Thursday, June 20, 2013

David Shenton: Cartoons of Gay Life and Death

Space Station 65 in Kennington is currently hosting These Foolish Things, an exhibition of works by cartoonist/illustrator David Shenton. Shenton's work has been featured in the UK gay press since the late 1970s,  in publications such as Gay News and Capital Gay, as well  in a range of other papers and magazines from Positive Nation to The Guardian. 

As Graham McKerrow writes: 'Shenton's cartoons are often camp but they're not just camp, and they're not that awful apolitical offensive camp, but a light, knowing, meaningful camp; their first task is to entertain and to make the audience laugh - and often they do much more because the liberation politics that informs his work means that with the laugh there is an acerbic point - a wry observation on how we live or a satirical comment about society and a wider political context, contained in the lives and musings of plausible and likeable characters'.

David Shenton's knitted medals, featuring the lyrics of 'I Will Survive'

On a more sober note there is a series of images commemorating victims of homophobia including this one which highlights some London murders. Gerry Edwards was killed at his home in Page Heath Villas in Bromley in 2009; David Cooper was killed in Calderwood Street, Woolwich in the previous year. Edward Highwood was murdered in Hollymount Close, Greenwich. Ian Baynham (from Beckenham), was beaten to death in Trafalgar Square in 2009 by Joel Alexander (from Thornton Heath) and Ruby Thomas (from Anerley).

Space Station 65, 373 Kennington Road, SE11 

The exhibition continues until 27 July, open Thursday-Saturday 12.00–18.00 (admission free). Next week on 28th June, the artist will be giving a tour and he will also be giving a talk on the final day of the exhibition.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Siouxsie at the South Bank - and Horniman Juju

I wasn't  quite sure what to expect at the Siouxsie gig at the Royal Festival Hall on Monday night. I thought it might be one of those polite 'an audience with...' sit down South Bank affairs, where ageing punks perform interpretations of Jacques Brel and Kurt Weill and labour through the Great American Songbook. But no, as soon as she came on and started with Happy House everyone stood up and stayed up for nearly two hours-  there was actual pogoing upstairs in the stalls and dancing in the aisles. Siouxsie and her band played the whole of the Banshees' Kaleidoscope album and much more, finishing with the great Spellbound as second encore. The gig was part of  Yoko Ono's Meltdown, and Yoko was in the Royal Box, standing and clapping for Siouxsie's version of Dear Prudence (which of course John Lennon wrote).

photo by jamesalternation at Slicing Up Eyeballs

The setlist for those interested was:

1. “Happy House”
2. “Tenant”
3. “Trophy”
4. “Hybrid”
5. “Clockface”
6. “Lunar Camel”
7. “Christine”
8. “Desert Kisses”
9. “Red Light”
10. “Paradise Place”
11. “Skin”
12. “Eve White/Eve Black”
13. “Israel”
14. “Arabian Knights”
15. “Cities in Dust”
16. “Dear Prudence”
17. “Loveless”
18. “Face to Face”
19. “Careless Love”
20. “Here Comes the Day”
21. “Into a Swan”
22. "Spellbound"

(She played the same set on Saturday night without Spellbound as second encore)

Juju and the Horniman Museum

I have been reading 'Siouxsie & The Banshees: the authorised biography' by Mark Paytress (2003). Of course there's lots in the early days about  Chislehurst (where Siouxsie grew up) and the 'Bromley Contingent' from which the band emerged. But there are also a few other interesting connections further into South London. 

The band's original drummer, not counting Sid Vicious for one gig, was Kenny Morris who packed in a course at Camberwell College of Art to play on the band's first two albums. Steve Severin, bassist and co-songwriter, was living with his friend Simon Barker in Bermondsey/Borough during the lead up to the 1980 Kaleidoscope album, and wrote the music for 'Christine' in that Southwark Council flat. But I was most interested to read about the origins of the African image on the cover of the 1981 album Juju (which includes Spellbound and Arabian Nights). According to Severin, 'we saw a definite thread running through the songs, almost a narrative to the album as a whole. The African statue on the cover, which we found in the Horniman Museum in Forest Hill, was the starting point for a lot of the imagery'. Interesting to wonder how many songs, stories, visions and more have been incubated in the Horniman over the years.

