Friday, November 21, 2014

Deptford Dub Club back at the Duke

Deptford Dub Club is back at the Duke tomorrow night,  offering a free night of reggae, rocksteady and ska. Steve Wax reports:

'On Saturday 22nd November we’re re-convening The Deptford Dub Club at the Duke. From 7.30 to 12.30 we’ll be playin’ the best in foundation Jamaican roots music from Ska through to the present.

Our special guest selectors for this session are David Katz and Dub Plate Pearl. David is an acclaimed author and broadcaster on all things reggaematic and a wicked selector. Pearl is also an a great selector, well known on the circuit, who’ll be sure to rock the house. Not forgetting yours truly; I probably need no introduction for Soft Wax regulars and will be delving deep into my musical dub basket for this edition of The Deptford Dub Club.

Our MC for the evening will be rising star Sun I Tafari. Sun I has already graced the stage at the annual Brockwell Park Reggae Festival. This young lion has released a number of acclaimed records and has a fresh LP due; check him on He’ll be joined by Eli Love. Also live on the mic, we’re warmly welcoming back Jaz on Reeds.

There’ll be a vintage record stall for your continued listening pleasure. Expect the usual simultaneously up for it, yet chilled vibe. Deptford Dub Club is now on Facebook too.  where you can check last months blazing session'

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Lewisham McDeez

Lewisham McDonalds gets its dues at last in this grime track from Novelist - 'I wanna sit down with my fillet-o-fish bruv'

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Focus E15 Mother Benefit at Montague Arms

This Saturday 22nd November there's an all day benefit for the Focus E15 Mothers campaign, who have been fighting in East London to retain social housing. Lots of great punk rock/riot grrrlish musical action, plus cakes, zines, stalls and a raffle.


The Dykeness - 'feminist comedy cock rock band'
Skinny Girl Diet - 'Fierce grrrl gang from London'
Rabies Babies - 'The funnest, angriest punk band of East London'
Colour Me Wednesday -'four piece DIY punk/indie pop band based in West London'
Joykiller  - 'Punk rock from Norwich. Formed from local bands Compact Pussycat, PMT and Driving Holden/Arcadia Lake'
Petrol Girls - 'Local favourites playing melodic hardcore infused with feminist rage'
Beverley Kills - 'Riotous femmepunkrockahula!' 
Depresstival - antifolk from Lottie Bowater
Werecats- 'Bubblegum party punk'

Stalls House of Astbury - 'reflective clothing for women urban cyclists'; Love Sex Hate Sexism; South London Anti-Fascists.

Saturday 22nd November, The Montague Arms, Queens Road SE15, 3 pm – 1 am. Tickets £6 advance (£8 on the door)  from 

Monday, November 17, 2014

Music Monday: Charly Records and New Cross Records

I've got a few great 1960/70s soul compilations issued on Charly Records in the 1980s. Looking at the back of one of them, Stan's Soul Shop (released in 1982), I noticed that the label was based at the time  at 156-166 Ilderton Road SE15.

Charly is a label dedicated to reissuing classic old music, starting out in the 1970s putting out early rock'n'roll from Sun Records. Not sure when they moved from Ilderton Road, last reference I have to them there is on 1993 Howlin' Wolf album

Also based at the same address in the 1980s/early 1990s, and linked to Charly, was reggae label New Cross Records. They put out albums by the likes of Dillinger and Prince Jammy, and a couple of compilations of Black Music in Britain in the Early Fifites

From the latter, here's Lord Beginner's calypso observations of the 1950 General Election in Britain:

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Two Book Sales

A sign of a good secondhand booksale is when you come home with as many books as you can carry but still finding yourself thinking about a book that  you wish you had bought. In my case that would be a nice hardback edition of 'Giordano Bruno and the Hermetic Tradition' by Frances Yates which I once left behind at the Amnesty International booksale in Blackheath. Never mind they've got another one coming up next week:

Amnesty Book Clearance Sale, 10am-4pm Saturday 22 November
Church of the Ascension, Dartmouth Row, London SE10 8BF (10 minutes walk up Lewisham Hill from Lewisham National Rail and DLR Station).

'Simon Ware, Vice Chair of Amnesty's Blackheath and Greenwich Group , said :“The local group has collected thousands of books from a variety of sources, including publishers and book reviewers as well as individual donors. The quality of books – many of which are brand new – is exceptionally high, and there will be plenty of bargains to be found, from second-hand paperbacks to review copies of recently-published novels.”  The group’s book sales, now in their 40th year, are established as Amnesty International’s most successful local fundraising event in the UK, raising more than £275,000 over the years. They are a much loved event for many in the local area and often there is a queue of people waiting to get into the event when the doors open'

Meanwhile New Cross Learning are having a Big Book Sale tomorrow from 2 to 5 pm. They promise: 'Thousands of books from 30p! Second hand, vintage, antique and new. Also CDs and DVDs. Come to NXL on Sunday 16th November and go home richer'. At 282 New Cross Road.

Friday, November 14, 2014

'Partisanship' & 'Unsportsmanlike action' - Dulwich Hamlet supporters, 1903

With their stickers, radical fan contingent and even Transpontine banner, Dulwich Hamlet's supporters have been getting quite a reputation - featured recently in the Independent as the Rabble vanguard of the rise in non-league football support: 'Far, far away from the £2,000 season tickets, the officious stewarding, and the airline-stadium sponsorship of the Premier League, a football revolution is underway.In this otherworld, supporters can buy a craft ale and drink it standing behind the goal. Here is a place where crowd segregation is unnecessary and where fans, quite of their own volition, take up banners calling for an end to racism and homophobia in football and display them from the stadium walls'

More than a hundred years ago, the team's supporters already had a fearsome reputation, judging by this article in the South London Press, 7 February 1903:

'Perhaps without unduly prolonging an unsavoury subject, I may be permiited to quote from one letter sent me this week from a Hamlet supporter, judging by the gist of his remarks. He writes:  "... I have only watched them (Dulwich Hamlet) a few times this season, my chief reason for absenting myself being their strong weakness for fouling and the unsportsmanlike action of their supporters. The latter show far too much partisanship, and rarely give the opponents the slightest credit for good work. This kind of thing does the club concerned a lot of harm. Once get a strong and determined referee who will not put up with the insulting remarks made to him so often on this ground, but report the matter, and the ground will be closed... The Dulwich Hamlet are undoubtedly a fine team, but their reputation is likely to be tarnished unless the players mend their ways and the spectators behave like English sportsmen".

