Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Feminist Disco

Rachael House is an artist involved with Space Station Sixty-Five in East Dulwich and with creating events including Peckham Pet-Tastic and Peckham Peacocks mobility scooter meet outside Peckham library (when I was on holiday in Dorsest last week I saw a postcard of this event in somebody's window, a little reminder of home in Lyme Regis).

For her Fine Art MA show at Camberwell Art College, entitled 'Feminist Disco', Rachael House will be DJing with singles played on dansette record players and arranging a series of talks and performances:

Friday 2nd September at 4.30pm- Deborah Withers presents material from the Women's Liberation Music Archive.

Saturday 3rd September 3.00pm- Lucy Whitman on the politics of feminism, punk and the anti racist movements of the 1970s and early 1980s and their continued relevance today. As Lucy Toothpaste, she was involved with Rock Against Racism and Rock Against Sexism in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

Monday 5th September 5.00pm- Anne Robinson - Protest Your Love - 'A manually selected live jukebox featuring feminist favourites with an element of chance'.

Tuesday 6th September 6.00pm-9.00pm- Camberwell MA shows private view, all welcome.

Wednesday 7th September 5.00pm- The Hissterics fanzine launch party.

Thursday 8th September 7.00pm- Hackney Secular Singers - 'best punk choir in the world'.

All events are free and take place in Rachael’s exhibition space in Camberwell Art College, 45-65 Peckham Road, London, SE5 8UF. Please arrive in plenty of time before the events - meet in the college foyer from 20 minutes before events start for directions. Further details from

Shocking Pink

On a related theme, there is a good new piece at the F Word by Cazz Blase on the 1980s/early 1990s young women's feminist zine Shocking Pink. The magazine was based for much of its life in Brixton - at the South London Women's Centre in Acre Lane, and then at the 121 Centre in Railton Road (squatted anarchist centre). Cazz's article includes extracts from my interview with my late friend Katy Watson, who was involved in Shocking Pink as well as the later feminist paper Bad Attitude.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

New Bookshop for New Cross?

It's sad that there is no bookshop in the whole of New Cross and Deptford (barring Christian bookshops), and strange too that there isn't even one in an area next to a major university - Goldsmiths. So it's very exciting that plans are at an advanced stage for a new radical bookshop in New Cross Road.

Bookbloc have already operated a 'pop up' bookshop at Auto Italia, the artist-run project space on Old Kent Road. They are currently finalising negotiations with Goldsmiths for the use of a shop front owned by the college in New Cross Road - I believe on the corner of Laurie Grove opposite the New Cross House (same row as Cafe Crema and Prangsta). That place was squatted about 8 years ago and later degenerated into a bit of a crack den, so needs a bit of work before it can be opened.

The shop would stock radical/critical literature, as well as art and other books. They also hope to use the space for some wider community events. Good luck to them, I really hope this comes off.

Monday, August 29, 2011

London Docklands

London Docklands, Past and Present is a new blog that looks set to do exactly what it says on the tin. It already has some very interesting before (1983) and after redevelopment photographs of Surrey Docks and Greenwich peninsula.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Who owns Convoys Wharf?

As reported at Brockley Central, Crosswhatfields and elsewhere, a revised planning application has been submitted for the future of the Convoys Wharf site on the riverfront at Deptford (documents here). I hope to look at this in more detail, but for now just want to look at the question of who owns the site.

The application has been jointly submitted by News International (yes them) and Convoys Investment S.A.R.L. News International need no introduction as the former owners of the site. At one time they used it to import newsprint, and indeed Convoys was the focus of pickets in 1986 in the dispute that erupted as Rupert Murdoch pushed through plans to relocate the printing of The Times and The Sun to Wapping and break the power of the Fleet Street printworkers. In June 1986 there was a major fire at Convoys Wharf, with arson related to the dispute widely suspected at the time.

In 2005 NI's property wing, News Property One Ltd, entered into an agreement to sell Convoys Wharf to a new company, Convoys Investment S.A.R.L. (S.A.R.L. stands for Société à responsabilité limitée - French for a limited company - for some reason Convoys Investment seems to have been registered in Luxembourg!) This company is jointly controlled (50:50) by two companies, Cheung Kong (Holdings) Ltd and Hutchison Whampoa Ltd. The latter started out as the company running the docks in Hong Kong, and now owns and/or manages waterside sites across the world, in addition to '3G' mobile phones and Superdrug among many other things (see its structure chart). Just under 50% of the company is in turn owned by Cheung Kong, , its partner in Convoys Investment!

It's confusing, but as they say on The Wire, follow the money. Ultimately the real power is is Li Ka-Shing, chairman of both Cheung Kong and Hutchison Whampoa Ltd. He is one of the richest men in the world, having made his fortune through Hong Kong property development and then expanding to mainland China and elsewhere. And just like at News International, the Chairman had his son installed as a major figure in his company - Victor Li is Vice-Chair of Cheung Kong.

Although they have sold the site, News International still have a financial interest in the development of Convoys, as part of the sale involved entering 'into a profit participation agreement with News Property which provides, among other things, for Convoys to pay News Property for any additional area "over which planning permission comprising private residential housing is obtained...."' (Forbes, 18 May 2005).

News International and Cheung Kong go back a long way. As the Independent reported in 1993, the latter sold their Hong Kong satellite TV station, Star TV, to Murdoch in a deal brokered on his yacht. As part of this deal, Li Ka-Shing secured a 2.7 per cent stake in News Corp, making him at the time the third largest shareholder after the Murdoch family and Citicorp, the US bank.

Whatever people think of the details of the proposed scheme, it is clear that the driving force behind the proposals is the interests of two of the most powerful companies in the world. They no more care for the interests of people in Deptford than they do for those labouring under the military dictatorship in Burma (where Hutchison Whampoa run the main ports) or for the families of Millie Dowler and Daniel Morgan (both families affected in different ways by the dubious actions of News International operatives).

