gain a controlling interest.

Not sure what this all means for drinkers or indeed pub staff. Both Capital and Fuller's have a good reputation among beer enthusiasts, but larger and larger chains don't always bode well for diversity of drinking establishments.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Summer Solstice

It's the summer solstice on Tuesday, and in New Cross there will be a Telegraph Hill Solstice Parade 'to celebrate light and fecundity'. It will start at The Telegraph pub in Dennetts Road, from where the parade will set off at 6 pm around local streets, stopping off at Common Growth - the new community garden project on Sandbourne Road. It will end up in Telegraph Hill top park with a picnic etc.

Launch of the New Cross Food Group

Some of the people involved will be taking part on Tuesday in the launch of the Transition New Cross Food Group. They say: 'Food: New Cross Needs You! Do you grow your own food? Would you like to sell your surplus? Interested in a planned new Community Supermarket? Come along to the launch of the Transition New Cross Food Group and find out more! Explore ideas for how our community can make our food more sustainable, local, healthy and fair for all including promoting local food growing, food Co-ops and a Peoples Supermarket for New Cross. Join us and help make it happen! Everyone welcome'.

Date: June 21st; Place: The Hill Station cafe (Kitto Road by Telegraph Hill Park) SE14 5TY. Time:-7.15pm (7:30pm sharp start) until 9.00 pm - still time afterwards to catch the last of the solstice sunset in the park. Further information email:; Web:

Solstice Cycle Ride

Much earlier in the day, Southwark Cyclists will be having their Midsummer Madness night time ride. Starting at 2 am on Tuesday at Cutty Sark Gardens in Greenwich, or 2.30am at Southwark Needle (south end of London Bridge). In the words of the sadly missed Barry Mason: “Midsummer Madness. It's the summer solstice, the longest day of the year, and there's magic about. Meet for a slow comfortable ride under the dawn chorus of Regents Park to the top of Primrose Hill in very good time for the 4.43am sunrise. Then back through the quietest West End streets you've ever seen to a north Southwark cafe for breakfast around 6am. Then work or whatever. Unmissable...”. Breakfast (optional) is 6am at Terry’s CafĂ©, 158 Great Suffolk Street, SE1.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Kings of Leon at Rivoli

Kings of Leon played a gig at the Rivoli Ballroom in Brockley last year (27 October), here they are singing Pick-up Truck:

I have sung and DJed on that stage... but people didn't get quite so enthusiastic.

Friday, June 17, 2011

South London Folk

A couple of good folk nights coming up.

Southwark Folk

On the Friday 24th June, Nigel Of Bermondsey is hosting 'Southwark Folk', a free evening of songs about Southwark by local artists at the Cuming Museum (Walworth Road, Elephant and Castle end) on Friday 24th June between 6pm and 8pm. It's a post-work early evening do and will start at 6pm prompt.

Artists include:

Nigel Of Bermondsey: 'a South London psycho-geographical singer-songwriter. He sings songs about Bermondsey, Rotherhithe, Walworth and Wapping. He will soon be incorporating more boroughs into his song almanack. His third album, “Bermondsey Folk” will be released this year'.
John Constable: 'celebrated South London playwright, author, poet and singer. His acclaimed work, ‘The Southwark Mysteries”, was performed in Southwark Cathedral in April 2010.

Russell Dryden: 'runs the fish stall in the Blue Market in Bermondsey and has lived and worked in Bermondsey all his born days. His songs are inspired by his experience of the day-to-day locale'.

Transpontine Music Club 'ballads of Nunhead Cemetery, New Cross Road and other South London beauty spots'.

Stewart Forester: 'Lives in Mitcham but is so good he is playing'.

Facebook events details here.

Kit and Cutter

Meanwhile Kit & Cutter have another night coming at the Old Nun's Head (15 Nunhead Green SE15) on 2 July with the Irish travellers' songs of Thomas McCarthy - featured recently in the Guardian.

ESOL protest on Sunday

With huge cuts planned for ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) classes, Action for ESOL have organised two protests this Sunday 19th June - one in East London and one here in South London, where a march will be leaving at 12.00 Windrush Square, Brixton to finish at Kennington Park for protest and celebration from 2pm to 5pm.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Ha'penny Hatch: in search of Sand Martins

I wandered down to Ha'penny Hatch footbridge over Deptford Creek at the weekend. I was hoping to spot some sand martins, which have apparently nested in a sandbank there (quite rare in London area), but it was not to be.