I believe the behaviour of certain sections of the Champion Hill crowd has already engaged the serious attention of the club committee... A few summary ejectments by the police and severe measures by the referees would quickly kill this pest that often brings humiliation and disgrace to a club morally, but not legally, to blame in this matter'.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Of River Crossings and eco-magic in Oxleas Wood

New roads crossing the river Thames, by bridge or tunnel, are back on the agenda nearly twenty years after the Government's major road building programme of the 1990s fizzled out amidst sustained opposition to its environmental impact. In South East London, the most advanced plan is for the Silvertown tunnel from the Greenwich peninsula to the Royal Docks across the river. Opponents of the Silvertown scheme argue that this would 'actually make congestion worse, not better, as building new roads attracts new traffic. With extra congestion comes extra pollution... Already, the A102 and A2 can’t cope with the volume of traffic from the existing southbound Blackwall Tunnel, with queues through Eltham, Kidbrooke, Blackheath, Charlton and Greenwich'. Meanwhile Greenwich Council is advocating a new road bridge at Gallions Reach to replace the Woolwich ferry.

Back in 1993, plans for an East London River Crossing were abandoned. The scheme would have involved building a new road through Oxleas Wood and it was this in particular that galvanised the movement against it, spearheaded by 'People Against the River Crossing'. A wide range of tactics were used including lobbying, legal action - the 'Oxleas Nine' who appealed against compulsory purchase orders - and the threat of direct action, with thousands pledging to block any attempts to bulldoze a road through the trees.

Oxleas campaigners including David Bellamy outside the High Court
An unusual added element was the use of 'eco-magic' by pagans and occultists as part of the movement, with Oxleas provided the main initial focus for the new Dragon Environmental Network. A newspaper report described one of their gatherings to oppose the road:

'There is magic in the air at Oxleas Wood in Eltham, south-east London. More than 70 people are dancing in circles, banging drums and singing to the pagan goddess Freya. 'Ancient mother, I taste your tears,' they chant. Then the circles pick up speed and move closer before the dancers collapse on to the meadow grass, ready for meditation.These are the people of Dragon, a pagan group that brings together witches, Odinists, druids, magicians and the many other elements of the neo-pagan revival now taking place in Britain...

They assemble at a boarded-up cafe on top of a hill overlooking Oxleas Meadow; a high-spirited, straggling group of men, women, children and the inevitable dogs.A few crusties with army greens and muddy boots mingle with grannies in bobble hats, young mothers with pushchairs, youngsters with names such as Cherokee, and a core of slightly intense, baggy jumpered people in their thirties. Some have drums, one man has brought an electric guitar with portable speakers, one woman has a flute' ('If you go down to the wood today: In the moonlight, witches and druids throw a magic ring around a piece of south-east London', Independent, 27 May 1993). Among other things, 'To protect Oxleas, London Dragon buried talismans in the wood.We each spent a lunar month preparing our talisman in our own way. They were then buried together during a ritual' (The Dragon Guide to Campaigning Ecomagic)

Did the spirit of W.B. Yeats help save Oxleas Wood?!

There's an interesting participant's account of all this at View from the Big Hills blog, which recalls that the Fellowship of Isis also became involved via a circuitous route. FOI founder Olivia Robertson believed that she received a message via a spirit medium from the poet W.B. Yeats which prompted her to undertake a number of rituals to protect Oxleas Wood.  Yeats was, incidentally, among other things an occultist with sometime South London connections. Caroline Wise likewise recalls that with another member of the FOI  she  'ritually placed [notices] on trees at the four quarters of the woods, with a spoken proclamation. The notices said that the Noble Order of Tara would not allow the destruction of the wood and that its guardians duly protected the wood.  We posted these at the entrance gates to the wood form the road at Shooter’s Hill as well'.

Did all of this have any effect? If nothing else it all added a colourful angle to the campaign and helped generate some publicity. As Adrian from Dragon said at the time 'All you can say is that if Oxleas Wood is saved, we hope we will have contributed. We would never claim it was our spells that did it, but it's important that people involved with magic are putting their spirituality behind the campaign'. It's not necessary to believe in supernatural forces to see that spending time in the wood communing with trees probably strengthened the emotional connection of those involved to the place, and this in turn inspired their wider activism. Some of the people involved in the eco-magic side of things were also the most active in the mundane but essential work of community organising and awareness raising.

No doubt if a new generation of road protestors emerges they will find much to inspire them in the movements of the 1990s, including the successful one to save Oxleas Wood. Whether magic in the moonlight forms part of their tactical armoury, we shall see.

The proposed route of East London River Crossing and related roads
(from E-Shooters Hill)

Monday, November 10, 2014

Music Monday: SE4-Real at Montague Arms

Coming up next Monday 17th November at the Montague Arms, a night of bands from New Cross/Brockley area with some great punky/garagey/riot grrlish noise, some of them so lo-fi that they have released cassettes (and in the case of  PAMs recorded at Brockley Studios in Arabin Road)

'From the Burning Streets of Brockley! The ‘Boss’ from the ‘Cross! An SE4-Real showcase with

Flemmings: Future ‘90s rock heroes! Take the money you’d otherwise spend on a sub-par Thurston/Mascis solo album, and GIVE IT TO THESE GUYS INSTEAD.

PAMs: Short! Fast! Loud! Stupid..? You be the judge, they’ll be the executioners.

