Monday, March 31, 2014

Music Monday: Mott the Hoople 'Then we went to Croydon'

I spent Sunday morning running a half marathon round Croydon, or to be more precise the Sandilands/Shirley suburbs of said borough, which got me re-reading Les Back's great appreciation 'So... Fuckin' Croydon', which made me think of  'The Saturday Gigs' by Mott the Hoople...

The glam rock band's 1974 single, like their biggest hit 'All the Young Dudes' (written for them by David Bowie), can be read as a slice of world weary turning away from the fall out of 1960s idealism - 'The tickets for the fantasy were twelve and six a time, A fairy tale on sale'. But there's also a note of hope:

'In Seventy-two we was born to lose
We slipped down snakes into yesterday's news
I was ready to quit
But then we went to Croydon

Do you remember the Saturday gigs?
We do, we do
Do you remember the Saturday gigs?
We do, we do'

According to Songkick, Mott the Hoople played at the Greyhound Hotel in Croydon four times in 1969/70, and twice at Croydon Fairfield Halls: on 13 September 1970 (with Free and Fotheringay) and 20 February 1972. Confusingly all these Mott the Hoople Croydon gigs seem to have been on Sundays rather than Saturdays! What exactly happened in Croydon I'm not sure, but I would interpret the song as affirming the reconnection with the crowd after all the hype and the ups and downs of the music business.  According to wikipedia 'This song was played live during the 1974 European tour as the set's ending but also at the Mott The Hoople Reunion concerts in 2009 with it being the closing song of the final concert'. A recording of the 1970 Fairfield Halls gig has been released.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Poetry is in the streets

The Lewisham Natureman White Stag has been featured here several times, having been spotted at various places across South East London. Emma D. sent us this photo of the stag seen recently in Northbrook Park in Lee:

'Beauty is nothing but the beginning of terror we're just still able to bear' - Rilke, 1875-1926.
Chalked in St George's Way SE5.  next to Burgess Park, last month:

Possibly accidental Deptford Jackson Pollock effect on wall in Trundleys Road SE8:

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Lewisham Miners Support 1984/5

 During the miners strike of 1984/5, which started 30 years ago this month, there were support groups set up across the country. Previously here we have mentioned support at Goldsmiths in New Cross. Another local group was Lewisham Women Against Pit Closures. This flyer from January 1985 tells us that:

1. The group held planning meetings at Lewisham Labour Club, Limes Grove SE13.
2. They 'invited women from the mining community of Shirebrook to Lewisham to speak to local people about the dispute'.
3. One of the women from Shirebrook was due to speak to a Lewisham Miners Support Group meeting at the Albany in Deptford on 24 January 1985.
4. There was a 'Women's Party' planned to take place at Women's Employment Project, 28 Deptford High Street, to raise funds for Shirebrook Women's Action Group (Shirebrook Colliery was in Derbyshire)

Neil Stoker wrote a little about Lewisham Miners' Support Group on the 20th anniversary of the strike in 1984:

'My father is from the Caribbean and my mother's Irish. The black community in south east London at that time was under constant abuse from the whole structures of society--the police, the government, the executive. The 'sus' laws had gone, but in terms of police brutality, mental health issues, housing, no one really cared what was going on. What struck me was the huge collective nature of the struggle. We got a collective spirit from a part of society that I didn't know and that was completely alien to me. There was a great sense of these people getting to know and understand what we suffered in terms of oppression, and vice versa. In a sense, we were somewhat cocooned by Thatcherism: we'd not had the same levels of redundancies, etc, in London as they had in the north of England. I got an understanding of what was really happening north of the Watford Gap.

Small events had a big impact: a miner from Dennington colliery came to stay with me and my family while he was in London collecting money. He came down to breakfast one morning and said, 'I've got to apologise.' My parents looked at each other--we thought maybe he'd broken a vase or something--and said, 'What for?' He said, 'I worked in a mine in South Africa in the early 1970s, and I feel really guilty about it now.' Things like that politicised people. There's a culture that miners and miners' support groups and Women Against Pit Closures hadn't been aware of before, and there's a culture that we took on as well.

