Friday, June 29, 2018

South London Forever - Florence and The Machine

Possibly slightly biased, but the best track on Florence and the Machine's new album 'High as Hope' (released today) is 'South London Forever'. 

The opening lyrics go:

'When I go home alone
I drive past the place where I was born
And the places that I used to drink
Young and drunk and stumbling in the street
Outside the Joiners Arms like foals unsteady on their feet
With the art students and the boys in bands
High on E and holding hands with someone that I just met

I thought "it doesn't get better than this,
There can be nothing better than this
Better than this"

And we climbed onto the roof of the museum
And someone made love in the grounds
And I forgot my name on the way back to my mother's house'

The Joiners is obviously the famous Camberwell pub on Denmark Hill. I went to some mad 1990s parties round the back of there myself, remember seeing RDF and spinning around to techno in one of those gyroscope things.

The Joiners - photo by Philip C on Yelp
Florence Welch told the Sunday Times (15 June 2018) that the museum was the Horniman in Forest Hill:

'I think that song is about this… blink, almost. I was on the roof of the Horniman Museum, being a teenager, you know ‘woah’. Then I blinked, and 4 albums later, it’s “oh my God, there’s a whole other section of life I’m supposed to figure out. When do I do that?”. Obviously that's got lots of people thinking about the logistics and dangers of climbing on the roof - the main building is very high, maybe she meant the single storey grass roofed library building? Or maybe she used her Flo Fairy wings to hover up...

In another song on the album, 'Grace', Flo sings 'I don't think it would be too long before I was drunk in Camberwell again'. Hey hon we've all been there.

Florence did a photo shoot at William Morris's Red House in Bexley for recent Observer piece
(photo by Phil Fisk)
Makes me feel old but it's nearly ten years since I predicted that 2009 would be the year that 'red-headed young women from South London conquer the world' referring to Florence and La Roux. The latter's been a bit out of the limelight of late but has recently totally lifted the Whyte Horses track 'The Best of It' with a guest vocal.

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Lines on the Transpontine Madness - Brooklyn as South London?

I have been reading “The Boys of Summer” (1971) by Roger Kahn. Considered by many to be one of the great sports books, it focuses on the 1950s Brooklyn Dodgers baseball team who among other things broke down the colour bar in professional baseball in this period through the presence of the legendary Jackie Robinson. I must admit that some of it is hard going for a non-baseball fan but I was struck by the title of the opening chapter- “Lines from the Transpontine madness“. He attributes the phrase “Transpontine madness“ to Stanley Woodward of the New York Herald Tribune who complained in the 1940s that sports reporters sent to cover the Dodgers invariably ended up becoming passionate supporters of the team.

So why transpontine? Well if the word was popularised in the 19th century to refer to the south London areas across the bridges of the Thames it has also sometimes been applied in other cities divided by a river. In this case of course, Brooklyn is separated from Manhattan by the East River spanned by the famous Brooklyn Bridge. And as with South London, Brooklyn and the other transpontine boroughs have sometimes been looked down upon from the other side of the river, a condescension summed up in the disparaging phrase “bridge and tunnel” to describe the supposedly less sophisticated travelling into central New York to work and play.

I don’t think that the word Transpontine has really caught in a New York context but it is interesting to see the similarities with London and other cities divided by rivers where the different sides are often perceived as socially and culturally distinct.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Tree Trunk Love on Hilly Fields

'I pray you mar no more trees by writing love-songs on their barks'
(Shakespeare, As You Like It)

I would agree with the Bard as far as living trees are concerned, but you can't really object to the ancient practice of carving names on a dead tree trunk like this one in Hilly Fields.

Friday, June 15, 2018

Windrush Street Art

A couple of great murals by Deanio X commenting on the Windrush scandal which has seen the deportation of people who have been living in the UK for decades. The works, by London Bridge and on the Walworth Road, both feature the words 'Empire Windrush - we built this city - pay your dues'.

As well as the Windrush itself being represented, the imagery of African/Caribbean faces in the ocean and an older ship in one of the murals seems to allude to the transportation of slaves from Africa to the Caribbean as well as the  more recent migration to Britain.  'We built this city' not just literally in terms of post-WW2 labour in construction and transport, but through the wealth accumulated in London from the slave trade. 'Pay your dues' suggests not just treating the WIndrush generation properly but the wider question of reparation for slavery.

