Thursday, February 27, 2014

White Panther Party 1972 - 'hassled by the pigs' in Abbey Wood and beyond

The White Panther Party was a radical and anti-racist organisation originally established in the Detroit area in 1968 with the aim of bringing together white radicals to act alongside the Black Panther Party. It had its roots in the counter-culture, with one of its founders being John Sinclair - manager of the proto-punk band the MC5. Its ten point programme declared:

  1. Full endorsement and support of the Black Panther Party's 10-point program and platform.
  2. Total assault on the culture by any means necessary, including rock and roll, dope, and fucking in the streets.
  3. Free exchange of energy and materials—we demand the end of money!
  4. Free food, clothes, housing, dope, music, bodies, medical care—everything free for every body!
  5. Free access to information media—free the technology from the greed creeps!
  6. Free time & space for all humans—dissolve all unnatural boundaries!
  7. Free all schools and all structures from corporate rule—turn the buildings over to the people at once!
  8. Free all prisoners everywhere—they are our comrades!
  9. Free all soldiers at once—no more conscripted armies!
  10. Free the people from their phony "leaders"—everyone must be a leader—freedom means free every one! All Power to the People!'

Inspired by this example, Mick Farren and others established The White Panther Party UK. Some of its exploits were featured in the International Times, now available in a great online archive. Interestingly, its 'Central Co-ordination Chapter' was based in Abbey Wood, with the address given as 1 Conference Road, SE2. As well as the Abbey Wood chapter (which later became the Greenwich chapter), there were South London groups in Croydon and Bromley

In March 1972, they staged a protest in Woolwich, as reported in IT (24 March 1972): 'On Saturday 11 March approximately 40 members of the White Panther Party- from Abbey Wood, Ilford, West London and Croydon and Bromley Chapters - took to the streets of Woolwich in SE London. The reason was to protest about the distortion and lies that appear in a local paper, the Kentish Independent. Incidents of the day were the surrounding of a police car by angry Panthers, forcing the pig to freak and drive away at high speed, and a visit to the local police station by brothers and sisters where all were ejected by the pigs within five minutes. During the rest of the afternoon the Panthers were followed by plain-clothes pigs.Copies of a handbill distributed on the day—"This paper is an enemy of
the people"—are-available from Abbey Wood Chapter, White Panther Party'

The Abbey Wood group was involved in squatting and ran a food programme, activities that seem to have led plenty of conflict with the police. IT reported on 6 April 1972:

'One of the main functions of the Party is to awaken the people and to teach them strategic methods of resisting the power structure, this has caused Party members/Chapters to come into conflict with the pigs, the principle confrontations being in Glasgow and Abbey Wood (South East London). In Glasgow the Panthers have been hassled by the pigs continuously, mainly due to the effectiveness of their legal-aid programme, which brought legal-aid to the kids on the streets. (Glasgow CID have the Party's 10-Point Programme on their office wall). In Abbey Wood most of the confrontation occurred during a series of squats last year, where on a number of occasions brothers and sisters were violently assaulted and threatened by the pigs. The Party has also done a good deal of community work—trying to provide viable alternatives to the present pig system. Chapters have.their own local programmes: in West London, Abbey Wood and (soon) Glasgow, free food programmes operate; Glasgow Panthers have many of the street gangs as members and they recently got a rent strike together in Easterhouse; most Chapters have as part of their local programmes, drug education- pro life drugs like marijuana, hashish, peyote, pure LSD and mescalin, and anti death drugs like phony THC, downers, speed and smack that threaten our nation like a plague'.

A report by John Carding in International Times, issue 142, 17 November 1972, gave further details: 'The White Panther Party is committed individually and organisationally to the struggle of ALL people for liberation and self-determination, by any means necessary, and is prepared to accept whatever consequences that commitment brings… The main thing to be said is that essentially the Party is composed of freaks off the street like anybody else in the community, without any experience of political work except that gained from plunging ahead the best way possible...

Greenwich Branch (ex-Abbey Wood). Weekly free food programme is still operating after two year. Members are involved in local community TV station, Cablevision, and in the formation of a 24 hour Advice Centre in the near future. Croydon and Bromley Branch: Involved mainly with squatting activity at the moment, which has broght them into conflict with the local pigs. All of the London Branches have been participating in the formation of a self-defence programme'.

Would love to hear from anybody who has any memories or further information about this. 'The Saga of Hawkwind' by Carol Clerk mentions that Hawkwind played benefits for the White Panthers and describes Blackheath Foot'nDeath Men (forerunners of today's Blackheath Morris Men) as a 'linked organisation'. They started out at Goldsmiths, so may be a New Cross connection too. Tell us more..

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

New Cross Fire Memorial in Fordham Park

In Fordham Park, New Cross (Childeric Road end), there's a memorial to the victims of the 1981 New Cross Fire, with a bench set opposite it for people to sit and contemplate the memorial.

The memorial stone was installed in 2012 and lists the 14 young people who died as a result of the terrible fire on 18th January 1981 in New Cross Road. Fordham Park was where thousands of people gathered in March 1981 to head into central London on the Black People's Day of Action in response to the fire.

For more on the New Cross Fire see previous posts:

Monday, February 24, 2014

Derek Jarman on the South Bank

Twenty years last week (19th February) since the death from AIDS of Derek Jarman (1942-1994), film-maker, artist, writer, gardener and queer activist  There wasn't too much to mark the tenth anniversary of his passing, but back in 2004 me and some friends lit some candles and left flowers at Butlers Wharf SE1 where he once lived. Ten years later, there's a whole Jarman2014 season with events at the British Film Institute, Somerset House and elsewhere.