What is happening at Convoys Wharf is a travesty of the word 'planning'. Instead of any real consideration of local needs or meaningful involvement of local people, there has been some cursory consultation on a scheme developed by architects with a brief set by the minions of Murdoch and Li-Ka Shing. The least we should be expecting is that the social gains of any new development should be maximised in terms of social housing and genuine community facilities. But we should also be considering whether there are other options entirely for this major site. Whether Lewisham Council will be willing or able to challenge the plans remains to be seen. The planning powers of local authorities to stand up to developers have been progressively eroded, and in any event cash-starved councils are likely to say yes to any scheme that offers them increased revenue in the short term whatever the long term loss of alternative opportunities.

Endless Summer

My Tiger My Timing have been taking their infectious electro-pop on the road over the summer, including playing at Glastonbury. Their anthem Endless Summer has been getting lots of attention, with remixes a plenty.

As mentioned at Transpontine a while ago, the band are based in the New Cross area and have previously bigged up Telegraph Hill Park in interviews. The video for Endless Summer was filmed at the stone circle in Hilly Fields.

Follow the band on Facebook and Twitter

Meanwhile local singer Kat Drake has been singing in Telegraph Hill Park and elsewhere as part of She's Happy when She Sings (an online collaborative song writing project with Amy Lim):

Friday, August 26, 2011

Flatfoot Johnny

Flatfoot Johnny is based in Forest Hill and hand makes banjos, cigar box guitars and similar instruments. I saw some displayed recently at St David Coffee House (pictured), and was sorely tempted to expand my collection of mandolins, ukes and baglamas.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Low Lie the Fields of Peckham Rye

One of the many untold stories of South East London is its contribution to the development of Irish sports, with playing fields from Peckham to New Eltham resounding to the sounds of hurling, Gaelic football and camogie.

London's oldest Gaelic Athletics Association club, the Bros Pearse GAA was founded by Jack Shalloe and others at Bolgers Hall, 3 Queens Road, Peckham, as Brothers Pearse Hurling and Football Club back in 1920. Today it is based in north west London, but the Dulwich Harps gaelic football teams still play at Peckham Rye.

For many years, the headquarters of the London GAA was in the borough of Bexley (then Greenwich following boundary changes), at Avery Hill Road in New Eltham, though it moved to Ruislip in the 1980s I believe. The derelict GAA ground there has been the focus of a campaign to keep it as an open space in recent years.

Liam MacCarthy

In hurling, the trophy awarded to the winning team in the All Ireland Senior Hurling Championship is actually named after a Peckham resident. Liam MacCarthy of Liam MacCarthy Cup fame was born in London to parents from County Cork, who were living on the South Bank when Liam was born in 1853. By the age of 14 he was playing hurling on Clapham Common. He was working on the railways as a signals fitter and living in Peckham (1 Derwent Street) when in 1875 he married Alice Padbury at St. George's Cathedral, Southwark. The family regularly attended mass at the Friary in Peckham.

Alice's father William Padbury owned a Fancy Box factory at 176 Blackfriars Road, Southwark. Liam joined the firm, but then broke away to start his own cardboard box making business, called St. Brigid Works and based at 48 Haymerle Road, Peckham. There was a large Irish community in the area at the time, and MacCarthy became the ward councillor for Peckham North Ward (1900-1912). The family moved to 48a Forest Hill Road in East Dulwich.

MacCarthy played a key role in sports, as President of the London County Board of the GAA from 1898 to 1907, and 1909-1911. Other members of the board during his time were Michael Collins and Sam Maguire (after whom the Gaelic Football cup is named) and later Irish republican leader Michael Collins. MacCarthy himself joined the nationalist Irish Volunteers and the clandestine Irish Republican Brotherhood which fought for Irish independence. He was also at one point Vice-President in London of the Gaelic League which promoted the Irish language.

MacCarthy purchased the silver cup and donated it to the GAA in Dublin who agreed to make it the trophy for the national Hurling championship. The Liam MacCarthy cup was first awarded in 1921 and every year since - albeit replaced by a replica in 1992.

MacCarthy (sometimes spelt McCarthy in records) died in East Dulwich in 1928.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Deptford Chartist 'Riot' 1842

The Chartist movement to extend the vote to working men was active in Deptford and Greenwich, making its most dramatic impact in 1842 with what the Kentish Mercury reported as 'a Chartist disturbance at Deptford'.

The occasion was a meeting called in the Dissenting Chapel in Deptford High Street 'to discuss the present existing distress of the country'. The meeting was to have been addressed by George Thompson, nationally known for his activities in the Anti-corn-law league and the movement for the abolition of slavery, but in the event he was unable to attend. 2,000 people squeezed into the hall, with hundreds more outside.

When The Rev. Mr Pullen announced that Thompson would not be attending 'a body of Chartists... rose and proposed that the Chair should be filled by a working man' and then 'attempted to get possession of the table'. The minister called the police and fighting erupted as 'their attempt to secure the principal parties induced their friends and partisans to join the fray and prevent their being captured'. The meeting resumed with a man named Taylor speaking 'on the condition of the working classes' before fighting resumed when another man denounced the minister for 'sending for bloodhounds to rob those who spoke their minds of their liberty'. The meeting dissolved with 'three cheers for the Charter, and three for Feargus OConnor', and a proposal to reconvene in the Broadway.

Dr. M'Douall, a well-known Chartist who had participated in an uprising at Newport, addressed the crowd in the Broadway from the top of a pump, denouncing 'the tyrant aristocracy of the country who are trampling upon the rights of poor men'. The police ordered the meeting to disperse and when this was ignored, arrested M'Douall and several others. Police superintendent Mallalieu complained that he had 'never seen an assemblage in this neighbourhood so mischievously inclined' and that there had been 'several attempts to rescue the prisoner' (KM 30/7/1842).

