Saturday, September 17, 2016

Crystal Palace Subway

As part of Open House London this weekend, the old Crystal Palace Subway is open this weekend and I went along today. The subway, which opened in 1865, once linked the High Level Station to Crystal Palace Park, passing under Crystal Palace Parade. After the Crystal Palace was burned down in 1936, the need for it declined. It was used as an air raid shelter in World War Two, but became obsolete when the High Level railway station was closed in 1954. In the 1970s it was bricked up, and although occasionally broken into for raves it has rarely been opened since.

nice touch - a list of staff known to have worked in the station refreshment rooms
The subway is open again tomorrow, Sunday 17 September 2016, 10 -  5, no need to book

The Chemical Brothers 'Setting Sun' video was filmed there in 1996

Friday, September 16, 2016

Bermondsey Folk Festival and films

Bermondsey Folk Festival concluded in the sun last Sunday 11th September with a fine music stage at the Bermondsey Summer Fete at Compass School SE16,

There was Irish dancing from Bermondsey-based Carragher Academy:

And lots of good music - I caught the Bara Bara Band (who host Tooting Folk) and  Tim Jones & The Dark Lanterns (pictured below):

Stalls included one from the Biscuit Factory Museum with tins and publications from the old Peak Freans factory. Tomorrow (Saturday 17 September, Biscuit Factory Museum founder Gary Magold is showing archive film footage of the Bermondsey area as part of the Grosvenor Film Festival at the Biscuit Factory (Building F, 100 Clements Roads SE16). The free films, showing from 3:00 pm to 5:30 pm will include a 1939 May Day and a 1988 documentary on the biscuit factory as it was closing down.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

117 Lewisham Way Revisited

Ten years ago a rather grand but decaying house at 117 Lewisham Way, near to Goldsmiths College in New Cross, was demolished. The house had an interesting history, including a brief period as home for New Cross synagogue and a space for artists to live and work in. In its last days it was squatted and known as the Elephant House (see full history in previous post here).

At the nearby Lewisham ArtHouse this weeked (Friday - Sunday, 16-18 September) there's an event to celebrate the memory of 117 with films, music and a play linked to the house.

"117oneoneseven" is a devised play from Kyoto-based theatre company BRDG, based on memories of growing up in the house told by a British woman living in Japan.

"Ghost House, Gone House" is a pair of films made in the house before it was demolished, and will be shown side by side accompanied by an improvised soundtrack from the film makers and musicians David Aylward and Tom Scott (who perform as Rabbit). Tom grew up in the house, and he and David used to rehearse there. Others performing on Saturday include Nick Doyne-Ditmas (Bass/Brass) and Adam Bohman (Prepared Strings and Amplified Objects).

Thursday, September 08, 2016

A plaque for Catford's Antarctic Explorer

'On Saturday 10th September, a Lewisham Council plaque will be unveiled to mark the Catford residence of Captain William Colbeck (1871–1930).  Captain Colbeck moved to 51 Inchmery Road in 1913, following an adventurous career at sea, which included:

• being a member of the first expedition to spend a whole year on the Antarctic continent (The Southern Cross expedition, 1898–1900)
• travelling further south than anyone previously (to 78° 50’, on 17 February 1900), with the Norwegian leader of the expedition, Carsten Borchgrevink
• bringing food and fuel supplies to Captain Scott and his men on the ice-bound Discovery in 1903, and again in 1904
• helping to release the Discovery from the ice, by blasting open an 18-mile passage to the open sea.

The plaque has been funded by the UK Antarctic Heritage Trust (UKAHT) and the Culverley Green Residents’ Association.  It will be unveiled by Dr Kevin Fewster, Director of the National Maritime Museum.  Also present will be Camilla Nichol, Chief Executive of the UKAHT, and Heidi Alexander, MP, along with descendants of Captain Colbeck and other figures from the Heroic Age of Antarctic exploration'. 

