Friday, September 30, 2011

South East London 1786

John Cary's 'Actual Survey of the Country Fifteen Miles Around London' from 1786 (at Old London Maps) is fascinating. A few things to note -

- it's 'Rotherhithe or Redriffe' (hence there is now a Redrif Primary School in the area);
- 'Watering Bridge' on the left of the picture is where the junction of Albany Road and Old Kent Road is now, by the Thomas a Becket pub (the place referred to in the Canterbury Tales at St Thomas a Watering);
- today's Queens Road is 'Peckham Lane';
- also on what is now the Old Kent Road there is a 'Halfway House' and a 'Black Boy Lane' (near where Ilderton Road is now?);
- the section of the road coming into New Cross is called '5 Bell Lane' - the Five Bells pub was clearly already there;
- what was the 'Rainbow House' in Peckham?

In the following section, note:

- 'Plow Garlick Hill' - now Telegraph Hill;
- 'None Head' (Nunhead);
- 'Brockley Gn' (Brockley Green) - this was the area around what is now Brockley station;
- 'Loom Pitt Hole' (now Loampit Vale) - this was a quarry.
- 'Fryum Farm Hill' in Dulwich, 'Pigg Hill' (sometimes Pig Hill) in Sydenham and 'Mount Misery' on the way from Lewisham to Bromley. Do any of these hills still have names? The building up of London means we are aware of slopes when we're walking or cycling but we don't really get a sense of the distinct shape of the hills.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Southern Fried London

As a vegetarian I don't tend to frequent chicken shops much, as a dog walker I curse them everytime my hound chokes on a bone left lying on the pavement by some late night poultry fiend. But hey, love them or hate them, they are undoubtedly a big part of the transpontine culinary and cultural landscape.

Enter Southern Fried London, a new blog on a mission to document the chicken shops of South London. Southern Fried Chicken in New Cross (Lewisham Way) has already been featured, along with others in Deptford Broadway and Greenwich.

Of course there's a punning connection between Southern as in the Southern states of the USA and Southern as in South London, but is there a deeper linkage than a shared taste for chicken? Cafe Crema have put on New Orleans, New Cross nights before, and Jools Holand has mused on South London as Britain's Mississippi delta. We just need a few alligators in Deptford Creek to complete the picture.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

1960s London Bridge

The Charles W. Cushman Photograph Collection on the Indiana University Archives has some nice 1960s London photos. Most of them are fairly standard tourist sites, with little or no South London content.

I liked these two images from London Bridge. The first shows people crossing the bridge on a Sunday morning in June 1960.

The second shows gas lamp cleaners on the bridge in May 1965:

Monday, September 26, 2011

Protest against new Sainsburys

You can't really have missed the banners around New Cross in the past few months proclaiming 'No More Chain Stores' and protesting against plans for a new Sainsburys in the area.

Of course there is already a big Sainsburys store next to New Cross Gate station. The issue is with plans for a second, 'mini' Sainsburys at 33 Lewisham Way (pictured below, across the road from Goldsmiths).

Now the New Cross Federation, made up of local small traders, has called a demonstration against the plans. Here's what they have to say:

'In response to plans for another Sainsbury’s in SE14, The New Cross Federation will be holding a peaceful protest Thursday 20th October, outside Sainsbury’s Head Office, 33 Holborn, London EC1N 2HT 12-2pm. If you are worried about the destruction of small shops and the takeover of our neighbourhoods by corporations, and if you wish to help protect our community and people’s livelihoods, then please come and join us, and please sign the petition here.

At a meeting in August with New Cross Federation members (local traders and councillors) Sainsbury’s management stated that the reason for opening a small store (a ‘Local’) in addition to the large store already operating in SE14, is to pick up the ‘top-up’ trade – i.e. shoppers who do their weekly shop at the big store, but who may need to top-up with a few items mid-week. This is exactly the trade that our independent shops rely upon for their living. We do not want a chain to come in and replace them. People who have been in the area long enough remember butchers, bakers, florists and greengrocers closing down within a year of the large Sainsbury’s store opening.

This kind of chainstore massacre is happening all over the country, at the hands not only of Sainsbury’s, but of Tesco, Starbucks and many others. They say that they create jobs, but it is well documented that they destroy more jobs than they create, suck money out of communities and into the pockets of distant, wealthy shareholders and directors, and are often happy to replace human beings with automated checkouts.

If you prefer to see a thriving, mixed, independent local economy, instead of a few chainstores and a lot of boarded up shopfronts then please join us on October 20th if you can, and please sign the petition. For more information, please e mail'.

A couple of years ago, Sainsburys were consulting on plans to move their current store to the front of the car park so that it would be more convenient for pedestrians accessing it from New Cross Road. I assume this is on hold as a result of decline of property development market.

Personally I don't assume that big stores are always worse than small ones - some small local shops can be terrible employers too, with worse wages than supermarkets, no union and high prices. In Lordship Lane, East Dulwich, I am glad that there is a Co-op store so that you don't have to buy all your food from relatively expensive delis (which are fine for treats but not for everyday staples).

