Friday, January 31, 2014

Split Enz in Forest Hill

Split Enz were the most internationally successful New Zealand band of the 1970s/early 80s. After touring Australia in support of Roxy Music, they moved to London in 1976 where Roxy's Phil Manzanera (ex-Dulwich College incidentally) produced their 'Second Thoughts' album. By this point band founder Tim Finn had been joined in the band by his younger brother Neil Finn, and they had a number of hits - the biggest being 1980's 'I got you'. After the band split up in 1984, Neil went on to form Crowded House ('Don't dream it's over', 'Weather with you', etc.).

Neil Finn has a solo album, Dizzy Heights, out shortly and in an interview at the Quietus he says:

'When I was living in London when I first joined Split Enz we were living in Forest Hill, and this record [Bob Marley's Exodus], as well as David Bowie's Low and Kraftwerk's Trans-Europe Express, was on high rotation. But in particular, Exodus has endured for me, and I could pick a number of Bob Marley albums, as for me, of all the artists there have ever been, his music is the most positive. If I'm feeling a bit fragile or vulnerable and put Bob on, I feel better, it's as simple as that. Exodus was the first album I connected with and I guess living in London in 1977 it was current, and I actually saw Bob driving down the King's Road in his black BMW. I never, unfortunately, got to see him play but he's up there in my top three of all time'

Anybody know anymore?  Thanks to Owen on twitter for spotting this

Thursday, January 30, 2014

1890s (?) map of Brockley/New Cross/Nunhead/Lewisham

A friend gave me this old Brockley-centred street map. It is printed one-sided on folded card, so was presumably a stand alone map to carry in the pocket rather than part of a book. But it is clearly one of a collection as it refers to other sheet numbers for adjoining maps.

But when was it printed? I am guessing late 19th century, probably 1890s. Most of the streets, railways and parks familiar to us now are already laid out, including Telegraph Hill Park which opened to the public in 1895. Strangely St Catherines Church in Kitto Road isn't shown, this too opened in 1895, so unless it has been mistakenly omitted the map must date to around that time (perhaps when the park had been laid out but the church not yet completed).  There are also other significant gaps, with hardly any roads shown in Brockley west of the railway line - no St Asaphs Road for instance. The houses there can't be any later than about 1910.

You can click on the map to enlarge. The section below shows the still extant Brockley footpath before the houses that now surround it were built, heading alongside Nunhead cemetery, following the line of Merttins Road and then across undeveloped ground to Brockley Road, then towards Ladywell via the grounds of Brockley Hall (a large home demolished in 1931). Note too the bandstand and cricket ground on Hilly Fields, now more often used for children's football.

A few other curiosities I noticed on main map (no doubt you will spot others):

- the bottom half of Drakefell Road was called Penmartin Road - now it's all Drakefell all the way down (apparently it was renamed in 1902, which again suggests this map dates to 1890s);
- part of Peckham Rye was still Homestall Farm - this was bought by London County Council in 1894 and incorporated into the park, with the farm buildings demolished in 1908; 
- there was a children's playground in the grounds of Goldsmiths.
- there was a fireworks factory by Honor Oak Park Station.

The existence of this coloured street map with a grid pattern at this early date may surprize those who have heard the popular myth that no such London maps existed prior to Phyllis Pearsall's  London A-Z in the 1930s.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Supermarket Self-Checkout - is scanning kind of scabbing?

Always been a Marc Almond fan musically, and I think we can claim a bit of him for South London as he lived around the Bermondsey Street area for quite a while (not sure he still does). In fact he's just about to release an exciting-sounding London-themed album 'The Tyburn Tree' with John Harle, which I'm looking forward to hearing. The publicity shots were done in Nunhead Cemetery.

Recently I started following him on twitter, and last week he posted on a subject dear to my heart - the proliferation of 'self-checkouts' in supermarkets. As Marc expressed it 'I will NOT use self-checkouts and I will not be forced to. They take jobs'. Of course he is right, the more people can be persuaded/pressured to use self-checkouts, the less people will be needed to work on the tills. It's not actually 'scabbing', they're not on strike after all, and shoppers don't always have much of a choice if there are huge queues for the few staffed tills.  But when you do it yourself you are doing the work that somebody used to be paid to do. 

The far famed checkouts at Asda  on the Old Kent Road-
on the site of the studio where Gang of Four and Ian Dury recorded classic albums

But it's not only that. Self-checkouts also mean worse working conditions for those doing the jobs remaining. Instead of sitting at the till, more supermarket staff now spend the day on their feet frantically directing customers to self-checkouts as they become available. So the remaining jobs will become less accessible to older and physically disabled workers.

Finally there is the loss of the everyday human contact, all those short conversations and acknowledgements at the checkout. It feels as if supermarkets want to eradicate all 'surplus' encounters other than the naked business of paying.

With big supermarkets seemingly superseding churches as the places where the greatest cross section of the community come together every weekend, any loss of genuine human interaction is to be regretted and resisted, as is the loss of opportunities for local people to make some kind of a living from the huge amounts of money passing through these stores.

So if you see Marc Almond having a strop in a supermarket near you, give him your full support!

A Marc Almond selfie from Nunhead Cemetery

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Peckham Rent Strike 1930s

In the 1930s, Peckham was the scene of a successful rent strike. The focus was the Nigel Buildings tenements, which I think were situated roughly where the Troy Town flats are now off Nigel Road SE15. I found this account online, source seems to be an article (undated) in The Morning Star and I believe the author is Dick Maunders:

'Fifty dilapidated flats, which had been condemned by London County Council a year before, constituted the Nigel Buildings tenements, situated behind the White Horse pub in Rye Lane. They were privately owned. The tenants' homes were being overrun with sewer rats and other vermin. The working-class residents were at the end of their tether, having to suffer daily living in these appalling conditions.

