Sunday, March 31, 2013

New Cross Old Pictures

Ebay is a treasure trove of old images, here's some New Cross ones I have come across recently.

The Royal Naval School, New Cross, inthe 1880s - now Goldsmiths College

New Cross Empire theatre programme, 1949
(the theatre was on the corner of New Cross Road and Watson's Street)
New Cross Empire theatre programme, 1913
Telegraph Hill Park 1906
(see also these pictures from similar period)

Friday, March 29, 2013

Matt Bannister - Crystal Palace Dinosaurs in the Snow

Illustrator Matt Bannister takes much of his inspiration from the streets and open spaces of London, and one of his pieces features in the current Londonist Underground exhibition at the Bishopsgate Institute. Prompted by recent weather conditions it shows two of the Crystal Palace dinosaurs emerging from the railway tunnel in the snow.

Other South London works in his gallery include 'Lost Girl' (2012) - seemingly lost in SE1!

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Montague Arms to reopen?

The much loved Montague Arms on the New Cross/Peckham border in Queens Road closed last year (see appreciation here).

Now comes news that in some form it may be reopening. A notice displayed on the pub states that Appleglass Limited have applied  to Lewisham Council for a premises licence 'to use the premises to be known as Montague Arms... for recorded music and the retail sale of alcohol'.

I haven't found anything out about Appleglass and it's unclear at this stage exactly what they've got planned. It won't be the old Monty and nor should it be really - its previous decor and atmosphere was very much associated with the people who ran it for a generation, including of course the late Stan and Bet. It does look likely though that the premises will continue as some kind of convivial social space rather than being converted to flats like so many other former pubs locally.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Kate Tempest wins Ted Hughes prize

Well done Kate Tempest for winning the Ted Hughes award for innovation in poetry last night. The prize was awarded to her by Carol Ann Duffy in a ceremony at the Saville Club.

The award was in recognition of her work Brand New Ancients, which relocates old gods to modern London. Brand New Ancients was co-commissioned and presented last September at the Albany in Deptford and Battersea Arts Centre.

Kate, who started out performing locally as Excentral Tempest, grew up in Brockley and has a long association with the Albany. Her latest work, the play Glasshouse, was performed at the Albany by Cardboard Citizens theatre company earlier this month.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Terry Liddle (1948-2012): SE London Socialist & Secularist

There's a memorial event next month (20th April) at Conway Hall for Terry Liddle, the veteran SE London radical who died in November 2012.

Terry grew up in Eltham, and lived for many years up until his death at 23 Sowerby Close on the Mottingham Estate. He died from a stroke at the age of 64 on 17 November 2012, with his funeral taking place at Eltham Crematorium on 10th December.

His first political involvement seems to have been in the Young Communist League in Woolwich in the early 1960s when he was a school boy at Bloomfield Secondary Modern School in Plumstead. According to his old friend Scott Reeve,  'he went to public speaking sessions led by Joe Bent, an old Stalinist who had a Communist Party speaking pitch in the East Lane market'. This was the start of an idiosyncratic political odyssey that seems to have taken him along the many highways and byways of the English left and libertarian scenes. At various times he was involved with the trotskyist Socialist Labour League,  the Labour Party, the Green party, Socialist Alliance, Solidarity, Social Revolution, The Workers League, the Movement for Workers Councils, the Republican Communist Network and for a while in the late 1960s an exotically named anarchist group called the Eltham Sons of Durruti. Evidentally a serial joiner more than a stayer! He was also very involved in secularism, including the South East London Humanists and the Freethought History Research Group.

I came across Terry a few times through my local radical history interests. Liddle wrote a number of texts on South East London, including a pamphlet on Deptford-born Chartist George Julian Harney, another pamphlet 'A radical history of Greenwich and Deptford' and 'Deptford Infidels', an article for Journal of Freethought History on late 19th century secularism in the local area.

In July 2004 he gave a talk based on his Deptford Infidels research to South London Radical History Group (which I was involved in) at the Use Your Loaf Centre for Social Solidarity (227 Deptford High Street). I also heard him give a similar talk for Lewisham Humanist Group at the Unitarian Meeting House in Bromley Road SE6.

The Memorial Event

The Freethought History Research Group in conjunction with the Conway Hall Ethical Society is organising a memorial meeting for Terry Liddle in Holborn. The event will take place on Saturday 20th April 2013, 2pm to 5pm, in the Brockway Room, Conway Hall, Red Lion Square, London WC1R 4RL.

