Sunday, December 28, 2014

Anti-fascists in Walworth Road and Lewisham in the 1930s

A couple of examples of 1930s militant anti-fascism found searching at British Newspaper Archive:

Fascist Offices Attacked in Walworth Road, 1933

'A crowd of 200 men, some of whom asserted they were Communists, attacked the Fascist local head-quarters in Walworth Road, London, SE, today. Stones were thrown, upper windows in the building were broken, and after a pitched battle in the doorway with Fascist defenders the men were scattered by a charge of mounted police' (Sunderland Echo, 27 March 1933)

Fascist Meeting in Lewisham, 1935

'A scene at a Fascist meeting at Ringstead Road, Lewisham, on Saturday night was described at Greenwich Police Court yesterday. Richard Henry Holmes (19), labourer, of Bishops Buildings, Thames Street, Greenwich, and Henry Charles Wallace (24), foundry hand, described as a Blackshirt, of Westerdale Road, East Greenwich, were each fined 20s for insulting behaviour.

Constable Southam said that the meeting was orderly until question time. Then a lot of heckling broke out. The crowd, numbering about 250, began to surge forward. In the centre he saw two men fighting. Wallace, who pleaded guilty, said that he was trying to quell the disturbance when he struck. Seeing Holmes standing behind with his fists raised he lost his temper and hit him' (Western Daily Press, 13 August 1935)

See previously:

South London Anti-Fascists at Olympia, 1934
Fighting Fascists in Peckham, 1937
Fighting Fascists in Deptford Broadway, 1933

Saturday, December 27, 2014

The Korean Wonder Juggler of Ladywell (1889)

Sometimes when you're browsing in the archive for something, you stumble across something else entirely. This advert for 'Draterson Okaro, the Corean Wonder' of '43 Ladywell Park, Lewisham' was published in The Era, 29 June 1889. Only a few lines, and I haven't been able to find anything else about them, but you can't help but feel that there's a whole untold story there of how a self-styled Korean 'Marvellous Equilibrist and Balancer, Stick and Ball Manipulator, Juggler', with 'Splendid Costumes' and 'Two Year Engagement with the Celebrated Japanese Troupe' came to be living in Ladywell.

The Era - Saturday 29 June 1889

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Two Minutes Left

Richard Sanderson of  experimental/improvised music label Linear Obsessional Recordings put out a call recently for tracks for a compilation album with only two rules: 'that the works had to be exactly two minutes long, and that at some point in the recording process a microphone should have been used'.

The outcome is 'Two Minutes Left', a collection of 87 tracks from all over the world, released this week. The tracks, as Richard says, 'are as diverse as it's possible to imagine- from full, immaculately produced studio works to hissy smartphone recordings- and throughout there are things to remind you that you're listening to real people in real places - birdsong, pets, breathing, conversation, and the location recordings run from the electrobabble of a Shanghai cab ride to the near silence of night on the Argentinian Pampas, to the sounds of the pub or a football match. In between are some gloriously recorded musical vignettes by some of the most extraordinary musicians around... it seems to me to be ultimately a celebration of being human, and a celebration of friendship and collaboration'.

'Two Minutes Left' is very much an international collaboration, but it also has its roots in South London, with Richard and the label based in Hither Green, and several of the tracks featuring local sound recordings. Richard's own Hither Green track, recorded in his back garden, is a reminder of the ubiquitous South London aircraft noise as well as capturing bird song. Birds - this time parakeets - also feature in Neil Gordon Orr's '120 Seconds Over Ladywell Fields', based on recordings of running round Ladywell athletics track. A music session in the Ladywell Tavern, with the Mixed Porter band playing Officers' Polka, was recorded by Kayleigh Shepherd on her

There's a recording of Blackheath Morris Men practicing at St Marks Church Hall in Greenwich, and a track from Brockley-based minimalist guitar ensemble the Broca Ensemble.