We did a huge benefit at the Albany Empire in London with a Welsh male-voice choir, and a band called Test Department. I can only describe Test Department as a band which filled plastic drums with water and sand and banged them in a rhythmic way. It was a bizarre night--these Welsh miners came down in a coach and were stuck in the middle of Deptford with these punks banging plastic drums--but there were a thousand people there!

The miners' strike created this level of cultural understanding in a way nothing else could have. I remember going to the Notting Hill Carnival the year of the strike, and one of the most popular badges was 'Black people support the miners--oppose police violence'. (Socialist Review, March 2004)

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

South London Warlords

OK war games aren't really my thing, but I was naturally intrigued by the fact that there exists the excellently named South London Warlords. They say:

'The South London Warlords is a Wargames Club. This means that we meet as a group and play games with - usually - a military, historical or conflict orientated theme. These games are sometimes based on historical events or on fantasy situations. We play them in various different ways... The Warlords cater for all sorts: both traditional wargaming and also the broader horizons of today's hobby.  As with any Club, tastes and fashions change from year to year, depending on what figures are available, what films have recently been released and what books and TV shows are currently in vogue...The Club meets every Monday evening at St. Barnabas Parish Hall in Gilkes Place, Dulwich Village, London between 7:30pm and 11:00pm, with extended Saturday sessions around eight times a year'.

Yes down in Dulwich they are re-enacting/imagining conflicts as diverse as the Vietnam war, war of the Daleks and the invitingly titled 'Star Wars Death Trench Attack'.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Music Monday: Kinds

Electronic duo Kinds (Karen Warner and Mark Morrish)  are based in Falmouth, Cornwall. But Karen grew up in New Cross and went to Edmund Waller school so we're going to take some South East London credit. In fact I believe she once lived in the very same house in Pepys Road where dance music producer Mark JB (of Bimbo Jones) lives now... must be something in the water.

They played their first London gig last week at Notting Hill Arts Club, and their track Breathe has been getting lots of attention:

Friday, March 21, 2014

Chris Schwarz: Every Picture Tells a Story

Chris Schwarz (1948-2007) was a remarkable photographer who documented everyday life in SE London and historical events (such as the 1977 'Battle of Lewisham'). Later in life his photos of the remains of Jewish presence in Poland- ruined synagogues etc - prompted him to sell his flat to finance setting up the Galicia Jewish Museum in Krakow. This weekend sees the first in a series of events and exhibitions built around his work:

'An exhibition of photographs by acclaimed photographer Chris Schwarz opens at three Lewisham venues - The Albany, Lewisham Library and Lewisham College– in March 2014. The images record Lewisham and Deptford in the 1970s and 1980s and the work of The Combination Theatre Company and were taken by Chris when he was photographer in residence at The Albany. They provide a fascinating legacy of the changing faces of Deptford over a 15 year period.

The photographs form an invaluable record of life in North Lewisham in the 1970s and 1980s and show children, young people and their families participating in cultural and creative activities. Highlights include images of totters, Millwall Football Club fans, adults at work and performances by the Albany’s resident theatre company The Combination. They include images of the old Albany that was located at the junction of Creek Road and Deptford Church Street, the New Albany in Douglas Way and its opening by the late Princess Diana in 1980.

Chris Schwarz was a professional photographer who worked for the Guardian, Time Out and many other publications. His work was exhibited at the Photographers Gallery in London and overseas, and his work was published in several books. He also founded the Galicia Jewish Museum in Krakow, Poland. Chris died in 2007 and bequeathed his vast collection of over 8,000 photographs to The Art of Regeneration, a creative regeneration project that was at one time based at the Albany.

There will be special storytelling performances at each venue by members of The Deptford Stories Theatre Company, who will interpret selected photographs. Their performances will be based on oral history interviews that have been conducted between 2011 and the present. The performances take place on:

The Albany, Douglas Way, Deptford, SE8 4AG
Performances: Saturday 22 March at 12.45 and 13.45 (performances last approximately 30 mins)
Exhibition: Saturday 22 March until 31 March

Lewisham Library, 199 – 201 Lewisham High Street, SE13 6LG
Performances: Tuesday 25 March at 19.00 (performances last approximately 30 mins)
Exhibition: Monday 24 March until Friday 28 March

LeSoCo Lewisham and Southwark College , Breakspears Building, Breakspears Road, SE4 1UT
Performance and exhibition: Thursday 27 March at 19.00

The exhibition and performances are free of charge.

