Saturday, November 30, 2013

Hello Kitty - Cat added to Banksy's dog in Bermondsey

Banksy painted his 'Haring Dog' image on a wall in The Grange SE1 in 2010 - the building owner then covered in Perspex to preserve it.
More recently another image has been painted next to it (anyone know  by who?), adding a cat or two to Banksy's dog.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Spooky Deptford in new Kate Mosse book

The Mistletoe Bride and Other Haunting Tales is a new collection of short stories by Kate Mosse (no not her). One of the stories, The Princess Alice, is set in Deptford - the narrator lives in a flat in Glaisher Street and finds a diary after browsing for books among 'the second-hand sellers who set up shop outside the Albany'. The sinking of the Princess Alice boat in 1878 and the 1944 Woolworth's V2 disaster feature in the story, as do locations such as Wellbeloved butchers on Tanners Hill and the famous and now departed anchor:

'I found myself wondering if any of the drivers had even noticed the tiny streets through which they were driving. Did they see the stories beneath the cobbles and all the wharf buildings, the distinctive character of this corner of south east London? Or did they only notice the booze shops hidden behind metal grilles, the burger joint and 24-hour supermarket where the drunks congregated, trying to make friends with anyone foolish enough to make eye contact.

A piece of urban art - what town planners and the Daily Mail call a "feature" - sat at the top of Deptford Church Street. A large wrought-iron anchor set in stone, reminding shoppers of the district's martimepast. Two boys and a girl were clambering all over it, hooking their legs over the arms, hanging upside down like monkeys'.

(the sharp eyed will notice that in the story the author renames the High Street as Deptford Church Street - a mistake or poetic license?)

On the subject of the anchor, here's a short film of last month replica anchor procession through Deptford, with soundtrack by David Bloor

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Maoists in 1970s South London

Today's revelations about the so-called 'Lambeth Slavery' case have linked those arrested to the remnants of a small Maoist group that operated in Brixton in the 1970s. The central allegation seems to be that  supporters of the group formed a collective that degenerated over time into an abusive scenario where several women felt themselves to be controlled and unable to leave the house of their own free will for many, many years. Two people were arrested in a Lambeth Council flat at Peckford Place, Angell Town in Brixton - with press reports identifying them as Aravindan Balakrishnan and Chanda Balakrishnan, formerly leading members of a group called the Workers' Institute of Marxism-Leninism-Mao Zedong Thought.

Unless and until this case comes to court and all the evidence is out there, it's probably best not to speculate too much about the details. It is pretty clear though that this would be a unique situation arising from very particular circumstances - and certainly no basis on which to generalise about slavery in modern Britain. Clearly there are disparate cases of extreme exploitation, abuse and servitude but maybe Frank Furedi has a point about the inadequacy of the term 'slavery' to describe them.

Tempting too to draw general political conclusions about Marxist-Leninism as Bob from Brockley does. I have some sympathy with this approach, but again we probably can't deduce too much from this pathological case study. Once a political organisation is small enough to fit in one household we are really talking about small group interpersonal dynamics rather than political ideology, even if ideology can justify all kinds of behaviour that most people would find appalling.

But the case has thrown a spotlight on a largely forgotten dead end in twentieth century radical leftist politics - British Maoism. In some parts of Europe, such as Germany, Italy and France, groups inspired by the Chinese revolution and its aftermath formed a large part of the extra-parliamentary left in the late 1960s and early 1970s. In Britain, it was never more than a tiny minority current made up of a number of competing sects. 'Maoist' is a term they rarely used to describe themselves, preferring the term 'Marxist-Leninist', but their key distinguishing feature was to believe that Mao's China offered a way forward for world revolution as an alternative to the mainstream pro-Soviet Communist Parties. Whether their beliefs bore any relation to what was actually happening in China, and later Albania, is another matter.

Many of these groups had a presence in South London. A hostile account from the 1970s claimed that Maoist 'influence has been felt in London and in particular in the less prosperous parts in an arc from Camden in the north going eastwards around to Brixton in the south... The decaying Victorian surroundings, the depressed environment, the mixture of peoples and the hostility to the authority encourage a spirit of radicalism and provides the revolutionary with a relatively favourable social milieu and a base for development' (Peter Shipley, Revolutionaries in Modern Britain, 1976).

The Workers’ Institute of Marxism-Leninism-Mao Zedong Thought  opened its  Mao Zedong Memorial Centre at 140 Acre Lane, Brixton,in October 1976, running evening lectures, study groups and film showings. The Centre also operated as a residential commune: 'The role of the Communist Collective in the Mao Zedong Memorial Centre plays a backbone role in the work of our Institute. Of the thirteen comrades living in the Centre seven of us work in factories, shops and a hospital very near the Centre while six of us are doing full-time revolutionary work'. They published a 'South London Workers Bulletin' and boasted in 1977 that they had 'undertaken the unprecedented task of BUILDING A REVOLUTIONARY STABLE BASE AREA in and around Brixton, a poor and oppressed working-class area in South London'.  In March 1978, the centre was raided twice by the police  - apparently on the basis of drugs allegations - with 14 arrests. Six women were remanded in Holloway Prison for six months awaiting trial as they refused to recognise the courts. Bala (Aravindan Balakrishnan) and Chanda were sentenced to six and three months respectively (though nobody was convicted in relation to drugs). If they already had a fairly paranoid world view which saw fascism at every turn, this experience no doubt accentuated it.

