Friday, May 31, 2013

Simply the Jest - new comedy night in New Cross

Black Bird Comedy are launching a new fortnightly comedy club at the White Hart in New Cross, starting next Friday 7 June. They say:

'Three up-and-coming London comedians, Thanyia Moore, Athena Kugblenu and Natalie Roberts have joined forces to create Black Bird Comedy and are bringing a new comedy night to New Cross. Simply the Jest will be a night for new and established comedians to show off their best material and will soon establish itself as one London’s best and warmest free comedy nights.Taking it in turns to host each night, the three ambitious and witty members of Black Bird Comedy will keep each show fresh, entertaining and fun, resulting in audiences wanting to come back time and time again.

Showcasing amateurs, semi-pros and some undiscovered gems, Simply the Jest is shaping up to be a fantastic addition to London’s free and funny comedy scene. It launches on Friday 7 June at the White Hart Hotel, 183 New Cross Road, SE14 5AA, a locally renown public house with a large back room, friendly atmosphere and punters with a thirst for mirth.

There aren't many London comedy nights run by women and ones run by black comedians are few. Black Bird Comedy will use their uniqueness to bring a bit of edge to the night, stamping their own personalities on every show. Launching on Friday 7 June 2013 and held on 1st and 3rd Fridays thereafter, the line up for the first show has award winning acts mixing it with fresh, new talent.

Thanyia says, “There is an exciting entertainment and social scene growing in New Cross and we’re going to be part of that. Simply the Jest is going to offer locals, students and comedy fans all over London something new, different and above all, hilarious to do on a Friday night. All for free!” Natalie says, “We don’t discriminate. We'll be showcasing a diverse range of acts and talent. The only thing they have in common is that they are brilliantly funny!” Athena says, “Simply the Jest is a must for great acts looking for a fun, friendly audience and a well promoted comedy night in a vibrant area of London where free and quality comedy is currently hard to come by".'

Contact details:
Twitter: @blackbirdcomedy
Facebook group:
Facebook event Friday 7 June:
Facebook event Friday 21 June:

The White Hart is a big old pub in a good location that's been crying out for some decent promoters to get things going there, so all the best to Black Bird Comedy, get down and check it out.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Details of Saturday's anti-BNP Protests [updated Friday lunchtime]

Update Friday 31 May, 13:15 pm - the latest position is as follows:

- The BNP have now been banned by the Metropolitan Police from marching to Woolwich to Lewisham and told they can only march in Whitehall;
- Having initially said that they would defy the ban, the BNP has now agreed to switch its demo to Downing Street.
- Unite Against Fascism has therefore cancelled its protest in Woolwich and is calling for people to come to Downing Street at 12 noon tomorrow to oppose BNP there.
- South London Anti-Fascists will be meeting tomorrow at 11 am at the Imperial War Museum Gardens (Geraldine Mary Harmsworth Park), near the Russian memorial, and then travelling en bloc to Downing Street.
- according to South London Anti-Fascists the rally at Lewisham Islamic Centre has also been cancelled.

Events at the weekend remain unpredictable, to keep up date I would keep an eye on twitter - including @southlondonAF, @uaf and @MPDNUT

The following post was written on the morning of Thursday 30 May before news of the police ban was announced:

Plans are firming up to respond to the planned British National Party march from Woolwich to Lewisham on Saturday June 1st. Or to be more precise what the BNP are now calling a 'march and motorcade'. I thought the effort of the walk from Woolwich to Lewisham might be a bit much for them,  I suspect that they may  stage some kind of demonstration in Woolwich and then travel by coaches/cars to somewhere near Lewisham and then try and march towards the Lewisham Islamic Centre.

The BNP have announced that they plan to assemble at 1300 at the junction between Woolwich New Road and Gunner Lane,SE18 6XN opposite the Barracks

Unite Against Fascism have called for people to meet in Woolwich from 12 noon in General Gordon Square (next to Woolwich Arsenal DLR/Rail station). They say: 'The BNP has called a national demonstration in Woolwich this Saturday, 1 June. Fascists and racists are trying to take advantage of the terrible murder of Lee Rigby to whip up racism and hatred for their own anti-democratic ends. We call on everyone to join with Unite Against Fascism, local trade unionists, faith groups and community groups in a peaceful show of unity against the BNP and its Islamophobic poison. We will not let them divide us'

Ideally the BNP would be stopped in Woolwich, but it's likely that under heavy police protection they will then head on to Lewisham, presumably round the south circular/A205. In Lewisham the main focus for opposing the BNP will be a rally at 2 pm outside the Islamic Centre at 365 Lewisham High Street (by the Shell Garage near to Lewisham Hospital). The Lewisham National Union of Teachers call out says: 'No to terrorism, no to racism... The horrific murder of a young soldier in Woolwich has rightly been met with overwhelming condemnation. However, now the British National Party (BNP) are trying to use the understandable outrage at this attack to gain support. On Saturday afternoon, they are planning to march on the Islamic Centre in Lewisham. Lewisham has a proud record of standing united against all those who would divide our community. Join the protest to show the BNP that the trade unions, residents and young people of Lewisham are standing united against this provocative march'.

South London Anti-Fascists and others will be gathering by the Islamic Centre from 1 pm onwards to guard against any early arrivals. While the Islamic Centre is naturally going to be a focus, it seems unlikely that the police will let the BNP get too close to it on Saturday - a rally nearby looks the most obvious ending to their protest (Lewisham Park opposite the hospital is the nearest open space so is one possibility). Clearly it is intolerable for several hundred (?) open racists to be wandering around Woolwich or Lewisham, and we don't want groups of them trying to head in to Lewisham town centre or Catford at the end.
I note that South London Anti-Fascists have used a photograph from 'the Battle of Lewisham' in 1977, when the BNP's predecessors the National Front marched from New Cross to Lewisham amidst riotous scenes - see a detailed report of that day here.

The National Front also marched in Lewisham, from Forest Hill to Catford, in April 1980. 72 people were arrested, most of them anti-fascists (see earlier post about this)

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

History Corner: Charles II returns from exile via Blackheath and Deptford.

On this day in 1660, King Charles II entered London on return from exile in Holland. Having landed at Dover on May 25th, he spent time at Canterbury and Rochester before making his way into the capital on his 30th birthday, May 29th.  The journey is described in a contemporary pamphlet 'England's Joy or a relation of the most remarkable passages from his Majestry's Arrival at Dover to his entrance at White-Hall' (1660).