On Friday February 28th, Deptford Film Club is having a special showing of Jarman's 1991 film Edward II at St Nicholas Church in Deptford. A very special location, at the film is an adaption of Christopher Marlowe's play and the playwright is buried in an unmarked grave in the churchyard there, having been killed in Deptford in 1593. The film showing marks his 450th birthday, as he was born in February 1564. Further details at Deptford Film Club who say:

'Before the film starts, there’s radical 16th century pop from Deptford violinist Daniel Merrill, plus plenty wine and spirits. And we’ll be joined by Jody Graber, the child actor who played King Edward’s son, who will end the evening with a short Q&A. Based on Marlowe’s dramatisation of a true story. When King Edward II takes a male lover, Piers Gaveston, both his wife (Tilda Swinton) and palace officials are enraged – and plot to violently dethrone the king and dispatch Gaveston. Adapted by the radical British filmmaker Derek Jarman, the film contrasts the lavish 16th century text and setting with modern imagery of gay activists, riot police, yuppies and an unforgettable cameo from Annie Lennox'.

Jarman on the South Bank/Bankside

Jarman lived for most of the 1970s on the south bank of the River Thames, much of it then semi-derelict.  He had his first taste of riverside living in 1968 in  a house on the South Bank awaiting demolition, where he shared studio space with Peter Logan and the painter Tony Fry. Shortly afterwards he moved to a warehouse at 51 Upper Ground, near the corner of Blackfriars Road, a place that was to become 'a Mecca for London's avant-garde' with its parties thrown by Jarman with Peter and Andrew Logan. Guests at the farewell party in the summer of 1970 included Tennessee Williams and 'Ossie Clark, dispensing joints on the stairs'. Shortly afterwards the building was demolished to make way for the IPC Tower.

Next stop was 13 Bankside on the top floor of a riverside warehouse alongside Southwark Bridge. To cope with  the cold in the warehouse, Jarman famously set up a greenhouse for his bedroom. Bankside too became famous for parties, and for film showings as Jarman began experimenting with Super 8. In summer 1972, Jarman had to move again to make way for another demolition, filming a final walk of the area called 'One Last  Walk One Last Look'.

Jarman in Bankside studio
The following year, Jarman moved to a new home/studio in a semi-derelict warehouse at Butler's Wharf, next to Tower Bridge. Jarman lived on the third floor of Block A1, with neighbours including Andrew and Peter Logan. On the waste ground next door Jarman filmed the ritualistic fire scenes for 'In the Shadow of the Sun', with a fire maze, candles and flashing mirrors. The finished film was finally released in 1981 with a soundtrack from Throbbing Gristle. 'Jubilee' was also filmed locally in Southwark and Rotherhithe, and at the former dockside in Deptford where Jordan was filmed dancing round a fire including a burning Union Jack.

Parties at Butlers Wharf included the 1975 Alternative Miss World, which Jarman took part in as 'Miss Crepe Suzette' and one in 1978 when Adam and the Ants played. Jarman moved out in 1979. Revisiting the area in 1991, Jarman noted 'The money has gilded the heart of it... everything else is scrubbed all the fun vanished'.

Source for most of the above: 'Derek Jarman - A Biography' by Tony Peake

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Tensions rise as Deptford secessionists launch petition

With the world's media focused on the crisis in Ukraine and the possibility of regions breaking away, a secessionist threat closer to home has so far gone largely unnoticed, except in the pages of the Newshopper and local blogs. Some settlers in the far East of Deptford are attempting to break up the integrity of the historic area by declaring that they do in fact live in Greenwich! They've even launched a petition to have their postcode changed from SE8 (Deptford) to SE10 (Greenwich). They say:

'The border between Deptford and Greenwich runs along Watergate street (crossing Creek Road). The border of the SE8/SE10 postcode runs along Deptford Creek. Citizens in this area are consistently effected by late / missing deliveries, higher insurance premiums etc. We all pay a higher rate of Council Tax to Greenwich, yet we are treated by the world as Deptford because of the power of the postcode. In addition to this our property prices are held at artificially low levels due to this confusion'.

This statue on the Peter the Great monument at Millennium Quay
was making its feelings clear today, wearing a 'Welcome to Deptford SE8' placard.
I must admit I thought with its reference to 'property prices' this was actually a satire on estate agents' hype, especially when I read the comment by somebody in the Newshopper that "Everything about the area is Greenwich, except the post code." I was going to write a long withering critique of this absurdity, but luckily 853 blog has saved me the time and done so there. The short version is that for historical reasons Deptford has been split for over a hundred years between being administered by two Councils - now Lewisham Council and Greenwich Council. The complainants presumably live in the Greenwich Council-adminstered side, but that no more means that they live 'in Greenwich' than people who live in Plumstead, Eltham or Woolwich - which are also within the so-called Royal Borough of Greenwich.

Deptford militia prepare to repel Greenwich incursion

The boundary between Greenwich and Deptford is Deptford Creek (the clue's in the name) and despite the efforts of estate agents to suggest otherwise, developments like Millennium Quay on the west side of the Creek are firmly in Deptford FULL STOP. That estate is actually on the site of the old Deptford Power Station, and other bits of Deptford in the Greenwich Council area include Deptford Green and the ancient parish church of St Nicholas Church, Deptford. I don't see them being renamed anytime soon. 

A far more obvious solution to avoid future confusion would be to redraw the borough boundaries so that Greenwich Council's area finishes at Deptford Creek. As 853 shows, this was what was originally proposed last time boundaries were reviewed in the 1990s. The reason it didn't go ahead was that Greenwich wanted all of Blackheath, so as a compromise Lewisham and Greenwich Councils split both Blackheath and Deptford between them - in both cases with little or no regard to the coherence of these areas.

Update Sunday 23 February: easy as it is to knock the people behind this ill-considered petition, the real villains are arguably developers Telford Homes who have been marketing their development on Copperas Street SE8 (next to the Laban) as 'Greenwich Creekside'. The website repeatedly refers to Greenwich rather than Deptford, saying for instance 'Greenwich is one of South London's most fascinating and vibrant districts. Our Greenwich properties lie just minutes from some of the city's most significant historical buildings - and you don't just have to take our word for that, as UNESCO has listed Maritime Greenwich as an official World Heritage Site due to the historical importance of the area'. It seems that the petition was started by people living there, rather than Millennium Quay. The same facts apply - whatever the developer might say this side of Deptford Creek is Deptford. Where does the Laban Centre think it is? Its website gives its address as 'Creekside, Deptford, SE8'. Correct.