Time to declare my interest - the man they approached to raise the problem was my father, Alf Maunders, who they'd seen speaking at a Communist United Front meeting in Rye Lane. Together with the Camberwell branch of the Communist Party, Peace Union and the National Unemployed Workers Movement, Maunders organised a meeting of all the tenants that same evening. They formed a tenants' defence league and unanimously backed a call for a rent strike.

A glance at the Daily Workers from the time, now available online, gives you ample evidence that this was not an overreaction. The paper for October 22 that year carries an item: 'Rats at her throat - Peckham girl's terrifying experience'. Other families were going through the same horrifying experiences. "One tenant had her food eaten by sewer rats as it stood on the table."  Another woman "killed no less than six rats" in her kitchen in one week. There was a worker "who used to go out and get boozed from sheer dread of the rats who were his sleeping partner ... the rats drove people out of their beds and made racecourses of their rooms." Other reports detail "39 children covered in sores" and the nasty skin conditions babies developed due to living in such filthy homes.

The landlord was a Mr Himmelschein, who had not been paying the rates to the council, even though they were included in the rents he charged tenants, which varied from 13s6d to £1 a week. (That's from £40 to £61 in today's money). Four tenants had been summonsed by Camberwell borough council for non-payment of rates they had already paid to Himmelschein. When 30 women from Nigel Buildings marched on the court to demand a meeting with whoever had brought the action, the council withdrew the summons, though only for a month. So there were plenty of grounds for a rent strike. On the first day of the strike the rent collector was met by an angry crowd of women who refused him entry and chased him away.

Himmelschein went to the flats "to try to reason with the tenants" - and came in for a nasty shock when the residents "transformed his visit into a public trial," held in the courtyard of the building. After hearing the case against him, the assembled tenants "found Himmelschein guilty and told him no more rents would be paid for the rat and bug-infested premises."In the face of this workers' democracy Himmselchein had no choice but to leave. The tenants organised barricades at the entrances and took over control of the estate. That was the start of an eight-week saga that reminds us even today of the value of people power.

On one occasion the landlord tried to placate the tenants with some repairs and fumigation. The Daily Worker reports that he sent two men, neither of whom was in a trade union. He was paying them one shilling and threepence (£3.76 nowadays) an hour, below the union rate.The tenants would have none of it, telling him that because of the state of the flats the job needed 12 men to make them anywhere near habitable - and insisting they all be trade union members. Himmelschein refused and threatened court action. Meanwhile the tenants had approached Camberwell borough council, which sent along some men to fumigate the flats.But they only sent a five-gallon drum of insecticide, costing a shilling a pint, which was only enough to cover five flats. The council's rat-catchers estimated that it would cost £21 to rid the buildings of rats and more to block up the rat holes.

The action enjoyed the support and solidarity of the local community, the Communist Party and unemployed workers. The tenements remained barricaded for the whole eight weeks, with the residents united behind the action. They had to face enemies other than the landlord - Oswald Mosley's blackshirts tried to exploit the situation because Himmelschein happened to be Jewish. They attempted to march on the flats but were stopped and driven off by the tenants, who wanted nothing to do with anti-semitism. "They knew they were fighting landlordism, not Jews," the Worker reported. Such was the residents' tenacity that in the end an exasperated Himmelschein withdrew his court action to evict the tenants and gave up on collecting £200 of unpaid rent. In the face of all the adverse publicity London County Council agreed to rehouse all the tenants in new council estates at East Dulwich and Brockley. It was a complete victory over the landlord and the council. My father told me the Nigel Buildings rent strike was the first successful one in the capital, if not the country'.

There's more on this at Hayes People's History. It mentions there that 'In 1931 a Workers Defense Movement (a left wing grouping) was established in Camberwell it was active in preventing evictions, most notably during the 1932 Rent Strike at Wakefield House, Goldsmith Estate, Peckham. The Camberwell WDM was also active in support of Hunger Marchers and unemployed'. An article about Peckham-born Alf Maunders (1908-1991) at Communist Biogs (written by his son Dick) says that he'was also part of the Communist anti-fascist organisation at the battle of Cable Street. He also helped to organise anti-fascist actions in Camberwell and Peckham against Mosley’s Blackshirts and William Joyce (Lord Haw Haw). He always enjoyed telling the story of how Joyce, when climbing on a lorry to speak at the Heaton Arms in Peckham, was swiftly felled by a flying bottle and carried off unconscious never to return'.

There's a bit of confusion over the date - the Morning Star article says the Peckham rent strike was in 1935, the Hayes People's History site has it down as 1931. I think 1935 is probably correct as the author had plainly been consulting Daily Worker archives, so must have known the dates (plus Mosley's British Union of Fascists wasn't formed until 1932). The 1931/32 rent strikes were in council housing elsewhere in Peckham, including on Goldsmith Road.

(photos sourced from Hayes People's History, some great 1930s Peckham faces)

Monday, January 27, 2014

Music Monday: Katy B 'Crying for No Reason'

Katy B photographed in Peckham by Katherine Rose
Katy B's second album, Little Red, is out on 14 February and there was big interview with her in yesterday's Observer, conducted in the cafe in Peckham Rye:

'A January afternoon in Peckham Rye, south London. Clouds cluster and part over muddy green grass, pouring occasional light on the post-lunch dog-walkers. A 24-year-old is among them, balancing on perilous black wedges, clasping her white coat, on loan from Topshop, against the cold...

Here, in her old manor, doing the old stuff, is Kathleen Brien, aka Katy B, who returns next month with her second album, Little Red. It's been nearly three years since her debut LP, On a Mission, came out, blending the sounds of rave and dubstep into high-octane pop. Made on a shoestring, it got to No 2 in the album charts, and was nominated for the Mercury prize and the Ivor Novellos. It also put strong female vocalists centre-stage in mainstream dance music again; Jessie Ware and AlunaGeorge have a lot to thank her for.

