Friday, May 26, 2017

Beating the Bounds in Penge and Lee

On this day in 1881, a 'beating the bounds' procession took place in Penge. As reported in The Beckenham Journal and Penge and Sydenham Advertiser, Wednesday, June 1, 1881:

'The ancient custom of beating the bounds was observed with all due ceremony in Penge on Thursday the 26th being Ascension Day. Some 18 boys from various schools in the Hamlet, with willow wands, to which were attached ribbons and bells, started from the Vestry Hall shortly after 10 o'clock in the morning, under the direction of Mr C.W. Dommett, the vestry Clark, and Mr A. Wilson, assistant overseer, many of the vestry men being also present and joining in the procession. The party was followed by a wagonettte containing ladders etc required to surmount some of the obstacles which were encountered. At important points of the boundary the custom of "bumping" was duly observed, to the great delight of the boys, if not of some of the elders. During the journey the party availed themselves of refreshments kindly provided for them at the residences of Dr Gibbes and Messrs T. Bugler and W. Matthews. Fortunately the weather was fine, or the day would have been far from pleasant for those concerned. A number of the overseers, vestry men, and others interested in the hamlet met at the vestry Hall in the evening and partook of an excellent dinner'.
Beating the bounds processions took place in many parishes until the 19th century. According to folklorist Steve Roud they involved 'walking around the boundaries of the parish both to check that there had been no encroachments or illegal building, and to make sure that everyone knew the extent of the parish in detail... In the days before accurate maps, it was essential that the knowledge of boundaries was passed on to younger generations... The participants often carried flexible wands, and when they reached a particular boundary marker they would literally beat it with their sticks. In many cases, boys were whipped with the wands at each stone, or bumped on them, or even held upside down. Sometimes they were encouraged to run on ahead to find the next marker and the first one there was rewarded. It was also thought important, even perhaps legally binding, that the whole of the boundary be followed, at least by a representative. Boys were therefore useful to scale walls, crawl through hedges, wade through ponds – wherever the official boundary took them' (Steve Roud, London Lore, 2008).
Roud also mentions that Penge was 'for centuries a detached part of Battersea parish given to them in the year 957'. The parish records of St Mary's Church, Battersea, record officials 'agoeing the bownds of the parish at Penge' in 1661 and on other occasions.
Beating the Bounds processions have been revived in a number of places in recent years as a way of celebrating local history and geography. In Penge, there is a  Beating the Bounds walk on Sunday 4 June starting at 2.30 pm from  Alexandra Nurseries, 56B Parish Lane, SE20 7LJ. In recent years there have also been Beating the Bounds processions in Nunhead, and in Lee where last month (April 22) Dacre Morris and Blackheath Morris beat the bounds of the old Dacre estate.
Dacre Morris beating the bounds April 2017

Monday, May 22, 2017

Election street art

So far the General Election street art hasn't been too extensive.

I did spot this grime artists/rappers supporting Labour poster under the railway bridge at Brockley cross.

Among those featured is Brockley's own Novelist. Up at the top of Pepys Road SE14 you can still read the 'Novelist - pave the way' graffiti in the road (this photo actually taken last November).

Walking down Nunhead Lane I noticed this Theresa May-mocking 'Strong and stable my arse' poster, one of a number around London. It was revealed today that the artist Jeremy Deller is responsible for them. This particular example was just down the road from where he went to primary school - St John's and St Clements's by Goose Green in East Dulwich.

Update 28 May 2017:

Spotted in Telegraph Hill upper park (Kitto Road SE14) this morning - Theresa May as 'PredaTory'

(just to be clear - it's only one piece, included a few photographs to show scale and also detail - text looks different depending on angle)

Monday, May 15, 2017

Linear Obsessional Festival in Deptford and Hither Green

Hither Green-based experimental/improv label Linear Obsessional Recordings (LOR) has a busy weekend coming up with a two day festival starting out on Saturday (20/5/2017) with a gig at Vinyl Deptford:

'Live Music from 5pm with

Tom Jackson, Daniel Thompson, Jacques Duerinckx & Matthieu Safatly - acoustic free improvisation from this specially assembled Anglo/Belgian quartet - clarinet, guitar,soprano sax and cello. Expect intricate flowing absorbing interaction.

