Wednesday, October 07, 2015

An Underground Bunker at Goldsmiths in New Cross

During the Second World War, Goldsmiths College was evacuated to Nottingham. The buildings in New Cross were taken over for Civil Defence. There was a barrage balloon, and an Air Raid Precautions (ARP) Control Centre, with First Aid and Casualty Clearing Station. The swimming pool in the college was set aside as a potential mortuary. In the event an incendiary bomb attack in 1940 destroyed the swimming pool, which I believe was never reinstated, and  badly damaged much of the main building.

However, in the Upper Field, where the Stuart Hall Building now stands as well as tennis courts, an underground ARP Control Centre was built but never used. According to Dorothy Dymond's 'The Forge: a history of Goldsmiths' College 1905-1955' (London, Methuen, 1955):  'The Borough Council in conjunction with the Ministry of Health also carried out extensive excavations under the Upper Field for the purpose of a large ARP Control Centre. This elaborate underground structure suffered some damage from a bomb and was never actually brought into use. At the end of the war, after various possibilities of College utilization had been considered and rejected, the whole structure was buried, out of sight and out of mind'. Wonder if there's anything left of it?

From 'The Forge' (1955)

Goldsmiths Library after 1940 incendiary bomb attack

Monday, October 05, 2015

Vauxhall Horse Sculptures

'When suddenly Johnny gets the feeling he's being surrounded by
horses, horses, horses, horses
coming in in all directions
white shining silver studs with their nose in flames,
He saw horses, horses, horses, horses, horses, horses, horses, horses'
(Patti Smith)

I believe that Jason deCaires Taylor's horse sculptures on the Thames shore at Vauxhall (close to where what remains of the River Effra joins the Thames) have now gone after being displayed there throughout September. The sculptures were only fully visible at low tide, with the title 'Rising Tide' alluding to global warning.

Thursday, October 01, 2015

Cradle to Grave: Danny Baker & SE London

I've really enjoyed 'Cradle to Grave', the BBC comedy/drama series based on Danny Baker's memoirs of growing up in 1970s SE London (published as 'Going to Sea in a Sieve). Baker was born on the Crossfields Estate in Deptford and then lived in Silwood Estate SE16, going to Rotherhithe Primary School and then West Greenwich Secondary Boys School.

Baker gave a great interview about the show on 'Later with Jools Holland' last month, accompanied by Chris Difford and Glenn Tilbrook from Squeeze who have soundtracked the show and who of course, along with sometime member Jools Holland, also come from the SE London area. There was some funny discussion of how Northerner Peter Kay, who plays Baker's dad in the series, had to master the SE London accent - according to Baker a much faster version of its East London counterpart.

Asked to describe SE London, Difford said: 'I think we live in a wonderful world, it's almost like a mythological place full of fish and chips and ducking and diving'. The best bit  though was a great rant from Baker himself:

'My dad was a docker and my dad brought home lots of the produce of the docks... helping themselves... we've had too many university comedies, we've hard too many middle class comedies, people forget that working class aren't there to be demonized, they're not there to say "oo look they stole stuff and brought it home" because where the docks used to stand in London is now Canary Wharf, and that's where the banks are, that's where the hedge fund monies are, you want to talk about pilferage, let's not talk about a few stray bottles of Scotch, and that is the truth of it... sometimes people just get on with stuff and they get through this vale of tears the best way they can and usually it's with a lot of good spirit'.

The Tarot Tour of London

The Wheel of Fortune card from the Rider Waite Tarot Deck -
co-designed by A.E.Waite who has an interesting connection with the Horniman Museum

Coming up next week (Thursday October 8th) at South East London Folklore Society:

'The Tarot Tour of London uses 22 of the major historical sites as the basis of the tour as they correspond with the major Arcana. There are obvious ones like the Wheel of Fortune being represented by the London Eye and the Tower card by the Tower of London. Others are not so easy to presume as it is their history, myth, legend and folklore that makes them complement the meaning of a card.