While personally I don't think that the restoration of the monarchy was anything to celebrate, the pamphlet is interesting for a number of reasons. For one thing it shows the significance of the road between London and Dover, now the A2/Old Kent Road/New Cross Road/Shooters Hill. Almost all traffic heading from Kent into London passed along that road in the days before railways, which meant that royal processions, peasant insurgents, visitors from the continent etc. all came through Blackheath/Deptford/New Cross. In the case of Charles II, such points along the route were marked with festivities which are vividly described in the pamphlet: 

'he set forth from Rochester in his coach, but afterwards took horse on the farthest side of Black-heath, on which spacious plain he found divers great and eminent troops of horse, in a most splending and glorious equipage; and a kind of rural triumph, expressed by the country-swains in a morrice-dance, with the old music of taber and pipe, which was performed with all agility and cheerfulness imaginable...

... proceeding towards London, there were placed in Deptford, on his right hand (as he passed through the town) above an hundred proper maids, clad all alike in white garments, with scarves about them: who having prepared many flaskets covered with fine linen and adorned with rich scarfs and ribbands ; which flaskets were full of flowers and sweet herbs, strewed the way before him as he rode.
From thence passing on he came into Saint Georges Fields in Southwark, where the Lord Mayor and Aldermen of London in their scarlet, with the Recorder and other City Council, waited for him in a large tent, hung with tapestry'

A 19th century re-imagining of Charles entering London, painted by Alfred Barron Clay
As discussed previously at Transpontine, the restoration was followed up by repression of religious and political dissidents, with hundreds of Quakers, Baptists and Fifth Monarchists rounded up, and reports of planned uprisings at Deptford and elsewhere.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Greenwich Community Food Co-op Box Scheme

Greenwich Community Food Co-op has been going as a not-for-profit organisation since 2002 with the aim of providing 'fresh fruit and vegetables at reasonable prices through the provision of market stalls throughout the borough of Greenwich'.

Now they are expanding their 'local affordable box scheme' delivering 'ethically and locally produced fresh fruit and vegetables'.  You can also order free range eggs from a farm based in Greenwich.

They now deliver across Greenwich and Lewisham (including New Cross/Deptford/Brockley) and have a flexible offer - you can have a delivery weekly, fortnightly or monthly and you can choose what you want to have in your box. Prices range from £7 to £20 depending on size of box.

For further details contact Sue 077602364672 or Jane

Monday, May 27, 2013

BNP plan march on Lewisham

Just got back from opposing the English Defence League in central London. Considering it was a sunny bank holiday, they failed to make a big breakthrough in terms of numbers in the aftermath of the killing of Lee Digby. But we shouldn't be complacent, the opposition was only of a similar size, and at times the EDL seemed able to march around the streets at will. At one point I bumped into several hundred of them wandering in the road along Victoria Embankment with no police around them (other than some vans coming up behind). With the rise in support to UKIP too, the racist far right does seem to have some momentum and they are obviously trying to capitalise on popular outrage at the Woolwich killing.

...enter the British National Party, desparate to re-establish their brand amidst internal faction fights and fading support. The BNP have now announced that they are planning a march next Saturday June 1st from Woolwich Barracks to the Lewisham Islamic Centre (363-365 Lewisham High Street, SE13 6NZ)

Will provide more detail as it becomes available but for now anti-racists in South East London should probably put aside any other plans for next Saturday...

[the source for this information is the BNP website, they say they are planning to meet in Woolwich at 1 pm and then march seven miles to Lewisham]

Update (28 May 2013):

South London Anti-Fascists Call Out: 'There are a whole host of fascist actions coming up in the next two weeks:
1) Nick Griffin has appealed to all fellow travelers to attend the British National Party march and motorcade from Woolwich Barracks to Lewisham Islamic Centre on Saturday 1st June from 12pm. They are distributing leaflets locally to prepare.
2) The English Defence League will be assembling outside Woolwich Crown Court on Thursday 6th June to celebrate their “Day of Justice”

This Saturday, we must be stop the fascists from marching to Lewisham, from attacking Islamic centres and mosques. We won’t “cheer up”, this week we will be holding a planning meeting, knocking on doors, visiting local Islamic centres and mosques to organise against the scum that dare to intimidate our communities and darken our streets. NO PASARAN!'

(Lewisham Councillor) Mike Harris: 'Racist political party, the BNP, are organising a march on Lewisham Islamic Centre this Saturday starting in Woolwich at 1pm.  The BNP’s support has collapsed in South-East London in recent years. In the whole of Lewisham (in 2009) they had just 20 members – out of 280,000 people. This march is a clear attempt to capitalise on the appalling murder of Lee Rigby to stoke up community tensions and give the BNP local profile.  I’ll be speaking to Labour party members tonight about what our response should be. Lewisham and Greenwich Councils are also working with the police to ascertain the likelihood of the march going ahead.

We don’t want to give the BNP the oxygen of publicity – nor do we want to leave the Mosque feeling unsupported and isolated. Counter-protests are likely. It’s essential that counter-protesters behave peacefully unlike the thuggish BNP.  People in Lewisham have a long tradition of standing up to racism and I’m sure we will do so again. Let’s make their racism history'.

Update 29 May: Lewisham National Union of Teachers and others are calling for people to meet at 1 pm on Saturday at the War Memorial opposite Lewisham Hospital to oppose the BNP - this is also in the vicintiy of the Lewisham Islamic Centre which is the focus of the march.  The start of the march in Woolwich will be opposed by an anti-fascist gathering in General Gordon Square from 12 noon.

Update 30 May: Lewisham protest has now been confirmed for 2 pm by the Lewisham Islamic Centre - for full details of all protests in Lewisham and Woolwich go to this new Transpontine post.

Music Monday: Life on Mars (Bowie on the Beckenham-Lewisham bus)

'David Bowie: Five Years' was an interesting documentary shown on BBC2 at the weekend. Bowie must have one of the most documented lives of any musician, so I did wonder if there could possibly be anything new. But there was some great footage I hadn't seen before and some interesting interviews.

His 1971 song 'Life on Mars' featured heavily, with Rick Wakeman being interviewed about his role in arranging the piano part. But what the programme didn't mention was that the song was written in Beckenham,  via a bus journey to Lewisham. In a 2008 article in the Daily Mail, Bowie recalled:

'This song was so easy. Being young was easy. A really beautiful day in the park, sitting on the steps of the bandstand. 'Sailors bap-bap-bap-bap-baaa-bap.' An anomic (not a 'gnomic') heroine. Middle-class ecstasy. I took a walk to Beckenham High Street to catch a bus to Lewisham to buy shoes and shirts but couldn't get the riff out of my head. Jumped off two stops into the ride and more or less loped back to the house up on Southend Road.