You can listen/download the whole thing here

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Postman's Park

Postman's Park in the City of London (north of St Paul's Cathedral) is famous for its 'Memorial to Heroic Self Sacrifice', opened in 1900 with plaques commemorating people who died saving the lives of others. I was there recently and spotted several South Londoners:

Alexander Stewart Brown of Brockley, Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons
Though suffering from severe spinal injury the result of a recent accident died from his brave efforts to rescue a drowning man and to restore his life, October 9, 1900
(seemingly he had been injured when thrown from his horse and carriage at junction of Brockley Road and Ivy Road, and then while recovering had rescued a man at Boulogne, only to contract pneumonia and die)

David Selves aged 12
Off Woolwich supported his drowning playfellow and sank with him clasped in his arms.
September 12, 1886
Mrs Yarman wife of George Yarman, Labourer at Bermondsey
Refusing to be deterred from making three attempts to climb a burning staircase to save her aged mother
Died of the effects, March 26, 1900
William Fisher, Aged 9,
Lost his life on Rodney Road Walworth while trying to save his little brother from being run over
July 12, 1886

Richard Farris, Labourer
Was drowned in attempting to save a poor girl who had thrown herself into the canal at Globe Bridge Peckham
May 20, 1878
Leigh Pitt, Reprographic operator
Aged 30, saved a drowning boy from the canal at Thamesmead, but sadly was unable to save himself
June 7, 2007 - the only recent addition to the memorial

The Memorial  is a significant location in Closer (2004), the Mike Nichols film which  stars Julia Roberts, Clive Owen, Jude Law and Natalie Portman.  The latter two visit it, and it's not giving too much away that Portman's character shares a name with one of the women featured - Alice Ayres, who died in Union Street, Borough, SE1 in 1885.

Alice Ayres,  Daughter of a bricklayer's labourer
Who by intrepid conduct saved 3 children from a burning house in Union Street Borough at the cost of her own young life, April 24, 1885

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Brixton Socialist Club at Canterbury Arms (1978)

The Canterbury Arms in Brixton is facing demolition, to be replaced with flats. Its great back room has seen some amazing nights, in particular in recent years the legendary indie pop club How Does it Feel?.

Found in a copy of the Leveller magazine (December 1977?) here's listings for the Brixton Socialist Club at said pub in January/February 1978. Acts performing there included folk singer Leon Rosselson, socialist feminist writer/historian Sheila Rowbotham and 7:84 Band (from the theatre company named from the statistic that 7% of the population owned 84% of the wealth). There was also a benefit for the club at Lambeth Town Hall featuring radical avant-rock band Henry Cow.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Radical posters and stickers in New Cross

I reckon New Cross must be the epicentre of radical postering/stickering in London. Yesterday I noticed this audacious piece of subvertising at the bus stop opposite the Marquis of Granby, in the style of a Metropolitan police ad:

'We've pointlessly targeted cannabis users in Lewisham, while other people legally drink their drugs.
Enforcing Westminster's crime concerns in Lewisham #ACAB'

Other examples I've spotted this year include:

Greek anti-fascist sticker in New Cross House

German antifa/anti-Deutsch sticker by Marquis of Granby


London Antifascists

'Good night Loyalist Pride'

'Stop EDL' and Polish anarchist sticker in Fordham Park

Pogo Cafe
(Hackney vegan cafe, closed last year)

Ishiguro in Sydenham

There was an article in the Guardian last week about the author Kazuo Ishiguro in which he recalled writing his 1989 novel The Remains of the Day (later filmed starring Anthony Hopkins and Emma Thompson) while living in Sydenham.
'I was then 32 years old, and we’d recently moved into a house in Sydenham, south London, where for the first time in my life I had a dedicated study. (I’d written my first two novels at the dining table.) It was actually a kind of large cupboard on the half-landing and lacked a door, but I was thrilled to have a space where I could spread my papers around as I wished and not have to clear them away at the end of each day. I stuck up charts and notes all over the peeling walls and got down to writing...

On my first Sunday off I ventured outdoors, on to Sydenham high street, and persistently giggled – so Lorna told me – at the fact that the street was built on a slope, so that people coming down it were stumbling over themselves, while those going up were panting and staggering effortfully. Lorna was concerned I had another three weeks of this to go, but I explained I was very well, and that the first week had been a success...

