Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Telegraph Hill Park Haiku

On Twitter, 'New Cross Park Life' is posting more or less daily Haiku observations of life in Telegraph Hill Park. Here's a few examples:

Two lovers and friend
Sitting high on tennis fence
Drink in the sunrise

Sirius rising
Over Brockley horizon
Three girls a-skipping

Maps of twig and branch
I love the skeletal trees
Before the spring comes

Tennis early dawn
Can you see the yellow ball
When the sun's not up?

A circle of flame
Fire juggler lighting up
Lonely London night

You can read more at:

Monday, January 30, 2012

Music Monday: Baby'Oul and The One Drops

Baby’Oul is a soulful reggae singer hailing from Martinique. In London he has pulled together a band The One Drops with musicans from as far afield as Guadeloupe and Woolwich.

Mama Africa, the new single from Baby'Oul And The One Drops,  features a guest apperance from the legendary General Levy. The video features scenes shot by the Artmongers mural on Deptford Broadway, and in the Muisc Complex on Tanners Hill, SE8 (the rooftop and studio scenes).

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Lewisham Fuel Poverty Protest Report

I posted earlier this week on the issue of fuel poverty, noting that around 100 people die each year in the borough of Lewisham from cold-related causes. The latest available Government figures, as discussed in Parliament in November 2011, show that in 2008 an estimated 83,000 households in South East London were unable to afford to keep themselves warm in cold periods. With rising fuel prices and decreasing incomes, the position has no doubt got worse since then.

On Friday evening a protest took place at Lewisham Town Hall in Catford as part of a Fuel Poverty Action weekend of action.

'Bring down the Bills! Energy for our needs! Not corporate greed'
Banner at Lewisham Town Hall
They report: '30-40 activists and residents from Lewisham occupied and warmed-up inside Lewisham Town Hall. They staged a peoples’ forum inside, where people shared their experiences of unaffordable energy bills and expressed their anger at the profiteering energy companies and complicit government. People discussed the many examples of community controlled renewable energy projects across the country and how we might transition Lewisham and, more broadly, the UK, to a democratic energy system that works for people’s needs, not for corporate greed. After the peoples’ forum, people moved outside and got even more toasty around a bonfire of burning energy bills'.

See also report at East London Lines.
For information on support available from Lewisham Council see here.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Mary Quant: from New Cross (& Blackheath) to the World

Mary Quant played a key role in creating the women's fashion look associated with 1960s 'Swinging London', popularising the mini-skirt and the bob haircut. Quant was designing and making her own clothes from an early age, and attended Blackheath High School, but it was via attending Goldsmiths in New Cross in the 1950s that she eventually managed to make a living out it, partly because it was there that she met her future husband and business partner, Alexander Plunkett Greene.

According to Shawn Levy 'The impetus to Quant's starting a revolution in quiet, arty Chelsea was her marriage to Alexander Plunket Greene [1932-1990], one of the very first old-line Britons in whom something like the spirit of the sixties blossomed. Born to a family of English eccentrics who included among their lovers, friends and acquaintances such diverse lights as Paul Robeson, Bertrand Russell and Evelyn Waugh, he was a teenage scene unto himself in the early fifties, wandering through Chelsea in his mother's disused pajamas and slacks, hanging around Soho jazz bars where he aspired to play the trumpet, and showing up only when he felt like it to classes at Goldsmiths College, an art and technical school in New Cross, near Deptford, where he tried to further distance himself from his fellow student - as if it were possible or necessary - by walking about with a film script under his arm. He was, in short, the sort of nutter one expected to find in Chelsea, London’s nearest answer to Montmartre: moneyed, bred to leisure, artistically inclined - a definitive bohemian, if he said so himself'.

Alexander Plunket Greene
'Among the mere mortals who found themselves dazzled by Plunket Greene's antics at Goldsmiths was Quant, a pixie-size but blunt and strong-willed student who'd been raised variously, as her parents followed schoolteaching careers, in Kent, Wales and, after the war, in Blackheath, south of Greenwich, which would always be, in her mind, home. Quant, who was born in 1934, was attending Goldsmiths out of a compromise arrangement with her exasperated folks, who thought they could channel her penchant for designing and sewing her own clothes into a useful career: teaching art or some such. But she found herself swept into an exciting new way of life by Plunket Greene, with whom she became romantically involved, and she forsook the chance to get a teaching certificate for a life of gadding about with her beau and the ragtag bunch who came to be known as the Chelsea Set' (Shawn Levy, Ready, Steady, Go!: The Smashing Rise and Giddy Fall of Swinging London, 2003). 

After Plunkett Green inherited some money, the pair opened a boutique called Bazaar on the Kings Road (Plunket Greene opened a restaurant and jazz club in the basement), from where Quant started to build her fashion empire. Like some other Goldsmiths notables, she never actually finished her course there.