This group had split away from another group, the Communist Party of England (Marxist-Leninist), which relaunched itself as the Revolutionary Communist Party of Britain (Marxist-Leninist) in 1976. Its 'unique selling point' was to side with Albania when it denounced the Chinese Communist Party in the 1970s.  Its best known member was the avant-garde composer Cornelius Cardew. They too had a South London base, with a bookshop at 569 Old Kent Road in the early 1970s called Progressive Books. Later, in around 1975,  the bookshop and HQ was moved to 170/172 Wandsworth Road, SW8, where it continues to this day I believe. In the 1970s they stood candidates in a number of elections, including as the South London People's Front in the 1978 Lambeth Central Byelection (they got 38 votes - as Ian Bone observes, that election was also contested by Trotskyist groups the Workers Revolutionary Party, the Socialist Workers Party/Flame and Socialist Unity).

Another grouping was the Marxist Leninist Organisation of Britain. In 1974 their mailing address was 17b Brindley Street, New Cross SE14. Their members led the League of Socialist Artists which ran the Communard Gallery at 18 Camberwell Church Street in the early 1970s.  A Tooting GP and Spanish Civil War veteran, Alex Tudor-Hart, was one of the founders of yet another group: the Working People's Party of England. No doubt there were many more local connections to such groups.

The history of this current ranges from the comic (the absurd pretensions of tiny groups to be the vanguard of 'the people') to the tragic (the support for murderous dictatorships such as North Korea and the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia - we could mention here too the case of Malcolm Caldwell, a sometime member of Bexley Labour Party and Khmer Rouge apologist who was killed in unexplained circumstances in Cambodia in 1978).

No doubt many good people sincerely committed to fighting racism, colonialism and inequality passed through these groups, but their practice was generally the opposite of emancipatory, with their personality cults, authoritarianism and closed intellectual worlds where everybody who disagreed with them was a fascist or imperialist lackey.  As Keith Flett says they were mostly harmless - even though you wouldn't have wanted to end up working in a rice field with them in charge. The recent Lambeth news reads like a sad footnote to this late, and not particularly lamented, episode in London political life.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Music Monday: James Maker and Morrissey in Bermondsey

In his recently published 'Autobiography' (Penguin, 2013), Morrissey mentions spending time in Bermondsey before forming The Smiths. The teenage Moz was an obsessive New York Dolls fan, and a letter of his published in a 1977 music paper led to another young Dolls fan from South London getting in touch with him. James Maker lived with his parents on the now demolished Bonamy Estate SE1 - in fact Morrissey gives the precise location as 91 Redlaw Way, 'a maisonette of ramps and grey slabs on the corner of St James' Road and Caitlin Street'.

The young Stephen Patrick Morrissey
Maker and Morrissey became close friends travelling between Manchester and London to see each other. Morrissey recalls making 'this journey many times' - 'The bus rattled down the Old Kent Road - away from the overdeveloped pink blob of the Elephant and Castle shopping centre. Each inch of the road has spent itself in other eras... I jump off the bus at the Civic Centre, where Tommy Trinder fell from the rafters every Friday night and told it his own way to those unlucky people'.

James Maker photographed by Morrissey on the Bonamy Estate with his
New York Dolls stencilled denim jacket.
Morrissey doesn't tell us too much about what he and Maker got up to other than listening to the New York Dolls and going 'swimming at a typically pitiful public pool in Peckham'. But it is clear that the two had a great influence on each other. While by his own account Morrissey struggled with sexual intimacy with men or women for many years to come, Chaser seems to have been clearer that he was gay (though this is not a word that Morrissey uses).

Other sources say more about this time. A letter Morrissey wrote at the time, quoted in Tony Fletcher's 'A Light that Never Goes Out: the Enduring Sage of the The Smiths' recounts that he and Maker spent time on the balcony of the latter's flat watching what they believed to be UFOs: 'At one point I stood on the balcony and stared directly into one hovering ship, and it STOPPED in mid-air above me'.

A teenage James Maker - think those are the tower blocks of
the Tustin Estate on Old Kent Road behind him
Maker almost became The Smiths 'Bez' - at their first gig in 1982, he danced along with the band on stage complete with maracas and high heels. Maker went on to make music himself as the lead singer of Raymonde, who released the 1987 album Babelogue, and then RPLA - who caused consternation at rock magazine Kerrang when they realized they'd put a 'gay metal band' on their cover.

James Maker in RPLA period - 1993

He also put out under his own name the fine 'Born that Way' in 2004.