This will be the third plaque in Lewisham to an Antarctic explorer, joining Sir James Clark Ross in Blackheath and Sir Ernest Shackleton in Sydenham. The borough can thus boast a record three of the six Antarctic plaques in London.

Official unveiling:
51 Inchmery Road, Catford, SE6 2N, Saturday 10 September 2016, 11.30am-12noon


Wednesday, September 07, 2016

Test Dept:Redux - Return to New Cross

Test Dept are surely one of the most influential bands to emerge from the local area, starting out in New Cross in the early 1980s (some band members lived at 8 Nettleton Road) and pioneering a politically committed industrial sound. 

In the last couple of years members of the band, who have remained active across musical and other cultural fields, have been involved in a number of events commemorating the  30th anniversary of the miners strike in which the band were very involved - during the strike they played benefits at the Albany in Deptford among other places.  I went to a great event at the Ritzy in Brixton last April which included the band presenting and discussing the film  DS30, a collage documenting that period.

This Saturday September 10th at the Amersham Arms sees a rare live performance:

'An intimate immersion into the Test Dept machine on our return to New Cross, South London with support from Feral Five and DJs providing an eclectic mix of Dub Sub Punk Noise Electro Industrial.

Test Dept:Redux
Feral Five

Elena Colombi (NTS Radio)
Am矇lie Ravalec and Travis Collins (Industrial Soundtrack For The Urban Decay)
Satellitic (Test Dept)
GrayC (Test Dept)

Roof Terrace BBQ Tickets £10 + booking fee available in advance from Eventbrite; £10 or £8 Concession on the door' (facebook details here)

A little while ago I played a set of music from the miners strike at am Agitdisco benefit for Housmans bookshop, and met Paul Jamrozy from Test Dept who was also playing. Here's my mix which of course includes some Test Dept.

Saturday, September 03, 2016

So many (free) films, so little time

The free film festival scene continues to grow, easy to take them for granted but seeing lots of great movies for free at interesting venues on your doorstep - how cool is that?

Peckham and Nunhead  is on right now until 11 September - full programme here. It will soon be followed locally by Forest Hill from 9 September (as well as Charlton and Woolwich starting on same day), then Catford free film festival from 16 September - opening event is The Great Gatsby at Broadway Theatre, with live music beforehand from Lewisham and Greenwich NHS Choir.

Friday, September 02, 2016

New Cross Party in the Park 2016

Tomorrow (Saturday 3rd September) sees the New Cross Party in the Park returning to Fordham Park, a free community festival 'for all ages, with family events, arts and crafts, stalls, spoken word, as well as local bands and acts for all tastes from disco to reggae, punk rock, soul and folk'.
The party follows on from previous events in 2013 and 2014 (see report here), and traces its origins back to the legendary Deptford Urban Free Festivals held in the park in the 1990s. Remember seeing RDF  (Radical Dance Faction) back there then and they are playing tomorrow. 

Sunday, August 21, 2016

'Incendiarism at New Cross' (1842) - was Louis XVII involved?!

An interesting account of apparent arson at a rocket factory in New Cross, from the Evening Mail, 9 March 1842. The location, given as Minerva House, seems to have been on what is now New Cross Road just up from the White Hart Hotel - as this was the location of the New Cross turnpike gate.

Also intrigued by the identity of the factory's owner, described as the Duke of Normandy. There is a report in the London Gazette from 1843, not long after this fire, of a 'Charles Louis Bourbon, Duke of Normandy, late of Minerva House, New Cross, Deptford, Surrey, Trader, Modelist and Machinist' being 'In the Gail of Horsemonger Lane' for debt. Clearly this is the same person, name sounds very distressed French aristocracy.


Late on Sunday night last the inhabitants residing in the vicinity of New-cross, near Deptford, were thrown into considerable alarm by the outbreak of destructive fire on some premises attached to the residence of the Duke of Normandy and Count Wallusee, known as Minerva-house, situated on the west side of the Old Kent-road, within a few yards of the New-cross turnpike-gate, which on inquiry was ascertained to be a manufactory carried on the Duke of Normandy for the construction of rockets, shells, and other implements of warfare.