I'd consumed a substantial amount of “research”: books by and about British servants, about politics and foreign policy between the wars, many pamphlets and essays from the time, including one by Harold Laski on “The Dangers of Being a Gentleman”. I’d raided the second-hand shelves of the local bookshop (Kirkdale Books, still a thriving independent) for guides to the English countryside from the 1930s and 50s'
'When Ishiguro  first became a public figure he suffered greatly from  stereotyping by critics and reviewers, who.... nicknamed him the "Shogun of Sydenham" (Kazuo Ishiguro by Barry Lewis, Manchester University Press, 2000)

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

New Cross Speedway Programmes

 The New Cross Stadium stood next to the old Millwall FC ground in New Cross on the land now known as Bridgehouse Meadows. As covered here before, it featured greyhound racing, stock car racing  and speedway. Here's a selection of New Cross speedway programme covers




July 1963
The stadium closed in 1969 and was demolished in 1975.

Programmes from the huge collection of speedway memorabilia on sale at ebay by G.Williams Sporting Memorabilia. Click images to enlarge.

Thursday, December 04, 2014

Gramsci Way SE6

There aren't too many streets in London named after Italian communists, but in Bellingham SE6 there is a little slice of Lewisham dedicated to Antonio Gramsci (1891-1937), who died following eight years in jail as a prisoner of Mussolini. Gramsci Way is a cul-de-sac off Randlesdown Road.

I understand that 'Red Rector' Father Paul Butler, now of St Pauls Church in Deptford, was instrumental in getting the road so-named when he was Vicar at St Dunstans in Bellingham - the vicarage of which is in Gramsci Way.

Antonio Gramsci
Any other ideas for Italian communist street names - Malatesta Mansions perhaps, or Bordiga Boulevard?

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

Ian McEwan - 'the boundless shabby tangle of London south of the river'

I enjoyed Ian McEwan's latest novel, The Children Act (2014), continuing his close observations of the life of the higher reaches of the urban middle class. While Saturday (2005) was centred around a neuro-surgeon living in Fitzrovia, this book's central character is a judge living not too far away in Gray's Inn.

If McEwan is a London novelist though, he is certainly a north London one (I believe he lives near to the Post Office Tower). And The Children Act features a terrible diss of South London - whether the character's view reflects the author's perspective, you can judge for yourself:

'She had a north Londoner's ignorance of and disdain for the boundless shabby tangle of London south of the river. Not a Tube stop to give meaning and relation to a wilderness of villages swallowed up long ago, to sad shops, to dodgy garages interspersed with dusty Edwardian houses and brutalist apartment towers, the dedicated lairs of drug gangs. The pavement crowds, adrift in alien concerns, belonged to some other, remote city, not her own. How would she know they were passing through Clapham Junction without the faded jokey sign above a boarded-up electrical store? Why make a life here?'

In defence of Clapham Junction

Obviously this description could just as easily - and probably just as unfairly - be applied to many parts of north London. As for Clapham Junction, I found myself at the station there for the first time in years last week, and thought it was a vibrant convergence point of all the currents of London life on a late Saturday afternoon. There were football fans, wedding parties, shoppers returning from the West End, people heading home from doing sports (I'd been running  cross country). I was up the junction, and it was great.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

A South London Street Art Bestiary

Fox in Burgess Park (New Church Road, SE5)

Kingfisher in East Dulwich (Frogley Road, SE22)

Lemur in Sydenham Road, SE26

The other Lemur in Sydenham Road.

Lion in the car park of the Golden Lion, Sydenham (Daniel Morgan RIP)

Panther off Sydenham Road.

Ram in Sydenham Road (opposte Golden Lion)

Seahorses in Forest Hill (Devonshire Road, SE23)

Squirrel on Bellingham Green SE6

Thursday, November 27, 2014

South London Rosettes

Some great photos of women in early 1980s style sub-cultures by Anita Corbin here, including this one captioned 'Laura and Janet, South London Rosettes, April 1981'. Anyone know more about these mod revival scooterists?

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Marcus Garvey in Borough High Street

A friend told me recently that the great Pan-Africanist Marcus Garvey (1887-1940) once lived in Borough High Street, which sent me scurrying to the library to find out more

According to Colin Grant's biography, 'Negro with a Hat: the rise and fall of Marcus Garvey' (2008), Garvey first came to London from Jamaica in the Spring of 1912 and rented a room at 176 Borough High Street. He immersed himself in London life, starting his public speaking career at Speakers Corner in Hyde Park, and studying in the British Library.  He got casual work on the docks, and then worked for a while for the African Times and Orient Review 'a monthly devoted to the interests of the coloured races of the world'. Garvey traveled round Europe from December 1913, using his sisters address in Stamford Hill (14 Durley Road) for correspondence, before returning briefly to London.