Charla Fantasma: Long-rumoured new trio emerge from practice room cocoon as magnificent butterfly! Expect fuzz, melody, chaos, eternal love, etc.

Cat Smell: Barbed disaffection hides beneath sugar-coated joy as Give It Ups veterans shift gear toward garagey, two-guitar kerfuffle.

MONDAY 17th NOVEMBER at THE MONTAGUE ARMS, Queens Rd, SE14 2PA (Overground: Queens Road Peckham / New Cross Gate). £3 on the door. Music begins from 8ish.

Friday, November 07, 2014

The Paying Guests - a novel of 1920s South London

Sarah Waters' latest novel, The Paying Guests (Virago, 2014) is set in 1920s South London, where a mother and daughter fallen on hard times after the First World War take in lodgers in their once grand home on the Camberwell/Dulwich borders: 'Champion Hill, on the whole, kept itself to itself. The gardens were large, the trees leafy. You would never know, she thought: that grubby Camberwell was just down there'.

The lodgers are of a lower class, moving over from Peckham Rye, and with one of them the daughter of shopkeepers on the Walworth Road. Most of the action takes place in this Champion Hill/Camberwell/Walworth Road area, with Ruskin Park featuring significantly. If you know Sarah Waters' previous work (including Fingersmith and Tipping the Velvet), I don't think it would be giving too much away to reveal that the plot includes crime, class and lesbian romance in a meticulously recreated historical context (she thanks Lambeth and Southwark local studies archives for their help). The author lived in Brixton for many years, then Kennington, so knows this part of the world very well.

The novel also features a paean to the joys of wandering through London:

'She loved these walks through London. She seemed, as she made them, to become porous, to soak in detail after detail; or else, like a battery, to become charged. Yes, that was it, she thought, as she turned a corner: it wasn't a liquid creeping, it was a tingle, something electric, something produced by the friction of her shoes against the streets. She was at her truest, it seemed to her, in these tingling moments - these moments when, paradoxically, she was also at her most anonymous. But it was this anonymity that did it. She never felt the electric charge when she walked through London with someone at her side. She never felt the excitement she felt now, seeing the fall of a shadow of a railing across a set of worn steps... It was like being a string, and being plucked, giving out the single, pure note that one was made for'.

Sunday, November 02, 2014

Votes for Women 1913 - action in Bromley

A couple of stories from the Bromley Record (1913) illustrating two different approaches in the campaign for votes for women at its height just before the First World War.

In June there was a 'letter box outrage' in Bromley 'High Street, near the Royal Bell Hotel', with 'An attempt to destroy letters - presumably by Suffragettes'. It seems that 'liquid of a fiery nature had been placed inside', damaging several letters. A message left at the scene read 'Asquith, do your duty and give votes to women'. This took place ten days after the death of Emily Davison, the Blackheath-born Suffragette who was hit by a horse in the 1913 Epsom Derby.

Bromley Record, July 1913

Meanwhile, in July 'the Kentish suffrage pilgrims arrived in Bromley', holding a meeting in Westmoreland Road 'attended by a very large number of people'. This was organised by the 'non militants' of the National Union of Women Suffrage Societies, who disapproved of the direct action of the Pankhurst-led  Women's Social and Political Union ('the suffragettes'). The pilgrims 'wore a sash of red, white and green and carried a flag'.

Bromley Record, September 1913

See also related posts:

Friday, October 31, 2014

The Field Opens Tomorrow in New Cross

If you've been down Queens Road SE14 recently you might have noticed a lot of activity going on at the single storey building next to the Doctors surgery. The building at 385 Queens Road has been semi-derelict for a while, but a group of people have been renovating it having struck a deal with the landlord to use it rent free for a while in return for doing it up. The project is called The Field,  'an experiment in collective local research, education and action. We have taken over a previously derelict building in New Cross for five years, which we hope can become a shared resource for the neighbourhood'.

The collective, which includes people who have been involved with New Cross Commoners,  have put in new windows, ceiling and floor and knocked through the two rooms into one space.

Although the building itself is small it has a large yard/garden which they have cleared. Previously it was waste deep in every kind of rubbish.

Tomorrow - Saturday 1st November - sees the launch of the space from 4 pm. They say: 'Join us to celebrate the opening of The Field! There will be some displays and publications to peruse from 4pm. At 7pm there will be brief presentations to give you all a bit of an insight into what's been happening here, how it's happened, and what might happen in the future. Following this we will move onto food, drink, music, fun and frolicking together to celebrate all the hard work that has gone into the project so far, and to mark the start of a new phase in the life of 385 Queen's Road. We'd love to see as many of you wonderful people as possible, especially those who have helped in some way or another. So please do come down--it'll be fun! We promise!'.

Some old punk graffiti in the building before the redecoration -
lines from the Crass song  'So What?'

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

The boots of history - an 'anti-sexist' response to the 'Battle of Lewisham' 1977

An interesting online archive has recently been assembled from the 1970s/early 80s libertarian Marxist group East London Big Flame. Feminism was a big influence on the group, including the men within it, some of whom were involved in establishing the magazine/group 'Achilles Heel: for a men's anti-sexist politics'. The site includes a special issue of the magazine (no.5) on the theme of 'masculinity and violence'. One of the articles in it is a personal account of the 1977 anti-National Front demonstration in New Cross, sometimes referred to as 'the Battle of Lewisham'

Published a little while after the events (the magazine isn't dated, but believe it was published in 1979/80), it's interesting because the author, Andy Metcalf, uses his experience to reflect on the wider issues of political violence and masculinity.

Thank God I Remembered my Boots! by Andy Metcalf (Achilles Heel, no.5)

I drove the car fast up the outside lane into New Cross, looking for a place to park. I was late for the demo, and it looked like being a big one. Up at the junction, nothing much had happened yet: the big crowd blocked the road causing a traffic jam; on the speakers’ stand, Darcus Howe was winding the temperature up . . . “The black community will not allow the National Front to mount these sort of provocative actions - make no mistake about that." As he finished, the chant roared out: “The National Front is a Nazi Front. Smash the National Front." I looked at the punters in their cars; they just wanted to get home for Grandstand, that's all. But this was our reality, not theirs, and for once they were trapped in it.