But you have to look at the specifics of each situation. A new Sainsburys isn't going to add anything when there's already a big one down the road, and a Tesco's metro up the road. I wouldn't lose any sleep about it competing with Costcutters, but it could have a negative impact on local cafes as well as shops. Small supermarkets tend to sell a higher proportion of drinks, snacks and sandwiches than big stores, and by pitching up opposite the college Sainsburys clearly has grazing students and staff in mind. There are a number of cafes nearby who cater largely for the same people and while they get by, nobody is getting rich selling food and drink to students round here. So it is quite possible that a new Sainsburys shifting lots of lunches could make the difference between survival and closure for some places.

Gay New Cross

Things have moved on a bit since the 1970s, when the appearance of Gay Liberation Front activists to do a talk at Goldsmiths Gay Society ended in clashes with security guards and police (see details here). Homophobia still exists, but at least nobody much bats an eyelid when today's Goldsmiths LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bi, Trans and Queer) Society put an event like next week's 'AWKWARD TURTLE: Queer Performance and Freshers Clubnight'. It's on Thursday 29th September in Goldsmiths Student Union and includes music from The Makeshifts and Holly Hayes.

At the more old school end of gay New Cross I notice that 309 New Cross Road has a new graffiti art frontage. The gay sauna there (also known as Steamworks) has generally been invisible to passers by apart from a litte rainbow flag in the door, but nobody can miss it now.
11 years ago, in June 2000, Dutch-born Jaap Bornkamp was stabbed to death in New Cross Road after leaving the sauna at 309 in what the police believed to have been an unprovoked homophobic attack. Nobody has ever been convicted of this murder. It would be nice to think that such attacks were a thing of the past, and I'm not aware of anything like this happening in New Cross since. But earlier this year, two young South Londoners were convicted of killing Ian Baynham from Beckenham in an anti-gay attack in Trafalgar Square.

Saturday, September 24, 2011


Had my first coffee and pastry today at Bambuni, the new coffee shop/deli in Nunhead (143 Evelina Road, next to Sopers fish shop) which opened this week. Well the coffee was strong like I like it, and the pastry was good too.

On the shop side there's a whole lot of delicious looking and reasonably priced food and drink, including beers, cheeses and baking ingredients (flour etc.).
As well as tables inside, it also has a small patio outside.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Convoys Wharf Latest

The future of Convoys Wharf, site of the former Royal Dockyard on the Deptford riverfront, has been discussed here before. A revised planning application for the site has recently been submitted by News International (former owners of the site) and Chinese property developer Cheung Kong (current owners).

There is a lot of local concern about the plans - not just about the impact of what is proposed, but in relation to the loss of the potential once in a hundred years opportunity to do something special here that makes a positive difference to people in Deptford. Challenging these plans, put forward by two of the world's most powerful conglomerates in the world, is a daunting prospect.

Enter Deptford is..., 'a group of local residents who want to ensure that the redeveloped Convoy’s Wharf offers the best for Deptford and its future. We are NOT affiliated to any political party, commercial interest or quango'. This Saturday 24th September, 10 am to 12 noon, they are organising a 'planning objections workshop' in the Blue room at the Albany, Douglas Way.

They say 'Many local residents are worried about the impact of the redevelopment, and are keen to ensure that their concerns are heard by the council. But the planning documents are numerous and complex, and many people who want to respond to the application simply don’t have the time to read them fully. Even those who do have time to read the documents may not know enough about the planning system to be able to write an effective response. So we are holding an URGENT planning objections workshop THIS SATURDAY MORNING at the Albany theatre in Deptford, to provide help and advice to people wanting to comment on this planning application'.

Is that all there is?

A couple of weeks ago I took a group of visitors to Goldsmiths on a guided walk around New Cross and Deptford, focusing on the history of the area and some of its buildings. It was an interesting group, mainly from USA and India, including among others critical architects, a photographer, a film maker and a singer/theatre writer.

The theme of their meeting was globalisation and preservation and this seemed very apposite to Deptford. After all it is arguably one of the birthplaces of a kind of globalisation, the East India Company having been based here, and various colonial and slaver expeditions starting out from the Deptford shipyards. And 'preservation' is part of what the argument about Convoys Wharf is all about - how can or should any development reflect the site's history and preserve the memory of shipbuilding and migration (as for instance Shipwright's Palace argue)? And what about the site of the historic Sayes Court garden?

One thing that is very striking about the area, looking at it through the eyes of visitors, is just how much it is a zone in transition. I kept finding myself saying on the one hand, 'until recently this was here' and on the other 'soon there will be a new tower block here'. Another feature for an area so tied up with its riverine history is how cut off much of Deptford is from the river itself, not least by the walls around Convoys Wharf. The current planning application promises to restore public access to the river, and that is essential. But does that mean we should just accept any scheme that offers a view of the water?

Another theme that emerged from chatting to the visitors was how similar the experiences of urban development, and specifically riverside development, are across the world. Unimaginative identikit schemes, often by the same architects and developers in different countries, with 'luxury flat' tower blocks and sterile semi-public spaces. Is that all there is?

(see also Crosswhatfields?)

Tanners Hill Bomb Shelter Sign

This fading image on Tanners Hill, Deptford, is a double ghost sign. The 'S' on a white background points to a Second World War bomb shelter further down the hill.