In May 1914, Garvey was staying at the Argosy Hotel, 71 Borough High Street, from where he wrote a letter to the Colonial Office seeking financial help with the cost of returning to Jamaica (the letter is included in 'The Marcus Garvey and Universal Negro Improvement Association Papers', published by the University of California Press, 1983) . He did not receive funding from them, but did return to Jamaica in June 1914.

Garvey lived in London again in the 1930s. In 1936, when Ethopian monarch Haile Selassie arrived in London following the Italian invasion of Ethiopia, Garvey and others went to meet him at Waterloo Station, though they were ignored - Garvey later denounced Selassie as a 'feudal monarch who looks down upon his slaves and serfs with contempt'. In 1940 he died in his home at 53 Talgarth Road, Hammersmith

I believe 176 Borough High Street was on the site of what later became Brandon House, the Overseas Visitor Records Office - a leftover of the colonial system which Garvey fought against. The Argosy Hotel at 71 Borough High Street seems to have been on the site of the Lloyds Bank building next to the George Inn.

Borough High Street 1908 - the rooms above the Argosy Restaurant at no.71
was presumably where Garvey stayed in May 1914

Friday, November 21, 2014

Deptford Dub Club back at the Duke

Deptford Dub Club is back at the Duke tomorrow night,  offering a free night of reggae, rocksteady and ska. Steve Wax reports:

'On Saturday 22nd November we’re re-convening The Deptford Dub Club at the Duke. From 7.30 to 12.30 we’ll be playin’ the best in foundation Jamaican roots music from Ska through to the present.

Our special guest selectors for this session are David Katz and Dub Plate Pearl. David is an acclaimed author and broadcaster on all things reggaematic and a wicked selector. Pearl is also an a great selector, well known on the circuit, who’ll be sure to rock the house. Not forgetting yours truly; I probably need no introduction for Soft Wax regulars and will be delving deep into my musical dub basket for this edition of The Deptford Dub Club.

Our MC for the evening will be rising star Sun I Tafari. Sun I has already graced the stage at the annual Brockwell Park Reggae Festival. This young lion has released a number of acclaimed records and has a fresh LP due; check him on He’ll be joined by Eli Love. Also live on the mic, we’re warmly welcoming back Jaz on Reeds.

There’ll be a vintage record stall for your continued listening pleasure. Expect the usual simultaneously up for it, yet chilled vibe. Deptford Dub Club is now on Facebook too.  where you can check last months blazing session'

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Lewisham McDeez

Lewisham McDonalds gets its dues at last in this grime track from Novelist - 'I wanna sit down with my fillet-o-fish bruv'

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Focus E15 Mother Benefit at Montague Arms

This Saturday 22nd November there's an all day benefit for the Focus E15 Mothers campaign, who have been fighting in East London to retain social housing. Lots of great punk rock/riot grrrlish musical action, plus cakes, zines, stalls and a raffle.


The Dykeness - 'feminist comedy cock rock band'
Skinny Girl Diet - 'Fierce grrrl gang from London'
Rabies Babies - 'The funnest, angriest punk band of East London'
Colour Me Wednesday -'four piece DIY punk/indie pop band based in West London'
Joykiller  - 'Punk rock from Norwich. Formed from local bands Compact Pussycat, PMT and Driving Holden/Arcadia Lake'
Petrol Girls - 'Local favourites playing melodic hardcore infused with feminist rage'
Beverley Kills - 'Riotous femmepunkrockahula!' 
Depresstival - antifolk from Lottie Bowater
Werecats- 'Bubblegum party punk'

Stalls House of Astbury - 'reflective clothing for women urban cyclists'; Love Sex Hate Sexism; South London Anti-Fascists.