Telford Homes website advertises Greenwich Creekside development - yes, its in the London Borough of Greenwich
but it is also very definitely in Deptford SE8
A little more on the Peter the Great statue...

I used to share the disdain some local people have for the  Peter the Great statue, but have changed my mind after reading an appreciation at Doilum blog and realizing that it is supposed to be subversively absurd:

'into this came Mihail Chemiakin, a Russian sculptor relatively unknown inside the UK, to jolly up this vapid development with a statue of Peter the Great. Peter the Great lived by the dockyard for four months as a young man in the seventeenth century at the home of the writer John Evelyn, where he studied shipbuilding and other new technologies coming out of England at the time.

The resulting work, unveiled in 2001, is a bizarre and ugly piece of art. There are three separate pieces on the municipal plinth: an empty throne to the right, a fat, squat dwarf to the left, and in the centre Peter the Great himself, his booming chest comical in juxtaposition to a tiny, disproportioned head. This sculpture does not flatter its subject matter - it holds it in contempt.

Chemiakin was a dissident artist in Soviet Russia and was exiled to the United States in 1971. Upon Russia's return to artisitic freedom Chemiakin went back to his homeland, and apparently his comical, disrespectful effigies of public figures are everywhere. He expresses a very Russian attitude to authority that sneers at, debases and takes the piss out of those that have repeatedly driven his country to despair. There is no measured critique in the Deptford statue of Peter the Great; instead an off-hand disdain that makes a laughing stock of its subject. Its main point that the everyday passer-by feels superior to the silly figures that stand above them. It is informed by a Russian sense of humour that celebrates the collective, downtrodden self against authority'.

We live in cities you always see on screen: Medicating Lewisham

Yet another South London NHS reality TV show coming up. Hot on the heels of last year's 24 Hours in A&E (filmed at Kings in Camberwell) and Bedlam (filmed opposite it at the Maudsley), Channel 5 'have announced The Surgery: Medicating Lewisham, a series which will take us to the heart of the doctors’ surgery. By fitting a fixed camera rig to the consulting rooms of a local surgery in Lewisham we are given exclusive access to some of the 500+ patients who pass through St John's Medical Centre every day'.

Programme-makers Knickerbockerglory have been filming at the Centre on Loampit Vale SE13 for a four part documentary to be broadcast in the Spring.

Friday, February 21, 2014

The Brits in Greenwich - time to rename the 02?

This week's BRIT music awards took place on the Greenwich peninsula, with Beyonce, Prince, Lorde, Katy Perry, Pharrell Williams, Nile Rodgers,the Arctic Monkeys and many others appearing on stage as performers and/or givers and receivers of awards. But you would never have got a sense that, like Leonard Cohen, Jay Z, Kanye West and Bruce Springsteen before them, these world-renowned singers and musicians were actually in a corner of South East London, a place once of marshland and riverside industries. Instead we were just told we were in 'the O2 Arena' or plain 'O2'

Corporate sponsorship of music venues is now not uncommon. Brixton Academy for instance has been successively branded as the Carling Brixton Academy and now the O2 Brixton Academy. But it has still very much maintained its identity, and is generally referred to by most people as just the Brixton Academy. With the Greenwich arena, O2 have gone a stage further so that the name of the venue is identical to the name of the sponsor. All traces of locality and place have been erased entirely. This seems to be a very deliberate strategy - in Dublin docklands the venue now on the site of the redeveloped Point Theatre is now named 'the O2', while in Berlin Friedrichshain there is the 'O2 World' arena.

The French anthropologist Marc Augé coined the term 'non-places of supermodernity' to describe spaces such as airports, motorways, supermarkets and leisure arenas. They are are 'non-places' in the sense that they appear to exist without reference to history or identity - functional spaces dedicated to the circulation of bodies for a single, prescribed purpose, they are anonymous to the extent that one airport, motorway or indeed O2 arena feels much the same as any other anywhere in the world.

None of these venues is owned or even run by O2. Greenwich and Berlin are both run by Anschutz Entertainment Group, the US-based sports and entertainment giant, while Dublin is run by its main global competitor, Live Nation. What O2 has done is to purchase the 'naming rights' to these venues.

The name 'O2' is itself a brand - the telecommunications company originally established by BT was bought out by the Spanish telecommunications company Telefónica in 2005. Paradoxically, its association with music venues has been so successful that it has arguably erased its own identity. I think a lot of people, when they hear the name 'O2', now think of music venues rather than phones (I do certainly).

I suspect that people will be making and performing music at the Greenwich peninsula site long after it has ceased to be called the 'O2' and probably long after 'O2' ceases to exist. So whatever the official name, lets start calling it a name that has some reference to its place in the world, at least the 'Greenwich O2' or maybe 'the Greenwich Dome' as some people do still refer to it. A small step to reclaiming it as a place rather than a 'non-place'.

Pharrell in Woolwich

The TV screening of the BRITS  featured short clips of fans being surprized in their daily life by their idols, including Pharrell Williams popping into a children's dance session. As reported in the Newsshopper, this took place  earlier this month at a Theatrebugs class at the Clockhouse Community Centre in Woolwich, where Pharrell fan Queen Allen was running a session.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Political Graffiti - 'Save our NHS' and 'Homes for the People'

Some recent political graffiti spotted round and about.