Jo Thomas - astonishing electro-acoustic composer - Her music captures a combination of refined and raw sonic matter, and is utterly absorbing. Her work has won awards and been performed around the world

Stephen Shiell - Sculptor, field-recordist and environmental musician is working on a new album for Linear Obsessional - here's a rare chance to see him perform solo and in a confined space!

Ne...t - Net is the project of Finland based composer and electronicist NE.Trethowan whose Linear Obsessional album "Grammostola" recieved extraordinary reviews. This is his UK debut and he will be working with modular synth and samples. He has new release imminent on Whitelabrecs.

James Worse - writer and poet James Worse is a "master of the surreal spoken word" (the Quietus) whose melifluous, extraordinary wordplay is compelling and irrestable.He was invited after his extraordinary contribution to the LinOb "Utterances" compilation-

Starting the evening- a first performance for a trio of three LinOb artists-
Phil Durrant, Phil S. Maguire and Richard Sanderson
(modular synth, tiny electronics and melodeon respectively) creating an enveloping slowlydeveloping wave of sound.

Admission - a donation of £5
Food, Drink, Coffee,Tea Vinyl Reords and Linear Obsessional material available'

Day Two is on Sunday when as part of the Hither Green Festival LOR will be taking over Manor Park from 12:30, starting out with a free event including interactive sound sculptures and an open access al-fresco drone from multiple musicans throughout the park. From 4 pm there will be a gig in the Arts Cafe in the park with Oren Marshall (tuba), Greta Pistaceci (theremin), Ed Lucas and Danile Kordik (sax/electronics) and Me, Claudius (avant noise dub) -£5 donaton for indoor gig in Cafe.

If you want to take part in the drone performance contact Richard Sanderson ( - virtuosity not required, in fact postively discouraged  - the idea is for the public to wander through a park  enlivened by long, softy played sustained tones on  all kinds of instruments mutating slowly over a two hour period down by the banks of the River Quaggy.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

A not so joyful sound - noisy singing in New Cross church, 1866

From 1866, the tale of an unusual protest in a New Cross church -deliberately singing loudly and out of tune!

'Unseemly conduct at church

For the last fortnight or three weeks the congregation worshipping at Saint James's Church, Hatcham, have been annoyed by the conduct of a female, determined to make her voice heard above all others in the responses, and in the singing adopting a completely different tune. The cause of this is wholly annoyance to the officiating clergymen and churchwardens, the woman having been removed from some office in the church, since which this unseemly conduct has been displayed; but surely the officials have some means whereby the annoyance and irreverence may be put a stop to'

(Kentish Mercury, June 22, 1866)

St James, Hatcham, built in 1854 - now used as part of Goldsmiths with the church relocated to a new building next door

Saturday, May 13, 2017

A Joyful Noise Unto the Creator SE17

At a neighbour's moving house sale earlier I picked up a vinyl copy of Galliano's acid jazz album 'A Joyful Noise unto the Creator' (Talkin Loud, 1992). Looking at the cover photo I thought I've been to parties on roof tops like that in the Pullens Estate off Walworth Road. And looking in more detail at the background I think you can make out the now demolished Heygate Estate and the Newington Library building on Walworth Road.

Compare building on right of background with Newington Library picture below (not curved roof with two windows underneath, and chimney stack on right of building)

Any one no any more? No doubt somebody who knows those streets better than I will be able to narrow down the location further.