Still the bridge, which opened in 2002 on the site of an old tollbridge which closed in the 1920s, is always worth a stroll. There's the rail bridge next door with an old train carriage perched on top.

The Creekside Discovery Centre:

The view of the Laban, now dwarfed by the new flats behind it:

The back of Faircharm, with the future of its artists' studios uncertain in the light of planned redevelopment (see report at Deptford Dame).

Oh and if you do go there, look out for one of these... The sand martin is a small brown and white bird in the swallow family.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Bermondsey Mods

This fine picture popped up on Urban75 recently, where it was identified as being taken in the 1960s on Tower Bridge Road, SE1. Rossi's cafe at no. 73 is now a Steak and Kebab House. Anyone remember Rossi's or these SE1 scooterists?

Monday, June 13, 2011

Burning Poll Tax Bills, Brixton 1990

Here's a slice of South London radical history, courtesy of some old photos I came across recently. They are from an event in June 1990, when people were encouraged to come down to burn their poll tax bills outside Brixton library. Inevitably effigies of Thatcher were prominent.

The event was called by the three main Lambeth anti-poll tax groups: Lambeth Against the Poll Tax (associated with SWP and various Labour leftists), Lambeth Anti Poll Tax Unions (associated with Militant, now the Socialist Party) and Community Resistance Against the Poll Tax (more direct action/anarchist oriented). At one level it was absurd that there were three separate groups, but there were political differences - notably the fact that the first two spent a lot of energy calling on Labour councillors not to implement the poll tax, whereas the latter thought that a waste of time. But all called for people to refuse to pay their poll tax, and were able to work together to the extent of calling for actions like this one.

At a very local level there were also groups which cut across these divisions. I was in a group called Tulse Hill Estate Against the Poll Tax which included various kinds of radicals (Red Action -including a member of Blaggers ITA, SWP, anarchists etc.). And on that day we marched down from the estate, stopping off by the George Canning (now Hootananny), before going on to Brixton Oval (now known as Windrush Square).

There to burn a Conservative Party flag...
... as well as Poll Tax bills:

That poll tax leaflet in full (click to enlarge). The key issue with the poll tax - officially known as the Community Charge - was that by making everybody pay the same amount to their local Council, regardless of income or house size, it was effectively shifting more of the burden of local taxes from the wealthier to the poorer.

The campaign against the poll tax was ultimately successful. The goverment was forced to withdraw it and replace it with the Council Tax - not massively better perhaps, but at least reinstating some element of people living in more expensive properties paying more. And soon afterwards the increasingly unpopular Thatcher was forced out in a palace coup by Tory MPs.

This Brixton event was just one small protest in a couple of years of determined opposition all round Britain . If you are looking for a lesson I guess it would be that it wasn't just a one off mass demonstration/riot (Trafalgar Square, 31 March 1990) that defeated the poll tax but sustained organising in workplaces and local communities over a long period.

(anyone got any other South London poll tax recollections or reflections? Must admit I don't know much about what happened in Lewisham or Greenwich)

See also: Brixton Poll Tax Demo, March 1990

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Deptford Deli Closes Down

Sad to hear that the Deptford Deli has closed, the coffee and food was good and in the summer it was very pleasant to sit outside. There is now a 'to let' sign outside.

Dawn has been running the cafe there for a couple of years but has decided not to continue. The same building - 4 Tanners Hill - housed Utrophia's short-lived Deptford Properly cafe in 2008. They had issues with flooding and the landlord - seems that Deptford Deli also had flooding/plumbing problems there, as Brockley Central notes. Incidentally, in the 1930s the Communist Party had their Workers Bookshop and committee rooms at that address during the time Kath Duncan was active locally.

That pedestrianised end of Tanners Hill is one of my favourite bits of the local area, a reminder of what London streets looked like in the 19th century. Having a cafe there with tables outside brings it together as a public space, so it's a shame this one has gone.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Music at Cafe Crema on Saturday

Music at Cafe Crema tomorrow night (Saturday 11th June), with The Lucky Strikes [acoustic set], Edna Million & the Drop Dead Suits and Reverend Casy serving up 'An evening of bluegrass-blues, country-gospel and honky-tonk swamp polkas. With banjo, fiddle, stand-up bass and our beloved old piano in the fray. Wear your stompin' shoes'. £4 admission. 8pm start at Cafe Crema, 306 New Cross Road SE14 6AF.