They say ' All welcome to come and enjoy a few nibbles, a bit to drink and good comradeship in honour of Terry Liddle 1948-2012 In wild, but considered celebration of Terry Liddle’s maverick life of activism, Atheism, Socialism, Animal Rights, Republicanism, Trades Unionism, Temperance (sometimes), Deptford and the World. Bookstall on the day. A couple of speeches, with contributions from the floor and the Workers Music Association: Joe Hill; The Land it is the Landlords’; William Brown; Solidarity Forever; The Internationale'.

Among his poems, Liddle wrote his own 'Death Song':

Terry Liddle

Comrades when I’m dead and gone, no more than dust on the breeze
I beg you grant me one last wish, comrades do this for me please
Raise a glass of the blood red wine or a mug of the barley brew
Bid farewell to your comrade one of the foolish few
Who thought we could rearrange the world, dreamed we could make all things new

Kiss goodbye to my lovers, whose bodies I warmed with lust
My body once warm it is no more, naught but a whiff of dust
Remember how we fought the fight, lost and fought again
How we bound our bloody wounds, how we endured the pain
For we knew that like the phoenix our cause would rise again

The banners are tattered and faded, a paler shade of red
The devices writ upon them now can be hardly read
But we know every one of the words of hope, words of struggle and fight
A dream of a new and brighter dawn after the long dark night
A world reborn in liberty, a world we have put to right

Toilers of field and factory, workers of hand and brain
Will ye not rise like lions, sever the slaver’s chain
Will ye not cast down priests and kings and the money power crew
Remember we are millions and the tyrants but a few
Destroy their rule of exploitation and rebuild the world anew.

So sup your ale my comrades, drink deep of the heady wine
Cherish the sprouting barley, the grapes clustered on the vine
Say farewell to the old world, a world of grasp and greed
A world where poor folk hungered, a world of want and need
Raise a glass to your fallen comrade, who planted freedom’s seed

Other obituaries:

Monday, March 25, 2013

Cuming Museum Fire

Devastated by the news of the fire on the Walworth Road this afternoon. The old Walworth town hall building next to the Heygate Estate houses the Cuming Museum, and that part of the building seems to have been worst hit by the fire (photo above from SE1 on twitter).

Of course it's great that none of the people working there seem to have been hurt - the fire spread very quickly - and that the same applies to the many firefighters who have helped tackle the blaze (many of them from stations threatened by Boris Johnson's fire service cuts).

But the Cuming Museum is not just a great local history museum, it also houses two irreplaceable collections, the 19th century Cuming collection of weird and wonderful global artefacts and Edward Lovett's collection of objects associated with early 20th century London folklore. I spent some happy hours researching in the latter collection a few years ago for the Folklore Society's London Lore conference.

It seems inevitable that these collections will have been severely damaged at least, if not destroyed altogether.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Snow stops play in New Cross

SKAM (Skate Art and Music) was due to happen tomorrow - Sunday 25th March - in Telegraph Hill Park SE14. Due to the snow it has been postponed, but the skate park/music festival will be rearranged. Watch out for further details.

The skatepark in Telegraph Hill Park was officially opened a year ago. Look at this film of 25th March 2012 and weep at the sight of all those people wearing T-shirts in the Spring sunshine.

The Grow Wild London Community Gardens event scheduled for today was also postponed.

Friday, March 22, 2013

May Day 2001: a police spy at the Elephant & Castle?

A guest post from "La Infanta de Castilla"

The Elephant and Castle has been a bit of a hive of radical activity of late. The Self Organised London Social Space is still going a month after the initial occupation of Eileen House on Newington Causeway, a former Department of Health building scheduled for demolition. Nearby at 44-50 Lancaster Street, the empty Colorama 2 building has also been occupied as the Library Street Community Centre (though having been there since September 2012, they may soon be evicted having been in court this week). Last week there was a protest against workfare at the  London HQ of the Salvation Army also on Newington Causeway, and on March 7th activists from the Anti Raids Network disrupted UK Borders Agency checks opposite Elephant and Castle shopping centre.

Back in 2001, the Elephant was one of the gathering points for the May Day anti-capitalist protests. The theme that year was May Day Monopoly, with actions planned at sites across London.

Well as everyone knows Old Kent Road is the only South London location on the Monopoly board, so clearly the Elephant and Castle just had to be the South London focus.

The South London Mayday Collective met to plan for the event, calling on people to gather at the E&C roundabout from noon on Tuesday May 1st 2001. Several hundred people did so and there was a bit of a picnic on the roundabout with the Rinky Dink cycle powered sound system, before people headed off towards Kennington and then into town, dodging round side streets to get around police blockades.

In Central London a large part of the 5,000 crowd ended up being 'kettled' by the police for 8 hours by Oxford Circus. There were 92 arrests on the day, and plenty of bruises as police made free use of their batons.