Rob Gallagher, lead singer of Galliano, has confirmed photo was taken on roof of his flat on the Pullens and that Constantine Weir, the band's other regular vocalist, lived round the corner. Interesting times in which different scenes overlapped and flowed into each other. I went to some 'acid jazz' nights like Flipside at Iceni in Mayfair and was also very politically active in that post-poll tax period, then came the anti-rave Criminal Justice Act and the road protests at Claremont Road and Newbury, and Galliano got amongst it with their last album 'The Plot Thickens'  aligning themselves with that movement.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Laura Misch - Playground - soulful South London sounds for summer days

I'm loving 'Playground', the new album by Laura Misch. Self-produced at home by the multi-talented singer, saxophonist and ableton whizzkid from East Dulwich, it has a much fuller sound than you might be expecting from that description. Laura is the sister of Tom Misch, and while there is a similarly mellow vibe she has her own distinctive sound -  lush layers of jazz-tinged neo-soulfulness and understated beats.  You might have heard her on Gilles Peterson's Radio 6 show last weekend. This could be the soundtrack to a languid summer, when the sun comes out.

She has some gigs coming up locally at Bermondsey Social Club next month, which I think is already sold out, and at Peckham Rye Music Festival this weekend where I think she is playing on the Saturday.

Yes she painted the cover too


Tuesday, May 09, 2017

Medals for Lewisham's Kent AC in London Marathon

Media coverage of the London Marathon tends to concentrate on either the international elite runners of the very front or the fancy dress charity runners further back.

In between are the many serious club runners running for personal bests and at the faster end competing for both the English and British Marathon Championships, which are held within the London Marathon.

The recent 2017 London Marathon turned out to be a great day for Lewisham-based Kent Athletic Club, who had more than 50 runners taking part. In the English championships, based on the cumulative times of the three fastest finishers from English clubs, Kent AC women came first and Kent AC men came second. In the British Marathon Championships, which includes any club from Great Britain, Kent AC women were pushed into second place by the Scottish team Metro Aberdeen while are the men also secured the silver position.

Kent's Amy Clements was the second fastest woman overall outside of the elite field and in fact she had a faster time that several of the elite runners.

England Athletics Marathon Team results from 2017 London Marathon

Kent AC, who are based at the Ladywell arena behind Lewisham hospital, are now firmly established as one of the top long distance running clubs in the country. As well as competing at the sharp end of events like London marathon, the club has training groups for all levels of ability from parkrun improvers to Olympic athletes. The club also has some very talented sprinters including Olympians Jack Green and Conrad Williams.

Membership for adults is only £35 a year, but if you would like to try out a session before deciding whether to join you would be welcome at the track on a Tuesday night, starting at 7 pm.

Monday, May 08, 2017

Little Earthquakes... Independent Records Labels & SE London

The joint Independent Label Market/London Brewers Market in Greenwich on Friday night (5/5/2017) was good and busy, with music, food and drink stalls and Lewisham's Unit 137 Sound System shaking the rafters of the indoor market.

I wrote the following piece for the programme giving a quick overview of independent labels associated with SE London, in particular New Cross/Deptford/Lewisham. I say 'associated with' because you can't necessarily pin down the label based on an office/mailing address. So for instance, I included Stay Up Forever, arguably an East London label, on the basis of tracks being recorded in Deptford (the Punishment Farm studio mentioned was originally upstairs in the now closed Harp of Erin pub, then known as Round the Bend, on New King Street). Similarly I mention No Hats, No Hoods on basis of association with Lewisham artists, though its address is in E2.

Little Earthquakes that changed the world

In 40 years of  vinyl, cassettes, CDs and digital downloads, the independent labels and artists of South East London have helped launch and popularise whole genres of music. Some of these little earthquakes have ended up shaking the world, at least those parts of the world ready to be shaken by a guitar riff or a bass wobble.

The punk period saw the first big explosion of DIY music and independent labels.  Miles Copeland named his label  Deptford Fun City because, according to Jools Holland, ‘he had been so amused by Deptford High Street, never having seen or heard anything like it before’.  A major aim was to release early tracks by Greenwich’s Squeeze, who included the young Jools on keyboards. Squeeze were soon to be recognised as some of the best songwriters of the New Wave period but as well as their sweet melodies Deptford Fun City released some of the more experimental sounds of the post-punk period by Alternative TV, the band founded by Deptford’s Mark Perry , the sometime editor of legendary punk zine Sniffin’ Glue.

