Monday, November 30, 2015

Lewisham Support for Junior Doctors

So tomorrow's planned 24 hour strike by Junior Doctors in the NHS has been called off pending further negotiations after health secretary Jeremy Hunt backed down and agreed that he would not unilaterally impose a new contract on them. Junior Doctors and their supporters have been organising at local hospitals, including at Lewisham where banners were all ready to go... and will no doubt be brought out again unless there is some real progress on pay and conditions.

photo from Dr Tony O'Sullivan on twitter

Here's the Save Lewisham Hospital campaign statement on the dispute:

Junior doctors are the backbone of the NHS

The term “junior” is misleading – in fact the majority have
many years experience and constitute the main medical workforce in our hospitals.
They are the doctors who tend to you if you are admitted to hospital day or night, 24/7.

This Government is treating them shabbily. It wants to impose a new contract on them and refuses to negotiate. The doctors reject the new contract— it is both unsafe and unfair.

Unsafe because it removes the safeguards against doctors being forced to work excessively long hours, which will increase risk to patients.

Unfair because for many doctors it will mean pay cuts and/or even longer antisocial hours.

Junior doctors don’t want to strike. They have been given no choice as the Government has refused to listen to them. They want the Government to negotiate without preconditions and to remove the threat of contract imposition. Strike action is a last resort and has been planned so that patients are not harmed, with consultants providing emergency care.

If the junior doctors lose this battle then it will be harder to recruit to specialties like A&E which already suffer a serious shortage of doctors. Those who remain will be working more antisocial hours and be more tired; many will leave the NHS. If the junior doctors lose this battle then the Government will come for the nurses and other NHS staff next.

The junior doctors are now in the front line. They are defending a high quality NHS – one that is run by well-supported staff who are able to give of their best when caring for you. We urge you to support our junior doctors and to support all NHS staff and the future of our NHS'.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Dismaland to Wonderland

It didn't take very long for Banksy's Dismaland art exhibition, held over the summer in Weston-super-Mare, to be recuperated by some of those who the artist may have thought he was critiquing. I spotted this poster in Brockley last month, seemingly from property developers South London Land looking for potential local sites with the headline 'From Dismaland to Wonderland'. I first thought it must be satire, but I think it was actually chutzpah.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Debating Disarmament at Riverdale Hall, Lewisham (1984)

There are plans to turn Riverdale Hall next to Lewisham shopping centre into a temporary 'street food emporium' (as reported at Brockley Central) As a public space it has been underused in recent years but it has had its moments in the past - hosting Saxon Sound System and an Elvis Presley exhibition among many other events. 

At the weekend I went to the Imperial War Museum, primarily to see the excellent Lee Miller: a Woman's War, but also to see the exhibition of work by anti-war photomontage artist Peter Kennard. His iconic images defined the visual culture of the 1980s Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament and related movements, and I came across this poster there from March 1984: a Great Debate at Riverdale Hall featuring Jennifer Edwards of CND versus Lady Olga Maitland, Women and Families for Defence (a Conservative pro-nuclear weapons group)

Anyone remember this or other interesting events at this venue?

Monday, November 16, 2015

Whatever happened to Nunhead Reservoir? - public meeting

Nunhead Reservoir, on the other side of Brockley Footpath from the Cemetery, was one of the area's hidden gems. While nominally fenced off, it was easy enough to get into and dog walkers, lovers, runners and others would climb up its grassy banks and take in the great views of London. I should say for those who don't know it that the reservoir itself is underground and completely covered so there was no obvious risk to the water supply.

But early last year a massive new security fence was built, topped with barbed wire and not only preventing access but dominating the view from the surrounding area. I'm not sure what reasons have been given by Thames Water, the privatised utility company that runs the site, but there is a similar reservoir only a few hundred metres away that has a golf course on top of it (Beechcroft reservoir), so on the face of it there is nothing intrinsically unsafe about people moving around such sites.

Anyway there's a public meeting coming up to discuss this, next Sunday 22 November at the The Field, 385 Queens Road, SE14 5HD. The organisers say:

'If you didn't already know, Nunhead Reservoir is now surrounded by a high fence with barbed wire, patrolled by security guard and dogs.

Do you have a connection to Nunhead Reservoir?

Did you used to go there to hang out/ run around/ burn stuff/ do yoga/ walk dogs/ play rounders/ watch the sunset etc. before the new fence was put up?

Are you upset/angry/glad about the new fence?

Did you have your first date with your girlfriend/boyfriend there? Did the reservoir have any special significance to you?

Do you miss being able to go there? Did you dislike the noise and/or rubbish left by people spending time there?

Whatever your connection/memory/opinion, you are warmly invited to a public meeting with soup, bread and wine, hosted by the New Cross Commoners.

We will have an open discussion on Nunhead Reservoir – to share memories and think together about its past and future'

This meeting doesn't have a set agenda- the purpose is to get people who love the reservoir (or hate it!) together, and we will see what comes of this through that meeting. If you know people who have a connection please feel free to invite them'.