But perhaps not everybody who was at the Elephant on May Day 2001 had straightforward motives. As part of its ongoing investigations into police infiltration, The Guardian last month identified 'Rod Richardson' as a possible undercover police agent, seemingly using the identity of a dead child ('Rod Richardson: the mystery of the protester who was not who he claimed', Guardian 6 February 2013).  Richardson is also discussed in another Guardian article by his former friend Laura Oldfield Ford:

'It was April 2001, and I was walking across the complicated system of roundabouts at Elephant and Castle in south London to meet a group of fellow activists in a bar at the Southbank. We were a group of anarchists, environmentalists and anti-capitalist protesters who were having a planning meeting for a May Day demonstration which was only days away. It was a balmy spring evening, and the sense of mounting excitement was palpable. At these big meetings you'd see a group of your friends and gravitate towards them. These were people you shared a strong affinity with – people you'd been on big European protests with, who you'd put yourself at risk with, maybe even been arrested and beaten up with. These were people you trusted implicitly, and with whom you shared a strong bond.

When I arrived, one of the first people who grabbed me in an embrace was Rod. We had only been friends for a year or so but in that time shared a lot of intense experiences, living as we did in an environment of strong camaraderie and full-time activism. We had both been around various anti-capitalist groups where we had occupied buildings, worked together on actions, travelled around the country together and enjoyed long drinking sessions after protests. He would come and visit and we would have meals together; he would sit at the table with us discussing ideas and strategies. It wasn't until after he vanished without a trace in 2003 that I became suspicious that "Rod" wasn't whom he claimed to be, and that he may have been an undercover police officer...

In 2001 we begun small meetings in my flat to discuss the logistics of blocking the Elephant and Castle roundabout to clog up a main artery into the City. Rod was a regular visitor, and even stayed the night there on occasion, most notably the night before the May Day 2001 protests. His reason for doing this was that he lived up in Hertfordshire and wanted to be in central London for the first actions of the day. Around this time, my flat was raided by the police – this seemed disproportionate when what we were actually arrested for was flyposting. We were held overnight in police cells, where even the duty sergeant expressed surprise that someone being held for "graffiti" would have their home raided.

Ten years on, "Rod" is now suspected to have been an undercover police officer. It is a disturbing thing to read about, to know that the name we called him may actually have belonged to a baby who died at two days old. Such an infiltration affects you psychologically, and impacts on your relationships with other people. It makes it more difficult to welcome new people into your friendship group. Politically, it's easy to see how damaging it is: the movement can't function if trust between activists is eroded. When a network is riven by accusations and suspicions, organisation and practical actions become an impossibility.

The weirdest thing of all is that I liked Rod a lot – he was such a nice bloke, always smiling and a good laugh in the pub. He appeared to be a committed activist, not afraid of breaking the law, challenging police lines and subjecting himself to, and in some cases instigating, difficult and dangerous situations for the sake of our collective principles. He never, to my knowledge, tried to initiate any kind of intimate relationship with anyone in the scene, but came across as genuinely decent and friendly. He left behind an odd floating feeling akin to grief, with questions left unanswered and a sense of betrayal and loss.

from Indymedia

If I saw him now, I would for an instant expect the smile and the warm embrace, because I haven't adjusted to the idea that the entire friendship may have been fake. I am still deeply confused by the whole episode. There is an element of me that wonders if he experienced confusion as well. It's hard to accept that all those feelings of kinship and affection, those familial bonds that form through full-time activism, were perhaps a sham. If Rod was indeed misguiding us all along, surely feelings of revulsion and guilt must have shivered across him when we called out to him in that stolen name'

As discussed here before, another infiltrator of radical movements - 'Jim Sutton' - lived undercover in East Dulwich around this period. Not that the practice is anything new - during the 1926 General Strike the Lewisham Council of Action was believed to have been infiltrated by a man called Johnstone.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Lewisham Odeon 1963: The Beatles (twice) and Ray Charles

Fifty years ago, on March 29 1963,The Beatles played at Lewisham Odeon. They were on tour with Chris Montez and Tommy Roe - in fact they weren't even mentioned on the ticket. Their setlist on this tour contained six songs: Love Me Do, Misery, A Taste Of Honey, Do You Want To Know A Secret, Please Please Me and I Saw Her Standing There.

Being interviewed back stage at Lewisham, March 1963

By the time they returned on 8 December 1963, Beatlemania was in full swing. In fact when tickets for the show went on sale a couple of weeks before, police had to hold back the crowd (picture below - guy in the front seems pretty pleased to get a ticket!).

This time there was no doubt whose name was on the ticket.

According to 'The Beatles' London' by Piet Schreuders et al, the band were driven to the venue from Ladywell police station in a police van (The Beatlespictured below in Lewisham Odeon, December 1963).