Although Brien now lives in east London, everything began here in SE15, an area slowly succumbing to gentrification. "I quite like that in a way," Brien says, Ruby dragging her along. "I mean, I had a 40-year-old man taking my phone here when I was a teenager. And some crackhead snatching my bag." We walk past the kids' 1 o'clock club Brien attended as a child, a few streets from the house where her plumber dad and postwoman mum brought her up. "Maybe that doesn't happen now because I look older, and can handle myself a bit better." She bites her lip, has a think. "Yeah, that's it. Plus I like to be able to go get a coffee with a friend somewhere other than McDonald's."'

(full interview here- the newspaper version includes a nice photo of her sitting on a bench in the park, but that doesn't seem to be online)

Meanwhile in Time Out (23 January 2014), Katy is interviewed.photographed in the Big Red Pizza bus in Deptford next to the Birds Nest pub, where she talks about playing football for Peckham Town United and nights out in Brixton: 'I’ve had so many good nights in Brixton. It satisfies every part of my personality. I remember UK Funky nights at Fridge Bar, then cocktails at Satay Bar, then Hootananny where everyone’s shocking out to live music. Outside someone’s cooking chicken on a grill. That, for me, feels like London.’

'Katy on the buses' - at the Big Red Pizza bus in Deptford

The first single from the album, Crying for No Reason, is out now. It's a big ballad, but there's plenty of remixes out there if like me you prefer some dance beats.

Previously at Transpontine:

Katy B, ex-Goldsmiths student, South London Pop Star of the Year 2010
Katy B used to work in JD Sports Lewisham
Katy B, Ikonika and Ayres Bakers in Nunhead

As well as a period at BRITS school in Croydon, Katy went to Lyndhurst Primary School in Peckham and Haberdashers Askes in New Cross,going on to do the Popular Music course at Goldsmiths at the same time as James Blake.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

'London in the Raw' at Brockley Social Club

Coming up at the number82 Film Club at Brockley Social Club, Wednesday 29th January (7:30 pm - 11 pm, films start at 8:30 pm), a night of film, music and bingo featuring 'London in the Raw', Arnold Miller's 1964 documentary of London nightlife, and 'Pub', a 1962 film made in The Approach Tavern in Bethnal Green. £3 in, at 240 Brockley Road.

London in the Raw:
 'the world's greatest city laid bare! Thrill to its gay excitement... its bright lights...
but be shocked by the sin in its shadows'

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Fordham Park Three Sided Football on BBC

Deptford Three Sided Football Club has been covered here before, starting off in Deptford Park and now playing on the first Sunday of every month in Fordham Park, New Cross (all welcome). Also have recalled the earlier  1990s Association of Autonomous Astronauts games on One Tree Hill and elsewhere.

Last week the game was featured on BBC News in a series on 'new trends that are beginning and old traditions that are coming to an end':

'It seems like a typical Sunday afternoon game of football, but there's a big difference - there are three teams on the pitch. Deptford 3S Football Club is playing Philosophy Football FC and Strategic Optimists FC, at the same time. This is the complex and curious game of three-sided football, an invention of Danish Situationist philosopher and artist Asger Jorn. Played on a hexagonal pitch, the rules are similar to normal football, but it is the team that concedes the fewest goals, rather than scores the most, that wins.This leads to all sorts of tactical subtleties, as BBC News discovered at a match in New Cross in London'.


Friday, January 24, 2014

Death of a New Cross railwayman, 1896

Another interesting find from the Spectator's archive, from as recent as 17 December 1994, but telling an older story of a sad death in New Cross.

'Death of a railwayman'

'My great-grandfather did kill himself: not with a gun but by hanging from the top of the washhouse door at 30 Amersham Grove, New Cross, South London, on 6 July 1896. His name was Septimus George Littler. He was 39. His little son, Leonard, was a year old. It seems a neighbour found him. Said the West Kent Argus: 'Dr Makeham attended and pronounced life extinct.' At the inquest at the Old Boar pub on Deptford High Street the coroner, a Mr Carttar, recorded the cause of death as 'suicide by hanging. Mental derangement through failing to pass sight-tests as a Railway Signalman.'

It seems that he had been downgraded from a signalman to a ticket inspector on the South-Eastern railway. 'His father had been a butler, and he had started with the railway at the age of 22, later marrying Lydia Longhurst, whose family were 'riverside folk' in London. In the 1890s there was a near accident on the railway caused by a colour-blind driver, so the company brought in compulsory sight-tests. It was these... that Septimus George failed. He took his demotion badly, fell into acute depression, and was sent home by Dr Makeham to attend the Greenwich Infirmary. But in the summer of 1896 he relapsed. Suicide followed. His widow, Lydia Littler, my great-grandmother, became a single mum...

Lydia worked as a lavatory attendant by day, sewing men's shirts by night. She seems to have been almost destitute. When her son Leonard, my grandfather, was seven, she decided to send him to the orphanage. Leonard was sent to St Christopher's in Derby: the 'Railway Servants Orphanage'

The author of this piece, the great-grandson of Septimus George Littler, was journalist and former Conservative MP Matthew Parris.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Forest Hill Street Art: the Walrus

Mural at former bakers' shop at 43 Dartmouth Road, SE23. Commissioned last year by the Forest Hill Society, it refers of course to the famous walrus in the nearby Horniman Museum. 

The butterflies are Papilio hornimani (Horniman's Swallowtail), a species first identified in Frederick Horniman's collection and named after him.

A late 19th century cartoon of  F.J. Horniman, complete with butterfly net
(reproduced from Learning at the Museum Frontiers: Identity, Race & Power
by Viv Golding

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Burns Night + Scottish Martyrs at Woolwich

It's Burns Night on Saturday, something I always try and celebrate with some Islay whisky (I got a bottle of Laphroaig for Christmas), a vegetarian haggis and my dad's old bagpipe chanter from when he played in a band on Islay in the early 1950s. Plus my dad's collected poems of Robert Burns that I read from at his funeral. So yes, for me it's personal.