'Homes for the people not profiteers'
Next to the site entrance for the controversial proposed Convoys Wharf development 
on the Deptford riverfront (opposite the Dog & Bell on Prince Street, SE8):

'Save Lewisham Hospital from SERCO - Scrap PFI, put People Before Profit'
on hoardings around building site where once the Maypole pub stood in Endwell Road, Brockley

'Save our NHS'
on corner of Worsley Bridge Road SE26  and Station Approach (to Lower Sydenham Station)
In the background you can see the 1930s Dylon factory, facing demolition (as discussed at Sydenham Town):

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

London's Linguistic Wealth - a new world taking shape?

Multi-lingual wood carving in Fordham Park, New Cross
'One of the most complex, unique and fascinating aspects of London is its linguistic landscape. Its streets are rich with evidence that London is inhabited by people who speak and read many languages. Multi-lingual cacophony fills the air in all public places. Newsagents throughout London display an impressive range of of publications in a variety of scripts used by European and world languages. Business signs, service information, and adverts presented bilingually are a regular feature of the London scene'

There are many different forms of English itself in the city - Whistle and Flute dry cleaners (144 New Cross Road) derives its name of course from cockney rhyming slang for suit. Elsewhere there are signs reflecting African and Caribbean dialects of English.
Smokey Jerkey, New Cross Road

'The linguistic potential of London is a significant resource. Conditions need to be provided for future generations to develop attitudes that will enable them to make this potential beneficial to the city as a whole. Today nobody is truly monolingual. We are all exposed to different languages in education; on holidays; through film, media, music; we  use computer languages; we are exposed to signs and print in different languages on an everyday basis... The way London has embraced its cultural diversity inspires the thought that it cannot be too long before London also wakes up to the potential of its linguistic wealth'
( Dina Mehmedbegovic, '"Miss, who needs the languages of immigrants?" London's multilingual schools' in 'Education in a Global City: Essays from London', edited by Tim Brighouse and Leisha Fullick, London: Institute of Education, 2007)

Hong Kong City Chinese Restaurant, New Cross Road

Can Tho Vietnamese cafe, Old Kent Road

Kagyu Samye Dzong Tibetan Buddhist Centre, Spa Road SE16

For me 'linguistic wealth' isn't about turning this potential into economic value, but a social wealth that is freely available to everyone. Once you start to to pay attention to the range of scripts and languages in the city streets, let alone the different languages you hear being spoken, you are constantly struck by it. Children growing up in London are made aware from an early age of the range of symbols humans use to communicate, they may not be able to read all these scripts but they recognsise them as forms of language and in doing so they gain an understanding of how languages work, including their own main language. 

Polish biscuits and Jewish memorial candles (with Hebrew characters on box) in New Cross Sainsburys

In a world city like London, all parts of the world are represented in the city, and all its tongues are spoken. In Lewisham schools alone, pupils speak more than 170 languages (2012 figures). Is it utopian to see this multi-lingual metropolis as prefiguring a different kind of world human community, where all these languages and their speakers can coexist and intermingle in relative peace? Where these cultures and languages are not hermetically sealed entities but also through their proximity give birth to new forms of culture and language like 'Multicultural London English'? 

Maybe the future of the world is taking shape right now in New Cross Road, Rye Lane and Deptford High Street, and in the playgrounds of local schools.

Gracias - a Spanish name for 'English & Afro Caribbean Groceries' in New Cross Road
(formerly the Washline launderette)
Distribution of Chinese speakers in Lewisham schools 2012 - including Cantonese, Mandarin, Hokkien and other forms. 'Chinese-speaking children in Lewisham are heavily concentrated in North Lewisham, especially the East of Evelyn and New Cross, and in Lewisham Central wards'. Similar maps for other languages at Lewisham Joint Strategic Needs Assessment..

Monday, February 17, 2014

Music Monday: New Music Cities- South London

'New Music Cities - South London' is a nice short film directed by Jamie Jessett featuring local musical luminaries singing the praises of the Southlands. There's street scenes from Brixton and Peckham (by the library), and the green hill looking over London at the start is Nunhead Reservoir - next to the cemetery. Featured artists include Mount Kimbie, Kwes, Katy B (recalling bashment parties in Peckham and nights at Croydub) and Mirachu & Tirzah . Best quote is the opening one from Roots Manuva, who says:

'If I could duplicate the sound of South London it would sound like Irish music on top of Nigerian music on top of reggae on top of Gospel, cars with too loud sound systems going past, people speaking Urdu, Nigerian, Cockney, everything all going off at the same time'.

New Music Cities I South London from AllSaints on Vimeo.

Sunday, February 16, 2014


After all the dreadful weather of last couple of weeks, today has been a perfect sunny spring day. I saw a kingfisher (my favourite bird) while running along the Pool River in lower Sydenham, and lots of spring flowers in bloom in the churchyard of St George's in Beckenham.

The blossom is also out on the Japanese cherry trees - this one in Gellatly Road SE14:

Saturday, February 15, 2014

A violent storm in London, 1834

'On Tuesday last, the Metropolis was visited with a violent storm of wind and rain, which did considerable damage, principally in the suburbs. On the Thames, numerous tiers of shipping in the upper and lower pools broke from their moorings, and several of the colliers were injured. Two ballast-lighters went down off Deptford; but the men escaped, by jumping into their boats. A barge filled with barrels and provisions was driven against new London Bridge: she soon filled, and went down near Billingsgate. Three persons were drowned by the upsetting of a boat in Limehouse Reach. A coal-barge was swamped and sunk near Bankside' (Spectator, 4 January 1834).

Friday, February 14, 2014

Hanuman Mural in Camberwell

This mural, apparently showing the Hindu monkey-like deity Hanuman, is at 5 Camberwell Station Road SE5. A quick google search shows that it is (or maybe was) the office of Hanuman Solutions - an architect's practice I think.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Knocked 'Em in the Old Kent Road

Former Hollywood child star Shirley Temple (1928-2014) died this week. Once upon a long time ago she sang a South London song in 'The Little Princess' (1939), loosely based on the novel by Frances Hodgson Burnett. Fallen on hard times as a servant girl, she searches the Veterans Hospital for her missing father, entertaining the inmates along the way with a few verses of 'Knocked 'Em in the Old Kent Road'.

