Friday, December 29, 2017

Dennis Bovell - Lovers Rock as 1970s X-Factor

Earlier this month, Dennis Bovell was made an Honorary Fellow at Goldsmiths, a recognition of his contribution to music and his links to the South East London area. Bovell is probably best known for his many reggae/dub productions, including producing Linton Kwesi Johnson, helping to establish the Lovers Rock genre (including writing Silly Games for Janet Kay)  and being a member of Matumbi.  But he also had a key role in the punk/post-punk period, producing The Slits and The Pop Group among others.

Bovell wrote the film score for the film Babylon (1980), which as discussed here before was filmed in SE London. Earlier this year he devoted his Soho Radio show to music from the film in dicussion with Les Back from Goldsmiths, prompted by the death of the film's director Franco Rosso.

Much of Bovell's work in the late 1970s was recorded at Dennis Harris's Eve Records studio at 13 Upper Brockley Road, SE4, the base too for Harris's Lovers Rock label. In the Soho Radio show, Bovell recalls 1970s auditions here:

'we used to have an audition every Sunday afternoon after 3 pm. There was a programme on BBC London called Reggae Time and that was presented by a man called Steve Barnard, it was the only chance of listening to reggae for two hours on  the BBC, and so directly after that we'd hold our auditions. We'd get him to say if you want to audition get down to Eve Studios in Brockley and
one day came three girls that became Brown Sugar and Caron Wheeler was one of them, and so was Kofi and of course Pauline Catlin who now goes under the name of Shezekiel (and her son Aaron Soul, big talent). This is where the youngsters of South East London came to audition- this was the X Factor!'

(Brown Sugar's debut single 'I'm in Love with a Dreadlocks' was released on the Lovers Rock label in 1977).

Les Back abd Dennis Bovell at recent Goldsmiths Graduation Ceremony

Check out Dennis Bovell's recent A to Z compilation at his bandcamp site

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Snow on Nunhead Scouts Memorial

Snow in Nunhead Cemetery today, here on the scouts memorial. This is the burial place of eight boy scouts aged 11 to 14 from the 2nd Walworth troop who were drowned on 3 August 1912 when their boat capsized at Leysdown on the Isle of Sheppey. Among those who survived was Edward Beckham, great grandfather of footballer David Beckham. His brother William, aged 12, was amongst the dead.

Thursday, December 07, 2017

Rick Gibson - a police spy in 1970s South East London Troops Out Movement

The latest undercover police spy in radical movements to be profiled by Undercover Research is 'Rick Gibson' (not his real name), who infiltrated Irish solidarity and other groups in South East London in the 1970s.

'Gibson' was actually unmasked at the time after activists discovered that he was using the identity of a dead child (a common tactic), and seems to have been pulled out by his superiors after being confronted with evidence. The case is now being looked at again in the context of the official Undercover Policing Enquiry.

A genuine activist from this time,  Richard Chessum (who lived in Burrage Road SE18 in this period), had helped set up a South East  London branch of the Troops Out Movement  in 1974, a campaign which called for British withdrawal from the north of Ireland. Chessum recalls:

'At the time I was a student politically active in Goldsmiths. I had in fact been a candidate for President of the Students Union. I had also been involved in a previous organisation campaigning on Northern Ireland, the Anti Internment League. In this latter capacity I had been one of the main organisers of a march to Woolwich Barracks protesting against internment without trial and had been the person negotiating the route with the police. I therefore had a high profile, which I think may have made me of interest'.

He was joined in the SE London branch of TOM, which held most of its meetings at Charlton House, by someone who called himself 'Rick Gibson'. By making himself useful and avoiding some of the sectarian infighting from rival left wing groups, Gibson became secretary of SE London TOM in 1975, going on to become London organiser then one of two national secretaries in 1976 - a position that would have given him  possession of the names and addresses of all members across the country. He also triend to join the revolutionary group Big Flame, but they were suspicious and it was their checks that led to him being exposed. 

1975 Troops Out poster

Like several other exposed spycops, 'Rick Gibson' was in relationships with women while undercover who would surely not have consented to them if they had known the position. According to Undercover Research, he was 'in four relationships that we know of. The first longer-term relationships were with two women Richard knew, and active in the Troops Out Movement South East London Branch. The women were friends sharing a flat, and active as students at Goldsmiths College. After Chessum found out that Gibson had disappeared, he visited them. Without having heard of the investigation, they told him they had figured out between them that Gibson had to be a policeman. They had no evidence, but had decided this was the only explanation for his behaviour - always leaving before the morning, never visiting at weekends - which suggested he was going home to a wife and family'.

Incidentally part of Gibson's cover story was that  he  said he had signed on as an evening student at Goldsmiths to learn Portuguese - at that time Goldsmiths had an extensive adult education programme.

