Saturday, July 30, 2022

Thursday, July 28, 2022

Just call me angel of the morning

Mattress art in St Marys Road SE15


Tuesday, July 26, 2022

Funky Munky in Camberwell

Looking back through flyers for nights out which seem like only yesterday but were in fact more than 20 years ago. Remember when what is now the Stormbird at 25 Camberwell Church Street was the Funky Munky? A diary entry from April 2000 recalls a packed night with DJs playing Kelis, Mantronix and Soul II Soul, and a late night coffee at Tadims just down the road.   I DJd there myself once, upstairs at a friend's birthday party. I also remember another night around that time, I think during Camberwell Arts Festival, when they had a street party next to the bar in Artichoke Place.

This flyer is from 2000 for 'Funky Vista Social Club'.

Bar photo from Yelp

Saturday, July 23, 2022

Abdul K. Kpakpa-Quartey: a Pan Africanist in 1920s Borough High Street

Recently I was browsing through the 1922 Post Office Directory in Southwark Archives, just looking at what was on Borough High Street one hundred years ago. One entry that caught my eye was for number 169 Borough High Street, listed as the address for three organisations: the Gold Coast National Aid Society, the Inter-African Moslem Association and the Ethiopian Society for Psychical Research. The secretary of all three organisations was said to be one Abdul K. Kpakpa-Quartey. 

Clearly there was a link with the Gold Coast (now Ghana), but the other organisations suggested a wider pan-African interest of the kind associated at the time with Marcus Garvey for whom 'Ethiopian' sometimes conveyed a sense of Africa as a whole rather than just the country itself. As explored here before Garvey himself stayed for a while on Borough High Street (numbers 71 and 176)  just before the First World War.

As for the psychical research angle, that sounds fascinating - the name presumably inspired by the Society for Psychical Research founded in Britain in 1882 to investigate all things paranormal. Sadly I haven't been able to find anything out about the Ethiopian version, but I have found a bit more about Kpakpa-Quartey.

169 Borough High Street today (building on right)

He seems to have been a merchant from the Gold Coast/Ghana who settled in England from the 1920s to at least the 1950s. And he strongly opposed racism internationally, possibly with a link with Garvey's movement. In an an article published in the Islamic Review, May 1921, Professor Abdul Karim Kpakpa-Quartey writes:

'To-day in Christian America the God-created black man, notwithstanding his Christian affiliations, intelligence or social prominence, is a slave and a serf, perhaps worse than in the dramatic days of the world- famed Uncle Tom's Cabin. He or she is still liable to be brutally flogged, kicked, knocked, imprisoned, shot dead or lynched at the will and pleasure of the bloodthirsty and savage American Tin God. Can you imagine the striking contrast between Caucasian Christianity and Islam, the religion of humanity? So utterly preposterous and absurd and scientifically illogical is color prejudice that I will not waste time in controversy'

It seems likely that this was the same person who wrote a letter to Garvey's Negro World paper in 1921 complaining of the treatment of unemployed Somali seamen in England; the letter of 22/10/1921 was signed by 'Prof. Karim Abdul Kpakpa-Quartey' of the African Association [Source].

What Abdul traded in is unclear. At one time he was involved in a business partnership called United States Inter-Allied Commercial Syndicate, described as 'Export and Import Brokers, Merchants and Shipping Agents'. At the time of its dissolution in 1923 his address is given as 91 Altenburg Gardens, Clapham Junction (London Gazette, 12 January 1923)

Marcus Garvey's United Negro Improvement Association was a transnational organisation aiming to link black people across the world, with part of its platform being to assist a return to Africa for the descendants of slaves. Famously he attempted to establish a Black Star Line of ships to make this a reality. So Garvey would not doubt have been interested in linking with African shipping merchants with a similar perspective. 

Intriguingly another merchant from the Gold Coast with a similar name is recorded as speaking at a UNIA meeting in New York's Liberty Hall in 1919. This was Sam. G. Kpakpa-Quartey - was he a relative? His connection with the movement was a concern to the British authorities who wished to counter Black nationalist/Pan-Africanist influence in its colonies, whether in the West Indies or West Africa. Indeed this Kpakpa-Quartey is mentioned in a 1922 letter from Winston Churchill, then colonial secretary, concerning Garvey and the Black Star Line (source). 