Others who have sung the same song have included Marlene Dietrich in the 1950s. In 1954, 'Dietrich swept on to the "Night of a Hundred Stars" at the London Palladium with Noel Coward. The glamorous pals faked a cakewalk to "Knocked 'Em in the Old Kent Road", a number neither of them really knew, but nobody minded, for they raised £10,000 for the Actors' Orphanage' (Marlene Dietrich: Life and Legend by Steven Bach, 2011):

...Julie Andrews (in 1973)- this is awful -

... and best of all Fozzie Bear as a Pearly King in the Muppet Show (1978):

If all this is a terrible mockney/cockernee caricature, you could say the same about the original song. It was written in the 1890s by music hall star Albert Chevalier (1861-1923), with music by his brother Charles Ingle. Chevalier was born in Notting Hill to a French father and Welsh mother, hence his rather wonderful full name of Albert Onesime Britannicus Gwathveoyd Louis Chevalier.

Previously a professional actor, Chevalier specialised in writing 'coster songs' (costermongers were street sellers, especially of fruit and veg), using the costers' cockney slang. The full lyrics, with its tale of a Camberwell donkey being left in a will, are as follows:

Last week down our alley came a toff,
Nice old geezer with a nasty cough;
Sees my Missus, takes 'is topper off
In a very gentlemanly way;
"Ma'am," says he, "I have some news to tell,
Your rich uncle, Tom of Camberwell,
Popped off recent, which ain't a sell,
Leaving you 'is little donkey Shay."

"Wot cher!" all the neighbors cried,
"Who're yer goin' to meet, Bill?
have yer bought the street, Bill?"
Laugh? I thought I should 'ave died.
Knocked 'em in the Old Kent Road!

Some says nasty things about the moke,
One cove thinks 'is leg is really broke;
That's 'is envy, 'cos' we're carriage folk,
Like the toffs as rides in Rotten Row;
Straight, it woke the alley up a bit,
Thought our lodger would 'ave 'ad a fit
When my missus, whose real wit,
Says, 'ates a 'bus because its low."

When we starts, the blessed donkey stops,
He won't move, so out I quickly 'ops,
Pals start whackin' him when down he drops,
Some one says he wasn't made to go.
Lor ", it might 'ave been a four-in- and,
My old Dutch Knows 'ow to the grand,
First she bows, and then she waves 'er 'and,
Calling out we're goin' for a blow!

Ev'ry evenin' on the stroke of five,
Me and missus takes a little drive;
You'd say, "Wonderful, they're still alive"
If you saw that little donkey go.
I soon showed him that 'e'd have to do
Just whatever he was wanted to,
Still I shan't forget that rowdy crew,
'Ollerin' Woa! steady! Neddy woa! -

Another Chevalier song, The Cockney Tragedian mentions The Cut at Waterloo, opening with the line 'I used to wheel a barrow for my father down the Cut, until I saw a drama at the Brit what turned my nut'.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

'Riots Reframed' - film showing in New Cross

The riots of 2011 were generally presented as simply criminal behaviour by gangs of youths, with no other explanation required. The 1981 riots in Brixton and elsewhere thirty years before were reported in similar terms at the time, but nowadays no historian would deny that they were linked to policing, racism, poverty and other social and political factors. The process of reframing the 2011 riots has already begun, with some of the voices silenced in the post-riot clampdown now being heard.

'Riots reframed' is a documentary directed by Fahim Alam, who spent weeks on remand in prison before being acquitted of charges relating to the 2011 riots in Hackney. On Friday February 28th there will be a free showing of the film at Goldsmiths in New Cross, with a panel including the director as well as Les Back (Goldsmiths), Lez Henry (Nu-Beyond) and Ojeaku Nwabuzo.

It takes place in the New Academic Building - walk all the way through main building and come out the back and the NAB is on the opposite end of the college green. 6:30 pm start. All welcome.

See also:

Monday, February 10, 2014

Stuart Hall (1932-2014): Jamaican 'sugar at the bottom of the English cup of tea'

Stuart Hall (1932-2014), who died today at the age of 82, was surely one of the most important British-based thinkers of the 20th century. With a few others he pretty much invented 'cultural studies' and his work on multiculturalism and identity is cited throughout the world. He was visiting professor at Goldsmiths in New Cross in the 1990s, and delivered a number of influential lectures there, most notably  his 'Race: the floating signifier' (1997) where he criticises the idea that 'race' is a 'biological' fact.

My personal favourite Stuart Hall quote is from his 1991 essay 'Old and New Identities, Old and New Ethnicities':

'People like me who came to England in the 1950s have been there for centuries; symbolically, we have been there for centuries. I was coming home. I am the sugar at the bottom of the English cup of tea.I am the sweet tooth, the sugar plantations that rotted generations of English children's teeth. There are thousands of others beside me that are, you know, the cup of tea itself. Because they don't grow it in Lancashire, you know. Not a single tea plantation exists within the United Kingdom. This is the symbolization of English identity - mean, what does anybody in the world know about an English person except that they can't get through the day without a cup of tea? Where does it come from? Ceylon - Sri Lanka, India. That is the outside history that is inside the history of the English. There is no English history without that other history'.

In the late 1950s, Hall worked for several years at a school at the Oval, as he recalled in 2009 in At Home and Not At Home: Stuart Hall in conversation with Les Back (from Goldsmtihs):

'when I left university I came to London, I was editing Universities & Left Review [predecessor of the New Left Review], which had an office in Soho. I lived in South London in Clapham in the house of a wonderful old Trotskyist called Jock Haston, and I wanted to stay in London until I went home - still not quite deciding when I’m going. So I thought well, what can you do? Practically, nothing! I couldn’t then drive, so I couldn’t drive a milk float. You can teach. So I got a job in a secondary school as a supply teacher, and you’re sent round to different schools, but my school was unable to retain any of its supply teachers, or  indeed its teachers. So once I’d got in there they never let me go. I was a supply teacher in a school at the Kennington Oval, for quite a while, about three or four years, and I used to leave there, get on a train, go to Soho, and edit the journal, and go back on the night bus - try to wake up in time to get to the Oval for the opening of class'.