Reflections of a later Troops Out Movement member:

We asked a former South London TOM activist for some thoughts about this:

'Hearing about this episode has made me reflect on my own time in the South London branch of the Troops Out Movement in the early 1990s, which met at a community centre by the Elephant and Castle (in Rodney Place if I recall correctly). Arguably it was a less dangerous time to be involved in Irish politics than in the 1970s, with the peace process unfolding towards the first IRA ceasefire in 1994. But there were still some terrible events occurring, like the murder of 6 people watching the World Cup in a pub in Loughinisland in June '94, carried out by the loyalist Ulster Volunteer Force. The Troops Out Movement argued at the time that members of the police and secret services were colluding with loyalists in such attacks, something that has since been confirmed by official inquiries.

We had no doubt therefore that anything to do with Irish politics in London, as elsewhere, would be the focus of state surveillance. We simply assumed that there would be infiltrators in our midst, that went with the territory. I remember there was at least one guy who completely fitted what we now know to be the spycop profile - drove a van, very cagey about their address, no obvious previous political involvement  - who we used to joke about being a cop even then (but of course maybe he wasn't). We didn't spend too much time worrying about it, partly because organisations that obsessed about uncovering spies usually descended into recriminations and sometimes misplaced allegations, and partly because there wasn't actually anything much to hide - just a lot of usually quite dull meetings and the hard slog of leafleting and lobbying. Troops Out was close to Sinn Fein, and through our annual delegation to Belfast many of us had friends in the Irish republican community (one member of South London TOM, who I remember used to live on Kinglake Estate, is now a Sinn Fein councillor in Dublin). No doubt these connections were of interest, though knowing what we now know about the extent of infiltration of the republican movment too I am sure they didn't find much of interest from infiltrating TOM. I think there was just a massive security services industry that was all over anything that moved to do with the north of Ireland whether or not it was involved in anything illegal, which TOM definitely wasn't.  

I guess police spies exploit the positive human tendency to want to think the best of people and include people who seem a bit out of their depth. People need to be wary, but not to create a  cold, calculating, hostile political culture where everyone is constantly suspecting everyone else. When people are exposed, you can't help but get caught up in the human drama of these situations and wonder whether, amidst all the subterfuge, loyalties and sympathies were ever blurred; whether there were ever any moments that could pass for genuine friendship. I have friends who went to gigs and festivals away from pollitics with people now known to be undercover cops. Maybe the shared musical taste was real, maybe it was all a cover story - this kind of thing messes with your sense of memory and self. But we shouldn't lose sight of the real damage done by mixing up policing, politics and personal relationships - particularly where sexual relationships and even children are involved. The damage was mainly inflicted on the activists who were deliberately deceived, but it's clear that many of the police involved have also been left pretty screwed up in the long term. No doubt much more of this will be heard as the Undercover Policing unfolds, even if the early signs are that much will be still be swept under the carpet'.

Update, February 2018: 'Mary', one of the women Gibson was involved with metioned above, has given a statement to the Undercover Policing Inquiry:

'From September 1972 to July 1975 I was enrolled on a teacher training course in the Education Department at Goldsmith College. I was politically active in the student movement and a member of the Socialist Society. After I finished my course, I remained in my flat and active around student politics for another year.

The first time I met Rick Gibson was at Goldsmith College when he approached me while I was distributing political literature. He came up to me and showed an interest in our political campaign.

I rented a flat that I shared with another Goldsmith student who was also politically active. I was involved in various campaigns and student solidarity work. My flatmate was active in the Troops Out Movement. Rick Gibson befriended her as well, socialising and talking politics. Due to the fact that the flat had a landline, lots of organising was happening from our flat. I often hosted meetings of the International Marxist Group (IMG) branch in my flat. Various people with leading positions in the organisation would visit. Rick Gibson very quickly became a frequent visitor to the flat to see me and my  flatmate to coordinate TOM publicity and planning - as well as for socialising and conversation... 

At one point while he was still a regular visitor, Rick Gibson and I became sexually intimate for a short period of time...  I feel very used by him, and by the state, invading my privacy and my body. I do onder how many other people he has deceived and hurt over time... In  the public interest, I think we are entitled to know who he was and to what extend he was operating on instruction from senior figures in the police of the government of the time. Was he acting on his own initiative? If so, what steps will be taken to hold his senior police officers who sanctioned this activity? If senior civil servants of previous government ministers sanctioned this, or knew about these activities they also need to be held accountable'.

see previously:

Jim Sutton - undercover in East Dulwich

May Day 2001 - a police spy at the Elephant and Castle

Undercover - police spies in South London (including their sometime Camberwell HQ)

Undercover with the Millwall Bushwackers

A police informer in Lewisham during the 1926 General Strike

Monday, December 04, 2017

Music Monday: Down on Deptford Creek by The Alan Tyler Show

Alan Tyler was the lead singer of The Rockingbirds, who in their early 1990s indie/country rock hey day put out a couple of albumns and a series of singles and EPs on Heavenly then Cooking Vinyl records.