In court M'Douall complained that 'the Broadway is a public way, and that the householders have a right to meet there'. The events were also raised in Parliament by Thomas Duncombe, one of the few MPs who supported the Chartists. He presented a petition 'from 4,000 of the inhabitants of Deptford' complaining that the police had violated the constitution. This did not impress the conservative local paper which complained that the petition 'was got up by another itinerant of the name of Phillips, and an assemblage of no more than 300 persons, chiefly of the lowest description in one of the corners of Blackheath'. What it termed 'The Deptford Riot' was denounced as the action of 'brawling reckless vagabonds' incited by an 'itinerant rebel' (KM 6.8.1842).

Monday, August 22, 2011

Deptford Citizen

The Deptford Citizen was a local paper published on a monthly basis from October 1931 to September 1939.

It was launched by Deptford Labour Party (with its HQ at 435 New Cross Road) and the Royal Arsenal Co-operative Society, so its content was a mixture of socialist politics and adverts for co-op products. For instance, the co-op had its own cocoa works in Luton so there were adverts for 'Lutona Cocoa'.

One of the striking features is the listings which give a sense of the importance of the labour movement in local life at the time. For instance the first issue tells us that the local LP had six women's sections, and there were also six local co-operative guilds: Brockley Cross Women's, Brockley Men's, Deptford Women's, Deptford and New Cross Men's, New Cross Women's and Hatcham Men's. All of these groups were meeting on a weekly basis at venues including Hatcham Liberal Club, the Primitive Methodist Mission Hall in Besson Street and St Georges Hall in Shardeloes Road.

There was a Labour Party choir, a football team, a sports club, a swimming club and dances at Laurie Grove. One such event advertised in February 1932 featured Vic Filmer's Mitre Club Orchestra - Filmer was a well-known jazz band leader.

Free legal advice was provided at 435 New Cross Road by Mr. L. Silkin, 'Poor Man's Lawyer'. I assume this was Lewis Silkin, a solicitor who became Labour MP for Peckham in 1936 (his sons Sam and John also became Labour MPs). There were also summer outings - in 1933, Deptford Labour Party took 1800 children on a trip to Epsom Downs.

Reading it with historical hindsight it is sad tracing the drift through recession, the rise of fascism in Europe and on towards war. The paper seemed to have been to the left of the Labour Party leadership, with a sharp socialist analysis of events. An article in December 1931 denounced the coalition national government -which included national Labour leaders like Ramsay MacDonald - as 'a purely class government masquerading as "national" but really "capitalist"'. In April of the following year a headline read 'Capitalism causes war and poverty.'

As early as May 1933 the paper was warning that 'Hitler's fiends use mass murder and torture to smash German labour movement'. Bear in mind that in the 1930s both Lewisham Conservative MPs were cosying up to Hitler and Mussolini.

A report from the Spanish civil war in June 1937 warned prophetically 'Guernica in April 1937 may be London in April 1938'. And indeed by 1940 the air raids on Guernica were being repeated in Deptford and across the UK. With the outbreak of World War Two, Deptford Citizen came to an end.

There is a full set of Deptford Citizen on microfilm in Lewisham local studies centre, upstairs in the main Lewisham library.

Friday, August 19, 2011


'Two pints of Lager and a Packet of Crips please' by Splodegenessabounds must be the greatest ever punk track from SE15. Released in 1980 it was actually a b-side to their debut Simon Templar single, but courtesy of John Peel it was this song that got most attention and propelled the single to number 7 in the charts.

The band's wikipedia page says they were formed in Keston, Bromley and indeed I met someone from there recently who was babysat as a nipper by the band's Baby Greensleeves. However they then relocated and just before this single's release the band were interviewed by the South London Press at 'their base in a Nunhead council flat' (SLP 9 April 1980). Elsewhere on line they are referred to as 'Peckham-based piss-artist pranksters'.

Not sure if Max Splodge had any particular pub in mind when he wrote this song, on the Crystal Palace supporters forum somebody suggests that it was the Downham Arms wherever that may be (the only one I could find online is in Wickford, Essex). Anyway, that might just be folklore.

The band were managed at the time by Dave Long, who lived in Albion Way, Lewisham (Mercury, 16 July 1981). He also managed the band Case, and was involved in the Oi punk scene with his record labels Syndicate and Victory.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Police shoot dog in Catford

A Catford local has informed Transpontine that a bull terrier type dog was shot dead by armed police on Sunday evening in Torridon Road SE6. The incident happened at around 7 pm, and followed an alleged injury to a neighbour and her dog. Surprized this hasn't been reported elsewhere.

London Pub Wars Continued

Transpontine reported recently on the bid by Fuller's to take over the Capital Pub Company, owner of top local pubs including the New Cross House, Victoria in Peckham, the Florence in Herne Hill and both the Actress and the Bishop in East Dulwich.

But in a surprize move last month Fuller's rival Greene King agreed a deal with the board of Capital Pubs to buy the company and its 34 pubs - at a value of almost £3m per pub. The Telegraph (23 July 2011) reported: 'Greene King looks to have landed a blow on rival pub company Fuller's after agreeing the £93m takeover of London operator Capital Pub Company'. What this means for the pubs, their staff and their customers remains to be seen.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The riots and after

Too much has happened in the last ten days to document here, let alone make any kind of analysis. But I will try to get down a few notable things from the Deptford and Lewisham area.

As reported here previously, last Monday night there was some rioting and looting in Deptford and New Cross, as well as in Lewisham. As it happened, the worse damage suffered on Deptford High Street was to premises that many people have been campaigning against in recent months - the proliferating betting shops. But for people living in this street with its old buildings there was a fear of fire in particular.

As Caiman del Barrio reports:

'Residents – including those living in the flats above the targeted businesses – looked on in disbelief, some jamming 999 incessantly into their phones. While not many folk shed tears for the economic losses sustained by the shops, the fact that these recognised gang kids had free reign of the High Street struck fear into the heart of normal people, acutely aware – as they were -of the risk of fire on the narrow, cramped street. Eventually, after around two hours, a sole TSG van arrived and six cops jumped out to chase the looters off'.

