Saturday, June 27, 2015

Sound systems in New Cross & Deptford

Tomorrow (Sunday 29 June 2015), Unit 137 reggae sound system will be out in New Cross, set up next to New Cross fire station in Queens Road, with BBQ and Rum Bar. Free entry, 1 pm - 6 pm. See Facebook event details

More reggae sounds on 18th July  with The Deptford Dub Club returning to The Duke, 125 Creek Road SE8, with special guests the Roots Garden Sound System from Brighton. 

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

'Working Illegally': Detention Centre film in Deptford

Coming up next month - Thursday, July 23rd,  6:30pm - at Deptford Cinema (39 Deptford Broadway, SE8 4PQ), South London Anti-Fascists present a screening of the film Working Illegally that  'exposes the ever increasing phenomenon of coerced labour in detention centres...  Told primarily through detainees' testimonies, based on original research by Corporate Watch, this film offers critical insight into the labour that maintains the UK detention estate, as well as a general introduction to the immigration detention system'

 This will be followed by a discussion with former detainees and related campaigns, with speakers including:

'Aderonke Apata- formerly a detainee at Yarl's Wood and currently fighting for asylum, has despite the abhorrent treatment she has faced, been extremely active in condemning and challenging the politics of deportation. See an interview she did with Novara Media here

Standoff Films- someone from the organisation will introduce the film and join the discussion afterwards. From their website: "Our documentaries seek to uncover unsettling realities by hearing from those most directly affected by the social and political situations we examine."

Movement for Justice by any Means Necessary- MFJ have been at the forefront of recent efforts to challenge the existence of deportation centres, in particular Yarl's Wood. Organising a number of demos at the centre, including one upcoming on the 8th August.

The Anti-Raids Network- The resources that ARN have compiled over the last couple of years, and make readily available on their website, have been invaluable to local communities and activists resisting raids. Also successfully mobilising against various UKBA/Immigration Enforcement initiatives including Operation Centurion'.

Suggested donation £2/£3. More info and Facebook event details here.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Cornelius Cardew in New Cross, and a ballad of East Street

'Cornelius Cardew (1936-81): a life unfinished' by John Tilbury (Copula, 2008) is a monumental biography of the radical composer by one of his closest collaborators. Its 1100 pages document in close detail Cardew's musical and political life, cut short at the age of  45 when he was hit by a car in East London.

Cardew became involved with the musical avant-garde in the late 1950s, working for a while as an assistant to Karlheinz Stockhausen in Cologne. He helped introduce the work of American and other experimental composers into British musical circles. For instance in in July 1963, Cardew was involved in organising a Little Festival of New Music at Goldsmiths in New Cross with performers including John Cale (later of the Velvet Underground), Enid Hartle, Fred Turner, Griffith Rose, Robin Page, Tomas Schmitt and members of the Fluxus group George Macunias and Emmett Williams. Two concerts, one in the afternoon and one in the evening, including pieces by La Monte Young, Nam June Paik and Williams' 'Counting Song', which consisted of him counting the audience.

In 1966 Cardew joined the improvisational group AMM, founded the year before by  Lou Gare, Keith Rowe and Eddie Prévost  (Prévost had been to Addey and Stanhope school in Deptford, and been introduced to percussion in the 19th Bermondsey Boy Scouts marching band).

In 1968 Cardew began an Experimental Music class at Morley College in Lambeth. Many of those attending  'were later to form the nucleus of the Scratch orchestra' including Michael Parsons, Howard Skempton, Carole Finer (a lecturer at London College of Printing and later at Camberwell College of Art) and Psi (Peter) Ellison (who for 'some months... squatted in a clothing shop in Deptford'). The Scratch Orchestra's approach to music was playful and inclusive (see Stefan Szczelkun's participant account) but this was soon to be rejected by Cardew as he came under the influence of the 'Maoist' Communist Party of England (Marxist-Leninist).

The last ten years of Cardew's life were dominated by his involvement in this group, and musically he turned away from experimentalism towards didactic political song aiming to put across the party's line to the masses through vehicles such as People's Liberation Music. His earlier collaborators were denounced as bourgeois in texts such as Stockhausen Serves Imperialism.

In October 1975, Cardew started an evening class at Goldsmiths, 'Songs for our Society', its participants including 'composer Howard Skempton (occasionally), a homeopathic nurse, a lady on day release from a mental hospital, a young German called Holger, a retired railway worker' and others. Afterward 'the class would adjourn to a nearby pub, usually the Goldsmiths Tavern, occasionally the Marquis of Granby, and there would be a further two hours of intense political discussion'.

One outcome of the class was a gig for prisoners at Brixton Prison Medical Wing in 1976, where a band including Cardew, Eddie Prevost and Keith Rowe treated the audience to songs including Up and Over the Wall and The Ballad of George Jackson - the latter written and sung by a member of the class, Jim Ward, who recalled it as 'rather strong.... with its references to racist pigs and fascists in the prison service'. Later, in June 1981, Cardew organised a concert at Goldsmiths to commemorate the deaths in the New Cross Fire that year, though as Tilbury recalls there some controversy about the event being used to push the party line.

Cardew and his comrades were frequently in conflict with the police - he was arrested in the anti-National Front 'Battle of Lewisham' in August 1977, and in another anti-NF demonstration in Camberwell in 1980. In the latter case, Cardew was already on a suspended sentence following a previous arrest,  and he was jailed for a month in Pentonville after an appearance at Newington Causeway Magistrates Court.

Cardew's song/piano piece 'Four Principles on Ireland' was inspired by another local confrontation. According to Tilbury, it  'related to a demonstration in East Street market in South East London in 1972. The Party comrades who were leafleting were "brutally attacked" by the police and several received prison sentences' - Cardew's subsequent song was based on the leaflet.

For me the devotion of Cardew and others to the tiny maoist sect seems rather tragic. Their sectarian, dogmatic rhetoric had little impact other than contributing to the image of radical leftists as ridiculous fantasists - their grandiose sounding front organisations such as South London Revolutionary Youth and South London People's Front no doubt inspired the 'Tooting Popular Front' of late 1970s sitcom 'Citizen Smith'. One of the more comic touches in Tilbury's book is a reference to Cardew taking part in 1980 in a delegation to Germany as part of the 'Stalin Youth Brigade'- at the time Cardew was 44 years old and the other 'youth' delegates were aged 33 and 'mid twenties'!

While Cardew may have been on the right side of history in fighting against fascists in the 1970s, he was also an apologist for mass murderers like Stalin and Mao, and you have to wonder what atrocities he would have been capable of countenancing if his unlikely fantasy of the party taking power had been realized. No doubt other kinds of radicals - denounced as social fascist  - would have been first against the wall - a 1972 letter talks of  'Revisionism, Trotskyism, Anarchism, Reformism,Terrorism, the Labour Party etc' as lines to be struggled against: 'isolate them and wipe them out, so that we can achieve the necessary unity to go forward'. Those with the wrong musical line would probably also find themselves having to 'work harder with a gun in your back for a bowl of rice a day' (to quote the Dead Kennedys 'Holiday in Cambodia'). In 1977, the party's Progressive Cultural Association published an infamous 'Punk Rock is Fascist' article in its journal Cog and Wheels. I'm sorry but give me The Clash any day over Cardew's late period songs such as “Revisionist Somersaults And The Opportunist Opposition”

Friday, June 19, 2015

New Cross Independent Label Fair

'Let's celebrate summer and sunshine one of the longest days of the year! On Saturday the 20th of June we're calling out to all you record collectors and music enthusiasts. New Cross Inn transforms for ONE DAY ONLY bringing you a handful of London's finest independent music labels.

Expect a wide variety of musical genres, some of the freshest vinyl LP's, 45's, tapes, CD's, fanzines and exclusive merchandise whilst also getting the chance to chat with the friendly label staff. Guest DJ performances from Dom Servini & Scrimshire (WahWah45's)Tom Central (KeepUp! Records) & Charo (WotNot / HoxtonFM).

Starts 12pm –5pm. Free Entry. Indoors / Outdoor seating for sunshine boozing. Cocktails & Cheap Beer all day. Featuring:

Accidental Records
Mukatsuku Records
Rocket Girl
Slowfoot Records
Spotty Vinyl Records
Unwork Records
Upset The Rhythm -
Wah Wah 45s
WotNot -

After all the daytime excitement, from 7pm twe're putting together a great line up of live music.

Performances from:
Tense Men
Gloss Rejection

Follow the link below for more info on the evening event:

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

South East London Giants - Australian Rules on Peckham Rye

If those four-in-a-row posts on Peckham Rye are a mystery to you,  you need to check out Australian rules football. The oval pitch on the Rye is the home of South East London Giants, our local Aussie Rules team. They have two men's teams and a women's team, and still have over a month left until the end of the season -  so there's still a chance to catch them in their remaining home fixtures on 4th and 11th July

So all you summer football-bereaved Transpontine sportists, why not head down to offer some support?

Peckham Rye has an important place in sporting history. It was one of the first locations for Gaelic Athletics Association sports in London (see: Low Lie the Fields of Peckham Rye), and also one of London's first athletics clubs: Peckham Athletic Club, formed in the early 1870s, gave rise to both Blackheath Harriers and South London Harriers - two of the capital's longest established clubs. So good to see Australian Rules Football being added to the mix.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Cyclist deaths, 1914 and 2015

Cyclists lay down in the road and blocked traffic on Monday night in Camberwell, to mark the death on 29 May of Esther Hartsilver. Esther , a physiotherapist at Kings College Hosptial, was killed when hit by a lorry while cycling close to the hospital in Denmark Hill. She was the sixth cyclist killed on London's roads this year.

photo from report in Independent

Sadly, the death of cyclists on our roads is not new. I recently came across a similar tragedy from a hundred years ago, with a Lewisham cyclist being killed by a hit and run driver  in Baring Road, Lee. The Daiily Mirror reported:

'Search for Owner of Car That Was Driven Off After Fatal Collision.

 '...the police were still without a definite clue to the motor-car which was involved in a fatal collision with two cyclists at Lewisham on Saturday night and failed to stop after the accident. The cyclists were Mr. Harry Tyrell, of Lewisham, and Miss Caroline Wells, who lives in the same road. Mr. Tyrell was fatally injured and Miss Wells badly hurt. Shortly before the collision a policeman saw a man and woman cycling from the direction of Bromley towards Baring road, Lewisham. A little later he saw a dark-coloured low, open car, with two men in it, proceeding in the same direction. The car had a powerful head light'. (Daily Mirror,Tuesday 14 April 1914).

Lets hope we don't have to wait another hundred years for the roads to be safe for cyclists.

Friday, June 05, 2015

1915 London Tram Strike in New Cross

A hundred years ago this week, tram workers in London were sacked for going on strike and sent off to war. The London tram strike was prompted by the rising cost of living - the 7,000 strikers demanded a 'war bonus'.  The response of the employer, London County Council (LCC), was to sack all men of military age, telling them to volunteer for the armed forces.

The strike of drivers and conductors started out on Friday 14 May as an unofficial walkout at the New Cross depot - now the bus garage on New Cross Road - and soon spread across London (Sunday Mirror, 16 May 1915). The strike united workers from two rival unions - the London and Provincial Union of Licensed Vehilce Workers (known as the "red button men" ) and the "blue button" Amalgamated Union of Tramway Vehilce Workers'  (Daily Mirror - Monday 17 May 1915).

Pickets at New Cross depot (Daily Mirror, 17 May 1915)

The trams were the main source of transport for many workers to the Woolwich Arsenal, and it was reported that  'The New Cross men have made an offer to the L.C.C., which has been refused, to work cars each day to Woolwich for war munition workers without pay. The one condition was imposed — that the Council should allow the men to travel free'  (Liverpool Echo - Tuesday 18 May 1915)

Some trams did run to Woolwich:  'Extraordinary scenes were witnessed in South London yesterday morning as a  result of the tram strike. Heavy rain had been falling since an early hour, and thousands of people waited at different points in the hope of getting omnibuses, but the majority were doomed to disappointment. At New Cross, where cars labelled ' War munitions workers only" were running to and from Woolwich, great resentment was occasioned when only those producing Arsenal passes were allowed to board the cars'  (Newcastle Journal, 19 May 1915).  Strikers picketed the New Cross depot throughout the strike.

New Cross Road in the strike, by the depot (Sunday Pictorial, 16 May 1915)
On the last day of the strike, 'At New Cross about 1,200 strikers attended the Hatcham Liberal Club, when a resolution was adopted expressing confidence in the joint committee of the unions and determination 'to fight to a finish'.  One speaker complained that what was started a a 'strike' had now been made a 'lock-out' by the Highways Committee of the L.C.C. The men were advised to go back in the belief that their grievances would be dealt at once, but the L.C.C. were really taking the place of the Government by insisting on conscription' (Birmingham Daily Post, 1 June 1915).  The Daily Herald also reported 'a meeting in the Five Bells, at New Cross, the storm centre of the tram-men's strike'  (Daily Herald - Saturday 22 May 1915)

The strike took place at a time of increasing social tensions. In the same week there were anti-German riots in different parts of the country, in which shops run by Germans (or those with German-sounding names) were attacked, including in New Cross and Deptford:  'One result of the riots is a severe bread shortage. Near New Cross Gate so many bakers’ shops have been smashed that the police had be called yesterday to regulate the crowd which surged round the only shop in the neighbourhood where bread could be obtained' (Birmingham Daily Post - Monday 17 May 1915).

Monday, June 01, 2015

Music Monday: Steven Ball - Collected Local Songs

Steven Ball's Collected Local Songs, released in February, is an album that is as local as it gets in terms of Deptford. Ball describes it as 'a collection of songs of quotidian and local reflection, mostly constructed from everyday language, observations, overheard conversations, encounters, signs, community notices, announcements, phrases from historical texts about Victorian social life; from around and about the neighbourhoods of Deptford and New Cross in South London; using simple compositional structures, recorded with minimal instrumental setting'.

Reviewing it in The Wire (April 2015) , Sukhdev Sandhu described it thus: 'a drifting, sometimes aleatory assemblage of signs and signals encountered in South London's Deptford and New Cross. Ball sees the city as plunderphonic terrain, and this music is built up from layers of centrifugal texts... Memories, fragmented and not always lucid, act as bulwarks against capitalism's amnesia. The city is battered but not down for the count'.

The first track, Beautfiul Shoes, conjured up images of 'walking and falling'..

'across Creek Road
and then down the High Street
into Douglas Way
Amersham Vale
Amersham Grove
right into Edward Street
left down the High Street
across Creek Road
into Watergate Street
up to the river
and back down
Watergate Street'

'Deptford Flea Market interlude' includes sampled sounds from down the market.

I believe Steven Ball will be releasing some more material shortly via Hither Green-based Linear Obsessional Recordings.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

'Reclaiming our University' at Goldsmiths

Tomorrow at Goldsmiths in New Cross, Goldsmiths UCU (lecturers/academics union) is hosting a 'Reclaiming Our University' conference. They say:

'The marketisation of Higher Education has radically undermined the idea of the university as a public institution – gearing institutional priorities towards what is financially profitable rather than socially and culturally worthwhile. In this context of intense competition between universities for students and research funding, there has been a dramatic growth of capital projects, advertising budgets and Vice Chancellors pay. Meanwhile students face a huge debt burden, and staff, a working environment characterised by unmanageably high workloads, stress, inequality and insecurity... We want to protect and develop Goldsmiths and Queen Mary as a places that deliver innovative and radical teaching, that support independent and critical research, treat all its staff and students with respect and are committed to social justice'.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

London Urban Legends at Brockley Max

Brockley Max Festival starts tomorrow, lots of  arts and music coming up over next couple of weeks, starting with the usual opening night music event by Brockley station. You can check the programme for full list of events, for now just want to highlight an event next Monday June 1st (8 pm) at the Ladywell Gallery behind the Ladywell Tavern.

Former Transpontine contributor and London Forteanist Scott Wood will be giving a talk on 'London Urban Legends: The Hidden Insult and Other Stories'. Ladywell-based Scott is the author of 'London Urban Legends: the corpse on the tube' (History Press). Admission is free.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Music Monday: Skinny Lister - Down on Deptford Broadway

Skinny Lister pictured outside The Birds Nest on a return visit earlier this year
(photo by Brian Rasic)
Skinny Lister have come a long way since starting out in South London in 2009 and playing early gigs at the Ladywell Tavern, Birds Nest (Deptford) and Jam Circus (Brockley). Since then they've toured the USA, Australia, Europe and Japan, playing at numerous festivals.  Their first album 'Forge and Flaggon' (2012) featured the track  'If the gaff don't let us down' with its chorus of  'we'll sail away tomorrow, back to dear old Deptford Town'.

Their second album, released last month, is called 'Down on Deptford Broadway' and the album title features as a line in one of its songs, 'Six Whiskies'  - a tale of a drunken stumble through London.

I'm really enjoying the album, a mixture of folk-punk stomps that recall The Pogues and calmer moments, such as 'What can I say' sung by Lorna Thomas (video filmed around Hastings).

Thursday, May 21, 2015

A deer jumps through a window in Lewisham

A hundred years ago today, a deer jumped through a window in Hither Green Lane:

'Deer in a Lewisham House

A deer, which had apparently escaped from some park, on Friday jumped through the window of a house in Hither Green-Lane, Lewisham, occupied by Mrs. Perren and her daughter and did considerable damage. Chairs and tables were smashed, and a good deal of glass and china broken., The police were informed, and after barricading the window a sergeant and constable, with two other men, entered the room The animal appeared be mad with fright, and it  took the men some time to secure it with a rope'.

Gloucestershire Echo, Saturday 22 May 1915

Yes, this may have been the original Lewisham Stag

Monday, May 18, 2015

Peace meetings in First World War Lewisham

Opposing the First World War was a difficult business, with harassment from the authorities and from pro-war mobs. In 1916, Nellie Best of the Women's Anti-Conscription League was jailed for 6 months for deterring recruiting, and the Lewisham Borough Peace and Anti-Conscription Council passed a resolution demanding her release (Daily Herald,15 April 1916).

Sylvia Pankhurst, the radical socialist and suffragist, was active in the anti-war movement, as a key figure in the Women's Suffrage Federation/Workers Suffrage Federation (after 1917 name change)/Workers Socialist Federation (from 1918). The WSF was particularly active in the  East End of London, but sometimes south of the river, as this report of a 'GREAT PUSH" FOR PEACE' (Daily Herald, 6 October 1917) demonstrates: 'The Workers' Suffrage Federation's " Great Push" for Adult Suffrage, Socialism, and, above all, for Peace by Negotiation, held on Saturday, September 29, in Greenwich and Lewisham, where all the speakers met with good reception. Men in khaki and wounded soldiers from the local military hospital took Peace leaflets and bought the Workers' Dreadnought. A good collection was taken...  Volunteers for these parades should write to Miss Sylvia Pankhurst, 400, Old Ford Road, Bow, E3'.

Sylvia Pankhurst
A planned meeting the following month by the pro-peace Fellowship of Reconciliation received a more hostile response. Those opposing the war were likely to be labelled as pro-German as the headline to the following article from the Nottingham Evening Post (9 November 1917) makes clear:


A meeting under the auspices of the Fellowship of Reconciliation at Lime Hall, Lime-grove, Lewisham, to be addressed by Mrs. Swanwick, was cancelled at the last moment yesterday owing to the presence of a large and hostile crowd. Cheers were given for the "Boys in Khaki" and the Lads in Navy Blue,” and several of the promoters of the meeting were rather roughly handled. An impromptu patriotic meeting was held outside the hall, at which a resolution was passed in favour of refusing to allow any more peace meetings to be held'.

'Mrs Swanwick' mentioned here was presumably Helena Swanwick, the first Chair of the Women's International League, an organisation set up by pro-peace suffragists (she was also, incidentally, the sister of the artist Walter Sickert)

Helena Swanwick - stopped from speaking in Lewisham, 1917

Ken Weller's book 'Don't be a soldier!' The radical anti-war movement in north London 1914-1918 is an excellent account of this period. As the name suggests it is primarily about north London, though he mentions the WSF making  'occasional forays into the transpontine wastes of South London'!. Wish I had the time to research a South London version.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Folk on the Hill

Tonight - Friday 15th May at the Hill Station Cafe (Kitto Road, SE14) presents 'Folk on the Hill', with live music from Byron Biroli, Harry Dickson and Pigeon Heroes. Entry is free/donation, food and drink available.

Here's Pigeon Heroes in the Goldsmiths Music Studio, New Cross Road:

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Nepal earthquakes

Various initiatives have been going on locally in response to the disastrous earthquakes in Nepal. The Hill Station Cafe in Kitto Road SE14 collected donations for an emergency airlift:

Tomorrow (Friday) there's a film night Nepal benefit at the Kagyu Samye Dzong Tibetan Buddhist Centre in Spa Road, Bermondsey:

Monday, May 11, 2015

Muddy Waters at Goldsmiths 1968

This poster popped up recently on Twitter (@salvatorRosa) - legendary blues artist Muddy Waters playing at Goldsmiths College in New Cross, November 29 1968. Also featuring Otis Spann (playing with Waters), British blues guitarist Gordon Smith (who has played with Kevin Coyne among others) and Mike Kean's Dusty Blues Ensemble.

However, as somebody in comments has pointed out, the image in the poster appears to be John Lee Hooker rather than Muddy Waters! Awkward...

John Lee Hooker

Muddy Waters (left) as he actually looked in 1968
(pictured at Hammersmith Odeon)

Saturday, May 09, 2015

Recent Sydenham Street Art

Some recent Sydenham street art.

This is off Sydenham Road (by the car park near the Co-op/Lidl)

The kingfisher and fox are on hoardings on Sydenham Road, replacing the lemurs that used to be there.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Yeats in London

We are coming up to the 150th anniversary of the birth of the great Irish poet W.B. Yeats - he was born in Sandymount, County Dublin on 13 June 1865.

Yeats spents some very formative years in London, and next month at South East London Folklore Societu. Yeats authority Niall McDevitt will be giving a talk on 'Yeats in London'.

As mentioned at Transpontine before, there's an interesting connection between W.B. Yeats and the Horniman Museum in Forest Hill. He also visited Madame Blavatsky in Norwood, and spoke at Southwark Irish Literary Club. Hopefully there will be some more South London connections

Wednesday, May 13th 8:00pm, The Old King's Head, The Kings Yard, 45 Borough High Street, SE1 1NA

Talk starts at 8pm. £3/1.50 concession

To be sure of a place you can email to book

Monday, April 20, 2015

Reptilian terror in Peckham Rye

A reptilian monster is lurking in the depths of the lake on Peckham Rye, terrorizing passing wildfowl... or not. This terrapin seems to be just chilling out on a wooden island floating on the lake. I wonder how did terrapins become established in the park - were they deliberately introduced or did someone just abandon their pets?

Friday, April 17, 2015

Burn the Sea at Deptford Cinema

Tomorrow night at Deptford Cinema - Amakino present Burn the Sea 'an evening of documentaries about migration and the Meditteranean border'. The Cinema is at 39 Deptford Broadway and the films start at 7:30pm.

Very topical - this image was released by Amnesty this week, who say: 'The ongoing negligence by European governments of the humanitarian crisis in the Mediterranean has contributed to a more than 50-fold increase in migrant and refugee deaths since the beginning of 2015 compared with last year... As many as 400 migrants are feared to have died off the coast of Libya in recent days'

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Railman: a 1974 film made at Grove Park Station

A rare showing this Friday at the Mayday Rooms (88 Fleet Street EC4Y 1DH)  of an experimental film made in 1974 at Grove Park Station, Lewisham.This from the organisers:

'RAILMAN: A First Attempt at Collective Film Making - FOUR CORNERS FILMS in 1974

Friday 17th April 2015 7-9pm, MDR Screening Room

In 1976 Four Corners Films (Joanna Davis, Mary Pat Leece, Ron Peck and Wilf Thust) released Railman, a film concerned as much with the distribution of roles within the film collective as with getting "as close as possible to the life and routines" of an NUR station master. Filmed at Grove Park Station, Lewisham, in south east London, and set against the backdrop of state divestment in transport infrastructure, Railman might be regarded as a modest and experimental corrective to more technically accomplished and officially sanctioned British Transport Films: Rush Hour, Wires over the Border and Accident.

In the spirit of MayDay Rooms' commitment to opening out historical material onto the present, Wilf Thust, a founder member of the Four Corners collective, will introduce the film and help shape a discussion on the terms and conditions of collective filmmaking as a mode of political or politicising practice, as a form of group process....

In 1974, four London Film School students - Joanna Davis, Mary Pat Leece, Ron Peck and Wilf Thust - agree to work together as part of a course requirement to hand in a film script. They begin by interviewing the PR rep of the National Union of Railwaymen (NUR) and then meet with the course director of the London Film School, Ralph Bond, who in turn secures an interview with Ray Buckton, the general secretary of the rail drivers' trade union ASLEF. This preparatory work predictably draws the filmmakers into the labyrinth of British Rail bureaucracy, culminating in a failed negotiation to obtain permission to film on BR property on the grounds that an "irresponsible film" or any form of misrepresentation might damage the company's recruitment drive. This exchange is scripted and then re-staged as the opening sequence of the film. From that point on, the filmmakers move into a more clandestine mode and having identified a location, Grove Park Station in Lewisham, decide to circumvent management and contact workers directly.

As with much Four Corners' work from this period, the 'subject' speaks and Railman is filmed almost entirely in the station master's place of work, the platform office. In this setting, albeit only for a brief moment, the relationship between the film collective and station master permits the unarticulated a voicing and the unrepresented a hearing'.

Thursday, April 09, 2015

New Cross and Deptford Free Film Festival 2015

Some great events coming up in this year's New Cross and Deptford Free Film Festival, here's a quick summary from the organisers, for full details check out their website.

New Cross + Deptford Free Film Festival 2015.
Fri 24 April - Sun 3 May

'The fourth annual New Cross + Deptford Free Film Festival is shaping up to be a cinematic extravaganza. This year there really is something for everyone - from Youtube Cats to radical politics (there’s an election on!).

The festival launches with Friday Night Fever, a screening of Saturday Night Fever followed by a 70s disco. Strut your stuff at Number3, the new warehouse space on Creekside. 
The festival closes with a very special guest. Legendary DJ, musician and filmmaker Don Letts will be talking about his documentary film The Clash: Westway To The World followed by a DJ set at the Job Centre in Deptford.

Other highlights include:

Tuesday 28 April: Westmonster / Spirit Level - Two politically charged films with Q & A and discussion at New Cross Learning

Wednesday 29 April: Carrie – the original teen horror at Deptford Lounge

Thursday 30 May: Global Shorts - 16 films from 16 countries at Deptford Lounge

Friday 1 May: Old Kent Road -Everybody’s heard of the Champs-Élysées. The Old Kent Road’s the same. It must be one of the best known names in Europe.” - at The Hill Station Cafe

Saturday 2 May: Wizard of Oz - Follow the yellow brick road to this bike powered, open air event in Telegraph Hill upper Park

Throughout the festival Sanford Housing Co-op are presenting Ways Out: Unfolding the topography of the possible. Six films investigating alternatives to generic Capitalism. Join filmmakers, activists and guest-panellists for discussions'

Wednesday, April 01, 2015

US Chicken Chain set to Open in Greenwich

A leading US chicken chain is set to open its first UK restaurant in SE London. In a further sign of  the attractiveness of the area to cash-rich international investors, Albuquerque-based 'Los Pollos Hermanos' expects to open for business in Greenwich within the next few weeks.

In a joint statement with the company released yesterday, Greenwich Council welcomed the news, saying: 'The Royal Borough has been a centre of global trade for hundreds of years. From the tea brought back to England on the Cutty Sark to the modern consumer products so expertly marketed by Los Pollos, we have always welcomed the best that the world has to offer'. Speaking for the company, Mr Gustavo Fring said: 'Our motto at Los Pollos is "The finest ingredients are brought together with love and care, then slow cooked to perfection". We can't wait to get cooking in Greenwich'. Customers who bring a copy of the Council newspaper 'Greenwich Time' to the restaurant will be eligible for a free sample of the Los Pollos' specially-tailored new range - the Greenwich Meridian Line.

Mr Gustavo Fring
Notes for editors:

- Los Pollos Hermanos has 14 restaurants in the South Western United States between Albuquerque (New Mexico) and Nevada. In Greenwich it is planning to operate from the premises on Church Street recently vacated by Desparadoes, for further details see here.

- the Cutty Sark played an important role in international trade between India, China and Britain: 'clippers, such as the beautifully dry-docked Cutty Sark in Greenwich, often did double duty: serving as tea
clippers between Guangzhou (Canton) and London, and opium clippers between Calcutta and Guangzhou. By 1840 the British were shipping 40,000 opium chests to China each year' (source).

yes, this was an April Fool's joke - Los Pollos is the chicken chain that is a front for a drugs empire in the series Breaking Bad. 

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

'Violence in Brixton follows poll tax protest' (March 1990)

Twenty five years ago today, on 31 March 1990, one of the largest demonstrations of the 20th century set off from Kennington Park to protest against the Conservative government's planned new poll tax (officially known as the 'community charge'). The demonstration ended up in Trafalgar Square and was followed by rioting throughout the West End. By the end of the year, Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher had been ditched by her own party, worried at its seeping popularity.

A few weeks before the March 31st demonstration there had been lively protests at Town Halls throughout the country where Councils were setting their local poll tax rates. One of the biggest was outside Lambeth town hall in Brixton on Friday 9 March 1990.  I was on the demonstration, I remember people heading from the Town Hall, down Coldharbour Lane and along Electric Lane (which then ran down the back of Woolworths) in an attempt to get around the police. I stopped off for a drink in the Railway Tavern, others went on to Stockwell Road which I think is where a police car got turned over (pictured below).

Pat G.S. commented at a previous post here: 'After the gathering at the town hall... everyone turned and walked down Brixton Road, through the traffic. It was a happy, positive, almost celebratory event. No trouble, or even any sense that there would be trouble ... until the walkers were directed down Stockwell Road, round the back of the Academy - and straight into a wall of riot police. Immediately, all hell let loose - I had no idea that people could actually just pull up paving stones with their bare hands.  My boyfriend (now husband) and I legged it away from the trouble and towards home back up Brixton Road, which had now been closed to traffic by the police. Unbelievable how quickly they'd done that. And then, while we were walking as quickly as possible up the road, we heard this deafening - terrifying - sound behind us and, looking back, saw a line of police on horses who were stamping their hooves on the ground to make as much noise as possible. Oh yes, we felt threatened. That was a heavy day - and an exhilarating one, too. And Maggie didn't get her way'.

photo © Adrian Lord on flickr

Here's a newspaper report from the next day:

'Violence in Brixton follows poll tax protest (Independent, Saturday 10 March 1990)

Violence erupted in Brixton, south London, last night after a peaceful and good-humoured mass demonstration against the poll tax outside a Lambeth borough council budget meeting.

As the meeting began to break up, paint bombs and bottles were thrown towards speakers and police guarding the town hall. A festive atmosphere, with a band playing Caribbean music and protestors dancing and singing anti-poll tax songs, quickly evaporated.

Organisers made appeals to the 2,000 people to leave quietly, but hundreds tried to get to the centre of Brixton, and the police callled in reinforcements and repeatedly charged to clear the scene amid a hail of missiles. Two police were taken to hospital, a Panda car with a WPC inside was overturned, and six of the crowd arrested, as the skirmishing continued for half an hour or so'

'protestors in the south London borough of Lambeth hang an effigy of Margaret Thatcher from a bus shelter,
 before burning it and celebrating over the ashes'
(click to enlarge)

See also:

Monday, March 30, 2015

Music Monday: Live at the Montague Arms

When the Montague Arms  (289 Queens Road SE15) closed in late 2011, many people feared it was gone for good.  Stan and Bet, who had been working there for many years, had passed away, and the famous contents of the pub had been put up for sale  Today though the pub is going strong having been 'resteamed, rebooted, repunked' as it says outside -  it remains a good music venue with a different but equally idiosyncratic style.

Meanwhile the memories of its previous incarnation live on, not least in a series of remarkable albums put out in the 1970s. Thanks to my friend David W. who has found copies of them in various SE London charity shops.

Live at the Montague (1971)

A sleevenote on the back of this first album by Peter Latham, BBC presenter, says 'New Cross may not be within the sound of Bow Bells, but you can certainly find more than a touch of Cockney in its pubs. The Montague Arms, featured on this record, is not only in New Cross, its also vibrantly alive... the 'Mont' has the secret of making you forget the drab day's grind, the dismal weather and the disastrous news'.

The sleevenotes also instoduce the two musicians who were in effect the house band at the pub.  Peter Hoyle, the Mony's landlord and drummer, is described as looking 'like a wilder edition of Peter Ustinov and plays the drum like a demon'. Peter London on organ and piano and vocals is said to be 'blind and works with music in Braille', his musical career including recording with his wife Marilyn as 'Man and Wife' (including the single Who Shot the Piper Man?), and being Musical DIrector for the BBC TV series STRAMASH featuring Lulu

On this and the next three albums the two Petes are also joined by comedian/compere/singer Jimmy Jones.

Live at the Montague Arms - Volume Two (1972)

More great cover versions, with Peter London now adding a moog to his keyboards. Songs include The Beatles 'A Day in the Life' and Gilbert O'Sullivan's Alone Again Naturally.

The crowd photo on the back is great, very evocative of early 1970s pub life:

Live at the Montague Arms - Volume Three (1972)

I haven't got the sleeve of Volume Three, only the vinyl (anyone help me?).  Another diverse offering - Eleanor Rigby rubs up against Elgar's Nimrod and Jimmy Jones' comedy routines. Note that the recording engineers are listed as John Hassell Recordings. The Barnes-based Hassell assisted many people to self-release records and is now justly celebrated for his role in pressing dub-plates for the UK reggae scene.

Live at the Montague Arms - Volume Four (1973)

The semi-psychedelic cover art stands out on this one.

Recording engineer this time is Bob Auger, who worked as sound engineer with The Kinks, The Animals and many more.

The two Petes pretty much invented the look for the guys from Abba didn't they?:

Once again the crowd picture is a 70s fashion classic:

This album also has a gatefold sleeve, with the inside promoting the King and Queen, Kimmeridge Road, SE9 - described as the 'The Biggest Live Strip Comedy Scene in London' (the Montague Arms also featured strippers at this time). I think this pub/disco in Mottingham was run by the same people.

Live at the New Montague Arms (1977)

Note the address is given on the back as Queens Road, Peckham on the back - the confusion about whether the pub is in Peckham or in New Cross continues to this day. I guess as it's on the border it can be said to be either.

The picture in the top left of the cover shows, I believe, Bromley's Christopher Greener (1973-2015) - at the time Britain's tallest man - standing next to the pub's Stan Pownall.

The duo continued to perform in the Montague Arms, as the Two Petes, into the 21st century. I saw them many times on Sunday lunchtimes - who can forget their version of Wonderwall!

Are there any more albums?!

Here again is their version of MacArthur Park/Popcorn, which I put together with some pictures of the pub (see also their version of America):

Peter London

Before his Montague Arms days Peter London released the single 'Bless You' on Pye records in 1965, produced by the legendary Joe Meek

Who shot the Piper man? by Man and Wife (Peter London and  his wife) was released on CBS in 1970

Update (2 April 2015): Jimmy Jones's account

In his autobiography, 'Now this is a very true story' (2011), the comedian Jimmy Jones mentions working with Peter Hoyle (pub owner) and his brother-in-law Stan (the bar manager) to get the Montague Arms going as a venue, and describes how the records came about:

'We would have strippers on Monday and Wednesday nights, and Sunday nights we'd put on drag acts... Peter Hoyle noticed that there were more and more punters coming in just for my comedy routines. And he had a very bright idea. 'Wouldn't it be nice', he siad, 'if we had something to sell all these lorry drivers who are spreading the word about you'... No stand-up comedian had ever released a vinyl long-player of adult material before. So we recorded 'Live at the Montague Arms' relased on the Montague Arms label. It was very popular, we sold thousands of copies of them in the pub. Bill Wyman certainly bought a copy. We finished recording five stand-up LPs from the Montague Arms. '

Jones mentions that all of the Rolling Stones with the exception of Mick Jagger came down to see him at the Mont, as did other other comedians including Mike Reid, Roy 'Chubby' Brown and one Cameron Davidson from Blackheath - soon to launch a successful career not uninfluenced by Jones' 'adult' comedy routines as Jim Davidson (he also performed at the Montague Arms).

By Jones' account he fell out with Hoyle after he started getting success and offered gigs elsewhere. A dispute about royalties from the records led to a court case, with Jones claiming that 'No one was buying those records to listen to the drums and keyboards'. As is often the way it became 'a very nasty and expensive court case which - to be honest with you - neither of us won'.

Jones also says that when Hoyle 'opened a second pub, the King & Queen at Mottingham' he [Jones] opened it for him with my dear friend Dave Lee Travis, the DJ, and an act who became very close mates of mine, a dwarf cabaret act known as the Mini Tones - Kenny Baker and Jack Purvis who went on to be in Star Wars as R2D2 and a Jawa'.

Update (8 April 2015)

Just came across this article from The Independent (29 June 2008): The Entertainers: 'The Two Petes' are the house band at The Montague Arms. Peter Hoyle says: ''I've been the proprietor for 40 years. My brother-in-law and sister run it now. It's changed a lot over the years. In 1978 we refurbished and now there are moose heads on the walls, a zebra head, skeletons, a penny farthing". Peter London is quoted: 'We go for stuff people know: the Stones, Beatles, some Ray Charles. We've also dabbled with Oasis, a bit of Ronan Keating. You’ve got to give people what they want. One song that has always gone down well is "Whiter Shade of Pale"... You can't buy atmosphere. In modern pubs, you don't feel welcome. Customers here know they're going to get called "love" when they come in. It's just like home.'

The Two Petes in 2008