A couple of years ago the Alan Tyler Show recorded their song 'Down on Deptford Creek':

The water’s rising with the tide
That comes in twice a day
The city streets are always near
But now we drift away

From muddy beds we’re lifted up
In boats that crack and creak
It’s time to strain the ropes again
Down on Deptford Creek

And though the wind is blowing low
And though my light is weak
I’ll see a moving picture show
Down on Deptford Creek

And when the tide begins to turn
And go back to the sea
A mossy wall shows velvet green
That used to be the quay

Where bigger boats had once come to
When Ha’penny Bridge was raised
Unloading cargo from afar
Back in the older days

Below the rumbling dockland train
Down in the waters bleak
I see the ages ebb and flow
Down on Deptford Creek

And when the sea has left the scene
It leaves a shallow flow
Where duck and wader, gull and grebe
And heron come and go

To pick among the rank remains
For filthy foraged fare
In tangled twine a Christmas tree
A broken office chair

Up on a rung my fisher-king
Above the sea-birds’ shriek
Surveys the silver in the stream
That swims in Deptford Creek

A flash of blue, a dip, a dive
A tiddler’s in its beak
I hope that I’ll see you again
Down on Deptford Creek
I hope that I’ll see you again
Down on Deptford Creek

from The Alan Tyler Show, released March 17, 2015
Words and music by Alan Tyler (published by Bucks Music

Definitely one more for the South London aongbook

Friday, December 01, 2017

The Walworth Beauty

The Walworth Beauty (2017) by Michele Roberts is a novel featuring two entwined stories set in the same area of south London over a 160 year period. One thread concerns a man working for Henry Mayhew carrying out research into the lives of prostitutes in the early 1850s. Unknowingly retracing some of his steps in 2011 is a recently redundant lecturer who has moved to Walworth.

The novel is partly a reflection on what has changed and what has not changed over this period of time and also on how the ghosts of the past haunt the present both figuratively and perhaps sometimes literally.

The precise setting is a fictional Apricot Place (described as being near to John Ruskin Street) where the Lecturer now lives and where in the 1850s another key character, Mrs Dulcimer, runs a home for young women with secrets: a black woman who when questioned about where she is from replies 'from Deptford, Mr Benson. My family roots in London go back generations. Further than yours perhaps'.

Walking into town, Madelyn in the 21st-century is aware of her predecessors:

'Walworth Road felt sleepy, some shops still shuttered, a few people about. The scent of warm spice, yeast and sugar drifted out of the Caribbean bakery. The newsagent’s door swung open and shut. She plunged westwards, through cramped backstreets of 19th century artisans dwellings each with its little bootscraper on the pavement just outside the front door. She headed towards the Imperial War Museum rearing in the distance. The tap of a boot on paving stones; the flying ribbons on a bonnet. Women walked out of the pages of books and accompanied her. Mary Wollstonecraft, briefly domiciled, as a young woman, in Walworth, fretting about what to do with her life’. The Elephant and Castle roundabout and East Street market (or East Lane as commonly known and referred to in the book) are among the other locations that figure.

With concerns like these it is perhaps no wonder that the novel features a description of a Halloween Crossbones gathering which presumably the author must have witnessed, as it is very accurate (and I am sure Crossbones MC John Crow/Constable didn't mind the description of him!):

'A small crowd, 40 or so strong, has gathered, spread along the strip of pavement in front of the fence sealing off the ancient burial ground. The wind rustles the ribbons and strings of beads laced to the wire barrier, the bunches of dried flowers, the gilt streamers. People cup lit candles in their gloved hands. A few children jig from foot to foot. A musician in a striped woollen cap strums a guitar...

The fence separating off the burial ground in Redcross Way purports to divide the living and the dead. Does it? Perhaps the dark air on either side teems and flickers with spirits… A man in a brown tweed coat steps forward from the group of women bunched near the stone Madonna. Clear eyed; open face; his attention focused like a beam of light on his listeners… A shaman with golden wings he seems, beating through smoky air, wielding the sword of dissent; slashing through hypocrisy, praising prostitutes, his beautiful, misunderstood sisters.…The poet–priest drops his arms, turns back into an ordinary man, merry and sexy, full of jokes and cheek'.

Michele Roberts moved to South London in the 1970s, living in a semi-commune in Talfourd Road SE15, something she has written about previously and which I might get round to posting about another time.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Music Monday: A-ha in Sydenham

There are lots of  80s pop hits which all the cool indie kids mocked at the time but which with hindsight sound pretty good, and which today's cool nobody-worries-about-being-indie-kids-anymore just get on and dance to. But there are other pop tracks which surely even the coolest shoegazers had to recognise at the time were destined to be classic songs, including at least a couple by some Norwegian likely lads: A-ha's 'The Sun always shines on TV' and their debut 'Take on Me'.

So what's the South East London connection? Well back in 1983, A-ha were living in London as poverty-stricken artists with dreams of pop glory, hanging out at the Camden Palace. With funds running low, they booked themselves in April 1983 into a small Sydenham studio, Rendezvous (107b Kirkdale, SE26), run by a man called John Ratcliff - an interesting character with experience of playing in bands himself, not to mention once having been a successful international athlete - the world double decathlon champion, no less.

