Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Broca Prince Tribute

Good to see a Prince tribute in the window of Broca. His purple majesty has always been honoured in that Coulgate Street café by Brockley station, and as on many other times when I've visited his music was playing there yesterday.

Yes and there's a copy of Parade on proud display inside. Maybe his finest album, it includes my favourite Prince track, Sometimes it Snows in April (and yesterday it actually did)

Coulgate Street is closed for roadworks at the minute, leaving the stretch in front of the café temporarily pedestrianized. I am sure that this cat isn't the only one who would prefer it to stay that way.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

New Cross and Deptford Free Film Festival 2016

So many great films to see for free in fine locations this week in the New Cross and Deptford Free Film Festival. To choose just a few:
- tonight (Tuesday) there's a chance to see Roman Polanski's Macbeth in the evocative setting of Deptford's ancient St Nicholas Church;
- tomorrow night there's a 'Spiceworld the Movie' Spice Girls singalong showing at the Golden Anchor and 'Pride' (the film based on Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners) at New Cross Learning.
- On Saturday 30th April there's an open air cycle powered showing of  Labyrinth in Telegraph Hill Park, featuring David Bowie as goblin king.
- On the last day of the festival Buster Mantis, the new Jamaican themed bar in Deptford, will host an afternoon of films (in association with the Jamaica International Reggae Film Festival)  and music (courtesy of Unit 137 Sound System). The triple bill will include Sound Business (1980s London sound system film), We the Ragamuffin (1990s film shot in Peckham) and Countryman, with Q&A from one of the leading experts on Jamaican and Reggae film culture, Julian Henriques.

Convivium at Catford Constitutional Club

South East London is becoming quite the centre for experimental and improvised music - so much so that SEEM (South East Experimental Music) has been established as  'a not-for-profit collective designed to promote the burgeoning scene of experimental, left-field, alternative, noisy, electroacoustic, acoustic, improvised, digital, electronic, etc. musics and sound art in our favourite corner of London'.  Regular events locally include Sonic Imperfections at the Montague Arms and the Linear Obsessional concerts at the Arts Café in Manor Park.

Tomorrow night (Wednesday 27th April) sees a new night start - Convivium at the Catford Constitutional Club:

'A new space for improvised and experimental music- the brilliant Catford Constitutional Club - an extraordinary space, the very definition of "faded grandeur" and great beer at reasonable prices. It's a shortwalk from Catford Railway Station, and there are loads of buses. For our debut production we present:
- RABBIT- Dave Aylward - Drums/Percussion etc; Tom Scott - Reeds and Electronics.
- the trio of  James O'Sullivan - guitar; Ed Lucas - Trombone; Tom Wheatley - Double Bass/
-a brand new text piece from Catford based avant legend Adam Bohman
- the debut appearance of a new duo- Richard Sanderson - melodeon and amplification; Tim Yates - monochord and assorted objects.
Admission - £5 (suggested donation)'

Monday, April 18, 2016

New Cross History Walks

The main part of the Telegraph Hill Festival 2016 has been and gone, but a Telegraph Hill Festival Extra weekend is coming  up on Saturday 23 and Sunday 24 April) with a series of events including two local history walks on Sunday hosted by Malcolm Bacchus of the Telegraph Hill Society:

Part 1: The Original Telegraph Hill Walk, 11.00 am - 12:30 pm (meet in St Catherine's Churchyard, top of Pepys Road)
'A historical and architectural ramble around Telegraph Hill and New Cross with Malcolm Bacchus of the Telegraph Hill Society.  Where was the telegraph?  Who was John Arbuthnot?  Who or what is Flemish Bond?  And what do the Red Flag and Brunel have in common?
All these questions and more may be answered on Malcolm’s new tour of Telegraph Hill and its environs.  Whether you are new to the area or been here for years, join us to discover a host of lesser known facts about the people and buildings that made it what it is today.  And if you have come on one of these walks before, come again:  they are never the same twice'.
Part 2: Exploring New Cross Gate and Hatcham, 2.00pm-3.30pm (meet outside the White Hart pub, New Cross Road)
(both free of charge)


'Miss you Already' - Drew Barrymore and Toni Collette in The Lord Clyde SE1

'Miss you already' (2015) stars Drew Barrymore and Toni Collette as life long friends dealing with breast cancer and infertility in London. Good film with some lovely moments, and some sad bits obvs.