Workspace was a big empty room with a chaise longue; a bargain-price art nouveau screen ('William Morris,' so I told anyone who asked); a huge overflowing freestanding ashtray and a grand piano. Little else.  I started working it out on the piano and had the whole lyric and melody finished by late afternoon. Nice. Rick Wakeman came over a couple of weeks later and embellished the piano part and guitarist Mick Ronson created one of his first and best string parts for this song which now has become something of a fixture in my live shows'.

The park with bandstand he mentions is presumably the Croydon Road Recreation Ground in Beckenham where Bowie and friends once organised a festival (the subject of his 1969 song 'Mermory of a Free Festival'). The house in Beckenham was the  now demolished Haddon Hall at 42 Southend Road, where Bowie lived in the ground floor flat from 1969 to 1972 (working on the classic Hunky Dory and Ziggy Stardust albums).

David Bowie outside Haddon Hall in Beckenham
(he also lived for a while in 1969 in Flat 1, 24 Foxgrove Road, Beckenham)

The Transmitter: Bowie in Beckenham

Another Nickel in the Machine: Bowie's early years in Brixton and Bromley

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Reggae bass shakes Telegraph Hill Park

A little taste of carnival in Telegraph Hill Park this afternoon, with several hundred people relaxing on the grass bathing in the sun beams and the fine sounds drifting across from the sound system in Arbuthnot Road. The beer and the barbecue helped too - at one point the queue for the latter stretched round the corner.

The RumBQ & Street Party was put on by locally-based music production company Trinity and Unit 137 Sound System. Thanks to them for a fine afternoon.

If you want to hear some more of this sound get down to the Bussey Building in Peckham on Friday 14th June.when Unit 137 are putting on a night also featuring Gorgon Sound and Lionpulse Sound.

Another report at Hatty Daze

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Woolwich Killing

Is there anything useful left to say about the killing of soldier Lee Rigby his week? Writing a South East London blog with occasional pretensions to a critical political perspective I feel like I should, and the local connections to the story are not limited to the scene of the killing in Woolwich's John Wilson Street. It seems that the two suspects arrested at the scene had both attended Greenwich University, and one of them grew up locally,  attending Kidbrooke School and living in a flat in Macey House, in Thames Street, Greenwich.

But when I think about a young man being hacked to death in the street by two other young men I just have a sense of horror and futility. It can be reassuring to try and find moments of 'bravery' and 'heroism' amidst the carnage, to offer some meaning or redemption. We've seen plenty of that this week, and of course it was remarkable that people comforted a dying man while his killers stood nearby. But the fact is that the victim had no opportunity to display any 'bravery' or 'heroism' as he was cut down in the street, and those who stood to talk to the killers did not alter the course of events in any way: the assailants seemed glad of an audience by which to relay their self-mythologising accounts to the world.

Another reassuring narrative is to put the events in a wider context, to see the killing as a moment in an international story of imperialist warfare and its impact, or of 'global terrorism'. And sure what happened in Woolwich plainly has a connection to the fact of British forces waging war in Afghanistan and Iraq for more than a decade, and to the violent fringe of the wider Islamist movement.

But I think Lee Jasper is right to pose the real question as 'how can a seemingly ordinary couple of black British guys from South East London end up committing such an act?' The issue might be less Al-Qaeda and more home grown issues of alienated, marginalised young men growing up amidst desensitising experiences of  violence. The same culture that leads to (mainly) black young men killing each other year in year out on the streets of London. As Jasper notes, 'Horrific, and symbolic as the killing of this young soldier was, there were similarities in its barbarity of the recent murder of Daniel Graham [in East Dulwich], who was chased by a gang and stabbed multiple times on a London bus or that of Andrew Jaipual of Islington stabbed between 20-40 times. Both in broad daylight'.

Still making such comparisons shouldn't be used to detract from the specific horror of Woolwich. F*cked up blokes killing another bloke might not be so unusual, but standing around explaining it to passers-by, getting photographed and waiting for the police to turn up, perhaps in hope of some 'martyrdom' terminal exit - that is hardly typical. It felt like the assailants had written themselves a dramatic script with themselves as the key actors, and didn't know quite what to do when the other actors didn't turn up on time. So it seems naive to complain that the media have treated it as such a big story - it was a media event par excellence.


The racist clowns of the English Defence League were out on the streets of Woolwich on Wednesday night, gathering outside The Queen’s Arms pub on Burrage Grove and attempting to get to the Greenwich Islamic Centre. There have been attacks on Mosques and Muslims, and the British National Party are mobilising for a protest in Woolwich next Saturday (their fast fading leader Nick Griffin was in the area yesterday).

EDL 'Bexley Division' in Woolwich on Wednesday - laughing and clearly enjoying themselves.
- I'm sure Lee Rigby's family weren't laughing that night
South London Anti-Fascists and others are already planning community defence, and this is necessary. But it is also the fabric of daily life in London that will undermine the racists' effort to provoke inter-communal violence on the back of the Woolwich killing.  Les Back of Goldsmiths University is surely right that:  'The violence and the reactions to it will damage the social choreography of London’s multiculture but not fatally... We’ve seen this all before but the reality of life in the city is paradoxical. For London is both the stage for divisions and violence and also a meeting place where those differences are routinely bridged and made banal. “I was just thinking today, there was a woman fully veiled walking through the market buying her shopping. It was just ordinary I didn’t even notice her,” said a white neighbour. This captures something about the reality of an everyday, unspectacular co-existence. The blood-stained headlines will not be easily forgotten but they will inevitably become yesterday’s news. The rhythm of multicultural life in South East London will re-establish itself and find its balance again'.

Small march by Nigerians in Woolwich today (photo by Helen Donohue via twitter)

Thursday, May 23, 2013

RumBQ Street Party by Telegraph Hill Park

This Bank Holiday Sunday 26 May 2013 sees a free street party in Arbuthnot Road SE14, next to Telegraph Hill Lower Park. RumBQ will  feature the Unit 137 reggae sound system, with DJs including:

- Hylu & Jago
- DJ Snuff
- Ed West
- Decks Ray Spex
- Lionbeat

They say: 'This is a FAMILY FRIENDLY event, please bring your children, make the scene nice. There will be food and drink on sale. Please support our food and bar, as that's how we're backing this event. All the artists are playing for free. It's a family affair, a community happening. LOVE, every time. Some HEAT this time round please Missa British Wedda. All prayers for sunshine appreciated and no doubt noted'.