107b Kirkdale - John Ratcliff confirms on twitter that the whole building was Rendezvous

According to the Quietus: 'Rendezvous was chosen simply because it offered equipment when they had little of their own. But, setting out to lay down three or four songs per day, they in fact only needed one before Ratcliff’s ears pricked up.  “He said, ‘That sounds really interesting. Do you have more?’ And we said, ‘Yeah, but we can’t afford to pay.’ ‘Well, why don’t you come in on off time?’ He started talking about, ‘I know people in the music industry. I can get you a singles deal’ (Talking Away: A-Ha On The Making Of Take On Me by Wyndham Wallace, 2015)

John O'Connell notes that Ratcliff's contribution went further than just offering studio time:

'A-ha had ended up at Rendezvous almost by accident, allegedly booking it because it had a Space Invaders machine. But Ratcliff proved a generous patron when the band were at a low ebb, paying for them to make additional demos of the songs he thought were strongest and renting them a flat at 221 Dartmouth Road, about 200 metres from the studio. Furuholmen and his bandmates Pal Waaktaar and Morten Harket would make the daily journey from flat to ‘work’ by jumping across the roofs of the neighbouring houses and entering Rendezvous through a rear window'.

221 Dartmouth Road, next to Mr Pizza by Sydenham School - where A-ha once stayed

Thanks to John's music industry connections, the band were soon signed to Warner Brothers with global success to follow.
One of the demo tracks recorded at Rendezvouz was called Lesson One. Before long it had been reworked into their breakthrough hit 'Take on Me' - a great song helped by a groundbreaking 1985 video combining animation and live action filmed in Battersea at Kim's Cafe (later the Savoy Cafe) at 390 Wandsworth Road, SW8 (corner of Pensbury Place). The song reached number one in the USA and number 2 in the UK.
inside the cafe in 'Take on Me' video - Bunty Bailey, the young woman in the video,
became the girlfriend of a-ha singer Morten Harkets

Bunty Bailey flees the cafe in the video and, below, the cafe today

Thanks to Adrian Lobb on twitter for posting a photo that set me off on this. Thanks too to Laugh Clown Laugh, who also recorded there, for confirming location of Rendezvous.

Some more Forest Hill/Sydenham music connections:

Monday, November 20, 2017

Music Monday: Oh Wonder, made in Brockley

Electro/alt pop duo Oh Wonder played a sold out gig at Brixton Academy this month, part of a massive international tour to mark the launch of their second album Ultralife.  Their track Without You has had 44 million views on YouTube. Not bad at all for an outfit who started out putting songs up on soundcloud in 2014 and have recorded both their albums in their flat in Brockley.

Josephine Vander Gucht and Anthony West recently explained to the BBC:

'Our studio is on a busy main road, on the corner of two bus routes. henever we’d start recording, another bus would go by. We couldn’t do vocals before 10pm... But some buses do sneak in. The album opens with a bus, an ode to the fact that the entire album was compromised by London transport. There’s also a police siren from New York, where we had the same problem with traffic. We could have made our lives easier by going to a studio with soundproofing, but that isn’t us. Our lives are in these songs and it didn’t feel fair to leave the night buses out'

Josephine has also discussed how the song High on Humans on Ultralife was written on the way back home from Brockley Station after an encounter on the tube home from Heathrow with a guy :'covered in blood [with] no teeth, looking sorry for himself.  I tentatively went up to him and his girlfriend and said, 'I just wanted to let you know you'll be fine', Go to the dentist tomorrow, don't panic, you'll be great'. And he was like, 'Oh, thank you so much!'.

'And then this guy opposite us piped up, 'I broke my nose, too!'. And suddenly this whole little carriage was talking about their injuries, which was remarkable.  When I got off the Tube, I was so excited. Chatting to strangers gives you such a buzz because there's that element of fear before you talk to someone. So I walked from Brockley station back to my house, singing into my phone. And I've got this really funny voice note, which is like, 'I'm getting high on humans!' (Josepine had herself smashed teeth and broken her nose in an accident a couple of years ago).

High on Humans joins that select list of songs written on South London public transport - including Bowie's Life on Mars (written on the bus to Lewisham) and The Red Flag (written on the train to New Cross)

Friday, November 10, 2017

Little Richard at Lewisham Odeon (1963 and 1975)

American rock'n'roll legend Little Richard played in Lewisham on at least two occasions.

The first time was on 31 October 1963 as part of an amazing line up that also included the Rolling Stones, the Everly Brothers, and Bo Diddley. But on that Halloween night there were some famous or soon to be famous names in the audience too.  According to 'History with the Beatles' by Bradford E Loker (2009), George Harrison attended this concert  having earlier that day arrived from back with The Beatles from a trip to Sweden and been greeted by thousands of fans. This was to prove to be a fateful day in pop culture history - American TV presenter Ed Sullivan was passing through the airport and on the strength of witnessing this outbreak of Beatle-mania booked them to appear on his TV show, the legendary appearance on 9 February1964 kicking off the 'British invasion' of the US pop charts.

Also in the audience in Lewisham was a 17 year old David Jones, later Bowie: 'After seeing the Rolling Stones perform on the same bill as Bo Diddley and Little Richard at the Lewisham Odeon in October 1963, he was desperate to perform R&B rather than teen pop' (The Man Who Sold The World: David Bowie And The 1970s by Peter Doggett, 2011). As was common in those days, the acts performed short sets twice over the course of the evening - according to this advert there was a 6.30 and a 6.45 show.