Beatles autographs collected at Lewisham Odeon December 1963

Crime writer John Harvey, who was at Goldsmiths at the time, recalls at his blog Mellotone70up:

'Love Me Do...'The Beatles’ first Parlophone single. October, 1962. Nothing astounding, then, but somehow I remember the where and when. John Phillips and I had been round the corner from Goldsmiths’, a cafĂ© [caff, properly] on New Cross Road, mostly likely listening to the juke box – Roy Orbison, something about dreams – and from there we went up to Ann’s and Kelly’s flat nearby. Maybe ‘Sid’ James joined us and we went with him, that would make a kind of sense. Anyway, when we got there someone – one of the women, I imagine – said, ‘You’ve got to listen to this,’ and put it on...

...when the Beatles came to Lewisham Odeon, just down the road, which they did twice in 63, it never occurred to me to go. For one thing, by then the screaming was such no one could properly hear what they played or sang, and for another, well, it wouldn’t have been very cool. Not that that stopped me going to see Del Shannon...  midway up [or down] a bill he shared with Gerry and the Pacemakers, Duffy Power and Cilla Black. And fun as it was to hear ‘Runaway’ and ‘Little Town Flirt’ in person, for me the big Lewisham Odeon event of the year was Ray Charles, complete with his full orchestra and, of course, the Raeletes. If I close my eyes, I can still picture him swaying side to side at the keyboard, still hear that incomparable voice singing ‘Georgia On My Mind’

The Odeon on Loampit Vale was originally opened as the Gaumont Palace cinema in 1932. It closed in 1981 and was demolished ten years later.
The Gaumont Palace (later Lewisham Odeon) in 1932 - lots more pictures of it on Flickr

Paul McCartney sang again at the Lewisham Odeon in 1974 - with Rod Stewart

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Charles P. O'Conor: An Irish Poet in Deptford

A little St Patrick's Day post:

Charles P. O'Conor's collection of poems, Songs of a Life, was printed at the Kentish Mercury office in Blackheath Road in 1875 and reviewed by Matthew Arnold in the Pall Mall Gazette in June 1875.

In Arnold's essay, A Deptford Poet, O'Conor is described as 'an Irish workingman settled at Deptford' whose poetry 'has gaiety, tune, pathos; it invigorates...We are told that Mr O'Conor's songs are sung by Irish workmen, and we are not surprised at it. He is best when his themes are Irish, drawn from his native country and his intimate experience... here is a poor Irishman with a soul for refinement and delight, whose lot is to work with his hands down at Deptford, with frail health, work uncertain, and a wife and children to maintain; yet he managees to feel and to illustrate the truth of Schiller's excellent saying that "all art is dedicated to joy".

According to Catherine Reilly's 'Mid-Victorian Poetry, 1860-1879' (1999): Charles Patrick O'Conor was born  in County Cork in 1837 to 'poor parents'. He 'went to England in his youth, writing verse for newspapers and songs for music. Appointed to a government clerkship in Canada, but soon retired owing to ill health. Known as 'The Irish Peasant Poet'. He lived in Lewisham for many years and was often thought of as a Kentish poet. Received a civil list pension of £50 a year'. As well as 'Songs of a life: Wayside chants; Fatherland' publsihed in 1875 (96 pages), he had a collection called 'Wreaths of fancy' published by George Vickers, London, 1870 (92 pages)

So clearly there's a large body of work, only a little of which seems to be available online at present. I did though come across one of his songs that was included in a 1932 anthology LYRA CELTICA

Maura Du of Ballyshannon by Charles P. O'Conor

Maura du of Ballyshannon!
Maura du, my flower of flowers!
Can you hear me there out seaward,
Calling back the bygone hours?
Maura du, my own, my honey!
With wild passion still aglow,
I am singing you the old songs
That I sung you long ago.
And you mind, love, how it ran on--
"In your eyes asthore machree!
All my Heaven there I see,
And that's true!
Maura du!
Maura du of Ballyshannon!"

Maura du of Ballyshannon!
Maura du, my soul's one queen!
Big with love my heart is flying,
Where the grass is growing green.
Maura du, my own, my honey!
That I love you, well you know,
And still sing for you the old song,
That I sung you long ago.
And you mind, love, how it ran on--
"In your eyes asthore machree!
All my Heaven there I see,
And that's true!
Maura du!
Maura du of Ballyshannon!"