A lot of the filming took place around Southwark, including the great Lord Clyde pub in Clennam Street SE1

I think this scene was shot in The Lord Clyde

According to FilmFixer: 'Southwark Forge on Lant Street was used extensively and Bankside Open Spaces Trust Eco house on Ayres Street plays the workplace for one of the characters. In Pattison House gardens on Ayres Street, a space is cleared for a community garden; you’ll see the stars walking through Mint Street Park; the boutique Joy on Sumner Street features; GP Studio on Great Suffolk Street hosts dancing and celebrating..

The production expressed their gratitude to locals through a generous donation to the Lant & Bittern Tenants and Residents Association... And during the shoot the stars helped Breast Cancer Campaign host an afternoon tea at The Goldsmith Pub in Southwark'

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Lewisham Pensioners Forum Big Book Sale

Lewisham Pensioners Forum is holding another Big Book Sale fundraiser later this month - in fact the last it will be holding in its present location of the Saville Centre by Lewisham Hospital.

The Big Book Sale takes place over three days:

- Tues. 26 April: 12noon to 8pm
- Wed. 27 April: 10am to 8pm
- Thurs. 28 April:10am to 6pm
Admission is free and prices low - hardbacks: (mostly) 50p to £2;  paperbacks: 25p or five for £1

The final day will be a clearance sale - everything just £1 a box.  There will also be a Yard Sale/ Give-away cellar clearance of bric-à-brac and bits & pieces.

Venue is the Forum's current base:  The Saville Centre,  436 Lewisham High Street, SE13 6LJ (a couple of blocks south of the hospital and on lots of bus routes from Catford or Lewisham—street parking after 7pm).  Lewisham Council is planning to close this community centre, so the Forum will be moving elsewhere. For more information phone 020 8690 5213,


Saturday, April 16, 2016

Drone Folk at Rye Wax

Tomorrow afternoon (Sunday 2.00 pm to 6:00 pm) at Rye Wax in the Bussey Building SE15:

'Cunning Folk Music invite you to a free afternoon of drone folk at RyeWax. Analogue synthesis combined with singing & playing. An eclectic selection of artists collaborating in an experiment in cross genre pollination.

The bill is expanding. At present confirmed artists include acclaimed Anglo-Polish folk singer Katy Carr, R2 folk award nominees Stick In The Wheel, storyteller Vanessa Woolf, psychedelic songwriter Jack Ellister, Cage & Aviary alumni Jamie Paton & George Hoyle, Teleplasmiste (Mark Pilkington & Michael J York), GentleFolk, Moonswift & Sand Snowman, the Delta Ladies & Richard Rufus'.


Wednesday, April 13, 2016

John Roan Resists Meeting

Last November staff at The John Roan school in Greenwich took strike action against plans to turn the school into an Academy. While 'academisation' (horrible word) was put on hold, it is now back on the agenda nationally with the Government threatening to make every school an Academy whether they want to or not, as well as to scrap the role of parent governor and other changes that will further distance schools from their communities.  The policy is already proving very unpopular across the political spectrum - as most schools are doing fine already, why put them through a costly and disruptive organisational change with no evidence that it will improve them? Shouldn't they be focusing on education?

At The John Roan meanwhile staff, students and parents are now concerned about cuts and redundancies as well as the ongoing Academy threat. Tomorrow night (Thursday 14 April 2016) John Roan Resists are holding a public meeting at Mycenae House, 90 Mycenae Road in Blackheath.

Somerville Adventure Playground Build Day

The new building at Somerville Adventure Playground
Somerville Adventure Playground in New Cross (in Queens Road opposite the Montague Arms) has been going through a period of redevelopment with a new building and refurbishment of the playground in the lead up to its reopening in May. This weekend - Saturday 16th April (10 am - 3 pm) - they are holding a Build Day to fix and build new structures, and are asking for volunteers to come and help  out:
'Come and help us with the build of this amazing space for our local children. Opening in May we need Mums, Dads and anyone willing to help for few hours to finish off this amazing project in time. Working gear will be available and afterwards we'll enjoy a great BBQ and some drinks. Bring your food/drinks if you want otherwise we'll make sure there is enough for anyone! No kids allowed unfortunately (not yet!). 