The advert for the tour mentions Little Richard, The Everly Brothers and Bo Diddley and 'special guest star' to be announced. As the Bowie story above illustrates, also on the bill was The Rolling Stones on their first tour.

Little Richard's return to Lewisham Odeon in July 1975 seemed to have been memorable though for all the wrong reasons. Mick Farren's review in the New Musical Express described 'The debut date of Little Richard's UK tour at the half empty Lewisham Odeon' as 'little short of a disaster. Possibly the person least to blame was Little Richard himself'.

Support band The Wild Angels were said to 'not score too highly on either originality or technique, but they play with such energetic determination that they more than keep the customers satisfied. They don't leave space for even the most aggro prone ted to start yelling for the star of the show'.

Booing there soon was though as after lengthy delays the back up band took to the stage and played for too long without sight of the singer:  'Before the riot could start the warm up man announced Little Richard. With one bound he was on top of the piano, accepting the adulation of his loyal fans in a nifty one piece, red, spangled creation that showed everyone that after 26 years on the road, his figure was still built to please. It looked as though everything was going to be alright. The band kicked off into a tight, functional 'Good Golly Miss Molly' that was traditional enough to mollify the grease. Then Little Richard sat down at the piano and started to sing. The awful truth became apparent that both his voice and piano were totally inaudible... After a few more tries he finally had to instruct the band to turn down. At least, after that he could be heard, although his voice still sounded as though it was coming from deep under water. From then on, all thoughts of music went straight out the window... At the end, nobody asked for an encore'

Farren concluded: 'Nobody likes to schlep all the way to Lewisham to be let down. For me, it was the second time. The first was the Chuck Berry debacle. That was mainly due to Berry's towering meanness. In the case of Little Richard, the majority of the blame must rest with the people who brought in a potentially top line act like Little Richard and his Band, then saddled them with a Mickey Mouse P.A., joke continuity and a terminally ham-fisted stage operation'.

(I believe the Chuck Berry gig at Lewisham referred to was also in 1975 - when Berry died earlier this year, Boy George tweeted that he 'met him outside Lewisham Odeon in the 70s').

See previously on Lewisham Odeon:

Rod Stewart with Paul & Linda McCartney, Lewisham Odeon 1974

Wednesday, November 01, 2017

Halloween: the pumpkins after the night before

Maybe not quite so spooky in daylight, but the surviving pumpkins on the  morning after Halloween have their own horrors...

Malpas Rd SE4

Drakefell Rd SE4

Drakefell Road SE4

Asylum Road SE15

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Dubious people in Bromley

The extreme right wing group Britain First have called a march in Bromley town centre on Saturday November 4th 2017. The leaders of the group, Paul Golding and Jayda Fransen, who both live in Penge, have been charged with religiously aggravated assault and as part of their bail conditions have to sign on at Bromley Police station every Saturday at 2 pm.  Boo hoo, they have called on their supporters to come and hold the hands of these 'persecuted patriots'. In recent months the group have struggled to get a hundred people out for their protests, but that's no reason to give them a free ride on the streets of south london.

Anti-fascists - including Disabled People Against Cuts, Stand Up To Racism, Lewisham Islamic Centre, Unite Against Fascism, Greenwich & Bexley TUC, Bromley Momentum, and Bromley TUC - have called a counter protest, meeting at Bromley North  a 12 noon. Details here:

Update: in the event, Britain First were outnumbered five to one by counter-demonstrators. As Huffington Post (5/11/2017) reported 'Britain First still can't muster 100 people for a march... Despite six years of campaigning, a rousing call to support the “Persecuted Patriots” and a Facebook page liked by nearly two million people, the far-right group failed once again to gather significant real-world support. Around 50 flag-waving supporters showed up but were vastly outnumbered by an anti-fascism demonstration held across the road' (pictured above).

Monday, October 30, 2017

Music Monday: King Krule - more songs about Peckham Rye and Bermondsey

King Krule has a new album out, The OOZ. In a recent Gilles Peterson interview the East Dulwich/Peckham Rye raised artist mentions that he demo'd some of the tracks at Shrunken Heads studio in Nunhead (40 Nunhead Green), and also talks about a recent night out at the Royal Albert in Deptford.  Bermondsey gets a couple of references on the album too, with two short tracks entitled 'Bermondsey Bosom (Left)' and 'Bermondsey Bosom (Right)'.  He played a pop up gig last month at the DIY Space for London in Ormside St SE15, and is now out on a big US/UK tour.

The video for the first single from the album, Czech One, was partially filmed in Elm Grove/Holly Grove off Rye Lane SE15 - with a scene outside the Rye Lane Market entrance. 

We first featured King Krule back in 2013 when his first album came out, 6 Feet Beneath The Moon. We noted his interest in East Dulwich history (he was born in Dunstans Road), and use of Deptford Church Street as a video location.