The school was a boys secondary modern, so I think may have been Kennington Boys School. I believe the house in Clapham where he stayed with Jock Haston was at 11 Larkhall Rise SW4 (at least that was Haston's address in 1958).

I found a great film on youtube of Hall interviewing CLR James (1901-1989, I think at the latter's then flat in Brixton at 165 Railton Road, SE24 in 1986.

- John Akomfrah's, The Unfinished Conversation, is a three-screen video installation investigating cultural, ethnic and personal identity through the memories of Stuart Hall. It is being shown continuously at Tate Britain until 23 March 2014 (admission free)

Music Monday: Rhiannon the Nightmare

Rhiannon the Nightmare's 'country punk  blues' are an established feature of the New Cross music scene as befits an outfit 'Raised in the deep south east by the New Cross delta on canned lager, chewing tobacco and heartache'.

They've recently recorded a song celebrating Little Nan's Bar at the Bunker Club (46 Deptford Broadway),with a video shot of course in said bar.

Little Nan's Bar in the video (Rhiannon in the centre)

Next Saturday 15 February they are playing a Rocklands Valentine's weekend 'mini fest' at the New Cross Inn, with the full line up:

Rhiannon The Nightmare
"New Cross meets Nashville" (Pulse Arts). Meets PJ Harvey.

CuT : Space punk with fantastic psychadelic pop sensibilities.

Mourning Birds: Medway mad way gutter punk blues.

Richey Ostrowski, the front man/guitarist of 16 Hole Boots, compared to a young Julian Cope. Post punk newer wave in the gutter – but with eyes fixed firmly on the kerb.

The Freewheelin' Troubadour: ArtBeat poet and all round inspirational motivator. Hear. Believe.

Jean Genie's Massive Hugs - Gorgeously crafted songs fuse folky pop n bluesy rock. The Panda Power queen is is always a blossoming star turn whatever she turns her multi talents turn to.

Aeromancy Experimental adventures in alt rock. A new EP is in the wings! @AeromancyBand

5pm start, £3 after 7pm or Free Entry NUS/NHS/OK badge. After party bar til 2am. 20% off drinks Noon-8pm!

Friday, February 07, 2014

Is Millwall really under threat from sale of its car park?

There's been some huffing and puffing from Millwall FC in the last week following the decision of Lewisham Council to sell off some of the land it owns and which it currently leases to the football club. This includes the car park next to the stadium, the site currently used by the Millwall Community Scheme's Lions Centre and some land behind the stadium (I believe these are the areas marked 1,2,3 on map below).

Millwall Chairman John Berylson has claimed that 'the long term future of the club is being put at risk' and a 'Defend the Den' online petition has been started by 'fan on the board' Pete Garston. Meanwhile the Council has defended its position, stating that notwithstanding the land sale there is still a formal Planning Agreement in place for the area that includes 'safeguarding the existing Millwall Stadium, undertaking improvements to the north, west and south facades of the Millwall FC stadium and relocating the Lions Centre operated by the Millwall Community Scheme to a new location within the regeneration area'.

So what's really going on here? Well first of all this all about the larger Surrey Canal development that is planned for the area near to the Millwall ground. This is a big development which I have shied away from covering mainly because I haven't had the time to get my head round it. I'm glad therefore that the new 'The New Cross' site has summarised its main features, suggesting that it amounts to 'creating an entirely new area of London with shops, houses, health and sports facilities and a brand new East London Line station' on a largely brownfield site. The developer is 'Renewal New Bermondsey Two Ltd' - the official site is here.

From the developers site:
'1,200 person Church with offices, children's area, cafe, meeting rooms, rehearsal space and library'.
The Council is selling off the land to Renewal, clearing the way for them to develop the whole area. There is plenty to discuss about the scheme, not least the fact that as The New Cross points out: 'The development can house up to 2500 [in] housing of 1-4 bedrooms. Only 10% of these will be “socially rented” and 20% “affordable” (misleading term that does little to guarantee access). The developer says that a high proportion of socially-rented housing in the surroundings means it’s better to aim for a more “balanced” community on the site. I don’t know the financial figures here, but it seems a shame Lewisham missed out on the chance to get more council housing from such a huge brownfield site'. On best case 70% of homes are likely to be unaffordable to most people living locally, and as with similar schemes it is likely that many will be bought up as property investments by people who won't live there.

I think it's misleading though to present Millwall as a little community outfit threatened by rapacious property developers. I do think that as a football club, Millwall has a fairly good track record with the community. My children have taken part in their holiday football schemes, they give out tickets to local schools, and they supported the campaign to save Lewisham Hospital. And of course they are passionately supported by many people in the local community.

But Millwall Holdings PLC is a profit-seeking company - its chair John Berylson, is an American businessman.  Its subsidiary company Millwall Properties Limited is 'engaged in the preliminary assessment of the potential redevelopment and regeneration of the area surrounding the group's football stadium'. As a company, it has developed its own proposals for the land in dispute, including building a hotel and conference centre on the site of the car park. Millwall's own plans would also involve building on the current site of the Lions Centre and rebuilding it elsewhere.

From recent Millwall publication 'ambitious plans for a secure future' 

There may be some validity to Millwall's argument that as the football club loses money it needs non-football income to flourish. That is true of most clubs given the current economics of the game. But there is no threat to the stadium itself and it seems to me that  this dispute isn't about developers vs. the community but about the competing interests of rival  property developers. I'm not advocating selling off council land but selling the land to Millwall's owners (as they advocate) doesn't seem to be any different to selling it off to Renewal.

