Monday, June 30, 2014

Funerals and remembrances

A couple of ceremonies this week for people who in their different ways made a difference to their local areas.

The funeral of Alan Porter (pictured below) takes place tomorrow, 1 July 2014, at Honor Oak Crematorium. Alan helped out at the Hill Station/Telegraph Hill Centre in Kitto Road SE14. Details here.

Later today (around 2:45 pm), the ashes of Peter Flack will be scattered on the Thames, his friends gathering first at the Cutty Sark pub in Greenwich. Peter was a Crossfields Estate resident in 1970s Deptford, responsible for poetic graffiti in the Creekside area. Details at Crosswhatfields?

Lines from Shelley's The Daemon of the World in Creekside, courtesy of Peter Flack
Deptford Misc remembers the life of Richard MacVicar (MAC), who died earlier this year. Richard was a key figure at Deptford Adventure Playground from the 1970s until a couple of years ago.

Richard MacVicar (1947-2014)

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Peckham Rye parkrun

Peckham Rye is the latest local park to host parkrun, the free weekly Saturday morning 5000m run. The inaugural event took place on Saturday 21 June with 200 runners setting off from the start by the Colyton Road entrance, and doing three laps of a circuit taking in the flatter area of the park that includes the formal gardens and lake. Blog 7T has a full report and photos.

Sky Sports presenter Kate Riley (left) was timekeeper at first Peckham Rye parkrun
(photo by @ronnie_haydon)

The first event of a new parkrun always attract a big crowd as runners come from far afield to take part, after which they tend to settle down to a smaller number and gradually build up. Yesterday's second event included 67 runners, and will no doubt increase steadily over next few months.

The other well-established South London parkruns are all still going strong and indeed growing including Hilly Fields, Dulwich Park, Southwark Park, Crystal Palace, Brockwell Park, Burgess Park, Avery Hill Park (Greenwich) and more. For details of all these, see the parkrun map.

All events start at 9 am on Saturday, with most people finished by 9:30ish and heading for a post-run coffee. You can just turn up and run, but nearly everyone registers as a one off with parkrun - this gives you a barcode which you can get scanned wherever you run, and then sent details of your times etc. The events are friendly and inclusive, attracting runners of all abilities.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Sham 69/Lewisham 77 - punk and (anti) fascism

The riotous anti-National Front demonstration in New Cross and Lewisham in August 1977 has been covered here before (see this chronology of the events). Jon Savage's classic book 'England's Dreaming: The Sex Pistols and Punk Rock' notes that an image from that day taken by rock photographer Jill Furmanovsky featured on the sleeve of a punk record released in the following month - 'No I Don't Wanna' by Sham 69 (the band's name sadly refers to Hersham in Surrey, not Lewisham). The single - the band's first - was released on Step Forward records, Sham having been signed by Deptford punk Mark Perry (of ATV and Sniffin' Glue zine fame).

Sham went on to have a number of hits including 'If the Kids are United' and 'Hersham Boys'. They had quite a skinhead following, including for a time some racists, and there were fights at their gigs as a result. The band played for 'Rock Against Racism' to try and distance themselves from this.

Savage suggests that the fight against the National Front was a turning point for Punk, in the early stages of which there were some flirtation with swastikas as part of a mostly apolitical shock the elders strategy. In this context, he sees the August '77 events as a watershed: 'The events at Lewisham also helped to break Punk apart under the weight of its own contradictions. In superseding Punk's rhetoric with reality, it showed the apparent lie behind the antinomian heresy: freedom was not in the mind or the imagination, but to be fought for here and now'.

'England's Dreaming' includes an account of the events by Angus McKinnon of the NME, who took part in the anti-fascist mobilisation. He recalls that the fighting started in New Cross, where the NF were assembling to march to Lewisham: 'We were contained up by the New Cross area. The Front was a small march: there must have been about a hundred and fifty of them, all ages... They were eventually escorted onto the man street which goes towards Greenwich, and as they came out, there were mounted police, and things started to get vary scary very quickly. People started picking up bricks and stones. Some of the NF has sticks already, they threw bricks back at us. Someone close by went down with a brick in their face, the police horses came towards us. Police horses are very frightening indeed, the crowd was surging forward and back. Basically the police were saying, you have to clear away, these people are going to march. The crowd got very angry and there was a lot of brick-throwing'.