I'm aware that Maker has published his own memoir, Autofellatio (2011), but haven't read that yet.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Geological Map: New Cross at the seaside (50 million years ago)

The British Geological Survey 'Geology of Britain' viewer is an interactive map showing the different rocks under our feet. You can enter in a place of interest (here New Cross Gate), zoom in and out, and choose to show just the bedrock or the superficial deposits on top of it.

The geology of London has helped shaped the city, influencing the location of roads and buildings, and of course providing their raw materials of bricks and stone. Interesting to see for instance that the line of the New Cross Road broadly follows the boundary between the 'Lambeth Group' bedrock of clay, silt and sand (shown in orange) and the sandier 'Thanet Formation' bedrock (shown in blue)

This also tells us about the deep history of the area. Both 'Lambeth Group' and 'Thanet Formation' were formed long before humans more than 50 million years ago. The former were formed in periodically-flooded swampy, estuary areas while the latter were formed under shallow seas. So in that time maybe what is now New Cross was the seaside!

Thursday, November 21, 2013

The Transpontine Paris Commune

Always on the look out for uses of the word 'transpontine', so that was the first word I entered when I found the treasure trove of the Spectator archive. There were quite a few references, confirming its most common meaning as being in relation to the 19th century theatres of South London, with their taste for the sensational and melodramatic. Hence the word denoted condescension both to this form of drama and the presumed 'vulgar'/lower class theatre audience who enjoyed it (I guess it was the 19th century equivalent of being snooty about people watching Eastenders).

So a January 1857  review of a play at the Royal Surrey praised 'a writer who for something like three hours can interest a Transpontine audience, without once changing his scene, firing one pistol, or introducing one melodramatic effect' (the Surrey in Blackfriars Road was the transpontine theatre to top them all).

An 1885 review of a novel commented 'we do not believe that. any Irish butler would address his master, "Ay, ay, lad," except perhaps on a transpontine stage'.

But sometimes the word was applied to real events seen to have similar characteristics. The Paris Commune of 1871 was a defining event of the period, seen by Marx for instance 'as the glorious harbinger of a new society. Its martyrs are enshrined in the great heart of the working class. Its exterminators' history has already nailed to that eternal pillory from which all the prayers of their priest will not avail to redeem them'. Thousands were slaughtered by the authorities as they regained control of Paris. So how did the Spectator see this at the time?

'This French civil war is like nothing so much as a transpontine tragedy, abounding in incidents, chokeful of horrors, and inexpressibly tedious nevertheless. M. Thiers has been attacking Fort Issy all the week, and thought on Monday he had captured it ; but the Commune, indignant at the flight of its commandant Megey, replaced him by General Eudes (printer), and the fort is firing away as before. The troops on both sides are becoming more determined, and in two instances a spirit of desperation seems to have been displayed. On Monday night, the 22nd Chasseurs were ordered to take the railway station of Clamart, and they took it with the bayonet, killing nearly the whole of the garrison of 360 men. The soldiers gave no quarter, and of course the Communists fought to the last' (Spectator 6 May 1871)

Giant at Bussey Building

A top night of house and disco at the Bussey Building this Friday 22 November:

'Giant returns to Peckham's Bussey Building on Friday Nov 22nd after a sold out opening party in October. We switch things around for part 2 moving the house to the middle floor to accommodate our heavyweight tag team of Atjazz and one of Germany's finest, Rainer Truby. Giant residents Stuart Patterson and Tim Keenoy open the proceedings in the middle floor while London party institution Lowlife take over the top floor. 

Lowlife have been holding some of London's finest parties for many years now and their unquestionable musical knowledge and top party crowd will make a fine addition to Giant. Lowlife regulars Bill Brewster and Michael Cook are joined by guest Ray Mang as they deliver their own unique take on disco old and new'.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

London CryptoFestival in New Cross

The CryptoFestival is coming up at Goldsmiths in New Cross on Saturday November 30th. They say:

'Freaked out by spiralling revelations of NSA surveillance? Worried that the spooks have subverted the internet at every level to make it a vast, multi-layered panopticon? Or simply creeped out by the way services like Facebook & Gmail track everything you do so they can profile you for advertising?

Whatever your paranoia, now is not the time to give up on the internet. It's time for a CryptoFestival! On November 30th we're coming together to build on the success of the CryptoParty movement and to reclaim our right to communicate and experiment on the internet.

CryptoParties have taught thousands of people the basic ways of protecting themselves and their data from intrusive surveillance. London CryptoFestival will have skill-sharing sessions on how to have private conversations over instant messaging, how to encrypt emails, how to browse anonymously and how to reliably encrypt your hard disk amongst other things. It's peer-against-fear; the self-organised activity of people teaching each other essential privacy skills.