Over the top of it you can make out more recent graffiti 'Proletariat' - the letter 'Prole' in white paint and the rest of the word bleached out on the brick work as if it at attempt was made to clean it off at some point.

A similar sign remained on Jerningham Road, SE14, until the wall was demolished recently. There'a also one in Ladywell.

Anybody know where the Tanners Hill bomb shelter was, or even recall what the graffiti said?

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Ting-Tong Chang

Nice piece of street art by New Cross station, seemingly the work of Ting-Tong Chang. He has been active in Taiwan under the name Bbrother . It's actually a poster pasted on to the wall, rather than painted directly on to it.

Think he was also responsible for this piece in Laurie Grove.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Gary Oldman

Gary Oldman's popping up everywhere at the moment on the back of the launch of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, in which he plays the lead role. Oldman is arguably the most successful current British actor still working regularly, judging by the fact that he has appeared in a succession of blockbusters going back for more than 20 years (Harry Potter, Batman, Dracula etc.). Not bad for a working class boy from New Cross.

Oldman grew up in Hatcham Park Road I believe, along with his sister Laila Morse - Mo in Eastenders. Interviewed on the Robert Elms show this week, a listener emailed in a memory of him being in the nativity play at Monson Primary School (now 'Hatcham Temple Grove'). He went on to now closed South East London Boys School in Creek Road, Deptford. As Deptford Se8ker notes, Oldman told the Radio Times this month 'London changes, but Deptford is... Deptford. The same men I was always scared of but fascinated by are all still there. In the pub'.

He used to go to Millwall matches and told the Independent this week that his dad Leonard may have played a couple of times for the team: "Funnily enough, my mum's just told me a remarkable story about my dad. Just after the war, she ran a boarding house, for football players, Millwall players. And I knew that my dad was involved somehow with the reserve team. But two weeks ago my mum said, 'Oh yeah, your dad played for Millwall. When he was young he had a couple of first team games. It was in the kitchen, making tea. I said, 'What are you talking about? You tell me this now?'" He laughs. "We'd kick a ball around when I was very young. But I was rather surprised to discover that my dad – albeit for five minutes – had been a professional footballer. I was quite chuffed, and proud." Come on you Millwall historians check this out, is it family legend or fact? Of course you could be delving back into the murky world of wartime line-ups when the facts are hard to come by and everybody's uncle had a go on the pitch.

Would be good to see Oldman directing again, his 'Nil By Mouth'(1997) is a great London movie and draws heavily on his experience of growing up round here. Scenes on it were filmed on the old Bonamy Estate (Rotherhithe New Road - built in the 60s and demolished in the 90s), the Pepys Estate in Deptford and Hither Green Hospital. The pub scenes were shot in The Five Bells pub in New Cross Road and the recently closed Royal Archer pub nearby. There's also a bit of Deptford Park.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Sedition and Larceny in 17th century Deptford

The Calendar of Assize records: Kent indictments, Charles II, 1676-1688 records the prosecution of people living in Kent in the late 17th century, which included at that time Deptford and Greenwich. This was a period when the monarchy had just been restored, with Charles II on the throne following the death of Oliver Cromwell and the earlier execution of his father King Charles I.

When Charles II himself died in 1685, his brother became King James II (a catholic). However Charles's illegitimate son, the Duke of Monmouth (a protestant), thought he should be king instead and launched an unsuccessful armed rebellion in the West Country. There was clearly some support for the rising in London, as shown by the prosecution of 'Martha Tickner, wife of Edmund Tickner of Deptford, labourer, for seditious words. On 8 July 1685 at Deptford she publicly said "I hope the Duke of Monmouth will get the better of the King. And if he doth, I will hang twenty of you"' .

The religious conflicts of the period also had other echoes locally. People who failed to attend Church of England services could be prosecuted for 'recusancy'. In Deptford, 'Peter Segars, yeoman, William Dodsworth, apothecary and William Creech, mealman' were prosecuted 'for recusancy on 10 July 1681 and two Sundays following’. Similarly in 1679 Woolwich waterman John Collington was prosecuted for the same offence. Recusants were sometimes Roman Catholics and sometimes Non-conformist protestants - in both cases they refused to recognise the spiritual monopoly of the established Anglican church.

Many of the Deptford-related trials were for the offence of 'grand larceny', for stealing property 'belonging to the Crown'. It is likely that these relate to the the Royal Dockyard in Detpford, now the site of the planned Convoys Wharf development. As Peter Linebaugh shows in his excellent history 'The London Hanged', people working on and around the Dockyard long thought of taking wood and other materials home with them as part of their entitlement, part of their wage even. The huge walls around the site to this day are a legacy of the attempt by the Crown to prevent this by gaining stricter control of movement in and out of the docks. Court records are also evidence of their effort to criminalise this practice.

So in 1676 we see Edmund Cleaver of Deptford, labourer, prosecuted for stealing four 4 oars 'belonging to the crown'. In May 1679 John Peirce, carpenter, was whipped for grand larceny for stealing irons, while on the same day another Deptford carpenter was also whipped for the same offence in relation to stealing an oak plank. Two other Deptford carpenters, Robert Wood and James Eggleston, were more fortunate in March of the same year when they were found not guilty of stealing an oak plank.