Later many of the marchers headed to Lewisham town centre. McKinnon remembers that 'There were baton charges, orange smoke everywhere. People throwing things through shop windows... Marchers and police up and down Lewisham High Street, and all over it was this enormous pall of orange smoke, very thick, acrid and very unpleasant. I slipped down the side of the High Street to get away, and then we were stuck, seven or eight of us in a cul de sac at the back of a supermarket by the delivery bay, huddled in absolute terror. Right down the end of the High Street, we were rounded up and put by a police bus to be shunted off. We weren't, only because someone started throwing stones and bricks at the police bus, which withdrew. We were denied the dubious pleasure of being detained at Her Majesty's Pleasure for rioting'.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Yesterday is Now History - materials from a Lewisham archive

I went to the opening of a fantastic exhibition today at 310 NX Road Gallery, New Cross SE14 6AF:

'Yesterday is Now History, curated by artist Eleanor Davies and anthropologist/historian Sophie Parker, is a celebration of the everyday objects that we frequently take for granted, or think of as rubbish. These often overlooked objects tell a story of the subtle cultural shifts that underlie historical change. 

The exhibition explores the history of Lewisham from the days of the foreign cattle market, the battle of Lewisham in 1977, the millennium, to the ongoing protest to save Lewisham’s hospital. The unlikely objects brought together in this exhibition prompt a discussion about the nature of archives, and their purpose and meaning in a society driven by mass consumption'.

Most of the material in the exhibition is drawn from the archive of Lewisham Local History Society, stored downstairs in New Cross Learning.

The exhibition is only open  

for a few days  -10- 4pm Thursday to Monday 23 June, but get along if you are at all interested in the history of the area, or more generally in the nature of archives and material culture.

The exhibition features some original paper and plastic bags from local shops - as they note, these 'transient objects' that survived their expected fate of being thrown away powerfully 'evoke specific moments in time '

W.G. Ward, 407a New Cross Road - 'High Class Confectioners and Tobacconist'

Princess 2 Hour Dry Cleaning, 26 Loampit Hill SE13 and 50 Broadway, Deptford
'We give green shield stamps' (1970s?)

There is also a display of 'entertainement ephemera',  flyers and posters for local cinemas, nightclubs and sporting events.

'A Grand Dance' on a Monday night with the Silver Star Band at the New Cross Palais de Danse 1927
 (later the Harp Club, now The Venue)

The Kerry Blues Showband at the Harp Club (1969?) - the Harp Club was then an Irish dancehall, now the Venue

Metrogas Amateur Sports Association swimming at Laurie Grove Baths in 1927 with instruction from Mr and Mrs Cyril Walker (the former baths are now art studios at Goldsmiths)
The exhibition also includes some material related to political movements, including original newspaper articles related to the anti-National Front 'Battle of Lewisham' (1977), the 1981 New Cross Fire and the recent campaign to Save Lewisham Hospital.

Vinyl Therapy

Vinyl Therapy (The Listening Cure) is a monthly record playing session upstairs at the Gladstone Arms,  64 Lant Street SE1. Like the late lamented People's Republic of Disco in Brixton, the idea is that people bring along up to three records each. Next one is this Saturday 21 June, 1- 4pm, with the theme being the summer solstice. 

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

White Stag at Catford Stadium

All that remains now of Catford Stadium, the former greyhound track, is a sign and its ticket office in the midst of a wasteland soon to be built on with new housing from Barratt plc. The sign is a skeleton from a lost world of 20th century working class popular culture - the stadium opened in 1932 and closed in 2003, not long after my one and only visit.

photo by @entoptika

Train passengers passing the site have noticed a recent redecoration of the building - a new appearance of the famous 'Lewisham Natureman' white stag, featured here previously following various sightings in Lewisham and New Cross. You can see it from ground level from the Ladywell Fields end of the site, if you climb up on a pile of logs to peer over the fence. I couldn't get a decent photo with my phone, but Wildcornerz has obliged with these images. The Wildcornerz blog has been documenting the white stag and the wider Lewisham Natureman mythos for several year.

Another image of the stag appeared earlier at the back of the Catford stadium site (pictured below), though it has now vanished.

Summer Solstice in Telegraph Hill 2014

Yes it's that time again.... the fourth annual Telegraph Hill Solstice Parade takes place this Saturday June 21st:

'Come and celebrate the wedding of Garlick Man of Plow Garlick Hill and the Old Nag of New Cross. Dress up - in celebration of fruit, florals, fecundity and the sun. Mark the midsummer.  Free costume/instrument/mask making at The Telegraph at The Earl of Derby from 3-5. Kids welcome. Parade gathers outside the Telegraph c.5.30 and sets off for the Top Park at 6 pm . Bring a picnic and enjoy the view and the wedding'.

