Saturday, August 15, 2020

Millwall Murals and nearby street art

A stroll today around the area by The Den, starting with checking out the recently refreshed mural of Millwall FC legend Neil Harris, under the railway arch on Zampa Road SE16.  I featured the mural here way back in 2012, recently it has been looking run down and then was painted out earlier this year. But last month original artist wizywig restored it to its former glory (in fact it's bigger than the original).

Directly opposite is a new (June 2020) Millwall lion mural by prolific local signwriter/artist Lionel Stanhope - responsible for all those railway station names painted across South London. Unfortunately today there was a big van parked right in front of it so I had to use this image from Network Rail.

The club and the ground have a certain international reputation, attested to by the stickers from clubs/ultras from around the world to be found on nearby lampposts. Here's a few examples - on the left we have 'Working Boys Front' which I think is something to do with Torpedo Moscow. Underneath that is a classic Millwall 'No one likes us, we don't care' sticker, above a GKS Katowice (Poland) one. On  the right we have Norwegian team Løten Fotballklubb, above a 'Periferia Sud Livorno' seemingly from ultras associated with Italian team AS Livorno ('periferia sud' means something like 'South suburbs', kind of equivalent to 'South London'. 

Next to the Neil Harris mural there's a few stickers on the railway bridge sign. Next to something from reputedly extreme right wing stickerists 'Millwall Berserkers' (definitely not to be confused with 'Millwall anti-fascists') is one from Bayern Munich ultras,  like Livorno ultras known for their left wing sympathies. Their sticker adapts Karl Marx- 'Fussball proletariat vereinigt euch verbandsstrukturen zerschlagen' ('football proletariat unite against the association structures' which seems to refer to UEFA and other football authorities).  Also a sticker showing Margaret Thatcher with her celebrity friend Jimmy Saville and the word 'disnonce' (in lettering reminiscent of punk band Discharge's logo, go figure).

On the other side of Ilderton Road from the new Den, fans of another South London team have left their mark

The railway bridges and arches are an irresistible canvas for graffiti and street artists - 'refugees welcome' has been painted on that same bridge on Zampa Road (still visible today, though photo below was taken in March before the tree blocked out the view of the ground).

On Cold Blow Lane the ancient early 1970s T.Rex graffiti that was still visible back in 2008 is long gone, but new stuff goes up from time to time, the most recent being this topical Black Lives Matters/FTP image of a skeletal cop.

Meanwhile round the corner on John Williams Close, on the site of the old Den, mattress artists have been at work with these kissing fish:

(all photos taken by me, 15 August 2020 unless otherwise stated).

Saturday, August 08, 2020

Hilly Fields Jazz Police?

Summer evenings this year have seen some remarkable gatherings on Hilly Fields. In the area by the park's stone circle - an ancient monument dating back to 2000 - a group of young jazz musicians have been playing improvised sessions watched by people relaxing on the grass. I believe the sessions have mostly been on Monday nights, though there was also one on July 12th linked to the Black Lives Matter event in the park that day.

Last week though (Monday 3rd August) the session was ordered to stop by the police. It is unclear whether this was due to concerns about Covid 19 regulations, licensing issues or a complaint about noise. The  musicians have a lot of support locally,  as expressed in one facebook comment: 'This event is something very special, the atmosphere is out of this world. Was taken out of London and floating on air. Smiles all round, warm energies, dancing to the amazing music on the air. Seeing the musicians all buzz off one another is incredible. Such a shame if it's shut down now'. The photo below, by Cath Dupuy, shows the scene last Monday before the event came to a premature end.
(photo by Cath Dupuy)

Hopefully a way forward can be found to enable something to continue, for now the musicians are considering taking their talents elsewhere (I have come across similar gatherings on Peckham Rye). 

The bigger picture for me is how amazing it is that in 2020 there should be a vibrant, multiracial community of young musicians playing jazz for an appreciative public! South East London is recognised internationally as a centre for this new movement that has spawned Ezra Collective and Catford's Moses Boyd among many others. A while ago Kate Hutchinson wrote up  'A sweaty night out in London's new jazz scene' in the New York Times (19 October 2018):  'In a tiny converted railway arch south of the River Thames, a mosh pit had formed in front of a three-way brass-off. The house band played from the floor, as if it were a punk show. Other musicians crowded around, waiting for their turn... In London, a new generation is challenging jazz’s stuffy reputation as the conservatory-honed noodlings of middle-aged musicians for affluent — and seated — audiences'. The night featured was a Steam Down session at Buster Mantis bar in Deptford.

As John Lewis highlighted recently in The Guardian, this new 'cosmopolitan vision of jazz' is very much shaped by 'The multicultural nature of London'. Key scene figure Shabaka Hutchings notes that it incorporates influences from  'Dub, dancehall, calypso, soca, Afrobeat, highlife, township jive, nyabinghi – all put through the filter of rave and house and hip-hop' (Add some township jive! How London's jazz scene set itself apart, Guardian, 27 May 2020). Many of the musicians are from South London,  either by origin and/or having studied on the influential jazz course at Trinity Laban college in Greenwich/Deptford.

You really have to go back to  the acid jazz clubs of 1980s/90s  or maybe even the jazz raves of the 1950s to find anything like a similar energy. And when was a jazz event last stopped by the police?  Punk gigs, grime nights, reggae blues parties and acid house raves have all felt the force of the law in the last thirty years, but let's face it jazz couldn't get arrested.  Surely there can be no surer sign of the rebirth of cool! 
(photo by @SwanAroundPhotos)