Quant getting her hair cut by Vidal Sassoon, inventor of the modern bob
and sometime militant anti-fascist
Incidentally Quant didn't claim to have invented the mini, a look which came from the streets: "It was the girls on the King's Road who invented the mini. I was making easy, youthful, simple clothes; in which you could move, run and jump. We would make them the length the customer wanted, they would say "shorter, shorter" and we followed by command".

Twiggy wearing a Mary Quant dress
Quant later came to see her clothes from this period as embodying a kind of emergent feminism. In contrast to the the 'old attitudes' that  'a woman was daddy’s daughter until she became somebody’s wife. In the mid-1950s women started, without analysing it, to grab a time when they were their own person by moving out from under daddy’s roof and sharing a usually overcrowded, usually scruffy flat with other girls. The mini was part of that. The mini said ‘Look at me’. It was very exuberant, pure glee. Looking back it was the beginning of the women’s movement. Clothes always say it first, you know, then comes the effect. All those retro fashions of the 1970s betrayed the nervousness that was to come’ (Quant, 1982, quoted in The Great Fashion Designers by Brenda Polan, Roger Tredre, Berg, 2009).

Interesting idea of fashion prefiguring social change - in which case what do the clothes we are wearing now say about the near future?

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Fuel Poverty in Lewisham

It is a shocking fact that in Lewisham each Winter around 100 people die as a result of the cold. Many if not most of these deaths are preventable, with a signfiicant factor being fuel poverty. An increasing number of people simply cannot afford to keep themselves warm, with a direct impact on their health and well-being. According to the government-commissioned Hills Poverty Review,  at least 2,700 people will die this winter in Britain as a direct result of being ‘fuel poor’.

Tomorrow evening (6 pm, Friday January 27th) there will be a protest at Lewisham Town Hall in Catford as part of the Fuel Poverty Action Winter Warm-Up Weekend 'to demand democratically controlled and accountable energy, decent fuel-efficient housing, and an end to deaths caused by fuel poverty'.  Community Action Lewisham say: 'Poverty, poor housing, no insulation, social isolation, debts...all these conditions affect our ability to pay the bills. None of them are accidental. With six energy companies controlling 99% of our energy supply in the UK, giving us the 'choice' of over 400 different tariffs, whilst hitting us with price hikes of over 15% last year, it's clear we have no power to decide where our energy is sourced and how much it costs. This has to change. Access to warmth, decent housing, and health should be rights not a privilege. At the moment, government and energy companies are preserving the market over peoples' needs and our environment'.

The event will include 'a Peoples' Forum, a burning of bills to keep warm, and a sharing of tea and information on how to bring down the cost of heating. Fire Eaters are also expected' (facebook event details here)

Lewisham report 

A report published by Lewisham public health in 2010 as part of the local Joint Strategic Needs Assessment explores the local extent 'of seasonal excess deaths, which relate to the difference between the number of deaths during the four winter months (December to March) and the average number of deaths during the preceding autumn and summer (April - November).  These deaths are of those people who would not have been expected to die anyway due to illness or old age in the next few weeks or months.
Many of these deaths are amongst older people, especially women, and those with underlying health problems. People living with underlying heart, circulatory or lung disease are at the highest risk...'

'Each one degree Celsius decrease in average winter temperature results in 8,000 additional winter deaths in England... However, these deaths are preventable; some countries with more extreme weather conditions than the UK experience fewer winter-related deaths. For example, Finland has 45% fewer winter deaths than the UK... In Lewisham there was an average of 105 excess winter deaths per year between August 2004 and July 2007. This equates to an excess winter mortality index (EWMI) of 18.9 for Lewisham (i.e. there was an 18.9% increase in deaths during the winter months'.

The report highlights that fuel poverty is a significant factor - 'Fuel poverty is when a household needs to spend more than 10% of its income on total fuel use to heat its home to an adequate standard of warmth. Fuel poverty frequently affects people from vulnerable groups that already experience a disproportionately higher level of general poverty and deprivation. These groups include older people, households containing children (including lone parents), households with large adult populations, vulnerable groups (including disabled people), and single person households.In Lewisham in 2007, an estimated 5.5% of households were at risk of fuel poverty. By ward, this varies from 4.9% in Blackheath to 6.3% in Catford South'.

Between 2003 and 2007, fuel poverty in England rose from 5.9% to 13.2 % of households, representing an increase from 1.2 million to 2.8 million households. The increase in fuel poverty since 2004 can be largely attributed to increases in fuel prices. The overall effect of fuel price rises since 2004 has far outweighed the impact of increasing incomes and energy efficiency'.

(Source: Lewisham JSNA: Seasonal Excess Deaths, Lewisham PCT, 2010)

(update 29.1.2012: see report and pictures of Lewisham protest: http://transpont.blogspot.com/2012/01/lewisham-fuel-poverty-protest-report.html)

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

South London from the Gherkin

This picture is a detail looking South from an amazing gigapixel panorama, Sunrise from the Gherkin, at Spherical Images (click to enlarge; the full image allows you to zoom in to even greater detail). Obviously the Shard and to a lesser extent the Strata at the Elephant now dominate the skyline, but you can also make out Hays Galleria, Southwark Cathedral, the Heygate Estate and many other buildings. 

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

London Anagram Map

Like this London Anagram Tubemap - the South East London section includes No Screws (New Cross), Aleph and Tentacles (Elephant and Castle), Yes Quarry Us (Surrey Quays), Lame Wish (Lewisham), Wing Cheer (Greenwich), Fib Port Dredged (Deptford Bridge), and Blood Rending (London Bridge).

(full map is here)

Monday, January 23, 2012

Music Monday: Jamie N Commons

Jamie N Commons is a singer who sounds a bit like he's from the Southern states of the US, but is actually based in our very own Southern Gothic homeland of New Cross. He was on the Q magazine 'Ones to Watch' in 2012 list, and got a similar treatment in The Guardian: 'Returning to the West Country at 16 with a skewed accent, he taught himself the brass tacks of the guitar and, aged 18, moved to London to study music at Goldsmiths in New Cross, a requisite for any modern musician: recent alumni include singer Katy B and electro-composer, and classmate, James Blake, "Although I didn't really know what he [James] did. It wasn't until the third year that suddenly he was off to meet Universal and it was like, oh." A graduate in the guise of Struwwelpeter, Commons certainly dresses New Cross: plaid shirt, tight-ish black jeans and felt Preacher's hat bought (alarmingly) from TK Maxx: "Not cool, nope, but I lost my other hat*."'

The video for his song The Preacher looks like it was shot in Dungeness, Kent, complete with 'True Blood' references.

* Was that the New Cross TK Maxx? I think we should be told. Anyway it's good to see the New Cross dress code (or one of them) getting national recognition. Hopefully we will see Kate Moss in an advert soon saying 'get the New Cross look'

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Amy Lord's Takeaway Shop

The Takeaway Shop is a project by Amy Lord at number82, the art space at 82 Tanners Hill in Deptford. Amy explains:

'What do you know about where you’re living, where you wake up every morning? Archives are often unruly, dusty masses of paperwork and words locked away to keep them safe. What if you learn about the most interesting bits straight away? And more importantly, be able to TAKE them AWAY with you? This will be a place for people to drop in and learn craft activities including book-binding and paper-making, and to collect real stories about the lives of the local residents, families and the history of the area. It will be a place to meet. People that come into the shop will learn how to create individual handmade books and be able to cut, paste and assemble their favourite bits of text, pictures, true stories, people and textures, to create THEIR own mini TAKE-AWAY archive.

I think it’s important to know the area you live in, it’s history, what came before it, and who lives here now. It’s the context in which you are positioning yourself, and your life'.

Amy Lord  (standing) leads a book-making workshop
Essentially Amy has collated images and text relating to the history of Deptford and the surrounding area, from which people are invited to make their own selection. Materials and instructions for making your own books are provided.

The Takeway Shop runs until 27th January 2012, open from 12 noon - 5:00 pm on Sunday, 10:30am – 6:30pm weekdays (except Tuesday when it's closed), with a late night until 8 pm on Friday 27th January as part of South London Art Map tour. Workshop places are free, but you need to book in advance to be sure of getting a space at http://thetakeawayshop.eventbrite.co.uk/

The book I made
I enjoyed making a book, and was impressed by Amy's obvious knowledge. There have been a number of artist-based projects linked to aspects of Deptford's history in recent years, and sometimes they can be quite superficial appropriations.  Amy has clearly put the hours in and developed quite a collection of material, much of it unfamiliar to me (and I've been studying this stuff for years).  I think she is right that getting an understanding of the history of an area is a good way of orienting yourself in a place that may be new to you. That's certainly what got me started, and indeed Transpontine has been partly about sharing some of my developing understanding and learning more through interaction with commenters and other local bloggers. The Takeaway Shop approach is an innovative way of sharing material like this, encouraging people to chat and reflect on local history in a creative and comfortable context.