Monday, June 17, 2013

London: City of Resurrections and other Machen wisdom

You can never have too many London quotes by Arthur Machen (1863-1947), he had a great appreciation for the mysteries to be found in wandering the streets of the city. Here's a few favourites:

'Villiers had emerged from his restaurant after an excellent dinner of many courses, assisted by an ingratiating little flask of Chianti, and, in that frame of mind which was with him almost chronic, had delayed a moment by the door, peering round in the dimly-lighted street in search of those mysterious incidents and persons with which the streets of London teem in every quarter and every hour.  Villiers prided himself as a practised explorer of such obscure mazes and byways of London life, and in this unprofitable pursuit he displayed an assiduity which was worthy of more serious employment.  Thus he stood by the lamp-post surveying the passers-by with undisguised curiosity, and with that gravity known only to the systematic diner, had just enunciated in his mind the formula:  “London has been called the city of encounters; it is more than that, it is the city of Resurrections" (The Great God Pan, 1894).

'I searched for Mrs. Beaumont in the dark waters of the life of London... assuming, as I had to assume, that her record was not of the cleanest, it would be pretty certain that at some previous time she must have moved in circles not quite so refined as her present ones. If you see mud at the top of a stream, you may be sure that it was once at the bottom. I went to the bottom. I have always been fond of diving into Queer Street for my amusement, and I found my knowledge of that locality and its inhabitants very useful' (The Great God Pan, 1894).

'London in September is hard to leave. Doré could not have designed anything more wonderful and mystic than Oxford Street as I saw it the other evening; the sunset flaming, the blue haze transmuting the plain street into a road 'far in the spiritual city'' (The Shining Pyramid, 1895)

'And it is utterly true that he who cannot find wonder, mystery, awe, the sense of a new world and an undiscovered realm in the places by the Gray's Inn Road will never find those secrets elsewhere, not in the heart of Africa, not in the fabled cities of Tibet. 'The matter of our work is everywhere present', wrote the old alchemists, and that is the truth. All the wonders lie within a stone's throw of King's Cross Station" (Things Near and Far, 1923)

OK I would have preferred 'All the wonders lie within a stone's throw of New Cross station' but the same principle applies!

See also: Arthur Machen: South London 'Behind the Scenes of the Universe'

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Farewell Faircharm

Looks like the final open studios at Faircharm on Deptford Creekside this weekend. Creekside Artists say 'Come and visit our humble home for the last time before the bulldozers move in! Saturday 15th and Sunday 16th June 2013 11am – 6pm'. Not sure when building work is due to start, but the Faircharm trading estate site is to be redeveloped shortly by Workspace plc, displacing around 130 art studios and local businesses. There will be 148 residential units, a mere 21 of them affordable (see Crosswhatfields? for details).

MAS Exhibition

Meanwhile at Number 82, Tanners Hill SE8 there's a 'one night pop up exhibition' on June 20th with people invited to submit work on paper and then exchange works with each other. Further details here: The MAS exhibition is intended to 'explore notions of value, ownership and exchange' in art and is part of the ongoing USED project focused on upcycling, swapping, and reclaiming textiles.

As well as the exhibition there will be a free screenprinting workshop.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Gemini City: stories and songs from Nigel of Bermondsey

Tonight (Thursday) at South East London Folklore Society:

London: Gemini City: Stories and songs from Nigel Of Bermondsey

Join Nigel Of Bermondsey on a musical journey through the streets of this fair capital. You may meet a ghost or two, cross the occasional underground river or encounter a cursed ironclad. There may be scenes of mild terror and the possibility of a duel. Have a drink ready to join in a toast to one of this fine city’s forgotten mystic artists.

8 pm at the Old Kings Head, King's Head Yard, 45-49 Borough High Street, London SE1. £2.50, £1.50 concessions

Nigel, who once played with Gay Dad and also makes dance music as part of Cage & Aviary, is a 'site-specific troubador' who has produced a finely crafted body of song about London, South London in particular.

Nigel of Bermondsey from Superimpose Magazine on Vimeo.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

History Corner: Jessica Mitford in Rotherhithe

The Mitford sisters became notorious in the 1930s and 1940s as aristocratic socialites who pursued widely divergent political paths. Unity and Diana both became Hitler enthusiasts, the latter marrying British Union of Fascists leader Oswald Mosley.

Jessica Mitford (1917-1996) on the other hand ran away to Spain with her boyfriend Esmond Romilly to back the republic against Franco's fascist rebellion. Back in London and married, they ended up in 1937 living at 41 Rotherhithe Street in a large house 'wedged between warehouses' on the river. The house belonged to Roger Roughton (1916-1941), surrealist poet, who also stayed there. Another frequent guest was their friend the writer Philip Toynbee (Polly's dad). They held 'bottle parties... frequented by a motley crowd of journalists, writers, night-club singers, students' and spent a lot of time arguing about the merits of joining the Communist Party (Toynbee and Roughton did).