In the mean time he put out an album A New Place 2 Drown (2015) under his own name, Archy Marshall, with an accompanying book of  poetry and art work by Archy and his brother Jack. The cover shot is of a bench round a tree on Peckham Rye, and the Nunhead Reservoir features in a short accompanying film (still below of Archy at Reservoir)

Monday, October 16, 2017

New Cross Walk-In Centre threatened with closure

There's still a couple of weeks to give your views on proposals to close the NHS Walk-in Centre at the Waldron Health Centre in New Cross. The Walk-in opened in March 2010 and offers appointments with a GP 'for patients who are unable to get an appointment with their GP with a minor injury or medical condition that is not life-threatening but needs to be seen'  ( Unlike most GP practices it is open from 8am to 8pm,
7 days a week, including public holidays.

In its consultation document NHS Lewisham Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), the body responsible for commissioning local primary care services, argues that the walk-in model is not the best for patients: 'The easy access to advice at walk-in centres means that people can avoid registering with a GP. It is important for people to be registered with a GP so they can benefit from care that encourages healthy living, early detection and prevention of diseases and a holistic approach to health'.

They have a point, for instance when you go to the Walk-in the doctors there can't see your patient record so can't judge whether your current health complaint relates to your previous history. It probably would be better if everybody was registered with a local GP and could see a doctor or nurse there when they needed to. But the problem is they can't!

As the consultation paper makes clear, most people are using the Walk-In precisely because of difficulties getting an appointment:

'- 46% said they went directly to the Walk-in Centre because didn’t think they’d be able to get an appointment at their GP practice;
- 33% said they had contacted their GP that day but no appointments were available.
- 5% reported they were unable to get through on the telephone to their GP practice'.

My own experience of a busy SE14 GP practice is that I have given up trying to get through on the phone, to have a chance of getting an appointment I go down there. And when I do get to speak to someone on reception I can rarely get an appointment that week. Most recently I was given a date more than 2 weeks later before a doctor could even phone me and decide whether to offer an appointment. As for weekend appointments for people who struggle to get time off work, forget it. This is not an isolated issue at my practice, nationally there a recruitment crisis with not enough GPs available to fill posts - which translates directly into longer waiting times for appointments.

Although the CCG states that it wishes to 'Improve the provision and access to GP services for all Lewisham residents' it is hard to see how closing a very busy existing service is going to improve access to GP services. The only concrete proposal is to make 'increasing use of the GP Extended Access Service', a kind of overspill facility for people registered with a Lewisham GP and based at Lewisham Hospital. But has this really got the capacity to replace the New Cross service?

In 2016/17, the  New Cross Walk-In saw 29,528 patients. The service at Lewisham Hospital 'plans to deliver around 25,426 bookable appointments per year. In 2018, this will increase to 29,914 bookable appointments'. So that's only an expansion next year of 4,500  appointments. Never mind the fact that the Office for National Statistics estimates that the population in Lewisham will grow by 14.4% by 2024 (source)

It is also questionable whether just offering more appointments at Lewisham Hospital is going to work for people who don't live near to it. The current Walk-In  'is mainly used by people who
live in the north of the borough'. Will they travel to Lewisham?   

To close the Walk In while there is a crisis in access to timely GP appointments near to where people live will only mean many people won't see a doctor at all - typically the most vulnerable who struggle to travel or who don't want to be seen to make a fuss and demand appointments. And delays in seeing GP leads to delays in diagnosis than can have lethal consequences as the Less Survivable Cancers Taskforce has identified.

The  CCG - and the Government's Department of Health - need to sort out GP services before they consider taking away the safety net offered by the Walk-In.

You can reply to the consultation online until 5 pm on 30 October 2017. There will also be a drop-in session at the Telegraph Hill Assembly meeting at, Somerville Youth & Play provision, 260 Queen's Road, SE14 5JN on Tuesday 17 October 6.30pm.

The CCG say  that 'The contract for the Walk-in Centre ends on 31 December 2017 and cannot be renewed. If it were to continue running, we would need to set up a new contract'.  If that is the case they have left it rather late to consult, presumably they must have a contingency plan to keep the Walk-In going, otherwise the outcome would be a foregone conclusion and the consultation a sham.

(The Save Lewisham Hospital Campaign is opposed to the closure. They say: The decision to close the WIC looks to us that it was driven by a need to shift resources from a local service to a central one to comply with Department of Health demands based on Jeremy Hunt’s diktat about 8am-8pm GP services, and not by a genuine appraisal of the strengths and weaknesses of a current local service in order to replace it with a better local service.  However, we believe Lewisham CCG should not cut current provision without replacing it with at least as good, safe and accessible a service alternative – and better is sorely needed').

Monday, October 02, 2017

Music Monday: Otzeki - Falling Out on the New Cross Road

Yes I know this is not exactly news - Otzeki's Falling Out was released last year on Rough Trade. But the video starts with the message  'Thank you Ziggy for bringing freedom and happiness onto the streets of New Cross' and was seemingly shot outside the William Hill bookies at 174 New Cross Road (near to the junction with Queens Road)

Sunday, October 01, 2017

Domino's advert in Fordham Park

A new advert for Domino's Pizza was filmed in New Cross Gate's Fordham Park. 'The Official Food of Squads' features a group of young guys trying and failing to look cool as they wander through the park to a soundtrack of P.Diddy's 'Bad Boy for Life'.

