Sunday, December 28, 2014

Anti-fascists in Walworth Road and Lewisham in the 1930s

A couple of examples of 1930s militant anti-fascism found searching at British Newspaper Archive:

Fascist Offices Attacked in Walworth Road, 1933

'A crowd of 200 men, some of whom asserted they were Communists, attacked the Fascist local head-quarters in Walworth Road, London, SE, today. Stones were thrown, upper windows in the building were broken, and after a pitched battle in the doorway with Fascist defenders the men were scattered by a charge of mounted police' (Sunderland Echo, 27 March 1933)

Fascist Meeting in Lewisham, 1935

'A scene at a Fascist meeting at Ringstead Road, Lewisham, on Saturday night was described at Greenwich Police Court yesterday. Richard Henry Holmes (19), labourer, of Bishops Buildings, Thames Street, Greenwich, and Henry Charles Wallace (24), foundry hand, described as a Blackshirt, of Westerdale Road, East Greenwich, were each fined 20s for insulting behaviour.

Constable Southam said that the meeting was orderly until question time. Then a lot of heckling broke out. The crowd, numbering about 250, began to surge forward. In the centre he saw two men fighting. Wallace, who pleaded guilty, said that he was trying to quell the disturbance when he struck. Seeing Holmes standing behind with his fists raised he lost his temper and hit him' (Western Daily Press, 13 August 1935)

See previously:

South London Anti-Fascists at Olympia, 1934
Fighting Fascists in Peckham, 1937
Fighting Fascists in Deptford Broadway, 1933

Saturday, December 27, 2014

The Korean Wonder Juggler of Ladywell (1889)

Sometimes when you're browsing in the archive for something, you stumble across something else entirely. This advert for 'Draterson Okaro, the Corean Wonder' of '43 Ladywell Park, Lewisham' was published in The Era, 29 June 1889. Only a few lines, and I haven't been able to find anything else about them, but you can't help but feel that there's a whole untold story there of how a self-styled Korean 'Marvellous Equilibrist and Balancer, Stick and Ball Manipulator, Juggler', with 'Splendid Costumes' and 'Two Year Engagement with the Celebrated Japanese Troupe' came to be living in Ladywell.

The Era - Saturday 29 June 1889

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Two Minutes Left

Richard Sanderson of  experimental/improvised music label Linear Obsessional Recordings put out a call recently for tracks for a compilation album with only two rules: 'that the works had to be exactly two minutes long, and that at some point in the recording process a microphone should have been used'.

The outcome is 'Two Minutes Left', a collection of 87 tracks from all over the world, released this week. The tracks, as Richard says, 'are as diverse as it's possible to imagine- from full, immaculately produced studio works to hissy smartphone recordings- and throughout there are things to remind you that you're listening to real people in real places - birdsong, pets, breathing, conversation, and the location recordings run from the electrobabble of a Shanghai cab ride to the near silence of night on the Argentinian Pampas, to the sounds of the pub or a football match. In between are some gloriously recorded musical vignettes by some of the most extraordinary musicians around... it seems to me to be ultimately a celebration of being human, and a celebration of friendship and collaboration'.

'Two Minutes Left' is very much an international collaboration, but it also has its roots in South London, with Richard and the label based in Hither Green, and several of the tracks featuring local sound recordings. Richard's own Hither Green track, recorded in his back garden, is a reminder of the ubiquitous South London aircraft noise as well as capturing bird song. Birds - this time parakeets - also feature in Neil Gordon Orr's '120 Seconds Over Ladywell Fields', based on recordings of running round Ladywell athletics track. A music session in the Ladywell Tavern, with the Mixed Porter band playing Officers' Polka, was recorded by Kayleigh Shepherd on her

There's a recording of Blackheath Morris Men practicing at St Marks Church Hall in Greenwich, and a track from Brockley-based minimalist guitar ensemble the Broca Ensemble.

You can listen/download the whole thing here

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Postman's Park

Postman's Park in the City of London (north of St Paul's Cathedral) is famous for its 'Memorial to Heroic Self Sacrifice', opened in 1900 with plaques commemorating people who died saving the lives of others. I was there recently and spotted several South Londoners:

Alexander Stewart Brown of Brockley, Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons
Though suffering from severe spinal injury the result of a recent accident died from his brave efforts to rescue a drowning man and to restore his life, October 9, 1900
(seemingly he had been injured when thrown from his horse and carriage at junction of Brockley Road and Ivy Road, and then while recovering had rescued a man at Boulogne, only to contract pneumonia and die)

David Selves aged 12
Off Woolwich supported his drowning playfellow and sank with him clasped in his arms.
September 12, 1886
Mrs Yarman wife of George Yarman, Labourer at Bermondsey
Refusing to be deterred from making three attempts to climb a burning staircase to save her aged mother
Died of the effects, March 26, 1900
William Fisher, Aged 9,
Lost his life on Rodney Road Walworth while trying to save his little brother from being run over
July 12, 1886

Richard Farris, Labourer
Was drowned in attempting to save a poor girl who had thrown herself into the canal at Globe Bridge Peckham
May 20, 1878
Leigh Pitt, Reprographic operator
Aged 30, saved a drowning boy from the canal at Thamesmead, but sadly was unable to save himself
June 7, 2007 - the only recent addition to the memorial

The Memorial  is a significant location in Closer (2004), the Mike Nichols film which  stars Julia Roberts, Clive Owen, Jude Law and Natalie Portman.  The latter two visit it, and it's not giving too much away that Portman's character shares a name with one of the women featured - Alice Ayres, who died in Union Street, Borough, SE1 in 1885.