Saturday 22nd November, The Montague Arms, Queens Road SE15, 3 pm – 1 am. Tickets £6 advance (£8 on the door)  from 

Monday, November 17, 2014

Music Monday: Charly Records and New Cross Records

I've got a few great 1960/70s soul compilations issued on Charly Records in the 1980s. Looking at the back of one of them, Stan's Soul Shop (released in 1982), I noticed that the label was based at the time  at 156-166 Ilderton Road SE15.

Charly is a label dedicated to reissuing classic old music, starting out in the 1970s putting out early rock'n'roll from Sun Records. Not sure when they moved from Ilderton Road, last reference I have to them there is on 1993 Howlin' Wolf album

Also based at the same address in the 1980s/early 1990s, and linked to Charly, was reggae label New Cross Records. They put out albums by the likes of Dillinger and Prince Jammy, and a couple of compilations of Black Music in Britain in the Early Fifites

From the latter, here's Lord Beginner's calypso observations of the 1950 General Election in Britain:

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Two Book Sales

A sign of a good secondhand booksale is when you come home with as many books as you can carry but still finding yourself thinking about a book that  you wish you had bought. In my case that would be a nice hardback edition of 'Giordano Bruno and the Hermetic Tradition' by Frances Yates which I once left behind at the Amnesty International booksale in Blackheath. Never mind they've got another one coming up next week:

Amnesty Book Clearance Sale, 10am-4pm Saturday 22 November
Church of the Ascension, Dartmouth Row, London SE10 8BF (10 minutes walk up Lewisham Hill from Lewisham National Rail and DLR Station).

'Simon Ware, Vice Chair of Amnesty's Blackheath and Greenwich Group , said :“The local group has collected thousands of books from a variety of sources, including publishers and book reviewers as well as individual donors. The quality of books – many of which are brand new – is exceptionally high, and there will be plenty of bargains to be found, from second-hand paperbacks to review copies of recently-published novels.”  The group’s book sales, now in their 40th year, are established as Amnesty International’s most successful local fundraising event in the UK, raising more than £275,000 over the years. They are a much loved event for many in the local area and often there is a queue of people waiting to get into the event when the doors open'

Meanwhile New Cross Learning are having a Big Book Sale tomorrow from 2 to 5 pm. They promise: 'Thousands of books from 30p! Second hand, vintage, antique and new. Also CDs and DVDs. Come to NXL on Sunday 16th November and go home richer'. At 282 New Cross Road.

Friday, November 14, 2014

'Partisanship' & 'Unsportsmanlike action' - Dulwich Hamlet supporters, 1903

With their stickers, radical fan contingent and even Transpontine banner, Dulwich Hamlet's supporters have been getting quite a reputation - featured recently in the Independent as the Rabble vanguard of the rise in non-league football support: 'Far, far away from the £2,000 season tickets, the officious stewarding, and the airline-stadium sponsorship of the Premier League, a football revolution is underway.In this otherworld, supporters can buy a craft ale and drink it standing behind the goal. Here is a place where crowd segregation is unnecessary and where fans, quite of their own volition, take up banners calling for an end to racism and homophobia in football and display them from the stadium walls'

More than a hundred years ago, the team's supporters already had a fearsome reputation, judging by this article in the South London Press, 7 February 1903:

'Perhaps without unduly prolonging an unsavoury subject, I may be permiited to quote from one letter sent me this week from a Hamlet supporter, judging by the gist of his remarks. He writes:  "... I have only watched them (Dulwich Hamlet) a few times this season, my chief reason for absenting myself being their strong weakness for fouling and the unsportsmanlike action of their supporters. The latter show far too much partisanship, and rarely give the opponents the slightest credit for good work. This kind of thing does the club concerned a lot of harm. Once get a strong and determined referee who will not put up with the insulting remarks made to him so often on this ground, but report the matter, and the ground will be closed... The Dulwich Hamlet are undoubtedly a fine team, but their reputation is likely to be tarnished unless the players mend their ways and the spectators behave like English sportsmen".