Reggae sound system culture was another key ingredient of the SE London social/sonic mix in this period, and this too found expression through influential independent labels.  Dennis Harris’s Eve Records in Upper Brockley Road was to give birth to the Lovers Rock label in this period, popularising a new style mix of reggae rhythms and soulful vocals that remains part of the palette board of pop down to the present.

In the early 1980s, a new industrial sound began to emerge that included  noise made from bashing metal and other found objects.  The pioneers of this in the UK were Test Dept; like many bands at this time, they self released early material on cassette, before moving on to vinyl and releasing records on their own Ministry of Power imprint on Some Bizarre records.

The Band of Holy Joy started out in similar milieu – some of them even sharing a house with members of Test Dept in New Cross -  but their songs of love, despair and the city took them in a different direction. Their breakthrough record  was the 10” EP ‘The Big Ship Sails’ released on Flim Flam records in 1986. Flim Flam was an independent label  as well as a club of the same name that took place at the Harp Club in New Cross – later to become The Venue.  It was started by BOHJ and Beloved manager Robert Lancaster with each record given a ‘Harp’ serial number presumably in reference to the New Cross club.

Back in the late 1970s, Counterpoint record shop in Forest Hill was the main local outlet for punk and new wave records. Owner Andy Ross was in band Disco Zombies who released their 'Drums Over London' single on their own South Circular Records in 1979. Fast forward ten years and Andy Ross was working for indie label Food Records when he went to check out a band called Seymour featuring a couple of students from Goldsmiths in New Cross. He persuaded them to change their name and signed them - you might have heard of Blur.

In the 1990s electronic music explosion, a specifically London contribution  was the Acid Techno sound pioneered by the Liberator DJs  - the 303 drenched banging soundtrack to London free parties. Many of the classic tracks were released on Stay Up Forever  records, and recorded at D.A.V.E. the Drummer’s Punishment Farm studios in Deptford. International techno/speedcore label Praxis Records also sold records for a while from a shop on New Cross Road in that period.

The early noughties saw a revival of intelligent guitar based  bands and a key label was Angular Recording Corporation, founded by ex-Goldsmiths students Joe  Margetts  and Joe Daniel.

The release of the  ‘The New Cross’ compilation CD album in 2003 by Angular Recording Corporaton and associated nights at the Paradise Bar (now Royal  Albert pub)  led the music press to talk of the ‘New Cross Scene’ .  While not all the bands were actually from the area it was through Angular’s New Cross portal that bands like Bloc Party, Art Brut, These New Puritans, The Long Blondes and Klaxons had their first releases.

Following in Angular’s footsteps, No Pain in Pop  was founded by Tom King and Tom Oldham in New Cross in 2008, putting on nights in local pubs before releasing a diverse range of material from indie pop to post-dubstep – and the UK release of the 1st album by Grimes,  Geidi Primes.

A recording studio on the Juno Way industrial estate in New Cross helped launch another new sound on the world, with Defenders Entertainment releasing Crazy Cousins’ ‘UK Funky’ tracks  including their highly influential remix of Kyla’s Do You Mind (2008) – later covered by The XX and sampled  by Drake on ‘One Dance’ (2016). Also from New Cross,  Andy Blake’s disco/house label  Dissident Distribution released a critically acclaimed series of  limited issue 12" singles from 2007 to 2009.

The spirit of Dissident and Andy Blake’s ‘World Unknown’ clubnights have informed the most recent wave of ex-Goldsmiths upstarts known as The Rising Sun Collective. Along with labels such as Squareglass they are carrying the torch for S.E. D.I.Y. with a series of parties, mixtapes, and vinyl releases spearheaded by artists such as A House In The Trees and Semi-Precious.

The recent upsurge in 2nd wave grime is giving birth to may new independent labels as artists seek to take control of their careers. Brockley’s finest Novelist has launched his own Mmmyeh Records,  having first come to prominence as part of grime collective The Square with their famous Lewisham McDeez track released on No Hats, No Hoods.  Independent labels have come a long way since the first punk and reggae 7 inch singles, but the DIY spirit lives on.