On Tuesday some of the people previously involved in Deptford Social Centre Plus put out a call to meet up on Deptford High Street for a 'peaceful congregation to reclaim our streets from fear'. Caiman again:

'We’d found ourselves shakily preparing emergency bags and water buckets the night before, but we realised we had no hoses or foam extinguishers. An impromptu fire safety meeting was organised on a street corner between around 30 people, who then agreed to meet again in the evening to reclaim the streets from fear and misinformation. We were all sick of barricading ourselves in and relying on the false rumours and hysteria of mainstream news and social media. At 8.30pm, almost 100 people met outside and started chatting about what had happened and why, while a banner was painted with the slogan “DEPTFORD UNITED, YOU’RE INVITED”'.

There's also a report by Ewa here:

'A 100 of us ended up congregating outside the Ladbrookes, some with flasks of tea and biscuits, others with beer. All of us were local. Some ‘Street Pastors’ stopped by, walking the talk, calm and gracious, protected by nothing but fleeces with ‘Street Pastor’ written on the back. Some local folk used to spending a lot of time in the streets also joined us, dead skeptical at first, challenging us, and quizzing us on what we were doing and what we really thought about the riots...

We held a flash consultation shout-out for what a banner should say? Consensus produced in rainbow Goldsmiths art student lettering ‘DEPTFORD UNITED – YOURE INVITED’. We hung it on some metal shop shutters. The police cruised by and concluded ‘you’re the nice people’ whatever that meant...'

There was a street meeting with people talking about was going on, and there seem to have been some disagreements including between people with more of a radical political perspective and others solely concerned with discouraging further damage.

SolFed has put up some sound recordings of the meeting, here's one of them with a woman urging people 'now is the time when we can go and protest... meaningless riots aren't going to get us anywhere, we are only going to get somewhere if we are doing it in the name of something'.

Deptfordassembly2 by sifa_1

From that meeting came a call for a demonstration the next night from Deptford to Lewisham Town Hall in Catford. I caught the beginning of it by the anchor at the end of Deptford High Street, from where people set off behind a Lewisham Anti-Cuts Alliance banner. There was over 100 people at the start, and numbers apparently swelled to about 200, a respectable turn out at such short notice though not mobilising that many beyond the Lewisham radical left (there were people there from Socialist Party, Socialist Workers Party, Permanent Revolution, Solidarity Federation and LACA, as well as various non-aligned radicals).

Ewa reports that people were chanting "‘No Ifs, No Buts, No Public Sector Cuts’, ‘No Justice, No Peace’, ‘Blame the Government, Not Our Kids’ (the most popular one), ‘No War On The Poor’". South London Solidarity Federation concluded:

'the demonstration was a mitigated success. Not as many locals attended as was hoped, while the local left’s attempts to blame the riots on “the cuts” was shallow and ill-conceived. Clearly the motivations behind this week’s disturbances are more fundamental than the recent budget cuts, appearing to hint at whole lives of atomisation, disengagement and anger on our estates. The efforts of Deptford residents to talk to each other and collectivise their problems can only be positive. Together we can fight to improve our lives and our neighbourhoods'.

Amidst the rumours flying round that night was that the English Defence League, or even the National Front, were marching to Lewisham from Eltham. It is true that the police contained a white crowd in Eltham, and that this included some EDL supporters (though that doesn't mean that everybody there was EDL or racist, some might just have turned out to prevent looting). But none of them got anywhere near Lewisham, if that was ever their intention.

There was some confusion as the anti-cuts march passed Lewisham Islamic Centre, where some people may have initially been concerned that it was the EDL on the way. There are some interesting reflections on the demonstration at the Third Estate blog in an article, South London: United, or Divided? An Account of Two Unity Demonstrations, First White, Then Black:

'Only at one point was there any tension with the police; they seemed to be holding the march up for no reason outside the Islam centre. After talking with a policeman, I found out that they believed there was tension between our demonstration and the Muslims outside the centre, and that we had been ‘squaring up to them’. In truth, many people on the demo were calling to the centre’s members to ‘join us’, to become part of the unity demonstration. To show that solidarity, a few people (I believe misguidedly, though not wrong) began chanting ‘Free free Palestine!’. The local coppers, however, didn’t realise that this was an attempt at solidarity. In fact, on questioning, I found that the policeman believed the chant to be a racist jibe of some kind. The police, clearly, had no idea who we were, what our politics were, or why we were demonstrating.

Actually, I can’t blame them. It was extremely difficult to answer this question – even though it seemed like an obvious march in which to participate... Only later did I realise quite how white we must have looked, marching through Lewisham centre, so eerily quiet in the quasi-lock down that has swept through London these past couple of nights'.

The author of this piece then stumbled across a second demonstration in Lewisham - a group of 30 young black people who had turned out to oppose the EDL and who were being escorted through the streets under heavy police escort. To make it clear that they weren't there to riot, they were chanting 'Peaceful march, peaceful march; We’re protecting our community, we’re protecting our community' (photograph of this below by Darryl at 853).

Last Saturday, there was a street meeting about the riots by the Lewisham clock tower with people having a good old rant mostly from various socialist perspectives. It wasn't particularly lively, but did include a veteran of the 1977 'Battle of Lewisham' just a few yards from where riot shields had been deployed for the first time in England during the anti-National Front protests exactly 34 years previously (Saturday August 13th 1977).

Other people had called for shoppers to come out and show their support for the market traders, not sure if this had an effect or not but it seemed to be as busy as any other Saturday. There was still some signs of the trouble earlier in the week, with a few boarded up windows at McDonalds and elsewhere.

There are different views locally not just on the riots, but on the 'Deptford United' demonstration on Wednesday and other local responses (see for instance negative comments to a post at Crosswhatfields). Maybe Deptford isn't really united. But where is? Like it or not, tens of thousands of rioters have just destroyed the notion that 'we're all in it together' in some kind of harmonious big society. And faced with events of this magnitude it's good that people are arguing about how to respond rather than falling in line with some fake consensus.