But we aren't naïve enough to think crypto alone will save us. There's more to freedom than hiding, (and even crypto is being bent out of shape). Silicon Valley's stalking-based business model has merged with the GCHQ and the NSA's Eye of Sauron. The whole infrastructure is at risk of becoming an abuse machine. We don't care if it's the FBI behind the hijacked webcam or some other masturbatory misfit. An open and free internet is a core part of our social lives and our society and we want it back.

Governments and corporations have shown themselves to be untrustworthy stewards of the internet. At CryptoFestival we'll look at practical alternatives; from metadata-stripping to mesh networks, from autonomous community wifi to the potential of the ex-TV whitespace spectrum. But we'll also discuss the forms of social solidarity and governance we need to sustain our global commons'.

CryptoFestival takes place on Saturday 30th November, 11am - onwards in the New Academic Building, Goldsmiths, New Cross. Admission is free'.

In New York last week Jeremy Hammond was sentenced to ten years in prison for hacking the private intelligence firm Stratfor and exposing their spying on activists and others.  See FreeJeremy.Net for more information

The only surprizing thing for me about Edward Snowden's revelations about US and British surveillance is the sheer scale of the operations, involving the very architecture of the internet and most of its major brands. Put simply it suggests that in terms of information gathering spies will do whatever it is technically possible to do - there seems to be little in the way of political or financial limits. The issue isn't just what they are doing with this information now (including spying on protestors), but how it could be used by future regimes. The last century has seen enough terror at the hands of repressive governments round the world to cause you to tremble at the enhanced power any of their future counterparts would hold. Is a government here or elsewhere rounding up minorities and dissidents really so unthinkable? Unfortunately not - and their task would be made much easier if they could access everything there was to know about them at the push of a button.

The notion that whistleblowing about mass surveillance is 'helping terrorists' seems ludicrous - surely the first thing anybody involved in serious crime or guerrilla warfare must learn is to assume that anything said on the phone or written on a computer can be intercepted. This is something we all need to know about.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Undercover with the Bushwackers

Yesterday's Telegraph had an interview with James Bannon, who infiltrated Millwall firm the Bushwackers as an undercover cop in the late 1980s:

'At 7pm on Friday April 3 1987, two novice undercover police officers left Brockley police station for a drive down the Old Kent Road in south London. These were grim miles of looming tower blocks, shuttered shops and graffitied trains clattering above looming arches. It was also the territory of Millwall Football Club and their hooligan firm the Bushwhackers. It was just gone 8pm when the two men entered one of the Bushwhackers’ favourite pubs, The Old Castle... infiltration wasn’t as simple as a handshake. Over the coming months, the two men had to prove their worth. Bannon won the trust of several key individuals by joining them in planned violence in pubs and backstreets. Chris accused his partner of enjoying his role too much.

“Was I a football hooligan?” Bannon asks of himself. “Yes. But I never lost sight of the fact that it was a job. There were parts of it where I laughed more than I’ve ever laughed before. I met people I’d quite happily have had as lifetime friends. But it was a job. You create a role and you live that role – to a point.” But where, exactly, is that point? If he’s drinking with thugs, singing their songs and fighting in the streets with them, how is he not one of them? “If I pick a bat up and run at a load of West Ham fans, there’s no justification in that,” he says. “But if I’m with a group of Millwall fans and a West Ham fan is running at me with a bat, I’m totally within my rights to hit him. That’s the difference.”' (The Undercover Football Hooligan, Telegraph,18 November 2013).

Bannon has written a book about the operation, 'Running with the Firm'. On his account there were four full time undercover cops infiltrating Millwall fans in this period. Alongside recent revelations about infiltration of political activist circles, this is further evidence of the widespread use of this tactic. Similar questions arise - were they just keeping watch, or were they joining in, maybe even initiating trouble as 'agent provocateurs'? And what about the emotional abuse of people they developed relationships with? Bannon says he didn't have a sexual relationship despite falling in love on duty, but it appears from his book that he strung along a woman he identifies as 'Steph'.

This made me laugh in the Telegraph interview: 'Bannon, 48, asks to meet at a café around the corner from the now-empty Brockley police station, above which his small team was based in its earliest weeks. With its artisan flapjacks, this middle-class establishment is not the sort of place that existed when he patrolled the streets in the mid-Eighties. Bannon, it’s easy to tell, is of the old pre-gentrification order...'. Assume they went for a coffee at The Broca, or maybe Browns.

See previously:

May Day 2001: A police spy at the Elephant and Castle
Undercover in East Dulwich

1926 and all that...

Naturally Bannon's book includes accounts of conflict between Millwall and West Ham. And how does he explain this rivalry? Yes this old chestnut: 'hostility developed between two shipyards on either side of the Thames. To the north you had the workforce of the Royal Docks (the claret and blue of West Ham) and to the south, the Millwall, London and Surrey docks (the blue and white of Millwall). When the Millwall shipyard broke the 1926 dockers strike, the anger across the river raised the tensions to boiling point' (p.126).