2013 Summer Solstice Parade - picture by Bridget McKenzie

Monday, June 16, 2014

Amnesty International and Lewisham Pensioners Forum Book Sales

Two of South London's great regular charity book sales coming up in next few weeks.

Amnesty International's Blackheath summer booksale is on Saturday 21st June at the Church of the Ascension, Dartmouth Row SE10 8BF from 9 am to 5 pm. 

A couple of weeks later on Sunday July 6th, Lewisham Pensioners Forum have their six monthly Big Book Sale at the Saville Centre, 436 Lewisham High Street, SE13 (by Lewisham Hospital) - free entry, prices from 20p for paperbacks and 50p-£2 (mostly) hardbacks.  Plus tea and cakes.

If you can't find some decent summer holiday reading at either of these, you might as well as give up.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Feminist Disco at Lewisham Arthouse

Artist Rachael House is bringing her 'Feminist Disco' to Lewisham Arthouse  in New Cross next Friday, 20 June 2014 (6 pm to 9 pm). As well lots of women's music classics, the event will also feature performance artist Silvia Ziranek and a film about women and the miners strike. Admision Free at 140 Lewisham Way SE14.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Roadblocks in Deptford and Drakefell

I haven't had much luck getting around in the last couple of days. Tonight I had to take a long diversion trying to get from New Cross to Shooters Hill because the A2 was taped off at the junction of Deptford Broadway and Deptford High Street following a traffic incident involving a police car and a van. I was there at 9 pm and it was still closed several hours after the crash.

Last night Drakefell Road was blocked for several hours at junction with Pepys Road/Avingnon Road SE4 after this lorry jackknifed, shedding part of its load. A crane had to be brought in to clear it.

photo from @citizensanchez

Deaths at Knights Tower in Deptford

Very sad news about the deaths of two young people in Deptford last night. The police statement says:

'Two people have died after falling from a sixth floor balcony in Deptford. Police were called at 00.13 on Wednesday 11 June by London Ambulance Service to reports of two people fallen from a balcony in Knights Tower, Wharf Street, SE8. An 18 year old man and a 19 year old woman were pronounced dead at the scene. Next of kin have yet to be informed.

Detectives from Greenwich Borough are investigating. The deaths are being treated as non suspicious, but we continue to investigate. Insp Shaun Carre-Brown said "This appears to be a tragic accident and our thoughts go out to the families and those that knew them.The couple were at a party in the block when this tragedy occurred.I would urge any witnesses to make contact with detectives." Anyone with information is asked to call 101 and ask for the CID at Plumstead police station. If you wish to remain anonymous please call Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111'

Knights Tower is the new 18-storey building in the Paynes and Borthwick wharves private development on the riverfront at Deptford.

Update 10:00 pm - News Shopper now has more details - seems the two people were students at the nearby Bellerbys College and Embassy London language school - two linked private colleges for international students based in Stowage SE8.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Lene Lovich at the Hill Station

Singer Lene Lovich was on Stiff Records during its late 1970s hey day, and had a big hit in 1978 with Lucky Number. But one way or another she has been making music and writing songs for forty years.

She's apparently been recording locally and is playing a one off gig in the intimate surroundings of the Hill Station Cafe (Kitto Road SE14) on Friday 18 July. Tickets £12.50 from the venue or from

Monday, June 09, 2014

Rebuilding the Albany in Deptford 1980

This photo shows the current Albany theatre building in Douglas Way, Deptford under construction. The building opened in 1981, so guessing this picture was taken in around 1980. Note the poster for a 'Dance and Defend Benefit' featuring The Tribesmen and Bobby Henry. The Dance and Defend tour took place in 1979 and was organised by Rock Against Racism to raise funds for people arrested in the anti-National Front protests in Southall in April of that year - where anti-fascist demonstrator Blair Peach was killed by the police.

The old Albany building at 47 Creek Road was damaged in a presumed fascist arson attack in 1978, though I believe that the main reason for moving buildings was that the old premises was facing demolition as a result of the widening of Creek Road near to the Church Street junction.