More on Lewisham

There's some interesting data on Lewisham in an article in Public Finance journal by Heather Wakefield, 'Why there were riots in Lewisham':

'Ours weren’t the worst of yesterday’s riots, but it would have come as no surprise if they had been. A long-time net exporter of labour, with a diminishing number of local jobs, Lewisham tops the UK’s league table for youth unemployment . According to the Office of National Statistics, almost 36% of Lewisham’s 16 – 24 year olds were out of work last year, compared to a UK average of 19.5%: alarming figures by any standards. Meanwhile, Croydon and Hackney – also under siege last night – were almost as bad – with youth unemployment levels of 33%.

In 2010, a TUC report showed that Job Seekers Allowance claimants in my ‘hood outnumbered overall job vacancies by almost 14:1. Compare this to to a national average of 5:1. This made Lewisham the third worst centre of unemployment in England, after Haringey and Hackney. In 2010, it was the 31st most deprived council in England – up from 52nd in 2004.

Grandparents and parents from the Caribbean, Africa, India and Pakistan – as well as the white working class – once worked hard for a living in local hospitals, transport, the council and low paid jobs in the private service sector. They now see their children and grandchildren facing the interminable prospect of lives without even low paid work, as the great law of the welfare of the people unravels in the haze of George Osborne’s deficit reduction strategy and a global economy in crisis. That means lives without money and all those things that turbo capitalism has made us think we need – even if we could only afford them in the ‘boom’ times on the sort of credit that helped bring the global economy close to its knees. Most live out a ground down existence on the dole and the margins of London’s consumer society'.

Here's some footage of the Lewisham riot last Monday. A lot of the coverage has focused on the looting, but there were clearly some quite intense clashes between youths and riot police..

Monday, August 15, 2011

Mural Walk

The recent London Mural Preservation Society walking tour of South East London murals was a success with 20+ people heading from Canada Water to Deptford on a Saturday afternoon (6th August).

The starting point was Surrey Quays shopping centre with its two 1980s murals developed by the Greenwich Mural Workshop. This one combines a representation of contemporary life with the history of the Surrey Docks - by showing people staging a modern day festival about the history of the docks:

Outside the shopping centre in the recreated Dockers shelter, there is a mural by Bermondsey Arts Group showing images from the docks.

I like the way that it incorporates images of items presumably found while researching it in Southwark Archives, including a 1950s flyer for the Dockworkers Social Club (Gordon Club) in Bermondsey Street.

We walked on down to the Sanford Housing Co-operative (Sanford Walk, SE14) with its 1984 mural 'Riders of the Apocalypse' designed by Brian Barnes with help from Ray Walker and others. This late Cold War classic shows Thatcher, Reagan and Heseltine flying around on nuclear missiles - there's also a Russian leader, not sure who it's supposed to be - Gorbachev didn't become Soviet leader until 1985, I think it's probably Andropov who died in 1984. The mural was funded by the Greater London Council via 'London Muralists for Peace'. Apparently the original design featured skeletons on missiles, but some of the residents objected.

A detail I hadn't noticed before is the fence at the bottom with images of people on it. This derives from a famous 1982 demonstration at Greenham Common cruise missiles base where protestors put personal effects and pictures on the fence. Anybody know who some of the people shown in the mural are? And note that one of the images shows a representation of part of the mural within the mural, a signature feature of murals by Barnes.

Incidentally while doing some research recently I stumbled across a report of a 1981 party during the Royal Wedding of Princess Di and Prince Charles - the Mercury reported '100 youngsters at Sanford housing co-operative in Sanford Street, New Cross, staged a Stuff the Wedding party'. A picture of a big Stuff the Wedding banner was included (Mercury 6 August 1981).

We saw some recent spray paint art on the Woodpecker Youth and Community Centre in New Cross, with some Alice in Wonderland-influenced imagery. Anybody know who did this?

In Deptford, the Pink Palace mural is on the corner of Frankham Street and Deptford Church Street. It was designed in 1983 by artists including Paul Pestidge and Mary Maguire.

Pulling back the dustbins we found some hidden details, like this Sony Walkman-wearing skeleton:

I was already familiar with the Love Over Gold mural in Creekside, designed by Gary Drostle with kids from local schools. It dates from 1989 and was partly funded by the band Dire Straits who were formed in the mid-1970s when most of the band were living in the adjacent Farrer House on Crossfields Estate in Deptford.

As Mark Knopfler of the band recalls, their 1982 song/album Love Over Gold took its name from some local graffiti: 'there was just some graffiti that was on the wall in Deptford really that stuck in my mind when we were living in this condemned estate. Someone had written "Love Over Gold" on the wall as an idea and it stuck with me'. The original 1970s graffiti is shown as a detail in the mural - in effect the mural is named after the song which is named after the graffiti!

Other details include 'love over gold' written in sign language:

...and St Pauls Church:

In Deptford market we paused in Douglas Way to view the scene of a recently departed mural. The 1988 mural by Christopher Ryland and Paul Pestidge (detail below) has now gone, but Lewisham have commissioned a replacement - so watch that space!

Finally we checked out two murals by Patricio Forrester/Artmongers. The first on the Deptford High Street was apparently at one point due to include actual necklaces hanging on from the chimneys rather than a painted one.

The other will be familar to people on Deptford Broadway, and indeed replaced two previous murals at the same location.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Republican Borough of Greenwich

At a meeting at Woolwich Town Hall last month, Greenwich councillors formally agreed to change the name of the London Borough of Greenwich to the Royal Borough of Greenwich from 3 January 2012. The local museums (National Maritime Museum, the Queens House and the Royal Observatory) are to be rebranded as the Royal Museums, Greenwich, and the Queen herself will be visiting next year to re-open the restored Cutty Sark.

Thanks to Darryl at 453 you can listen to the speech made by Greenwich Council leader Chris Roberts proposing the motion, in which he outlines the 'great Royal Heritage' of Greenwich and its 'history... defined by royal presence and patronage'. It is true that there is a deep historical connection between Greenwich and royalty, though this is somewhat overstated. The royal palace at Greenwich was a key location for the Tudors (Henry VIII etc.), but was only built in the 15th century when the royal park was enclosed (or stolen from the commons if you prefer). Less than 200 year later its time as a royal residence came to an end with the execution of King Charles I during the English Civil War, when a significant proportion of the population successfully fought against the absolute power of the monarchy. The royal palace was used a biscuit factory for a while, then pulled down after it fell into decay.