No, no, no! As shown at Transpontine before, there is no evidence of Millwall or South London dockers breaking the 1926 General Strike. And what's more Millwall dock was on the north bank of the Thames - the club moved from the Isle of Dogs  to South London in 1910 but the docks didn't!

Monday, November 18, 2013

Music Monday: Count on Me - Chase & Status with Moko

I love Count on Me, the most recent single from Chase & Status. Well I'm an unreconstructed 1990s clubber, so what's not to like about piano samples (from 1992's Nush?), breakbeats and uplifting vocals. Yes I know it's been out a couple of months, but I've only just uncovered its local connections.

Singer Moko is a recent Goldsmiths graduate from New Cross - check out  Summon the Strength from her debut EP.

The video features a few South London locations- I think there's a bit of the Heygate Estate, possibly the town hall in Brixton, and definitely some dancing on Herne Hill station

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Shell stations picketed in Greenpeace protests

Several Shell petrol stations in South London were among 70 fuelling stations in the UK picketed yesterday as part of an international day of solidarity with 'the 30 people who were detained on a Greenpeace International ship by armed Russian security forces and imprisoned. Next week will mark two months since the 30 were detained following a peaceful protest against Arctic drilling at a Gazprom oil platform in the Pechora Sea on September 18. On Friday, Russia’s Investigative Committee announced that it will apply for a three-month extension to the detention of the Arctic 30. They will make the applications in front of a judge at hearings next week' (Greenpeace International)

Battersea protest - photo from @mortimerabi

Shell has been targeted as the Arctic oil business partner of Russian energy giant  Gazprom who Greenpeace say have played a significant role in this situation: "The Arctic 30 were arrested and imprisoned after Gazprom asked the authorities to intervene during our peaceful protest. Now the 30 remain behind bars and Gazprom could play a key role in securing their release so they can go home to their families. If Gazprom wanted the Arctic 30 to be free, it could wield significant influence by calling for their release.”

South London protests were held at Forest Hill (Stanstead Road), Bromley Hill (pictured below), Croydon (Whitehorse Road) and Battersea.

Bromley protest - photo from @ladyroisin at twitter

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Amnesty International Book Sale in Blackheath

Next week is the annual Amnesty International Book Sale in Blackheath, a regular date in the diary of all south London bibliophiles. Here's the details:

'The Blackheath and Greenwich Group of Amnesty International is holding its annual fund-raising book sale on Saturday 23 November at the Church of the Ascension, Dartmouth Row, London SE10 (10 minutes walk up Lewisham Hill from Lewisham BR, DLR & Bus Station). Doors open at 10am [finishes at four].

The local group has collected thousands of books from a variety of sources, including publishers and book reviewers as well as individual donors. The quality of books – many of which are brand new – is exceptionally high, and there will be plenty of bargains to be found, from second-hand paperbacks to review copies of recently-published novels. Prices start at £1 for paperbacks and £3 for hardbacks. The group’s book sales – now in their 39th year – are established as Amnesty International’s most successful local fundraising event in the UK, raising over £200,000 over the years.

Amnesty International works worldwide for the release of prisoners of conscience, fair trials for political prisoners and an end to torture, extrajudicial executions, disappearances and the death penalty. The Blackheath and Greenwich group has done a lot of campaigning work on Human Rights in China and stopping violence against women and meets at 8pm on the second Tuesday of each month at St. Margaret’s Church, Lee Terrace, Blackheath. To find out more information about the Amnesty Blackheath and Greenwich group visit'

I have been several times and have had some very good finds.  The Church of the Ascension is an interesting building worth a visit in its own right. According to its website:

'The Church of the Ascension  was established as the Dartmouth Chapel in 1697 by Susannah Graham, aunt of William Legge (later Earl of Dartmouth and Lord of the Manor of Lewisham). She was also the second daughter of Sir William Washington, the great-great-great uncle of George Washington, the first president of the United States... The church was rebuilt in 1750 and  extended in 1838. It became a parish church on Ascension Day, 3rd of May 1883. A hall was added in 1906.  The church suffered bomb damage in December 1940 and was restored in 1950'

The Church c.1840 - from Ideal Homes

Friday, November 15, 2013

New Cross People's Kitchen

This from the fine people at New Cross Commoners:

'Dear Friend, we would like to invite you to a free communal meal in the heart of New Cross!

The New Cross people’s kitchen seeks to create a convivial activity around food, from its collection, to its cooking and eating, in order to get in contact with different people and collectives from the New Cross area. The New Cross people’s kitchen will work by collecting food from local traders who donate it, by cooking and eating collectively in different venues (community kitchens) in our local area. The organisation of each event is open to anyone, it is done collectively and on a volunteer basis.

The people’s kitchen is simply an opportunity to have fun cooking and eating together, but also to meet each other and speak together about issues and topics concerning us as inhabitants of the south-east of London, to get to know local communities, to share and discuss issues and concerns in convivial settings, to fight food poverty without making charity, to create alternative possibilities for people to sustain their lives collectively, to give ourselves tools to fight gentrification and the privatization of the neighbourhood and our lives by planning change collectively and from below.