Near the crash barriers, where the road divides, I asked a black guy if he knew where the Front was. He didn't know but showed me his preparation - a long steel chain wound round his waist. There was going to be some heavy action going down this afternoon.  Later, much later, a man ran down New Cross Road, shouting, “They're lining up to march through.” I couldn't see a thing. Another false alarm probably. Suddenly a mass of police appeared a hundred yards away. “Block the road — form a line."

Christ, where is everyone? They look as if they've got the whole force out for this. Nobody's getting it together — who’s meant to be co-ordinating this anyway? They’re going to march them right through us. “Link arms." Who said that? Was that my voice? Shit, I'm in the front row . . . a woman to my left, man to my right. We look so small. Still, zip up the jacket, no loose clothes; check boot laces and hold on tight. One figure in blue advances:

“This is a lawful march. Disperse from obstructing the road at once. This is your last warning — if, you do not disperse, the police horses will he sent in.” The riders leant into their charges, shouldering them forward. The horses, high stepping all the way, accelerated as they came close to us. One moment it was link arms, the next I was knocked sideways by a horse breaking our line. Its massive chestnut thigh, rich with a thick gloss and wider than a man's frame, surged past my me; It was big, animal, and unpredictable. And I discovered, when I found myself on the pavement panting, it had just STOOD ON MY FOOT. The leather had a fresh gouge, the imprint of a hoof, taken out of it. Thank God l remembered to wear my boots.

Political violence is a serious issue; it's been at the heart of much debate between socialists for along time; reform or revolution, armed struggle or peaceful road, Allende or Ho Chi Minh. But the discussion has echoes beyond that of strategy. The gestures, the tones, the postures, all imply the choice is between milk and water suburban-safe reform and red-blooded steel-hearted revolution. If you’re man enough, revolution is the road for you. A host of masculine meanings attends the debate. But, like gate-crashers at a private function, they are acknowledged but never directly addressed. 

All too often, what has been lost in this little world, is the sense that whether you like it or not, politics is about violence.  At its core, a political practice revolves around the control and authority of ruling groups and the rebellion and revolt of subordinate ones. Oppression will always engender revolt. And those who have chosen the “peaceful road” may well find  themselves on a battlefield, with the rhetoric of violence, but with none of its tools. There is a photograph of Allende on the last day of his Presidency. All his efforts to appease the Chilean Military had come to nought. He had let the army crush dissent within its own ranks, disarm militant workers, and prepare for a coup, and still they wanted to overthrow him. He is entering the Moneda Palace for the last time, surrounded by a few young men - his bodyguards. On his head, a steel helmet, and strapped to his waist, a leather hand gun holster. Not really enough against tanks, artillery, Hunter jets, and a battalion or two of assault troops. But at least he died like a man. Precisely, exactly, like a man.

After the horses, in trooped the marchers, dwarfed by their police escort. And with the Front’s appearance came the rocks, half bricks and pieces of timber from the other side of the road. The marchers, crouching under this hail, holding bleeding heads, looked thin and rneanly fed. Terrified, they scuttled along, shying away from the brick throwers, so that they were only three or four yards away from us. All the while, the chanting poured down on them: “Fascist scum! Smash the National Front!”

Could this ragged crew be the principal threat to life, liberty, and multi-racialism? Next to rne a gangling white man had his own private message: “See, see, see how it feels." He screamed. “How do you like that, eh? Hurts, doesn’t it? How do you like a taste of your own medicine. Next time you go round beating up Asians, you'll know how it feels, won't you.” This was it. Vengeance is mine. I reached down for a brick. The NF were only spitting distance away.

It must have been 1969-70. The union meeting was packed eight or nine hundred people. I could hardly see her from the back. A small woman with black hair; the Representative of the People's Revolutionary Government of South Vietnam. She spoke quietly and in Vietnamese, translated by a man. Outlining the present stage of the struggle and the PRG’s platform, her words absolutely lacked any rhetoric. The hall was quiet, but here and there little eddies of disquiet spun up, searching for some inspirational phrase to latch on to.

Against the pulp of my finger tips, the brick had a rough grainy feel. A scurry of movement caught my eye as three policemen banged through the crowd to pounce on a man a few yards away. Arm lock, knee in the nuts, and they were gone with him. Shitting hell — they’ve got snatch squads out. It's getting more like Belfast every day. My fingers held the brick, my eyes watched the Front, my mouth shouted, but my arm wouldn't throw. They were close, so close. I put it down. Picked it up after a moment, and then put it down again. OK. So I chickened out. I could have thrown it but I didn't. I was scared, sure. But couldn't overcome the fear. They were just too close. And a police horse had just trodden on my foot.

Zing sing, like ice along the veins, the stream of clarity poured out of his mouth. Our power, the hot beauty of its crystalline analysis. History in his hands. Hands pounding, fingers jabbing; he stood at the rostrum, denouncing police harassment, decrying a state within a slate. He pulled this thin thread of thought from clenched teeth and concluded: “comrades, we must never forget that the state will inevitably block the transition to socialism with all the violence at its disposal.” It stirred: it was right.

Outside, a big sky dwarfing the street, I felt confused. Riots may come and riots may go, but the labour movement remains silent. Demonstrations are met with bullets in Derry, but parade through London in ritual peace. The police intelligence computers whirl on untroubled by socialist activity. There was something missing . . . was it an AK47 machine gun under the stairs or a sense of myself?

In this confusion words take on different meanings. Political violence can never only be a question of political strategy. Between head and hand there can be an echoing void, that no amount of theoretical debate will fill. Into such hollows, the rhetoric of the left swirls and buffets, but leaves unmoved a strange gallery of scenes. Family tableaus of anger and authority; the corridor outside and duty master's office; father carves the Sunday joint, his sons finger their knives; the brotherhood of playground rites.

