Sunday, December 30, 2012

Any Questions and Question Time in New Cross

The Dimbleby brothers are taking up residence in South East London next week with both BBC Any Questions (on Radio 4) and Question Time (on BBC 1) being broadcast from New Cross.

On Thursday 10th January, David Dimbleby chairs the first Question Time of 2013 at Goldsmiths in New  Cross.

The very next day, 11th January 2013, Jonathan Dimbleby will be presenting Any Questions from St Catherine's Church in New Cross (Kitto Road, SE14) with Deputy Leader of the Labour Party Harriet Harman MP, Deputy Leader of the Liberal Democrats Simon Hughes MP, John Cooper QC and Sir Malcolm Rifkind.

In the interests of political balance, tickets are distributed to local political parties as well as to the public via an application process. The search is on to find ten Tories in the borough of Lewisham to fill their quota!

Lewisham Keep Our NHS Public has called a protest at the BBC Question Time event to highlight the threat to health services at Lewisham Hospital and elsewhere in SE London. They are calling for people to meet at the Richard Hoggart Building at Goldsmiths from 5:30 pm onwards next Thursday 10th January.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

New Year in New Cross

Plenty to do in New Cross on New Year's Eve. The New Cross House and Amersham Arms are both having parties with late opening and free admission, the latter with Simon Obee of New Cross Bags fame DJing and promising - or threatening according to your taste - lots of Fleetwood Mac (oops they got the date wrong in flyer!). There's also a Deadly Rhythm party in the back room, but that's already sold out.

The New Cross Inn has lots of bands playing including  Soul Delirious, Valve Control, The Hotelles, Giant Burger, Omar, Pusca and The Only Sun 8:00pm to 8:30pm. £6 in advance, £8 on door with concessions for regulars. Further details here.

The Royal Albert is charging £5 in.

At the Bunker Club (46 Deptford Broadway), Breton and Deptford Army are putting on a party, £5 before midnight, £7 after, open until 4 am (facebook details here).

Of course there's a New Year's Eve party at the Venue in New Cross Road, with the spirit of Michael Jackson appearing - £15 in advance, £20 on door, cheap drinks and guaranteed hangover.

Or for a free all ages event you could just walk up to the top of Telegraph Hill where hundreds of people will gather as usual in the top park (Kitto Road SE14) to count in the New Year and watch the fireworks go off across London. Weather forecast is for rain earlier in the day, but dry by midnight - although no doubt muddy in the park.

(Brockley Central has a few other ideas from further afield)

Folk Roots, New Routes and new nights

Local singer Joe Wilkes and others have been putting on a regular 'Folk Roots New Routes' night at the Amersham Arms in New Cross for the past year. They've decided to put it on hold for the foreseeable future, with their last planned event taking place tomorrow night - Sunday December 30th. They say: 'We've been running this night monthly for exactly 12 months, we're stopping it for a while, so this is the last one. The night before New Years Eve. We've got loads of past regulars already promised to play, early start: late finish. Great real ale, huge PA and intimate candelit surroundings'. £3 entry.

Kit and Cutter, who have put on some great folk nights at the late Deptford Arms, Old Nun's Head and elsewhere,  have also gone quiet of late. So looks like there's a gap for someone to put on a good, regular folk/acoustic night in the New Cross/Deptford area.

The gap will be partially filled though by The Goose is Out who are moving their bases around. The events they have previously been hosting at the Mag in East Dulwich are moving in January to the Old Nun's Head. Their concerts are moving from Dulwich Hamlet Football Club to upstairs at the Crown and Greyhound in Dulwich village. Further details at their website. They've got some great events coming up in 2013:

• Thomas McCarthy - 11 January - Upstairs at The Old Nun's Head
• FREE Singaround - 13 January - Upstairs at The Old Nun's Head
• Jackie Oates, Suntrap, Stuart Forester - 25 January 2013 - Upstairs at The Crown and Greyhound
• The No Frills Band - 8 February - Upstairs at The Old Nun's Head
• FREE Singaround - 10 February - Upstairs at The Old Nun's Head
• Tom McConville - 8 March - Upstairs at The Old Nun's Head
• FREE Singaround - 10 March - Upstairs at The Old Nun's Head
• Lizzie Nunnery - 12 April - Upstairs at The Old Nun's Head
• FREE Singaround - 14 April - Upstairs at The Old Nun's Head
• Jim Moray, support tbc - 26 April - Upstairs at The Crown and Greyhound
• James Hickman & Dan Cassidy - 10 May - Upstairs at The Old Nun's Head
• FREE Singaround - 12 May - Upstairs at The Old Nun's Head
• Alasdair Roberts, support tbc - 31 May - Upstairs at The Crown and Greyhound
• FREE Singaround - 9 June - Upstairs at The Old Nun's Head
• Mary Humphreys & Anahata - 14 June - Upstairs at The Old Nun's Head
• FREE Singaround - 14 July - Upstairs at The Old Nun's Head
• FREE Singaround - 11 August - Upstairs at The Old Nun's Head
• FREE Singaround - 8 September - Upstairs at The Old Nun's Head
• Stuart Forester - 13 September - Upstairs at The Old Nun's Head
• Martin Carthy & Dave Swarbrick, support tbc - 27 September - Upstairs at The Crown and Greyhound
• Joseph Topping - 11 October - Upstairs at The Old Nun's Head
• FREE Singaround - 13 October - Upstairs at The Old Nun's Head
• Ewan McLennan, support tbc - 25 October - Upstairs at The Crown and Greyhound
• Tattie Jam - 8 November - Upstairs at The Old Nun's Head
• FREE Singaround - 10 November - Upstairs at The Old Nun's Head
• Steve Tilston, support tbc - 22 November - Upstairs at The Crown and Greyhound
• FREE Seasonal Singaround - 8 December - Upstairs at The Old Nun's Head

Friday, December 28, 2012

Lausanne Road SE15 in the 1950s

Andrew Simpson grew up in Lausanne Road, SE15 but has been living in Manchester for many years where he now runs the Chorlton History site. He has though been writing a bit recently on his time in South London, including a series of reflections on his time at Crown Woods School in Eltham in the 1960s, with some evocative 1968 school photos. He also reflects on his less than happy time at Samuel Pepys Secondary Modern in Sprules Road SE4 (previously Brockley Central School, then later Hatcham Wood, Telegraph Hill and lately but not for much longer Crossways Sixth Form - soon to be taken over by Christ the King) - and the failings of the 11+ system which consigned many children to second best education.

I particularly liked his tales from Lausanne Road in the 1950s, when his parents let out rooms to a range of interesting characters including 'Millie the Mole'  and her  boyfriend Boy Boy Jones, a getaway driver for a Peckham smash and grab gang and 'a couple who met in Lausanne Road. She was single and German and he was Polish. Their romance began with midnight trysts and ended with the two getting married... Both had been victims of the displacement of millions of ordinary people who had been in the wrong place when the war broke out and found themselves part of that tide of homeless refugees in 1945'.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Pete Shaughnessy, ten years gone

Back in October, Alex from Past Tense Publications led a group of us on a Camberwell radical history walk. Pausing by the Maudsley hospital, he recalled the life of mental health activist Pete Shaughnessy. It is ten years this month since Pete died at the age of forty - on 15 December 2002, he stepped in front of a train at Battersea Park station. The inquest concluded that he had killed himself.  On Christmas Eve 2002, more than three hundred people packed into St Thomas More Church in East Dulwich for his funeral service.

Pete was born in 1962 and grew up in a working class Irish family in East Dulwich. In 1990 he started work as a 36 bus driver in Peckham, and while working on the buses he also began his journey through the mental health system. Pete wrote an account of this period in a a text called  Into the Deep End, published in the book 'Mad Pride - A Celebration of Mad Culture', edited by Ted Curtis, Robert Dellar, Esther Leslie & Ben Watson (Spare Change Books, 2000).