For Millwall fans a bigger long term issue might be the future of the New Den, not as a result of this land sale but because of the wider impact of the Surrey Canal development - whoever leads it. New affluent and vocal residents might not be so happy to have this unreconstructed bastion of working class culture on their doorstep, but Millwall have another 100 years or so to go on their lease so perhaps they would have to lump it. The fact that the land is owned by the Council (I believe) rather than the club might be an advantage, because it means that current or future club owners don't have the scope to asset strip by selling off the ground. But with the Surrey Canal redevelopment likely to increase the value of the land occupied by the New Den, there could still be a lucrative deal to be cut involving the club's owners being paid to give up the lease. Charlton fans successfully campaigned last year to have the Valley listed as an Asset of Community Value which would give it some short-term, limited protection from redevelopment, perhaps Millwall fans should do the same.

(lots of discussion about this at Millwall Online as you might expect, including speculation that longer term the club could move elsewhere, maybe even to Southwark Park on site of current semi-derelict running track. I think the latter is very unlikely - Southwark agreed funds last year to refurbish athletics facilities in Southwark Park and I understand that this will be going ahead, with a new athletics club operating there. Not all Millwall fans are fond of the current ground, but I think if they lose the New Den they might struggle to find somewhere else in London).

Meanwhile at Dulwich Hamlet... very interesting article at 200% about Dulwich Hamlet FC, which despite doing well on the pitch appears to be in a financially perilous position and at risk from property deals.

Deptford from Telegraph Hill in 1815

This illustration is entitled 'view of Deptford from Plow Garlic Hill, Brockley, AD 1815'. It is reproduced from 'The History of Deptford' by Nathan Dews, published in 1884. One thing that is unclear is whether this is a reproduction of an illustration from 1815, or an engraving done in the 1880s by someone imagining what the view would have looked like 70 years earlier (none of the illustrations in the book are credited or dated).

'Plow Garlic Hill' is what is now known as Telegraph Hill- and indeed by 1885 was already so-named, though probably both names co-existed for some time. Telegraph Hill Park was opened in 1895, and the semaphore station that had given its name was there from the late 1790s until 1816. The earlier named 'Plow Garlick Hill' does appear on John Cary's 1786 map of this part of London. Well for those who argue whether any of Telegraph Hill can be claimed for Brockley rather than New Cross, this illustration seems to be in their favour (I would say more of it is in SE14 but would concede that some of the lower southern slopes are in SE4!).

Not sure that the illustration is entirely accurate in terms of scale and perspective. St Pauls and St Nicholas churches in Deptford look bigger than I think they would appear to the naked eye. There's only one building shown on the hill amidst the fields and farm animals. This is not fanciful, an 1839 image of the area presents a similar rural picture.

Thursday, February 06, 2014

Seriously Staked: A Vampire Convention in New Cross

Coming up at Goldsmiths in New Cross next month, ASSAP (Association for the Scientific Study of Anomalous Phenomena) present the 'Seriously Staked Vampire Symposium' Look beyond the Twilight and True Blood frenzy and there is, and always has been, a serious study of vampires. Seriously Staked on March 8th  brings together a wide variety of subject experts and academics to talk about a range of questions concerning vampires. These include:

-Can science explain vampires?
- Do real vampire hunting kits exist?
- How have vampires impacted western culture?
- What is the crossover between vampires and other anomalous phenomena?
- Was Transylvania vampirism a communist trick to attract tourists?
- What is the London vampire community today?
- Do real vampires exist?

Line up includes:

- Maria Mellinns, author of 'Vampire Culture' (2013)
- Stacey Abbott, author of 'Celluloid Vampires: Life after Death in the Modern World (2007), 'Angel: TV Milestone[ (2009), and the co-author, with Lorna Jowett, of 'TV Horror: Investigating the Dark Side of the Small Screen' (2013_
- Scott Wood, author of ‘London Urban Legends: The Corpse on the Tube' (2013).

Sadly though it seems that New Cross's most famous vampire will not be appearing:

Gary Oldman in 'Bram Stoker's Dracula' (1992)
Los Angeles-based Oldman told the Metro this week:
' I still think I’m Gary from New Cross and look around and think: ‘How the hell did I get here?’.
He grew up in Hatcham Park Road.

Wednesday, February 05, 2014

Chinese New Year in Deptford + Deptford High Street Song

 Chinese New Year was marked in Deptford in Saturday with a lion dance procession from the Deptford Lounge to the Albany, where the Yam, Yam! East and South East Asian Arts and Food Festival is now on until March 15th.

There was a classic Deptford Market moment where the lion got in a face off with a Staffordshire Bull Terrier which took offence to the lion being up in his grill.

Reverend Casy - Deptford High Street

Meanwhile Reverend Casy have written a song celebrating Deptford High Street, with a film to match. There's an interview with Chris Boddington from the band at Deptford High Street. Chris is helping put on a gig this Friday 7th February at his own Cafe Crema (306 New Cross Road). It's a Syria benefit for MSF/Doctors without Borders, with Americana & Bluegrass from Union Electric + The Union Canal String Band. 8pm. £5

Tuesday, February 04, 2014

John Goto - Lovers Rock: Lewisham portraits from 1977

In 1977, John Goto was teaching evening classes at Lewisham Youth Centre. He took a series of portrait photographs of people dressed up ready for the dance hall at the Centre which 36 years later have seen the light of a day in a remarkable book - Lover's Rock.