After the exhibition the photographs, along with the rest of the vast collection of Chris Schwarz Deptford and Lewisham work will be stored by the London Metropolitan Archives and will be available to the public to download.

Ballard House, Thames Street, Greenwich
The Deptford Stories Theatre Company was founded by director, John Turner and Jenny Harris. Jenny was the creative producer and after a lifetime of creative production in theatre, education and community arts development including the Combination at the Albany, The Education department at the National Theatre and the Art of Regeneration, Every Picture Tells a Story was Jenny’s last production for the Art of Regeneration and the Deptford Stories Company. Jenny herself died before she could see Every Picture Tells A Story or hear the stories the Deptford Stories Company will tell; this is a chance for the public to witness her final production.

The Every Picture Tells a Story project has been supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund and includes the exhibition, performances and digitisation of the photographs as a permanent public record'.

Chris Schwarz obituary in the Guardian

Reflections on Chris Schwarz

Facebook event details

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Telegraph Hill Festival 2014

Telegraph Hill Festival opens this weekend, with three weeks of art, music, theatre and more, including activities for everyone from toddlers to pensioners. You can read the full programme here, so I won't labour the point.

The biggest events, in terms of size, will probably be the community production of Annie Get Your Gun, Irving Berlin's musical (No Business like Show Business etc) with a cast of hundreds this weekend.

Then on Sunday 6th April, 1 pm to 6 pm there's SKAM II - Skate, Art & Music on Sundayl in Telegraph Hill Lower Park, Erlanger Road SE14: 'You are warmly invited to come and enjoy a Skate, Art and Music event in Telegraph Hill Lower Park.  There will be a bike powered roller disco!. So grab your blades and boards and bring the whole family. Other World Arts will be running a workshop turning rubbish into art - please bring along empty plastic bottles and packaging.  Skate comps, pop up shops and pro skater displays.  Pedal Power will be back so bring a bike to plug in - the more you pedal the more music to dance to!  A fun afternoon for all ages' (free).

This event will also feature Rum BQ & Sound System: 'Trinity Music London presents another RumBQ session powered by the Unit 137 Sound System.  RumBQ is a celebration of music, food and drink, with uplifting sound system music, barbecue food and rum cocktails.  Expect warm bass and smiling faces.  This is a family friendly event, where all ages are welcome.  Weather permitting, the event will be held outside in the park, together with SKAM II.  Or, if there is a threat of rain, the event will be in the Narthex' (next to St Catherine's Church).

Their event in the park last May was a lot of fun.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Music Monday - Will Greenwood, Woodpecker Road

The funeral of Will Greenwood took place earlier this month in Glastonbury. Born Stephen Worley on 13 June 1959, he died on 10 February this year after being found ill on the canal boat he was living on.

Will Greenwood in Goddards pie and mash shop, Greenwich 2012

Will moved to Glastonbury in the mid-1980s, and as a guitarist he was very involved in the free festival/psychedelic music scene. He was one of the founders of The Space Pirates who played with bands like Here & Now, Hawkwind and indeed The Ozric Tentacles at the Crypt at St Paul's Church, Deptford at the psychedelic club there. He was part of the Peace Convoy that was infamously attacked by the police in 1985 at the Battle of the Beanfield as part of the operation to prevent the Stonehenge Free Festival taking place (Will wasn't present during the actual attack, but he was involved with the Convoy at that time).

Not sure what year this gig was - but the only Friday 14th July in the 1980s was 1989
Other bands/music projects he was involved iwth over the years included Blue Cheese From Space, Splatman, Glass Unicorn, Spannerman, Titanic Dance Band, Will Greenwood’s Impossible Stress Factor, Medicine, Kemunnos, Hubba, Indivisible, Invisible Opera, The Kaputniks and The Glissando Orchestra.