We've got lots of exciting new features, a bigger slide, two tree houses, a stage and more more, so its a great time to get involved! Tasks will include; painting, construction and gardening'.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Ben Smith - Cityscapes

CITYSCAPES is an exhibition of paintings and drawings by Ben Smith at Xavier White’s Gallery in Blackheath:

'Ben Smith draws and paints the urban fabric of South London, drawing from life and creating paintings in his studio, aiming to portray the depth, repetition and interchangeability of the contemporary cityscape.  The works exhibited at Xavier White’s front room gallery capture a city in flux, caught in the cross currents of redevelopment, displacement and demolition.

Ben trained at Central Saint Martins in the 1990s. He has exhibited in group shows in Brick Lane, Camberwell and Peckham. This is his first London solo show.

Elephant I - Ben Smith

Elephant II - Ben Smith

View of Southwark - Ben Smith

Cityscapes is at Xavier White’s Gallery, Top Flat, 26 Vanbrugh Park, Blackheath, London SE3 7AF. Until May 6th. To view the exhibition call Xavier 07 88 99 72 374

London Radical Bookfair 2016 in New Cross

Last year's London Radical Bookfair, held at a warehouse in Tanner Street SE1, was a great success. The 2016 event is even closer to home (for me at least), taking place at Goldsmiths  in New Cross on 7 May 2016:

'Radical booksellers, publishers, artists and activists of all stripes are setting up in teh Great Hall at Goldsmiths University to host the 4th London Radical Bookfair.  With over 130 exhibitors and 20 guest speakers, this will be a unique gathering of progressive readers, thinkers and doers, in a celebration of radical publishing and politics. 
The free event is organised by the Alliance of Radical Booksellers (ARB),  which formed in 2011 to raise awareness of the radical book trade. The fair provides an annual opportunity to bring Britain’s radical booksellers together to meet in person with publishers and the reading public. And it’s also an opportunity for us to host award ceremonies for the ARB’s two annual book prizes — the Bread and Roses Award for Radical Publishing and the Little Rebels Children’s Book Award. Shortlisted authors from the two awards will give talks and participate in panel discussions throughout the day'.

London Radical Bookfair 2016 poster, spotted under railway bridge in Brockley

Sunday, April 10, 2016

The Nunhead Gardener

Mysterious passageways under the railway line opposite Nunhead station, now filled with plants and scented candles...
A shrine to Venus in a lime grove next to the track...
Yes and lots of greenery at reasonable prices. Apparently they are considering selling coffee... bring it on. The Nunhead Gardener is at 1a Oakdale Road SE15 3BW


Friday, April 08, 2016

Support the Carnegie Library Occupation - Demonstration on Saturday

It is now a week since campaigners occupied Carnegie Library (Herne Hill Road SE24) in an attempt to prevent its closure by Lambeth Council. The Council claim the closure is only temporary and that there will be a library there in the future, but it is clear that whatever remains will be a vastly diminished service as much of the building is scheduled to be converted into a gym leaving only an understaffed 'lounge' of books.

There is a demonstration in support of the library occupation tomorrow - Saturday 9th April, 11:30 am meeting at the library and marching to Brixton via the also closed Minet Library. The campaign is called 'Defend the Ten' as there have been ten libraries in Lambeth.

I went along to visit the occupation last Saturday, and was impressed by the support. There were a couple of hundred people outside and a never-ending stream of people bringing food and other supplies to the people inside. There was a toot of support from just about every passing vehicle.