There's a couple of Burns Suppers that I am aware of locally. At Broca Food Market on Mantle Road SE4 they are having an event a night early on Friday 24th. £10 gets you a two course meal (including vegetarian option) and a classic Scottish film. I will overlook the crime of putting an 'e' in whisky on their poster!

On Saturday 25th, there's a Burns Night Banquet at the Hill Station, Kitto Road, SE14 - though I gather this has already sold out.

Robert Burns did actually once write a poem that mentioned part of South London. His 'Epistle From Esopus To Maria' (1794) includes the lines:

'The shrinking Bard adown the alley skulks,
And dreads a meeting worse than Woolwich hulks:
Though there, his heresies in Church and State
Might well award him Muir and Palmer's fate':

The reference here is to Thomas Fyshe Palmer and Thomas Muir, two of the members of the Scottish 'Friends of the People' who were transported to Australia for sedition in that period. They spent several months in irons doing forced labour on prison ships (hulks) in the Thames at Woolwich before being shipped to Botany Bayl - Palmer on the Stanislaus and Muir on the Prudentia. Burns was sympathetic to these Scottish radicals, as were many others. William Godwin, philosophical pioneer of anarchism and father of Mary Shelley, was among those who visited Palmer and Muir at Woolwich.

The Scottish Martyrs Memorial in Nunhead Cemetery was raised in honour of Palmer, Muir and others in the 1851.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Roger Lloyd-Pack/Trigger - 'Sleepless in Peckham'

The actor Roger Lloyd-Pack (1944-2014), who died last week, was as North London as they come: a Spurs supporter born in Islington and died in Kentish Town. But his most famous part was of course as Trigger, the Peckham road sweeper in 'Only Fools and Horses'. He appeared in the first episode in 1981, and the final one 'Sleepless in Peckham' in 2003, plus many others in between. 'Only Fools and Horses' was set in Peckham, but I don't think any of it was filmed anywhere near, and perhaps it wasn't a very accurate portrait of multi-cultural SE15*.  But the ducking and diving characters struck a chord and 16m people watched that last episode - plus the Morning Star pub in Rye Lane was renamed The Nags Head after the fictional pub in the series (I seem to recall it even had a yellow Reliant Robin in it at one time)

Roger was a socialist and community campainger, and would no doubt have been amused that a Southern Train from Tonbridge was redecorated at the weekend by graffiti artists with a Trigger RIP design, complete with yellow reliant robin.

Image from a panoramic shot taken by Guy Taylor - see the whole thing here.
* It's funny that two iconic TV comedies of the 1980s/90s, 'Only Fools and Horses' and 'Desmonds', were both set in Peckham. Someone could write a book about it, if they haven't already! It would be called something like 'Del Boy and Desmond: TV representations of race, class and urban London' with chapter headings like 'The pub and the barbers shop: different social spaces of White English and African-Caribbean working class males in late 20th century Peckham'. 

Monday, January 20, 2014

Music Monday: Mount Kimbie

I guess we can't really count Mount Kimbie as local any more, as apparently the electronic duo moved last year from Peckham to Hackney. But it was definitely South London that made them -  Dom Maker and Kai Campos met at South Bank University, and started recording at home when living in Peckham. In the Guardian's words, they 'emerged from the south London post-dubstep scene', and they have played out at the Bussey Building in Peckham among other places.

Mount Kimbie, Carbonated EP (2011)
- image is Peckham High Street, note Burger King on left.

Their second album, Cold Spring Fault Less Youth, was released on Warp last spring and received some great reviews. It features guest artists including King Krule, who was featured here a few weeks ago. They are sometimes mentioned in the same breath as James Blake and the XX, and yes there is that similar drowsy melancholy, space and melody.

The album was recorded at their studio in South Bermondsey, and also some of the time at the nearby Press Play Studio (Record Street, SE15) which is run by Andy Ramsay from Stereolab. In several interviews they have mentioned that the location influenced the sound of the album:

Interview:  'We wrote the album in South Bermondsey, which is the home of Millwall Football Club, it's a docklands area. It's all very industrial and quite a dangerous place, pretty run-down. I think we were also much more in touch with this area as the space we were working in, rather than being shut up in our bedrooms all the time. The journey to the studio was actually really influential, as you'd walk through Peckham where the old album was shot and all the photos from the front cover were literally in front of you. So then getting on a bus and going somewhere entirely different gave a real sense of a change in tone'.

- Passion of the Weiss: 'The actual area that we’re writing in is just fucking bleak. It’s not like a gangland or something like that. It’s just really fucking boring, just loads of industrial estates and the journey to that is pretty horrible. And it does have an effect on what we’re doing...You have like no reason to go there unless you work in timber shipping or something like that...You can’t really think of it as this beautiful concrete thing. There’s no romantic side to the area at all. That’s definitely made us make more of a cold, spiteful record'

Not sure how 'dangerous' South Bermondsey is, unless you are wearing a West Ham shirt on a Saturday afternoon, but the area they are talking about is the industrial estates around Ilderton Road which are pretty bleak. But in just those sort of areas where's there relatively cheap space that interesting things sometimes happen. There are several other recording and rehearsal studios round there, in addition to the ones already mentioned here.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Bine ati venit la Londra de Sud - Romanian Eggs in Lewisham

Bine ati venit la Londra de Sud  - that's 'Welcome to South London' in Romanian (according to Google translate anyway).

The press/politician scaremongering about a Romanian invasion of the UK on 1 January 2014 has not been matched by reality has it? But a collection of Romanian painted eggs have made it into Lewisham library. The eggs, decorated as part of an Easter custom, have been loaned to the library by the Horniman Museum. They are currently on display at Lewisham, and will be moving on to Downham library on 4th February.

