Thursday, December 29, 2022

'Into the 80s and beyond' at Corner New Cross

Corner is 'an LGBTQ+ led neighbourhood coffee shop and creative space in New Cross' that opened earlier this year. As well as serving up very good coffee it has a gallery space downstairs which currently features 'Mike Owen: Into the 80s and beyond', an exhibition of work by the music and fashion photographer featuring iconic images of Kylie, Annie Lennox, Joan Collins, Marc Almond and many more. The exhibition continues until 8 January 2023.

Leigh Bowery in one of his final photographs

Corner is at 117 New Cross Road, SE14 5DJ.  In the summer it even has a beach at the back!

Friday, December 23, 2022

Women of Lewisham

The 'Women of Lewisham' banner outside Prendergast School on Adelaide Avenue SE4 features a number of women associated with the borough. From left to right author Malorie Blackman, singer Kate Bush (who lived in Brockley), Suffragette Emily Davison, community activist Sybil Phoenix and housing/open spaces campaigner Octavia Hill (who helped create Hilly Fields park).


Tuesday, December 20, 2022

Nurses Strike at Guys Hospital

Nurses at Guys Hospital joined the strike called by the Royal College of Nursing on 15th December, and were supported by other health workers on their picket line outside the hospital on St Thomas Street SE1.

The picket line was overshadowed by the Shard on the other side of the street [insert obvious point about obscene property wealth vs. underpaid care givers]

'A Nurse is for Life not just for Covid'

Chants included:  'I'm a nurse, what's my worth', 'claps don't pay the bills' and 'you clapped us, now back us'.


Saturday, December 17, 2022

The first all out nurses strike in London (?): Maudsley Hospital 1988

Striking nurses are in the news, a rare occasion but not unique. There was a wave of nurses strikes in Britain in 1988, starting with a one day walkout at North Manchester Hospital in January and spreading to hospitals in London and elsewhere. Nurses at the Maudsley Hospital in Denmark Hill were the first to strike in London, walking out for the day on 2 February 1988 a day ahead of a national day of action which saw strikes and protests in many places.

Above and below - pickets at the Maudsley on 2 February 1988

Militant, 5 February 1988

 The day of action on 3rd February included a march called by London hospital strike committees which was blocked by police in Whitehall with four arrests. I remember the demo moving to block the traffic on Westminster Bridge.  

Two weeks later on the 16th February there was a further day of action in London in which 12,000 hospital workers took part.  The day ended up with several hundred marching to the town hall in Brixton for a rally. Nurses at the Maudsley again went on strike.

Guardian, 17/2/1988

Another day of action on 14th March saw London bus crews, dockers, miners and others taking unofficial action in support of NHS workers. I was working at Lambeth Council at the time and some of us marched to join the protests outside the Maudsley Hospital and Kings Hospital on the other side of the road. I think it was on this day that I took these two rather poor pictures!

'we care, do you?- Kings Hospital, 1988

Pickets in the rain outside the Maudsley

Guardian, 15 March 1988

 It was very much a rank and file led movement with nurses at individual hospitals organising one day strikes and days of action with limited support from national unions. Nurses were divided between three unions- NUPE (National Union of Public Employees), COHSE (Confederation of Health Service Employees) and the Royal College of Nursing. The RCN was opposed to action, though many of its members argued at the time for it to change its no strike policy; the leaderships of the other unions were decidedly lukewarm. The TUC did call a big demonstration in support of the health service on 5th March, with a crowd of up to 100,000 in Hyde Park, though some angry nurses tried to storm the stage to speak as no health workers had been invited to address the crowd

The movement was largely successful. The Government had been planning to offer a 3% pay rise and was also intending to scrap national pay bargaining. In the event a new clinical grading structure resulted in average pay increases of 15%.

Concerns about whether the pay rises would actually be implemented led to another walk out at the Maudsley in September. This was one of the the first indefinite strikes by nurses in Britain, lasting for 12 days from 5 September 1988. 