The factory so called consisted of two back buildings, two floors in height, and occupied a frontage of about 35 feet, at the extremity of the garden in the rear of the dwelling-house, and they are said to have contained, besides machinery, a great quantity of valuable models of various missiles. For considerable time before the flames burst forth the police on duty in the immediate neighbourhood observed a strong smell of wood burning, and not being able to discover whence it proceeded, though at the same time convinced that fire must be kindling, they determined upon arousing the inhabitants residing near the near the spot, which was quickly effected, and shortly afterwards the fire was found raging in the upper floor of the premises.

The Duke of Normandy and Count Wallusee were soon at the fire, and in the course of few minutes a large number of the surrounding inhabitants came to their assistance, who exerted every effort to prevent the flames from spreading, but it was found wholly impossible to do so, in consequence of there being no water, and in very short time the principal part of the works was completely in a blaze. Immediately on the discovery being made, an express was started to the metropolis to give intelligence of the fire to the various engine stations, and in about half-an-hour several belonging to the Brigade, from the stations in Southwark-bridge-road, Morgan’s lane, Waterloo-road,  and Watling-street, with the superintendant of the force, Mr. Braidwood, arrived alongside of the burning premises. The firemen, however, not being able to get the engines to work for the want of a supply of water, they were but of little avail, but ultimately the fire was prevented from extending beyond the building in which it commenced and which is totally destroyed.

From what has since been ascertained, it appears beyond doubt that the fire was the act of an incendiary, who obtained entrance into the premises by means of a skeleton key, which was discovered by the police in the door of the factory, the approach to which was a narrow dark lane at the back, and from circumstances that have transpired it is expected that the guilty party  will in a few hours be in the custody of the police. About three weeks since the Duke of Normandy, in consequence of a threatening letter received, endeavoured to effect insurance on the property in the Sun Fire-office, but the directors declined the offer on account of the heavy sum which was required. The premises destroyed have only been erected  few months, and were wholly detached from any other premises.

The Duke of Normandy, in an interview with the reporter yesterday, said no one worked in the factory but himself, and that the whole of his improved rockets, models, and other important inventions, were destroyed. Several them had been highly approved of by Her Majesty’s Government, and it was their intention to have introduced them into the services, but some difficulties ensued respecting the treaty of which was required 60,000 which was required by by the noble Duke, and the offer was abandoned. He estimates his loss at upwards of 4,000'.

(not sure from the report what the unit of currency was - presumably pounds or guineas)

The Duke seems to have had an eventful life - and/or been a fantasist. In January 1845 it was reported that 'Charles Louis de Bourbon, commonly known as the Duke of Normandy' was subject of an alleged assassination attempt 'at his residence, Mulgrave House, Kings Road, Fulham'. The Duke claimed that  a bullet missed him by 'an inch or two'  and blamed the attack on 'Roman Catholics' who were 'against him for having lately abjured their creed. Three weeks previously  he had received a latter from a French priest, warning him of a plot to take his life, and he had also received two other communications informing him of a conspiracy against him amongst some Frenchmen'  (Royal Cornwall Gazette, 10 January 1845).

Update: in a comment to this post, Caroline has suggested that this character appears to be Karl Wilhelm Naundorff (1785-1845), a German watchmaker and weapon designer who styled himself Charles Louis de Bourbon and claimed to be heir to the French throne (i.e. Louis XVII as the child of the executed Louis XVI). In the 1820s he was accused of arson and counterfeiting in Germany - which maybe casts doubt on his claim that New Cross fire was started by others. He was deported by French authorities to England in 1836.

Naundorff - self-styled Louis XVII of New Cross

An 1893 book written on behalf of a rival claimant to the throne confirms that Naundorff was the 'Duke of Normandy' living in New Cross at this time, surrounded by a court of the 'subservient disciples of Minerva House'. The author suggests that 'The truth probably was that Naundorff caused the accident  himself, through some carelessness in handling the inflammable materials in which he was working' and that the arsonist angle had been developed for publicity purposes (see: 'The story of Louis XVII of France' by Elizabeth Edson Gibson Evans, 1893).  

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Lewisham health visiting threatened by Jeremy Hunt's cuts

Health visiting and school nursing services are facing cuts in Lewisham as a result of a £4.7 million reduction in the public health grant that the Council receives from central government. Lewisham Council is consulting on how it will make these cuts (consultation here - closes 14 August), and local NHS campaigners Save Lewisham Hospital have started a petition opposing the cuts. They say:

'What some of us might not know (or have forgotten) is just how essential children's community nurses and health visitors are. Children's services are not some non-essential, 'cuttable' part of the local health service. They are central to protecting our most vulnerable children from disease and neglect. They provide the bulk of our safeguarding and public health commitments, from cradle to adulthood. It is not the place of Lewisham Council to take these services away from the next generation, it is their duty to demand they are adequately funded. Please, for the skilled staff, vulnerable children and community, sign this petition, once again, demand to Save NHS Services in Lewisham, and keep your eyes peeled for any actions or demonstrations we may announce. At a time when the government and NHS England are stressing the importance of preventative and community services: WE THE UNDERSIGNED OPPOSE THESE CUTS AND URGE THE COUNCIL NOT TO ACCEPT THEM AND TO DEMAND THE RESTORATION OF AN ADEQUATE PUBLIC HEALTH GRANT FROM CENTRAL GOVERNMENT'.

Right as they are to oppose these reductions, I can't help feel they are falling into a Government trap by addressing this solely to the Mayor of Lewisham, Steve Bullock. Until last year the responsibility for commissioning (i.e. funding) of health visiting was managed within the NHS - which meant that the  buck stopped ultimately with the Minister for Health. The transfer of this responsibility to local Councils from 1 October 2015 was promoted as offering 'service sustainability' and 'maximum benefit for local people'. But no sooner did this transfer happen than local authorities were told that the funding for these services was being reduced, with Department of Health announcing cuts in November 2015.

In effect in many areas, Councils have been given responsibility for a service that currently costs x million and then given x million minus a big cut to fund it - all at a time when Councils are struggling to maintain services they were already responsible for. Cleverly, the blame for this can now be laid at the door of local authorities so that Jeremy Hunt can now say, 'well if you don't like it, blame the Council'. So yes, lobby Lewisham but also lets look beyond the local at the bigger picture of Department of Health cuts of £200m to the public health grant that are threatening health visiting and other community health services across the country.


Wednesday, August 10, 2016

More Lewisham 1977 Photos from Anti-Fascist Demo

The London Metropolitan Archives Collage London Picture Archive, 'Collage' has lots of great photos from across the capital. The Lewisham section includes some photographs by Chris Schwarz from the anti-National Front mobilisation of August 1977 (sometimes  referred to as  the 'Battle of Lewisham'). Here's a couple of details from  the photos, full set here.
This is from the demonstration organised by the All Lewisham Campaign Against Racism and Fascism (ALCARAF), which gathered on Ladywell Fields - banners in photo include Indian Workers Association, Morning Start and Campaign for Homosexual Equality (Lewisham):
The march progressed down Ladywell Road and into Lewisham High Street. The 'Lewisham 24' graffiti on the railway bridge refers to the arrest of young black men in police raids in May 1977 - an action that sparked the cycle of events leading to the National Front march (see chronology here). Demonstrators are carrying 'One Race- the Human Race, Unite to Fight Racialism' placards, which I believe were produced by the Communist Party of Great Britain.


Monday, August 08, 2016

Free Nazanin Ratcliffe

Former Brockley resident Nazanin Ratcliffe has now been in jail in Iran for four months, having been detained while attempting to fly back from a family holiday there.  Her two year old child who was with her at the time is now with relatives in Iran while her British husband is in London campaigning for her release. It has been reported that she is in poor health having been kept for long periods in solitary confinement.
Nazanin lived in Tyrwhitt Road, with former housemate Clare Cowen supporting the campaign, including posters such as this one in the Hilly Fields caf矇. Nearly 800,000 people have signed the petition calling on the British government to step up its efforts to secure her freedom.

