Sunday, July 31, 2016

Tony Benn, Allan Boesak & Squeeze commemorate Peasants Revolt on Blackheath 1981

A picture posted as part of the ongoing argument within the Labour Party has prompted me to dig up an episode in local history - the commemoration of the 600th anniversary of the 1381 Peasants Revolt, held on Blackheath in 1981.
Jolyon Green published a crowd scene on twitter with the caption 'Huge crowd in Lewisham for Tony Benn before 1983 election (Spoiler: Labour lost both seats to the Tories in 1983)'. Subsequent discussion on twitter seems to have narrowed this down to Blackheath in 1981, within the borough of Lewisham.
Tony Benn did indeed address a crowd there, the occasion being an event to commemorate the 600th anniversary of the Peasants Revolt. In 1381 the rebels had gathered on Blackheath before heading into London, so it was an obvious place for the commemoration on May 4th 1981. As well as speakers there was music on this May Day bank holiday from Squeeze, Frankie Armstrong & Leon Rosselson, Traitors Gait, Rubber Johnny, Bluebird and Icarus. So it was more of a festival than just a political rally, and certainly not specifically a 'Bennite' rally.
Other speakers included Jack Straw - pictured below with Benn and the young Will Straw at the Blackheath event - and Canon Paul Oestreicher, then parish priest at the Church of the Ascension in Blackheath. The latter is an interesting figure who was chair of Amnesty International, hence no doubt the continuing connection between that church and Amnesty (a great Amnesty book sale takes place twice a year at the church).
Allan Boesak, the South African anti-apartheid activist, gave a liberation theology-inspired sermon taking as his starting point John Ball's 1381 Blackheath sermon with its famous statement 'Matters shall not be well in England until all things are held in common' (Boesak's Blackheath sermon is included in his book 'Black and Reformed: Apartheid, Liberation and the Calvinist Tradition').
Does anyone have any memories of the 1981 event?
As for its contemporary political relevance, I don't want to get into internal Labour politics here. Jolyon Green's point seems to have been that large left wing rallies do not necessarily translate into Labour winning elections. It is a little misleading to compare Blackheath in 1981 to a current day rally of Corbyn supporters, the former was as we have seen a broader cultural festival, the crowd weren't there just to listen to Tony Benn. But it is historically accurate to note that despite the left sometimes being able to mobilise large numbers on the streets in that period (maybe 250,000 at London Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament demo in 1981, where Benn also spoke) it was the Tories who won the 1983 general election by a sizeable majority.
Lewisham East was won in 1983 by Colin Moynihan, who went on to be the Conservative sports minister at the time of the Hillsborough disaster. Moynihan's victory was no doubt assisted by the fact that Polly Toynbee stood in the constituency for the short lived Social Democratic Party, which had split from Labour to join with the Lib Dems. Lewisham West was won by John Maples who, like Moynihan, held his seat for the Conservatives until losing it to Labour in the 1992 election. 

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Zoe Konez - Bones

Zoe Konez, singer with Cat Bear Tree (featured here previously), has a new solo single out this week. The video for Bones was filmed by Gareth Gray at  Antenna Studios in Crystal Palace (where, among others, Florence and The Machine started out rehearsing).

Camberwell-based Zoe will be launching Bones this Wednesday 20th July at The Green Note, Camden, NW1 7AN with 'A Night Of Musical Collaboration With Guests' including Kimberly Anne, Antonio Lulic and Adrian Roye. 

Sunday, July 17, 2016

'Superhumans' Paralympics Trailer filmed at Rivoli Ballroom

Channel 4 are the latest to make use of the Rivoli Ballroom in Crofton Park, filming part of the uplifting 'We're the Superhumans' trailer for the Rio Paralympics there.

While Wheelchair Ballroom Dancing is competitive it does not actually feature in the Paralympics but the three minute film includes dancers, musicians and as well as athletes.

Friday, July 15, 2016


A tough day, stumbled into something joyful in Peckham. 

Investigating further, I tried the door - well it said 'Open' - and found myself inside MOCA gallery on Bellenden Road, SE15.  The colourful floral/coral/what was it? sculpture had spread inside over the walls and ceilings - Spiderwall by Bologna artist Francesca Pasquali. On closer inspection it is made up of cobweb dusters - very Arte Povera use of everyday materials, but creating something otherworldy on a day when I wanted to be in another world.

Photos don't really do it justice, so check it out until 30 July. Child friendly too, you can touch as well as look. 

MOCA London is at 113 Bellenden Road, SE15 4QY. OpenThursday to Saturday, 2pm - 6pm

Thursday, July 14, 2016

'Dig that Crazy Beat' - Friday night at The Savoy in Catford, 1960

From the Daily Mirror, 1 October 1960:

'The Mirror drops in for a night out at The Savoy in Catford SE6'

'from Dixon Scott, Catford, Friday Night'

'Lots of hugging - but no kissing! Tell her you love her - but no kissing! Ask her to marry you as you whirl around the dance hall - but no kissing! I dropped in tonight on Britain's unique youth club - the Savoy Social Club, Catford, London SE6. And that name, borrowed unashamedly from the famous hotel in the Strand, sets the tone of this club. 

Apart from the no kissing rule (which surely applies to the Savoy Hotel) the boys must wear a jacket and tie (which they would have to do in the Savoy Hotel, anyway)...tonight is night of the Annual dance. In the main ballroom, where Bobby Johnson and his Orchestra are playing, most of the 600 couples are dancing... dancing... dancing. Downstairs in a smaller, intimate Number Two ballroom, the rest of the Annual Dance's guests "get with it"

The club was originally an ordinary money-making commercial dance hall. Below it was a billiard hall. Five years ago the dance hall owner, Mr Christopher Reynolds thought "What a good youth club this would make". He put his thought into action. The billiards hall was taken over... Listen to Councillor Alfred Hawkins, a former mayor of the borough of Lewisham, which includes Catford:

"We as a council are pleased with this place. So are the police. And any mother knows she can send her daughters her - safely". What a testimonial'.

'Dig that crazy beat! Some of the hop-happy folk swing right into a good time at the club's dance'

Emile Ford, who moved to London from Saint Lucia in the 1950s, had a massive hit with his band (Emile Ford and the Checkmates) in 1959, with their version of  "What Do You Want to Make Those Eyes at Me For?" staying at the top of the UK singles chart for six weeks.

The upstairs at the Savoy later became known as The Witchdoctor (from October 1965) with bands who played there including The Who (April 1966), The Creation (April 1967) The Skatalites (three times in 1967), Jimmy Cliff (May 1968) and Marmalade (in 1967 and 68) - the excellent Garage Hangover has a long list.

The downstairs was also known for a period as  Mr Smiths, scene of an infamous fight between members of the rival Kray and Richardson gangs in 1966 which left Kray associate Richard Hart shot dead at the back of the club.

(photo of the Savoy ballroom from Alamy)

The site of the former Savoy today, 75 Rushey Green

See earlier post on Mods in South London which has lots of great discussion about this and other venues from that time.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Wicca talk at Old Kings Head SE1,

Tomorrow night (Thursday 14 July) at the always interesting South East London Folklore Society, at the Old Kings Head off Borough High Street SE1, a talk on contemporary Wicca:

'The past century has borne witness to a growing interest in the belief systems of ancient Europe, with an array of contemporary Pagan groups claiming to revive these old ways for the needs of the modern world. By far the largest and best known of these Paganisms has been Wicca, a new religious movement that can now count hundreds of thousands of adherents worldwide. In this talk, Ethan Doyle White will provide a historical outline of this faith, in doing so examining its beliefs, practices, and the community of practitioners that has developed around it.

Ethan Doyle White is a PhD researcher at University College London (UCL) and is the author of Wicca: History, Belief, and Community in Modern Pagan Witchcraft (Sussex Academic Press, 2016) as well as various other publications on the subjects of modern Paganism and related forms of occultism, and the religious beliefs and practices of early medieval England.

The talk is in the upstairs room of The Old King's Head & commences at 8pm. £3/1.50 concs. email to book a place or chance your arm & roll up on the night'

Doreen Valiente (1922-1999 ), one of the founders of modern witchcraft pictured in 1962. She was born at 1 High Street, Colliers Wood.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

When we were Kings - Ali tribute night at Goldsmiths

On Thursday night (14 July) there's a tribute night for Muhammad Ali at Curzon Cinema at Goldsmiths in New Cross, featuring a chance to see the great documentary 'When we were Kings' on the big screen:

'On October 30, 1974, perhaps the most famous heavyweight championship boxing match of all time took place in Kinshasa, Zaire: the "Rumble in the Jungle" between champion George Foreman and challenger Muhammad Ali. In historical footage and new interviews, this documentary explores the relationship between African-Americans and the African continent during the Black Power era in terms of both popular culture and international politics, including the brutality of then-dictator Mobutu Sese Seko'.

As well as the film, there will be a panel discussion led by Professor Les Back, featuring among others Ben Carrington, who has written extensively about racism and sport. 

Tickets here - all profits will go to Parkinsons UK.

I went along recently to the Muhammad Ali exhibition at the 02 in Greenwich, definitely worth a visit. Among the artefacts included are some evocative posters from the Zaire fight - and a reminder that the event was also used for propaganda purposes by the country's dictator Mobutu, who infamously led a military coup that included the murder of Congolose independence leader Patrice Lumumba in 1961.

Lobby against Lewisham Library Cuts

There's a lobby of Lewisham Council's Mayor and Cabinet meeting tomorrow  (Wednesday 13 July) in protest against cuts to library services in the borough. Another lobby is planned for the following Wednesday's full Council meeting.

Campaigners say: 'Lewisham Council has made a decision to cut £1 million from the libraries budget. The Council’s preferred option is to remove staff from 4 of our libraries: Catford, Forest Hill, Manor House and Torridon Road. The council hopes that these libraries will then be run by local volunteer organisations. Unison, (the library staff's trade union) believes that if these plans are implemented then:

- Professional staff will not be available in these libraries
-Opening times will be reduced
- If there are not enough volunteers, then libraries will close
-Library usage and services to the community will be reduced
- Vulnerable users won’t be able to access library services'.

Action so far has included a strike by library workers on 5th July that closed three of the libraries under threat - Manor House, Torridon Road and Forest Hill, and a march on 21 May that saw hundreds of protestors march to the Town Hall in Catford:

Sunday, July 10, 2016

New Cross Academy finance officer jailed in 'biggest ever education fraud'

Surprized that amongst UK newspapers, only The Daily Mail seems to have picked up on the jailing of an accountant for nine years for the 'biggest ever education fraud' seen in the UK. Sam Kayade was found guilty of obtaining £150,000 by theft and £3.95 million by fraud, and was sentenced at Woolwich Crown Court on 24 June.

Kayade worked for Haberdashers' Aske's school, based at two sites in Jerningham Road and Pepys Road SE14, from 1997. He continued as a finance officer during a period in which it expanded to become the Haberdashers' Aske's Academy Federation taking over other schools including Malory school in Downham (which became Knights Academy), Monson Primary School (which became Hatcham Temple Grove) and Crayford Academy in Bexley.

The court heard that Kayade began transferring money into a bank account he controlled from 2006 and continued until the fraud was discovered in 2012. It became public knowledge in 2014 when the school took civil action against Kayade which resulted in the court ordering him to pay back funds to the school. However only £800,000 has been recovered. Parents were told in 2014 that the fraud amounted to £2m, with the federation's accounts filed in March 2013 stating that £1,047,788 had been lost through "unauthorised transfers" in 2011 and £924,316 in 2012 (Guardian, 12 July 2014). Now it appears that the full amount may have been twice that. 

£4m over seven years is £570,000 a year - an amount that would comfortably pay the salaries of at least 12 teachers at the top of the salary scale. You have to wonder how any school could fail to notice such a gap in its finances, and at the irony of the Government's Academisation programme premised on the need to bring in private sector business know how to education. Haberdashers academies have been very popular with Ministers - Michael Gove famously sent students off to sleep during a visit in 2012 -  and the schools have one of the oldest business sponsors in the country - the City of London Haberdashers livery company. While sophisticated fraud can be difficult to detect,  a hole in the finances that large would put most schools in a cash flow crisis that would be impossible to ignore. Questions too for the Government's Education Funding Agency which funds academy schools and presumably monitors what they do with the money.

The Haberdashers' Aske's girls school in Jerningham Road in 1905
- the buildings remain much the same today, though there are a few more cars and buses!

Kathryn Williams at Canada Water Library

Really enjoyed Kathryn Williams' gig last month (June 18th) in the theatre space at Canada Water Library. She was performing songs from her Sylvia Plath-inspired album Hypoxia as part of Southwark's Rhyme and Reason poetry festival.

Nice surprise too that she was accompanied on stage by fellow One Little Indian label mates Astrid Williamson and Michele Stodart (Magic Numbers guitarist as well as solo artist). So all in all a lot of hair and some fine harmonies!

Sunday, July 03, 2016

New Bowie Mural in Bromley

A new David Bowie mural was painted in Bromley shopping centre on Saturday, by Marvellous Murals

Bowie may have been born in Brixton, but he grew up as a Bromley boy, living in Canon Road, Clarence Road and then from 1955, 4 Plaistow Grove. He went to Burnt Ash Junior School then Bromley Technical High School for Boys, Oakley Road (now Ravens Wood School)

Dean Tweedy of Marvellous Murals with new Bowie work
The mural is part of a rebranding of the Shopping Centre from 'The Glades' to 'intu Bromley'. By the toilets there is a also a list of Bromley music connections that mentions Norman Cook (Fatboy Slim), Billy Idol, Topper Headon (Clash drummer) and Siouxsie Sioux as well as Bowie.