Going through a difficult time at home and at work, Pete wrote that  'my road into 'madness' began with direct action. I worked on the buses at Peckham, south London for three years, and had to put up with some shit there. So, when the company announced longer hours and less wages to a group of drivers at my garage, enough was enough. I went on a hunger and speech strike at the bus stop outside the garage. Most drivers at the time said that this was when I went 'mad'. Others put it down to iron bar assault I experienced earlier, going to the aid of a conductress I was working with. She got kicked in the face at 10am, because a guy wouldn't show his pass, and I got cracked with an iron bar by his mate. Nice bit of sanity!! My shrink reckoned I got good value at £3,000 criminal injuries for that "nice bit of sanity". My sanity for 3K. Cheers Doc. Anyhow, back to the strike. It lasted from 4.18am to 19.30pm'.

Signed off sick for six weeks, Pete went on a journey to Glastonbury via the road protest at Twyford Down before being declared 'fit for work': 'Back at work, they made me sit around for a day before giving me my first job on the road. At 8.20am on the 4th of January 1993 I went to pick up a bus in Peckham. I spotted the brake light wasn't working, so I should've got the engineer out to fix it, but instead decided to drive the bus as far away from the garage as possible. At Harrow Road Police Station, I booted the last two remaining passengers off, told the police about the defects i..e. no brake light, no fare chart, dummy video and a cold bus, as said 'PC Harrow Road'. I rang the engineer and he choked in his tea when I said 'No fare chart.' That was the end of his career as a bus driver - though not the last time driving a bus. As a 2003 obituary in The Big Issue recalls 'Last summer, when his illness was at its most florid, Pete chanced upon a bus with its keys in, at a depot in south London. He drove it all the way to Worthing. Realising he wasn't well, he headed to the local A&E. After several hours unsuccessfully waiting see a psychiatrist, he returned to the bus and drove it back to London'.

Pete's depression was exacerbated by further violence in his life - his sister was murdered by her boyfriend in Brixton, and Pete was then sectioned in Guys after hitting a policeman.

Reclaim Bedlam and Mad Pride

In 1997, the Bethlem and Maudsley NHS Trust decided to hold a series of events to mark the Bethlem hospital's 750th anniversary. Pete and others involved with Southwark MIND felt that commemoration rather than celebration was in order, given some of the terrible experiences of mentally ill people at Bedlam through the centuries, so they launched 'Reclaim Bedlam' with a series of actions including a picnic at the Imperial War Museum (location of the original Bedlam).

Pete wrote that with Reclaim Bedlam 'for the first time, we were taking the user movement out of the ghetto of smoky hospital rooms and into the mainstream'. Out of this experience, Pete went on to be one of the founders of  Mad Pride in 1999 putting on gigs and publishing texts that not only demanded better treatment for 'the mad' but argued that 'madness' was sometimes an understandable response to an intolerable situation - and that in the spectrum of human life, madness can offer insights as well as suffering.

Sadly Pete's life, like so many others in his position, ended in suicide. Mad Pride contested the idea that suicide was just a personal tragedy and saw it as a direct result of the lack of real support for people with mental health problems. A few months after Pete's death they issued a press release that argued:  '6,000 people a year in Britain are recorded as having committed suicide, though the real figure is probably far higher. New Labour is currently intent on pushing through a universally-criticised new mental health bill aimed at forcibly medicating psychiatric patients in the community and incarcerating people with "personality disorders" in case they become dangerous. This concern for public safety is based on wholly inaccurate stereotypes about the mentally ill. The fact is that violent acts by the mentally ill are extremely uncommon and we are far more likely to be dangers to ourselves. Where is the legislation that will help prevent us killing ourselves by improving our social conditions and treatment options? Mad Pride founder and media spokesman Pete Shaughnessy killed himself by jumping under a train at Battersea on December 15th last year. What is there in the new mental health bill that will protect people like Pete? F*ck all, that's what. Suicide is murder by society: we say STOP THE SUICIDE'.

Ten years after Pete's death, has anything changed?

(More about Pete Shaughnessy here, including his article about being a Dulwich Hamlet FC. supporter).

Monday, December 24, 2012

Crisis centres for Homeless in Deptford and Bermondsey

Wandering around the West End doing Christmas shopping I was struck by the increase in the number of homeless people sleeping on the streets and in doorways. A report published last year by the charity Broadway found the number of people sleeping rough on London's streets has gone up by 43% in a year - from 3,975 to 5,678 between March 2011 and April 2012.

