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



Tuesday, October 05, 2021

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)

Monday, September 20, 2021

Music Monday: Broadside Hacks

Broadside Hacks is a new 'London-based collective committed to the celebration and perpetuation of folk music', with a great new album out, 'Songs Without Authors Vol.1'.  The collective have been doing a folk session at Skehans (Kitto Road SE14) and a video for one of the tracks - Willie of Winsbury by Katy J Pearson & Maudlin - was filmed at the Rivoli Ballroom in Crofton Park. 

Some of the performers have previously been more associated with 'indie' acts such as Sorry or Goat Girl - the latter's ex-bassist Naima Bock contributes one track. They say: ' The marvel of Folk music is, in our view, its ability to find relevance in all times and places, while remaining essentially local. Broadside Hacks believe the old songs can still be relevant – that in the ancient melodies and words about past times can be found truths about today. If you want proof, revisit one of the albums that introduced them to folk – Liege and Lief – and hear songs that could be drawn from today’s headlines, about honour killings, about class, about lives forced into certain directions for want of the choices wealth brings. In 2021, to so many people folk just means “someone with an acoustic guitar”. Songs Without Authors is not that: it is music rooted in a place that has grown to encompass something universal'.








 

Monday, September 13, 2021

Croydon racist protest outnumbered

A small far right anti-refugee protest in Croydon was outnumbered by opposition on 4th September. Only around 20 racists got it together to turn up at Lunar House (Home Office UK Visas and Immigration HQ), where they complained about being let down by the no shows and being surrounded by anti-fascists numbering between 150-200.







Far right protest on right of picture, anti-fascists on left



'Croydon resists racism... Look around you. Croydon is not full, in fact the only thng it is full of are empty buildings! Yet still people are living on the streets. Our community has the resources to look after refugees alongside people who already live here' 


London Anti Fascist Assembly banner

 

Sunday, September 05, 2021

Dub London - nights of raving


'Dub London: Bassline of a city' closed last week at the Museum of London, a small exhibition documenting the impact of reggae sound system culture in the capital. Exhibits included a speaker stack from Channel One sound system, photographs and a vinyl selection provided by London reggae record shops.



 Naturally, South East London featured prominently, with references to the New Cross Fire, the Battle of Lewisham, Jah Shaka and Lewisham's Saxon Studio International sound system.  There was a film of Mad Professor in his Ariwa studio - currently in White Horse Lane SE25, previously in Gautrey Road SE15 (where the recently departed Lee Scratch Perry visited and recorded in the 1980s).


Photo of Saxon Sound in exhibition - taken at Lewisham Riverdale Centre in 1982 it includes Maxi Priest (also Lezlee Lyrix now Prof. William Lez Henry)

My favourite bit was a wallpaper of flyers, many of them from Saxon parties in the 1980s. Lots of South London venues featured in this including:

The Eve Pool Club, 13 Upper Brockley Road Parade

Lewisham Boys Club, 1-9 Horton Street SE13 ('A Saturday Night Jamboree' in May 1982)

Deptford Crypt [St Pauls Church], February 1982 with Saxon, Young Lion and 'Revolutionary A1 sound from Lewisham'.

Club Harmony [aka Harmony Hall], Childers Street, Deptford - Fe.b 1982 'Night of Raving' with Saxon and Sir Coxsone Outernational 

New Moonshot Club, Fordham Park SE14, July 1982 with Saxon and Nasty Rockers from Brixton

51 Lewisham Way - 'Night of Cool Runnings' in March 1982

Dick Sheppard Youth Centre, Tulse Hill SW2

Temple 62, Railton Road SE24 ('Wanna have ah Nice Time? STEP-it down ah Front Line!' with Saxon and Front Line International in 1983)

Late Night Cruise on a boat from Greenwich Pier (the MV Swanage Queen) in June 1982

22 Clyde House, Sumner Road, Peckham

Would be great to hear memories of these nights and others like them.