The campaign has a strong personal resonance for me, as Carnegie Library (along with West Norwood library and the long closed St Martins Library in Tulse Hill) was the first place I worked in when I moved down to Brixton in 1987. It's a fine old building but more than that it has a central place in the Herne Hill/Loughborough Junction community stretching back over generations. Like many other safe places of sanctuary, study and reading, it is now under threat as a result of overnment funding cuts.
Authors Stella Duffy and Alex Wheatle show their support
The chess club - homeless following closure - takes to the streets

Personal messages from library users


The No Frills Band & 20 years of South London folk sessions

The No Frills Band are playing at the Birds Nest (Church Street SE8) in Deptford on Saturday afternoon  - April 9th 2016 - so expect some fine traditional folk music. Check facebook for details, but they should be up and running by 4 pm

Last time I saw them play was only last Saturday on the steps outside Carnegie Library on Herne Hill Road, occupied in protest at its planned closure by Lambeth Council.

The band can always be relied upon to turn up at community events in the South London area, but more than that the members of the band have been at the centre of an ongoing series of folk sessions in the area stretching back for over twenty years...

Last night's fun

In 'Last night's fun: a book about music, fun and time' (1996), Ciaran Carson muses on simultaneous Irish music sessions in different parts of the world as 'starry fragments of a great galactic internet which shimmers over all the shebeens of the earth... Across the many time zones the same tune might be bi-located at the same time, in the same time'.

But while the pub session scene might have started out with Irish music, Carson suggests that the origins of the Irish session are in London rather than Ireland. Traditional Irish musicians back home used to mainly play at weddings and other community functions, rather than in the public bar. The large number of Irish migrants who moved to London for work after the Second World War were separated from this circuit so musicians began gathering in pubs to play. This practice of fairly informal drop in folk music pub sessions eventually spread back to Ireland itself.
There's an interesting discussion about this history at The Session website, including a list of London pubs that hosted Irish sessions in the 1950s and 1960s. South of the river this included The Admiral Duncan in Deptford (New Cross Road), Duke of Gloucester in Walworth (Gurney St SE17), The World's End in Newington Causeway SE1 and The Black Prince (Kennington Road SE11) - of which only the latter survives.
Mandolins and me
My initiation into this scene came when I took up the mandolin in the early 1990s. I had been listening to a lot of Irish and Scottish music, and the instrument had gradually entered my consciousness,  creeping up on me until one day at a now-vanished shop in Camden Lock I just went for it and bought one. I'd never even picked one up before. My first mandolin was made by Ozark in Romania. For some strange reason it featured the design of a palm tree on the front, something I assume is rarely seen in its country of origin.