I believe the behaviour of certain sections of the Champion Hill crowd has already engaged the serious attention of the club committee... A few summary ejectments by the police and severe measures by the referees would quickly kill this pest that often brings humiliation and disgrace to a club morally, but not legally, to blame in this matter'.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Of River Crossings and eco-magic in Oxleas Wood

New roads crossing the river Thames, by bridge or tunnel, are back on the agenda nearly twenty years after the Government's major road building programme of the 1990s fizzled out amidst sustained opposition to its environmental impact. In South East London, the most advanced plan is for the Silvertown tunnel from the Greenwich peninsula to the Royal Docks across the river. Opponents of the Silvertown scheme argue that this would 'actually make congestion worse, not better, as building new roads attracts new traffic. With extra congestion comes extra pollution... Already, the A102 and A2 can’t cope with the volume of traffic from the existing southbound Blackwall Tunnel, with queues through Eltham, Kidbrooke, Blackheath, Charlton and Greenwich'. Meanwhile Greenwich Council is advocating a new road bridge at Gallions Reach to replace the Woolwich ferry.

Back in 1993, plans for an East London River Crossing were abandoned. The scheme would have involved building a new road through Oxleas Wood and it was this in particular that galvanised the movement against it, spearheaded by 'People Against the River Crossing'. A wide range of tactics were used including lobbying, legal action - the 'Oxleas Nine' who appealed against compulsory purchase orders - and the threat of direct action, with thousands pledging to block any attempts to bulldoze a road through the trees.

Oxleas campaigners including David Bellamy outside the High Court
An unusual added element was the use of 'eco-magic' by pagans and occultists as part of the movement, with Oxleas provided the main initial focus for the new Dragon Environmental Network. A newspaper report described one of their gatherings to oppose the road:

'There is magic in the air at Oxleas Wood in Eltham, south-east London. More than 70 people are dancing in circles, banging drums and singing to the pagan goddess Freya. 'Ancient mother, I taste your tears,' they chant. Then the circles pick up speed and move closer before the dancers collapse on to the meadow grass, ready for meditation.These are the people of Dragon, a pagan group that brings together witches, Odinists, druids, magicians and the many other elements of the neo-pagan revival now taking place in Britain...

They assemble at a boarded-up cafe on top of a hill overlooking Oxleas Meadow; a high-spirited, straggling group of men, women, children and the inevitable dogs.A few crusties with army greens and muddy boots mingle with grannies in bobble hats, young mothers with pushchairs, youngsters with names such as Cherokee, and a core of slightly intense, baggy jumpered people in their thirties. Some have drums, one man has brought an electric guitar with portable speakers, one woman has a flute' ('If you go down to the wood today: In the moonlight, witches and druids throw a magic ring around a piece of south-east London', Independent, 27 May 1993). Among other things, 'To protect Oxleas, London Dragon buried talismans in the wood.We each spent a lunar month preparing our talisman in our own way. They were then buried together during a ritual' (The Dragon Guide to Campaigning Ecomagic)

Did the spirit of W.B. Yeats help save Oxleas Wood?!

There's an interesting participant's account of all this at View from the Big Hills blog, which recalls that the Fellowship of Isis also became involved via a circuitous route. FOI founder Olivia Robertson believed that she received a message via a spirit medium from the poet W.B. Yeats which prompted her to undertake a number of rituals to protect Oxleas Wood.  Yeats was, incidentally, among other things an occultist with sometime South London connections. Caroline Wise likewise recalls that with another member of the FOI  she  'ritually placed [notices] on trees at the four quarters of the woods, with a spoken proclamation. The notices said that the Noble Order of Tara would not allow the destruction of the wood and that its guardians duly protected the wood.  We posted these at the entrance gates to the wood form the road at Shooter’s Hill as well'.

Did all of this have any effect? If nothing else it all added a colourful angle to the campaign and helped generate some publicity. As Adrian from Dragon said at the time 'All you can say is that if Oxleas Wood is saved, we hope we will have contributed. We would never claim it was our spells that did it, but it's important that people involved with magic are putting their spirituality behind the campaign'. It's not necessary to believe in supernatural forces to see that spending time in the wood communing with trees probably strengthened the emotional connection of those involved to the place, and this in turn inspired their wider activism. Some of the people involved in the eco-magic side of things were also the most active in the mundane but essential work of community organising and awareness raising.

No doubt if a new generation of road protestors emerges they will find much to inspire them in the movements of the 1990s, including the successful one to save Oxleas Wood. Whether magic in the moonlight forms part of their tactical armoury, we shall see.

The proposed route of East London River Crossing and related roads
(from E-Shooters Hill)