Alice Ayres,  Daughter of a bricklayer's labourer
Who by intrepid conduct saved 3 children from a burning house in Union Street Borough at the cost of her own young life, April 24, 1885

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Brixton Socialist Club at Canterbury Arms (1978)

The Canterbury Arms in Brixton is facing demolition, to be replaced with flats. Its great back room has seen some amazing nights, in particular in recent years the legendary indie pop club How Does it Feel?.

Found in a copy of the Leveller magazine (December 1977?) here's listings for the Brixton Socialist Club at said pub in January/February 1978. Acts performing there included folk singer Leon Rosselson, socialist feminist writer/historian Sheila Rowbotham and 7:84 Band (from the theatre company named from the statistic that 7% of the population owned 84% of the wealth). There was also a benefit for the club at Lambeth Town Hall featuring radical avant-rock band Henry Cow.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Radical posters and stickers in New Cross

I reckon New Cross must be the epicentre of radical postering/stickering in London. Yesterday I noticed this audacious piece of subvertising at the bus stop opposite the Marquis of Granby, in the style of a Metropolitan police ad:

'We've pointlessly targeted cannabis users in Lewisham, while other people legally drink their drugs.
Enforcing Westminster's crime concerns in Lewisham #ACAB'

Other examples I've spotted this year include:

Greek anti-fascist sticker in New Cross House

German antifa/anti-Deutsch sticker by Marquis of Granby


London Antifascists

'Good night Loyalist Pride'

'Stop EDL' and Polish anarchist sticker in Fordham Park

Pogo Cafe
(Hackney vegan cafe, closed last year)

Ishiguro in Sydenham

There was an article in the Guardian last week about the author Kazuo Ishiguro in which he recalled writing his 1989 novel The Remains of the Day (later filmed starring Anthony Hopkins and Emma Thompson) while living in Sydenham.
'I was then 32 years old, and we’d recently moved into a house in Sydenham, south London, where for the first time in my life I had a dedicated study. (I’d written my first two novels at the dining table.) It was actually a kind of large cupboard on the half-landing and lacked a door, but I was thrilled to have a space where I could spread my papers around as I wished and not have to clear them away at the end of each day. I stuck up charts and notes all over the peeling walls and got down to writing...

On my first Sunday off I ventured outdoors, on to Sydenham high street, and persistently giggled – so Lorna told me – at the fact that the street was built on a slope, so that people coming down it were stumbling over themselves, while those going up were panting and staggering effortfully. Lorna was concerned I had another three weeks of this to go, but I explained I was very well, and that the first week had been a success...

I'd consumed a substantial amount of “research”: books by and about British servants, about politics and foreign policy between the wars, many pamphlets and essays from the time, including one by Harold Laski on “The Dangers of Being a Gentleman”. I’d raided the second-hand shelves of the local bookshop (Kirkdale Books, still a thriving independent) for guides to the English countryside from the 1930s and 50s'
'When Ishiguro  first became a public figure he suffered greatly from  stereotyping by critics and reviewers, who.... nicknamed him the "Shogun of Sydenham" (Kazuo Ishiguro by Barry Lewis, Manchester University Press, 2000)

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

New Cross Speedway Programmes

 The New Cross Stadium stood next to the old Millwall FC ground in New Cross on the land now known as Bridgehouse Meadows. As covered here before, it featured greyhound racing, stock car racing  and speedway. Here's a selection of New Cross speedway programme covers




July 1963
The stadium closed in 1969 and was demolished in 1975.

Programmes from the huge collection of speedway memorabilia on sale at ebay by G.Williams Sporting Memorabilia. Click images to enlarge.

Thursday, December 04, 2014

Gramsci Way SE6

There aren't too many streets in London named after Italian communists, but in Bellingham SE6 there is a little slice of Lewisham dedicated to Antonio Gramsci (1891-1937), who died following eight years in jail as a prisoner of Mussolini. Gramsci Way is a cul-de-sac off Randlesdown Road.

I understand that 'Red Rector' Father Paul Butler, now of St Pauls Church in Deptford, was instrumental in getting the road so-named when he was Vicar at St Dunstans in Bellingham - the vicarage of which is in Gramsci Way.

Antonio Gramsci
Any other ideas for Italian communist street names - Malatesta Mansions perhaps, or Bordiga Boulevard?

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

Ian McEwan - 'the boundless shabby tangle of London south of the river'

I enjoyed Ian McEwan's latest novel, The Children Act (2014), continuing his close observations of the life of the higher reaches of the urban middle class. While Saturday (2005) was centred around a neuro-surgeon living in Fitzrovia, this book's central character is a judge living not too far away in Gray's Inn.

If McEwan is a London novelist though, he is certainly a north London one (I believe he lives near to the Post Office Tower). And The Children Act features a terrible diss of South London - whether the character's view reflects the author's perspective, you can judge for yourself:

'She had a north Londoner's ignorance of and disdain for the boundless shabby tangle of London south of the river. Not a Tube stop to give meaning and relation to a wilderness of villages swallowed up long ago, to sad shops, to dodgy garages interspersed with dusty Edwardian houses and brutalist apartment towers, the dedicated lairs of drug gangs. The pavement crowds, adrift in alien concerns, belonged to some other, remote city, not her own. How would she know they were passing through Clapham Junction without the faded jokey sign above a boarded-up electrical store? Why make a life here?'

In defence of Clapham Junction

Obviously this description could just as easily - and probably just as unfairly - be applied to many parts of north London. As for Clapham Junction, I found myself at the station there for the first time in years last week, and thought it was a vibrant convergence point of all the currents of London life on a late Saturday afternoon. There were football fans, wedding parties, shoppers returning from the West End, people heading home from doing sports (I'd been running  cross country). I was up the junction, and it was great.