"The law, in its majestic equality, forbids the rich and the poor alike to sleep under bridges,
to beg in the streets, and to steal bread" (Anatole France, Le Lys rouge/The Red Lily, 1894)
Photo taken on London Bridge earlier this month.

This year, homeless charity Crisis has opened five day centres over Christmas in London, including two in SE London:

'City of London Academy on Lynton Road will be the Bermondsey Centre. You can get picked up near Waterloo Station, the Park in Temple Place Crescent off Victoria Embankment, London Bridge (behind Southwark Cathedral) and a fourth being outside Bermondsey Tube Station...The final centre will be based at Lewisham College on Deptford Church Street'.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Dan Raza and The Shrouds

Really enjoyed Dan Raza and The Shrouds at the Duke in Deptford last night, where they performed at Ron's Speakeasy night. Some excellent musicianship and a sound that reminded me a little of The Waterboys. They are also playing tonight at The Hob in Forest Hill, and on 26 January at the Gladstone (64 Lant Street, Borough, London, SE1 1QN). Recommended.

photo by Colin Bodiam

Support Jason McNiff was also good, but will be coming back to him later in the week.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Winter Solstice SE14

I reckon there were around 50 people, including lots of children, on the Winter Solstice Night of the Beasts parade in New Cross last night. Some people started off from the New Cross Learning Centre (the old library), but it grew in size after a stop at the Telegraph Pub in Dennetts Road. After a vist to the candlelit Common Growth community garden in Sandbourne Road, the parade finished up at the Hill Station Cafe at the top of Telegraph Hill.

The parade was headed by a fine stag (perhaps a reindeer stag).

The stag was giving off some mysterious powerful energy!

A swan was also present...

Friday, December 21, 2012

Fairytale of New Cross

The Telegraph pub in Dennetts Road, New Cross (or to give it its full name in honour of its former incarnation, 'The Telegraph at the Early of Derby') hosts lots of musical and other social events, including a popular open mic night. Last night Malcolm and Catherine, the landlord and landlady, sang their own version of  the Pogues' Christmas classic: 'the Fairytale of New Cross'.

The lines include 'The girls from the Telegraph Community Choir still singing Galway Bay', and indeed the said choir will be singing Carols at the pub tonight at 8 pm. Also tonight, the Winter Solstice Night of the Beasts Parade will be heading off from the pub at around 5:30 pm.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

It was a wonderful film

Christmas officially started for me last night with a free showing of 'It's a Wonderful Life' at St Catherine's Church, SE14. There was a good crowd who cheered appreciatively at the end after an evening of dabbing their eyes in the dark. I'd forgotten how topical Frank Capra's 1946 film is, it's all about banking, debt, and housing, as well as angels obviously. Mean old Potter, the ruthless businessman, is determined to put Bailey's uneconomic building society out of business because in lending money for houses to people not deemed credit-worthy it is not only undermining Potter's rental incomce as a landlord, but  creating a 'discontented, lazy rabble instead of a thrifty, working class'.

This recalls some of the discussions going on around 'moral hazard' and the Occupy movement's Rolling Jubilee campaign in the States (which Goldsmiths' David Graeber is involved in), where the campaign to relieve debts and prevent foreclosures is coming up against the bankers' notion that is wrong to allow people to stay in homes when they can't pay their mortgage because it undermines the threat to others.

Anyway the Church was nicely lit with a Christmas tree and candles.

The film show was also a curtain raiser for next years' New Cross and Deptford Free Film Festival, which will take place from 26 April to 5 May 2013. Watch out for details of planning meetings early in the New Year.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

History Corner: Pearce Signs, New Cross

A comment on an ealier post about the history of Laurie Grove Baths set me off looking into another nearby site: 'Loring Hall, one of Goldsmiths Student Residences' (next to the Hobgoblin) 'was built on the site of Pearce Signs offices and factory' with a 'quite elaborate' display of 'a little illuminated man climbing a ladder to a large advert sign' still remembered by many locals.