Sunday, August 29, 2021

Extinction Rebellion back on Blackheath - if not now, when?

As part of this month's Extinction Rebellion 'Impossible Rebellion' in London, some supporters have been camping out on Blackheath, as they did in 2019 and as their Climate Camp predecessors did back in 2009.



'If not you, then who? If not now, the when? Demand Climate Action'


'Let's nurse the earth'


'Welcome to Blackheath Camp', a Greenwich XR leaflet, and a flyer promoting demonstration against Silvertown tunnel on 24 September. 


Noticeboard at site with some interesting local history details - the Palatine refugee camp on Blackheath in 1709 (German refugees from war with France); the Women's Suffrage Pilgrimage on Blackheath in 1913 and George Wilson, the 'Blackheath Pedestrian' whose attempt to walk 1000 miles on the Heath in 1815 was scuppered by magistrates.


The camp on Blackheath and associated protests in London demanding action on climate change are expected to continue until end of week beginning 30 August 2021.

 

Sunday, August 15, 2021

Music Monday: The Battle of Lewisham 1977

Long time New Cross balladeers Ceri James and Mark Sampson have collaborated on a new single, 'The Battle of Lewisham 1977', released last week on the anniversary of the historic anti-National Front demonstration in New Cross and Lewisham (see lots of previous posts here for background to this)

Syd Shelton's iconic image from the 'Battle of Lewisham' show Darcus Howe with megaphone standing on toilets on Clifton Rise with the (now mostly demolished) Milton Court Estate tower blocks behind him

 Ceri says: 'Our single The Battle of Lewisham 1977 is out today on the 44th anniversary of the protest. Big thank you to everyone who helped out with this track. Lead vocals/guitars Mark Sampson/myself, bass Nathan Persad and drums Andre St. Clair Dyer. Bvs from Nathan, Andre, Alice Renouf, Caffy St Luce, Daryl Castillo, Clare Portman, Mark Salmon, Robert Robertson. NoNameKid for editing and Pat Collier mixing/mastering. Photography by Syd Shelton. All profits go to Love Music Hate Racism'.

The accompanying video features various local faces and was filmed at locations significant on the day, including Clifton Rise SE14 and the Lewisham Clock Tower.

'In Clifton Rise and New Cross Road, many decent people showed, 

to oppose their racialism and far right fascism...

The people united won't be defeated'

Thursday, July 22, 2021

New Crass Massahkah on South Bank



Linton Kwesi Johnson’s New Craas Massahkah poem, about the 1981 New Cross Fire, is on display by the South Bank Centre where the track is being played on the hour every hour until the end of August.
 

Saturday, July 17, 2021

Women's Day for Disarmament 1983

'Women's Day for Disarmament' took place on May 24 1983, with hundreds of events across Britain. This was the period of the Greenham Common Women's Peace Camp against cruise missiles and the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament was at its height.

In South London events included a temporary peace camp on Clapham Common near to the South London Women's Hospital, which was threatened with closure. South East London Greenham Women put white crosses on Peckham Rye before marching to the Imperial War Museum. Later 5000 women gathered in Trafalgar Square before making a chain around the Ministry of Defence in Whitehall

Socialist Action, 13 May 1983

Socialist Organiser, 26 May 1983




Tuesday, May 25, 2021

Black Lives Matter in South London, one year on

'ACAB' 'Floyd' - Albert Embankment SE1, April 2021

A year ago today the killing of George Floyd by a police officer in Minneapolis sparked off the latest round of the global Black Lives Matter movement. The UK movement really started off with a march in Peckham on the 30th May and today Black Lives Matter activist Sasha Johnson is in our thoughts, seriously ill in Kings Hospital after being shot in Peckham last weekend. We have covered some of the many protests and posters in South London here before, but a year on here's a few more examples of the visual impact of the movement locally.