Other local prosecutions included:

- John Driver of Deptford, victualler, indicted 'for allowing an unlawful game called ninepins to be played’ in July 1687.

- Thomas Ellis of Deptford, house carpenter, fined for assaulting Samuel Cellars, constable of Deptford in the execution of his office on 1 January 1688

- Richard Jones, a Greenwich labourer, was sentenced to be hanged for deserting the army in 1678.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Woodland Wonders

Woodland Wonders is a free public art installation in Nunhead Cemetery’s restored Anglican chapel, with the work themed around wood. It is curated by Jolanta Jagiello.

The outstanding work for me was a deceptively simple piece by Jayne Lloyd, with a bowl of water and a dancing leaf suspended by a thread. It was mesmerising watching the shifting reflections, the photos can't do justice to the movement so you'll have to get down and see it yourself.

Other work included Sara Scott's sculpted heads...

... and the McKenzie family's Museum of Diseased Wood:

The exhibition is open again this weekend and next weekend, incluidng some Open House tours of the chapel crypt today and tomorrow. Performances include poetry and song (see flyer below).

Friday, September 16, 2011

Millwall not scabs shock

Millwall are playing at home to West Ham on Saturday in case you didn't know, and the police have promised a massive operation across South London to deal with it. Let's just say there's a bit of a history between the two clubs, and when they last met in 2009 there was some pretty heavy fighting.

One oft-repeated bit of football folklore is that this rivalry dates back to the 1926 General Strike. Here's what the Daily Mail said:

'Millwall, formed in 1885 by dockers and shipbuilders on the Isle of Dogs gained support in the surrounding areas and were then the best team outside the FA, nicknamed the 'Lions of the South'... Tensions reached their peak in the 1920s when Thames Ironworks moved to a new home and adopted the name West Ham United. As Millwall struggled, West Ham's star was rising. Fighting broke out during the 1926 general strike when the West Ham dockers were on strike while Millwall carried on working' (26 August 2009).

Or The Telegraph (28 August 2009): 'To the north you had the workforce of the Royal docks (drenched in the claret-and-blue of West Ham) and to the south, the Millwall, London and Surrey docks (Millwall 'til they died). When the Millwall shipyard broke the 1926 dockers' strike, the outrage over the water raised tensions to tipping point'.

This gets endlessly repeated across wikipedia etc. But is it true? By 1926 Millwall had been based in New Cross for 16 years, having moved from the Isle of Dogs in 1910. Doubtless Millwall had many supporters employed in the docks on the South of the River and presumably some still working across the Thames on the Isle of Dogs. But during the 1926 General Strike, the dockers across London seem to have been solid. Looking through quite a few books** on the matter, I can find no mention of South London or Isle of Dogs dockers being strikebreakers.

On the contrary, at Surrey Docks only seven people turned up to work out of 2,000 on the first day of the strike. A mass picket at the gates of the Dock kept it effectively closed, and even the Port of London Authority clerical staff walked out - their first ever strike. The only attempts at strike breaking involved the use of students and naval ratings to unload ships. There were clashes between police and strikers in Tooley Street as these strikebreakers were brought in to Hays's Wharf (source: Nine Days in May: The General Strike in Southwark, Past Tense Publicaitons). But none of this involved dockers, Millwall supporters or otherwise, in strike breaking.

I am afraid the myth of the Millwall scabs seems to be a vicious slur on the South London proletariat! This will no doubt come as a relief to the team's most well known supporter today: Bob Crow of the rail workers' union.

** for instance 'The General Strike of 1926' by Keith Laybourn (Manchester University Press, 1993) does not mention Millwall, or any strike-breaking at any docks except that undertaken by students and the military. 'A Very British Strike' by Anne Perkins likewise does not suggest that the dockers across London were anything other than solid in supporting the stirke, indeed she makes the point that the London docks were seen as the centre of strike militancy with the police setting up a HQ at the Royal Naval College in Greenwich especially focused on the docks (Pan, 2007).

[update 18 September 2011: this myth got yet another airing yesterday on the BBC's Football League Show with the presenter saying that in 1926 there were 'differences of opinions between the rival docks about whether or not to support the General Strike' and some interviewed West Ham fans repeating a similar line. Apart from anything else it is not true that there were rival docks in 1926 - all the main docks on both sides of the river including East India, West India, Millwall, Surrey and Royal Albert were taken under the single management of the Port of London Authority in 1909]

[update 18 November 2013: the myth is also repeated in Running with the Firm, James Bannon's book about being an undercover cop in the Millwall Bushwackers - see here]

Thursday, September 15, 2011

South London Select

Following recent feature on Smash Hits cover stars, here's some fab photos from Select magazine, August 1991.

But what are they doing at Transpontine? Can you guess the South London connection? (click on images to enlarge).

Julian Cope - but wasn't he in that Liverpool band The Teardrop Explodes? Yes, but in the late 1980s/early 1990s he moved down to London and lived in Albany Mews by Burgess Park and at 149a Tulse Hill. I remember seeing him around on anti-poll tax demos in fancy dress.