According to the firm's history, Pearce Signs started out as a small sign-writing business in late 18th century Southwark, expanding to a factory in New Cross Road during the 19th century. In the 20th century it diversified into neon lighting and then, during the Second World War switched to war production: 'Domed headlights were designed and manufactured to reduce the visibility of car lighting from the sky and incoming enemy aircraft'.

Robert Hatton remembers that as a child he was 'blown through the fence of Pearce Signs' by the V2 rocket on 25 November 1944 which destroyed Woolworths opposite, killing 168 people. A temporary mortuary was established at Pearce's.

With peacetime, sign manufacture expanded once again. According to local historian Malcolm Bacchus, who gave a talk earlier this year on the history of New Cross Road at the New Cross Learning Centre, the signage for the first UK McDonalds - in Woolwich - was made there.

The New Cross factory closed in the mid-1990s. Its address in 1995 was still given as Insignia House, 274 New Cross Road, but I believe it closed the following year - though the company is still going with its HQ now in Gosport (Hampshire).

(pictures of factory taken from company website - I am guessing they were taken in the early/mid 1960s. Anybody got any pictures of the outside, including the famous sign)

Monday, December 17, 2012

Deptford X Revisited

Hew Locke's Gold Standard was a public art project as part of the 2012 Deptford X festival back in August, displayed on the Old Tidemill school building in Frankham Street SE8. I meant to post about it at the time, but didn't get round to it - so rather belatedly here are some images from it, in the spirit of documenting things I like even if it takes a while!

The images are derived from old share certificates, decorated by the artist with Pan-Africanist and other motifs that pose questions about these imperial enterprises. So the Lion of Judah appears over a certificate for a French-owned Ethiopian railway company.

The Electricity and Ice Supply Company, operating in Egypt, has its certificate redecorated with images of Anubis, the ancient Egyptian god of the dead.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Brockley Ukulele Group 100th Gig

Brockley Ukulele Group are playing their 100th gig tonight, at the Amersham Arms in New Cross. The SE London strummers started out early in 2008 with a drop-in session at Broca cafe, and played their first gig at the Telegraph Hill Centre in June 2008. I played with them for the first couple of years and had a lot of fun playing out at the Montague Arms, Hobgoblin, Jam Circus, Rivoli Ballroom, Shunt, and other venues. Ukeists have come and gone from the shifting collective that is BUG but one constant since late 2008 has been a monthly session at the Amersham Arms.

Brockley Incident Yesterday

Not sure exactly what happened in Brockley yesterday afternoon, the story circulating on twitter was 'Crazy guy wielding a pitchfork in Brockley has police cars & helicopters after him, lots of blood in the street'. Don't think it was quite a bloodbath,  but what is clear is that  at around 3 pm there was initially some kind of incident with a man threatening people by the row of shops opposite the Brockley Barge on Brockley Road. He then seems to have been chased towards Brockley Station and run across the train lines, leading to trains being stopped. First Capital Connect reported 'Delays of up to 45 minutes between Norwood Junction and New Cross Gate because of a trespass incident at Brockley'.

The police gave chase with the police helicopter twitter account (yes there is one) reporting '1535: Currently over Brockley @mpslewisham searching for male chased by local Officers'. Don't know if he was arrested, whether anybody was injured, or what the alleged weapon was - did anybody actually see the fork? 

Anyway this was all going off right next to Brockley Christmas Market in Coulgate Streeet, where people were sipping mulled wine, buying presents and listening to Brockley Ukulele Group. 'Mike Modular' has posted a sound recording on audioboo that captures the strange soundclash of ukes, sirens and helicopters. This is a slice of sound that sums up early 21st century Brockley (and indeed other areas like East Dulwich and the Bellenden end of Peckham) -  a  pleasant if slightly twee world of cup cakes, crafts and small stringed instruments periodically interrupted by desperation and violence.