This is an idea the New Cross Commoners came up with after our mapping project at Party in the Park.

To launch this project we are organising a first event/dinner for the 16th of November. This will take place in St James community centre, which is attached to St James’ Church (down the road known as St James just opposite New Cross Gate Station, Iceland and New Cross Learning).

We invite anyone who wants to help with the cooking and preparation of the food to turn up at 5pm. We will start to serve food at 6pm. We hope to see you there! :)

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Deptford Comment - 1970s newsletter

I've come across a couple of mentions of an early 1970s publication called 'Deptford Comment'. The following advert for it was published in underground paper International Times (April 9 1970, no.77): 'Policy to provide information and arouse concern about injustice, discrimination, apathy and neglect. Caring about what happens to ordinary people in Deptford. It is only because so many of us have swallowed the basic ethic of our society "look after yourself and never mind the rest" that we do not see the problems that affect our neighbours, old people, children and society generally, are our problems as well'

Its address was the Albany, then in its original location on Creek Road. The Directory of Alternative Periodicals in 1972 lists Jim Radford as the editor. Wonder if that's the same Jim Radford who sings sea shanties, and who was a merchant seaman in the Second World War?

If anyone knows any more, or even has any copies of this publication, please get in touch (

Monday, November 11, 2013

Music Monday: Jesus Blood Never Failed Me Yet

The singing voice of an anonymous South London homeless man has moved people around the world long after his death. The composer Gavin Bryars built his piece Jesus Blood Never Failed Me Yet around a recording made in 1971. As he recalls:

'In 1971, when I lived in London, I was working with a friend, Alan Power, on a film about people living rough in the area around Elephant and Castle and Waterloo Station. In the course of being filmed, some people broke into drunken song - sometimes bits of opera, sometimes sentimental ballads - and one, who in fact did not drink, sang a religious song "Jesus' Blood Never Failed Me Yet". This was not ultimately used in the film and I was given all the unused sections of tape, including this one.

When I played it at home, I found that his singing was in tune with my piano, and I improvised a simple accompaniment. I noticed, too, that the first section of the song - 13 bars in length - formed an effective loop which repeated in a slightly unpredictable way. I took the tape loop to Leicester, where I was working in the Fine Art Department, and copied the loop onto a continuous reel of tape, thinking about perhaps adding an orchestrated accompaniment to this. The door of the recording room opened on to one of the large painting studios and I left the tape copying, with the door open, while I went to have a cup of coffee. When I came back I found the normally lively room unnaturally subdued. People were moving about much more slowly than usual and a few were sitting alone, quietly weeping.

I was puzzled until I realised that the tape was still playing and that they had been overcome by the old man's singing. This convinced me of the emotional power of the music and of the possibilities offered by adding a simple, though gradually evolving, orchestral accompaniment that respected the tramp's nobility and simple faith. Although he died before he could hear what I had done with his singing, the piece remains as an eloquent, but understated testimony to his spirit and optimism'.

Bryars first released a version of this on Brian Eno's Obscure label in 1975. Another version was recorded in 1993, this time with Tom Waits joining in the singing along to the original sample in the later stages of the piece.

Friday, November 08, 2013

Fall of the Berlin Wall Exhibition at New Cross Learning

Adrian Harris is a long standing local community/environmental activist. In November 1989 he was in Berlin at the momentous moment when the Wall came down. An exihibition of his photographs from that time are on display at New X Learning (283 New Cross Road) until 28 November, and Adrian will be giving a talk on Saturday 9th November from 4 to 5 pm.

The Berlin crowd, November 1989 © Adrian Harris

Thursday, November 07, 2013

Leaving Lewisham

The latest estate agents puff-piece for New Cross has an interesting typo. According to 'New Cross: Bohemian city living with a definite buzz' at (published 29 October 2013): 'New Cross is becoming an increasingly popular place to leave, particularly with younger, more artistic types'.

A new release of data from the 2011 Census suggests though that the borough of Lewisham really is a place to leave - at least during the working day. 'The Workday Population of England and Wales' compares the difference between the resident population and workday populations in different parts of the country. Obviously many people work in an area different to the one they live in, but the pattern varies. Some areas have many more people travelling into them for work than leaving them, for others its the opposite.

One of the striking findings is that Lewisham has the highest percentage loss in the country between the resident population and the workday population. In 2011, 206,000 adults aged 16-74 lived in Lewisham. But in working hours on a working day, the number within the borough fell by 28% to 149,000. This means that many more people living in Lewisham have to travel out of borough for work than travel into Lewisham for their jobs. By comparison - at the most extreme - only 6,000 adults aged 16-74 were living in the City of London but 314,000 people worked there.