The Creatures - Siouxsie Sioux, born in Guys Hospital, was famously part of the early punk Bromley Contingent - though technically she was from Chislehurst (she went to Mottingham High School).
KLF - Bill Drummond and Jimmy Cauty. 'KLF HQ' was Jimmy Cauty's house in Camberwell: ' KLF activities were then based around their Camberwell HQ, a huge Victorian terraced house. In the basement were the ersatz 'Trancentral Studios', where their finest moments were recorded. The upper floors were home to Cauty and wife Cressida, herself an artist, and several others. Friends recall the good times, at the height of the acid-rave scene, when the KLF would throw "really brilliant fuck-off parties", sometimes lasting all weekend, with a fairly relaxed attitude to uninvited house guests' (Guardian 21 May 1994). Not sure exactly where this was, but love that some of the stuff I was dancing to at that time was recorded just down the road.

Vic Reeves - career took off via nights at the Goldsmiths Tavern (now New Cross House) and the Albany in Deptford.

Sadly haven't managed to write Robert Smith himself into the South London Story, unless you know better...

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Freddie Mills

I've been reading All the Devils are Here (2002) by the late David Seabrook, a kind of Iain Sinclair-at-the-seaside ramble round the underbelly of Kent, populated by deranged artists (Richard Dadd killing his father at Cobhham), unhappy writers (TS Eliot recovering from a breakdown in Margate), nazi sympathisers (including Arthur Tester in Broadstairs, and Audrey Hepburn's parents) and alcoholic actors cruising for trade (Charles Hawtrey in Deal).

He heads into Transpontine territory when he discusses the life and death of boxer Freddie Mills (1919-1965). Mills was the world light heavyweight boxing champion from 1948 to 1950 and went on to run a nightclub in Charing Cross Road after he retired. He also acted in a number of films. After he got married in 1948 he moved to 186 Denmark Hill in Camberwell (towards the Herne Hill end) where he remained until his mysterious death.

In July 1965 he was found shot dead in a car outside his nightclub. The verdict was suicide, but many believed that he had been murdered, or possibly driven to suicide by threats. His life and death continues to prompt speculation from crime writers - a 2004 book by James Morton suggests Mills had been threatened by the Kray twins, while there have even been claims that he was responsible for the Jack the Stripper serial killings.

Another angle is the claim that Mills was secretly bisexual, and that he may have been blackmailed. Seabrook's book includes an interview with a then Peckham-based man who claims to travelled to a flat in the Red Post Hill area for sex with Mills in the late 1940s.

Mills' grave is in Camberwell New Cemetery in Brenchley Gardens - there is more detail at Find a Grave, from where I sourced this photo.

Monday, September 12, 2011

SE London Hip Hop

Well we've been including some locally filmed videos from the roadrap new school, so let's rewind a bit to some great UK hip-hop.

Blak Twang, aka Tony Rotton, grew up on Tanners Hill Estate in Deptford (see earlier post). 2002's So Rotton is a great track and the video features Peckham library (just like Kivali Luciano and Giggs) and Lewisham Model Market.

Also check his Queen's Head (1995), featuring Roots Manuva, and filmed in Crystal Palace park:

Then there's Blade. Born in Iran in an Armenian family, he ended up in New Cross in the late 1980s and recorded his debut Lyrical Maniac in 1989. The video for 'What you waiting for?' (1992) includes New Cross station and that subway down the road from it (from Amersham Vale down to Pagnell Street):

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Auto Italia

Auto Italia South East is an arts project based in a former car showroom on the Old Kent Road (just up from Asda). A couple of weekends ago it hosted 'We have our own concept of time and motion', a programme of discussions themed around self-organisation.

I went along on the Sunday (August 28th) for a discussion, with speakers including Franco Berardi and Nina Power. The former is a veteran of the Italian autonomia movement of the 1970s, in particular in Bologna where he was involved in the radical Radio Alice. The latter is the author of One Dimensional Woman and has been very active in the last year's education protests.

There was a big crowd there to listen and take part with perhaps 150 people inside and others turned away because the venue was full. It was a wide ranging discussion on the nature of capitalism and its opponents today, taking in feminism, the riots, Italian fascism and much more... If like me you can happily spend your Sunday afternoon listening to phrases like 'You cannot have solidarity between fragments of time', 'self-organisation of the general intellect as a body' (Bifo) or critiques of 'revolution as grand rupture' (Power) this was the place to be!

There was also an exhibition of UK radical literature from the 1980s, some of which I was tangentially involved with at the time. It felt slightly strange seeing these publications exhibited under glass and I know that if anybody had told us at the time that they would end up in an art exhibit we would have been horrified. But hey, the world moves on...

Mainly a youngish crowd, but at the other end of the age spectrum it was good to see Gustav Metzger there, making a comment about species exctinction (pictured below). Metzger, legendary auto-destructive artist, came to London as a Jewish refugee from the Nazis (his parents were both murdered in the Holocaust). A long way from 1930s Nuremburg where he grew up to 21st century Old Kent Road.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Ticket Offices face Closure

Ticket offices at rail stations across South London face closure if the Government implements the recommendations of the McNulty Report which it commissioned. The report, "Realising the Potential of GB Rail: Report on the Rail Value for Money Study" proposes that all Category 'E' Stations should have their staffing removed. These are stations which typically only have one member of staff present - in future they would have no staff on the premises.