Starts at 7pm, there will be soup and wine too

See also article on this at New Cross Commoners for a bit more detail: 'Thames Water probably have valid reasons for doing this. But some locals are understandably upset that what by now is perceived as a common has been so suddenly taken away. There hasn’t, as far as I can tell, been any dialogue between Thames Water and Nunhead locals, so nobody is completely sure of the exact reasons for the new fence. The only new signs are to tell people that guard dogs patrol the area. There is no notice explaining why, even though Thames Water know that people regularly used to spend time there- that’s why they’ve built the new fence after all.

The reservoir is an example of a space which until its recent increased securitization has been paradoxically liminal in terms of its private/ public status.  It’s been used as if it were public, and yet its private status has allowed it to be outside of state control- free from the ‘city officials’ who might also try to control it. Wide open space in this way is always in demand, and yet it being above a reservoir it is at least protected from being bought and developed on as expensive flats. Because of these two powers- the state and the market (in the form of Thames Water) turning a blind eye, many different activities have been allowed to happen at the site'.

One of the things I wonder about places like this is that there's a kind of tacit understanding that people can be allowed to quietly break the rules as long as they don't broadcast the fact too loudly. The reservoir was in use as a semi-public space for years, but Thames Water seem to have acted once people started posting about online or even writing about in the Guardian (to be fair, the latter article didn't actually name the site).  

Chimpman also wondered on twitter whether Thames Water's action might have been prompted by an 'over-zealous' reading of the Government's Centre for Protection of the National Infrastructure's security guidelines.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Save Lewisham Hospital Conference

Well we might have saved Lewisham Hospital from closure of key services and downgrading in 2013, but NHS services everywhere are under threat from funding cuts and more. Next month Save Lewisham Hospital campaign is holding a conference at Goldsmiths in New Cross. They say:

'Why is our NHS under threat and what can we do to defend it?

Our NHS is under threat as never before: hospitals, GPs, mental health services are all struggling due to underfunding and lack of staff. Devastating social care cuts add to the pressures. Privatisation is causing worse care and wasting resources.

The NHS faces £billions of cuts annuallly. 60% of hospitals are in deficit, made worse by extortionate PFI debts. Many hospitals around the country are under threat of closure. NHS staff morale is low, with pay cuts and longer anti-social hours. The NHS, one of the best health care systems in the world, is being underfunded and broken up, and Tory politicians are claiming it’s unsustainable and calling for charges and more privatisation.

But we can fight back. From junior doctors to the Save Lewisham Hospital Campaign and other campaigns around the country, it’s clear that we don’t just have to accept what is happening to the NHS.

Save Lewisham Hospital Campaign is organising a day of talks and discussions aimed at helping us understand better the threats facing the NHS.


Heidi Alexander, Shadow Health Minister and East Lewisham MP (will open the conference)
John Lister,London Health Emergency
Dr Gurjinder Sandhu, Ealing Hospital
Dr John O’Donohue, Lewisham Hospital
A Junior Doctor (person TBC)
Anne Drinkell, Community matron, West London
Dr Brian Fisher, Lewisham GP
Jane Mandlik, Lewisham Pensioners' Forum and Save Lewisham Hospital Campaign
Peter Roderick, Lawyer, Drafter of NHS Reinstatement Bill

Saturday, 5 December 2015 from 10:30 to 16:00, Ian Gulland Lecture Theatre, Goldsmiths University, Lewisham Way. New Cross SE14 6NW'

Monday, November 09, 2015

The Pitmen Painters and Panto

Coming up later this month (Tuesday 17 to Saturday 28 November) at the Brockley Jack, Bromley Little Theatre presents The Pitmen Painters by Lee Hall, directed by Pauline Armour. The play is the true story of a group of miners from the Ashington Colliery who in 1934 hired a professor to teach them a Workers Educational Association art appreciation evening class. He encouraged them to paint, and using pieces of old board and left over tins of paint they created art that represented their day to day lives, both underground and in their local streets and allotments. The Ashington Group went on to become nationally celebrated for their work.

Full details and tickets (£14, £12 concessions) at
or 0333 666 3366.

Telegraph Hill Panto

The Christmas Panto season  is also coming round soon, including Dick Whittington (4, 5 and 6 December) at The Telegraph Hill Centre. Tickets here: (£12, £6)

Saturday, November 07, 2015

Radical New Cross: Protest and dissent 1875 – 2015

As part of the 2015 Being Human Festival of Humanities, Goldsmiths is hosting a series of events this month on the them 'Radical New Cross: Protest and dissent 1875 – 2015':

'From radical parish priests to anti-fascist resistance, New Cross has a long history of radicalism, as will be demonstrated through a series of events, all based on current research projects. Made possible by a collaboration with local community groups, these events are designed to engage the public in an open and collaborative way. Using New Cross as an anchor to explore marginalised histories, groups will be able to start conversations, reveal forgotten histories and demonstrate the relevance of research in the humanities'.