One of the images used in the Takeaway Shop - Pyne Brothers drapers store in Lewisham High Road (now Lewisham Way) in 1891. This stood opposite where Lewisham Arthouse stands today (previously Deptford Library)

Detail of above photo - note the windows advertising Costumes, Mourning, Drapery and Dresses. Note too an entrance through to the New Cross Public Hall, a major public building of the time which must have been behind the store (where among other things a Grand National Christmas Fair took place in 1884)

Big Garden Birdwatch

Next weekend (28th and 29th of January) is the RSPB's Big Garden Birdwatch, when people all over the country are encouraged to spend an hour in a garden or local park noting which bird species they see and then contribute to a national survey. Last year more than 600,000 people took part and counted more than £10m birds. In London the top ten most numerous species were:

1. Starling
2. Woodpigeon
3. Blue Tit
4. House Sparrow
5. Blackbird
6. Feral pigeon
7. Great Tit
8. Robin
9. Magpie
10. Goldfinch

As part of this, the Friends of Hilly Fields are organising a birdwatch on Sunday 29th January, 10:30 to 12:30 (met by the Bothy, along from the bowling green off Hilly Fields Crescent). There will be materials for making bird feeders, bird puzzles and colouring/craft activities for children.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Unearthing South East London

Coming up soon at South East London Folklore Society an interesting talk on 'Unearthing South East London’s Ritual Landscape'. Simon Webb, author of ‘Unearthing London: The Ancient World Beneath The Metropolis’ will be giving a talk on the ancient ritual landscape hidden beneath the streets of South East London'.

8 pm on Thursday 9th February, £2.50/£1.50 concs, at The Old King's Head, Kings Head Yard, 45-49, Borough High St, London SE1.

For information on ancient sites in the London area, check out The Modern Antiquarian.

Facebook events details here

Wednesday, January 18, 2012


Halls has been generating lots of interest for his ethereal electronic sounds, being featured in Dazed and Confused magazine and recently described at Music OMH website as 'Electro-chillwaver... a boy in a bubble with a laptop, a self-effacing slip of a thing from New Cross'.

Halls is Sam Howards. Originally from Norfolk he moved to London to study at Greenwich University. His new EP, Fragile, was launched at Corsica Studios at Elephant and Castle last month. This week it gets released on vinyl by The Sounds of Sweet Nothing.

Links: Halls on Facebook; Halls Music.

Monday, January 16, 2012

South London Black Music Archive

Opening tomorrow at the Peckham Space presents 'The South London Black Music Archive, an exhibition by artist Barby Asante that aims to celebrate, preserve and investigate South Londoners’ personal relationships with moments in black music history. Peckham Space will be transformed into an ‘open archive’ mapping objects which represent and explore the personal stories which comprise the fascinating history of the influence and evolution of black music in South London. Welcoming contributions from the public, this archive will include items such as books, magazines, concert tickets, posters, stories, records and CDs gathered and displayed with the reverence of museum pieces. Asante’s selected objects highlighting seminal moments in this history will share the same platform as visitors’ objects and stories depicting their own experiences through music and memorabilia [all donated items are returnable at the end of the exhibition].

One of the founding items of the South London Black Music Archive will be a ‘limited edition’ vinyl specially produced for the project as a result of the artist’s collaboration with young people from the Leaders of Tomorrow (LOT) mentoring programme. This artwork was created in association with Regeneration & Community Partnerships, Tate Modern with an exclusive record sleeve by graphic design collective Åbäke. Copies will be available from record shops across South London and at Peckham Space for the duration of the exhibition. It will feature Asante’s own take on the BBC’s ‘inheritance tracks’ for which members of LOT were asked to contribute songs that inspire them. Songs chosen include tracks by Adele, Michael Jackson, Edvard Grieg, Nigerian singer Prince Nico Mbarga, Bob Dylan and Lauryn Hill which will be represented as a soundscape alongside recordings of the young people telling the stories and explaining their selections'.

The South London Black Music Archive runs from 17 January – 24 March 2012 at Peckham Space, Camberwell College of Art, 89 Peckham High Street, London SE15 5RS (in the square by the library). Launch event 17 January 6-8pm, otherwise opening times are Tuesday-Friday 11am-5pm, Saturday 11am-4pm, closed Sundays, Mondays. Admission Free.

Other events include artists’ talk on 3rd February, 18.45pm at Tate Modern; Daytime Disco 10 March 2011 at the Ritzy, Windrush Square, Brixton. Further details on the website or call 020 7358 9645 / email info@peckhamspace.com

As a starting point, there's this great map 'a growing record of black music landmarks in South London from venues and record shops to street corners and radio stations'.