The old Albany in Creek Road in the 1970s
(photo from Art of Regeneration)

Thursday, June 05, 2014

Transpontine Twitter Spam

When archaeologists from distant galaxies sift through the digital debris of 21st century human life will they be able to distinguish genuine communication between sentient beings from the randomly-generated utterances of spambots? Perhaps some of the latter will be hailed as great poets.

One of the things this blog has helped do is to put the word 'transpontine' back into popular circulation, and one consequence of this is that the word has now been harvested by the Spamosphere from where poetic transpontine images freely issue forth. A twitter search on 'transpontine' has generated the following lines for an instant cut up poem - think I will try and put a tune to it! 

Transpontine workers favorable regard australia

Opportunities in place of transpontine slavery open door india

How many for pronounce judgment the lick jobs transpontine?

Transpontine informational consultants hyderabad marionette consultants

Maryland normalness theft insurance plans all for transpontine students:

a freehold is a lumbago: adherent, but not transpontine

Latch points therewith transpontine buggy transportation

fantasying among singapore - straight a in hand quietus in lieu of transpontine illumination

Lock out points referring to transpontine waggon lugging

Wednesday, June 04, 2014

Tiananmen in New Cross

25 years ago today (June 4 1989), tanks entered Tiananmen Square in Beijing to crush the protest movement that had occupied the square for the previous six weeks. In clashes around the city, and in other parts of China, hundreds of people were killed - the full number may never be known. As Lilia Zhang, who later studied at Goldsmiths  and lived in New Cross, has written: 'Whenever “1989” is mentioned, people in the West instantly think about the protesting students in Tiananmen Square. In fact, although it started in Beijing and was led by the students there, the democratic movement was a nationwide event, drawing together people from all walks of life'. Zhang herself 'organized a demonstration among the workers from my Nanjing factory in support of the movement' (Zhang is the author of 'Socialism is Great! A Workers Memoir of the New China).

Today's China is not monolithic and some personal freedoms have been won. As Zhang argues: 'There’s still a cage in China. But for many, my fellow marchers from Nanjing included, the cage has grown so big that they can’t feel its limitations. The movement in 1989 didn’t reach its final goal – to bring democracy to China. But I wouldn’t describe it as a total failure. Without the effort by the hot-blooded students and all those who participated, the rulers might not have expanded the cage'. But those who test the limits of this cage can still be summarily detained by the state, and the authorities continue to harrass people for trying to commemorate the 1989 movement and its bloody suppression. 

The movement in China prompted a wave of international solidarity. I remember taking part in a big demonstration in London, winding round Soho and involving large parts of the Chinese community. At one point we all sat down in the road. 

It was in this period that Goldsmiths Student Union building  in Dixon Road SE14 was named as the Tiananmen building. The building is currently being refurbished, and from outside you would hardly know that it was called the Tiananmen building at all - there is a sign over the entrance saying so in Chinese but not in English. No doubt the name is a bit of an embarrassment to some of  those now marketing Goldsmiths in China, perhaps too to a certain brand of 'leftist' for whom only the victims of the West are worthy of mention. There are no plans to change the name of the building,  but it would be nice for the refurbishment to give it a bit more prominence so that what happened in Tiananmen can continue to be remembered in New Cross. 

Tuesday, June 03, 2014

Virginia Woolf - A Dog's view of London (& Robert Browning of New Cross)

One of Virginia Woolf's lesser known works is Flush (1933), a biography of Eizabeth Barrett's spaniel. It's partly a whimsical parody of Victorian biography, but it does include a dog's eye (or rather dog's nose) perspective of London:

'For the first time he heard his nails click upon the hard paving stones of London. For the first time the whole battery of a London street on a hot summers day assaulted his senses. He smelt the swooning smells that lie in the gutters; the bitter smells that corrode iron railings; the fuming, heady smells that rise from basements - smells more complex, corrupt, violently contrasted and compounded than any he had smelt in the fields near Reading; smells that lay far behind the range of the human nose'.

The dog is stolen and a ransom demanded, leading to a disagreement between Barrett and Robert Browning about how to respond: 'What would Mr Browning had done if the banditti had stolen her: had her in their power; threatened to cut off her ears  and send them by post to New Cross?'

The reference to New Cross comes from the fact that the poet Robert Browning was living in New Cross at the time he and Elizabeth Barrett exchanged romantic letters prior to their marriage and elopement to Italy in 1846. A plaque on Haberdashers' Aske's school at the bottom of Jerningham Road is near to the site of  Browning's 'Telegraph Cottage'.

photo from London Remembers