It's easy to mock the idea of a couple of upper class lefties slumming it in SE London, and indeed there is some condescension in Mitford's account: 'The bus ride from Rotherhithe to more familiar parts of London (Kensington, Hyde Park, Oxford Street) takes well over an hour. It winds past miles and miles of workers’ flats with such incongruous sounding names as Devon Mansions, Cornwall Homes. Five or six storeys high, these gloomy red-brick structures house a shorter and paler race of people than the inhabitants of London's West End. In appearance, dress and speech they form so radical a contrast as to give the impression of a different ethnic group'.

According to a 2002 Southwark Council Rotherhithe history map the former 41 Rotherhithe Street is now on Fulford Street,
the 'sole remaining terraced house from a whole row lining Thames'. So pretty sure this is it - or it could have been one of the now demolished adjoining buildings, where the Londonphile notes John Betjeman, Marlene Dietrich, Lord Snowdon, Princess Margaret and Noel Coward variously hung out!

Nevertheless, despite living in a comfortable house, Mitford and Romilly were largely cut off in disgrace from their family wealth and struggled to get by. To an extent they did share some of the life of local working class people, eating 'fish and chips at the nearest Lyons teashop' and getting involved in the local Labour Party:

'The Bermondsey Labour Party was much more to our liking. At the monthly meetings, held in a shabby hall not far from Rotherhithe Street, vigorous discussions would take place on the important political events of the day. Tired, white-faced dockers and their wives would join in "The Red Flag", a popular Labour Party anthem in that part of London. Fund-raising campaigns for milk for Spanish orphans or for aid to Hitler’s Jewish victims were planned and carried out, often in defiance of the wishes of Transport House [Labour Party national HQ]. If they lacked the glamour and the special, high-flown language of some of our Communist friends, these members of the local Labour Party branch seemed to display a seriousness of purpose and a down-to-earth understanding of issues that quickly won our respect. The Labour Party in that section of London was considerably more militant than the Party's official spokesmen. It was said that the schoolchildren lined up to boo Princess Mary, symbol of hated charity, when she made her infrequent expeditions to the local orphanage.

On May Day the entire community turned out, men, women and children, home-made banners proclaiming slogans of the "United Front against Fascism" waving alongside the official ones. The long march to Hyde Park started early in the morning, contingents of the Labour Party, the Co-ops, the Communist Party, the Independent Labour Party marching through the long day... Everyone took lunch in a paper bag, and there was much good-natured jostling and shouting of orders, and last-minute rounding up of children who had darted away in the crowd. Philip and Roger taught us some new songs to sing on the way- parodies on Communist songs: “Class conscious we are, and class conscious we’ll be, And we'll tread on the necks of the the bourgeoisie !”, "Oh, ’tis my delight, of a dirty night to bomb the bourgeoisie!”, and a sarcastic version of "The People's Flag": "The People's flag is palest pink, It's not as red as you might think."

We had been warned that the Blackshirts might try to disrupt the parade, and sure enough there were groups of them lying in wait at points along the way. Armed with rubber truncheons and knuckle-dusters, they leaped out from behind buildings; there were several brief battles in which the Blackshirts were overwhelmed by the sheer numbers of the Bermondsey men'.

Sadly, they shared another feature of local life - the tragedy of infant mortality. In December 1937, Mitford gave birth to a daughter, Julia: 'She became the centre of my existence. Esmond gleefully watched her grow, learn to smile, learn to wave her feet and catch them with an unsteady hand. We planned her future, growing up among the rough children of Rotherhithe Street, born to freedom and May Day parades, without the irksome restraints of nanny, governess, daily walks and dull dances'. Within six months however the baby had died in a measles epidemic.

Later in 1938 they were forced to move out of Rotherhithe Street when they couldn't afford to pay their electricity bill, and the following year they moved to the United States. During the Second World War  Romilly, who had fought with the International Brigades as a teenager in Spain, joined the Royal Canadian Air Force. He was killed in action in 1941. In the same year, Roughton committed suicide in the midst of despair about the Nazi-Soviet pact. Mitford remained in the United States where she lived a long and fruitful life as a writer and civil rights activist.