Does it matter? Well it does reflect the fact that jobs are unevenly distributed across London and across the country. And that also presumably means that people in Lewisham are more likely to have a longer journey into work than people in some areas. Factor into that the high levels of deprivation in some parts of Lewisham, high transport costs, and relatively poor transport links in some areas (no tube at least) and you get many people in low paid jobs extending their working days with long journeys on buses. But if you get the bus very early in the morning you probably already know that.

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

David Grandorge photography in Deptford

Now showing at the Peter von Kant gallery (25 Tanners Hill SE8), David  Grandorge's Without Sun. The core of the exihibition is a remarkable series of photographs taken at Svalbard Satellite Station in the Norwegian zone of the Arctic Ocean, where NASA, the European Space Agency and others have installations.

For those of us brought up on the space race (now they expect us to clean toilets), this is the architecture of Moonbase Alpha.  Images from the present that remind us of the past's dreams of the future - dare I used the word hauntological?  On a more mundane level, all these fantasies of space exploration are dragged back down to earth by the reality of places like these actually being used to help listen in to millions of people's phone calls.

images © David  Grandorge
The gallery is worth a visit in its own right. As featured here before, it is an early 17th century building and as part of its restoration the walls have been stripped back to original plaster work.

The exhibition is on until  7 December 2013, 
Thursday to Saturday 12–6 pm and by appointment 

Monday, November 04, 2013

Bonfire Against Austerity

The People's Assembly Against Austerity has called a national day of protest and civil disobedience tomorrow (Tuesday 5 November). They say: 'Campaigners will highlight the human cost of the government’s cuts programme which has seen many local services decimated, jobs lost, wages frozen and the benefits which supported some of the neediest in our community drastically reduced.40 towns and cities will see ‘Bonfire of Austerity’ events, including a mass occupation of Westminster Bridge in London where campaigners will ceremonially burn their energy bills'.

In Lewisham, the South East London People's Assembly actions will include:

'10AM – Deptford High Street / New Cross Road  - An action against poverty, led by the local Foodbank
1:30PM – Deptford Lounge public square – A performance against austerity politics
4:30PM – Catford Town Hall to Lewisham High Street – A procession against austerity, the bedroom tax and local cuts. 
6PM – The grassy Knoll, opposite Lewisham DLR – Bonfire of Cuts with music, speakers and effigies'.

Andy Worthington has more on this. The Westminster Bridge action will take place at 6 pm with people meeting at Jubilee Gardens on the South Bank.

Oasis in the Rivoli Ballroom (2005) and at the Venue (1994)

Yet more in the ongoing 'here come's everybody' saga of the Rivoli Ballroom in Crofton Park . Here's late period Oasis (2005) at a photo shoot in the Rivoli. The photos were taken by Zed Nelson for Mojo, who mentions that despite the venue being used so often for shoots it is actually quite a tricky place to take photographs:  “The Rivoli Ballroom was such a massive space...It looked beautiful, but lighting it was a nightmare. It meant a really slow shutter speed, which in turn meant the band had to stand really still. But controlling Oasis is hard enough at the best of times. It’s like going into a zoo and having to tame the silverback gorillas.”

photos above © Zed Nelson
And here's Liam just down the road in the band's early days - in the Venue, New Cross, where Oasis played on 13 May 1994. 'In Oasis: The Truth' (2013), original Oasis drummer Tony McCarroll recalls the New Cross gig 'After another barnstormer we were met in the dressing room by a pack of music journalists. Few people could have had any doubts about who the hottest act in town was. There was now a real intensity surrounding the band. Each gig was more and more frenzied'. Immediately after the gig the band headed across town where they bumped into Prince. Sadly there is no record of the artist formerly known as ever being spotted in New Cross.

Liam in the Venue 1994 - found the picture on Twitter,
looks like it was snapped from a book
I've previously posted a flyer for this gig here - on that Friday night they were supported by Cast and Shed Seven. Oasis had released Supersonic a month before and were on their way.

Oasis at the Venue in 1994, photo  © Paul Slattery

From the excellent  Manchester District Music Archive

Saturday, November 02, 2013

We Save Lives not Banks! Firefighters on strike

Firefighters at local stations joined the national strike last night. Firefighters across England and Wales walked out on strike between 6.30pm and 11.00pm in the dispute about pensions. As with other groups of workers it's a case of people being expected to work longer for less - in this case to work until 60 rather than 55 or face pension cuts. Many firefighters may not be fit to do their job until they are 60, and under the scheme currently being pushed by employers those judged as unfit before the age of 60 could lose their job and therefore lose their full pension.

The banner on the picket line outside New Cross Fire Station read: 'We save lives not banks! Lewisham A&E saved, New Cross Fire Station Saved, People Power not Corporate Power, Support us and Make a Difference!'. A further strike has been called for next Monday morning from 6 am to 8 am.

Peckham Fire Station pickets last night

Southwark Fire Station on Strike

Friday, November 01, 2013

How Does it Feel to be Loved? - 10 years at Canterbury Arms

Earlier in the week I had a drink in The Canterbury Arms in Brixton, waiting to pick up other half and daughter from Warpaint at the Academy. The pub is under threat, with a planning application submitted to demolish it and replace it with a block of flats. Lambeth's planning site suggests a target date for a decision of 31 October, but it's not on the agenda for their planning committee next week so looks like a decision will be delayed until December at the earliest.