South London Black Music Archive Map (click to enlarge)
South London Black Music Archive Map - detail showing New Cross, Deptford etc.
South London Black Music Archive Map - list of Peckham. Brixton and Elephant places

I've got a few ideas about some things I could contribute to this exhibition, and some places to add to the map. Among places featured previously at Transpontine there's:

- St Pauls Crypt and lots of other places where Saxon Sounds played in early 1980s.
- Bob Marley and Johnny Cash in Peckham;
- Ariwa Gautrey Road studio;
- New Cross 1970s reggae shops;
- Amersham Arms and other 1960s clubs
- El Partido in Lewisham
- Dennis Bovell's Studio 80

Lots of other places too I haven't got round to writing about yet at Transpontine - the Lazerdrome in Peckham, Ram Jam in Brixton etc. Where else?

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Urban Free Festival 1992

'The Dewdrop Inn. Deptford. For all the old punks n freaks' is a great facebook groups with loads of photos of that pub from the 1980s and 1990s. The Dew Drop Inn was on the corner of Clifton Rise and Angus Street SE14 - sadly now converted to flats (I will do a post about it another time). As the pub faced on to Fordham Park it was the main drinking hole during the legendary Urban Free Festivals held in the park from 1990 to 1995, which attracted tens of thousands of people from all over London and beyond. I have taken some of the photos of the festival from the facebook group to give a flavour of it - hope nobody minds, this is priceless cultural history.

1992 programme - Uban Free Festival III
Conscious Collective - 'You can't kill the spirt').

The line up in 1992 included Back to the Planet, Brain of Morbius, The Seas, Sensor, Fat Dinosaur, Sidi Bou Said, Attila the Stockbroker, Moral Panic, The Rythmites, Levitation, Dr Phibes and the House of Wax Equations, RDF, Test Department, Co-Creators, Community Charge  and many more. All this and the 'Free the Spirt Rave Big Top'.

Groups involved in organising the festival that year included South East Musicians Collective, SYLVIA (Support Your Local Venues and Independent Artsits), Conscious Collective, Dole House Crew (who squatted the Peckham dole office) and Sonic Relief with sponsors including The Dew Drop Inn, Music City,  Catford TUC Centre for the Unemployed and Lewisham Council.

I believe these photos were taken by Seran Tahsin, who was not sure whether they are from 1991 to 1992. I think probably 1992, because there is a great bit of film footage from 1991 and the structures look a bit different.

Dancing in Fordham Park in 1993

I had some great times at those festivals will write some more about the later ones at some point. Any good memories or stories, leave a comment as always (and why was it the Deptford Urban Free Festival when it was plainly in New Cross?!)

Update: here's a couple of interviews with people remembering the festival (film was made by people from Deptford.TV Collective in 2007)

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Peckham Rosicrucians

'Why don't you join the Rosicrucians,
they can give you back your hope,
you can find your love with diagrams
on a plain brown envelope'
(Leonard Cohen, Dress Rehearsal Rag)

I've been intrigued for years by the Rosicrucian building in Waghorn Street, Peckham. According to Peckham History, the building was originally St Andrew’s Mission Church, 'built in 1903 to replace a temporary iron church on the site. It fell out of use in 1932 and was sold in 1948 to fund the restoration' of St John the Evangelist Church in East Dulwich Road, to which the Mission Church was linked. There's still a plaque on the building from when it opened which reads 'This stone was laid by Mrs Charles Ward, 7th January 1903'. The architect was J.Nixon Horsefield.

Today the building belongs to the Ancient and Mystical Order Rosæ Crucis (AMORC), a Rosicrucian order founded in the US in 1915. Rosicrucianism is a mystical current dating back, depending on what you believe, to the 17th century, 14th century or ancient Egypt. It has influenced secret societies (including branches of Freemasonry) and esoteric groups of various kinds. There are numerous Rosicrucian-influenced groups around the world, and it is common for them to claim that various philosophers, artists and scientists were members of the Rosicrucian order in the past, including Isaac Newton, Dante, Debussy and Francis Bacon - hence the AMORC building in Peckham being the home of the Francis Bacon Lodge.

AMORC describes itself as 'a non-sectarian body of men and women who study the elusive mysteries of life and the universe.  Since 1915, hundreds of thousands of students have used the Rosicrucian teachings, carefully preserved by mystery schools for centuries, to find their inner light and wisdom. Delivered in a series of weekly lessons, the Rosicrucian home study course presents the collective wisdom of humanity on topics such as metaphysics, mysticism, and philosophy'. 

I'm not sure when AMORC acquired the Peckham building, but I first noticed it about seven years ago. Some of the AMORC leadership had a dubious reputation in financial scandals in the 1990s, so I assumed it was simply a property investment. But it does seem to be in use as one of only two AMORC centres in Britain (the other is in Crowborough, Sussex), with free public talks taking place on the second Wednesday evening of every month.