Will's roots were in South East London. His mum (Vera) and dad (Reg) actually met at the Co-op in Deptford. Later Will took some electronic music classes at Goldsmiths, and also recorded music at Music City in New Cross Road. A couple of years ago he recorded a song recalling his 1960s childhood in Woodpecker Road SE14. The road he grew up in has now been demolished, but the name lives on as a pathway through the new low-rise estate to the north of Fordham Park. The late Dewdrop Inn at the end of Woodpecker Road gets a mention (famous pub that closed in late 1990s - must do a post on it at some point). I think the lyrics are as follows:

Down on Woodpecker Road
I wander in a waking dream
Memories of childhood days
My maps and graphic overlays
reveal the lane beneath the tarmac
Helps me wander all the way back
to a time before the time I'm thinking of and that is why

I'm ambling along almost fifty years ago
Down Woodpecker Road

From the chip shop to the Dewdrop Inn,
misty memories unravelling
Time travelling is great
Allow me to elucidate
It's summer 1966
I'm flying with my building bricks
I'm running back from Newbury's
with my Zoom ice lolly from the freezer
Thunderbirds and Jetson Spacemen
World Cup Willie's won the war again
It was a simpler time, to feel that once again is why
I'm ambling along, oh so many years ago

Down Woodpecker Road
Past the old canals of Clifton Rise
Before the planners waved it all goodbye
Perhaps I must declare that Woodpecker Road's not there...

Ambling along far too many years ago
Down Woodpecker Road
From the front room to the scullery my family returns to me
My atavistic tendency means Woodpecker Road is me...

(Musically its tone reminds me of Nick Nicely's South London pyschedelic classic Hilly Fields)

Listen to Will singing the song at youtube

Read more on Will Greenwood in the Central Somerset Gazette 

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Ian Wright remembers growing up on Honor Oak Estate

'Ian Wright: Nothing to Something' is a great documentary where the former Crystal Palace, Arsenal and England footballer talks about growing up in South East London. It's quite a moving film, with Wright just talking to camera about a rough and abusive childhood, rejection by football clubs as a youth player, before finally being signed by Crystal Palace as a 21 year old.

In the programme Wright says he grew up in 'Brockley and Crofton Park', specifically for much of his childhood on Honor Oak Estate. He recalls going on the Honor Oak Estate annual summer trip to the seaside, and going shopping for clothes in Peckham (looking enviously in Grants' shop window at shoes he couldn't afford). On the Estate he used to play football with David Rocastle, later his colleague at Arsenal (Wright gets very emotional over Rocastle's sad early death)

Ian Wright meets his old Primary School teacher Syd Pigden

He credits one of his primary school teachers, Mr Pigden, as having a major influence on his life as a positive male figure and a football mentor. In this programme the school isn't named, but Syd Pigden was at Turnham Primary School where Wright moved after starting out at Gordonbrock Primary. Many years later at Arsenal, Mr Pigden and Wright were reunited in another TV programme - with Wright surprized and overwhelmed at finding he was still alive

Later Wright went to Samuel Pepys Secondary School in Sprules/Wallbutton Road SE4 - now Christ the King VI Form. After leaving school, he worked at Tunnel Refineries in Greenwich before being discovered by Palace.

According to 'The Wright Stuff' by Rick Glanvill, (1995) Ian Wright was born in 1963 in the British Hospital, Samuel Street, Woolwich. His cousin Patrick Robinson was born a few days later: 'It probably never crossed the minds of the two proud mothers that the fruits of their wombs would, between them, eventually have Saturday night television stitched up: Ian Wright gracing the pastures of Match of the Day and Patrick Robinson providing the amiable beside manner as Martin 'Ash; Ashford in the popular BBC soap, Casualty'. They lived together for a while in Manor Avenue, Forest Hill

You can watch the programme for another few weeks at ITV. I saw Wright a couple of years ago in Stillness Road, think he still has some family in the area. His sons Shaun and Bradley Wright-Phillips - both also footballers - went to Haberdashers Askes school in New Cross.

Sketching New Cross

Really enjoyed the 'Sketching New Cross' exhibition at Hart's Lane Studios SE14 last weekend. People from 'London Drawing on Location Group' came down to New Cross/Deptford last month and sketched what they saw, before exhibiting their work

Lots of local landmarks featured, including New Cross Inn, Marquis of Granby, St Pauls Church etc.

My personal favourites were Sue Harding's evocative drawings of cafe life, including this one from the London Particular in New Cross Road.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Undercurrents - 1970s radical snippets

Undercurrents, 'the magazine of alternative science and technology', was published in England between 1972 and 1984. Christopher Squire was one of the editors and he has performed a great service to historians of radical movements by creating an online archive of the journal. I have had a preliminary look through for SE London content but I am sure if you have the time you could find lots more of interest there.