It's a benefit for the newly-formed New Cross Federation ('an association of local traders who have come together to save the environment and resist the corporate invasion').

Thursday, June 09, 2011

Return of the Ivy House

Good news on the pub front - The Ivy House at the top of Peckham Rye (40 Stuart Road, Nunhead, SE15 3BE) is set to re-open this month.

I've mentioned before this place's importance as both a pub and a music venue, both as the Ivy House and in its earlier incarnation as the Newlands Tavern. I will do a proper history post on it soon, but for now will simply note that John Bundy and friends, who successfully relaunched The Joiners Arms in Camberwell, are behind the latest episode in this pub's story. Lots of events are already being planned for later in the year.

The official opening night is on 22 June, with lots of music, but there's also some gigs and stuff happening in the week before. Full details here.

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Art Brut in New Cross

Art Brut are playing at Goldsmiths Student Union in New Cross tomorrow night (Thursday June 9th) at a Toejam night also featuring Edit/Select and Anita Maj (details here)

I can't quite believe it's seven years since I first saw them at the Paradise Bar in New Cross - now the Royal Albert - but a quick google search locates a review by Betty Clarke in the Guardian of that very gig in April 2004:

'It's difficult to know what Art Brut are about. Pure concept? An intellectual conceit? Or are their screaming rants and jagged chords just examples of south-east London cockiness?

On the basis of one single, Formed a Band, the quintet has been heralded as the spearhead of the emergent New Cross scene. Supported by new local label Angular Recordings, the sound is a ragbag collection of bands for which the anyone-can-play-guitar spirit of 1978 is alive and thrashing.

But singer Eddie Argos wants stardom. Standing among a heaving throng of fellow Angular hopefuls - one of whom wears a white sailor's jacket with matching hat - he leads them in the refrain: "Top of the Pops, Top of the Pops."

That night was also reviewed by Andrew Stevens at 3:am magazine:

'Art Brut (their name taken from the term for no formal training in the arts) are playing the Pop Of The Tops night at the Paradise Bar, this weekly showcase for the local scene rapidly gaining much media interest being put on by Caffy St Luce, the brains behind the Rocklands Tourist Board set up to promote the area's music. Caffy, a feisty young black girl, can rightly point to the area's musical heritage -- not only the bands on Deptford Fun City Records in the late 70s such as Squeeze and ATV, but also the fact that Malcolm McLaren leant his Situationist craft and routine while a student at Goldsmiths College. There is much to keep her occupied today, alongside the Angular bands like Lady Fuzz and The Swear, there are Corporation:Blend, Saint Rose and Special Needs. Before Art Brut take the stage however, local historian Neil Gordon-Orr, a punk survivor from the first time round who now gives talks at the Use Your Loaf social centre nearby, gets up to plug his pamphlet on the area's musical heritage criss-crossed with a bit of radical politics. I am stood at the bar with the former guitarist from C86 mainstays the June Brides and we observe few of the younger members of the audience paying much in the way of attention, this being year zero and all that to them. Art Brut's manifesto is mind-blowingly simple -- the old 'celebrate yourself while you can' formula, as evidenced on their simple but effective single 'Formed A Band'. As I leave the venue, I see flyposters for local nights such as 'Fear Of Music', so clearly the whole art rock thing is catching on if promoters are naming their nights after Talking Heads albums. On the front of the Prangsta shop, I also see one for the Gluerooms, a night of experimental music and toys. It reminds me of the gang of girls I used to see around when I went to Goldsmiths myself - all of them wore fairy wings'.

Monday, June 06, 2011

Barry Mason RIP

I was going to do a post on Surrey Docks Farm, a nice Rotherhithe riverside oasis which I have long forgiven for having a donkey which once bit my son. I have been past there a couple of times recently and was reminded what a special place it is.

Sadly though I have to do a different post on the death of Barry Mason, manager of Surrey Docks Farm. Barry died last week on holiday in Spain, having been taken ill while swimming in the sea. Barry was well known as a cycling, environmental and community activist, co-ordinating Southwark Cyclists, taking part in Critical Mass rides, and enthusing about local history. He was a regular at South East London Folklore Society, as recalled in this nice SELFS tribute, and was also involved with Southwark Mysteries.

Barry worked for a while at Southwark Council on education capital projects. Negotiating local authority hierarchies and politics wasn't always his style, but he played a key role in the redevelopment of Eveline Lowe Primary School and the extension of Gumboots Community Nursery in East Dulwich (building nearing completion). He was in his element at Surrey Docks Farm, raising funds and securing its future at a time when many such facilities are struggling with cuts.

