Saturday, June 27, 2015

Sound systems in New Cross & Deptford

Tomorrow (Sunday 29 June 2015), Unit 137 reggae sound system will be out in New Cross, set up next to New Cross fire station in Queens Road, with BBQ and Rum Bar. Free entry, 1 pm - 6 pm. See Facebook event details

More reggae sounds on 18th July  with The Deptford Dub Club returning to The Duke, 125 Creek Road SE8, with special guests the Roots Garden Sound System from Brighton. 

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

'Working Illegally': Detention Centre film in Deptford

Coming up next month - Thursday, July 23rd,  6:30pm - at Goldsmiths Students Union (Dixon Road SE14), South London Anti-Fascists present a screening of the film Working Illegally that  'exposes the ever increasing phenomenon of coerced labour in detention centres...  Told primarily through detainees' testimonies, based on original research by Corporate Watch, this film offers critical insight into the labour that maintains the UK detention estate, as well as a general introduction to the immigration detention system'

 This will be followed by a discussion with former detainees and related campaigns, with speakers including:

'Aderonke Apata- formerly a detainee at Yarl's Wood and currently fighting for asylum, has despite the abhorrent treatment she has faced, been extremely active in condemning and challenging the politics of deportation. See an interview she did with Novara Media here

Standoff Films- someone from the organisation will introduce the film and join the discussion afterwards. From their website: "Our documentaries seek to uncover unsettling realities by hearing from those most directly affected by the social and political situations we examine."

Movement for Justice by any Means Necessary- MFJ have been at the forefront of recent efforts to challenge the existence of deportation centres, in particular Yarl's Wood. Organising a number of demos at the centre, including one upcoming on the 8th August.

The Anti-Raids Network- The resources that ARN have compiled over the last couple of years, and make readily available on their website, have been invaluable to local communities and activists resisting raids. Also successfully mobilising against various UKBA/Immigration Enforcement initiatives including Operation Centurion'.

Suggested donation £2/£3. More info and Facebook event details here.

Note - this event was previously scheduled to take place at Deptford Cinema, but venue has been changed

Monday, June 22, 2015

Cornelius Cardew in New Cross, and a ballad of East Street

'Cornelius Cardew (1936-81): a life unfinished' by John Tilbury (Copula, 2008) is a monumental biography of the radical composer by one of his closest collaborators. Its 1100 pages document in close detail Cardew's musical and political life, cut short at the age of  45 when he was hit by a car in East London.

Cardew became involved with the musical avant-garde in the late 1950s, working for a while as an assistant to Karlheinz Stockhausen in Cologne. He helped introduce the work of American and other experimental composers into British musical circles. For instance in in July 1963, Cardew was involved in organising a Little Festival of New Music at Goldsmiths in New Cross with performers including John Cale (later of the Velvet Underground), Enid Hartle, Fred Turner, Griffith Rose, Robin Page, Tomas Schmitt and members of the Fluxus group George Macunias and Emmett Williams. Two concerts, one in the afternoon and one in the evening, including pieces by La Monte Young, Nam June Paik and Williams' 'Counting Song', which consisted of him counting the audience.

In 1966 Cardew joined the improvisational group AMM, founded the year before by  Lou Gare, Keith Rowe and Eddie Prévost  (Prévost had been to Addey and Stanhope school in Deptford, and been introduced to percussion in the 19th Bermondsey Boy Scouts marching band).

In 1968 Cardew began an Experimental Music class at Morley College in Lambeth. Many of those attending  'were later to form the nucleus of the Scratch orchestra' including Michael Parsons, Howard Skempton, Carole Finer (a lecturer at London College of Printing and later at Camberwell College of Art) and Psi (Peter) Ellison (who for 'some months... squatted in a clothing shop in Deptford'). The Scratch Orchestra's approach to music was playful and inclusive (see Stefan Szczelkun's participant account) but this was soon to be rejected by Cardew as he came under the influence of the 'Maoist' Communist Party of England (Marxist-Leninist).

The last ten years of Cardew's life were dominated by his involvement in this group, and musically he turned away from experimentalism towards didactic political song aiming to put across the party's line to the masses through vehicles such as People's Liberation Music. His earlier collaborators were denounced as bourgeois in texts such as Stockhausen Serves Imperialism.

In October 1975, Cardew started an evening class at Goldsmiths, 'Songs for our Society', its participants including 'composer Howard Skempton (occasionally), a homeopathic nurse, a lady on day release from a mental hospital, a young German called Holger, a retired railway worker' and others. Afterward 'the class would adjourn to a nearby pub, usually the Goldsmiths Tavern, occasionally the Marquis of Granby, and there would be a further two hours of intense political discussion'.

One outcome of the class was a gig for prisoners at Brixton Prison Medical Wing in 1976, where a band including Cardew, Eddie Prevost and Keith Rowe treated the audience to songs including Up and Over the Wall and The Ballad of George Jackson - the latter written and sung by a member of the class, Jim Ward, who recalled it as 'rather strong.... with its references to racist pigs and fascists in the prison service'. Later, in June 1981, Cardew organised a concert at Goldsmiths to commemorate the deaths in the New Cross Fire that year, though as Tilbury recalls there some controversy about the event being used to push the party line.