You can check out tracks from some of these on the accompanying Spotify playlist here:

1. Alternative TV – Action Time Vision (Deptford Fun City, 1978)
2. Brown Sugar - I’m in love with a dreadlock (Lovers Rock, 1977)
3. Test Dept - Fuckhead (Ministry of Power, 1986)
4. Band of Holy Joy - Rosemary Smith (Flim Flam, 1986)
5. Star Power  – Nothing can save us London (Stay up Forever, 1994)
6.  Long Blondes - Autonomy Boy (Angular, 2004)
7.  Veronica Falls – Beachy Head (No Pain in Pop, 2010)
8.  Kyla – Do you Mind, Crazy Cousinz remix (Defenders Ent, 2008)
9.  Cage & Aviary - Giorgio Carpenter(D‎issident,  2007)
10. The Square - Lewisham Mcdeez  (No Hats, No Hoods, 2015)
11. Semi Precious - No Distractions (Squareglass, 2017)

Limited for time and space for this article,  there's a lot more that could have been included. Johny Brown  from Band of Holy Joy has asked me about Desperate Bicycles, arguably the DIY label pioneers of the punk period. I did consider them but wasn't sure about extent of their SE London connection. Think first single was recorded in Dalston, but their 1978 'New Cross, New Cross' EP on their own Reflex label apparently followed a period rehearsing in New Cross. He also mentioned Bastard Haircut records, associated with Brain of Morbius. 

As covered at this blog before, there were other New Cross reggae labels in late 1970s/early 1980s, including Fay Music, Studio 16  and Sound City Records. 

In wider SE London beyond Lewisham, there's lots more to consider, perhaps most significantly on the punk front Conflict's Mortarhate label, starting out in Eltham, and One Little Indian which started out with Flux of Pink Indians in Forest Hill

Loads of dance labels out there of course, could have mentioned Controlled Weirdness' Unearthly records (including his great South London Bass track).

Who would you add to the list of SE London independent labels?

Thursday, May 04, 2017

Independent Label Market in Greenwich

This Friday night (May 5th 2017), a free night of music at Greenwich Market:

'Independent Label Market, supported by Sound Performance are excited to announce the launch of their debut Night Market, South of The River at the historical Greenwich Market! As usual we'll be joined by London Brewers' Market providing refreshment from some of your favourite breweries so make sure you don't miss out!


!K7 Records
37 Adventures
Accidental Records
Africa Seven
BBE Music
Bella Union
Be With Records
Bureau B
Cadiz Music
Casbah Records SE10
Earth Recordings
Emotional Response
Far Out Recordings
Fire Records
First Word Records
Gare du Nord
Hospital Records
Pie & Vinyl Records
Recards - The Record Playing Birthday Card
Secretly Group
Slowfoot Records
Sound Performance
Strut Records
tapete records
Unit 137
White Peach Records


6:30 Heavenly
7:30 Profusion (First Word Records)
8:30 Squareglass
9:30 Rising Sun Collective


The Five Points Brewing Company
Partizan Brewing
Orbit Beers
Bullfinch Brewery & Tap Room
The Gipsy Hill Brewing Co.
The London Beer Factory
Canopy Beer Company
The Brockley Brewing Company
Bianca Road Brew Co

I have written a short article for the programme on the history of independent labels in South East London, so look out for that.

Monday, May 01, 2017

Music Monday: Lisa Knapp - Til April is Dead: A Garland of May

What could be better for May Day than a whole album of May Day themed songs? Beautiful singing combined with found sounds, birdsong and spoken word samples - including what sounds to me like folklorist Steve Roud on the opening track. The Guardian review likened her vocals to a 'south London Björk', though I don't think that fully does her justice. Guests include Graham Coxon and David Tibet.

(for more on May Day folklore, history and politics see May Days in South London - Neil Transpontine - free pdf pamphlet)