Of course there have been 'Royal' connections since such as the Royal Arsenal in Woolwich and the Royal Naval College in Greenwich itself, but their names simply reflect the convention of naming government institutions as 'royal' rather than any actual royal presence.

Republican Greenwich

It is equally arguable that Greenwich should be renamed as the Republican Borough of Greenwich. Let us recall the figure of 'Freeborn' John Lilburne, a prominent figure in the anti-Royalist camp in the Civil War and later jailed as a Leveller. He claimed to have been born in the Royal palace at Greenwich, where his father Richard was a courtier (though he grew up in the North East). What is not in doubt is that he died at Eltham in 1657.

Let us remember too the thousands who gathered on Blackheath and fought and died against the tyranny of Kings - the Peasants Revolt of 1381, Jack Cade's rebellion in 1450 and the Cornish rising of 1497, which ended with hundreds being slaughtered by King Henry VII's forces at Deptford Bridge.

Or John De Morgan, the Republican and radical who was jailed for his part in the campaign againt the enclosure of Plumstead Common in the 1870s - when workers from the Arsenal and others rioted against plans to extend the parade ground of the Woolwich barracks.

Royalty and Empire
In his speech, Chris Roberts referred to 'the great navigators, soldiers and sailors who... fought for the Empire' without the slightest acknowledgement that this history was not always so glowing. For the ancestors of many of the people living in Greenwich today, the experience of this royal/colonial adventure was conquest, plunder and slavery. And yes, South East London was deeply implicated in this, with slavers living in Blackheath, and slave ships heading out from Deptford.

To uncritically celebrate Greenwich's royal/colonial connections is to the deny the crimes and the complexity of the past, and also has implications for the present. It is no coincidence that the fiercest guardians of this royal pageant version of history are also extremely reactionary about present events. Take the royalist historian David Starkey (no please, take him). He is curating an exhibition at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich next year on 'Royal River: Power, Pageantry and the Thames'. His response to the recent riots? A rant on Newsnight that Enoch Powell was 'absolutely right' and that the problem is that 'the whites have become black.' I hope Greenwich Council won't be welcoming this racist to the borough in future.

Seriously though there is something very sad about an acceptance of Greenwich's status as a Royal theme park, resting on some imagined feudal heritage rather than looking to the future. Greenwich needs a new story as a place where history is being made now rather than simply conserved - maybe the 'Tinie Tempah Borough of Greenwich'?!

Friday, August 12, 2011

Deptford Red Flag Riots, 1932

In June 1932, Deptford was the focus of what became known as 'The Red Flag Riots'. On a Sunday evening following a National Unemployed Workers Movement protest, 'a large body of people were marching home from an antiwar demonstration at Woolwich when, at Deptford Broadway, some of them started to sing "the Red Flag". Policemen who were escorting the procession tried to stop the singing, but the men refused'. In fact, the demonstrators' own band had first struck up the tune and been stopped, after which (a court was later told) Alexander Duncan was heard to say "Now then, comrades, if we can’t play it we will sing it". Duncan was the husband of Kath Duncan, who had stood in elections locally as a Communist Party candidate.

In the clashes that followed six people were arrested and the police made free use of their batons: 'when the arrested men appeared in court, three of them had large plasters on the back of their heads'. Over the next week there were further demonstrations and riots in Deptford. The following morning unemployed workers in local training centres went on strike and 'Nearly a thousand unemployed… attended a meeting at Deptford Broadway to protest against the arrest of the six men and to raise funds to support their families'. That evening 'nearly 8,000 people assembled at the Broadway… a number of men attempted to sing The Red Flag. The police drew their batons and had some difficulty in controlling the crowds'.

On Tuesday night, 5,000 gathered in nearby Stockwell Street, Greenwich and blocked London Street, where mounted police charged the crowd. On Wednesday bricks were thrown at police in Church Street. By the end of the week things seemed to have calmed down, although there was a peaceful unemployed demonstration from Deptford to Blackheath; apparently 'The demonstrators were informed of the meeting by chalked messages in the streets'.

There had been a number of further arrests during the week, and later six people received sentences of between two and four months in prison with hard labour: Alfred Lucas (aged 41, a mechanic from Clandon Street), George Childs (24, a clerk from Vesta Road), Albert Crane (24, a hosier from Shere Street), Edward MacCafferty (22, a salesman from Pagnell Street), William Trott (30, a fitting hand from Adolphus Street) and Victor Hammond (32, a labourer from Coston Street).

In early October, two of those jailed, Albert Crane and George Childs, were met by ‘a small band of Deptford Communists' on their release from Brixton prison, going on to address a meeting of 400 people in Deptford Broadway where they 'said they would not be afraid to go back if there was any chance of it doing any good to the working classes of Deptford'.

(all above quotes from South London Press, June and October 1932).

Thursday, August 11, 2011

An Australian in New Cross

What She Said is a blog by Melbourne-based Hariklia: 'Every day I post an entry from one of my diaries, that was written on the same day (date and month) that I post it, from any year between 1970 to the present'.