I've kept the boots. I'm very fond of them. You can still see the mark on the side of them. I'm convinced it's the mark of history.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Music Monday: The Spaceape RIP

Stephen Gordon, who recorded as the Spaceape, died earlier this month after living with cancer for several years.

This is from Melissa Bradshaw's obituary of him in the Guardian (24 October 2014):

'The Spaceape, who has died of cancer aged 44, was a poet, vocalist and MC from London who took the Jamaican dub poetry tradition into a new and experimental age. Born Stephen Gordon, he made a series of recordings as The Spaceape – both in his own right and with others including the pioneering DJ, producer and academic Kode9 and the Mercury Prize-nominated electronic artist Burial – that defined “dubstep”, the bass-heavy soundtrack to much of 21st-century youth culture...

His longest-term collaboration was with Kode9 (Steve Goodman), the founder of the Hyperdub record label that became synonymous with the rise of dubstep in the early 2000s. Gordon had never performed or recorded music until Goodman, his flatmate, suggested that they should try doing a track together. Gordon chose a cover version of the Prince song Sign O’The Times, and the result, Sine of the Dub, became the first single to be released on Hyperdub in 2006...

Gordon was born in Peckham, south London, to Joyce, a healthcare worker, who died when he was 12, and Hubert, who worked for Ford. He attended the William Penn secondary school [now Charter School] in Dulwich. After leaving school aged 17, he worked in clothes retail, and did an access course at the London College of Fashion, followed by a degree at Goldsmiths, University of London. His father returned to Jamaica when Gordon was 21, but he stayed in London, working at the British Film Institute, and then as an image researcher at the BBC, leaving shortly after being diagnosed with cancer in 2009.

He is survived by his wife, Luciana, their daughter, Cleo, and his father. Stephen Samuel Gordon (The Spaceape), poet and MC, born 17 June 1970; died 2 October 2014'

His final EP with Kode9 The Killing Season, has just been released.

Hyperdub's 5th birthday at Corsica Studios, Elephant & Castle, 2009
- I saw Kode9and The Spaceape there

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Grayson Perry puts South London transgender man in the National Portrait Gallery

Grayson Perry has a new TV series on Channel 4, Who are You?, featuring him exploring identity through making portraits of people he meets. There is an accompanying exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery, which opened this week and continues until March next year (admission free).

The first episode features an episode of transgender man Alex White from Bromley (interviewed in the Guardian here). At one point Alex returns with Grayson to Sedgehill School, the Catford school that he attended as a girl, and talks to students. Perry renders Alex as a statue 'I'm a Man', combining elements of Peter Pan and a Benin bronze.

photo from sammypie24

Thursday, October 23, 2014

The Specials at Lewisham Odeon

Nice piece in the Guardian today by Jon Dennis on the Specials as 'the music that changed my life': 'The Specials' Gangsters symbolised the fight against the fascists at my front door'. The author grew up in Lewisham, and recals:

'London was drab and frightening in the late 70s, nowhere more so than Lewisham, where I lived. In 1977, Lewisham had been the scene of a riot when the National Front attempted to march. There were coaches full of far-right thugs parked outside my house. My adopted sisters are black, and so for my family the NF represented an existential threat. Racism was rife among my predominantly white classmates. The Lewisham march represented a political awakening for me. I was glad of any ally, and the Specials defined themselves against the far right...

In December 1979 I attended my first gig: the Specials at Lewisham Odeon. The support acts were the Selecter and Dexys Midnight Runners. The audience were frenzied, dancing continually, with frequent scuffles breaking out. For years afterwards I assumed that violence was a normal part of going to gigs. The experience was frightening, but also exciting. It illuminated a world that was violent and hard, shone a light on the grimness of late-70s London, but also provided gleeful escape...'

That gig at Lewisham Odeon was on 1 December 1979 - quite a line up! The Selecter also played there in March 1980 (there's a recording of that gig out there somewhere)

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Day of the Dead Silent Disco/New Cross & Deptford Free Film Festival 2015

Planning is already starting for next year's New Cross and Deptford Free Film Festival. The last couple of years have seen thousands of people watching interesting films for free in all sorts of unusual locations (parks, churches, tattoo parlours...). If you want to get involved at any level - showing films, publicity, suggesting venues - come along to the first planning meeting on Monday 10th November, 8 pm  at the Job Centre pub on Deptford High Street (details here).

To raise funds for the film festival, the Hill Station Cafe (Kitto Road SE14) is hosting a Day of the Dead Silent Disco:

'Saturday 1 November 2014 is Mexican Day of the Dead and to celebrate The Hill Station Café will again be teaming up with the Silent Disco crew to create a Fabulously Fluorescent, Luminously Lovely, Ultra Violet, Psychedelic Disco. A top line-up of local DJ’s will keep your feet firmly on the dance floor with a selection of the best banging party tunes, decadent disco hits and old-skool hedonism.

It’s a fancy dress thing - the more skulls the merrier (but of course you don't have to). The best dressed Senor and Senorita will be crowned "King and Queen of the Dead". Everybody gets a free cocktail on arrival, and there'll be lots of extra scary stuff too'.

Tickets from:

Monday, October 20, 2014

'Blacks Brittanica' in New Cross

This Thursday 30th October, 7pm in the Cinema (room RHB 185) at Goldsmiths, University of London, SE14 6NW:

'South London Anti-Fascists are proud to host a screening of David Koff's 1978 documentary 'Blacks Britannica'.

Blacks Britannica shows the realities of race and class in 1970s Britain with rare honesty and is a powerful base for thinking about racism and the state today. The film charts the history of black people and black struggle in Britain from colonialism and migration to the Notting Hill Carnival and the Spaghetti House siege. The film has been described as "a harsh, relentless and passionate indictment of the British ruling class for manipulating and exploiting British blacks in the interest of profit". Originally produced for US public television, the film was re-edited and censored by TV station management who then tried to sue the director to prevent him distributing his version of the film (we are showing the original cut).