Maura du of Ballyshannon,
Maura du, the day is drear!
Ah, the night is long and weary,
Far away from you, my dear!
Maura du, my own, my honey!
Still let winds blow high or low,
I must sing to you the old song,
That I sung you long ago,
And you mind, love, how it ran on--
"In your eyes asthore machree!
All my Heaven there I see,
And that's true!
Maura du!
Maura du of Ballyshannonl

Maura du of Ballyshannon!
Maura du, when winds blow south,
I will with the birds fly homeward,
There to kiss your Irish mouth.
Maura du, my own, my honey!
When time is no longer foe,
By your side I'll sing the old song,
That I sung you long ago,
And you mind, love, how it ran on--
"In your eyes asthore machree!
All my Heaven there I see,
And that's true!
Maura du!
Maura du of Ballyshannon!"

(*asthore machree, "The darling of my heart.")

Lots more Transpontine South London Irish history and culture posts here

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Oh What a Lovely War: the First World War and a New Cross Church

This weekend a cast  and crew of around two hundred are taking part in the Telegraph Hill Festival Community Production of Oh What a Lovely War. The musical about the First World War was developed by Joan Littlewood and her Theatre Workshop and first premiered almost exactly fifty years ago on 19 March  1963.

This might be an all ages amateur community show put together in a short period, but it remains very poignant and moving. There was actually a 99 year old woman in the audience of the show today who lived through the war, but essentially this is a war that is now passing out of living memory as we near the centenary of its outbreak. Something of the spirit of the times is conveyed though in the songs from that period that are the backbone of this musical - songs of love, homesickness, and defiant humour amidst terror and tragedy.

The show is taking place in St Catherine's Church (Kitto Road SE14), a building that bears witness to the terrible loss of human life in the 'Great War'.  A memorial in the chapel lists the names of 'the men of this parish who laid down their lives in the Great War'. Some surnames repeat two or three times (e.g. Bentley, Brown, Davidson, Davies, Jackson, Jennings, Sullivan, Wescombe), suggesting that some families suffered double or treble bereavements. 

Another plaque commemorates the presentation of a candlestick 'by members and friends of St Catherine's Girls Guild in Pious Memory of the Officers and Men of this Church and Congregation who gave their lives'. Underneath it says 'These died at war that we at peace might live' - a forlorn hope.

A lectern in the Church bears a plaque 'in loving and sacred memory of Ralph Dudley Lockwood who was killed in action at Leuze Wood September 1916, age 19 years'. Leuze Wood  (known to soliders as 'Lousy Wood') was captured by the British during the Battle of the Somme in early September 1916 at the cost of many lives.

Finally there is a reminder that after a short period of peace, much of the world was plunged into war once again. A plaque records 'the re-building of this church after heavy damage by enemy action on 7th September 1940'. 

There are two more shows of Oh What a  Lovely War on Sunday - there are a few tickets still available from the box office.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Revolving Torsion at St Thomas Hospital

I think my favourite piece of transpontine sculpture is this work on the South side of Waterloo Bridge, in the grounds of St Thomas' Hospital. 

'Revolving Torsion' by Naum Gabo was manufactured in steel to the artist's design by Stainless Metalcraft Ltd of London in 1972-3, and installed at the hospital with fountain in 1975. It was restored in 1987 and is currently in good condition.

Gabo, born Neyemiya Pevzner in 1890 to a Jewish family in Russia, grew up in Bryansk. As a teenager he was influenced by the anarchism of Peter Kropotkin, and involved in radical politics. In the aftermath of the Russian revolution he threw himself into the experimental work of the Soviet avant garde before leaving for Germany in 1922 disillusioned with the authoritarian direction of the Bolshevik regime.

Gabo continued to promote Constructivism in Germany until 1933, when he fled the Nazis, ending up in London in 1936 after three years in Paris. Gabo spent the Second World War in Britain, much of it in Cornwall where he had befriended British artists such as Barbara Hepworth and Ben Nicholson. In 1946 he moved to the United States where he remained until he died in 1977.

There's something vaguely poetic about the work of this sometime anarchist and later Knight of the British Empire sitting opposite Parliament.

The fountain is an oasis of calm amidst the emotional whirlwind of the hospital, and respite too from the neverending street circus on the South Bank. Like fountains everywhere, people have taken to tossing coins in and making a wish. When the sun shines through the shower of water drops and reflects off the stainless steel this is one of the finest views in London.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Born in Lewisham Hospital

Tens of thousands of people have been born in Lewisham Hospital, but the number being born there in the future will be radically reduced if the Government presses ahead with its plan to slash maternity and emergency services there. 

Here's a few Lewisham babies all grown up...

Sid Vicious, born Simon John Ritchie in Lewisham Hospital on 10 May 1957

Comedian Malcolm Hardee, born on 5 January 1950 in Lewisham Hospital

Bros - Matt and \Luke Goss were born in Lewisham in 1968.