Geraldine Beskin of The Atlantis Bookshop is a Londoner and occultist and is delighted to combine the two as she presents the capital from a fresh, new angle.

The talk will start at 8pm in the upstairs room of the Old King’s Head, off Borough High Street SE1. Entrance is £3/1.50 concs.

To avoid disappointment in event of a full house you can email to book in advance'

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Festival of Choice Film Night in New Cross

The Festival of Choice is a week of events in London aiming 'to raise awareness of threats to reproductive rights and the plight of those in countries around the world who do not have access to safe and legal abortion. The Festival also wishes to celebrate solidarity and activism and to strengthen and support the pro-choice message, locally and globally'.

On Saturday 26th September, there's an evening of films and discussions at Goldsmiths in New Cross (in the Stuart Hall building from 6 pm). 'Their laws, our lives' will feature 'A quiet Inquisition', which 'follows a doctor in Nicaragua, a country where the draconian abortion does not allow abortion in any circumstance. After the screening, we will have the intervention of one of the directors of this documentary'. This will be followed by 'My Choice, the Freedom Train', a documentary that 'looks at the successful campaign by thousands of activists who stopped the reform that threatened to severely restrict the access to abortion in Spain in 2014'.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Rabbit in Hither Green

Following last month's successful first foray into the world of live experimental performance in Hither Green, Linear Obsessional recordings return to promote another early evening session at the Art Cafe in Manor Park SE13. Music this time from Rabbit (David Aylward and Tom Scott-Kendrick, with guest Richard Sanderson) plus Iris Garrelfs and Oren Marsahll.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Lost London Films at Catford Constitutional Club

Tomorrow night at Catford Constitutional Club (Catford Broadway, SE6): 'Lost London: two film screenings marking the changing face of our city'. 

'A Place for Us' is the story of the 'battle to save Catford's pre-fab Excalibur Estate'; 'A House in Bayswater- the last days of a West London Lodging House'. Free Entry, 7:30 pm start.

How Does it Feel to be Loved? at Camberwell Crypt

It was a sad moment this month when the Canterbury Arms in Brixton closed its doors for the last time, due to be demolished to make way for flats. The pub hosted many music nights in its big back room, including the legendary indie-pop/soul club How Does it Feel to be Loved? - where among other things I once shook the hand of Kevin Rowland.

Emotional scenes last month at the last HDIF at Canterbury Arms

A silver lining to this cloud is that HDIF is moving to a new South London location at the Crypt in Camberwell. They say:

'The venue couldn't be more HDIF - a jazz club in the crypt underneath St Giles' church on Camberwell Church Street, it's a beautiful, atmospheric, and ever so slightly eccentric space which feels like it could have featured on the second side of "Tigermilk". It's 150 capacity... with a cool dancefloor, lots of interesting nooks and crannies for chatting in, and a great private garden for the smokers.

The Crypt runs regular jazz nights on Fridays and then the club is mostly unused for the rest of the month, so we're very lucky to have been given the first Saturday of the month. This is a new kind of venture for them and they're understandably wary about hosting a club crowd in such a refined venue, but I've assured them that our regulars are polite, well-behaved, and make frequent trips to the bar - so please come along and do us proud!

We have been given TWO CHANCES to prove ourselves. First is Saturday October 3rd and then Saturday November 7th. After that, they'll see how the nights have gone and whether they'd like to make this a regular event. If you'd like to have HDIF south of the river, please please come along and support us on these two nights. I can't see many other decent options for a HDIF south, so if this doesn't work out, then I reckon that'll be that.

We play:

The Smiths * The Supremes * The Go-Betweens * Dusty Springfield * Belle & Sebastian * Love * Tammi Terrell * Aztec Camera * The Ronettes * Orange Juice * Beach Boys * The Temptations * Velvet Underground * Felt * The Shangri-Las * Primal Scream * Otis Redding * The Field Mice * Dexys Midnight Runners * Camera Obscura * The Four Tops * Melba Moore * The Orchids

Guest DJ for the night is Chris Stride of Offbeat.'