Cardew and his comrades were frequently in conflict with the police - he was arrested in the anti-National Front 'Battle of Lewisham' in August 1977, and in another anti-NF demonstration in Camberwell in 1980. In the latter case, Cardew was already on a suspended sentence following a previous arrest,  and he was jailed for a month in Pentonville after an appearance at Newington Causeway Magistrates Court.

Cardew's song/piano piece 'Four Principles on Ireland' was inspired by another local confrontation. According to Tilbury, it  'related to a demonstration in East Street market in South East London in 1972. The Party comrades who were leafleting were "brutally attacked" by the police and several received prison sentences' - Cardew's subsequent song was based on the leaflet.

For me the devotion of Cardew and others to the tiny maoist sect seems rather tragic. Their sectarian, dogmatic rhetoric had little impact other than contributing to the image of radical leftists as ridiculous fantasists - their grandiose sounding front organisations such as South London Revolutionary Youth and South London People's Front no doubt inspired the 'Tooting Popular Front' of late 1970s sitcom 'Citizen Smith'. One of the more comic touches in Tilbury's book is a reference to Cardew taking part in 1980 in a delegation to Germany as part of the 'Stalin Youth Brigade'- at the time Cardew was 44 years old and the other 'youth' delegates were aged 33 and 'mid twenties'!

While Cardew may have been on the right side of history in fighting against fascists in the 1970s, he was also an apologist for mass murderers like Stalin and Mao, and you have to wonder what atrocities he would have been capable of countenancing if his unlikely fantasy of the party taking power had been realized. No doubt other kinds of radicals - denounced as social fascist  - would have been first against the wall - a 1972 letter talks of  'Revisionism, Trotskyism, Anarchism, Reformism,Terrorism, the Labour Party etc' as lines to be struggled against: 'isolate them and wipe them out, so that we can achieve the necessary unity to go forward'. Those with the wrong musical line would probably also find themselves having to 'work harder with a gun in your back for a bowl of rice a day' (to quote the Dead Kennedys 'Holiday in Cambodia'). In 1977, the party's Progressive Cultural Association published an infamous 'Punk Rock is Fascist' article in its journal Cog and Wheels. I'm sorry but give me The Clash any day over Cardew's late period songs such as “Revisionist Somersaults And The Opportunist Opposition”

Friday, June 19, 2015

New Cross Independent Label Fair

'Let's celebrate summer and sunshine one of the longest days of the year! On Saturday the 20th of June we're calling out to all you record collectors and music enthusiasts. New Cross Inn transforms for ONE DAY ONLY bringing you a handful of London's finest independent music labels.

Expect a wide variety of musical genres, some of the freshest vinyl LP's, 45's, tapes, CD's, fanzines and exclusive merchandise whilst also getting the chance to chat with the friendly label staff. Guest DJ performances from Dom Servini & Scrimshire (WahWah45's)Tom Central (KeepUp! Records) & Charo (WotNot / HoxtonFM).

Starts 12pm –5pm. Free Entry. Indoors / Outdoor seating for sunshine boozing. Cocktails & Cheap Beer all day. Featuring:

Accidental Records
Mukatsuku Records
Rocket Girl
Slowfoot Records
Spotty Vinyl Records
Unwork Records
Upset The Rhythm -
Wah Wah 45s
WotNot -

After all the daytime excitement, from 7pm twe're putting together a great line up of live music.

Performances from:
Tense Men
Gloss Rejection

Follow the link below for more info on the evening event:

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

South East London Giants - Australian Rules on Peckham Rye

If those four-in-a-row posts on Peckham Rye are a mystery to you,  you need to check out Australian rules football. The oval pitch on the Rye is the home of South East London Giants, our local Aussie Rules team. They have two men's teams and a women's team, and still have over a month left until the end of the season -  so there's still a chance to catch them in their remaining home fixtures on 4th and 11th July

So all you summer football-bereaved Transpontine sportists, why not head down to offer some support?

Peckham Rye has an important place in sporting history. It was one of the first locations for Gaelic Athletics Association sports in London (see: Low Lie the Fields of Peckham Rye), and also one of London's first athletics clubs: Peckham Athletic Club, formed in the early 1870s, gave rise to both Blackheath Harriers and South London Harriers - two of the capital's longest established clubs. So good to see Australian Rules Football being added to the mix.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Cyclist deaths, 1914 and 2015

Cyclists lay down in the road and blocked traffic on Monday night in Camberwell, to mark the death on 29 May of Esther Hartsilver. Esther , a physiotherapist at Kings College Hosptial, was killed when hit by a lorry while cycling close to the hospital in Denmark Hill. She was the sixth cyclist killed on London's roads this year.

photo from report in Independent

Sadly, the death of cyclists on our roads is not new. I recently came across a similar tragedy from a hundred years ago, with a Lewisham cyclist being killed by a hit and run driver  in Baring Road, Lee. The Daiily Mirror reported:

'Search for Owner of Car That Was Driven Off After Fatal Collision.