The event is scheduled to run from 1 pm to 5 pm (facebook event details here).

An atttempt to stage something similar in March had to be cancelled due to snow, and relocated at short notice to the Golden Anchor pub.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

History Corner: John Evelyn of Deptford

John Evelyn (1620-1706) has cropped up a few times for me in the last week. The seventeenth century diarist, writer, gardener and government official is remembered in the names of the local Evelyn Street and Lewisham's Evelyn Ward, among other places.

Portrait of Evelyn by Robert Walker
Last Saturday I gave a history tour of the Deptford riverfront to New Cross Commoners, ending up with a picnic on the beach. We looked at the Convoys Wharf site, and I mentioned that part of it covered the site of Sayes Court - Evelyn's home from 1652-1690.

While preparing for the walk, I had been reading a lot of Peter Linebaugh. The historian's various works provide a good context for understanding Detpford history. 'The London Hanged' in particular includes lots of information about the working practices on the Royal Dockyard in the 18th century; 'The Many Headed Hydra' deals with maritime radicalism and the circulation of sailors, pirates and slaves across the Atlantic; and 'The Magna Carta Manifesto' deals with commons and enclosure through the lens of the Forest Charter sections of the Magna Carta which sought to safeguard the common rights of access to woodland  from Royal encroachment.

In the latter, Linebaugh writes of Evelyn as an apologist for enclosure, seeking to put the knowledge of trees at the service of empire:

'English forests were cut down at such a rate that toward the end of the century John Evelyn despaired of the national security, inasmuch as the navy provided the island’s “wooden walls.” The expansion of the British empire was by means of wood products and it was to the end of acquiring wood products. Restoration diarist and gentleman environmentalist John Evelyn (1620–1706) inherited a fortune that his grandfather had accumulated under James I and Charles I through his royal monopoly on saltpeter, essential ingredient (with sulfur and charcoal) to gunpowder. The “saltpeter man” forcibly ransacked stables, barns, dovecots, pigeon houses in search of potassium nitrate. The grandson’s project was to make an inventory of English trees in terms of their use values, and to convey this knowledge from commoners to commercial, scientific, and military markets. Not once does Evelyn mention the Forest Charter. Enclosed woods thrive better than unfenced forest. He wrote disdainfully of “satisfying a few clamorous, and rude Commoners.” He could not escape a millennium of custom, but he could bury it within Latin and Greek obscurantism. He concluded by quoting a Latin proverb of Erasmus, who was paraphrasing the Greek poet Theocritus, Praesente Quercu ligna quivis colligit, “In the presence of an oak every- one collects firewood.” Referring to An Act for the Punishment of Unlawful Cutting or Stealing or Spoiling of Wood (15 Charles II c.2), he coolly noted that ancient law punished the “beheading” of a tree by the forfeiture of a hand'.

Others have seen Evelyn more positively as a proto-environmentalist, writing against London pollution and for the preservation of trees. One strand of the campaign against current development plans for the Convoys Wharf site is the call to acknowledge or even recreate Evelyn's historic garden there (see Sayes Court - London's Lost Garden for lots of interesting historical material).

Evelyn's Cabinet

As reported in the Guardian at the weekend (18 May), a cabinet of Evelyn's features (along with the Horniman Museum's walrus) in a new exhibition in Margate. Curator Brian Dillon writes

Consider this curious item of furniture, which belongs to the Geffrye Museum in London and appears at Turner Contemporary, Margate, as part of Curiosity: Art and the Pleasures of Knowing. The object in question, at once austere and elaborate, is a cabinet of intricately carved ebony that stands on eight slender legs and opens to reveal a prismatic array of interior drawers and doors, rendered in fruitwood and ivory. The thing is said to have been made by the renowned Dutch craftsman Pierre Golle, though we cannot be sure. What's certain is that it was bought in Paris in 1652 by Mary Evelyn: wife of the polymath John Evelyn, who used it to store prints and small items. The empty cabinet is a reminder of the capaciousness of Evelyn's intellect and imagination: by the time he died in 1706, he had completed not only half a million pages of his celebrated diary, but treatises on medicine, mathematics, air pollution and the cultivation of trees. He had even written a discourse on salads'.
Evelyn and Slavery

It can't be denied though that Evelyn had a role in the administration of slavery. A royalist during the Civil War, he was later appointed by the King as an official to the Council of Foreign Plantations in a period when plantations were expanding in America and the Caribbean on the backs of slave labour. Even in this period, there were controversies about this in the face of slave demands for freedom. In his diaries Evelyn mentions the arguments about whether slaves should be allowed to be baptised as Christians - since some argued that as Christians they should no longer be treated as slaves: 'I may not forget a resolution which his Majesty made, and had a little before entered upon it at the Council Board at Windsor or Whitehall, that the negroes in the plantations should all be baptized, exceedingly declaiming against that impiety of their masters prohibiting it, out of a mistaken opinion that they would be ipso facto free; but his Majesty persists in his resolution to have them christened'. Evelyn also mentions the attempted slave revolt in Barbados in 1692: 'there was a conspiracy among the negroes in Barbadoes to murder all heir masters, discovered by overhearing a discourse of two of the slaves, and so preventing the execution of the design' - alleged conspirators were hanged, burned alive and castrated by the authorities.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Save our Fire Stations

Boris Johnson's life threatening closure programme for London fire stations is still formally in the consultation phase, with The London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority (LFEPA) holding public meetings across London boroughs. Some have already happened, but several key South London events are coming up in the next week as follows:

- Lewisham, Wednesday, 22 May 7-9pm at Sydenham School, Dartmouth Road, London SE26 4RD

- Bexley, Bromley and Croydon, Thursday, 23 May 7-9pm at Bromley Central Library, High Street, Bromley BR1 1EX

- Greenwich, Wednesday 29 May 7-9pm at Lecture Theatre 315, King William Building, University of Greenwich, 30 Park Row, Greenwich, London SE10 9LS

So get along and say your piece to try and save New Cross, Downham, Southwark, Woolwich and the other stations under threat.

(h/t to Trinketization for the heads up on this).

See Red Women's Workshop: feminist posters from SE5/SE17

See Red Women's Workshop was a feminist screenprinting collective based in Walworth/Camberwell from around 1974.