As explained in an article, 'How it All Got Started', early issues of the magazine were printed at the house of Ann Ward: 'Ann was a Labour councillor in Southwark who, with the aid of some money she’d inherited, had installed in the basement of her house a litho printing press, complete with plate­making and typesetting facilities, which she made available virtually free to non-profit groups. So the first Undercurrents (subtitled "the magazine of alternative science and technology”) was produced for little more than the cost of paper, with the aid of Ann Ward and of one Pat Coyne who came along to print the local community newspaper and was cajoled into helping us print Under­currents. He stayed'.

So here's a few local bits and pieces...

Albany Fire

In July 1978 there was a fire at the Albany Theatre in Deptford, then based in Creek Road. As Undercurrents reported, it 'was the focus of local opposition to the National Front and a regular venue for Rock Against Racism', and it was generally supposed that the fire was caused by a fascist arson attack.

Undercurrents, Oct-Nov 1978
Lewisham World Shop

This shop opened at 1 Sydenham Road SE26 in 1978, 'concentrating on world development issues' and selling 'wholefoods such as brown rice, peanuts, kidney beans' etc. It seems to have been a trailblazer in promoting 'fair trade'-  people involved with it also set up the 'Campaign Co-op' to import coffee direct from farmers co-operatives in East Africa (the address of the Co-op, in 1978, was 72 Rosendale Road, SE21).

Undercurrents, April-May 1978
Free-wheel Cycle Club

In 1977 the Free-Wheel Cycle Club was heading off to Shoreham (presumably typo in magazine) on a bike ride from Clifton Rise in New Cross. 'All anarchists/socialists' were welcome.

Undercurrent, December 1977-January 1978

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Getrude/Roshi/Angelpoise at Lewisham Arthouse on Friday

Interesting gig coming up on Friday at Lewisham Arthouse:

'GERTRUDE are an alternative 4 piece band based in and around London. Formed as a collective in 1996 Gertrude soon caused a stir in many different London ‘scenes’.
They enjoy playing gigs in a wide variety of venues – such as onboard the Motorship Stubnitz or alongside ‘punk robots’ at a science/art event at the ICA. Gertrude weave electric cello, melodica, clarinet and keyboard with traditional rock instruments to create a unique sound. Live, the band is energetic, rhythmic and intense – their set often scattered with droll commentary and surreal musings. Gertrude have been influenced by punk rock’s ‘DIY’ ethos, feminist thinkers as well as numerous other bands, ideas, people and events.The band have toured Europe, Canada and the U.S. and have been asked to perform at various Ladyfest events. A new album LOVE AXE WISH LIST was released in November 2013 on their Urban Missfits label.

ROSHI featuring PARS RADIO is the band built around Welsh-Iranian singer-writer Roshi Nasehi. Their music is a mix of sometimes radical interpretations of Iranian songs she grew up hearing alongside her own evocative and atmospheric songs. Her collaborator is Graham Dowdall who also works solo as Gagarin, is a member of Pere Ubu and former colleague of Nico, John Cale and many others. Roshi feat. Pars Radio have released several records to widespread acclaim. The most recent '3 Almonds & A Walnut' (2013) "a beguilingly unclassifiable mix of traditional roots and crunchy avant-garde sound effects and beats", The Independent (4 stars) "sophisticated cross-cultural urban art-pop... an original creative voice", Songlines
"Classic songs that transcend any "exotic" or "culture clash" boundaries..." The Quietus.
The band have gigged extensively in UK and also in Europe - live performances combining Roshi's incredible voice with keys, vocal looping as well as Graham's electronic beats, atmospheres and field recordings.


ANGELPOISE is a new project from Jo Thomas and Charles Hayward conjuring a primitive elegance from voice, laptop and drums. Is this electronic circuitry, city traffic or blood flow? A constant play with sense of scale and dynamics invokes a visceral field of mesmeric hypnosis. Earlier they thought to both wear pinstripe suits, but that seems inappropriate now that the sound has stated its stark, stern & unequivocal demands.