Of course if you look around various dubious conspiracy theory sites, you will find allegations that the Rosicrucians are just a wing of the illuminati who secretly run the world (example from the very dubious Conspiracy Planet: 'Rosicrucian Illuminati have centres in the U.K. at places such as the Francis Bacon Lodge in Peckham, London') . Personally I quite like the idea that the world is actually being run from a Peckham back street - gives new meaning to the phrase 'South London run tings'

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Deptford Lounge Opens

In these dark times for public services, and libraries in particular, it is good to see something new opening. The Deptford Lounge, which opened this week in Giffin Street, is part of a bigger building project that includes shared spaces with the neighbouring Tidemill Primary School. 

On the ground floor there is a spacious library, as well as plenty of study space including public ICT facilities. Technically it isn't a new library as it replaces the one previously located in Wavelengths on the same road, but it is a better space (OK I always want more books, but I like the old school random piles of musty tomes that deter all but the hardened biblophile).

There is a cafe - Unity Coffee - run by the Camden Society, a voluntary organisation 'to support the human rights of people with disabilities'. For the first week, hot drinks only cost £1 (a cappuccino will cost £1.85 from then on). I tried the coffee and it was good!

The Lounge has unusually long opening times  -  Monday-Friday: 7am-10pm and Saturday & Sunday: 7am-7pm.

Some people have argued that with the digital age, libraries will become a thing of the past. It is perhaps true that over time the role of borrowing paper books may diminish - though I can't believe it will die out completely. But what will always be needed will be social spaces where people can read, study, and access information and stories in a warm, comfortable environment without having to spend money. Not forgetting of course public toilets which will no doubt also draw people into the Deptford Lounge from the market and the high street. 

Deptford Lounge is on facebook. See also reviews by Crosswhatfields, Brockley Central and Deptford Dame

Deptford Lounge and Tidemill School

Alongside the building of the Deptford Lounge, the adjacent site (the old Wavelengths car park) has been redeveloped as a new site for Tidemill school. Some of the facilities in the Deptford Lounge are designed to be used by the school when it is open and for wider community use in the evenings and weekends. Since building work started Tidemill has become an Academy school (from September 2011), despite a vociferous local campaign against this. The school now gets its funding directly from the Government rather than via the Council, and the Academies Act 2010 requires that when a school becomes an Academy the land and buildings have to be transferred from the Council to the Academy trust (the new company set up to run the school). In this case the land gets transferred from Lewisham Council to Tidemill Community Academy Trust via a 125 year lease (the land would transfer back to the Council if the school ceased to be an Academy on that site). All of this makes the sharing of  Deptford Lounge facilities between the school, the Council and the wider community more complicated. Whether it will make much difference on a day to day basis remains to be seen.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Shaun of the Dead

Yatkuu has made a fine lego model of the Winchester, the pub in zombie flick Shaun of the Dead. The exterior of the pub featured in the film is of course The Duke of Albany in Monson Road, New Cross (now converted to flats). As this pub was a well-known Millwall pre-match drinking hole, I assume that the lego guys holding various weapons are supposed to represent the Bushwackers - oh wait they're supposed to be zombie slayers [insert joke about West Ham or football team of your choice].

Sunday, January 08, 2012

Racist Murder in SE London

Everybody now agrees that the killing of Stephen Lawrence in Eltham  on 22 April 1993 was a terrible racist crime and two men have been jailed for his murder. Back in 1993 it was very different - Government and media indifference (with some exceptions) and police hostility to those campaigning against racist attacks.

It was a terrible time in South East London, when the borough of Greenwich was named by some as 'Britain's racist murder capital' (Independent, 12 June 1993).  In February 1991, 15-year-old Rolan Adams was killed on the way home from a vist to the Hawksmoor youth club in Bentham Road, Thamesmead.

The Rolan Adams banner on a march to the BNP HQ in February 1992
In July 1992, 15 year old Rohit Duggal was stabbed to death outside the kebab shop in Tudor Parade, Well Hall Road. A white youth named Peter Thompson was later jailed for his murder.

Relatives of Rohit Duggal on a November 1992
demonstration to the BNP HQ in Welling
Then came the murder of  18-year-old Stephen Lawrence in April 1993, also in Well Hall Road in Eltham. As with the Adams and the Duggal cases, the police and Crown Prosecution Service tried to deny the racist aspects of the murder.

Stephen Lawrence's parents at a vigil in May 1993
There were other murders too elsewhere in South London. Ruhullah Aramesh, a 24 year old Afghan refugee, was beaten to death in Thornton Heath by a gang armed with iron bars in July 1992. In October of that year Sher Singh Sagoo, a Deptford market trader, was attacked and killed. And murder was just the tip of the iceberg - between August 1990 and May 1991, 863 incidents of racist attacks and harassment were reported to the Greenwich Action Committee Against Racist Attacks alone.