According to Jess Baines: 'See Red's activities included the designing and printing of their own posters and calendars, as well as taking on design and print commissions for other organisations. See Red developed a range of feminist posters that attempted to address different issues ranging from the domestic isolation of mothers and unethical marketing by pharmaceutical giants to racism in Britain and solidarity with anti-imperialist struggles abroad. The posters were distributed internationally both from the workshop and through alternative bookshops. They also gave talks and demonstrations on screen-printing. The group varied in number; overall 25 women worked at See Red during its lifetime. After working from home in the early days, the collective progressed to renting shared space with Women in Print, at 16a Iliffe Yard, off Crampton St, London, SE17. The workshop was initially run without grant-aid, and the women contributed up to three working days a week to the workshop while earning a living elsewhere. In the early 1980s the collective was supported by funding from the Greater London Council. This facilitated a move to new premises at 90 Camberwell Road, SE5. Women in Print (an offset litho collective) moved with them but folded in 1986'. See Red closed in the early 1990s.

See Red in action at Iliffe Yard in the early 1980s

Ink Now: Posters, Collectives and Art

Recently there has been a revival of interest in the work of See Red. There was an exhibition at the Institute of Contemporary Arts last year, and next month members of the collective will be taking part in 'Ink Now: Posters, Collectives and Art', an event at London Met. 'Ink Now' will be 'An evening of presentations and discussion about how posters have been used in different radical, political, feminist, collective and community settings. By looking at specific historical moments we hope to open up a conversation about radical ideas and collective practices in the contemporary art context'.

WHEN: 6.30-8.30pm, Tuesday 4th June. Refreshments available from 6pm
WHERE: Lecture Theatre CR100, London Met University, 41-47 Commercial Road, London, E1 1LA

Suzy Mackie and Pru Stevenson, founding members of the See Red Women's Workshop Collective, which produced silkscreened feminist and community posters from c1974 up to the early 1990s, will show poster images and talk about why and how the collective was set up and the first 8 years.

Jess Baines (LSE/LCC) will be presenting her research on the history of late 20th century radical and community printing collectives and co-ops in the UK - including: poster collectives, service printers, typesetters and print resource centres. Jess is also a former Member of the See Red Womens Workshop

Dean Kenning (Kingston University and CSM) will be talking about the recent show at Portman Gallery: ‘Poster Production’ where he worked with art students from Morpeth School, Central St Martins and ReadingUniversity, and with several contemporary artists to produce posters based on different themes and according to various methods of working.

Rachael House and Jo David from artist run Space Station Sixty-Five on posters and archives in the art space, including poster-related shows such as 'Shape and Situate'. 'Rachael will also talk about her recent exhibitions 'Feminist Disco' and 'A Space of Potential' which draw on feminist cultures'

Chair: Anne Robinson (senior lecturer at London Metropolitan University and former member of See Red Womens Workshop). Admission free and all welcome, but please register at:

See Red anti-National Front poster, 'Don't let racism divide us'
The photograph used was taken in the anti-NF  'Battle of Lewisham' in August 1977

Monday, May 20, 2013

Music Monday: 30 years of Band of Holy Joy

It is now 30 years since Band of Holy Joy were formed in New Cross, and they're still going strong (albeit with some big gaps along the way!).

One of their first releases was a 1984 cassette  'More Favourite Fairytales'  put out by Glasgow-based Pleasantly Surprised. The sleevenotes say:

'Holy Joy were formed in the summer of 1983 when Johny and his sister Max found a synthesiser in the cellar of the house they were living in and started messing around on it. They then brought in Brett (Test Dept's visual genius) as he had an organ and could also play various instruments. John at this time was taking photographs that had everything in common with the songs Johny and Max were writing. They persuaded him to trade in his camera for a mouth organ, tambourine and various other instruments. Test Dept then took them under their with and they played places like Manchester, Sheffield and Retford. After these performances Holy Joy decided to go into the studio then came a few more dates in London at their own club "The Stomach Pump" Situated in a crypt in Deptford and also playing with Einsturzende Neubauten.

"More Favourite Fairytales" was recorded on a four track portastudio in late winter / early spring '84 and is a follow up / progression to a previous cassette entitled "Favourite Fairytales For Juvenile Delinquents" which they consider to be more background music than anything else.Plans for the proper studio and record a 12 inch version of "Liquid Lunch" and a 7 inch of "Consumption" and one day soon M.F.F will appear properly recorded on a record. Also being talked about is a video film tentatively called "Seven Days Of Agony And Holy Joy". At present more songs are being written and recorded. They have also made some new instruments and have come up with a whole host of new sounds and noises. Ideas are also underway for some film music. All in all "Holy Joy" are a very creative and exiting conception and in my opinion you shall be hearing a lot more from them in the near future'.

Well a lot more has certainly been heard, latest from them is the third in an ongoing series of films featuring tracks from this year's return to the cassette 'City of Tales, Volume 1 and 2'. 'Empty Purse Found in Hotel Lobby' features band drummer William Lewington and Joanna Pickering.

Lots more Transpontine BoHJ

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Music at Guys

I was in  Guys Hospital last week, waiting in the ENT was pretty grim mainly because they had a TV on really loud with horse racing followed by Noel Edmonds. This where people with hearing problems were listening out for someone to call out their name! But then a guy wandered in with a guitar and announced he was going to play for half an hour - with the TV turned down - and very nice it was too.

Osamu Yano's recital was arranged by Breathe Arts Health Research, apparently part of a project looking at how music in hospitals might reduce stress. Well it worked for me, as did the doctor's treatment of my ears - no permanent hearing loss.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Gaggle Cave

Gaggle, the twenty strong all-women alternative choir, are taking up residency later this month at the InSitu Project Space  - the Royal Albert pub's new gallery space next to the pub at 460 New Cross Cross Road.

For three weeks (May 30th - June 21s) Gaggle will be running it as 'a one of a kind concept shop, gallery and hang out place' with all kinds of performances, workshops, and activities including:

- Vocal coaching from 60’s Feminist Improvisation Group legend Maggie Nichols
- Sound engineering for girls
-  interactive performance body coaching from Scottee Scottee
- a feminist choir for boys
-  plus millinery, metal worksm raw fiid  and much more

They day 'Gaggle want you to be involved in this adventure. To learn new skills, acquire beautiful things and feel empowered. They want you in the Gaggle Cave... A summer adventure in lifestyle, craft and noise'

Thurs 30th May- LAUNCH 7pm till late
Friday 21st June - FINALE 7pm till late

Opening hours of shop:
Mon – Fri: Midday - 8pm
Sat & Sun: Midday to 11pm

To see the full list and join any workshops, visit

Gaggle have asked Women’s Aid to be Good Cause in Residence at the Cave, so you will be able to find out about Women’s Aid work and donate there and then.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

A Grove Park Childhood

Tomorrow (Thursday) at New Cross Learning, New Cross Local History Group presents 'A Grove Park Childhood'. Pauline Payne will give an illustrated talk on growing up on the Lewisham council estate in the 1940s and 50s. 6:30 pm start.