Mural on wooden shutters on Borough High Street just south of London Bridge

Walworth Road

Monday, June 11, 2018

Poster Workshop 1968-71: North Peckham strike and Catford reggae festival

The Poster Workshop was a radical screenprinting project 'set up in a basement at 61 Camden Road, Camden Town, London N1, in the summer of 1968. It was carried along on the wave of rebellion sweeping the world at that time, and was inspired in part by the Atelier Populaire which had resulted from the occupation of the Ecole des Beaux Arts, Paris, in May ‘68'. It continued until 1971 by which time more than 200 posters had been produced for and with groups including: 'GLC (Greater London Council) tenants’ associations, protesting against steep rent rises; striking workers at the Dagenham Ford plant; Anti-Apartheid groups; Civil Rights, freedom and liberation movements from all over the world; anti Vietnam War groups; Black Power movements; California Farm Workers Union; the GLC fire brigade; CND (the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament); International Socialists (now Socialist Worker); Young Communists; radical film and theatre companies; Situationists, King Mob, and many different student organisations' (see history here).

A selection of the posters are featured in the current London 1968 exhibition at Tate Britain, and all can be browsed online. For the purposes of this website I was interested to see if there was any South London content in the overall archive - not too much as you might expect for a Camden-based project, but a few windows into the past.

There are two posters that seem to relate to a strike at a Bovis construction site in Peckham - I believe this must have been during the building of the North Peckham Estate for which Bovis were the building contractor (see Municipal Dreams),

It appears that the basis of the dispute was a demand for some kind of productivity bonus payment scheme which the strikers obviously believed Bovis could well afford to pay!

On a different tack there was a poster for a reggae festival at Catford Coop Hall (22 Brownhill Road SE6). Think this must have been on Easter Monday 1969, as that's the only time during period Print Workshop was open that April 7th fell on a non-working day - and it was all day festival. Artists included Steve and the Succession and 'Count Neville Musical Enchanter'. I believe Count Neville ran a Bristol-based sound system in this era.

Monday, June 04, 2018

London Radical Bookfair 2018

London Radical Bookfair at Goldsmiths on Saturday went well, saw lots of people I haven't seen for a while (well, probably since the last bookfair) and helped out for a bit on the Datacide stall. I even bought a book or two, including a collection of stories by my old Brixton friend Rosanne Rabinowitz  (review later).

Best item of clothing was this fine 'Make Peckham Shit Again' hat from Morbid Books

More swearing on the bus stop outside...

The Alliance of Radical Booksellers 'Bread and Roses' award was presented by Joan Anim-Addo, Professor of Caribbean Literature and Culture at Goldsmiths and author of the great

Sunday, June 03, 2018

waterintobeer (and Brockley Max 2018)

Last night I paid my first visit to waterintobeer, the Brockley shop/bar for all things beer - big selection of bottles and cans as well as homebrew gear for those who fancy doing it themselves. And DIY is a big part of the approach of the shop, owner Tim Livesey says he is inspired by his life long punk devotion: 'I mention this as the parallels between the DIY punk community and the brewery community seem blindingly obvious to me; people helping each other out, creating networks away from the mainstream, creating inspiring ‘products’ and just being generally ace. All because of a passion for something that they love; something that they believe in, something that means something'.  Similar arguments too about commercialism and selling out to big labels too, as Tim notes.

You can take drink away or stop and enjoy it on the premises in Mantle Road (next to Norbert restaurant, formerly Noak), they usually have something on tap too.

I was there to see my friends' band Devil's Doorbell playing as one of the acts in Acoustic Anarchy, a monthly acoustic night. They did a funny song poking fun at (ex?)anarchists who've joined the Labour Party called 'Big Rock Corbyn Mountain'.  This time round  the night was also part of the Brockley Max festival 2018. There's still another week to go of music, art, theatre and other events in SE4 - check out the full programme here.

Next music event at waterintobeer is  on June 30th, with  Cath Roberts, Tom Ward and Colin Webster presenting another of their BRÅK improvised nights. Facebook event details here.