Next Saturday 25 January  there will be a Romanian eggs day of activities from 12 noon to 4pm at Lewisham Library (199 Lewisham High Street, SE13 6LG), with family reading sessions, craft, object handling and curator talks. Admission Free.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Revue ZouZou: 1930s Paris comes to Nunhead

Back in 2010, there was a great 1920s night at the Ivy House (Stuart Road SE15) themed around the film Piccadilly. The people behind it have also been doing the Brockley Jack Film Club, and now they are back at the Ivy House putting on 'Revue ZouZou' on 8 February 2014. They say:

'we move through the decades to 1930s Paris.  A time of Gypsy jazz, surrealist adventure and cabaret. Come to experience music, magic and moving images.  Dressing up, drinking cocktails and dancing are recommended – but nothing except having a good time is compulsory'.

Acts include:

- gypsy jazz ensemble Belleville RendezVous ('Bringing to life the spirit of Django Reinhardt and the Quintette du Hot Club de France')

- alternative magician Dee Riley ('Mysterious and hauntingly dark entertainment, stretching the limits of human belief and delving into the depths of the power of the mind. His ”Illusion Of Laughter” and “DistasterPiece”  shows sold out')

- 'offbeat, surreal comedy' from the Dead Secrets ('Following their success at the Edinburgh fringe.. surreal comedy with a special thirties Parisian twist for the night')

More information at Piccadilly Productions; tickets (£9) from wegottickets

Friday, January 17, 2014

Suffragette Hoax 'Bombs' in New Cross & Rotherhithe

From the New York Times, 17 May 1913, reports of suffragette hoax 'bomb' packages being left around London, including 'outside a coffee house at New Cross' and 'in the public library' at Rotherhithe. The 'make-believe bombs... contained such innocuous materials as cabbage leaves, soot and earth'. This was in the same month that St Catherine's Church in Kitto Road SE14 was set on fire in a presumed suffragette attack as the campaign for votes for women reached its peak of militancy.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Question Time in New Cross and the ongoing campaign to save the NHS

BBC Question Time was broadcast from Goldsmiths in New Cross last week, as it was in January 2013. At that time the campaign against the closure of services at Lewisham Hospital was at its peak, and there was a lively demonstration outside as well as  a determined presence inside which made sure the issue was raised loud and clear.

With the campaign successful (at least for the time being), the focus of local NHS activists has shifted to the wider issues of privatisation and threats to services elsewhere. In particular they are highlighting the fact that having lost in court to the campaign to save Lewisham Hospital, Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt is now trying to move the goalposts to prevent similar challenges in future. 

Dr Louise Irvine, New Cross GP and chair of Save Lewisham Hospital campaign, has started a petition against this 'hospital closure clause', so far signed by more than 140,000 people. It states:

'We call upon you to withdraw Chapter 4 and clause 118 of the Care Bill (the ‘hospital closure clause”)  that will make it possible to close viable hospitals without proper consultation.

Why is this important? Recently, Jeremy Hunt lost his appeal against closing Lewisham Accident and Emergency. The law that protected it would be removed if Clause 118 passes. The Clause will allow the government to close or downgrade any hospital in the country, with barely any consultation of local people, if there is a Trust in financial difficulties anywhere nearby. They will be able to appoint an administrator to one Trust who will be able to take decisions to fast-track the closure of hospitals in another area - no matter how successful or popular those hospitals are - using the 'unsustainable provider' legislation that was designed only for insolvent Trusts. If it becomes law, this Clause means that *no* hospital will be safe, no matter how successful'. Check out this link for more information
Outside BBC Question Time at Goldsmiths, 9 January 2014

So outside Question Time last week there was again a save the NHS protest, and inside Clause 118 and Lewisham Hospital was put on the agenda, prompting Conservative MP Nadine Dorries to promise that the new power would not be used to close services at Lewisham - in her words 'Lewisham is absolutely protected'.

One of the things about BBC Question Time is that despite the generally predictable opinions of the politicians on the panel, and despite the BBC selecting the audience on the basis of political sampling, there are moments of 'speaking truth to power' when views contrary to the mainstream political consensus get a rare airing from the floor. There was plenty of that in the questions last week on issues such as migration and Mark Duggan as well as the NHS, and in the reactions of the audience - Conservative MP's Nadine Dorries' anti-immigrant rants were met with silence for instance.  And there was the moment when Marilyn from Save Lewisham Hospital campaign gave an impassioned 'I am so tired of this Government' comment from the floor: 'What I object to strongly is this coalition government... using the smokescreen of immigration to hide what you are doing, privatising the NHS, killing the welfare service' and scrapping legal aid. That got one of the biggest cheers of the night.

Watch Marilyn's question here

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Deptford High Street Art and Lai Loi

Well everyone knows there's lots of art in Deptford, and quite a bit of art that takes Deptford as its subject. Some of it's great, some of it feels a bit like artists scenting the territory or crudely plundering the area for raw cultural materials.

For me the more interesting work that is about the area is marked by a greater degree of attentiveness,  a willingness to listen and engage in a dialogue rather than charge in and make a statement, to celebrate the grainy/colourful detail, to recognise the lives of people interacting there rather than just see it as some kind of urban canvas. Of course that's just the starting point - to be any good it also has to be well executed.

I came across Hollie Paxton's work at an event at the Master Shipwright's House in Deptford last year. As well as her rather fine Deptford bracelet, she has made some delightful tin versions of Deptford High Street shops which, when opened, play a recording of sounds from inside the shops.