History Corner: New Cross Gate Cutting

A fascinating tour of London Wildlife Trust's New Cross Gate Cutting/Brockley nature reserve last weekend in the company of New Cross Commoners, with volunteer warden Steve Cleall giving us an insight into the site's history and wildlife.

The reserve, situated alongside the railway line with its entrance on Vesta Road SE4, is a great slice of wild London just along the track from New Cross Gate station.  One thing that struck me was how much of what we regard as simply a natural environment is in fact the result of centuries of interaction between human beings, other species and the land.

top path through the woods

The very landscape of the railway cutting was largely dug out by hand by navvies building the route of the Croydon canal and then the railway in the nineteenth century (Karl Marx mentions the terrible working conditions of navvies on the Lewisham-Tunbridge Wells line in Capital). The woodland itself only started to grow after the Second World War, when the site stopped being used for allotments (another allotments site survives of course on the opposite bank of the railway cutting).

The Croydon railroad under construction in 1839, as seen from New Cross. In the distance on the right, workers can be seen on the site of what is now the nature reserve. Incidentally, the house on the right may be Telegraph Cottage, home of the poet Robert Browning in the 1840s.
Detail from above painting showing navvies at work, shaping the landscape. Not sure what the tower was - maybe a temporary building used to help lay out the railway.
Prior to the allotments and indeed prior to the railway, most of the site would have been used for farming. A water trough still stands in the woods which is believed to date back to that period in the 19th century.

Water trough

The soil of the site is acidic as a result of numerous fragments of red brick left over from the manufacture of bricks locally and their use in the building of the area. This favours the growth of some plants and trees.

Red brick fragments on the pathway
While centuries past the area was covered by the Great North Wood which stretched down to Croydon, the oldest tree on the site is probably only about a hundred years old - this sycamore at the furthest point on the lower path. 
The oldest tree in the nature reserve
This human impact on woodland is not new. As the historian Peter Linebaugh notes, even in the days when much of England was covered in woodland, it was extensively shaped by our ancestors: 'Old trees are the result not of the wildwood (of the Ice Age thirteen millennia earlier) but of wooded pasture. The wooded pasture is a human creation, through centuries of accumulated woodsmanship', including the coppicing and pollarding of trees to encourage more growth. As well as grazing their animals amongst the trees, people relied on wood for fuel and building materials: 'Whole towns were timberframed: the strut and beam of cottages, the curved wooden rafters, the oak benches of worship. Then wheels, handles, bowls, tables, stools, spoons, toys, and other implements were all made of wood. Wood was the source of energy'. That is why the struggle to retain common rights of access to the woods was so bitterly fought during centuries of enclosure (Peter Linebaugh, The Magna Carta Manifesto: Liberties and Commons for All, 2008).

Today keeping the New Cross Gate Cutting site as a diverse wildlife habitat also requires ongoing human effort - without it a few species would tend to dominate, particularly some of those introduced by humans from other parts of the world in the past. Volunteers meet on the second Saturday of every month to work on the site (details here), and these are also the only days when the site is open to the public. If you've never been for a wander around, you definitely should.

At a time of general pessimism about humans and the natural world, the nature reserve shows not only that 'nature' is more robust than people imagine (taking only a few decades to re-establish woodland) but that as part of nature, human beings can play a constructive role in co-creating the natural landscape.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

There are some tights that never go out

Dress by Anna of Akleriah
'Moonbow' John McKiernan, sometime purveyor of fine coffee to the masses of SE London, has for the past few years been putting on art events in London and Kent under the umbrella of Platform 7. The latest initiative, with Russian/Czech art duo Akleriah,  is 'RE-IMAGINING LADIES TIGHTS' taking place at 10 Catford Broadway, SE6 and other local venues. They say:

'Collecting old tights and stockings, public washing, creating yarn while storytelling, a promenade photoshoot before producing something new, this project will re-imagine how women perceive these easily discarded garments. When women wear tights or stockings, how do they view themselves? How does it make them feel and how are they perceived? Do tights and stockings dictate how society is formed?

Russian women wear tights in Moscow as ‘it’s seen as trashy not to wear tights’ whereas in Gambia ‘some girls would wear fishnets - people would look at them badly thinking they are call girls’ When a Gambian woman meets a Russian woman in Catford, South London, how do they perceive each other?

Re-imagining Ladies Tights is a live conceptual art performance experience that examines the role of tights and stocking in our society. Commissioned by Lewisham Council, with support from Arts Council England, art-duo Akleriah will be collecting broken tights and stockings from across the London Borough of Lewisham, supported by Platform-7, to ask why such easily disposable attire carries so much kudos.

Part of Lewisham Council’s drive to encourage more textile recycling, this 6 week intervention in Catford will ask women to consider the wider issues and their relationship with tights and stockings. It will examine the politics that surrounds an item that appears to be essential apparel and discuss how women use tights and stockings beyond a fashion accessory while men often distinguish alternative views.

In series of female-only gatherings at ‘age UK’s’ Catford Broadway shop, the performance experience will generate stories and thoughts on the attire that has shaped female body image for over four generations. By publically displaying these stories on the walls of the old Catford Civic Centre, the project looks to unveil how women distinguish themselves and how men identify with tights and stockings.

The event begins with our collection from specially handmade recycled bags for recycling tights hanging in locations across Lewisham, including Lesoco (formally Lewisham College), Goldsmiths, age UK, Laban, Lewisham / Catford town centres. Full details on the blog and details on how to order a recycle bag for a specific location.

A public wash performance will take place on 21st May in Catford Broadway before the tights are cut into yarn on 28th May to create something completely re-imagined. Women over 18 from any background can become involved in this FREE unique explorative event and asked to donate an item to age UK to be sold in the shop or purchase an item to support the work of this important local charity.

For Akleriah, the event allows them to investigate “the image, gender politics, social and material value of women’s tights. By working with women volunteers in Catford and their personal tights’ stories, it is envisaged that a more significant social meaning, which discarded tights carry, and make their recycling problematic and challenging, will be addressed"'.

More information:

Monday, May 13, 2013

Music Monday: Maria Minerva

The video for Maria Minerva's new track Soulsearchin was filmed by Laid Eyes around various SE London locations in Catford (the cat feaures), Lewisham , Peckham (Rye Lane) and Brockley. The last part was seemingly shot in Aladdins Cave salvage yard on Loampit Vale SE13. At one point Maria clambers over the old Russian tank in Mandela Way off the Old Kent Road.