Usual admission of £4 for members and £6 for non-members. Club will run from 9pm - 2am. Advance tickets here -

More info from; facebook event details here.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Lewisham Welcomes Refugees

An impressive turn out at the 'Refugees Welcome Here' demonstration in central London yesterday (Park Lane to Downing Street), I would estimate at least 50,000 people - making it possibly the largest pro-migration march ever seen in this country.

Also good to see a 'Lewisham Welcomes Refugees' banner there.

A local contingent met up in New Cross Gate before heading into town to join the demo:

'No human being is illegal' - members of the local New Cross community on route to the solidarity with refugees march

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Anthrax at the Birds Nest tonight

Last minute call for  a free punk gig tonight at the Birds Nest in Deptford Church Street, featuring 1980s anarcho-punk/hardcore stalwarts Anthrax, Liberty and Bug Central. I saw Liberty play a few times back then with Conflict etc, nice guys.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Not the Rolling Stones at the Montague Arms

It's the closing weekend of this year's Peckham and Nunhead Free Film Festival, with some great events still to come including the Welcome to Busseywood African film festival tomorrow (Saturday).

Tonight at the Montague Arms (Queens Road SE15) there's a Rolling Stones night, with a showing of the definitive Stones documentary Crossfire Hurricane followed by a live gig with cover band Not the Rolling Stones. There's also an alternative take on the band's history with an exhibition of 'Astonishing band facts and unearthed artifacts from the Nunhead & District Municipal Museum and Art Gallery's archives'. 7 pm start, free entry, no ticket required.

As mentioned here before, Bill Wyman and other members of the Stones did actually drink in the Montague Arms in the 1970s.

Saturday, September 05, 2015

Three-sided Football returns to New Cross

Tomorrow (Sunday) sees the return of three-sided football to Fordham Park in New Cross with a new season under the auspices of Deptford Three Sided Football Club.

If you've never tasted the delights of the three-sided game, check out this recent Vice article 'The world's most anarchic, hectic sport':

'In keeping with the anti-authoritarian spirit that gave birth to the sport, the rules of 3sf are few, and considered more as guiding principles than steadfast laws. In general, the game should involve a ball, three teams and a hexagonal pitch – anything beyond this is subject to spontaneous revision. Unlike conventional football, a team doesn't win by scoring the most goals, but rather victory is predicated on how few goals a team concedes to its opponents'.

(the article actually credits me with a small role in relaunching the sport - as well as describing me somewhat dubiously as an artist - but the credit must go to Mark Dyson and the other players who have made Deptford/New Cross the global centre of the game!)

A special Midsummer Game  was held at the setting of the sun over the Hilly Fields Stone Circle on 21st June.

If you want to check out the game, and maybe even join in, come to Fordham Park tomorrow (by Deptford Green school) at around 1:30 for a 2:00 pm start. As well as Deptford Three Sided Football Club, teams participating include Strategic Optimism FC, Philosophy Football FC and New Cross Irregulars.

(see previous 3-sided football reports here - including the Association of Autonomous Astronauts 1998 match on One Tree Hill)

Wednesday, September 02, 2015

Up from Downstairs

Coming up on Friday 4th September in Deptford, a night of improvisational music and performance featuring Lia Mazzari and Jonas Gustafsson, Bridget Scott (Butoh and traditional Japanese dance), and Rabbit ((David Aylward and Tom Scott-Kendrick). All happening at Vinyl (record shop/cafe/gallery, 4 Tanners Hill, SE8, 7:30 to 9:30 (£5/£3 concessions).

Thursday, August 20, 2015

New Cross church collecting for Calais Migrants

St Catherine's Church at the top of Telegraph Hill SE14 is collecting donations for migrants in Calais. Rev. Sheridan James, Vicar, says:

"If you bring things into church on Sunday mornings (either before the service at 10am, or immediately after - 11.15am) we will collect the items up and make sure they get collected and sent to the migrants in Calais. Conditions are very poor in ‘The Jungle’, and whatever our political position on the situation, the people are in urgent need of humanitarian help ...
Reverend Tim Clapton has linked up with a small Catholic voluntary organisation in Kent called ‘Seeking Sanctuary’ who in turn is working alongside a Catholic charity in France. The aim of this organisation is to provide material aid to the migrants in Calais.

Firstly can I say how moved I am by the amount of things which have been delivered to church already - by church members and local community. So can I just re-iterate:
St Catherine's Church is acting as a local collection point for men's jeans, jumpers, training shoes, Bibles, games (scrabble, chess), toiletries.

These will be be taken to Calais early Sept. The resources will be handed out in an organised fashion, by a bona fide charity to EVERYONE in need. Please drop stuff off at church on Sunday 23 or 30th August - either before the service 9.30am...until 10am, or immediately afterwards 11.15-11.45, when there will be people around to recieve your gifts. Please make sure that whatever you donate is clean and usable.

Thank you so much for the response so far. Whatever our politics, whatever our faith perspective #loveyourneighbour is a life rule we all can follow.After Tuesday 18th please refer any questions to Jane Elliott, Assistant Priest at St Catherine's, as I will be on a short sabbatical."

Sunday, August 09, 2015

Woolwich Rent Protest 1939

'A photograph showing residents creating a road blockade as part of a rent protest in Woolwich, south London, taken in July 1939 by John Topham for the Daily Herald'.  Great photo, unfortunately I don't know any more about the context. The placard reads 'we the tenants of these flats do not intend to pay  any rent till something is done'. But about what?

Wednesday, August 05, 2015

Fascist mob attacks Clapton fans in Thamesmead

A pre-season non-League football friendly might seem an unlikely setting for violence, but that was what occurred last night at Thamesmead Town's ground in Bayliss Avenue SE28, where the home team were hosting a visit from Clapton FC. Clapton supporters were attacked with bottles and other missiles, and the game was abandoned.

But it seems that this was not a clash between rival football fans - instead it appears that a group of far right thugs attended specifically to attack Clapton fans known for their anti-fascism. According to Clapton Ultras:

'Last night our club Clapton FC were playing our last pre season friendly away against Thamesmead in South East London. In the last few days, we received threatening messages from a fascist group regarding this fixture. This information was passed on to the football club and its fans who decided to travel as one group to the game as fan safety is the number one priority.

As we arrived at the game around 15 minutes after kick off and began to enter, Clapton fans were immediately attacked with weapons and missiles by a large group already present inside the ground, who threw glasses, bottles, bricks, signs and a fire extinguisher at Clapton fans, the vast majority of which had not been able to even enter the ground. In addition to causing minor injury the missiles damaged several parked cars in the car park outside the ground. Thankfully no one was seriously injured.

Clapton fans have no history or rivalry with Thamesmead fans and this attack was not made by Thamesmead fans. The attackers sang racist chants as they pelted Clapton fans with missiles. This was a planned attack, orchestrated by fascists and their allies as a politically motivated assault on Clapton fans for our politics of anti-sexism, anti-homophobia, anti-racism and anti-fascism. Their interest was never in the football and they only attended the game in order to attack us.

We are calling on all supporters of Clapton and all those who stand against fascism to join us this season and celebrate football for all. Specifically, those unable to oppose the fascist White Man March in Liverpool would be welcomed at our home game on Saturday 15th August in the FA Cup against Stanway Rovers

In strength,
Clapton Ultras – Scaffold Brigada'

Dulwich Hamlet banner remembers 1940s Jewish anti-fascist 43 Group

Rather like Dulwich Hamlet FC, Clapton have a radical crew of supporters for whom opposing fascism is part of their identity. Clapton have had several run-ins with fascists previously, including in Southend last year. There is no suggestion of any link between the attackers and Thamesmead Town FC and its supporters. But it is sickening to hear of racists chanting 'we hate n*ggers' last night, just down the road from where Rolan Adams was murdered in a racist attack in the 1990s.

Tuesday, August 04, 2015

Hilly Fields 1907: 'Socialists in hot water: eight arrests follow a riot'

Once upon a time Hilly Fields in Ladywell was the scene of intense political dispute, with thousands arguing and sometimes fighting at public meetings in the park:

'An enormous crowd charged a Socialist procession as it was leaving Hilly Fields, Brockley, yesterday afternoon, and, in the free fight that ensued the S.D.F. [Social Democratic Federation] red flag was hauled down and its bearers severely handled. The police made eight arrests. For some weeks public meetings have been taking place on the Hilly Fields on Sunday afternoons. Yesterday nearly 6,000 people assembled, and distributed themselves into four groups, addressed by members of the S.D.F., a detachment of suffragists, an Anarchist, and an Agnostic respectively. There was a strong attendance of police and London County Council park-keepers to maintain order. The speakers were vigorously heckled during the afternoon, but the meetings were brought to a close without serious interruption. The Socialists marched off, protected by a police escort. In their wake came a hostile crowd, several thousands strong, waving sticks and umbrellas, and hooting and jeering in a threatening manner. The procession passed into Eastern-road, and a strong force of police came up at the run, and attempted, unsuccessfully, to head off the crowd. A sudden rush brought down the red flag, and the next minute the roadway was blocked by a mass of struggling humanity. As the opposing parties came to grips, hats and sticks flew in all directions, and arms and legs were briskly used in the affray. The police acted with restraint throughout, but matters rapidly became worse, and, in order to quieten the crowd, eight of the ringleaders were arrested and marched to the police-station at Ladywell' (Nottingham Evening Post - Monday 25 November 1907)

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Three Feathers & The Old Witch: Two Deptford Fairy Tales

More English Fairy Tales  by Joseph Jacobs (1894) includes a tale called 'Three Feathers' which the author states was 'Collected by Mrs Gomme from some hop-pickers near Deptford' (presumably the folklorist Alice Gomme).

'Once upon a time there was a girl who was married to a husband that she never saw. And the way this was, was that he was only at home at night, and would never have any light in the house. The girl thought that was funny, and all her friends told her there must be something wrong with her husband, some great deformity that made him want not to be seen.

Well, one night when he came home she suddenly lit a candle and saw him. He was handsome enough to make all the women of the world fall in love with him. But scarcely had she seen him when he began to change into a bird, and then he said: 'Now you have seen me, you shall see me no more, unless you are willing to serve seven years and a day for me, so that I may become a man once more.' Then he told her to take three feathers from under his side, and whatever she wished through them would come to pass'.

She uses the feathers to wish for her work as a laundress to be done, and to trick various men out of  their money before the bird man reappears and the live happily ever after.

Another story in the same collection, The Old Witch is also described as 'Collected by Mrs Gomme at Deptford'