Update Monday: so was this all a big fuss about not very much? According to eye witnesses in comments there was a some kind of altercation by the Brockley Barge, followed by a guy waving a swiss army knife around. Later someone, possibly the same guy, was seen with a garden fork being threatening. Doesn't seem there was blood on the streets , as reported on Twitter, or indeed anybody injured, and as a fork was abandoned at the scene it doesn't really sound like there was a guy wandering the streets of Brockley for 24 hours brandishing a pitch fork. A big police operation failed to find him that day and the next day someone - perhaps the same guy again - was arrested in Brockley, with Lewisham police reporting that 'a burglary suspect that @MPSinthesky assisted us with... was arrested & has been bailed pending further enqs'.  No doubt distressing for some people directly involved and could have ended badly, but to be honest sounds like a fairly routine case of messed up drink/drugs/mental health issues.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

South London's Migrant Majority

I sometimes feel London is a different country to the rest of the UK, certainly different from the imagined country addressed by politicians and much of the mainstream media. This is particularly the case in relation to immigration, which in this imagined country is continually framed as a problem and a source of anxiety for the 'majority'. But in London, migrants and their descendants are the majority.

Data released this week shows that just over one third (34%) of people living in the borough of Lewisham at the time of the 2011 Census were not born in the UK (in Lambeth and in Southwark the figure was 39%, and 31% in Greenwich).

Many others were the children or grandchildren of migrants. In terms of ethnicity, people defining themselves as White British (or English/Welsh/Scottish/NI) are the largest group in Lewisham (42%). But the majority (58%) are from other ethnic groups,  the most significant groups being Black African, Black Caribbean and White Other (which includes Western and Eastern European, as well as Americans, Australians etc.): 
Ethnicity in Lewisham, 2011 Census
Ethnic groups other than White UK also constitute a majority in Southwark (60%) and Lambeth (61%), as well as making up almost half (48%) of the population of Greenwich. In London as a whole, the figure is 55%. Of course many of the 'White UK' population in London are also migrants to the city from other parts of Britain, and many too are descended from previous waves of migrants from abroad, such as Jewish refugees in the 19th century - London has always been a migrant city.

How can debates around immigration continue to treat the largest part of the capital's population as if they are some kind of social problem? Far from being a problem, migrants and their descendants are at the heart of London and make it a truly World City. This week I have had a Bulgarian colleague fix my computer, listened to an African parent sing the praises of the Polish support worker for her autistic son, and heard how a Brazilian teacher has helped transform a local nursery. In other words, a typical week in London - no problem.

'Integration' doesn't happen because governments command it, but because people mostly get on with each other and mix with each other as they go about their lives in the city. Work is one place where this happens, but some migrants are banned from working, and many others are unemployed. In addition the very social spaces where people from different backgrounds encounter each other - Children's Centres, libraries, youth clubs etc. - are continually threatened by cuts, as are English classes for adult learners. In this sense, the actions of the government are more of a barrier to integration than the behaviours of migrants and their neighbours.

[Incidentally the Census estimates that the population of greater London is 8.2 million - an increase since 2001 but still less than the estimated peak population of 8.6 million in 1939]

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Farewell Tadim

Sorry to hear that the famous Tadim Turkish cafe in Camberwell Church Street has closed down, seemingly for good. A sign on the door suggests that it has been repossessed by the landlord. I've been going there for ten years or so, shame that it is no more. I'm glad that on my last visit in September I took some photographs of Serkan Ozer's fine murals in the back room. So long Tadim and thanks for the Imam Bayildi.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Lewisham Hospital Day of Action

Tomorrow (Thursday 13th December) is the last day to officially respond to the consultation on changes to health services in South East London, most notably the threat to close emergency care at Lewisham Hospital with a longer term threat to maternity and other services at the hospital. The online consultation form is here - you are not asked for your name or other personal details by the way. Save Lewisham Hospital have a guide to completing it  - if you have time try and put in further arguments in the comments boxes.

There is also a Save Lewisham Hospital Day of Action tomorrow. People are asked to stage a lunchtime protest at 12 noon outside their own workplace, and then to join a torchit vigil outside Lewisham Hospital from 4 pm to 7 pm.

