Thursday, October 28, 2021

Little Amal comes to Deptford

At least a couple of thousand people turned out last Friday (22/10/2021) to greet 'Little Amal' to Deptford: a 3.5 metre-tall puppet of a young refugee girl that has been travelling  8000 km across Europe from the Turkish-Syrian border. Created by the Handspring Puppet Company (famous for The War Horse among other projects), the puppet is the centrepiece of The Walk ' a travelling festival of art and hope in support of refugees'. Deptford was the first stop in London.

The procession made its way down Deptford High Street to Giffin Square, where there was something of a festival arranged by Lewisham as part of its 'Borough of Sanctuary' role. There was a big wheel, various art happenings, and stalls from local community groups such as Lewisham Refugee and Migrant Network and the Migration Museum (based in Lewisham shopping centre).

'Migration is not a crime' says Paddington Bear, picked up this bag from Migration Museum stall on the day. 'Disco Against Fascism' badge from 'We Do Good Disco', whose giant 'campotastic' disco washing machine was set up outside the Albany during Amal's visit.

The celebratory atmosphere was in stark contrast to the political mood music last week with the Government continuing with its harsh anti-refugee bill. The hostile environment was highlighted on Saturday (23/10/2021) at Lewisham Hospital where Lewisham Refugee and Migrant Network along with hospital campaigners protested against the Government's punitive charges for migrants using the NHS.

Photo from LRMN

Wednesday, October 27, 2021

Open Mic at Telegraph pub

 The open mic session at The Telegraph at Earl of Derby pub (Dennetts Road SE14) continues to go from strength to strength. It was a full house last week (21st October) with featured act Bolt the Door. They started out with 'Last night's fun' which as well as being a well known Irish Reel it also the name of one of the best books written about traditional Irish folk sessions (discussed here before). They also played a version of the North East song 'When the Boat Comes In'.

The Open Mic at the Telegraph is on every Thursday, if you want to sing/play turn up early and put your name down.

As for Bolt the Door, they've been booked to play in the pub in their own right, playing there on every second Saturday in the month from 6 pm - next one on 13th November.

Monday, October 18, 2021

An Anti-Slavery Speech in Deptford, 1830

In November 1830 one B.C. Challis gave a lecture that was published shortly after as 'The Substance of a Speech on Negro Slavery. Delivered at the Rev. Mr. Barker's Chapel, High Street, Deptford, on Tuesday Evening, 2nd November, 1830'. The whole text is available to read online and while some of the language is archaic, it is a passionately argued case for the abolition of slavery.

Modern historians of slavery are quite rightly critical of a narrative of British 'white saviours' leading the abolitionist fight, and there is scepticism about the motives of some who may have been concerned for instance with wider colonial interests (such as undermining the French in the Caribbean who were arguably more dependent on the slave trade continuing).

It is important to recognise that slaves themselves continually resisted slavery and in this sense were a key driving force in its abolition.  There is an echo of this within this speech, with a reference to the successful slave revolution in Haiti (described as Saint Domingo here): 'Who can for a moment doubt that this great island, under the dominion of a free negro population, situate in the very centre of the West Indies, and contiguous to the large and populous islands of Cuba and Jamaica on the one side, and Porto Rico on the other; who I ask, can doubt that the government of that island, will take every occasion to stir up the surrounding slaves to insurrection?'. The author uses this threat to argue that the abolition of slavery is actually in the interests of the 'white inhabitants' as the alternative is that 'the lives and immense property of the colonists be thus exposed to destruction'.

Some of the specific proposals put forward here seem rather feeble now, such as the suggestion of gradually abolishing slavery by starting with young women (whose children would then be born free).

Nevertheless it is also important to acknowledge that rank and file slavery abolitionists were putting forward what was, in the context of the growing British Empire, a principled and radical assertion of equality and opposition to racism. 

Of course there is criticism of how slaves are treated:  'And, now then ye degraders of humanity ! -the best of your slaves are allowed but one pint of corn meal for their day's allowance, which is no more, and no better, than that which every gentleman's sporting dog has in England. They are flogged - abused and mutilated, whether feeble, decrepid, or lame, - spurred on to a laborious task, in a sultry climate, without encouragement or reward'. 

But more than this there is a recognition that slaves are people with the same rights to liberty as anybody else: ' although the system of negro slavery demands all the force of intellect in its defence, yet it requires only a sense of justice , an universal sentiment of execration, and a determined intention to do unto others , "as we would they should do unto us ”.  It requires I say, only the belief and practice of that one golden precept of our holy religion, to induce us, at once, to hate, to despise, and to abolish it [...] I am sure you must all feel such a just sense of horror at the thraldom, which is entailed upon the black, by his merciless owner, who differs from him only in the colour of his skin, and an anxious desire of breaking their bonds?'. 

At the end of this meeting in Deptford, 'Several resolutions were then read and carried, and a Petition praying the Total Extinction of Colonial Slavery adopted'. Those involved obviously wanted to disseminate the message further as they took the trouble to print it. We are told that it was available in Deptford 'sold by Warcup, Broadway; Ellis, Lower Road' and W. Brown, printer, High Street; also by J. Cole, London Street, Greenwich'.

Barker's Chapel in Deptford High Street, 1839 - I believe location was approximately where the Poundland shop now stands, next to the former Mechanics Arms (now Tomi's Kitchen restaurant). The 
(picture from British Library). The building was replaced by a substantial Congregational Church in the 1860s.

1850 sketch showing the chapel next to pub and railway line

Monday, October 04, 2021

BBNO - new brewery at Mordern Wharf

Out for a bike ride round the Greenwich peninsula last weekend we saw some people drinking at tables next to a warehouse on the riverside at Morden Wharf. So of course we stopped to investigate and had a quick drink - just one, hey we were cycling. 

The site is the new home for South London craft brewery BBNO (Brew by Numbers), moving from previous location in the Enid Street railways arches in Bermondsey - though their taproom will remain open there as well as their barrel store in Peckham. The new site in its early stages of development but  you can already choose from a wide range of beers and sit at tables inside or out. The brewery hosted the Riverside Beer Festival there last month.

Current opening hours - Thursdays and Fridays (3 pm - 10 pm); Saturdays (12 noon - 10 pm); Sundays (12 noon to 8 pm)