Friday March 14: 8pm £5 bring your own refreshment
Lewisham Arthouse, 140, Lewisham Way, SE14 6PD

Monday, March 10, 2014

Music Monday: Deptford Shanty Crew

London Mayor Boris Johnson is due to make a decision this month on whether to give planning permission to the controversial proposal for a redevelopment of Convoys Wharf, the riverside site in Deptford that was once home to the Royal Dockyard. As reported here previously, Johnson announced last October that he was taking the power to make this decision away from Lewisham Council.

The Deptford Shanty Crew have written a song for the campaign against the current Convoys Wharf plan- 'Deptford's Dockyard':

And it's [stamp] sell her off to a big business man
There goes Deptford's dockyard
There goes our history and our land
Way off in the hands of the London mayor

They dug up the anchor and took it away
There goes Deptford's dockyard
Would not listen to what the people say
Now it's way off in the hands of the London mayor

Locals wanna build the Lenox again
Right there in Deptford's dockyard
Could pass on their history to the next gen
But it's way off in the hands of the London mayor

Apprentices could learn the trade
Right there in Deptford's dockyard
Our maritime history could be saved
But it's way off in the hands of the London mayor

Open up the gardens for all to see
Right there in Deptford's dockyard
We want Evelyn's vision to be free
But it's way off in the hands of the London mayor

The developers just don't get the plan
There goes Deptford's dockyard
They're gonna flush our project down the pan
They put it in the hands of the London mayor

No jobs and homes for us in their plan
Right there in Deptford's dockyard
Just lots more cash in the developers bank
Now it's way off in the hands of the London mayor

They want to sell more expensive flats
Right there in Deptford's dockyard
But people come first and that is that
And Deptford's history's worth more than cash!

So listen to us and not their dough
It's our Deptford dockyard
Boris give our project a chance to grow
Release it from the hands of the London mayor

For more on the campaign, see Deptford Is...

Deptford Shanty Crew was formed last year, here they are performing at the Deptford Lounge in December 2013 singing the 19th century sailors song 'Homeward Bound', which in some versions mentions the Dog and Bell pub in Deptford and its 1820s landlord David Archer (see Deptford Misc for more detail):

'And now we haul to the Dog and Bell
Where there's good liquor for to sell.
ln comes old Archer with a smile,
Saying: "Drink, my lads, it's worth your while."
For I see you are homeward bound,
I see you are homeward bound'.

Thursday, March 06, 2014

Supporting the Miners Strike at Goldsmiths in 1984/5

It's thirty years ago this week since the start of the miners strike, a long and bitter dispute that defined the mid-1980s in Britain. Ultimately the miners lost, and their claim that there was a secret Government plan to close down coal mines en masse was soon to proved correct. Miners support groups were set up all over the country, and there were all kinds of expressions of solidarity including countless benefit gigs. I was actually living in Kent at the start of the strike and was involved in supporting miners at local pits. There were many support groups in London, and the latest issue of Goldsmiths' student paper The Leopard includes an interesting article by Colin Fancy recalling support for the miners at Goldsmiths in New Cross. Here's a few extracts:

'the first meeting of the Goldsmiths’ Miners Support Group. We rattle buckets all around college crying: “Dig deep for the miners!” We propose a solidarity motion that is debated and passed at a packed Students’ Union meeting. We paste up posters saying ‘VICTORY TO THE MINERS’ all along Lewisham Way and down Deptford High Street.

My department, Media and Communications, announces that lecturers are to be cut from the small staff team. The Student Untion calls a meeting on the College Green to begin action. Some people suggest letters to the College Dean whilst we call for an occupation. The anti-cuts campaign begins with petitions, motions and lobbying the governors but soon picks up speed. Before we know it we are occupying the Administration building (which would later be renamed Whitehead building). James Curran, the recently appointed Head of the Communications department, is known for his book, Power Without Responsibility – and with the addition of a question mark this phrase is emblazoned on a huge banner hung across the occupied building...

Richard Hoggart, the College Dean, is reaching retirement and plays a waiting game rather than call the police – not that we do much to provoke him. With summer holidays approaching we end the occupation after eight days and sit our exams. The cuts to staff are postponed and we cautiously celebrate...
Goldsmiths College Student Union banner on a miners march in Whitehall in 1985
Women from the mining communities are playing a more and more crucial role as the strike fights to sustain itself. Two women from the Shirebrook Colliery in Derbyshire come to our Union meeting. Though nervous and reluctant to speak they tell moving tales of hardship, solidarity and resilience...