Monday, August 01, 2016

Brockley Launderette Closing in Endwell Road

The Launderette in Endwell Road, Brockley, SE4 is to close. A sign in its window gives a closing date as Sunday 18th September. I don't know why, businesses close and indeed open all the time for all kinds of reason, but as Dave Hill highlighted earlier this year launderettes in London are vanishing fast.

Of course the need for launderettes has diminished since their heyday, as domestic washing machines have became more widespread and even student accommodation nowadays usually has access to one. But as with the also disappearing high street banks and post offices, the fact that many people no longer need or use them is no comfort to those who still rely on them.   

Not sure what the plans are for the place - it's actually an unusual and quite grand building, anybody know anything about its history, or for that matter its future?

'Back in the mid-1980s, launderettes - or laundrettes? - became fashionable in a very mid-1980s way. A TV commercial set in one famously rescued the ailing sales of Levis and the film My Beautiful Laundrette captured a London mood of the time: a blend of cultural tensions, economic change and sexual possibilities. Shot on a shoestring in south London, it contains a scene in which a crowd of customers gathers outside, impatient to be let in. It’s hard to imagine any screenwriter dreaming up quite such intense demand for a London launderette today' (Dave Hill, London's launderettes are closing but their value and beauty remains, Guardian, 24 January 2016)

My Beautiful Laundrette (1985) - filmed around Battersea and  Wandsworth

Sunday, July 31, 2016

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

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

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Zoe Konez - Bones

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

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

Sunday, July 17, 2016

'Superhumans' Paralympics Trailer filmed at Rivoli Ballroom

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

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

Friday, July 15, 2016


A tough day, stumbled into something joyful in Peckham. 

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

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

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

Thursday, July 14, 2016

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

From the Daily Mirror, 1 October 1960:

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

'from Dixon Scott, Catford, Friday Night'

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(photo of the Savoy ballroom from Alamy)

The site of the former Savoy today, 75 Rushey Green

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

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Wicca talk at Old Kings Head SE1,

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

When we were Kings - Ali tribute night at Goldsmiths

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

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

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

Tickets here - all profits will go to Parkinsons UK.

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

Lobby against Lewisham Library Cuts

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

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

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

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

Sunday, July 10, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kathryn Williams at Canada Water Library

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

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

Sunday, July 03, 2016

New Bowie Mural in Bromley

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

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

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

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Cush Jumbo - Lewisham's finest

Sad to see the final ever episode of The Good Wife, one of the best programmes on TV in recent years. The last series was enlivened by the character of up and coming lawyer Lucca Quinn, played by Cush Jumbo.  Took me a while to realize that the actress hails not from Chicago, but from Lewisham! Her performing career started off with tap dancing lessons in the 'sham, and she went to Cator Park school then  Brits.

Cush will be starring in a Good Wife spin off series, centred on her character and Diane Lockhart, played by Christine Barinski. So you might not spot her in Lewisham McDeez for a whle.

Cush Jumbo reading to kids at Deptford Park Primary School in 2014


Saturday, June 25, 2016

The Mighty Scheme - Graham Fagen

A couple of weeks ago (12 June) I went to a live performance by Ghetto Priest and Adrian Sherwood at Dilston Grove in Southwark Park.  The event was part of the 'The Mighty Scheme' exhibition by the Scottish artist Graham Fagen, taking place at Dilston Grove and at the nearby CGP gallery in the park.

I went back today to check out the exhibition in full. Its centrepiece is a four screen film and video installation 'The Slave's Lament', featuring Ghetto Priest singing Robert Burns' anti-slavery song of that name accompanied by strings. In the dark, cool space of the ex-church it is beautiful and mesmerising. 