There will be a chance to discuss the film after the screening with Colin Prescod, one of the writers and activists who features in the film. Colin himself made the acclaimed series 'Struggles for Black Community'. The evening is free and all are welcome. If you have any specific requirements please message us on facebook or email David Koff passed away earlier this year and we would like to extend our thoughts to his friends and family'.

Blacks Britannica in 'seedy' New Cross, 1980

Blacks Britannica was seemingly shown locally not long after it was released. A dubious article in the right wing Spectator magazine, 'The Black Spokesman Industry' by Roy Kerridge (2 August 1980), mentions a poster for the film in 'seedy' New Cross where the writer was checking out what the local 'negro youth' were up to:

'Buying a return Tube ticket to New Cross Gate with reckless abandon, I set out to see for myself if negro youth were being 'got at'. New Cross, in south-east London, is a rather seedy area, varying from outright shabby to shabby-genteel, with some pleasant tree-lined streets off Lewisham Way. It is full of West Indian immigrants and their English children. The first thing I saw as I stepped into the street was a poster which read 'Revolution Youth! Free film - Blacks Britannica. Presented by the National Union of School Students. Speaker: local black activist, Fitzroy Maclean.'

A few steps down the road took me to a shop called 'Babaji', which was closed. However the entire window was filled with apparatus used in marijuana-smoking: pipes, scales for weighing the stuff when selling it, and a product lalled 'Maggie -  the only way to clean your grass'. There were also several books on growing  the weed and on Rastafarianism.'Legalise Cannabis' posters and a sign reading 'Member of the Chamber of Commerce and Trade, Borough of Lewisham'. I do not suppose that the shopkeeper was a negro. Nevertheless, his customers must have been local youths.The effects of long-term weed-smoking seem to me to be spiritual rather than physical, resulting in change of character. Dark thoughts, arrogance and cynicism soon go hand in hand with stupidity and forgetfulness... [I] wandered back to New Cross and a pub called The Star and Garter. No longer was I in search of self-conscious 'blackness', and despite all the propaganda, the coloured youths I passed did not seem unduly revolutionary'.

(can't believe that in 1980 some thought it was still OK to refer to 'negroes' and 'coloureds', but there you have it)

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Spiritualized at the Venue: 'Trendy Spot' in New Cross, 1991

Came across this in archive of LSE student magazine, The Beaver, 9 December 1991. 'Baby Lemonade' reviews a gig at the New Cross Venue by Spiritualized - 'a band for the post rave 90s' no less'.  The bands at the Venue at this time were only part of the night out, as the author notes: 'The night wasn't over there though. The post show club featured sounds as diverse as New Model Army and the Shamen. Trendy spot it must be too, as at one point I found myself dancing on the heels of Mikki from Lush'  (see previous post on Lush at The Venue).

The gig was on Friday 29 November 1991 - see flyer below (more Venue flyers here)

Friday, October 17, 2014

The Common Greene - Reading Deptford History through Peter Linebaugh (in New Cross on Monday)

Radical historian and theorist of the commons Peter Linebaugh is the author of The London Hanged, The Many-Headed Hydra (with Marcus Rediker), The Magna Carta Manifesto, and introductions to a Verso book of Thomas Paine’s writing and PM’s new edition of E.P. Thompson’s William Morris: Romantic to Revolutionary. Linebaugh works at the University of Toledo, Ohio, but London features significantly in his writings. In fact last year I gave a history tour of Deptford to the fine people of New Cross Commoners which I subtitled 'reading Deptford history through Peter Linebaugh' (see below). 

Linebaugh is in town this week, giving a talk tomorrow (Saturday, 3 pm) at the Anarchist Bookfair in Mile End and then at Goldsmiths in New Cross on Monday 20th October. The Goldsmiths talk runs from 5pm - 7pm in the Professor Stuart Hall Building (formally New Academic Building) LG 02, with the title 'The Commons and the True Commons'. Linebaugh will talk about 'the value of what we hold in common, how it can be threatened by private interests, and the possibilities for resistance'. The talks will draw upon his new collection of essays, 'Stop, Thief!: The Commons, Enclosures, and Resistance' (PM Press, 2014). Should be good, last time I saw him at Goldsmiths in 2008, he managed to weave the Hobgoblin pub into his talk!

Reading Deptford history through Peter Linebaugh
(notes from May 2013 history walk with New Cross Commoners)

‘the commons is an activity and... it expresses relationships in society that are inseparable from relations to nature’ (Peter Linebaugh, The Magna Carta Manifesto: Liberties and Commons for All  )

1623 map of Deptford, with Thames on left  note ‘The Common Greene’ (Deptford Green)
Chips 'consisted of wood scraps and waste created during the work of a hewing, chopping, and sawing ship timbers. The term refers not to the wood itself but to the right of the worker to appropriate a certain amount it... In 1702 the Deptford men maintained the right to take chips out of the yard three times a day and to enlist the assistance of their families in their appropriation... In 1767 letters were published which explained the 'many Evils' arising from "upwards of two thousand, mostly Women" who entered the dockyard on Wednesdays and Saturdays' to collect wood scraps for fuel and other uses. High walls were built around the docks, not for national security, but to prevent the workers and families taking wood
(Peter Linebaugh, The London Hanged:Crime And Civil Society In The Eighteenth Century )

Deptford Dockyard painted in the late-eighteenth/early-nineteenth century by Joseph Farington
'The ship… provided a setting in which large numbers of workers cooperated on complex and synchronized tasks, under slavish, hierarchical discipline in which human will was subordinated to mechanical equipment, all for a money wage. The work, cooperation, and discipline of the ship made it a prototype of the factory’

At the same time as ‘sailors made the Atlantic a zone for the accumulation of capital, they began to join with others in faithfulness, or solidarity, producing a maritime radical tradition that also made it a zone of freedom. The ship thus became both an engine of capitalism in the wake of the bourgeois revolution in England and a setting of resistance’
(Linebaugh and Rediker, The Many Headed Hydra: the Hidden History of the Revolutionary Atlantic)