Events include:

- Saul Newman on Post anarchism (12 November);
- Women’s Art library exhibition (14-15 November) - printmaker and street artist Aida Wilde will join archivist and artist Ego Ahaiwe to produce a new poster inspired by a collection of hundreds of posters from the women’s movements of the 1970s and 80s.
 -BANK panel discussion (14 November) - discussion and materials from BANK art collective, charting the organisation’s dissident journey through the boom of the 1990’s London art scene.
- Textile networks (14 November)  - open workshop for crafters, hackers and makers based around the Embroidered digital commons project, a collective artwork initiated by artist Ele Carpenter.
- Commoning in Deptford Town Hall (14 November): For one evening only, Goldsmiths’ historic Deptford town hall will host a feast prepared and eaten by community groups, historians, academics and local people.
- New Cross data tourists (14 November) - interactive walking tour of New Cross. Participants will be given a device developed by the to try out on the streets and public spaces of New Cross.
- The battle of Lewisham: united against fascism (15 November): the history and context of anti-racist and anti-fascist resistance and protest in and around Lewisham in the 20th century.
- Not the measure of us: Black Women, New Cross, ‘New’ Human (15 November) - 'bring along a small example of black radical memorabilia and some words, thoughts and ideas to create a collective installation'.

I hope to get along to some of this, including the New Cross Commoners event at Deptford Town Hall next Saturday - 'From 6pm food will be collectively cooked at the Field, at 385 Queens Road, New Cross. From 8 to 10pm we’ll be in the Deptford Town Hall Council Chamber, New Cross Road, SE14 6NW to eat and discuss. There would be an open mic round happening during the evening and we invite you to join and participate in the conversation and share your experience of the town hall, local area, food, and the relationship between Goldsmiths and New Cross. We are also inviting local groups and people to use the event at the end to ask for things and contacts they may need, announce local events and look for help. We look forward to seeing you there!'

Wednesday, November 04, 2015

The Kooples at the Rivoli Ballroom

French clothing line The Kooples is the latest to take advantage of the splendour of Crofton Park's Rivoli Ballroom for a film shoot. Their latest advert features a glamorous couple meeting up amidst a northern soul dancefloor.

For loads more at the Rivoli, including Lana del Ray, Jimmy Page, Oasis, Florence and the Machine etc. see the Transpontine round up.

Sunday, November 01, 2015

Halloween Bikelife Rideout in South London

Last night someone mentioned on twitter that they'd just seen hundreds of motorbikes tearing down New Cross Road. A couple of minutes later I heard a wall of noise heading up my road, and looking out of the window there they were - every kind of motorbike, scooter, moped and quad bike, taking over both sides of the road, lots of wheelies, lots of people riding without helmets...

On twitter there were sightings of them all over the place... Streatham Common, Brixton Hill, Nunhead, Brockley, Ladywell, Blackheath, Charlton, the Old Kent Road. Reports too of fireworks being let off by bikers. It looks like they may have met up at Hilly Fields at around  7pm

So what was going on?

The first thing to say is that it didn't come out of nowhere. Some of you may remember that exactly the same thing happened this weekend last year, when hundreds of bikers met up in Sydenham on Halloween weekend and rode all round South London.  The Halloween rideout is a coming together of lots of people involved in the bikelife scene, a growing sub-culture of young guys (and it is mainly but not exclusively guys) doing stunts and generally getting their high speed two-wheeled kicks. To get a sense of this check out Bikelife TV

Bikelife is an international scene starting out in the US, and Halloween rideouts are also held elsewhere - check out this footage of the New York City Halloween Rideout 2011 for instance, a very similar event to last night's in South London. A quick search on youtube shows that there were Halloween rideouts last night in places as far apart as Tijuana (Mexico) and Tokyo.

In some ways this is just the latest incarnation of US/UK youth fascination with bikes and reckless behaviour, something that goes back through biker gangs, 1960s mods on scooters, 1950s 'ton up' rockers and Marlon Brando's Black Rebels Motorcycle Club in 'The Wild One'. As a recent Vice article noted, some of the new scene even gravitate sometimes to the mecca of British biker culture, the Ace Cafe on the north circular.

The second thing to say is it looks like a lot of fun and excitement for those taking part. Obviously its pretty thrilling taking over the streets for a night, something which cyclists also feel through their Critical Mass rides and which I even sometimes feel as a runner when a race closes down a road and hundreds of us get to run for once in the middle of the street. All the roads everywhere are dominated by cars, vans and lorries every day of the year, so part of me thinks why shouldn't some of the rest of road users have their moment? Maybe like London Marathon for runners or Ride London for cyclists, the streets of London should be closed once a year for bikers.

The third thing to say though is that it is a dangerous  pursuit. For those participating, it's their choice if they want to risk their own injury or worse, and plainly the danger is part of the thrill. But on last night's ride there was also some people who rode up on pavements, something that must have been very frightening for anyone walking along and could easily have caused a serious accident. So I guess liberal old me says have your fun but don't put other people at risk. Or as the commentator on one  bit of film from Streatham last night put it, don't be a ' idiot'.

It looks like the meeting point at 7 pm might have been at Hilly Fields: