Friday, 11 August 2017

Battle of Lewisham - 40th anniversary

The most famous brawl in the recent history of south east London will be commemorated this weekend in and around Deptford and New Cross.

On 13 August 1977, the National Front planned a march from New Cross to Lewisham against a background of ongoing racial tension in the area. The situation had been fuelled by dawn raids in the area earlier that year in which 21 young black people had been arrested, with the police claiming that they had been responsible for 90% of street crime in south London over the preceding six months.
Subsequent demonstrations in defence of the accused had been attacked by the National Front and race relations were at a low point.

A number of anti-fascist and anti-racist groups organised an opposition rally, assembling some 5,000 people in Ladywell Fields before deploying to try and stop the National Front demonstration.

Crowds gather on Clifton Rise (photo by Chris Swartz)

Initial efforts to stop the march were unsuccessful, with several thousand police playing a contentious part in accompanying the estimated 500 National Front members on their route, and the two sides ended up coming into contact on Lewisham High Street, where violent clashes ensued for more than an hour between the two sides as well as the police. Riot shields and batons were used for the first time on the British mainland.

In the end the NF abandoned their march and the protestors claimed victory, although there were conflicting opinions on whether the opposition had been successful in winning wider public support at the time. Ultimately it has become a symbol of community solidarity against racism and a badge for SE London to wear proudly.

There is plenty of fascinating material online about the clashes, including eye witness accounts and newspaper reports.

To celebrate the 40th anniversary, Goldsmiths has organised a series of walks, talks and shows culminating in a community festival on Sunday 13th at the Albany.

There's an exhibition of photographs on show at Goldsmiths until the end of the month, a maroon plaque commemorating the event will be unveiled on Clifton Rise on Sunday between 12 and 1pm, and a gig at the Albany on Sunday night.

See the website for full details of events.

Cafe Royal Books has also published a book of photographs which are available here.

Thursday, 10 August 2017

Deptford Community Pride - this Saturday

First in what's intended to be an annual event, this weekend sees Deptford LGBTIQ Community Pride 2017 being launched in Deptford Market Yard.

There's an afternoon of workshops, stalls in the yard and a programme of entertainment in the evening - and it's all free to attend!

The organisers write:
"The event will consist of empowering workshops, inspiring activist stalls and amazing performances and DJs. Our compere for the day is the sasssy Kevin Le Grande: not only is she a 6 foot tall gorgeous leggy blonde, she is also a Queer cabaret and performance artist. Using speech, song and dance to discuss politics and share stories for comedic affect, she has performed in venues all over the country. We are excited to have her as our compere for the entire day. She’s sick, she’s tired and she has something to say!"

 Workshop listings:
 • Jai's Wutian Martial Arts Institute London – LGBTIQ Self-Defence class (2pm - 3pm)
 • 'Exploring Identity workshop' with Intersex activist and human-rights campaigner Valentino Chienmortx (3pm - 4pm) 
• 'Customise a T-shirt workshop' with non-binary artist Ruby Barclay (3-4pm)
 • 'Beginners workshop on Screenprinting' with Queer printmaker Hannah Toehill (4pm - 5pm)
 • 'Self-care workshop' with transgender woman and mental-health nurse Sami Hillyer (4pm - 5pm)
 • 'Knitflex and Chill'- knitting and stress-relief focused workshop with queer feminist activist Georgia Little (5pm - 6pm)
 • 'Sober Space' - workshop and conversation around the safeness and accesibility of London's support services (this workshop is a strictly alcohol-free zone) (5pm - 6pm)

Stalls (2pm - 6pm)  • Lesbians and Gays Support the Migrants • Movement for Justice • South East London Sisters Uncut • The UK Lesbian and Gay immigration group • Sexual Avengers • The Outside Project • Cat Sims zines and more

Performers (7pm - 10.30pm)
Spoken word & live music: • Damien Arness Dalton • SJ Soulist • Alana Francis • Danielle Adomah • Charmpit DJs: • Lady Miss Ikea • Resis'dance • BBZ (individual timings TBC)

All donations raised from the event will be evenly split between:

The Outside Project: The outside project is currently fundraising to create the UK's first LGBTQI+ winter shelter. (

The UK Lesbian and Gay Immigration Group: The UK Lesbian & Gay Immigration Group (UKLGIG) is a charity that promotes equality and dignity for lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and intersex (LGBTI) people who seek asylum in the UK. (

Facebook listing here
Deptford Market Yard

Saturday, 29 July 2017

Gin and beer..

..not in the same glass I presume, but you never know. Might start a new trend.

That's the moniker of a new bar planning to set up in Resolution Way, which looks like it could soon  become the golden (quarter) mile of Deptford pub crawling if this trend continues. 

Gin & Beer ( is setting up shop in number 2 arch, right next door to Buster Mantis, and will apparently specialise in Belgian beers ('all styles including Trappist, new wave craft, lambic and sours') and a huge variety of gins too - about a hundred different ones. That's quite a night out.

There's still a way to go yet as they have only just applied for planning permission to convert the arch, but they have said in a News Shopper interview that they are planning to open in the next couple of months.

I wonder if they are paying attention to the recent issues next door?

The licensees of Buster Mantis were summoned to a hearing recently by the licensing committee, after ongoing problems with residents whose properties overlook Resolution Way. The bar is licensed until 2am at the weekends and residents complained about noise from music playing inside the bar, and the noise of customers leaving the bar in the early hours of the morning.

Although the licensing committee did not decide to reduce the opening hours of the bar, Buster Mantis was ordered to install double glazing to the two units, as well as fitting a 'noise limiter' inside to try and reduce the nuisance caused to neighbours by the music.