Esmond Romilly and Jessica Mitford
Source: Hons and Rebels - Jessica Mitford, 1960

Monday, June 10, 2013

Music Monday: Naresh Sohal

The composer Naresh Sohal  was born in Punjab in 1939 and moved to the UK in the early 1960s.

Sohal was profiled in the Financial Times last week: 'he lives in a modest house in Brockley, southeast London, and draws ideas for his music from cosmology, Sanskrit philo­sophy and the European classical tradition'. The feature included a photograph of him in the garden of his home, where he has lived for the last 18 years.

 The 2013 Proms will feature the premiere of a BBC-commissioned work by Sohal entitled 'The Cosmic Dance'.

The youtube clip below features the soprano Sally Silver and tabla player Sanju Sahai performing Sohal's Gitanjali, a setting of writing by Rabindranath Tagore. Incidentally Silver also lives locally in SE14, in fact sometimes I hear her practicing when I'm walking the dog!

Sunday, June 09, 2013

Back to the Broca (and remembering The Brockley Bean)

The Broca by Brockley station was opened six years ago by Erin and Rob 'inspired by the coffee shops in Western Canada and Berlin' and 'using found objects, second quality equipment, and ethical products'.  At one time I used to be in there several times a week, but changes in work/school/ukulele patterns put an end to that. I was glad to pop in there last week though for the first time since some changes were made earlier in the year. It still has that non-corporate, bohemian feel, the biggest change is that the kitchen/counter area has been moved in to the area that was previously an extension, creating more space for preparing food and drink.

The space hangs together better, in the past it felt a bit like a tiny cafe with a big room stuck on the side. Of course the coffee is still very good, and as I had just run 5k round Hilly Fields I also allowed myself my traditional banana and almond muffin.

The book exchange has returned to just a few shelves, with the tide of old books no longer threatening to overwhelm the space. I love second hand books and picked up some really interesting reads at Broca over the years, as well as adding some into the mix. But one thing I have noticed in watching a few of these take a book/leave a book schemes is that there seems to be an iron law for the quality to diminish over time, so that you end up with a lot of books that nobody wants.

Next step for Broca is a planned alcohol license so that they can open as more of a bar in the evening.

The Broca is at 4 Coulgate Street SE4.

The Brockley Bean

In the 1980s/early 1990s there was a wholefoods co-op at 2 Coulgate Street called The Brockley Bean. I came across a 1993 article from The Independent which describes it as the base for the South East London Permaculture Community, then planning to grow food at Brickhurst Farm, near Pembury in Kent

'Since qualifying as a permaculture designer two and a half years ago, Steve Reaad has been spreading the word around his base in Brockley, south-east London. The local food supply system was set up 18 months ago after eight locals attended an introductory course on permaculture.

Based at the Brockley Bean, a pretty, cottage-like house with balloons painted along the facade and runner beans growing up the walls in summer, the South-East London Permaculture Community provides a monthly supply of wholefood - soya milk, organic flour, rice, cornflakes, muesli, bread, cheese and the like - to its 50 members. It also provides organic fruit and veg from Spitalfields Market. 'The mark-up is only 5 per cent and you're doing your body a favour. It's not so much a business as a proper community,' says Leslie Wills, a member who makes a living recycling clothes into an extraordinary range of patchwork coats and skirts. They plan to grow all the green goods for the community at Brickhurst Farm as well as providing free-range eggs, honey and organic wine from the nearby vineyard' (12 November 1993).   Anyone remember the Brockley Bean or related projects (I think there was also a cycle repair project)?

Thursday, June 06, 2013

Walworth radical history walk

Interesting radical history/geography walk last weekend from 56a InfoShop in Crampton Street,  around the the top end of Walworth Road and the Pullens Estate SE17 courtesy of Past Tense.

How the poor die

One theme was who gets remembered and who get forgotten in the official record, with reference to Orwell's How the Poor Die. We were reminded of Ayikoe Atayi, found dead in 2006 in the cupboard where he had been living in Perronet House SE1 while working as a cleaner sending money back to his famiy in Togo.

Reminded too of Richard O'Brien, a 37 year old father of seven who 'died in April 1994 after being pinned to the ground by three officers who said they were arresting him for being drunk and disorderly... Mr O'Brien's family say that his pleas that he could not breathe were ignored, and alleged that officers shouted anti-Irish abuse at him. Mr O'Brien suffered injuries in 31 areas including 12 cuts to the face and head' (Guardian 14 May 2002)

O'Brien was arrested while waiting for a taxi outside English Martyrs Catholic Social Club and taken to Walworth police station. A jury found that he had been 'unlawfully killed' by the police, but in 1999 three police officers were found not guilty of manslaughter. Nevertheless after being found liable for his death under the Fatal Accidents Act, the police finally paid £324,000 compensation to O'Brien's family in 2002.