As Brixton Blog highlights, this would not only be the death of another pub but the loss of the family home for the Fitzgeralds who have been running the place for 20 years. The front bar very much has that old London Irish pub feel, with lots of sports memorabilia (including a Streatham Redskins shirt). I lived in Brixton for ten years from late 1980s, and at that time Irish people were a major force in the local nightlife - there was also the Railway Hotel/Brady's on Atlantic Road and the late Pat Burke, the legendary landlady of the Prince Albert in Coldharbour Lane.  When I first started coming to New Cross in those days it was to another Irish establishment, The Harp Club - now the Venue.

Canterbury Arms, November 2003 on the first night there of 'How Does it Feel to be Loved?'
I have had many a happy night at the Canterbury Arms, in particular at the great indie pop and soul night, How Does it Feel to be Loved? As it happens, at this moment when the future of the pub hangs in the balance the club is celebrating its tenth birthday tonight (Friday 1 November). And not only that all this takes place in the same week that the man who (unknowingly) gave the club its name died. As Ian from HDIF writes:

'You all the know the story by now, I'm sure. How I was sitting in the back of a car driving from Glasgow to Edinburgh, listening to a mixtape made by a friend of a friend of my girlfriend, and how when Lou Reed sang "How does it feel to be loved?" towards the end of "Beginning To See The Light", the idea for HDIF popped into my head, pretty much fully formed. I'd play indie pop and soul, and the night would be called How Does It Feel To Be Loved? - because that's what Lou Reed told me it would be called.

Over the last eleven years, the name How Does It Feel To Be Loved? has kept the club and myself on the straight and narrow. It's a ridiculous name for a dance party really - it's hard to say, it's too long, it's pretentious, and the question mark at the end has caused all sorts of confusion in the listings. And what does it mean anyway? Is it gooey and romantic or bleak and depressive? And, honestly, what kind of person calls their club night something like that - you'd have to be the most precious, over-sensitive, needy, melodramatic, indie daydreamer to think it was somehow alright. It was the most wrong name for a club night ever - and yet that's what it had to be called. Lou Reed had told me so.

Once I'd stuck to that first wrong decision, all the other wrong decisions were easy. Mixing up the indie pop and soul so that the night jumped around all over the place. Starting up a branch of the club in south London when all the indie kids lived north of the river. Having a random, over-ambitious idea - like playing all of the 1986 Festive Fifty in order over the course of one night - and just going with it, even if I wasn't sure if it was really going to work. The name has been a constant reminder to do the wrong thing, to play all the wrong songs in all the wrong order. Because the first time I had a wrong idea, it all seemed to work out alright. And even if it didn't work, failing would be better than playing it safe.

Ten years ago, we started up HDIF at the Canterbury Arms in Brixton, after a year or so of packing out the Buffalo Bar. We've been dancing to indie pop and northern soul in that pub backroom on the first Friday of the month ever since. We've seen the Actionettes shaking their tail feathers. We've sung along with Kevin Rowland. We've walked "The Hardest Walk" with William Reid and Kevin Shields in the room. We hosted specials for Love and Jonathan Richman and Dexys and Orange Juice, and danced to "David's Last Summer" in a heatwave. We played the 1986 Festive Fifty in order to mark the passing of John Peel. And we sang "Beginning To See The Light" and "What Goes On" and "Sweet Jane" and "Rock'N'Roll", over and over and over and over, never once deciding we'd had enough, never once losing the faith.

Now Lou's gone. On Thursday, Lambeth council decides whether to grant permission to demolish the Canterbury Arms. It won't be too long before everything I've just written will be a faint memory.

It seems properly wrong to say "Hey, come along for one last dance...", so let me please ask just this. If you've ever spent a happy night dancing in our company in the Canterbury Arms, it would be wonderful if you could raise a glass on Friday night. For the last ten years. For Lou Reed's genius. For life-saving rock'n'roll...
Dancing at How Does it Feel... October 2013
Have we really spent ten whole years dancing to indiepop and northern soul in the backroom of the Canterbury Arms? You bet we have! On November 7th, 2003, we asked Amelia Fletcher of Tender Trap and Talulah Gosh fame (who just happened to live opposite the Canterbury at the time), if she'd like to be our guest DJ at a try out of HDIF in a brand new venue, and we haven't looked back since. Amelia became our unofficial guest DJ in residence at the Brixton HDIF, appearing more times than any other guest DJ, and so who else could we ask to DJ at our 10th anniversary party than Amelia?'

How Does It Feel To Be Loved? - Friday November 1st at the Canterbury Arms, Canterbury Crescent, Brixton, SW9 7QD, 9pm-2.30am. £4 for members, £6 for non members. Membership is free from Advance tickets -