Monday, June 26, 2023

Music Monday: Speakers Corner Quartet

South London's Speakers Corner Quartet started out around 2006 as the house band of the Speakers Corner spoken word/hip hop night held at Brixton Jamm. Their album 'further out than the edge' (June 2023) features an impressive range of guests including Kae Tempest, Shabaka Hutchings and Sampha. A great start to the summer album - not in a banging holiday anthems kind of way, more 'it's too hot to do anything but listen to soulful sounds'.

South London poet James Messiah features on Hither Green: 'whether blue whether green, whether Highbury Fields or Hither Green, whether north or west or south or east, I'm still the same G', while Lewisham-based singer Coby Sey sings 'On Grounds'. 

Saturday, June 17, 2023

'No Nazis in East Street' (1979)

A feature of London political life in the  last decades of the 20th century was the regular street presence of racist and neo-nazi groups like the National Front and British National Party - in particular through their paper sales at places like Chapel Market, Lewisham town centre, East Street market (off Walworth Road SE17) and Brick Lane. It took years of militant anti-fascist organising from the 1970s onwards to drive them away, with Brick Lane continuing to be a flashpoint until well into the 1990s.

  This article 'No nazis in East Street' is from the SE1 community newspaper, April 1979 and features a call from Southwark Campaign Against Racialism and Fascism to oppose the National Front presence there on Sunday mornings.

This picture of a 1979 SCARF protest in East Street is featured in an excellent round up of anti-racist demonstrations at Southwark Heritage blog

According to Sean Birchall in his book  'Beating the Fascists: The Untold Story of Anti-Fascist Action', the National Front paper sellers finally gave up the ghost after they were ambushed by members of Red Action in the early 1980s 'the fascist presence in East Street Market  in south London was irrevocably extinguished when, without warning or fanfare, the paper sellers were overwhelmed in less than five minutes of mayhem...  As the fascists fled, a heavy glass  door in a shoe shop snapped in two as they surged through seeking refuge. Some hope. They were pursued into a storeroom, while others, trapped among the displays, had a no-tolerance message literally hammered into their heads by stiletto-shoe-wielding opponents. So stunning had been the anti-fascist victory neither the NF nor BM ever returned' (though the successor BNP was back at East Street for a while in the early 1990s).

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Wednesday, June 14, 2023

Hilly Fields parkrun 500

Hilly fields parkrun celebrated its 500th event last Saturday (6/6/23). Since it started in 2012 nearly 12,000 separate individuals have run or walked  three laps around the park on a Saturday morning to complete a 5k. The combined distance covered by all those who have taken part is around 480,000 km – that's equivalent to running a couple of time around the world, then running to the moon and running a couple of times round that too.

The free, volunteer run event started out from a meeting at the Ladywell Tavern, where Stephen Robson (pictured) agreed to be the event director. Having reached 500 events he stood down from this role on Saturday but will continue to be involved - thanks to Stephen and all the other volunteers who have kept this event going. Stephen and some of the others involved in setting it up had previously taken part in Bromley parkrun. Hilly Fields has gone on to spawn other events locally, with runners from there going on to set up Hilly Fields junior parkrun (for children on Sundays) and  Peckham Rye parkrun, among others.

In the early days of Hilly Fields parkrun attendance averaged around 40 runners. Nowadays it routinely involves more than 200 people and for Saturday's anniversary 438 people took part including 32 volunteers helping to make it happen.

Hilly fields parkrun has had a big impact on me since I first took part in 2013. It was the first organised running event I had taken part in since leaving school, and from that I really got the running bug. Parkrun led me on to get active in Lewisham based running club Kent AC and taking part in lots of races. But Hilly Fields parkrun is where I have run most and like many others I have developed an intimate knowledge of every twist and turn, every incline and descent. My running has declined due to injury in the last year, but it was great to attend at the weekend and I hope that as long as I am able to keep moving I will return there on Saturday mornings.

Olympic gold triathlete Alex Yee leaves us all behind at Hilly Fields parkrun in 2015