Walworth Working Men's Lecture and Reading Rooms

There was also some reflection on the parallels between the 56a InfoShop -  a radical bookshop and archive in the area since 1991 - and an earlier local institution, the Walworth Working Men's Lecture and Reading Rooms in Camden Street. The poster from the 19th century invited people for lectures, discussion meetings, 'all the best of the periodicals' and 'books lent from the library' - all for 'one shilling per quarter'. Though don't think we would want to advertise today 'take your Wife that is, or is to be'!
'Just the place to go when work is over, you can see there all the news of the day'
(not sure of the date of this, though the place was certainly going in 1855)

Tuesday, June 04, 2013

Centenary of Emily Davison's Derby Protest - Blackheath-born Suffragette

One hundred years ago today, on the 4 June 1913, suffragette Emily Wilding Davison was hit by a horse at the Epson Derby. She died in hospital four days later. Emily was a militant campaigner for votes for women as a member of the Women's Social and Political Union, and had endured nine periods of imprisonment and force-feeding while on hunger strike.  At the Derby, Davison ran out and was hit by the king's horse. While she had previously indicated that she was prepared to die for her beliefs, it is not clear that she intended to become a martyr at the Derby. Recent analysis of newsreel film suggests that she may have intended to attach a suffragist banner to the horse when she was hit.

Davison was born in Blackheath at Roxburgh House, Vanbrugh Park Road West on 11th October, 1872.  I am not sure if this house still stands - anybody know?

There's an exhibition on the Suffragette movement in the Greenwich area at the Greenwich Heritage Centre in Woolwich until the end of August. See report at e-shootershill on the 'plot' to blow up Shooters Hill reservoir that never was.

Monday, June 03, 2013

Music Monday: Brockley Ukulele Group at Amersham Arms

Brockley Ukulele Group continue their tradition of fine flyers with this uke-toting clangers image:

They are playing at the Amersham Arms on Sunday June 9th with  their ever expanding repertoire of songs available for you to request in the Sunday night Ukebox. They've got more records than the KGB don't you know?

Sunday, June 02, 2013

Summer Solstice in Telegraph Hill Park 2013

For the third year running, the Summer Solstice will be celebrated in Telegraph Hill Park following a parade around nearby New Cross streets. Last year was great, complete with marching band and plenty of sunshine!

'A revival of an old tradition in SE14, a summer solstice parade between New Cross and Telegraph Hill. A marriage between the Garlick Man (of Plow Garlick Hill) and the Green Woman of New Cross.

A celebration of our diverse community now and its past heritage as a place of food production, orchards and market gardens. Come to play and perform themes about green growth, local food, fertility, pollinating insects, fruit trees etc etc. Musicians, dancers, costume makers, declaimers of words, sharers of food... and all others are welcome. Let us know on this wall what you can do.

There will be drop in sessions beforehand so you can make a parade item:

We'll be making pollinating insects and flowers (on sticks) in the Telegraph Hill community centre on June 15th 12-4.00 pm. Grow Wild will also run seed bomb making, and the Craft Collective will be running a range of craft activities.

New Cross Learning are hosting a making session led by Jess Easter on afternoon of the 19th, inviting children from Childeric school to help make the woman figure and more.

On 21st June, parade meeting points at New Cross Learning (TBC 4.30 ish) and the Telegraph pub (5.00 ish), ending with a picnic on Telegraph Hill. Grow Wild is setting up a field kitchen and providing garlic-inspired vegetarian and vegan food.  Rumour has it that the evening will carry on with a music knees up in the Narthex/Community Centre - watch for more details'

From Delores' slide show

Saturday, June 01, 2013

Gaggle Cave Opens

The Gaggle Cave opened on Thurday night in InSitu, the new art space attached to the Royal Albert on New Cross Road. The Gaggle choir sang a couple of songs outside, and there's lots of stuff happening there over the next few weeks. There's quite a few fee paying workshops; among the free stuff is a talk by Kerrang editor James McMahon on June 9th about the importance of music journalism and on 16th June an event on Feminism for Boys with Hannah Philp.

The Gaggle Cave closes on 21st June.