Hollie Paxton's Deptford bracelet

Hollie Paxton's Deptford tin shops

Hollie Paxton at Master Shipwrights House
One of the shops Hollie recreated was Lai Loi, the Vietnamese shop at 180 Deptford High Street. The same shop was the focus last month for Megan Miao's 'Do you want one' as part of Something Human's 'If on a Winter's Day'. For her piece, as she describes at Deptford High Street, she stood outside the shop giving away oranges and engaging passers-by in conversation. Megan was born in China and raised in Singapore - she also works part time in an Asian supermarket in London alongside her art practice:

'The term “oranges” actually refers to a shocking number of different varieties of the fruit, which originated from South-East Asia. As all citrus trees are interfertile, they are a symbol to me of what happens to culture when travel and transport become more possible; there is a great intermingling leading to cultures changing, taking different forms, and even giving birth to subcultures. In Chinese society they are a symbol of good fortune, with the common practice of bringing a pair of oranges when visiting relatives during Chinese New Year... Deptford reminds me of home, because of its people, the crowds, the sincerity, the wetness of the market, the loud bawdiness and the moments of quiet serendipity, and mostly because all these exist within such a small place'.

Megan Miao outside Lai Loi  (picture from

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

New New Cross Blog on the Block

Blogs come and go - Below the River has gone quiet for the last couple of months, as has New Cross Crawler. Maybe they will re-emerge, but if not their places in the digital eco-system will no doubt be filled by others.  New Cross now has a new tumblr site- The New Cross- off to a flying start with coverage of various building developments planned in the area.

Still plenty of gaps - Deptford, Brockley and now New Cross seem reasonably well served, but central Lewisham is crying out for some attention, unless I've missed something.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Music Monday: London Bridge is Falling Down - Newtrament (1983)

Newtrament's 1983 electro track 'London Bridge is Falling Down' came out after the general election of that year. The track includes a sung refrain from the nursery rhyme and one of the first UK raps. As Paul Gilroy writes in 'There ain't no black in the union jack' (1987): 'His version chronicled police malpractice and inner city decay while suggesting that electoral politics were a sham. Whoever won the contest, he argued, the political processes of significance would take place far from parliament and the plight of the dispossessed and the poor would be essentially unaffected:

Election Fever on all four channels...
Red or Blue...
Win or lose, lose or win,
jobs will still be getting thin...

vote, vote, vote, there ain't no hope'

According to the excellent How's Life in London thesis on the history of London hip hop:

'Bertram Johnson, better known as Newtrament, was a London-based DJ who teamed up with MC Sir Drew and DJ Mr Mix12 to record what is widely considered to be the first British rap song London Bridge is Falling Down (Hunter, 1998). Released on Jive in 1984, it was ‘one of the first British tunes to make references to the land of its origins’ through its mention of the ‘boys in blue’ and its message about the state of electoral politics in Britain... The ‘cod American accent’, however, was still in effect and would continue to be present in most British releases during the 1980’s as British MC’s continued to wrestle with their own identity and the authenticity of their music. The Newtrament Krew were influential in establishing jams around London that helped further interest in hip-hop and also brought together the small clusters of interest that existed. The London hip-hop scene at this point consisted predominantly of small localised scenes with many people ‘unaware it was going on in other parts of town’ so these jams were important'

Sunday, January 12, 2014

More New Cross Venue Memories

Over at the great Irish blog Cedar House Revolution, I came across some more recollections of the Venue in New Cross (see previous posts on this subject, especially comments here).

Damian O’Broin recalls that he  'spent the summer of 1990 – and the one before it – working on building sites in London' and that he went to see the band 'Kitchens of Distinction, on a Summer’s night at a little place called The Venue... The Venue was in New Cross, which was pretty much the complete opposite end of London to us. I remember almost nothing about the gig itself. I do remember trooping around the roads of New Cross looking for The Venue. And I remember dancing to Sympathy for the Devil and Fool’s Gold at the club after the gig. It’s strange the details you remember. I think it was a good gig. I have no idea how we all got home'.

In the comments Eamonn from Cork writes:

'The Venue was a great spot which I went to many weekends between 1989-1992 because I was living just over the road in first Brixton and then Peckham and then New Cross itself on Jerningham Road.
It wasn’t a little place though, it was a huge barn of a spot which had originally been an Irish club called The Harp Club. In 1988 when it was still the Harp it had hosted some very full-on acid house nights. My abiding memory of the place is the strawberry smoke which would gust forth in huge quantities, the thorough search you got on the way in and the fact that they only served drink in plastic glasses. And that the club night afterwards was often better than the gigs. Though I saw rising indie hopefuls The Would Bes play very well there.

The Venue ended up being owned by the gang who owned The Swan in Stockwell, South London’s version of The National in Kilburn, and from 1990 onwards had more of an Irish orientation though it still leaned towards the rock side of things. I saw Paul Cleary and The Fleadh Cowboys there and also Dave Fanning DJing and being rather puzzled when people kept asking him to play The Wolfe Tones. There were also several excellent pubs nearby, notably The Amersham Arms which ran acoustic gigs and where I saw Martin Carthy and Dave Swarbrick be brilliant, The Wishing Well [think he means the Dewdrop Inn], on the same street Clifton Rise as The Venue which was a Crusty hang-out, the Goldsmiths Tavern which had a fine indie night Totally Wired and was full of students from the art college of the same name and The Marquis of Granby, which was the home pub for the Sligo village where I come from and not trendy at all. But welcoming'.

Also at Lush site Light from a Dead Star, Guy Marshall recalls seeing the band there on October 12 1991:

'This was the first proper Lush gig I went to, Steve was still in the band. Set list was: Stray; Bitter; Breeze; Laura; God's Gift; Scarlet; Ocean; Nothing Natural; For Love; Covert; De-Luxe; Second Sight; Downer; Baby Talk; Monochrome; Sweetness & Light. I have a tape of this gig, brings back memories of how nervous(!) I was being on the edge of the mosh pit and that Lush was the band for me! Perfect set list. First time meeting Miki, Steve, Chris and Emma. Miki changed my friend's ticket to SLUSH.

Other memories: Stood next to Boris Williams - drummer with The Cure - during support band Shelleyann Orphan's set. He was "going out" with Caroline Crawley of the band. I was totally dumb struck for a while (luckily my friend plucked up the courage to say Hi!) then we had a quick chat and he signed a Lush flyer & my Boys Don't Cry T-Shirt which I happened to be wearing at the time. Also saw guitarist from Curve Debbie Smith. Probably other "Indie" stars I didn't recognise. Someone in the crowd had Tom and Jerry hand puppets(??) which Miki is heard asking about'

Lush ticket from The Venue - signed by all the band.