 '...the police were still without a definite clue to the motor-car which was involved in a fatal collision with two cyclists at Lewisham on Saturday night and failed to stop after the accident. The cyclists were Mr. Harry Tyrell, of Lewisham, and Miss Caroline Wells, who lives in the same road. Mr. Tyrell was fatally injured and Miss Wells badly hurt. Shortly before the collision a policeman saw a man and woman cycling from the direction of Bromley towards Baring road, Lewisham. A little later he saw a dark-coloured low, open car, with two men in it, proceeding in the same direction. The car had a powerful head light'. (Daily Mirror,Tuesday 14 April 1914).

Lets hope we don't have to wait another hundred years for the roads to be safe for cyclists.

Friday, June 05, 2015

1915 London Tram Strike in New Cross

A hundred years ago this week, tram workers in London were sacked for going on strike and sent off to war. The London tram strike was prompted by the rising cost of living - the 7,000 strikers demanded a 'war bonus'.  The response of the employer, London County Council (LCC), was to sack all men of military age, telling them to volunteer for the armed forces.

The strike of drivers and conductors started out on Friday 14 May as an unofficial walkout at the New Cross depot - now the bus garage on New Cross Road - and soon spread across London (Sunday Mirror, 16 May 1915). The strike united workers from two rival unions - the London and Provincial Union of Licensed Vehilce Workers (known as the "red button men" ) and the "blue button" Amalgamated Union of Tramway Vehilce Workers'  (Daily Mirror - Monday 17 May 1915).

Pickets at New Cross depot (Daily Mirror, 17 May 1915)

The trams were the main source of transport for many workers to the Woolwich Arsenal, and it was reported that  'The New Cross men have made an offer to the L.C.C., which has been refused, to work cars each day to Woolwich for war munition workers without pay. The one condition was imposed — that the Council should allow the men to travel free'  (Liverpool Echo - Tuesday 18 May 1915)

Some trams did run to Woolwich:  'Extraordinary scenes were witnessed in South London yesterday morning as a  result of the tram strike. Heavy rain had been falling since an early hour, and thousands of people waited at different points in the hope of getting omnibuses, but the majority were doomed to disappointment. At New Cross, where cars labelled ' War munitions workers only" were running to and from Woolwich, great resentment was occasioned when only those producing Arsenal passes were allowed to board the cars'  (Newcastle Journal, 19 May 1915).  Strikers picketed the New Cross depot throughout the strike.

New Cross Road in the strike, by the depot (Sunday Pictorial, 16 May 1915)
On the last day of the strike, 'At New Cross about 1,200 strikers attended the Hatcham Liberal Club, when a resolution was adopted expressing confidence in the joint committee of the unions and determination 'to fight to a finish'.  One speaker complained that what was started a a 'strike' had now been made a 'lock-out' by the Highways Committee of the L.C.C. The men were advised to go back in the belief that their grievances would be dealt at once, but the L.C.C. were really taking the place of the Government by insisting on conscription' (Birmingham Daily Post, 1 June 1915).  The Daily Herald also reported 'a meeting in the Five Bells, at New Cross, the storm centre of the tram-men's strike'  (Daily Herald - Saturday 22 May 1915)

The strike took place at a time of increasing social tensions. In the same week there were anti-German riots in different parts of the country, in which shops run by Germans (or those with German-sounding names) were attacked, including in New Cross and Deptford:  'One result of the riots is a severe bread shortage. Near New Cross Gate so many bakers’ shops have been smashed that the police had be called yesterday to regulate the crowd which surged round the only shop in the neighbourhood where bread could be obtained' (Birmingham Daily Post - Monday 17 May 1915).

Monday, June 01, 2015

Music Monday: Steven Ball - Collected Local Songs

Steven Ball's Collected Local Songs, released in February, is an album that is as local as it gets in terms of Deptford. Ball describes it as 'a collection of songs of quotidian and local reflection, mostly constructed from everyday language, observations, overheard conversations, encounters, signs, community notices, announcements, phrases from historical texts about Victorian social life; from around and about the neighbourhoods of Deptford and New Cross in South London; using simple compositional structures, recorded with minimal instrumental setting'.

Reviewing it in The Wire (April 2015) , Sukhdev Sandhu described it thus: 'a drifting, sometimes aleatory assemblage of signs and signals encountered in South London's Deptford and New Cross. Ball sees the city as plunderphonic terrain, and this music is built up from layers of centrifugal texts... Memories, fragmented and not always lucid, act as bulwarks against capitalism's amnesia. The city is battered but not down for the count'.

The first track, Beautfiul Shoes, conjured up images of 'walking and falling'..

'across Creek Road
and then down the High Street
into Douglas Way
Amersham Vale
Amersham Grove
right into Edward Street
left down the High Street
across Creek Road
into Watergate Street
up to the river
and back down
Watergate Street'

'Deptford Flea Market interlude' includes sampled sounds from down the market.

I believe Steven Ball will be releasing some more material shortly via Hither Green-based Linear Obsessional Recordings.