Together for Transport have the full list of 675 stations at risk nationally, including the following from South London:

Beckenham Hill
Carshalton Beeches
Crofton Park
Elephant & Castle
Gipsy Hill
Loughborough Junction
Lower Sydenham
Mitcham Eastfields
Mitcham Junction
North Dulwich
Queens Road, Peckham
St Johns
Sydenham Hill
West Dulwich
Woolwich Dockyard

As Together for Transport argue:

'This will cause a great deal of inconvenience to passengers who will then:

•lose the opportunity to seek advice about planning rail travel

•lose the ability to get advice about a range of ticket products including cheaper options

•lose the option to pay by cash if ticket machines - like those proposed to be installed by London Midland - only accept debit or credit cards

•lose the assurance of assistance in the event of an accident or assault'.

I have benefited from the help and advice from staff at many of the stations on that list, and have also felt reassured at their presence in some threatening situations. Some of these stations are already scary enough - they need the staffing hours increased, not decreased.

(thanks to Deptford Dame for alerting me to this on twitter)

Majah Tunder

Following yesterday's post on Peckham rap videos, here's some conscious reggae from Majah Tunder featuring various locations including the market and Tanners Hill Estate in Deptford, and the Bob Marley mural in Brockley. A police car drives by the Brockley Barge at 1:30.

Freedom Cry was first released as a single on Lion Inc records in 2000, but evidently this is a 2011 video.

Friday, September 09, 2011

Peckham Mayor

Peckham Mayor by Kivali Luciano is the latest in a long line of rap tracks using SE15 landmarks in its video, good to see the youth bigging up the library! (see previously Giggs and Joe Grind)

Then a few months ago there was Pecknarm London by Y.R., Deej & Big Chess:

See also some classic old UK Hip Hop videos from Blak Twang and Blade featuring Peckham, Lewisham, New Cross and Crystal Palace

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Sanford Housing Co-op

Sanford Housing Co-operative in New Cross had their annual 'Folkus' summer festival/party/all-nighter on Saturday night. It was mobbed with hundreds of people enjoying themselves in the open air next to the railway embankment on Sanford Walk.

There were bands, DJs, fire jugglers and more. I saw Masqua, an interesting outfit made up of ex-Goldsmiths students (including cellist Jasmine Scott Neale) playing Sicilian songs among other things. Highlight for me though was seeing Viv Albertine (once of the legendary Slits) who still has a good line in punky anger albeit accompanied these days by a harpist. I didn't catch David J, Vocal Pugilist, but there's already some footage of his performance on Saturday up on youtube:

Sanford is an amazing place, built in 1971 as the country's first purpose built housing co-operative, with the aim of providing affordable accommodation for single people. The original co-op members were students, with Nick Raynsford (then a Shelter activist, now Labour MP for Greenwich) helping to set it up. There are 14 houses, each shared by eight to 10 people.

More recently Sanford has become a pioneer in urban sustainable living, as highlighted in an article by John Vidal in The Guardian a couple of years ago: 'The unexpected stage for one of the most ambitious low-carbon developments in Britain today is not an executive estate in the Cotswolds or a pretty new eco-town, but a row of modest 1970s inner-city houses lived in by a 130-strong group of artists, students and others'. There are ponds and many of the people sitting on a terrace made of railway sleepers at the party probably didn't realize that they were on top of a bike shed.

You can see the railway sleepers in the picture below (click images to enlarge) from an article from the South London Press (July 3 2009). The headline 'Urban Co-op's Bohemian Bliss' might be a bit of an exaggeration - like any collective project, people have had their disagreements, and the place has had its share of casualties. But that doesn't diminish its significance.

Sanford were on a bit of a press coverage roll in 2009 - they were also featured in Time Out with an article erroneously entitled 'London's Last Commune' (25 July 2009).

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Broken Down Suitcase

Broken Down Suitcase are 'A roots inspired folk duo consisting of Ben Caldwell and Eric Larocque which combines haunting harmonies with melodies that immerse you in the dirty depths of musical history'. They hail from Canada (British Colombia), but are currently wandering around Europe with their guitars, banjos and mandolins.

Not sure what twist of fate brought them to a pub in New Cross on Sunday night, but there they were in Skehans in Kitto Road, and very good they were. Played a nice version of Neil Young's Helpless too.

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

New Cross Community Council

The New Cross Community Council is an attempt to bring people together on a community action/activist basis - not to be confused with the Council's New Cross Assembly and similar local bodies.

Their next meeting is tomorrow night, Wednesday September 7th, 7pm at Goldsmiths College Main Building, Room 137.

One of the things they are discussing that caught my eye is a proposal to get people involved in coming up with a plan for the temporary use of the large plot of land between Besson street, Briant St and New Cross Road. This is the site set aside for the planned New Deal for Communities flagship healthy living centre and library building. As reported here before, the site has been derelict since the developers pulled out.