There's actually film of a whole Lush set at the Venue earlier in March 1991 on youtube

Saturday, January 11, 2014

A Doll's House in New Cross

Coming up later this month at The London Theatre  (443 New Cross Road, SE14 6TA), Bromley Little Theatre present ‘A Doll’s House’ by Henrik Ibsen, adapted by Samuel Adamson, directed by Pauline Armour:

'Following a ‘sell out’ ‘5 star’ run at Bromley Little Theatre in October 2013, Samuel Adamson’s thrilling adaptation of Ibsen’s classic can be seen for five performances only in January 2014 at The London Theatre – the intimate fringe venue just around the corner from New Cross station.

 Losing none of Ibsen’s spellbinding plot, Samuel Adamson’s taut, accessible script resonates strongly with modern audiences, clearly illustrating the perrenial tensions that challenge our relationships. ‘A Doll’s House’ is the most performed play in the world and continues to fascinate actors, directors and theatre goers who are drawn to the story of Nora Helmer ‘the little sky lark’ whose emotional roller coaster of a journey is starkly displayed as the walls of ‘the doll’s house’ begin to crumble and the foundations collapse.

 The popularity of the play endures partly because the themes that Ibsen explored in 19th Century Norway have a timeless universal quality vividly demonstrating the complexities of love, loyality, sex, money, trust, honesty and what happens when illusions are shattered. It is impossible for these themes not to strike a chord with anyone who has faced the challenges of making a relationship work or of picking up the pieces when a relationship fails.

It is Christmas in the Helmer household and Nora and her husband Torvald are  celebrating the season with their two children. When Nora receives an unexpected and unwelcome visit the idyllic family home is shattered.  Over ‘three long days’ secrets and lies are revealed creating a chasm of such magnitude that things can never be the same again. A sexy, passionate interpretation of Ibsen – challenging and truthful'.

"Adamson’s adaptation is a refreshing rebirth of the original... an emotive interpretation from script to stage – highly sexed, humourous, perceptively theatrical" (Performance Reviewed October 2013 – 5 stars)

Details: Tuesday 21 January – Sunday 26 January at 8-00pm (5-00pm Sunday). Tickets £12-50 from Box Office: 020 8694 1888 or online at  The London Theatre

Friday, January 10, 2014

Crisis Bring and Buy Book Sale SE14

There's a Bring and Buy Book Sale tomorrow (Saturday January 11th) in aid of homeless charity Crisis, at the Telegraph Hill Centre Lounge, Kitto Road SE14 - adjoining St Catherine's Church. The sale runs from 12 noon to 4pm, with prices from 20p (paperbacks mostly five for a £1) to £2 (hardbacks 50p to £2) or maybe a bit more for something really special. You can also bring donations on the day of the sale if you are worried about where you are going to put all those books you buy!

I know there's some really good books, because I've donated loads. It's been painful, but I've just run out of room for more books. I ended up running out of space to hang up clothes as I'd started accumulating piles of books in the wardrobe too. So I've decided to pass on some classics that I hope will find a good home, to make room for some new ones. Here's a few samples....

O'Neill's Music of Ireland - the classic collection of fiddle tunes,
I bought for my mandolin playing from Hobgoblin shop when it used to be in Cecil Sharp House, and I
was learning to play at the Working Men's College in Camden. I have far more tunes now than I am ever likely
to have time to learn.

'Reading Capital Politically' by Harry Cleaver - influential autonomist reading of Marx. In the early 1990s I went out for a meal with Cleaver in Brixton  (and a few others including Massimo de Angelis).  It was at the Satay Gallery, when it was in Vining Street where Fujiyama later opened. Nice food, good politics - but there's a pdf on libcom so I feel I can put it back into the stream.

'The White Goddess' by Robert Graves - never read this from cover to cover,
but great to dip into for its idiosyncratic take on mythology and poetry.
See books have histories and associations as material objects - where they came from, which rooms they furnished, who handled them - which digital documents lack. Now I've revisited all the memories attached to just these three examples, I know that I am at risk of buying back the books I donated. I must stay strong!

Thursday, January 09, 2014

No Meaning - Deptford art show features Turner Prize winner

'5 months in Deptford' is a temporary art space in Faircharm studios,  set up by artist Linda Persson. It opened last month and will continue until April 2014.

On Saturday 11th January, there's a new exhibition 'No Meaning', opening there. It  features works by Persson as well as other artists including 2013 Turner Prizewinner (and former Goldsmiths student) Laure Prouvost, Anna Barriball (UK), Simona Brinkmann (IT/UK), Dara Birnbaum (US), Bettina Buck (DE), Mark Davey (UK), Ana Genoves (ES/UK), Natasha Rees (UK) Angharad Williams (UK) and Carla Wright (U.K).

The opening is on Saturday, 16:00 - 19:30 at Block B, 1st Floor, Faircharm, 8-12 Creekside, SE8 3DX.

Resident artists/dancers Ina Dokmo and Fernanda Munoz-Newsome will show an excerpt from their work 11th at 16.30pm-17pm.

Osprey Estate Street Art

The mural on Southwark's Osprey Estate in Rotherhithe (on Tawny Way next to Surrey Docks pub on Lower Road SE16) was painted by Positive Arts in 2012.

Also on the Estate is one of several John Lennon images stencilled around the area.

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

The Fairies of Deptford Creek

London Dreamtime put on site-specific storytelling and song events in London places, with story teller Vanessa Woolf being accompanied musically by Nigel of Bermondsey. Past locations have included the Heygate Estate and West Norwood Cemetery. Later this month, on Friday January 24th (8 pm), they will be putting on a nightime event 'in a secret location near Deptford Bridge...  Dress very warm and bring a torch'.