One of the many things that concerns me about the plans is the impact on journey times to hospital. Clearly for anybody for whom Lewisham is the nearest hospital, closing emergency care there will mean that it will take them longer to access A&E. For people being transported by ambulance in good traffic conditions, the difference may not always be substantial - although it will clearly have more impact on people living further away from Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Woolwich, and for some the resulting delay in access to clinical facilities could be fatal.

It is very unclear whether real traffic conditions have been taken into account in the report's estimate that  'the average increase in blue light ambulance journey time for the population of Lewisham to reach the specialist team would be just over seven minutes'. As stated here before, AA Route Planner estimates the normal car journey time from Lewisham Hospital to QEH as 22 minutes assuming normal traffic. You would also need to take into account the  frequency of traffic congestion on Blackheath and the A2 which most ambulances to Woolwich from Lewisham would have to cross on their journey.

Lewisham Local Implementation Plan 2011, which sets out the borough's transport strategy, points out that traffic speeds in Lewisham are slower than in neighbouring boroughs, and that traffic delays are worse - in other words an ambulance travelling through Lewisham is more likely to get stuck in traffic than elsewhere:

The report ignores another important element of journey times. Support and visits from friends and family is important for patient well-being and recovery, but it will be difficult for many Lewisham residents to make it to Woolwich regularly. As with many aspects of this plan, poorer residents will be worse affected as they are more likely to have to use public transport -  it should be noted that a third of households in Lewisham do not have access to a car (compared with only 13% in Bromley) . Transport for London's journey planner suggests that the quickest public transport journey from Lewisham Hospital to Queen Elizabeth Hospital takes around 50 minutes during the day, including a 15 minute walk at the Woolwich end from the 54 bus stop. Again traffic jams could often cause this journey to take longer.

All of this might sound like juggling with statistics, but think about an example. A child in central Lewisham has a traffic accident, and is taken to hospital in an ambulance, where they need to stay in intensive care for a week. It would be terrible and difficult now for their family if the child was in Lewisham Hospital, but imagine the extra distress if the family (perhaps a lone parent with other children) had to spend at least two hours a day travelling back and forth by public transport to hospital in Woolwich. Daily distress like this will become the norm for many people in Lewisham if the plan goes ahead.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Winter Solstice Parade

Last year's Winter Solstice Night of the Beasts Parade to Telegraph Hill park SE14 was a lot of fun. This year it starts from New Cross Learning (the old library in New Cross Road) at 4:15 pm or the Telegraph Pub at 5:30 pm on Friday 21st December.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Music Monday: Ceri James - Blythe Hill Fields

South London/Welsh troubador Ceri James has a new clutch of songs to add to his transpontine collection, which has included songs about Deptford Broadway and a coffee shop on New Cross Road.  His latest hymn to the southlands is Blythe Hill Fields, included on his City Fields EP on Deep River Records, and honouring that little green patch of Lewisham (featured in photo). Stillness Road and Crystal Palace get mentioned too.

The video for the song was shot on the Big Red Pizza bus and its film trailer in Depford, as well as on Blythe Hill Fields obviously.

Sunday, December 09, 2012

What next for the Montague Arms?

So last night there was an event at the Montague Arms, a Christmas party for the Nettleton Road Housing Co-op. Sorry for any confusion about this - last week somebody involved in it sent us the flyer (below) and asked us to promote it, so we put up a post about it. Then somebody else contacted us and said it was a private party and that if we didn't delete the post, it might be cancelled. So we took it down.

Pleased to report that party went ahead (photo below was posted on Twitter by My Tiger My Timing), but it seems that this was the last event before the building is handed over to new owners next week. The place is fondly remembered by many, as recalled here before, but other than the odd private event it has been closed as a pub for almost a year.

So what next? Property Company Kingsbury has announced that the building has been 'acquired for development' (see below, accessed from their website yesterday). They say that it 'will be subject to a planning application to restore viable commercial activities at ground floor level, with a number of residential apartments above'. It's unclear whether the intention is to  refurbish  the existing building, or to put in planning permission to demolish and rebuild, but Kingsbury have told the Newsshopper that it won't be a pub. So it looks like another good pub gone, unless the new owners have a change of heart. There is certainly scope for a viable pub in that area, for a start Southwark Council has opened a big new office opposite Queens Road station with nowhere nearby for staff to drink after work on Queens Road between Peckham and New Cross.