It was back up to Camden again to learn how to play it. At that time the Working Men's College was a major source for the diffusion of Irish music. Pete Cooper ran a fiddle evening class, whilst Mick O'Connor ran a combined tenor banjo and mandolin class.  His technique was simple - no fiddling around with scales or theory, just learn the tunes. He would stand at the front with his banjo and very patiently play slowed down versions of jigs and reels, with  the rest of us attempting to follow using the hand written tabs Mick supplied. Many of us also brought in cassette recorders (remember them?) to help us remember the tunes for practising at home.
Mick O'Connor
As we grew in confidence, a group of us started meeting up to play together. We began in a room above a pub in Southwark, the now demolished St George's Tavern, opposite The Imperial War Museum and next  to the Roman Catholic St George's Cathedral on Lambeth Road SE1. Before long we had migrated to the bar downstairs for what became a regular Sunday lunchtime session. There were a couple of experienced musicians, but most of us had never played in public before. Someone came up with the name McGonagall's Revenge, since our shambolic offerings were on a par with the rudimentary poems of the Scottish amateur, appreciated after his death for being so bad they were almost good. The  line-up usually included mandolin, fiddle, guitar, banjo and bodhran, sometimes with more than one of each depending on who turned up. On one occasion we even stretched to uilleann pipes. There was a regular core of people, but anyone was welcome to drop by. Sometimes you would get some random tourists over from the Imperial War Museum joining in - I remember some Swedish guys coming by and singing a song.
We had a regular repertoire of songs as well as tunes: 'Back home in Derry', 'the Fields of Athenry', 'The Rocky Road to Dublin', 'Flower of Scotland', 'The Lark in the morning' etc. But in that period singing Irish songs in public was a tricky business even if you avoided the most obvious republican rebel songs. The cathedral next door had hosted the funeral of Terence MacSwiney, the mayor of Cork who had died on hunger strike in Brixton prison in 1920. Every year there was a memorial mass in the Cathedral, with an overspill of veteran republicans into the pub afterwards. In 1993 this coincided with the weekend of the terrible bombing of a chip shop in Belfast Shankhill Road, in which nine people died (an attack which may have involved a British state double agent within the IRA). I recall the nervous landlord in the pub asking us to stick to tunes and to leave the songs alone. During that period too one of our group, a young Irish guy,  was arrested under the Prevention of Terrorism of Act - though I don't think it was his music that drew the attention of the police (he was released without charge).
There were many other Irish sessions across London. There were some great playing, but the atmosphere was sometimes a bit intimidating - if you had to ask what the tune was, you probably shouldn't have been there. I recall a particularly high speed session at The Telegraph pub on Brixton Hill. I didn't dare get my mandolin out there!
Brixton Sessions
But the core of what was later to become the No Frills Band had started a different kind of session in Brixton pubs like the Windmill and the Duke of Edinburgh (Ferndale Road SW9). Many of the people had their roots in the local squat/punk scene, and there was less preciousness about the repertoire than in some traditional sessions: a core of Irish tunes to be sure, but also music from around the world.  Well national authenticity in folk music is often bogus anyway - 'Irish music' has always drawn on Scottish reels, Bohemian polkas, Polish mazurkas and English hornpipes, with tunes travelling across borders as readily as itinerant musicians.
Last session at the Grosvenor in August 2014
(photo by Mike Urban at BrixtonBuzz)
This session later moved on to The Grosvenor in Stockwell until it closed in 2014, and continues to this day as the No Frills session on the second Sunday of the month back at The Windmill off Brixton Hill, starting at around 7 pm: 'All musicians and all styles welcome. Irish, Welsh, English and Scottish, American old time, bluegrass and western swing, French, Yiddish, East European, Scandinavian, Greek, Turkish, Balkan and more. All abilities tolerated. Come and swap tunes and songs, meet people and learn stuff. Or, do what most people do and just grab a beer and enjoy the music. See you in the Windmill!'. Next one is actually this forthcoming Sunday.

I played a few times in those mid-1990s sessions at the Duke of Edinburgh, but then headed off through a period of house and techno obsession followed by parenthood in which my never more than basic mandolin playing got very rusty. I did have a go at one of the Grosvenor sessions a couple of years ago, and at another session upstairs in the Old Nun's Head. Maybe I'll get back into it again properly some time, when you start playing the fingers remember the tune even when the mind doesn't... 
Scores of  musicians must have taken part in those sessions over the past 20 years, passing through and picking up tunes, the definition of a living music tradition.

Magdalena Marmot (Maggie), a regular at those Brixton sessions who sadly died
in Calderdale Royal Infirmary in 2012

Thursday, April 07, 2016

Socialist Opposition to World War I - exhibition and talk in Blackheath

Interesting event coming up next week:

'St George's Church in Westcombe Park is pleased to host a showing of a free educational exhibit entitled "Socialist Opposition to World War I". The exhibit runs all day on Friday 15 and Saturday 16 April in the nave of the church, located on Glenluce Road in Blackheath, SE3 7RZ.

On Friday 15 April at 7:30 pm there will be a lecture by Prof Mary Davis, Visiting Professor of Labour History at Royal Holloway University of London, and creator of the exhibit. She has written, broadcast and lectured widely on women’s history, labour history, imperialism and racism. She was awarded the TUC women’s Gold Badge in 2010 for services to trade unionism. Refreshments will be available throughout the exhibit.

As we consider the causes and legacy of that terrible conflict, we commemorate those who served, those who never returned, and also those who opposed the war due to conscience.The exhibit was created through the auspices of the Marx Memorial Library and is funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund'.