Walking through Fordham Park with Deptford Green School in the background

Tuesday, September 05, 2017

Peckham and Nunhead Free Film Festival 2017

This year's Peckham and Nunhead Free Film Festival is already underway - too late if you've missed vampire film Nosferatu being screened in Nunhead Cemetery, but there's plenty more to come over the next week. Highlights include A Plastic Ocean, a documentary about the impact of plastic pollution on marine and human life, showing this Thursday 7th September (8 pm) at Southwark Integrated Waste Management Facility off the Old Kent Road, and Raving Iran at Persepolis in Peckham on the following day (5 pm).  On Saturday at the Bussey Building there's all day Afrikans on Film Festival.

Full programme here, all events free of charge.

Monday, September 04, 2017

Music Monday: Ray BLK - Catford soul

There were lots of South London shout outs at Reading Festival last week including East Dulwich's Tom Misch, Croydon's Loyle Carner and in the Lewisham corner Ray BLK.

Nigerian-born and Catford-raised, Ray BLK (real name Rita Ekwere) was the winner of the BBC's Sound of 2017 award (for emerging talent) as well as Best Newcomer at the 2016 MOBO awards. She has been making music for a while, starting out with the Great Expectations inspired Havisham in 2015, but it was last year's Durt EP that really put her in the spotlight, in particular the track My Hood which features Stormzy.

She's followed it up this year with tracks including the latest single, Doing Me, and guest vocals on the Gorillaz album.

My Hood reflects her love/hate relationship with Lewisham- she wrote it after having her laptop nicked, and told BBC 'I was robbed around the time I wrote it and I honestly just wanted to leave. I was like, "I'm getting robbed. My neighbours sell drugs out of their house. It's not where I need to be." The lyrics reference Morleys chicken, the Blue Borough and Deptford's Pepys Estate:

Socks and sliders everywhere and every day
Full English breakfast at a caff, not a café
No, no, baby, we don't let strangers come our way
But you should come to my hood, my hood, my hood
Meet me at Morley's, best fried chicken is in South
I'll show you gangsters, don't you go running your mouth
Mopeds are racing, two AM outside my house, oh yeah, it's loud
But come to my hood, my hood, my hood...

Barely anyone at school after fifteen
We're chasing paper then Blue Borough should be green
I won't lie, finding a way out is our dream
But you should come to my hood, my hood, my hood
Top floor of Pepys estate, we'll show you our world
That building turns you to a woman from a girl

Saturday, September 02, 2017

Pussy Riot in New Cross

Maria Alyokhina, who was jailed in Putin's Russia for her activities with punk collective Pussy Riot, is speaking at the Centre for Investigative Journalism at Goldsmiths in New Cross on Wednesday 13 September 2017.

Maria was convicted in 2012 of “hooliganism motivated by religious hatred” and sentenced to two years in prison. Upon her release she helped found Media Zona, an independent media outlet which aims to hold Russia’s justice system to account. She will be talking  about the reach of Russia’s official media in the age of Putin - and how to get around it. She has written a book, Riot Days, about her experiences of the Russian justice system.

The event takes place from 1:00pm-3:30pm,  LG02 PSH Building, Goldsmiths University, 8 Lewisham Way, London SE14 6NW. Admission is free, all welcome.

Full details here:’s-official-media-and-how-subvert-it

While she's in the area she might want to check out the painting of Pussy Riot in the Ladywell Tavern!

Monday, August 21, 2017

Red Stage: the 1930s Workers Theatre Movement in South London

Some interesting material in the University of Warwick's digital archive on British Political Theatre 1930s to 1950s, including some newsletters from the 1930s from the Workers Theatre Movement, associated with the Communist Party. As mentioned here before, South London was a focus for this kind of theatre, with performances of agitational sketches and songs given in the streets, at meetings and at shows.

According to 'Class against class: the Communist Party in Britain Between the Wars', (Matthew Worley, 2002): 'Communist theatre groups had begun to appear throughouth the country by the turn of the decade [the 1930s]. In London alone, ten such troupes, including the Red Star Troupe of West London, Red Radio of Hackney, the Red Magnets of Woolwich, the Red Front of Streatham, the Red Players of Lewisham, the Red Blouses of Greenwich and the Yiddish-speaking Proltet, existed by 1931’.

The Lewisham Red Players performed in Lewisham High Street and elsewhere, with their group chorus going:

“There is a word you mustn’t say – revo-lution
All the same it’s on the way – the workers’ revolution
Every day the world turns round - revo-lution
A few more turns, it will resound - revo-lution
It’s coming here, it’s coming there - revo-lution
The ground is tumbling everywhere – the workers’ revolution”.