Bill Wyman - Rolling Stone born in Lewisham Hospital in 1936

Louise Nurding/Redknapp (Eternal etc.) born in Lewisham Hospital in 1973.
Actor Sally Hawkins, born in Lewisham Hospital 1976

Alexander McQueen, born in Lewisham in 1969
(OK he was definitely born in Lewisham but  haven't established for certain that he was born in the hospital - though most children were born in hospital at that time - anyone confirm?)

This Saturday 16th March, Save Lewisham Hospital are inviting people born in the hospital, along with friends and family, to join hands around the hospital. Assemble from 2 pm in front of the hospital. There will be family events and music afterwards in Ladywell Fields.

Saturday, March 09, 2013

Save New Cross Fire Station Meeting

Coming up next Thursday 14 March 2013, at 7:30 pm, there's a public meeting of the campaign to Save New Cross Fire Station. London Mayor Boris Johnson has overruled the London Fire Authority and insisted that the plans for the  closure of New Cross, Downham, Southwark and other fire stations move ahead to the consultation stage.

You can respond to the consultation here until 28 May 2013. The meeting on Thursday is at the Barnes Wallis Centre, 74 Wild Goose Drive SE14 (to the rear of the fire station on Queens Road). Facebook details of meeting here.

Friday, March 08, 2013

Remembering the New School for New Cross Campaign

Ten years ago the biggest local issue in New Cross was not the NHS - nobody dreamt then that Lewisham Hospital's services could one day be under threat - but education. Specifically the shortage of secondary school places had become a crisis with many local children being unable to get into local schools and only being offered places miles away from home.

Parents set up a New School for New Cross Campaign and lobbied hard in Council meetings, in the media and in the streets. There were protests and large public meetings. As well as pushing for a new secondary school, the campaign put the admissions arrangements in existing local schools under scrutiny. Haberdashers' Aske's was particularly criticised for policies which seemed designed to cream off the most able students for miles around, while preventing a genuinely comprehensive local intake. Eventually the New School for New Cross Campaign developed into the broader Local Education Action by Parents which stood six candidates in Lewisham Council elections in 2002. One councillor was elected in the Telegraph Hill Ward, with its other councillors being from the left-of-Labour Socialist Party (that made the Ward fairly unique in the UK, with none of the major parties represented).

I was reminded of all this when I came across this article about the campaign in the Independent from April 2002 (if you click on the images to enlarge you should be able to read it - if not try right clicking on picture and select 'open in new window'). It shows parents and children demonstrating outside the empty Hatcham Wood school building on Wallbutton Road SE4. Lewisham Council had scheduled it to be converted to a Sixth Form and it became Crossways Academy. As the Council closed this within ten years of opening, the parents seem to have had a point about it not being the best use of the building (though as of 1 February 2013, it has been taken over as a Sixth Form by Christ the King Sixth Form College - it is known as Christ the King Aquinas, which should please Michael Gove with his fondness for pseudo-Etonian archaic classicism).

So did the campaign have any long term impact? It failed to get a new secondary school in the New Cross area, but it did put pressure on Lewisham and existing schools to review admissions arrangements. Haberdasher's Askes changed its criteria and is probably more representative of the New Cross community than it was ten years ago, with more local children. Its proposed new primary free school could make it more socially exclusive again however, as on distance criteria its location at the top of Pepys Road is likely to pull in a disproportionate intake of better-off children from the bigger houses on Telegraph Hill, rather than the rest of New Cross. As these primary children will be guaranteed a place in the secondary school, the latter's intake could be changed accordingly

Even the youngest children in the photos below are now coming to the end of their secondary school education. In the last week the 2013 secondary intake were notified of what school places they had been offered, and many have not got a place in their school of choice. My advice to parents having been through all the stress a couple of times is that you spend all that time worrying about it and before you know it they have finished! But the uncertainty about secondary school places remains a big issue and with rising birth rates won't be going away any time soon. The question posed on one of the 2002 placards - 'Why is our education a postcode lottery?' - remains relevant.

What most parents want today is pretty much the same as ten years ago - not a lot of gimmicks like 'free schools' and academies, but a guarantee of a good inclusive local comprehensive school which their children can walk to and from with their friends.

Wednesday, March 06, 2013

To all of you wavers

I noticed a sad but lovely notice in a window in the house on the corner of Musgrove Road and Troutbeck Road in New Cross last week. It read 'Deborah - the lady in the window passed away on Friday 22 February. To all of you wavers, very many thanks it made her day'. Somebody had left some flowers outside too.