'Once upon a time there were two girls who lived with their mother and father. Their father had no work, and the girls wanted to go away and seek their fortunes. Now one girl wanted to go to service, and her mother said she might if she could find a place. So she started for the town. Well, she went all about the town, but no one wanted a girl like her. So she went on farther into the country, and she came to the place where there was an oven where there was lots of bread baking. And the bread said, 'Little girl, little girl, take us out, take us out. We have been baking seven years, and no one has come to take us out.' So the girl took out the bread, laid it on the ground and went on her way. Then she met a cow, and the cow said, 'Little girl, little girl, milk me, milk me! Seven years have I been waiting, and no one has come to milk me.' The girl milked the cow into the pails that stood by. As she was thirsty she drank some, and left the rest in the pails by the cow. Then she went on a little farther, and came to an apple-tree, so loaded with fruit that its branches were breaking down, and the tree said, 'Little girl, little girl, help me shake my fruit. My branches are breaking, it is so heavy.' And the girl said, 'Of course I will, you poor tree.' So she shook the fruit all off, propped up the branches, and left the fruit on the ground under the tree. Then she went on again till she came to a house. Now in this house there lived a witch, and this witch took girls into her house as servants. And when she heard that this girl had left her home to seek service, she said that she would try her, and give her good wages. The witch told the girl what work she was to do. 'You must keep the house clean and tidy, sweep the floor and the fireplace; but there is one thing you must never do. You must never look up the chimney, or something bad will befall you.'

So the girl promised to do as she was told, but one morning as she was cleaning, and the witch was out, she forgot what the witch said, and looked up the chimney. When she did this a great bag of money fell down in her lap. This happened again and again. So the girl started to go off home. When she had gone some way she heard the witch coming after her. So she ran to the apple-tree and cried:

'Apple-tree, apple-tree, hide me,
So the old witch can't find me;
If she does she'll pick my bones,
And bury me under the marble stones.'

So the apple-tree hid her. When the witch came up she said:

'Tree of mine, tree of mine,
Have you seen a girl
With a willy-willy wag, and a long-tailed bag,
Who's stole my money, all I had?'

And the apple-tree said, 'No, mother; not for seven year.'

She outwits the witch, but when her sister tries to do the same without being so helpful along the way she is caught and punished.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Catford Constitutional Club

I finally made it down last week to the Catford Constitutional Club, the pub in what was once the Conservative Club. The decor has a shabby period charm, rather like it was an abandoned outpost of a once powerful political party (OK they still run the country, but they have little presence in Lewisham).  A good place to eat, drink and put the world to rights, and the pub also hosts various comedy, quiz , film and music nights. 

Last Wednesday I was pleased to stumble across a room upstairs full of people playing the ukulele - Catford Charity Strummers seemingly surfing the South London uke wave that also includes Brockley Ukulele Group, Dulwich Ukulele Club, PLUC (People of  Lewisham Ukulele Club) and Goldsmiths Ukulele Society.

The pub is run by Antic, who for a while ran the nearby Catford Bridge Tavern ( (formerly the Copperfield/Railway Tavern) that was seriously damaged in a fire earlier this year. I gather the wooden bar in the Constitutional may have made its way from the CBT. 

Unfortunately the current pub tenancy only runs until October 2016, with the building itself (one of Catford's oldest) threatened by redevelopment plans for the area. With a question mark hanging over whether the Catford Bridge Tavern will ever reopen, the area can ill afford to lose another popular pub. There is a petition calling on Lewisham Council/Catford Regeneration Partnership to extend the tenancy. It says: 'The CCC building is part of planned re-development of the Catford Centre/Thomas Lane. The CCC strongly supports efforts to regenerate the heart of Catford however we feel this should not come at the expense of one of its  most historic buildings or a pub that is fast becoming considered a community asset as was its predecessor the Catford Bridge Tavern'.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Goldsmiths Sayes Court Institute: for 'bona fide artizans and working people' only (1896)

In the late 19th century, the Goldsmiths Institute in New Cross had a satellite 'Sayes Court Institute' in Evelyn Street, Deptford. According to the 1896 Goldsmiths handbook (a copy of which is in the Special Collections archive in Goldsmiths library), the building (pictured)  included a gymnasium hall, reading room/games room and four classrooms.

Membership was restricted to 'bona fide artizans and working people' only, with the benefits including access to Goldsmiths Library and Swimming Bath as well as classes.Use of the building was offered by W.J.Evelyn, who was one of the Governors of the College. Evelyn, a descendant of the 17th century John Evelyn who lived at Sayes Court, bought the site from the Government in 1869 and created what is today Sayes Court park. The building offered for the use of Goldsmiths was a former dockyard building. I'm not sure how long the Institute continued.