Maria is from Estonia, but has been making music in London since studying at Goldsmiths in New Cross.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Support St Christophers Hospice

Five years ago my good friend Katy Watson died in St Christophers Hospice in Sydenham. A plaque on a park bench in Brockwell Park remembers her as a writer, feminist activist and mother, to which I could add many other things including DJ and Brixtonite.

In her last days, St Christophers Hospice took good care of her and her family, as it does to around 2,000 dying patients a year. The sad fact is that if you live in South London long enough it is highly likely that one of your friends or relatives will pass through there. The care is provided free of charge, but they are dependent on charity fundraising.

Katy's sister Anna and daughter Orla are doing a sponsored walk next week to raise money for the hospice. Anna says:

'Way back in 2008 my sister, Katy Watson, died of lymphoma in St Christopher's Hospice. At the time her daughter Orla was 5 and her son Joe 18 months old.

To honour Katy and to help people who need hospice care in the future, Orla and I will walk 8 miles on 19 May. I hope you can encourage us be making a donation. Last time we did it, every mile we would calculate how much we had raised - good for morale and Orla's maths!'

To help St Christophers Hospice to continue to care why not go to Anna and Orla's Just Giving page and make a donation

Katy Watson, pictured in 1997
Update from Anna, 20 May 2013: 'The walk went really well yesterday: lovely sunshine but not too hot. We managed about 2 miles per hour and only had a short break for lunch (we had to beg Orla to let us stop -- she wanted to keep going!) Great atmosphere en route and only minor aches today. Thank you all!'. Including Gift Aid, Anna & Orla have raised over £1500 through this walk.

Friday, May 10, 2013

The Animal That Therefore I Am

Local artists Cait Peterson and Wiggy Cheung have an exhibition opening next week at the House Gallery in Camberwell (70 Camberwell Church Street).  'The Animal That Therefore I Am' features animal-themed paintings, drawings, and taxidermy, and is in support of the mental health charities Rethink and Mind. The show will run from 13-29 May (closed Bank Holiday Monday 27 May), with the  private view on 11 May, 7-9 pm.

Cait is originally from Chicago and now lives in the Telegraph Hill area; she also gets extra points in my book for pursuing that noble trade of librarian. Wiggy 'loves drawing dogs and girls and that’s about it'. Both studied illustraion at Camberwell College of Arts.

'Totem' by Wiggy Cheung

Illustration from 'Tree-Sloth and Caesar' children's book
by Cait Peterson

Thursday, May 09, 2013

Dulwich Festival Fair

Lots going on at the Dulwich Festival over the next couple of weeks, including next Sunday 12th May the free Dulwich Festival Fair on Goose Green (opposite East Dulwich Tavern). SE London's premier folk promoters Goose on the Green are organising a music stage there, with line up including

- 12 noon The Dulwich Folk Choir led by Aimee Leonard

- 1pm Stuart Forester

- 2pm The No Frills Band

- 3pm The John McClean Band

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Deptford win Three-sided Football Tournament

Well done to Deptford Three Sided Football Club for their victory in the Asger Jorn Memorial Tournament in Regents Park on Saturday. At least I think they won, on the basis that they conceded the least goals in a rotation of teams that also included New Cross Irregulars, Polish team Polscy Budowlancy and two teams from Philosophy Football. There's a full report in The Guardian.

Asger Jorn was the Danish situationist artist who first conceived of the three-sided game, introduced into Britain by Fabian Tompsett and collaborators in the 1990s.  As reported here previously, the Association of Autonomous Astronauts played the game at One Tree Hill, Kennington Park, Hyde Park and other locations in the late 1990s.

Regular matches are held in Deptford Park, all are welcome to take park. Check out the Deptford Three Sided Football Club website for more information or email them at

Three-sided Football Pitch

Tuesday, May 07, 2013

May Day 2013 - what happened?

The Shard shines through the May Day blossom in St Johns Churchyard SE1

So how was May Day and the holiday weekend for you? On May Day itself the Fowlers Troop made their way through Deptford and Greenwich with the Jack in the Green - pictured here outside the Rose and Crown in Greenwich.

Photo from Diana Hale's blog, which includes a detailed report and lots of great photos.

On Saturday May 4th, around 100 people took part in the Croydon Trades Union Council May Day march in the town centre, headed by a pipe band.

Front of Croydon May Day march - photo from Sangha Kommune
I gather there was also a Workers Liberty  protest on Saturday outside the Lewisham branch of Primark, one of a number by different groups around the country in solidarity with the victims of the Rana Plaza factory fire in Bangladesh. At least 500 people died in the garmant factory complex which supplies Primark, Mango and other UK high street stroes.

Monday, May 06, 2013

The origins of the May Day bank holiday

Enjoying the May Day bank holiday?  A resolution calling for two new public holidays a year, on May Day and New Year's Day, was passed by the Trades Union Congress in 1970 and in 1975 the Labour Government declared that from 1978, May Day (or the Monday after it) would be a bank holiday. So this is the 35th May Day bank holiday. But the significance of May Day for the workers movement goes back to the 1880s. Here's another extract fom my pamphlet 'May Day in South London: a history', which you can now download for free here:

'For the early workers movement internationally a key demand was for a reduction in the length of the working day. The 1884 Chicago congress of the Federation of Organized and Labor Unions (which later become the American Federation of Labor) declared that from May 1st 1886, it would impose an eight-hour working day in the United States by industrial action... the events of Saturday 1 May 1886 and the succeeding days are well documented. The eight hour day strike went ahead in parts of the USA, and by May 3 1886 perhaps 750,000 workers had struck or demonstrated. In Chicago police killed two people when they opened fire on Monday 3 May during clashes outside the McCormack Reaper Works, where workers had been on strike since February. The following day a policeman was killed by a bomb thrown at a protest meeting in Haymarket square in the city.

Eight anarchists who had been in the forefront of the 8-hour-day agitation in Chicago were convicted of murder, of whom seven were sentenced to death. There was an international outcry against the trial and the sentences. In London those who spoke out included William Morris, Annie Besant (who had lived in Colby Road, Upper Norwood), George Bernard Shaw, Peter Kropotkin (then living at 6 Crescent Road, Bromley), Oscar Wilde, Edward Carpenter, Ford Madox Brown, Walter Crane, E. Nesbit (then living in Lewisham), Eleanor Marx and Edward Aveling (who later lived in Sydenham). A meeting on the case was held at the Peckham Reform Club (Freedom, November 1897). Nevertheless, four of the accused were hanged. The deaths in Chicago had a powerful impact across the world, not least on Jim Connell who was inspired to write 'The Red Flag' anthem in 1889 on a train to New Cross - he was living at 408 New Cross Road at the time (he later lived at 22a Stondon Park SE23).