The 'St Albans' Floated out at Deptford, 1747 by John Cleveley the Elder
'The pirate ship "might be considered a multiracial maroon community". Hundreds were African. Sixty of Blackbeard's crew of a hundred were black. Rediker quotes the Negro of Deptford who in 1721 led "a Mutiny that we had too many Officers, and that work was too hard, and what not"'
(Peter Linebaugh, Magna Carta Manifesto)

Skull and crossbones at gate of St Nicholas Church, Deptford -
popularly, but probably erroneously believed to have inspired the Jolly Roger pirate flag

The Magna Carta limited the enclosure of the river banks as well as enclosure of woodland as 'forests': ‘All forests that have been created in our reign shall at once be disafforested. River-banks that have been enclosed in our reign shall be treated similarly. All evil customs relating to forests and warrens, foresters, warreners, sheriffs and their servants, or river-banks and their wardens, are at once to be investigated in every county by twelve sworn knights of the county, and within forty days of their enquiry the evil customs are to be abolished completely and irrevocably’ (Magna Carta, 1215, quoted in Linebaugh, Magna Carta Manifesto). 

What would it be like to treat the river and its banks as commons? What would we do here? As part of the ‘Right to the City’ what would the ‘Right to the River’ look like?

(at this point on our walk we had a picnic and chat on the beach of the Thames next to Convoys Wharf)

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Rivoli Fundraiser for Save Lewisham Hospital

A couple of weeks ago I was out for a run, and we came across somebody on Ladywell Fields who had fallen off her bike and cut her head. There was no panic - we knew we were just around the corner from Lewisham Hospital's A&E Department, and when we called for an ambulance it turned up a few minutes later. Luckily there was no serious injury, but afterwards I reflected on how quickly we take for granted having a fully-functioning local hospital.

Two years ago, the government announced that the A&E at Lewisham was facing closure. A large and determined campaign saw off that threat, but the Save Lewisham Hospital campaign is still going to make sure it stays that way. As they say: 'Although we kept our hospital open we still need to keep on campaigning  about threats to our hospital and NHS. Over the next 5 years the government is expecting all hospitals to make at least 20-25% cut in their funding. For these reasons we are asking you to continue to support our campaign'. 

They are having a 'Disco Bingo' fundraiser at the Rivoli Ballroom on Friday 24 October. The nights includes bingo and music from Edinburgh award winner Tina Turner Tea Lady, plus Hoola DJ Da'Lynne and DJ Lord Anthony.

Tickets (£10, £5 concessions) available from

or from New Cross Learning (283-285 New Cross Road SE14 6AS) or ‘You don’t bring me flowers’ Café (15 Staplehurst Road, Hither Green) 

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Burston School Strike 1916: a meeting in Bermondsey

The Burston School Strike in Norfolk was arguably the longest running dispute in British history, and a cause celebre across the country. Tom and Annie Higdon, teachers at the village school in Burston, Norfolk, were sacked in 1914 in a dispute with the school's managing body. Children at the school walked out in support of them, many of them never returning to it. The Higdons and their supporters set up an alternative Burston Strike School which the children moved to, and further generations of children from the village likewise went to the strike school which continued until the death of Tom Higdon in 1939.

As this advert shows, a meeting in support of the strike  was held at Bermondsey Town Hall in Spa Road in February 1916: 'Burston School Strike! A Village in Revolt! A Fight for Freedom and Justice... Ladies are specially invited'. It was chaired by Alfred Salter, and featured the Higdons and some of the children.


Michael Walker has sent through some additional information about this. It seems that support from Bermondsey to Burston went well beyond this meeting. In November 1915 for instance, the fife and drum band of the Bermondsey NUR (National Union of Railwaymen) took part in a demonstration in Burston.

The same Bermondsey Branch NUR also presented the plaque pictured below to Burston Strike School in May 1917.

NHS Strike - 'Pay Midwives some respect' at St Thomas' SE1

Protest outside St Thomas' Hospital, SE1
 Health workers across South London took part in yesterday's national strike action over NHS pay, braving the rain to protest at hospitals across the area during the four hour walkout. Like many workers, those in the NHS have seen their real income fall in the past few years. This year, 60% of NHS workers will get no pay rise at all while the cost of living continues to rise - especially in London where rents and house prices are already beyond the reach of many health workers. 

'Pay midwives - some respect'
- today's NHS strike was the first ever to include the Royal College of Midwives

'Midwives 0%, MPs 11%' - banner at St Thomas'
with the Houses of Parliament just the other side of Waterloo Bridge

strikers at Lewisham
(photo from @midwifecrisis)

I also saw pickets out at Deptford Ambulance Station (at the Old Kent Road of New Cross Road), but didn't get a picture. Any other pictures from here or around the area, send them to

Monday, October 13, 2014

Sonic Imperfections at Montague Arms

New Cross has a good tradition of experimental music (remember the Gluerooms at the Amersham Arms?). Latest in this continuum is Sonic Imperfections, 'South London's leading experimental night' at the Montague Arms. Next one is tomorrow night (Tuesday 14 October), with Barrel, Iris Garrelfs and Webster & Dunning.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Transpontine Ten Years Later

Can't quite believe that this blog is ten years old. The first posts were on 9 October 2004, covering a talk on witch trials at South East London Folklore Society, a gig by our then favourite local band The Swear at the Montague Arms, and another gig by The Fucks at Goldsmiths . The blog really grew out of a period of being involved to a greater or lesser extent in some interesting but disconnected scenes locally - South East London Folklore Society itself (then meeting at the Spanish Galleon pub in Greenwich), the South London Radical History Group and other stuff at the Use Your Loaf social centre in Deptford (evicted in September 2004) and the New Cross music scene centred around Angular Records and the Paradise Bar (now the Royal Albert).

Now would probably be a good time to stop, I'm not particularly feeling 'the local' at the moment, and blogs have partly been superseded by other social media platforms. But sure I would regret having somewhere to post things that do interest me, or to let people know about some good and bad stuff going on. And if nothing else the last ten years of Transpontine do serve as an archive of a decade in the life of  South East London.

In the early days, Blogger wasn't very photo friendly so there weren't many pictures on early Transpontine. To redress this here's some New Cross-related  images from 2004 I found on flickr.

Art Brut getting ready for a photo shoot by the Paradise Bar in July 2004
(photo by Adie Nunn from flickr)

A 36 routemaster bus to New Cross Gate
(photo taken at Victoria by Bingley Hall on flickr)

Fear of Music flyer for a night at Montague Arms

Footsteps in the snow by Goldsmiths, January 2004
(by Li-Chuan Chong on flickr)

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

Lewisham Pensioners Forum Big Book Clearance Sale

From Lewisham Pensioners Forum:

'The six monthly Lewisham Pensioners Forum Big Book Sale has come round again.  And this time it's even more of a bargain bonanza. With donations from our elderly members (so we get in really quite interesting stuff) outstripping sales we need to do a massive clearance.  So rather than the usual five paperbacks for £1 and hardbacks 50p to £2, we're offering bags of paperbacks or hardbacks for £2 and £4 respectively, and you can fill as many as you want of supermarket fruit/veg. boxes with the same for £5 (paperbacks) or £10 (hardbacks) each.

If you've an Amazon account - come and stock up - likewise if you're geared up to e-bay sales.
If you've connections to any library - just think how far a budget of even only £30 would go.
For anyone in the least bit tempted by books it's an event not to be missed.
There is unrestricted parking in the area at weekends and vehicle access to the very doors of the Saville for ease of loading'.

Lewisham Boundary Marker by Hilly Fields

Spotted this last weekend in Tressilian Road by the junction with Montague Avenue opposite north west corner of Hilly Fields. I must have walked or run past this hundreds of times, don't know how I never noticed it before. I assume it marks the boundary between the Metropolitan Boroughs of Lewisham and Deptford, before they were combined as the London Borough of Lewisham in 1965. The Metropolitan Boroughs were created in turn in 1900, so the marker probably dates from around the time - before that it was all Kent round there. The park itself was once part of Deptford Common, saved as an open space following a campaign in the late 19th century.

Sunday, October 05, 2014

White Stag in Lewisham

Another spotting of the 'Lewisham Natureman' white stag, location is described as on the River Ravensbourne from Ladywell Fields to central Lewisham 'on the culvert wall at the back of the anodyne two tone terra cotta building next to Riverdale House'. Thanks to Mark D. for sending in photos. 

Thursday, October 02, 2014

Deptford Fun Palaces

Fun Palaces is a  'celebration of arts, sciences and culture' taking place at venues around the country this weekend (4th and 5th October). Based on the premise of 'Everyone an Artist, Everyone a Scientist' the idea was first concieved of by Joan Littlewright in the 1960s. As mentioned here before, Littlewood was born in Clapham a hundred years ago this week, and lived for part of her life in Blackheath

As part of Deptford Fun Palaces there's loads of free events happening at venues across the area, most of them on Sunday 5th, including:

- the Make Believe Arts Giant Science Playground by Deptford Lounge;
- Teatro Vivo present - Grimms’ Collecting Agency- shared stories;
-  Hunt & Darton Food Fight in the  Albany Garden;
-  Dean Blunkell, Fibonacci Divine Principal, Goldsmiths, Sunday 12.15pm & 13.15pm: 'The performance starts with performers appearing and encouraging the audience to view the architecture, apprentices begin to place models of baroque style buildings while other performers mark out on the floor Fibonacci plans gradually a model cityscape is created under the direction of the architect. At the end the ensemble all dance the Fibonacci, created especially for the performance;

Fun Palaces Co-Director and Author Stella Duffy by the Deptford Lounge
(Tom Parker Photography)
- Khiyo - Market Square, Sunday Midday & 1pm - 'a London band that gives Bengali heritage music a modern, fresh sound. Its radical interpretations draw from rock, folk, and Indian and Western classical music. Khiyo';
- Stefano Di Renzo 'Hold O'n, Giffin Square, Sunday 1.30pm -  'a circus theatre show using slack rope as the base of the theatrical language, exploring the relationship between a man and the system that governs his life';
- Cirque Bijou and Nutkhut Source, Market Square, Sunday 3pm- 'When London’s sewers and underground system were first created, six tunnellers were sent underground in a secret mission to find and save the sources of London’s rivers before they became buried forever. Now, 158 years later, during building works for London’s new super-sewer, these curious long-forgotten tunnellers emerge, travelling with their giant mobile water-spurting laboratory in a burst of song, dance and acrobatic displays.  Cirque Bijou and Nutkhut invite the people of Deptford to join them as they seek the Source, in a mobile, free, outdoor show for all the family.
- Deptford Community Party, The Albany, Sunday from 4pm - 'A Bring-What-You-Can Party for all the community with live music and performance'

Map and full listing here

Monday, September 29, 2014

New Cross Party in the Park

The 1990s Urban Free Festival in Fordham Park was a major London event, bringing together people from what at the time was a big free party/squat/punk/rave scene. 20 years later (13 September), similar sounds were to be heard in the same place at the  Party in the Park - including Back to the Planet who were on the bill there in 1992. Quite a few of the people organising sound systems etc. were also veterans from that scene, as were some of the crowd.  But there were also lots of new young bands in the event organised by New Cross Learning, the Madcap Coalition and others.

Unlike last year's Party in the Park which was cursed by bad weather, this year it was sunny enough to bring out what may well have been the biggest crowd in the park since the final Urban  Free festival in 1995 - nothing like on the scale of  that event, which attracted about 30,000 people in very different times, but a decent free community festival.

Shocks of Mighty

Siren Sound System

Step 13 on the Siren stage by the Moonshot - great breakbeat anthems