Saturday, December 08, 2012

Canada Water Library

At at a time when libraries are being closed down all over the country, it's rare to have much to celebrate on the library front. But an exception is the Canada Water Library at Surrey Quays, which opened earlier this year.

It's a striking buiding outside, located on the water front. It is also striking inside, with a large spiral staircase from the groundfloor cafe space.

The building is already busy, including lots of people studying. Canada Water shows that whatever the future of the printed word, there will always be a need for calm social spaces where people can gather free of charge to read, learn and think.

The building also features the Canada Water Culture Space, which is being run in partnership with the Albany.

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

'Converge on Kershaw'

As part of the consultation on the proposed closure of services at Lewisham Hospital, Matthew Kershaw ('The Special Administrator' who is recommending the changes) will be speaking tomorrow night at the Calabash Day Centre in Lewisham. Opponents of the plans have called for people to 'Converge on Kershaw' to show the strength of local feeling against the cuts. 

The event is on Tuesday 4th December, 7-9pm at  26  George Lane,  SE13 6HH (map here), with protestors gathering from 6pm.

Photo from the recent Lewisham demonstration - photo by Andy Worthington of anti-Kershaw banner

Monday, December 03, 2012

Music Monday: Cesar Laser - Lewisham Now

Lewisham's Cesar Laser had a spot on Britain's Got More Talent on TV earlier this year. Sadly he didn't win - if he had millions of people all over the world would probably be doing it Lewisham style by now.

'what town has a library, what town has a pharmacy, what town has a KFC, what town has a big kitty... scream for the Lewisham dream'.

Saturday, December 01, 2012

It's a Wonderful Life

No point pretending anymore - it's December and Christmas is coming, and one of  the great Christmas films is being shown for free on a big screen in SE14. Yes, 'It's a Wonderful Life' on Wednesday 19 December at St Catherine's Church in Kitto Road, 7:30 start.

'What is it you want, Mary? What do you want? You want the moon? Just say the word and I'll throw a lasso around it and pull it down. Hey. That's a pretty good idea. I'll give you the moon, Mary... then you can swallow it, and it'll all dissolve, see... and the moonbeams would shoot out of your fingers and your toes and the ends of your hair'.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Deptford Poundland Protest

Last Saturday there was a protest at the Poundland store in Deptford High Street, part of an ongoing campaign against shops involved in the workfare scheme ('Mandatory Work Activity') whereby unemployed people are made to undertake unpaid work. South London Solidarity Federation, who organised the Deptford action, point out that employers are using work placements to do work that they would otherwise have to pay staff to do - thereby actually reducing the real jobs available for unemployed people. 

Other companies have pulled out of the scheme following protests, including Holland & Barrett who were targeted in Catford and elsewhere.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

History Corner: Every Brick Tells a Story

On the Thames beach at Deptford there are various industrial archaeological fragments, each with their own history. Here are three bricks I came across recently.

This first brick is marked 'Glenboig'. The Glenboig Fire Clay Company was founded in 1865 in the central Scottish village. It had its own clay-mine as well as the factory which made the bricks. In 1901 clay miners staged a long and bitter 10 month strike; in 1909, four miners were killed in a roof fall. Glenboig bricks were exported all over the world, this one ending up on the shore of the Thames.

Thistle Bricks also came from Scotland, and were manufactured by John G Stein & Co. Its mine was in Castlecary.

A 1940 catalogue shows that Thistle bricks were designed for use at high temperature, such as in furnaces, and were composed of Silica, Alumina and Ferric Oxide.

The London Brick Company (LBC) was founded in 1900, not in London but at Fletton near Peterborough, where bricks continue to be made from 'Oxford clay' to this day. Brick production brought many Italian workers and their families to the area - in 1960, around 3,000 Italians were employed there by London Brick. 

So now you know, these bricks are not just random refuse. An experienced brick spotter would be able to date bricks such as these by changes in the lettering and fonts over time - not sure I have the time for that just now.