'FTP/BLM', Cold Blow Lane SE14


'Black Lives Matter', Hilly Fields


'Abolish the police' - Queens Road, Peckham



Lewisham Way, outside Goldsmiths



'George Floyd' with fist, Barry's Food Store, Barry Road, East Dulwich



'Black Lives Matter - we understand that we will never understand. However, we stand'
(London Theatre, 443 New Cross Road)

'More blacks, more dogs, more Irish' - sticker on Lewisham Way

Black Lives Matter topiary, Brixton end of Dulwich Road


A number of professionally designed posters appeared, including on paid for advertising billboards. The messages and images were sometimes strong, but I did feel uneasy at a kind of marketing style 'aestheticisation of rage.'  

'I can't breathe' - Brockley Cross



'Black British History is British History', Amersham Road SE14

'Bun the Police' - Queens Road station
   
Arguments about appropriate (or even appropriating) imagery came to a head in relation to the use of the instantly iconic photograph of Patrick Hutchinson carrying an injured white man following clashes in London on June 13th. On that day a large number of right wing eejits demonstrated in central London, supposedly to defend statues from Black Lives Matter protestors. They had a punch up with the police and as some warriors of the master race were heading home via Waterloo station they were humiliatingly decked by anti-racists. Dylan Martinez got a great photo of Hutchinson, and this was reproduced all over the place - including on this 'bank note' billboard by Queens Road station, Peckham. 


Soon though people began to question why this image had become so acceptable in mainstream media. It seemed to being used to suggest some cosy reconciliation between racists and their opponents, mediated by the figure of a 'respectable black man'. This was certainly not Hutchinson's intention. In interviews since he has been very clear that racists can't complain if they face the consequences of their words and actions, and his motivation on the day was partly to prevent young black people ending up on serious criminal charges if the guy had ended up  badly injured or worse. 

Local mural artist Lionel Stanhope painted a mural based on Martinez' picture on hoardings in Lewisham in September 2020. Lionel is a good guy and meant well but the critical discussion about the overuse of this image was reaching its zenith. Somebody painted over it 'We don't rescue racists in Lewisham, we run them out'. Soon it was painted out altogether (see discussion at Huffington Post).



Builder Balfour Beatty had allowed the original mural to be painted, along with other street art, on the boards around its property development near Lewisham station. The limits of its tolerance were exposed shortly after when Balfour Beatty painted over a mural opposite the police station in memory of Kevin Clarke who died while being restrained by police in Catford in 2018. A reminder that we have our own George Floyds closer to home who also must not be forgotten.



Tuesday, May 18, 2021

Lewisham Museums of Migration and Neoliberalism

With museums and galleries reopening let's celebrate two small but perfectly formed and radical museums in the borough of Lewisham, with a few photos from pre-lockdown period.

The Migration Museum

The Migration Museum in Lewisham Shopping Centre reopens on 19th May 2021.




 I visited in that brief inter-lockdown window in Summer 2020 and saw The Singh Twins great artwork 'NHS v. Covid 19: fighting on two fronts' showing an 'an Asian nurse on horseback slaying the Covid-19 dragon' while highlighting 'Britain's historical dependency on people of BAME origin' and the 'labour and resources' of the 'colonised and exploited'

Angelica Dass's humanae is an ongoing attempt 'to document humanity's true colours' in terms of colour tones 'rather than the inaccurate labels... associated with race'



The Museum of Neoliberalism

The Museum of Neoliberalism is in Lee Green at16 Eltham Rd, London SE12 8TF.  It remains closed, but hopes to reopen in July 2021, pandemic permitting.


'The 1970s is a period known for cults, serial killers and the capitalist class becoming organised to defend its interests'

Curated by Darren Cullen and Gavin Grindon it features some highly imaginative exhibits including a Grenfell Tower Cross Section...




...a bottle of Amazon worker's urine and a working model of an Amazon warehouse (sorry fulfilment centre)...





...as well as some interesting toys and games like this Hornby Standing Room Only Passengers set