(facebook event details here)


Junior Doctors Strike - it's not all about the money

photo from Dr Tony O'Sullivan on twitter

Pickets were out at hospitals across the country yesterday - and will be again today - in the 4th strike in the ongoing Junior Doctors dispute.  In South East London that included Lewisham Hospital (pictured above) and Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Woolwich. Simon Pirani, who was at Woolwich, has sent us this report:

'Junior doctors picketed Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Woolwich this morning in protest at the Tory government’s attempt to impose a new contract. Together with local supporters (including me) they formed a group of about 20 at the main gate. Patients on their way in to appointments wished them well; drivers honked and waved.
Women doctors on the picket line were especially incensed at the results of an equality impact assessment, released by the government last week, which show that the new contracts will disproportionately disadvantage women. They were also angry about the way that the contract terms discriminate against junior doctors working part-time – many of whom are women with children.
The pickets hope that the threat of all-out strike action, on 26-27 April, will persuade the government to back down from imposing the contract ... or at least to put it out for consultative review.
My impression was that the junior doctors’ dispute has almost nothing to do with the level of pay. These are people who spend up to 15 years training for a demanding (and ultimately well paid) profession. They already work all the shifts that god sends, and have to move hospitals regularly. It is the way that the contract is being rammed through – and the way that it takes unsocial hours working for granted – that infuriates them.
Anger is also generated by the government’s dictatorial handling of negotiations with the BMA, its insulting propaganda (“extra deaths at the weekends” and all those lies) and its bullying demeanour. On top of that, the new contract is obviously part of a long continuum of changes aimed at trashing the NHS as a publicly-provided service and making it a privatised business.
The pickets will be at QEH again on Tuesday 26 April, at 8.0 am, when they will be on all-out strike. Please join them'.
Striking junior doctors in Woolwich

Wednesday, April 06, 2016

Myron Yarde: third 17 year old killed in Lewisham in 7 months

The appeal to raise funds for the funeral and memorial to Myron Yarde, the 17 year old stabbed to death in New Cross on Sunday, has raised nearly £10,000 in just a few days (see here)

Flowers and sawdust mark the scene on the corner of Camplin Street/Egmont St -
by the former Royal Archer pub (now converted to flats)
Myron was found fatally injured in Camplin Street SE14. Two people - aged 15 and 16 - have been arrested. His mum died last year, leaving his siblings to arrange his funeral. By all accounts he was a talented up and coming musician, performing as MDot. But the bare fact is another child killed in the streets - the third 17-year-old in Lewisham in just over six months: Shaquan Fearon was stabbed to death in Turnham Road, Brockley, last September, a couple of weeks later Naseem Galleze was killed nearby in St Norberts Road in a car crash during a violent incident.

Saturday, April 02, 2016

Linear Obsessional #6 in Manor Park tomorrow

Tomorrow, Sunday April 3rd,  in Manor Park (not to be confused with the nearby Manor House Gardens), Linear Obsessional presents another programme of interesting, experimental and improvised music at the Arts Café:
' Four extraordinary acts, performing in a park in Lewisham!
Marlo Eggplant -
From Baltimore - Marlo Eggplant is a prominent figure in a diverse and thriving international scene of female experimental music performers. She will be using amplified autoharp and contact mics.

Steven Ball -
So-called Avant Songster Steven Ball (who recording the EP "Life of Barrymore" for Linear Obsessional) will play some new songs, some short, one quite long...

Mike Adcock & Stuart Wilding
Britain's leading improvising accordionist in a scintilating duo with mercurial and witty percussionist Stuart Wilding. As featured on the recent LinOb release... "Accord"

Dirch Blewn & Rahel Kraft
Unique UK live electronics exponent meets Swiss vocals and electronics in a fascinating and unique duo.

Concert starts at 4pm prompt! The ArtsCafe is a lovely heated venue in the middle of Manor Park, Lewisham. It has food, coffee, tea and soft drinks. Feel free to bring a bottle.We usually all go to the pub afterwards, feel free to join us!  Admission £5 suggested donation'.

Friday, April 01, 2016

Limonious Dancehall Art at South London Gallery

This weekend is your last chance to see 'In Fine Style: the Dancehall art of Wilfred Limonious' at South London Gallery (it closes on Sunday April 3rd - admission free).

The Jamaican graphic artist Wilfred Limonious (1949–99) designed  a couple of hundred dancehall/reggae record sleeves, and the exhibition features some of his art work for these as well as examples of his comic strips for newspapers. It also explores his ongoing influence, including on Major Lazer among others.