The building, also known as Sayes Court Hall, was originally built as a model making facility for the dockyard. It is shown on this 1914 map in the north west corner of Sayes Court Gardens.

1914 Map -source: Sayes Court wikipedia

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

MDC - radical US hardcore veterans at New Cross Inn

US hardcore punk band MDC are playing at the New Cross Inn on 10 August 2015, supported by In Evil Hour, Choking Susan and The Decline.

The band started out as pioneering  Texas punk band The Stains in the late 1970s, with their best known track 'John Wayne was a Nazi'.  They then became 'Millions of Dead Cops', releasing their debut album under this name in 1982.  Later they became known as 'Multi Death Corporation' releasing material in the UK on Crass Records..

I had their Crass records EP back in the day, and the line that has stuck with me - from the track 'Selfish Sh*t' - is 'Socialism for the Rich, Capitalism for the Rest of You'. I now know that they didn't invent it ('Socialism for the Rich, Capitalism for the Poor' is a long standing meme), but I always think of it when I hear about the wealthy enjoying free hospitality while many others struggle to get by.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Linear Obsessional at Lewisham Arts Cafe

From his Hither Green HQ (OK house), Richard Sanderson has quietly and not so quietly been releasing a stream of experimental, improvised and otherwise quirky music on his Linear Obsessional Recordings. But other than his appearances with Blackheath Morris Men he rarely plays out in the Lewisham area.

All that is set to change on Saturday 15 August  (6pm to 8 pm) when Richard is curating an early evening 'concert of improvised and experimental music' at Lewisham Arts Cafe in Manor Park SE13.  Suggested donation £5.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Slam poetry at The Duke

Coming up at the Duke in Deptford on Sunday July 19th (5 pm - 9 pm), Platform 7 present:

'2014 UK & reigning BBC slam poetry champion, David Lee Morgan performing his brand new 2015 Full Edinburgh preview show, BUILDING GOD, 8:00pm [watch David from 2014 here]

With special guest, Bird Radio performing his stunning new album featuring the words of Walter De La Mare, OH! HAPPY ENGLAND (7:15 pm)

Confirmed poetry performance sets by:

Isabel White
Jah-Mir Early
Mell B. Nyoko
Nat Nye
and the inimitable Jazzman John Clarke'

The Duke is at 125 Creek Road, SE8 3BU

Tuesday, July 07, 2015

Deptford and Lewisham on film, 1922

The BFI's new Britain on Film Archive, launched today, no doubt has many local treasures among its 25,000 films available to view online. My favourite so far is remarkable film tour of Lewisham in 1922, featuring lots of high street scenes, along with Deptford High Street, Ladywell park and other locations: 'This exquisitely detailed tour of the south-east London borough of Lewisham traverses town centre tramways and the Rivers Ravensbourne and Quaggy, gliding past ornate-signed outfitters and grander edifices like the Chiesman Brothers department store. We visit Deptford High Street and Catford, glimpse women workers leaving a Watney's bottling plant - and schoolboys practising their country dancing'. You can watch the whole thing here. Here's some stills to whet your appetite.

Ladywell Park Cascades

Children playing in the River Quaggy

Bray & Bray opticians, New Cross Road

Chiesman Brothers department store, Lewisham High Street

Munro & Co Drapers, 141-143 Deptford High Street

Sunday, July 05, 2015

American Football on Peckham Rye

Peckham Rye today was its usual summer smorgasbord of physical culture. There were runners, boule players and, on the Independence Day weekend, American footballers from London teams Olympians and London Blitz

Australian rules, Gaelic football and soccer are also available in SE15.

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 Goldsmiths Students Union (Dixon Road SE14), 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.

Note - this event was previously scheduled to take place at Deptford Cinema, but venue has been changed

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