.... Surprisingly, Goldsmiths has its own local coalfield  – there are five pits less than an hour away in Kent [think there were only three left at this point  - Betteshanger, Snowdon and Tilmanstone]. One Sunday afternoon in December a coach load of students head down to Betteshanger Colliery with some Christmas presents. We have an evening in the Miners’ Social Club and are put up in miners’ family homes. We rise before dawn to join the other miners and students marching down the dark country lanes to the pit, singing: “I’d rather be a picket than a scab.” Not a single miner has crossed their picket line, but neither have they persuaded the foremen at the pit to join the strike, so the picket is a dignified but frustrating affair and we’re soon back to the social club for sausage sandwiches'.

Read the full article here. If you have any stories of the miners strike, especially as it was supported in South London, please leave a comment.

See also: Lewisham Miners Support Group/Lewisham Women Against Pit Closures 1984/85

Wednesday, March 05, 2014

Greenwich Peninsula Street Art

On the Thames riverfront on Greenwich peninsula, shortly before you get to the Dome if you are coming along the footpath from Greenwich, is Victoria Deep Water Terminal. One of the surviving industrial sites in the area, it is run by Hanson Heidelberg Cement, who make aggregates and other building materials.

The concrete surfaces on the path nearby have been redecorated, the most elaborate being this 2013 Nando Mambo piece (Nando Mambo is a Spanish graffiti artist I think)

The rest mainly consists of fairly colourful tagging overlooking the Thames and Canary Wharf.

Tuesday, March 04, 2014

Homes Under the Hammer - it's a wild Catford

BBC show 'Homes Under the Hammer' this week featured a house up for auction in Catford, to be precise on the Corbett Estate. They mentioned that the Estate was developed by a Quaker, as indeed once explained at Walking Hither Green:

'The eastern half of SE6 is all about the Corbett Estate. The street plan leaps out from the A-Z for its rigid grid pattern, a rare feature in south-east London...The estate was the dream scheme of Scottish MP Archibald Corbett, who had the notion of providing "a modern Hygeia" for hard-working and respectable families. The area would be littered with places of worship but not a single inn or tavern, and the 300 acres he purchased for the plan in 1896 are now full of north-of-the-border place names'.

More surprizing to me was the statement on the programme that Catford had been the home to Ben Elton, Spike Milligan and Cat Stevens. I knew about the first two but hadn't heard about the latter. A quick Google search suggests that the programme was relying on wikipedia, with the Catford entry stating that  Cat Stevens 'lived in a flat above a Catford furniture shop in the early sixties'. I can't find any other sources for that, but for now we'll take it. Stevens was born in 1948, and grew up in Soho (his family ran a restaurant in Shaftesbury Avenue), so if he did live in Catford it was presumably for a brief period in his early career. But if true it would mean that he once lived in the same borough as Lewisham-born reggae singer Maxi Priest, who had a big hit in 1989 with a cover of Stevens' Wild World. Priest went to the now closed Roger Manwood School in Brockley Rise, as did footballer David Rocastle.

Undercover: police spies in South London

'Undercover: the True Story of Britain's Secret Police' by Rob Evans and Paul Lewis is primarily about the work of the Special Demonstration Squad, a London-based police unit set up to infiltrate radical and not so radical movements. Of course the police Special Branch and other agencies have been using informers and undercover police officers for many years. The SDS, seemingly formed in the aftermath of the anti-Vietnam protests of the late 1960s, took this to a new level by deploying cops to live amongst activists, and indeed as activists, for long periods. During their deep cover deployments, they took a key role in organising protests and had sexual relationships, some times having children with women while pretending to be somebody else (using the identities of other, dead children). The SDS closed down in 2008, but its work has continued since in the guise of various shadowy groups such as the National Public Order Intelligence Unit.

If you've been following the authors' unfolding revelations in the Guardian and elsewhere, there probably won't be too many surprizes in this book. But gathering so much of the material together in one place does show how sustained and widespread the practice was (and presumably still is), bearing in mind that only a few undercover spies have been definitely identified out of a much larger number deployed.