I was chatting to him at the Farm only a few weeks ago, him enthusing about SE16 agriculture and proudly showing off his fine and newly donated desk. He told a lovely story about how an elderly monk had come into the farm and told him that once a year he walked along the river from Westminster especially to visit the farm. The monastic house was closing down and he wanted to donate some furniture to the farm - hence the desk. I thought this typified Barry's ability to find allies for his enthusiasms in all sorts of places.

The SELFS tribute includes this wonderful quote from Barry: 'And every night in my tiny spare bedroom my bright red bike sleeps dreaming of tomorrow and me. Drifting round London together. Smiling.'

Herb garden at Surrey Docks Farm

Private education business

AC Grayling's proposed new private university in London, the New College of the Humanities, is already coming in for fierce opposition. Around 150 people attended a meeting today atUCL to launch a campaign against it, and Terry Eagleton and Nina Power have argued that it amounts to the thin edge of a dubious wedge of privatised higher education.

But can anybody throw any light on why the registered address for the New College of the Humanities Ltd is in Peckham at 15 Glengall Road, SE15 6NJ? Not sure many round there are in the target demographic for this self-styled elite institution, even if there are some rather plush houses at the Old Kent Road end of the street.

Meanwhile education staff are among those expected to join one of the biggest strikes in recent years later this month. On June 30th there will be a joint strike against changes to public sector pension, involving teachers, college and university staff from unions including PCS, UCU, NUT and ATL. Students and other anti-cuts activists are also expected to take solidarity action. South London Solidarity Federation have called a Lewisham Strike Assembly for tomorrow (Tuesday 7 June, 7:30 pm) to build support for the 30th June locally. It will take place in Room 143, Richard Hoggart Building (main building) at Goldsmiths. They say: 'Come and help organise for the biggest strike in recent memory on 30th June!'

Saturday, June 04, 2011

NHS Protest in Lewisham

70+ people met up outside Lewisham Hospital today and staged a mock funeral procession for the National Health Service as part of the growing tide of protest against the Government's NHS privatisation proposals.

The procession made its way from the hospital to the centre of Lewisham.

Thursday, June 02, 2011

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Care Homes Crisis

Southern Cross Healthcare, which runs 750 care homes for older and disabled people all over the country, is in financial crisis and concerns are being raised about what would happen to its 31,000 vulnerable residents if it goes bust.

A report in yesterday's Independent highlighted the issues at Tower Bridge Care Centre in Bermondsey (on Tower Bridge Road), with somebody visiting their father quoted as saying: "It's a big concern because there's a lot of Alzheimer's people here and with Alzheimer's, you have to be comfortable with your surroundings".

Other Southern Cross facilities in SE London include:

- Alexander Care Centre, 21 Rushy Mead, Lewisham;
- Beechcroft Nursing Home, 327/329 Brownhill Road, Catford;
-Brook House Care Centre, 20 Meadowford Close, Thamesmere Drive, Thamesmead;
- Camberwell Green Care Centre, 54 Camberwell Green, Camberwell.

Meanwhile Castlebeck, another private care home provider, is in a different sort of crisis after the Panorama programme exposed abuse of patients at its Winterbourne View hospital in Bristol.

These incidents highlight the contradictions in the Government's attempts to give private companies like these a greater role in running NHS services. Firstly, the positive aspects of the NHS are not just that it is 'free at the point of delivery' (except for dental care!) but that the people working in it are not compelled to compromise patient care for the sake of private profit. Secondly, relying on the market to provide for the sick and vulnerable ignores what happens when markets fail. Companies like Southern Cross have expanded rapidly as a result of venture capital investment predicated on making a profit, now these profits are not being realized what happens to the service users? Are they at risk of losing their homes? Or will cash-starved local authorities be expected to act as a safety-net and take over 'unprofitable' care homes?

Protest against 'death of the NHS' in Lewisham

There's a 'sombre gathering' for the NHS this Saturday 4th June, with a mock funeral procession starting at 1pm at Lewisham Hospital and marching onto Lewisham town centre.

A local campaigner behind the event, Lucy Trantor said "If the cuts and privatisation plans are carried out, the NHS will exist in name only - and the idea of quality healthcare for everyone will die with it. The government plans to introduce fragmentation, competition and privatisation into a functioning health system. Why? It isn't for our benefit. While the NHS can always be improved, market 'solutions' are no way to do it, because no part of the system can afford to fail or lose its money to profit-making companies."