The cost is £3 per person. Email to book your place. Facebook event details.

Monday, January 06, 2014

Music Monday: Coil - Lost Rivers of London

An oldie from 1996, one of the great evocative London pyschogeographical tracks from Coil (RIP Peter 'Sleazy' Christopherson and John Balance). With the exception of the opening and closing 'drown myself' lines, the words come from  Hubert Montague Crackanthorpe's Vignettes (1896), actually from several pieces in that short book.

'I'm gonna drown myself in London's lost rivers
I will walk down to the rain

I have sat there and seen the winter days finish their short-spanned lives; and all the globes of light — crimson, emerald, and pallid yellow — start, one by one, out of the russet fog that creeps up the river. But I like the place best on these hot summer nights, when the sky hangs thick with stifled colour, and the stars shine small and shyly. Then the pulse of the city is hushed, and the scales of the water flicker golden and oily under the watching regiment of lamps.

The bridge clasps its gaunt arms tight from bank to bank, and the shuffle of a retreating figure sounds loud and alone in the quiet. There, if you wait long enough, you will hear the long wail of the siren, that seems to tell of the anguish of London till a train hurries to throttle its dying note, roaring and rushing, thundering and blazing through the night, tossing its white crests of smoke, charging across the bridge into the dark country beyond.

In the wan, lingering light of the winter afternoon, the parks stood all deserted, sluggishly drowsing, so it seemed, with their spacious distances muffled in greyness: colourless, fabulous, blurred. One by one, through the damp misty air, looked the tall, stark, lifeless elms. Overhead there lowered a turbid sky, heavy-charged with an unclean yellow, and amid their ugly patches of dank and rotting bracken, a little mare picked her way noiselessly. The rumour of life seemed hushed. There was only the vague listless rhythm of the creaking saddle.

The daylight faded. A shroud of ghostly mist enveloped the earth, and up from the vaporous distance crept slowly the evening darkness. A sullen glow throbs overhead: golden will-o'-the-wisps are threading their shadowy ribbons above golden trees, and the dull, distant rumour of feverish London waits on the still night air. The lights of Hyde Park Corner blaze like some monster, gilded constellation, shaming the dingy stars. And across the east, there flares a sky-sign, a gaudy crimson arabesque. And all the air hangs draped in the mysterious sumptuous splendour of a murky London night.

I'm gonna drown myself in the lost rivers of London
I am gonna drown myself in the lost rivers of London'

Crackanthorpe (1870–1896) was born in London and drowned in the Seine in Paris. His 'Vignettes : a miniature journal of whim and sentiment' (1896) also feature a Christmas Day 'Reverie' which express a rather snooty sentiments about the residents of what is now SE5:

''I dreamed of an age grown strangely picturesque -  of the rich enfeebled by monotonous ease; of the shivering poor clamouring nightly for justice; of a helpless democracy, vast revolt of the ill- informed; of priests striving to be rational; of sentimental moralists protecting iniquity; of sybaritic saints; of complacent and pompous politicians; of doctors hurrying the degeneration of the race; of artists discarding possibilities for limitations; of pressmen befooling a pretentious public; of critics refining upon the 'busman's methods; of inhabitants of Camberwell chattering of culture. And I dreamed of this great, dreamy London of ours; of her myriad fleeting moods; of the charm of her portentous provinciality; and I awoke all a-glad and hungering for life'.

See previously: Coil in Clink Street SE1

Sunday, January 05, 2014

South London Hardcore go live tonight

I guess Transpontine is concerned with 'the Matter of South London', starting from the basis that historically much that goes on in the capital on the south side of the river has been marginalised, overlooked and treated with condescension. The word 'transpontine' itself expresses that - on the other side of the bridges from the centres of political, financial and cultural power, an area regarded as 'common', vulgar and lawless. Coming across that word for the first time ten years ago gave birth to this blog, as reclaiming it provided a framework for the half-formed notion we had of documenting interesting things that were going on in our area.

Many others in the blogging world are doing similar things for particular areas (Brockley, Deptford, Hither Green etc.), but in terms of the broader 'Transpontine Question' the biggest contribution is being made not by a blog but by a series of podcasts - South London Hardcore. Started by Steve Walsh and Jack McInroy in December 2011, they are now approaching their 100th episode. There is a quite an overlap with some of the interests of this blog, particularly in terms of music, film, literature and general weirdness. But they do have a broader geographical focus, covering the whole of greater London south of the Thames, and stretching out to the western lands of Barnes and Wimbledon. Over the last couple of years they've had some very interesting guests, including comic writer Alan Moore (talking in particular about Shooters Hill) and recently Sean O'Hagan of Microdisney, Stereolab and the High Llamas.

To mark their 100th episode, they are doing a live show tonight from the Old Kings Head off Borough High Street, starting at 7:30 pm. Admission is free.


Saturday, January 04, 2014

Wassailing in East Greenwich Pleasaunce

Wassailing is an old English custom of singing and drinking the health of fruit-bearing trees (especially apple trees) to encourage a good harvest later in the year. It traditionally takes place on Twelfth Night.

The Friends of East Greenwich Pleasaunce are holding their second annual wassail in the Memorial Orchard there tomorrow, Sunday 5 January, 12 noon to 3 pm, with music, storytelling and a wassail procession. East Greenwich Pleasaunce is a small park with its main entrance in Chevening Road and a smaller gate half way up Halstow Road SE10. It was formerly the cemetery for the Royal Hospital for Seamen at Greenwich.

Thursday, January 02, 2014

Loretto Street Art SE1/SE16

Following last week's post about Loretto street art in Peckham, here's another of their pieces spotted in Pages Walk SE1 (photo by Controlled Weirdness). Lots more examples here.

This piece is on Southwark Park Road, opposite Galleywall Road junction (photo from Gemini City).