1977 was a heavy year in a heavy period for young black people in South London. It was the time of the Lewisham 21 Defence Committee, set up to support youth accused of street robberies arrested by police in a series of raids.  The time too, in August of that year, of the racist National Front marching from New Cross to Lewisham and a riotous counter-demonstration. But it was also a period of cultural and musical ferment, and the time of lovers' rock. In a recent interview, Goto explains:

'I chose this title because it refers to a musical form that’s specific to South London where it originated. Lovers’ Rock was the first British Afro-Caribbean musical form to grow out of this country. It took reggae and developed a new genre from it. The general argument was that reggae had moved into a roots reggae phase, which was Rastafarian-based. It was very political and it was heavy. The argument is that for young people who had grown up in Britain, this didn’t really strike the chord that it might, because they had different cultural roots… [Lovers' Rock] was a much more melodic kind of music, softer, and much more inclined towards women. There are arguments about this; the standard line is that it was apolitical in relation to roots reggae’s political radicalism. This was supposedly music for the women – the way that you danced to Lovers’ Rock involved very close dancing. The counter-argument is that it was political – these overt displays of sexuality in themselves were a kind of radical statement by women of that time. So there are conflicting views about its social significance. My portraits were taken on dance nights in a youth centre where as a young artist I was teaching evening classes. The type of music that was being played at these events was probably a mixture – I don’t remember exactly – of Lovers’ Rock and roots reggae…'

© John Goto 

As Paul Gilroy writes in his 'There is Love in the Heart of the City', his text to accompany the photographs: '1977 was the year that the two sevens clashed. That summer, as the seventh day of the seventh month approached, London’s hatches were being battened down for more than a mere reprise of the previous year’s rioting.Gregory Isaacs’ heavy, Upsetter-produced anthem ‘Mr. Cop’ sat at number one in the Reggae chart just above Denis Alcapone’s exhortatory toast ‘Brixton Hall’. (...) Denis’ echo-laden, opening lyric, ‘I am standing ten feet tall in a Brixton hall, with my back against the wall, but I ain’t gonna fall yaaaaaah’, captured all the edgy violence of the profound moment of realignment that is registered so beautifully in John Goto’s extraordinary portraits of young South Londoners readied for a night out... After 35 years, Goto’s portraits have acquired special gravity. They are powerful and important for the explicit challenge they present to the rules of racial interpretation'.

© John Goto 

You can buy the book, published by Autograph ABP, here, and check out many of the portraits at John Goto's site.

The legendary Lover's Rock label was based in Dennis Harris's studio at 13 Upper Brockley Road, SE4.

Black Pride by Brown Sugar (Lover's Rock, 1977)

Monday, February 03, 2014

Music Monday: Little Mix in Peckham Chapel

Litte Mix's most recent single 'Little Me' is in the great tradition of feminist-lite empowerment anthems. Song-wise it's not quite up there with Christina Aguilera's Beautiful or TLC's Unpretty - but hey, what is?

Of course if you are going to sing a song advising your younger self to overcome adversity and 'Talk a bit louder, be a bit prouder', you need some suitably disadvantaged looking locale to film your video - and somehow that always leads to South London. So yes, the main location for 'Little Me' is the semi-derelict Caroline Gardens Chapel in Asylum Road, Peckham. The chapel was built for the almshouses of the Licenced Victuallers’ Benevolent Institution Asylum in the late 1820s, and survived bomb damage in the Second World War. It is now used an art and theatre space, as well as hired out for film and photography shoots and indeed weddings.

Sunday, February 02, 2014

SE London Strikes and Protests Round-up

A quick round up of strikes and protests...

Staff at Goldsmiths and other universities are staging another one day strike next Thursday in the ongoing national pay campaign. The last, two hour, strike on January 28th, was reported in Goldsmiths paper The Leopard:

'As the nation-wide strike began, protesters took the opportunity to address the large mass of students and staff that had gathered on Dixon Road after being evacuated from the Richard Hoggart Building due to internal flooding. With the aid of a megaphone, Goldsmiths’ UCU President Thomas Henri began with a light hearted joke, thanking the plumbers for their solidarity action and recognising that the evacuation had given the protest a larger audience than expected. After an impassioned speech from Henri in which he highlighted the reasoning behind the strike, Henri invited the crowd to join UCU members in the SU for a debate. Within five minutes over 250 people had gathered inside the Students’ Union...

[After the debate] Students and staff then marched down to Deptford Town Hall in protest and urged Goldsmiths’ Warden Pat Loughery to come out of the building and address the crowd. When he did not make an appearance, the protest marched into Deptford Town Hall and spent ten minutes relaying several different chants including “Who’s education – our education” and “They say cut back – we say fight back.”

Another two hour strike took place on January 23rd, with 150 people marching through Goldsmiths in support.

Strikers and supporters outside Goldsmiths offices in the old Deptford Town Hall, New Cross Road (January 23 2014)

Strikes are also planned on the London Underground this week (Thursday and Friday) in protest at plans to close all ticket offices by early 2015, with the loss of 750 jobs.


Meanwhile over at the Harris Boys Academy secondary school in East Dulwich, teachers are threatening to strike on Thursday. Members of the National Union of Teachers and NASUWT have issued notice that 'if there is no progress in negotiations over “the unreasonable frequency of full scale external observations, workload and the failure of the head to meet with unions to try and resolve” then the first day of joint strike action will be on Thursday 6th Feb, with other dates to follow should no progress be made'.

Last Saturday 25th January, around 150 people took part in a march from Peckham Square to Camberwell Green called by Southwark Benefits Justice Campaign to oppose the benefits cuts (particularly the Bedroom Tax) and related evictions. See report at Peckham Peculiar

Last Thursday 30th January there was a protest in Deptford against plans for a tunnel site at Crossfields Green as part of the Thames Water 'Super Sewer' project. As reported at Crosswhatfields?, protestors 'had come to meet the Planning Inspectors charged with making the decision on all the proposed Thames Tunnel sites in London. The Inspectors, accompanied by two Thames Water representatives and a Lewisham Council planner, had been walking around the area to acquaint themselves with the site's environs before they arrived back at the green to face the angry and very vocal residents'. The same blog has done a detailed analysis of the traffic impact of this and other planned local schemes in the Deptford Church Street area.