As might be expected of an African traveller, the main official records I have found on Abdul K. Kpakpa-Quartey are on passenger lists maintained by immigration authorities.  A 1950 record has him travelling from Liverpool to Freetown, Sierrra Leone, while another from December 1956 records him boarding a Spanish ship in London heading to Las Palmas, Canary Isles.. His date of birth is given as 15/6/1895 and his address as 61 Albert Street, Newark, Notts. The Liverpool connection is interesting as another African organisation, the Native Union of Empire Africans, was founded there in 1935 by  one A.J. Kpakpa-Quartey (source).

A 1950s consular marriage record from Dakar, Senegal indicates that he married Flora Gabbidon who, as Flora Irene Kpakpa-Quartey (dob 10/4/1919), travelled from Liverpool to Takoradi (Ghana) in 1958 with her son Matthew Ibrahim born 1952 (source: Findmypast). 

That's all I know but I am sure there must be some more of his writings out there in yet to be digitised journals as judging by his Borough High Street office he was a very busy man. Today there are many people of Ghanaian heritage living in London so perhaps there might some interest in this Ghanaian activist from a century ago.

Sunday, July 17, 2022

Telegraph Hill Welcomes Refugees

Telegraph Hill Welcomes Refugees is making plans to support a refugee family locally - can you help?


Saturday, July 16, 2022

MDC and Flipper - American Punk at the New Cross Inn

Not one but two classic American  punk bands with roots in the 1980s  coming up at the New Cross Inn next month.  August 1st sees the appearance of MDC - initials that over the years have stood variously for Millions of Death Cops, Multi Death Corporation and Millions of Damned Christians among other things. In their early years they were active in Rock Against Reagan and released the classic 'John Wayne was a Nazi'. My personal favourite lyric of theirs, from their track Selfish Sh*t is 'Socialism for the rich, Capitalism for the rest of you' which often comes to mind when I hear about already wealthy people receiving freebies like the Oscars Gift Bag

Supports on the night include Left For Dead and Spider

Then a week later  on Sunday 7th August, Flipper are playing.  Starting out in San Francisco, they were a big influence on Nirvana among many other bands. The line up on this tour includes founding guitarist Ted Falconi and founding drummer Steve DePace, with bassist and vocals from some time member Mike Watt (also bassist with the Minutemen).

[update the Flipper gig did not take place this time as the tour was postponed due to Covid]

Friday, July 15, 2022

Celebrating Sanctuary at the Horniman Museum

The Horniman Museum has won the 2022 Art Fund 'Museum of the Year' award and it is certainly one of the great treasures of South London (and indeed all of London).

Last month (25 June 2022) it hosted the 'Celebrating Sanctuary' Lewisham Refugee Week Festival. The festival marked 'Lewisham's status as the UK's first borough of sanctuary' and celebrated 'the contributions, creativity and resilience of refugees and people seeking sanctuary'.

There was art from 'Create without Borders' and writing from ekō magazine, orginally founded by Goldsmiths students and publishing in English, Farsi and Arabic.

And in the gardens there was music and dance from the Flotsam Orchestra. This remarkable outernational band has grown out of the regular Flotsam Sessions at Catford Mews where people from different parts of the world come together to share and perform songs.

Monday, July 11, 2022

Music Monday: Carmody 'Imperfect Constellations'

South London singer Carmody has a new album out, Imperfect Constellations.

Carmody (full name Jessica Carmody Nathan) is a long time collaborator with Tom Misch, indeed she co-wrote the classic transpontine anthem South of the River. Both Tom and sister Laura Misch appear on the album, and grew up in the same Peckham Rye/East Dulwich border zone as Carmody.

She has previously described her songs as 'Wandering folk electronic beat-filled musings' and that kind of captures it, though on this album the beats are mostly pared back.

The album's title refers to the 'imperfect constellations' of our relationships with friends, lovers and families. Bereavement at the loss of her father is one theme but so are the positives of kinship in this case in a cosmopolitan multicultural context. The album includes recordings of an aunt speaking Hebrew and a refugee brother speaking Persian. There is a loose spiritual longing, perhaps hinted at by the astrological art work.

Anyway it's all a beautiful soundtrack for a languid but melancholy-tinged long hot summer so check it out at all the usual places (read her track by track description here)

Imperfect Constellations

'‘Well’ was written as an attempt to describe the feeling of grief. I said to a friend that I often feel as if I’m at the bottom of a well, surrounded by darkness, but I can see a pinpoint of light above my head, it just feels out of reach. And between these bouts of sadness is the feeling that the world is constant and continuing, no matter anyone’s personal loss. I wrote the track with Tom Misch and the chords he came up with were perfect for the sorrowful feel of the music'.