Guardian, 6 September 1988

'Maudsley Hospital Nurses Strike... the strike is aimed at forcing the government to honour its promise made in May of this year to fully fund the new Clinical Grading system'

'COHSE Maudsley 898 Branch Strike Bulletin - A massive vote of congratulations to all those COHSE members who have contributed to making the first week of the (first ever) indefinite strike by Nurses such a huge success... The sunny weather and generous donations from passers by on Denmark Hill have confirmed that the public (and God!) are behind our struggle to get nurses the rewards they deserve to protect patient services from Tory policies'

As with all strikes in the NHS, workers did not simply abandon patients. As detailed above there was an agreement in place for strikers to provide cover in emergencies or if there was 'a dangerously high proportion of staff who do not know the ward'

 [update - as stated above, the Maudsley workers believed they were the first ever nurses to stage an indefinite strike, and this was how the strike was reported at the time. However Michael Walker at the COHSE history blog records an earlier indefinite strike at Tooting Bec Hospital in 1975. That lasted for two days, so the Maudsley strikers were certainly setting some kind of record with their 12 day walkout- at the very least the first nurses strike to last continuously for more than a week]

Saturday, December 03, 2022

The first ever rugby union match - on Peckham Rye in 1871

Peckham Rye has a long sporting history - birth place of running clubs South London Harriers and Blackheath Harriers, early site for Gaelic Athletics Association sports and much more. More recently a place for various kinds of football -  soccer, rugby, American football and  Australian rules football, and lets not forget Peckham Rye parkrun.

But it seems that it may have a particular claim to fame as the location of the very first match played under rugby union rules.

It seems impossible to say when the first game of rugby football took place.  In the early 19th century there were various local forms of football being played in different schools and places, with no common rules. The variation developed at Rugby school was only one of them, and when the Football Association was founded in 1863 it agreed rules based on most players not being able to touch the ball with their hand - the start of modern 'soccer'. Some clubs split away as they wished to continue the rugby style game, with players allowed to pick up the ball and run with it. But still there was no one agreed set of rugby rules until the Rugby Football Union was founded and codified the rules of the game in June 1871. Two Peckham-based clubs - Lausanne and Gipsies - were among the  21 founding clubs.

The 1871-72 season started on 30 September 1871 and the Sporting Life listed six matches scheduled for that day including one on Peckham Rye between Football Company and Harlequins. 

It is not clear whether all of these were played under the new rules, and a report of the Peckham Rye match in the Sportsman (4 October 1871) states very specifically that 'This was the first match where the play was under the Rugby Union Rules, and they worked admirably, more especially having the ball down at once, and thus preventing the long and serious mauls so complained of in the London-Rugby game'.

The match was also reviewed in a separate report in the same paper on 7 October 1871: 'The football season was inaugurated on Saturday in various suburban localities, but the first match which I will notice is that between the Harlequins and the somewhat pretentiously designated "Football Company", a new association, playing, as I understand, under the Rugby Union rules'. It appears that the Company, 'having their headquarters at Peckham Rye' were declared victorious but fascinatingly neither report thought to mention the score.

The Football Company was apparently an occasional side set up by members of the more established Gipsies. The former had their HQ at the Prince Albert (presumably the now closed pub on Consort Road), and the latter at the Kings Arms on the Rye. Lausanne FC were based at the Rosemary Branch on Southampton Way (source: Black & Blue 1871). None of these Peckham rugby clubs or pubs survives.

[news stories found at British Newspaper Archive]

Thursday, December 01, 2022

Farewell Nunhead Beer Shop

The Beer Shop in Nunhead Green is celebrating its 8th birthday this weekend, but sadly this will be its last as it will be closing this month. The landlord has declined to renew the lease and with plans to convert upstairs into a flat another bar there seems unlikely.

The place is always friendly and usually busy and will be greatly missed, as will its great selection of beers and ciders. 

Amidst the general gloom about pub closures I saw the Beer Shop as a sign of optimism. Sure some old boozers were disappearing but was it the end of the world if new spaces of alcohol-tinged sociality were springing up in places like, in this case, a former wool shop? But sadly the optimism seems to be misplaced - it seems that places that pop up can just as easily vanish at the whim of property owners, regardless of how valued they are by communities.

Any way so long Beer Shop folks and thanks for the cider, good luck with your future adventures.