From 1986 to 1988, she was living in New Cross, seemingly in a housing co-op in Hatcham Park Road area. Her diary entries for that time feature various local landmarks amidst the usual diary boy/girl trouble - shopping in Lewisham, going for a date in the Goldsmiths Tavern (now the New Cross House), indie club A Million Rubber Bands at the Harp Club (now the Venue), night bus journeys home, playing pool in the (now closed) Royal Archer, stepping out in Nunhead Cemetery with local heart-throb Johny Brown of the Band of the Holy Joy:

'24 January 1988... I’m sitting, right this very second, in the park atop Telegraph Hill. It’s a lovely day for this time of the year. But I’m so reminded of JB here. How many Sundays ago was it that we walked through this very park going to Nunhead Cemetery? I keep thinking I’ll see him walking past with another girl, hand in hand. Another Sunday, another girl. That day was so wonderful and I remember thinking how I was sharing something I really enjoyed, for a change. We saw a few solitary people there, and I thought that for once it wasn’t me, walking alone and seeing a happy couple, thinking how romantic it would be. I was part of a couple, having a romantic walk amongst the graves and statues and fallen trees. JB tried to catch a falling leaf for good luck'

(hope Hariklia won't mind me using this great picture of a gravetop Johny in Nunhead 1987)

I moved down to London around this time too, living in Brixton. So sure our paths have crossed a number of times at many of the places she mentions, as I too frequented the Harp Club, the Town and Country Club, The Falcon (Camden) and Band of Holy Joy gigs. And indeed I once kissed a girl who (claimed to have) kissed Robert Smith of The Cure who... well, maybe we are also connected in a 'I've danced with a man, who's danced with a girl, who's danced with the Prince of Wales' kind of way. Shame I missed out on two things she managed to do - seeing Prince at his peak in London and going to the last ever gig by The Smiths at Brixton Academy (though I did see them three times).

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Ukes, riots and the Amersham Arms

Earlier in the week I noticed on East Dulwich Forum that somebody was having a 'hug a hoodie' moment and suggesting playing music on the streets to soothe the troubled souls of potential South London rioters. They offered to bridge a ukulele - bless. Some people might think that was asking for it, but not me - hey I have a collection of small stringed instruments.

Not sure that the Brockley Ukulele Group would claim to have such powers, but they have good flyers and will be having their free monthly Ukebox session at the Amersham Arms in New Cross on Sunday 14 August

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Riots and Rumours of Riots

I wandered down through New Cross and Deptford this morning not knowing what to expect, with some of the Twitter rumours suggesting a local orgy of destruction last night. Without in anyway belittling what actually did occur, there was actually very little damage in New Cross Road and Deptford Broadway with the obvious exception of Currys in New Cross, with its glass doors shattered (it was apparently looted, with nearby Sainsburys also attacked). No sign of any commotion at the Venue nightclub, reported at one point on Twitter to be on fire.

There was more damage in Deptford High Street, with broken windows at HSBC and Barclays Bank, Tesco Express and three bookies - Paddy Power (ex-Deptford Arms) and two branches of William Hill. The one at the northern end of the High Street had cash machines dragged outside:

There was a burnt out car by the Albany, but most of the local shops appeared untouched. Whether this was due to political choices of rioters or the superior shutters and limited financial value of Deptford stock I leave you to decide.

Today people at my work spent much of the day discussing various rumours of trouble in Camberwell, Peckham, Ladywell, Surrey Quays and the Walworth Road, none of which seem to have been true. Nor, seemingly, were 'reports of gangs walking from Forest Hill to Dulwich' (as discussed on twitter and East Dulwich Forum).

Of course, there was plenty of real rioting in South London last night and I saw more evidence of it as I was out and about today including the smashed up Clayton Arms in Peckham and the broken doors of the Old Kent Road Argos. Maybe there will be some more, but don't believe everything you hear. And don't blame it all on Twitter or Blackberry either - in turbulent times stories proliferate, as the following tale from the age of the telegraph illustrates.

In 1886 there were unemployed riots in Trafalgar Square and in the same week The Times reported: 'the whole of South London was panic-stricken by the report that a large body of unemployed rioters were on their way to the Borough and Newington Causeway from New Cross and Deptford', smashing shops on their way. Shops were boarded up and extra police sent down the Old Kent Road. A telegram was sent to The Times from the Old Kent Road: 'Fearful state all round here in south London. 30,000 men at Spa Road moving to Trafalgar Square. Roughs in thousands trooping to the west. Send special messenger to the Home Office to have police in fullest force with fullest military force to save London'. There was a crowd of around 2,000 gathered in Deptford Broadway but no sign of a riot there or on the Old Kent Road. In fact in Deptford the rumours were of a crowd heading towards them from the Elephant and Castle! (Times 11.2.1886).

(Brockley Central has the low down on damage in Lewisham, and like last night will probably the best place tonight to keep track of what is actually happening in Lewisham rather than what's rumoured to be happening).

See also: Deptford Dame report on Deptford riot damage.

Monday, August 08, 2011

Peckham - a Jewel in God's Crown

Various strategies have been applied over they years to improve the image of Peckham. Demolishing most of the North Peckham Estate, rebranding whole areas as 'Not Really Peckham' (Bellenden)... But none of these have been ambitious as Christchurch on the Old Kent Road which has declared to the world 'Peckham - a jewel in God's crown'.

I would like to think of this as a subtle exercise in liberation theology - an affirmation of 'God's preferential option for the poor' at a time when the eyes of the world's media have been focused on the Church of England's more establishment role as stage set for royal spectacles (yes, that wedding). SE15 - the stone the builders rejected will become the cornerstone...

Saturday, August 06, 2011

Demetre Fraser demonstration

Next weekend there's a demonstration from Nunhead to Camberwell called by the family and friends of a young man who died in Birmingham earlier this year. Demetre Fraser aka T.Dot grew up in Nunhead and Peckham, but was staying in the Midlands. On 31st May 2011 he was visited by officers from the West Midlands Police, whose version of events is that he committed suicide by jumping off a 11th floor balcony. He was 21 years old.

Demetre's mother Jossette, who now lives in Brockley, is among those disputing the official account of his death. Neighbours have reported hearing a struggle, and as with the recent death of Smiley Culture, questions are being asked about how a man managed to kill himself in front of police.

The March 4 Justice 4 Demetre Fraser is on Saturday 13th August, starting at 12 noon from Gibbon Road SE15, then heading along Evelina Road towards Peckham Rye, down Rye Lane, Peckham High Street, and 0nto Camberwell Green.

Further information at the Justice4Demetre campaign page.