For the last five years, maybe more, Deborah had become a feature of the walk home from New Cross Gate station for school kids, commuters and neighbours, sitting in her window watching the world go by - and waving. Regular wavers felt that they knew her, some even called to talk. Her neighbour Stephen Carrick-Davies interviewed her for the Mixer zine in 2011:

'From her window on Musgrove Road, Deborah Tatley gazes out on her world with a smile. To locals she’s “that lovely woman who waves to passers by. ” But behind every smile there’s a story, and this story is nearly 90 years old. Born in January 1922 (she’ll be 90 on January 27th) Deborah grew up in Suffolk. When war came she worked on a farm looking after animals as a Land Girl. As we talk a stray cat comes into the room –“We’ve three cats in this house” she laughs, “ but we’ve just seemed to acquire this new stray.“ The cat arches its back and rubs against the rim of her wheel chair. “During the war we didn’t have much, but looking back we were happy. We just got on with it. It was the real friendliness which kept us going,” she says.

Later she worked for the Sun Alliance Insurance company before she and her husband moved to Telegraph Hill to live with her son in 1979. “London was such a great place to retire to,” she says. “Free bus passes, so much to do, wonderful people, who could ask for more? I’ve lived here for 30 years and love it.” ...There’s a quiet content in Deborah. Though she’s confined to her home she has such an active mind. She knows what’s happening locally and asks me about what’s happening at the New Cross Library. I notice she’s been reading the newspaper. “I’m scared that we are going through another turmoil in Europe,” she says as we start to talk about the world outside her window. “The behaviour of some these days is so hard to understand. We need to show more kindness, more friendliness, more compassion to each other – especially in these uncertain times".'

Despite being housebound, Deborah did her bit to put that into practice. Communities are built up of mutual recognition and respect, and the small everyday gestures of waving, nodding and saying hello are an essential part of weaving that web of social connections.

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

Voodoo Ball

'Calling Ye Gods, Loa, Shamans, Spirits and Healers, you are invited to don your best headdress and join us at the inaugural VOODOO BALL for one night of unguided misjudgements and alcohol-soaked decay, in honour of The Grand Shaman, himself. We have a line-up of the most spirited DJs, as well as a genuine 1930s jazz band to get your bones hoppin'...there will also be mysterious goings on, gypsy fortunes to be told and plenty of the unexpected. Bring your best'. With

*Mike Fielding aka NABOO THE SHAMAN of The Mighty Boosh (DJ)
*Old Hat Jazz Band - 1930s time travellers
*Mr Sands + Mr Vision - bringing the choicest tunes
*The Sexy Offender - sure to be a stomping set
+ Madame Zjaza the gypsy fortune-teller

Saturday 9th March, 10pm - 3am
On the door: £7 dressed voodooesque/£9 if you're a mess
Amersham Arms, New Cross

Limited advance tickets at

For some serious voodoo tunes also check out Stephen Grasso's Haunted Soundsystem

Extreme Reading at New Cross Learning

From New Cross Learning:

'Thursday 7th of March is World Book Day and we will be holding a Book Exchange, a write-in for the Bridport prize (flash fiction, poetry and short stories) and an exhibition of Extreme Reading Photos. The write-in will start at 6, Book Exchange will run from 6:30pm to 8:00pm and is the perfect opportunity to pick up some new reading material. Bring along a book of your own (or a pile) and try and convince someone to swap it with you. Refreshments will be available.

Over the whole of World Book Day week we will be be holding an exhibition of Extreme Reading photos. We are trying to encourage reading by making it fun and inviting by adding a little spice to such an everyday occurrence, and we want you to take part! Please send us photos of where and how people can read in the most peculiar, strange, weird and extreme ways. All entries need to be in by 28th February 2013. Photos can be sent to We will print them for you. Be creative and have fun!'

And also their next Big Book Sale on Sunday 10 March, 2 - 5 pm:

'Underneath New Cross Learning, within the endless catacombs of the Lewisham Historical Society, we have accumulated a store of thousands and thousands and THOUSANDS of books, and the time has come once again to sell some off! If you’ve been to one of our Big Book Sales before you will know that they are among the best places in London to pick up new reading material. Get there early for sweet deals. Hardbacks £1. Paperbacks 5 for a £1'.

New Cross Learning, 283-285 New Cross Rd, London, SE14 6AS.

Monday, March 04, 2013

Music Monday: Blyth Power

More good music coming up at Cafe Crema (306 New Cross Road). This Friday 8th March there's a return of their periodic 'New Orleans, New Cross' acoustic jam session, 'musicians and listeners of good taste and discernment' will be welcome to gather 'around the soulful piano'.