The only other object in the church is a haunting rope tree, with its echoes of lynchings. Fagen is interested in the relationship between Caribbean history and Scottish identity. Burns, central to the latter, not only wrote about slavery but planned at one point to move to Jamaica. Ironically if he had succeeded it would probably have been to work on a slave plantation. He couldn't afford to make the trip, and then found success as a poet which made his escape from a precarious financial position in Scotland unnecessary.

Outside is one of Fagen's neon works 'Come into the Garden and forget about the war', while there is a series of connected work in the CGP gallery just across the grass. 

Tomorrow - Sunday 26th June - is your last chance to see this exhibition - both galleries are open from 11 am to 5 pm, admission free.

Natural Anarchy - Graham Fagen

Monday, June 20, 2016

Brexit, lexit and Lewisham: why I am voting 'Remain'

Political divisions arising from the EU referendum are shaking all political parties, and a little earthquake has rumbled the Lewisham left with a split in 'Lewisham People Before Profit'.  The group seems to have originally adopted a position of not taking a position on the referendum, but then 'People Before Profit decided at a special meeting on Wednesday 25th May to abandon it's previous "no policy" stance on the EU in favour of actively supporting the Leave campaign' (LPBP website). Among those who resigned as a result was Nicholas Long, the party's parliamentary candidate for Lewisham East in the last General Election. He is a supporter of 'Another Europe is Possible' which argues for a Remain vote on a left wing basis.

The row also seems to have precipitated the departure of another prominent member, the controversial Ray Woolford, who announced on twitter that he had resigned because of the way 'the EU vote was called and key activists forced out!'. Not sure if they've made up since, but Woolford is actually a keen advocate of the Leave campaign.

The precise details of this aren't really relevant, but this is a small local episode in the wider tragi-comedy of the 'Lexit' campaign - those on the left who are arguing for a vote to leave the European Union. By no means all the left beyond the Labour Party is supporting this position - the remains of the SWP following its 2013 rape allegation crisis and splits are pro-Brexit, while some of its more thoughtful ex-members take the opposite view (see for instance respected activist Jonathan Neale's passionate call).

Not sure I believe that the sky will fall in whatever the referendum result next week, the rich will still be getting richer, the poor will still be poor, there will still be housing shortages and refugees will still be dying in the Mediterranean. I can see why some people think it's not worth voting at all. I certainly don't think the EU is some paradise of peace, harmony and human rights, it is quite right to criticise, among other things, its approach to the thousands of deaths of migrants trying to reach its shores. It has played a highly dubious role in the imposition of austerity in Greece, even if technically this relates to the country's membership of the Eurozone common currency rather than the EU as such.

However, I can't see how any of this will change by leaving the EU. In the UK it is precisely the political forces who are most anti-refugee and pro-privatisation who are leading the Brexit campaign and likely to benefit from a Leave majority. In any event, the current state of global capitalism is not the result of a conspiracy by institutions like the EU - a go it alone UK would still be tied into all the other international relations of the market and its crises, like every other country in the world. The notion that a vote against the EU represents some kind of vote against 'neo-liberalism' seems to be a delusion, and as the referendum approaches its real political content has increasingly become about immigration, immigration and immigration.

There is one group of people who are going to be immediately affected in a negative way by a Brexit vote and that is people from other EU countries who have made their lives in this country, doing all the usual things like working, falling in love, sending their kids to the local school. I can think of many neighbours, friends, work colleagues etc. who this applies to, not to mention lots of people working in essential services (like this Dutch GP in Lewisham). I am sure they would not all be kicked out the day after a referendum, but they will be living with insecurity and ultimately if the same rules were applied to them as to people from other parts of the world (based on an income of £35,000+), around 80% of them would not qualify (see 'What Happens to EU Citizens Living in the UK If We Leave?' by Joseph Finlay). While some have hailed anti-EU sentiment as some kind of working class rebellion, the actual working class includes a high proportion of migrants, not to mention the descendants of previous generations who were born outside of the UK.

This applies more so in London than anywhere else in the country, and out of basic solidarity with my neighbours I have decided to vote to remain.