(source: Raphael Samuel in  Performance and Politics in Popular Drama: Aspects of Popular Entertainment in Theatre, Film and Television, 1800–1976, edited by David Brady, 1980)

The Red Players included in their ranks Charlie Mann,  son of the veteran Communist and trade unionist Tom Mann, the latter who lived in Brockley in the 1920s  (in 1927 his address was 1 Adelaide Road).

Charles B Mann (1905-1989) was editor of the Workers' Theatre Movement journal 'Red Stage', with his address given in the November 1931 issue as 61 Sydenham Park SE26.

Red Stage (November 1931) mentions new groups being set up in Croydon and Woolwich and 'the revival of the Deptford Group',  and open-air 'Red Radio' shows in Bermondsey and Greenwich. The January 1932 issue includes a report from the Streatham-based 'Red Front Troupe, South London' stating that it had 'nine effective members, three of whom are women' and that in November 1932 they had given five shows and set up an unemployed troupe linked to the National Unemployed Workers Movement. The South London 'Red Players' reported that they had helped set up new groups in Croydon, Woolwich and Camberwell and were planning 'full WTM shows in Croydon, Lewisham and Woolwich'. The folowing month's issue (February 1932) includes reports from Red Blouses in Greenwich, Red Magnets (Woolwich) - planning a big show at Plumstead Baths - and Red Players, planning shows in Croydon, Lewisham and elsewhere.

The movement, which argued that 'Our theatre awakens the masses', presented theatre that condemned capitalism and promoted the workers movement, but there were disagreements about the best way of doing this. Within the pages of these publications we see some healthy debate about the role of the theatre and other issues. For instance the Jewish communist theatre troupe Proltet mounted a strong defence of doing performances in Yiddish, against criticism from some in the Party (WTM Monthly Bulletin, February 1933). There was a debate about jazz, with a letter arguing that 'it seems a great pity that, when so  many fine revolutionary and other great melodies are available, it is found necessary to descend to the level of the American jazz exploiters' (Red Stage, January 1932) and a response that to reach the masses it was necessary to use tunes from popular culture - 'jazz brings us nearer to the workers' (February 1932).

A critical review in the Communist Party's Daily Worker attacked the tendency to 'individual self boosting' in the Workers Theatre Movement, provoking a firm response from the Red Players of South London: 'If Comrade Bennett's ideal state is one in which the individual is prohibited from personal expression, then that is not the state we are fighting for' (Red Stage,  January 1932). There is a tragic historical irony that in Stalin's USSR - celebrated by the Workers Theatre Movement - such views could lead to the Gulag in this period.

Red Stage, January 1932 giving contact addresses for the Red Front troupe (16 Buckleigh Road, SW16 and for the Red Players (S. Banks, 22 Campshill Road, SE13)

Music Monday: Vision Crew - 'Coming from the Blue side, that's SE'

Lewisham-based Vision Crew aren't shy about representing the 'blue borough'. The video for their latest release, Forever, was shot at St John's Station, while on their earlier 'Walk the Walk' (built around a haunting piano line) they proclaim that they are 'coming from the blue side, that's SE'.

According to Complex magazine (June 2017): 'Meet Vision Crew, The South London Grime Bandits - There's something in the water down in Lewisham, South London, because the Blue Borough has been funnelling a plethora of music acts making their voices heard. Penetrating with devastation akin to the Wu-Tang Clan, Vision Crew is a collective on the rise: established in 2014, Ezro, Pascall, Tyzz, Whackeye, Goldie and DJ Kay C are a group of close friends, made up of emcees, producers and DJs taking their ends to higher heights'

Sunday, August 20, 2017

SE London Women Against Rape - Lewisham demo, 1980

I found this browsing at the interesting digital archive of feminist magazine, Spare Rib. The July 1980 issues records a 300 strong march through Lewisham on May 10 1980, called by South East London Women Against Rape - a group set up 'by Lewisham women after some of them had become involved in helping a woman who had just been raped. They had been shocked not only by the rape but at the harsh and unsympathetic treatment the woman had receivd at the hands of police and doctors'. The group contacts were given as Gill Chambers and Linda Stewart at Deptford Women's Centre, 74 Deptford High Street, and feminist singer Frankie Armstrong was also mentioned as being involved. The photo shows placard reading 'Stop Crimes Against Women Now', sadly as relevant in 2017 as it was in 1980.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Sound System: Dave Randall talk at Rye Wax

Coming up tonight (15 August 2017) at Rye Wax in the Bussey building on Rye Lane Se15, a Q&A with Brixton-based musician Dave Randall (Faithless, Slovo) about his new book 'Sound System: the political power of music':

'Musicians have often wanted to change the world. From underground innovators to pop icons, many have believed in the political power of music. Rulers recognise it too. Music has been used to challenge the political and social order – and to prop up
the status quo.

Dave Randall explores what makes music so powerful. In his talk, he’ll look at examples ranging from Beethoven to Beyoncé and pose the question: how can we make music serve the interests of the many, rather than the few?

Dave Randall is a musician and activist. He has contributed to multi-million selling albums and toured the world playing guitar with Faithless, Sinead O’Connor, Emiliana Torrini and many others.
Dave will be taking your questions and selling his book on the night'

7:30 start, admission free.

More information