Still think Dr Louise Irvine's critique is the most lucid I have come across; I am right behind this demonstration but think that it's arguably too soon for a funeral - don't mourn organise, as they used to say, well actually I still say ;-)

Event details here

Bold Vision & Brockley Max events

A couple of hyperlocal events for those at the Brockley/New Cross end:

There's a Revue Show in aid of Bold Vision (the people behind the Hill Station cafe) on 4th June 2011 in the Narthex, Telegraph Hill Centre, Kitto Road, SE14 5TY. They say:

'The venue will be dressed, extravagantly, you might wish to do the same. This show is for adults only (18+). The bar at Hill Station will be open from 7.30pm, show starts 8.30pm. There is a raft of amazing acts lined up for you:

- Kirsty Mac - a caustic Comedienne who will have you in stitches with her acid observations and commentary;
- At Stations (with the People Pile) - a stunning mix of music and dance which weaves a hypnotic spell;
- Middle Class Sound System - Performance Poets extraordinaire whose political dissections always illuminate and entertain'.

Plus cabaret, jazz, belly dancers, comedy, streetdance and more musci from Mama's Record Box, Chouer sans Nom (The Choir without a Name) and Strawberry Thieves. Tickets available here.
Meanwhile there's still a few days of music, theatre, performance, comedy and general merrymaking at this year's Brockley Max festival - check out their site for full programme.

Saxon Archive

Saxon Studio International have a new website, and it is a goldmine for anyone interested in reggae sound system culture in SE London. We've mentioned Saxon here many times before, not only a globally influential sound system, but a launch pad for the likes of Tippa Irie, Maxi Priest, Asher Senator and Smiley Culture (RIP).

Just reproduced a few vintage flyers for Nights of Cool Raving here from the early 1980s, at various New Cross, Deptford and Brockley locations...

...including the Crypt at St Paul's Church, Deptford in 1983 for a night featuring Saxon, Ghetto Tone (with Leslee Lyrix, later Dr William 'Les' Henry) and Jamdown Rockers - 'Bredren and Sistren, rush de gate, call ya cab and don't be late'.

Loads more flyers at the Saxon archive, from which I have compiled a provisional list of South London venues shaken by the Saxon bass back in the day:

41 Vicarage Grove, SE5 (1982)
34 Lewisham Way (1982)
54 Asylum Road, SE15 (1982)
No 40, Vardon House, Sparta Street, Blackheath Hill (1982)
52 Shell Road (off Loampit Hill), Lewisham (1982)
49 Nunhead Lane, SE15 (1982)
4 Camplin Street, New Cross (1982)
41 Morley Road, SE13 (1982)
Cato Road, Clapham North (1982)
19 Ostade Road, Brixton (1982)
5 Horsford Road, off Brixton Hill (1982)
32 Bonham Road, Brixton (1982)
Railton Youth Centre, Brixton (1982)
3 Addeys House, Douglas Way, Deptford (1982)
Grove Centre, 2 Jews Walk, Sydenham (1982)
Swanage Queen boat party, from Greeenwich Pier (1982)
Moonshot Club, Pagnell Street, Fordham Park, New Cross (1982)
11 Chalsey Road, Brockley SE4 (1982)
149 Breakspears Road, Brockley (1982)
147 John Ruskin Street, Camberwell (1982)
42 Thornham Street, Greenwich (1982)
33 Maxted Road, Peckham (1982)
96 Lakanal, Sceaux Gardens, Dalwood Street, SE5 (1982)
Harmony Hall (aka Club Harmony), Childer Street, Deptford (1982/3)
Temple 62, 62 Railton Road (1983)
78 William Bonnie Estate, Tryagle Point, Clapham (1983)
Eve Pool Club, 13 Upper Brockley Road (1983)
63 Endwell Road, Brockley SE4 (1983)
Peckham Settlement, Goldsmith Road SE15 (1983)
85 Lewisham Way, SE14 (1983)
Riverdale Hall, Lewisham Centre,Rennell Street, SE13 (1983)
Club Dive, New Cross Road (‘next door to the cab place’) (1983)
Notches, 39 Deptford Bridge (no date)
25 Lothian Road (no date)
Lewisham Boys Club (no date)
St Mary’s Youth Centre, Ladywell Road SE13 (no date)

Any memories of these nights or places, plese comment.