I went on many demonstrations at that time, usually led by the families of murder victims. There was the Anti Racist Alliance demo in June 1993 from Norbury Park to the scene of Ruhullah Aramesh's murder.

There was the march against the British National Party's 'Rights for Whites' demo in Thamesmead in May 1991, provocatively called a few months after the murder of Rolan Adams in the same area where he was killed. The police mobilised their forces included mounted police to stop the anti-racists who outnumbered the BNP ten to one (roughly 1200 to 120).

I remember seeing riot police baton people's heads out of sight of the cameras in a car park between housing blocks on the estate. I took a friend with a head wound to Kings hospital in Camberwell as we didn't think the local casualty department would be a safe place to go.  Incidentally Stephen Lawrence (then at Blackheath Bluecoats School),  took part on the anti-BNP demo that day too.

Welling demonstration, October 1993

Increasingly the headquarters of the BNP in Upper Wickham Lane, Welling, became the focus of demonstrations. The point wasn't that the racist murders were being explicitly organised by them, but that they were spewing out racist poison that was legitimising these attacks.

The biggest demonstration took place on 16th October 1993.  Anti-fascist magazine Searchlight estimated 40,000 people attended, the Independent 25,000 and Socialist Worker 60,000. Either way it must have been one of the biggest demonstrations ever seen in South East London. The Unity demo against the BNP started off with a massive rally on Winns Common, before heading off towards Welling.

Auschwitz survivor Leon Greenman leads the march
According to Searchlight (November 1993), 'the marchers arrived at the crossroads where one road went to the nazi headquarters and the other [Lodge Hill] was the route imposed by the police. At this point the Unity banner at the head of the march was facing into the road leading to the BNP headquarters. The stewards and Leon Greenman, an 82 year old survivor of the Nazi death camps, tried to negotiate passage through the police line. When it was refused, some of the marchers sat down'. Riot police, including some on horseback, charged the crowd and there were riotous scenes with smoke bombs,  flying bricks, snatch squads and 3,000+ police. At least 56 demonstrators were injured and 31 people were arrested on the day' (Sunday Times, 17 October 1993). Personally I didn't even see any of this until I got home on TV as I had been trapped in the crowd by Plumstead cemetery - like much of the crowd unable to move because the police had blocked both Upper Wickham Lane (towards the BNP HQ) and Lodge Hill (the route the police had earlier said the march would have to take).

One woman reported at the time 'I was sitting on a wall, just trying to avoid the police. A policeman pushed me off. The police charged from a side street. I tripped over a bush and four police just laid into me with truncheons.  I was on the floor and one of them was kneeling on me, just hitting me. Later I saw a man in a wheelchair. The police charged again and again and just knocked him over. He fell out of his chair. My friend - she's 16 - tried to help him up and the police started hiting her' (Socialist Worker, 23 October 1993) 

Anti-Nazi League chief steward Julie Waterson
bleeding after being batoned by police in October 1993

The BNP HQ finally closed in 1995, following action by Bexley Council.

See also: Bob from Brockley, pretty much summing up what I think about the whole affair; 853 - thoughts of a SE London contemporary of Stephen Lawerence, and a reminder  'that it was the community in Eltham who gave up the names of Dobson and Norris in the first place. It was the local Metropolitan Police who decided that the death of a black man wasn’t worth investigating properly, not the people of Eltham'; Ian Bone points out that one of the police officers who mismanaged the original Lawrence investigation became a Croydon Conservative councillor - David Osland wrote to his superiors in September 1993 that 'Our patience is wearing thin on 3 Area (south-east London)... with the Lawrence family and their representatives'.

[update 11 January 2012 : 'The dad of Stephen Lawrence has passed potentially crucial new evidence on his son's murder to cops, he revealed yesterday. Neville Lawrence, 69, was told a suspect had now confessed to being at the scene of the murder.The development comes after two men were jailed for life last week for the gang murder of Stephen in 1993. Mr Lawrence said: "After the verdict, I met two people in Brockley, London, on Saturday who knew one of the guys that was part of the gang. They mentioned the boy confessed that he was there on the night. They gave me their names and addresses and I passed them on to the police." Mr Lawrence called on the racist pair to tell cops where the knife used to stab his son is hidden. He added: "There is forensic evidence on that knife to convict somebody else.". His plea came as a burger bar worker claimed Norris was involved in a brutal attack on him six weeks BEFORE Stephen was murdered. Gurdeep Bhangal, 41, said he confronted the yob after he banged on the window of the Eltham branch of Wimpy. He said: "I got hold of him and was stabbed by another person." No one was arrested, [The Sun, 10 January 2012]

As Bob from Brockley reminds us in the comments, while failing to find evidence against the killers the police were deploying resources in infiltrating anti-racist groups - and indeed a former police spy has admitted to taking part in attacks on police lines in Welling (see Bob's post on this affair).