The movement for a shorter working day did not die with those who became known as the Chicago Martyrs. In December 1888 the American Federation of Labour called for a national day of demonstrations and strikes on 1 May 1890, and this call was echoed in July 1889 by the international socialist conference in Paris. So it was that from 1890 May Day became an annual international festival of working class solidarity.

The 1890s

In London, May Day 1890 was marked by a huge demonstration in Hyde Park, a venue that was to become the focus for May Day protests for many years to come. May 1st 1890 actually fell on a Thursday, and saw London anarchists holding a meeting at Clerkenwell Green. The main demonstration took place on the following Sunday - May 4th - and saw contingents heading towards Hyde Park from all over London. A description from the South London Press of the attendance of the North Camberwell Radical Club and Institute' provides an insight into how local groups organised themselves for the march:

‘A goodly contingent went from this club to take part in the monster eight-hours demonstration. The procession was headed by the club's excellent band, which discoursed some well-chosen music on the way. A large banner followed, bearing the device in front, 'The Proletariat Unite', and on the reverse side the legend, 'Eight hours' work, eight hours' pay; Eight hours' rest, eight bob a day'. Mr Oodshorn devised and executed the banner, which was very effective. Mr J. Harrison (chairman of the club) headed those who marched in front, and Mr. H.J. Begg accompanied the contingent until it took its place in the general ranks. Two breaks followed the pedestrians - one full of ladies, and one containing those of the sterner sex who were not equal to a four-hours march on a warm day. Messrs. Benstroke and J.Sage (chairman of the Political Council) acted as marshalls. The breaks, which added greatly to the effectiveness of the procession, were under the charge of Mr A. Boreham (chairman of the Entertainment Sub-Committee). The contingent arrived in the park in time to hear some good speaking from No.7 Platform, and afterwards Mrs Besant's stirring speech from the Socialists' platform. The whole affair was excellently managed, and good humour and good order prevailed throughout’ (South London Press, 10 May 1890).

The next few years saw this route being repeated. In 1891, the North Camberwell Radical Club was again said to have been busy in preparing for the 8 hours demonstration in Hyde Park (SLP 25 April1891). The Club was based in Albany Road.

In 1892 a crowd estimated between 300 and 500,000 marched from Westminster Bridge to Hyde Park, with 350 banners and 110 bands. An observer reported that 'The great staple industries of London, the dockers, the stevedores, the coal-porters, the gas-workers... railway workers, and so on, came first: and then a whole host of miscellaneous trades, led by little Jew cigar and cigarette-makers from the East End... The Workgirls… were in great force. The chocolate-makers had a smart little wagonettte all to themselves, from which they dispensed 'Union Chocolate' in penny packets' matchgirls’. Those present included Bernard Shaw, Tom Mann and Louise Michel (all of whom spoke), Eleanor Marx and the elderly Frederick Engels.
The crowd was so large that 'the South London contingent, led by John Burns, never got in at all, and it turned sadly back without a chance of attending the meeting. In a word, London has never seen such a gigantic turn-out of the forces which create her wealth' (Penny Illustrated Paper, 7 May 1892)

Crystal Palace and Walter Crane

The turn of the new century saw the main May Day event moving to South London at the Crystal Palace. The Palace had been hosting May Day celebrations for many years. In the 1850s, William Husk of the Sacred Harmonic Society had helped recreate a Tudor-style May game there. On May Day 1866 'a great concert of five thousand voices was given by children and others connected with the metropolitan schools... Ethardo [a circus performer] also reappeared, his lofty pole being converted into a gigantic maypole. On the following day Mr Charles Dickens kindly undertook to give a reading of Little Dombey' (PIP 5 May 1866). In 1898 a 'Crystal Palace May Day Festival' had included 'May-Day Sports and Maypole dance' with a programme featuring 'the Clan Johnson, Scottish Dancers and Champion Pipers and an Old English Maypole Dance' as well as a 'Grand May-Day Concert' featuring 'madrigals by the Crystal Palace Choir' (advert in the Times, 1 May 1899).

May Day 1900 was different in tone. The Times reported that 12,000 took part, including 'about 150 associations connected with the Social Democratic Federation and London Trades Council'. Six platforms were set up and the resolutions carried included one asserting 'their determination to overthrow wagedom and capitalism, and to establish by united efforts that international co-operative commonwealth in which all the instruments of industry will be owned and controlled by the organized communities and equal opportunity be given to all to lead healthy, happy human lives' (Times, 2 May 1900).

The event did though include more traditional May Day elements alongside the socialist speeches: ‘There was a procession at half past two, and meetings at 3 o'clock. There were also cycling and athletic sports, a Maypole dance and other attractions. The programme concluded with a display of fireworks by C.T. Brock & Co., including a special set Labour piece by Walter Crane' (South London Press, 5 May 1900). Other attractions of the 'International Labour Festival' included a variety show and a performance of Bernard Shaw's 'Widowers' Houses' (advert in Times, 1 May 1900).

The artist Walter Crane recalled: ‘Labour's May Day, which has become an international festival in the Socialist movement, was this year celebrated at the Crystal Palace, which certainly afforded plenty of space for the gathering, as well as entertainment and refreshment in the intervals of the functions. A vast meeting was held under the dome, and this was addressed by many of the leaders, such as Mr. H. M. Hyndman, Mr. G. N. Barnes, Secretary of the Amalgamated Engineers (and now in Parliament), Mr. Pete Curran, Mr. Ben Tillet, and many others. I made a design for a set piece for the firework display which was carried out on a gigantic scale and with remarkable success by Messrs. Brock. It was a group of four figures, typifying the workers of the world, joining hands, a winged central figure with the cap of Liberty, encircled by the globe, uniting them, and a scroll with the words ‘The Unity of Labour is the Hope of the World’. It was the first time a design of mine had been associated with pyrotechnics. I was rewarded by the hearty cheers of a vast multitude'.

'Labour's May Day' by Walter Crane

The eight hour day was achieved for many workers through strikes in that period, such as the 1889 gas workers strike. So as you enjoy your Monday off work spare a thought for the people who through their efforts brought us shorter working days, weekends and many bank holidays.