Update 9 August: the campaign has decided to postpone the march, with Lee Jasper stating: 'In the current climate, we cannot guarantee the public safety of those who would attend the march and as a result, we have decided that we have no option other than to postpone it. This was a difficult decision to make and understandably it is particularly hard for Demetre’s mother, Josette Fraser. Our thoughts are with the Fraser family at this time'.

Friday, August 05, 2011

New Theatre in New Cross

A new fringe theatre space is opening in New Cross next month. The London Theatre will be in The Lower Space, 443 New Cross Road, SE14 6TA.

Or at least it will be called that unless a kind sponsor comes forward who wants to donate a sizeable sum and have a theatre named after them!

They already have a programme planned of 'plays, sketch shows and stand up comedy in the evening and daytime shows for children and some great workshops for adults', but they are also interested in other ideas you may have. The space will also be available for hire for rehearsals etc.

There's going to be a New Cross Comedy Club on 29th September, and a performance of Chekhov's The Bear in Russian (Медведь, А.Чехов) on 2nd October, among other things.

Further details, call 0208 694 1888, email or check out the website.

443 is New Cross Road is about half way between the Amersham Arms and The Royal Albert on the other side of the road. It's painted black and I think has served as a recording studio and nightclub at various times.

Thursday, August 04, 2011

Danny Baker

Nice listening to Danny Baker on Desert Island Discs, talking about growing up in a council flat in Bermondsey ('a terrific place to live') with his dad a docker and union activist, going to West Greenwich high school, and ending up with a 'big pile of bricks on Blackheath' while holding out against assimilation to the middle class and berating the 'suppression of working class culture' in the media.

He's definitely in the glass half full (if not 3/4 full) camp, with a great attitude of spend it while you can on your friends and family with 'no concern and no respect for money'. And no bullshit about the redeeming nature of surviving a life-threatening illness.

If you're not on twitter it's almost worth joining to follow Danny as Prodnose. He was absent from his radio show on Monday during the BBC strike, tweeting 'Yes stayed home today. Couldn't cross a picket line. Lyrics to Level 42's "My Father's Shoes" and all that'.

Here's some vintage Danny Baker from 1983, reporting from his local football team Millwall on their relegation battle for the 6 o'clock show. This was in the days of the old Den and with George Graham as manager. And yes they did avoid relegation that year.

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

South East London Mural Walk

The very fine London Mural Preservation Society are holding their first South East London Mural Walk this coming Saturday August 6th. It's completely free, meeting at 1pm at Canada Water for a leisurely afternoon stroll through Surrey Quays to Deptford and New Cross, checking out the best of the area's murals.

I've been meaning to write about the murals in Surrey Quays shopping centre for some time, undertaken by the Greenwich Mural Workshop - but they have beaten me to it with better photos than I managed on my phone.The murals celebrate the former Surrey Docks.

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Perienne Christian

Brockley-based artist Perienne Christian was interviewed in The Standard this week, as the last person to model for the recently departed Lucian Freud. 'Freud's final muse... was the last in a long line of sitters to spend hours under the forensic gaze of the artist who died last month at the age of 88. Ms Christian, herself an artist, today told the Standard of the "fun" and "mischief" of working for one of the greatest artists of the 20th century. She developed a close friendship with the painter outside the studio despite the 60-year age gap... She said: "I have lost a great friend. On a personal level he was great fun to be with, always full of lively conversation; stories of mischief and intrigue" (Standard 2 August 2011).

Christian's own works owe something to her SE London location, albeit an area transfigured in her drawings to a slightly more visionary landscape populated by Edenic figures. This fine example is called 'Horniman Gardens with Tulips':

© Perienne Christian

Urban Physic Garden

The Urban Physic Garden is a temporary garden next to the railway line at 100 Union Street, SE1. Its focus is on medicinal plants, and it also has its own bar/cafe.

The garden is hosting various musical and other performances. Recently (July 23rd) I took part in Cross Bones Bards there, hosted by John Constable and featuring songs and poems inspired by the local area. Among those taking part were John, Nigel of Bermondsey (pictured below), Niall McDevitt, Irene Anderson and Transpontine Music Club. The event finished up with a walk round the corner to Crossbones for the monthly vigil at the site of the old burial ground there.

There's another folk night coming up there on August 10th, a 'collaboration between the Magpie’s Nest (BBC Folk Club of the year 2010) and Folie à Deux (‘alt-Folk barometre of bands you need you know about in 2011’ – Amelias Magazine) brings to you folk music in our blooming garden. Folk acts Sam Lee, Dear Winesburg and Robin Grey' (ticket details here).

John, Nigel, Stewart Forester and Transpontine Music Club also performed at the Southwark Folk night at the Cuming Museum on Walworth Road on June 24th. A revelation to me was the singing of Russell Dryden (below), of Bermondsey Beat fame. He has a great soulful voice and some good songs, such as one based on his (positive) reaction to hearing a New York accent while working on his fish stall on the market at the Blue in Bermondsey.

Monday, August 01, 2011

Come the revolution

Lewisham People Before Profit, who campaign against cuts among other things, are set to open a new space in New Cross Road. Come the Revolution is more or less opposite the Royal Albert.

The poster on the door advertising for staff suggests that it will offer a 'new social space, tea room, meeting room, shake bar, coffee bar, wifi, snacks', seven days a week. There's more detail at Ray Woolford's Lewisham Campaigner blog, where he states that it will open in August: 'Each day the Cafe will offer tea and crumpet for just £1, or a hot meal any time as the daily special for just £2. Gourmet burgers with salad and oven baked chips with a Drink will cost just £5, we are selling organic and fair trade as much as possible, so prices are fast food, but you will get quality. The space will also offer a free Advice centre and will have a proper Campaigns Office for Lewisham People Before Profit. The No to Convoys Wharf Campaign and many others will be based here'.

The Cafe seems to be sharing premises with Housemartins, the independent estate agents. Ray Woolford, the director of Housemartins, stood as a candidate for Lewisham People Before Profit in a local election in New Cross last year.