Beware of Trees

Beware of Trees is a new blog by Matt Haynes, editor of Smoke magazine, which in a way paved the way for a certain kind of blog-like idiosyncratic writing about London, albeit on the printed page.

Matt is now based in Greenwich so the new blog promises 'an outsider's take on the mysterious world of the SE postcodes, centred on Greenwich but occasionally straying further afield into Charlton, Deptford and... beyond'. Early posts include one on the National Maritime Museum as 'a gallery of nothingness, a miscellany of despair'.

In a previous life, or rather earlier in this one, Matt was one of the people involved in famed late 80s socialist indie-pop label Sarah Records. I haven't knowingly met Matt, but have definitely been in the same room as him. I remember going to one of their nights in a pub in Kings Cross with The Field Mice, back in the days when I was hanging out at the Camden Falcon in a daze of Talulah Gosh and the Razorcuts. On which score, see:

- Twee as F*ck - Indie-pop at the Fountain in Deptford (now Noodle King)

- 2000 Troubled Teenagers - Belle & Sebastian fan night at the Paradise Bar (now Royal Albert).

Monday, September 05, 2011

Meze Mangal

Eray and Koray - self-styled 'Cypriot Eminem and Dr Dre' have a great new track out celebrating the delights of Meze Mangal, the Turkish restaurant in New Cross. Filmed on location in and around the place, the track starts off 'I know this little place on Lewisham Way (what near the college?), if I had the money I would go every day...'. Look out for those Love, Peace and Kebab Grease T-shirts. All with a little bit of help from Lady Gaga's Bad Romance.

South London Smash Hits

I found some old music mags on a market stall on holiday in Dorset, and spotted these early 1980s transpontine beauties.

Kate Bush of Brockley (from Smash Hits, May 15 1980)

David Sylvian of Japan, and of Beckenham/Catford/Sydenham (from Smash Hits, February 4 1982).

Sunday, September 04, 2011

New Cross Film Showings

Some interesting free film showings coming up in New Cross this week.

At Goldsmiths on Tuesday September 6th there's a chance to see Indian feature film 'Sthaniya Sambaad' ('Spring in the Colony') by Arjun Gourisaria and Moinak Biswas. Described as 'A moving, and funny, story of life in a refugee colony south of the city of Kolkata' it includes jokes, songs and reflections on urban development. There will be a Q & A with Moinak, one of the directors, who I met at the weekend when I took some people on a history tour of New Cross and Deptford. Should be good, I am planning to go. It starts at 6.15pm in the Goldsmiths Cinema in the Richard Hoggart Building (main building on Lewisham Way) - all welcome, no Goldsmiths connection required.

Next Sunday September 11th is that tenth anniversary. At St Catherine's Church at the top of Telegraph Hill (junction Pepys and Kitto Roads) they are showing the new documentary Little Town of Bethlehem at 7:30 pm. The film 'follows the story of three men of three different faiths and their lives in Israel and Palestine. The story explores each man’s choice of nonviolent action amidst a culture of overwhelming violence'. The film is part of the church's 'Peace and Reconciliation Sunday' events which will also include a 'Blessed are the peacemakers' service at 10 am and Evening Prayers for Peace at 6 pm if you are so inclined.

Blossoming Together

A new 'arts and crafts gallery cafe' is opening this month in Deptford at 4 Tanners Hill. This is the space that in the past few years has housed Deptford Deli and Deptford Properly (and way back in the 1930s, the Communist Party's Workers Bookshop and local HQ).

'Blossoming Together' have a facebook page, looks like they are planning arts and crafts workshops for children and adults. Cinzia Callegari, who is behind the project, makes jewellery.

Saturday, September 03, 2011

Austin Osman Spare Talk

The South London life of Austin Osman Spare, visionary artist and occultist, has been mentioned here before.

Next week at South East London Folklore Society Phil Baker, the author of a new biography of Spare, will be giving a talk about his life.

The talk is on Thursday, September 8, 8:00pm at The Old Kings Head, Kings Head Yard, 45-49, Borough High St, London, SE1 1NA

Friday, September 02, 2011

Folkus and Drum Garden

Some amazing free music in New Cross and Deptford this weekend, featuring internationally-known artists.


Firstly tomorrow there's Folkus, the annual street party at Sanford Housing Cooperative (Sanford Walk, SE14). Actually although it starts on Saturday around noon it will be continuing all night until Sunday morning.

In the afternoon there will be the FOLKUS PICNIC with talks, and stalls about 'Empowering Sustainable Communities Through Grassroots Organizations'.

Then on the TREE OF LIFE stage from 7 pm - 4 am there will be live music including Spektrum and Viv Albertine (once of The Slits), plus DJs. More details on facebook.

Drum Garden

On Sunday September 4th from 5 pm to 7 pm there's 'Drum Garden' in The Herb Garden, MacMillan Street, SE8: 'a specially constructed performance by 10 or 11 drummers from the south east London underground, a highly motivated and vibrant scene with wildly individual players. We will be playing throughout the garden so that the sound moves across and through the space. Strategies have been devised to keep the playing fresh'. Percussionists include Charles Hayward (ex-This Heat, Camberwell Now) and David Aylward (Brain of Morbius, Blurt).