Saturday, January 07, 2012

Michael Gove bores New Cross students

Education Secretary Michale Gove was in New Cross this week at Haberdashers' Aske's Hatcham College, making a speech attacking opponents of the Government's school Academies policies.

The speech on Wednesday was clearly aimed at the national media and the political class, rather than the school students who were presumably dragged out of lessons to provide an audience and backdrop. Not surprisingly many of them were bored to the point of sleep, as shown in a clip captured by ITN news which shows young women nodding off and playing with their nails as Gove waffled on:

Still Gove can be thankful that he only faced the passive resistance of non-engagement. Students at Askes have a tradition of more radical action, with groups walking out to take part in the student protests in November 2010 and in the 2003 anti-war demonstrations.

Some entertaining comments to this on facebook, e.g. 'Not easy to keep school children engaged is it Mr Gove. Perhaps you'll have a little bit more respect for the job we teachers do now?'; ' we were there for 2 hours that's why we have a reason for being asleep or being bored'; and 'i'm one of the girls in this video... this guy is a idiot so i should not be forced to listen to his crap'

Thursday, January 05, 2012

'Motley Crew' riot in Camberwell on preacher's visit (1827)

Camberwell Fair, held where the Green is now situated, was a source of conflict between the authorities and fair-goers until it was eventually suppressed completely. In 1827 there were riotous scenes as the police intervened to prevent a preacher addressing a crowd on Camberwell Green. Exactly what his message was, and why the local magistrates wanted to stop him, is unclear from the following account published in The Times, 21 August 1827.

'Riot at Camberwell

On Sunday, at two o'clock, according to previous announcement, Mr Smith, of Penzance, arrived on the ground where Camberwell fair is held, in a hackney coach, attended by an immense number of persons who had followed the vehicle all the way from town. The moment he alighted, a constable stepped up and told him that the Magistrates had given directions that he should not be permitted to hold forth on the Green. On receiving this notification Mr Smith demanded the names of  the Justices who had issued such a mandate and upon being informed, he proceeded to take down their names in his note-book. He then called for a chair, intimating to the mass of people by whom he was surrounded that as soon as he was furnished with an article that would elevate him  a little above the rest, so as to he heard by all his auditors, he should then explain to them the chief causes of the opposition manifested by the Magistrates against him. Having waited for some time, during which the shouts of the crowd were deafening, a parson was seen making his way towards the preacher holding up a chair; and having placed it down, the later was about to ascend when two or three constables approached and again reiterated their directions; but no sooner had they spoken than they were attacked by the mob, who were determined that Mr Smith should be heard.

A reinforcement of police, however, having come to the assistance of the constables, a general row took place, during which broken heads were given on each side, and in the midst of the affray Smith, like a skillful General, made a hasty retreat, and escaped, leaving one if his chief supporters, a man named Perring, in custody. In appeared Smith proceeded afterwards into the parish of Lambeth, followed by a crowd of ragamuffins, and having ascended the steps of a new building in Surrey New-road, he there harangued the motley crew, exclaiming most vehemently against the magistrates, and declaring that their names and conduct towards him should be published and go forth to the world.

The neighbourhood of Camberwell was a scene of noise and confusion the whole of the day; the mob, amongst whom were numbers of pickpockets, expecting the return of the preacher. Yesterday morning, Perring, who had been apprehended the day before, was taken before the magistrates and held to bail for assaulting the officers in the execution of their duty. He was anxious to address the magistrates on the subject of Mr Smith's visit to Camberwell, but the magistrates declined hearing anything, conceiving that Mr Smith's efforts were calculated to do much more harm than good at the fair'.

I am guessing that 'Mr Smith of Penzance' is George Charles Smith (1782–1863), known as ‘Boatswain Smith'. Originally from London - he was apprentice to a bookseller in Tooley Street - he was press ganged into the Navy before becoming pastor of a baptist chapel in Penzance. In 1817 he spread his activities to London, preaching in particular to sailors, river and canal workers. He opened a floating chapel in the Thames and established charities including the the Shipwrecked and Distressed Sailors' Family Fund. The practice of open air non-conformist preaching was initially met with official opposition, though it later became common-place.

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

A stag in Lewisham

We featured the 'Lewisham Natureman' deer  in Cressingham Road last month. Now another sighting of the deer has been made, next to the River Ravensbourne by Lewisham train station, where the animal appears to be taking a drink. Painting it must have involved waders or a boat (or maybe a harness).

You can see it from the bank of the river on Silk Mills Path, by the entrance to Tescos.

More pictures at Wildcornerz