Blyth Power
Then on Friday 15th March they've got Blyth Power Duo playing: 'Joseph and Annie play songs old and new in a long overdue visit to Cafe Crema, run by Chris Boddington, from Blind Mole Rat and The Ice Cream Men, and also one time Blyth guitarist. Chris' current band Reverend Casy (edgy rock'n'roll flavoured with country and blues) will be providing support' (see facebook event details)

Blyth Power go way back to early 1980s anarcho-punk - band founder Josef Porter had previously drummed for two of the best bands in that scene, Zoundz and The Mob. I first saw them in 1985 in a squatted pub in Brixton (I believe it was the Crown and Anchor), where they played along with Flowers in the Dustbin, The Astronauts and Karma Sutra (my friends' Luton punk band whose van I came down in). They stood out in those days for their melodies but also for their subject matter - songs referencing cricket, obscure episodes in English history and trains. The band's name came from a locomotive and their early song title Bricklayer's Arms alluded to the famous railway depot on the Old Kent Road, the area now covered by Mandela Way, though the song is actually about the playwright Ben Jonson.

In various line ups Blyth Power have continued ever since - Jamie Hince of The Kills (Mr Kate Moss) is among the many musicians who have passed through its ranks.

Deptford '77

Can't claim Blyth Power as a South London band, Porter is from the West Country and was living in Hackney when they started out. In his memoirs though, Porter recalls that when he first moved to London in 1979 he lived off Camberwell New Road and then in a council flat on Tanners Hill in Deptford. He also described earlier visits to Deptford to see his brother:

'I paid my first visit to Colin, at the Rachel MacMillan hall of residence, Creek Road, Deptford, in October 1977... I was charmed by his quarters, charmed by his friends.. charmed by the student union bar, in which I became cheaply and horribly drunk, but most of all charmed by Deptford itself, which featured prominently in the mythology of the punk scene, and was a concrete manifestation of all my record collection had led me to aspire to. I took to Deptford like a duck to water. Just being there simply blew me away. It was everything that Castle Cary was not: dark, evil, mysterious, but to my eyes fantastically beautiful.

...Colin moved out of the halls of residence and into Speedwell House, a condemned block of flats just off Deptford High St. Technically they were squatting, as the council had given up on trying to collect rent there. The whole place was a magic maze of brickwork, stairways and balconies, covered in graffiti and full of lost souls in which Colin and Sam kept the flat in a constant state of devastation that I found irresistible. Coming back one day after a hard day posing in the West End, I found a minor music festival happening in the courtyards below. The Realists, This Heat, and a host of Deptford's alternative heroes played and jammed until late at night, the whole scene illuminated by the beams of a car's headlights. This was Deptford Fun City at its finest' (Joseph Porter, Genesis to Revolutions).

Oh and Blyth Power's first album, 'Wicked Women, Wicked Men and Wicket Keepers' (1987) was recorded at RMS Studios in Crystal Palace.

Sunday, March 03, 2013

New Cross Question and Action

From indefatigable New Cross community activist James Holland:

"NX Q&A (Question and Action) is a group of local people who want to bring people of New Cross together to discuss and achieve an ambitious future for the area and address their immediate needs collectively

This is the continuation of a process that started with some discussion at the 2011 170 community project AGM where people were asked questions such as "whats missing in new cross?" and "whats good about the area?" and was then followed up by a series of events called 'how can we make new cross even better?' Some actions and ideas came out of that process, but many people need to have their say in order to make it an inclusive and democratic exercise.

We want to continue the conversation on these and other questions by taking it out to people (rather than relying on them coming to us) and bringing these people into a process that turns the results into actions, then continue to ask the questions to others, turn those answers in actions..etc .. ad infinitum.

This is not a dry academic survey or research, we don't really know whats going to happen but want to start and see what happens. However, one thing we are certain about is that it must lead to action that has real benefits for the people that get involved."

We need to think about how to do this (1 2 1, small groups, which questions to use, do we use the same questions for everyone, how to approach people, how long to do it for, how to record results). Please bring ideas for all this along to the next meeting Tues 5th march at New Cross Learning (especially question ideas).

A few current questions:

- What's missing in New Cross?
- What concerns do you have about the area?
- How can we make New Cross a better place?
- What do you most need right now?
- What is your ambitious vision?
- Can you think of one thing that would make a real difference to your life?
- How well do you think existing organisations and institutions designed to help you are doing ?
- Will you join with us to make it happen?"
- Will you ask these questions to other people?"

Saturday, March 02, 2013

South London Soul Train Back on Track

It's the first Saturday of the month, which means tonight it's South London Soul Train at the CLF Arts Cafe/Bussey Building (133 Rye Lane SE15), a night of funk/soul/rare groove/motown complete with Jack Tyson Charles Band playing live.

I went there for my birthday in January, it was packed with people dancing from the moment it opened. All my friends say that it was the best night they'd had out in ages. Unfortunately I over-indulged in that birthday way - spotted apparently with champagne in one hand, tin of red stripe in the other - so can remember hardly anything of the evening. So definitely going back soon to build up some real memories!