At around the same time on Sunday (5 pm - 7:30 pm), 'post-folk' outfit Manglenote will be playing at the Royal Albert, New Cross Road, as part of their Octo-pump beer and cider festival.

Deptford Bread Riot 1867

In January 1867, at a time of high unemployment, the hungry crowd in Deptford were told that the depot which dispensed food to the poor had run out of bread. What happened was reported in one local paper under the headline 'The Unemployed Riots':

'On Wednesday evening some 300 or 400 of the unemployed perambulated the principal streets completely clearing out the bakers and other shops on their way. They commenced at the bottom of Church Street and by the time they reached the Broadway, most of the shops, including the public houses, were closed, and a large body of police on the place, who soon succeeded in restoring comparative quiet, though some bakers’ and other provision shops in High-Street have been since entered and denuded of their contents.

Business in the town is at a complete standstill, armed mounted patrols and police on foot are to be seen in every street, whilst crowds of hungry-looking, worn-out artisans saunter about the pavements, presenting a most heart-rending picture. The shops in the town are closed, and the whole district presents a restless feverishness not witnessed for many years… there is no doubt that the poor men, worn out by cold and hunger, their tools pledged, and nearly every article of furniture gone to provide food for their wives and children, have been gradually verging into not caring what becomes of them'(South London Journal, 26 January 1867).

There were a number of arrests, including Henry Clubb of 5 Blackheath-Hill, who was charged with throwing stones at mounted police in Church Street (SLJ, 2.2.1867).

The day after this outbreak of desperate looting, people marched on a meeting of the Poor Law Guardians in Greenwich. The riot did result in some improvements – a Deptford General Relief Fund was 'founded on the occasion of the late bread riots' (SLJ, 4.5.1867).

Thursday, September 01, 2011

Charlotte Mew

The poet Charlotte Mew (1869-1928) was an influence on the development of English modernism, admired by Thomas Hardy and Virginia Woolf. Her brother Henry Herne Mew suffered from schizophrenia and died from pnemonia in a Peckham hospital in 1901. Charlotte herself later suffered from depression, and ultimately committed suicide.

Her brother's funeral at Nunhead Cemetery was undoubtedly in Charlotte's mind when she wrote her 1916 poem of the same name:

In Nunhead Cemetery

It is the clay what makes the earth stick to his spade;
He fills in holes like this year after year;
The others have gone; they were tired, and half afraid
But I would rather be standing here;

There is nowhere else to go. I have seen this place
From the windows of the train that's going past
Against the sky. This is rain on my face -
It was raining here when I saw it last.

There is something horrible about a flower;
This, broken in my hand, is one of those
He threw it in just now; it will not live another hour;
There are thousands more; you do not miss a rose.

One of the children hanging about
Pointed at the whole dreadful heap and smiled
This morning after THAT was carried out;
There is something terrible about a child.

We were like children last week, in the Strand;
That was the day you laughed at me
Because I tried to make you understand
The cheap, stale chap I used to be
Before I saw the things you made me see.

This is not a real place; perhaps by-and-by
I shall wake - I am getting drenched with all this rain:
To-morrow I will tell you about the eyes of the Crystal Palace train
Looking down on us, and you will laugh and I shall see what you see again.

Not here, not now. We said "Not yet"
Across our low stone parapet
Will the quick shadows of the sparrows fall.

But still it was a lovely thing
Through the grey months to wait for Spring
With the birds that go a-gypsying
In the parks till the blue seas call.
And next to these, you used to care
For the Lions in Trafalgar Square,
Who'll stand and speak for London when her bell of Judgement tolls -
And the gulls at Westminster that were
The old sea-captains souls.
To-day again the brown tide splashes step by step, the river stair,

And the gulls are there!

By a month we have missed our Day:
The children would have hung about
Round the carriage and over the way
As you and I came out.

We should have stood on the gulls' black cliffs and heard the sea
And seen the moon's white track,
I would have called, you would have come to me
And kissed me back.

You have never done that: I do not know
Why I stood staring at your bed
And heard you, though you spoke so low,
But could not reach your hands, your little head;
There was nothing we could not do, you said,
And you went, and I let you go!

Now I will burn you back, I will burn you through,
Though I am damned for it we two will lie
And burn, here where the starlings fly
To these white stones from the wet sky - ;
Dear, you will say this is not I -
It would not be you, it would not be you!

If for only a little while
You will think of it you will understand,
If you will touch my sleeve and smile
As you did that morning in the Strand
I can wait quietly with you
Or go away if you want me to -
God! What is God? but your face has gone and your hand!
Let me stay here too.

When I was quite a little lad
At Christmas time we went half mad
For joy of all the toys we had,
And then we used to sing about the sheep
The shepherds watched by night;
We used to pray to Christ to keep
Our small souls safe till morning light - ;
I am scared, I am staying with you to-night -
Put me to sleep.

I shall stay here: here you can see the sky;
The houses in the street are much too high;
There is no one left to speak to there;
Here they are everywhere,
And just above them fields and fields of roses lie -
If he would dig it all up again they would not die.