Some of the South London connections mentioned in the book have been covered here before, including 'Rod Richardson', a presumed policeman involved in organising the May Day 2001 protests at the Elephant and Castle, and Jim Boyling/Jim Sutton, who lived in East Dulwich while infiltrating Reclaim the Streets.

Jim Boyling (real name) aka Jim Sutton of Reclaim the Streets
'Undercover' also includes other details, including the revelations from Pete Black that he took part in the violent anti-BNP protests in Welling in 1993 and that he was one of several spies deployed to try and dig dirt on the Stephen Lawrence campaign.The attempt to find information to discredit the Lawrence family supporters shows clearly that the undercover operation was not just targeting groups believed to be involved in direct action, but was used to undermine people who threatened to expose police wrong-doing.

Another revelation in the book is that at one time - and certainly in around 2001 - the clandestine HQ of the SDS was ' a rundown office block on Camberwell New Road... situated above the nondescript City Office Superstore stationers'. This was at 303-309 Camberwell New Road London SE5 0TF - now the home of the TFC Supermarket, next to St Marys Greek Orthodox Church.

TFC in Camberwell New Road - once a secret police HQ
If the practice has led to emotional abuse of activists, the strains of living a double life may not have done some of the cops any favours either. Dulwich-born Mark Kennedy seems to have ended up being abandoned by his former handlers after being exposed in 2011, as well as being deeply mistrusted by the activists who he spied on. Another case covered in the book is that of Mike Chitty/Mike Blake who infiltrated the Streatham-based South London Animal Movement in the 1980s, and continued to try and hang around with people from that scene after his police deployment had been ended.

Eight women  who were 'deceived into long term intimate relationships with undercover police officers who were infltrating environmental and social justice campaign groups' are now taking legal action against the police. Supporters from 'Police Spies Out of Lives' are calling for a picket of the Royal Courts of Justice at the next court hearing, expected to be on or about the 19th March.

Monday, March 03, 2014

Music Monday: Goldsmith Music Studios (& Thom Yorke at Laban)

Record producer Nigel Godrich, best known for his work with Radiohead, officially launched the new Goldsmiths Music Studios on New Cross Road last Thursday. According to Goldsmiths, it has 'been designed to be a creative space for research, performance and recording where musicians, both Goldsmiths students and members of the public, can make professional-level recordings using state-of-the-art equipment... The Studios, which consist of three live rooms, is available for commercial hire with an engineer or assistant engineer. Significant discounts available for Goldsmiths alumni (up to five years)'. Visit for more details about the facilities, equipment, engineers and how to book a session.

Also in attendance at the launch were Radiohead bassist Colin Greenwood and Travis frontman Fran Healy.

As well as producing all of the Radiohead albums and working with acts like Paul McCartney, U2 and R.E.M, Nigel Godrich is a member of Atoms for Peace along with Radiohead frontman Thom Yorke and Red Hot Chili Peppers bassist Flea. Which reminds me, I never got round to posting about Atoms for Peace's Ingenue video. Released last year, it features Thom Yorke and dancer Fukiko Takase dancing on the stage at the Laban Theatre in Deptford in Feburary 2013, choreographed by Wayne McGregor.

Saturday, March 01, 2014

A Welsh Church on Lewisham Way

St David's Day seems like a good time to document a lost local Welsh institution. The Presbyterian Church of Wales (Eglwys Bresbyteraidd Cymru) was open until recently at 289 Lewisham Way SE4. Its location suggests that at one time there must have been enough Welsh speaking presbyterians locally to sustain a congregation - or maybe they chose the site because Lewisham is an anagram of 'I Am Welsh'!

I am not sure when it closed, but the church and its neighbouring vicarage were put up for sale early last year and a nursery is opening there soon. The church building dates back to 1924, the minister's house being part of an earlier Georgian mansion.  The church had previously met (from 1901) at 2 Undercliff Road in what later became Loampit Gospel Hall.

interior of church (from Church Properties)
There are some recollections of the chapel in the comments to this thread at Brockley Central. Apparently the opera singer Geraint Evans (1922-1992) was sometimes among the congregation, and the actor Meredith Edwards (1917-1999).

photo by R.Sones at Geolocation