This is not going to help with the noise caused by customers leaving the bar in the early hours, which I imagine is amplified by the narrow street and tall buildings that run along both sides, and the impact of more boozers opening along here is only going to add to this. On the other hand, maybe the presence of more bars will enable multiple business owners to work together to minimise the impact by encouraging people to disperse quickly and quietly when they leave.

Monday, 17 July 2017

Community meeting about Arklow Road ball court

A community meeting is being held this Thursday for people who are interested in campaigning to save the ball court on Arklow Road. 

Lewisham Council recently announced plans to build a new development of temporary housing on the site, but some residents have raised concerns about the loss of play facilities in the area, and want the council to consider renovating it instead.

The meeting is Thursday 20th July at 7pm at the Olivet Baptist Church, opposite the ball court.

Tidemill Garden celebrates its 20th birthday

This weekend the Tidemill Wildlife Garden is celebrating its 20th anniversary with a family open day including games, story-telling, free veggie food provided by the Deptford People Project, a pop-up bar by Little Nan's and bands including The Ukadelix, Cre8ive Choir, Tom Moody, the Inheritors and Rhiannon & the Nightmare.

It takes place on Saturday 22nd July, running from 4pm till 11pm, and will include a community drum circle, a show by the Magic Book Theatre, a treasure hunt and coconut shy/human fruit machine. 

If you can't make it this weekend, why not pop in another Saturday, it's open to the public every weekend (details here). If the council has its way you won't have much longer to enjoy this lovely green space...

Saturday, 8 July 2017

Sayes Court Gardens is fundraising!

Sayes Court Garden CIC is fundraising on Spacehive to support its plans to establish a community and outdoor classroom in Sayes Court Park at the top of Grove Street.

Once three times the size, Sayes Court will in time reclaim its lost land and leap the fence into the Convoys Wharf development, being one of two community-led projects that successfully lobbied for space on the site - the other being the Lenox Project. 

They say: "Before that happens, Sayes Court Park will be the community-led testing ground where we imagine and plan what that future will look like. Together we'll transform this neglected park into a source of pride for Deptford and a destination for London. This legacy is an invitation to test, grow and transform a part of the city, making better places to live. Through collaborative workshops, events and a reinstated pavilion, Sayes Court will become a centre for the community once again."

The CIC is looking to raise £40k for a number of initiatives which are detailed on the Spacehive site. Pledges will only be taken if the project reaches its target, so if you want to support these ambitious plans, please pledge, share and help them to raise their profile.

Friday, 7 July 2017

Consultation on first phase of Convoys Wharf development

Convoys Wharf developer Hutchison Property Group has a public 'consultation' event today and tomorrow (Friday 7th and Saturday 8th July) at the Deptford Methodist Church on Creek Road.

You are invited to attend and give your feedback on the plans for the first detailed planning application for the site, which relates to one plot in the first phase of the work (the one marked in red on the plan below). 

Outline planning permission for the site was granted in 2014 after the developer demanded that the mayor of London call the application in, saying that Lewisham planners were taking too long over it and that they were in a hurry to start work.

Scroll forward three years... 'nuff said. 

You can read my post about the outline application here and there's a lot more background on the development on this blog if you search for 'convoys'. 

The developer's rather woeful website is here.

The consultation is at the methodist church on Creek Road (not Creek Street as the flyer says FFS) from 5-8pm tonight, and 10-1pm Saturday.

Saturday, 24 June 2017

Outdoor bars proposed for Deptford Market Yard

It took an embarrassingly long time for Deptford Market Yard to reach full completion, and there are still a few kinks that need properly ironing out (parking abuse etc), but overall the end result is pretty pleasing.

The quality of finish on the carriage ramp retail units is pretty good, and the public realm stuff is attractive and seems durable, excepting the flimsy bollards which have almost all been flattened by our local drivers and are currently being replaced. The trees add a very pleasant atmosphere to the yard and soften the somewhat hard edges of the brick, stone, steel and timber that is used throughout the rest of the landscaping. As they mature I think this will only improve.

I like the mix of independent tenants in the retail units, although I do worry how many of them are actually managing to make a living; the promised market has yet to materialise and although the managers of the yard seem to be putting on events now and again, I'm not confident it's enough to generate the footfall to bring sufficient business to these units.

There are also ongoing issues that demonstrate how poor the current management is. The flimsy bollards that were initially installed at each end of the yard were promptly battered and eventually flattened by manoeuvring drivers. Wholesale abuse ensued, and with no parking enforcement the yard rapidly turned into a car park. After weeks of nagging the management company put up parking notices, which has improved the situation somewhat, but the installation of the new bollards seems to be taking an unreasonably long time and there are still some serial parking abusers who are going unchallenged.

But the latest plan by owner U&I plc - to bookend the public spaces with two outdoor bars, one under a posh tarpaulin - seems to be heading in totally the wrong direction. If the planning application that has just been submitted gets the go-ahead, you can kiss goodbye to any opportunity to relax while you eat your sandwiches sitting on the benches in the dappled shade of the trees.

The proposals involve nothing more imaginative than dumping two converted shipping containers down on the new paving, and annexing a large proportion of what is currently public space under a fabric roof connected to the street lights and weighted down with huge water containers. Punters will sit at tables that can be folded away at night for storage, but the roof is intended to stay in place - a permanent temporary arrangement.

Permission for two 'bars' is sought - a large one outside the station and a smaller one down at the other end of the market yard, next to the lower part of the carriage ramp.

The larger one has a capacity of 150. 

The leaves of the trees will not be visible to anyone at ground level - the most visible and significant elements of the landscaping will be annexed to act as supports for a plastic tent to keep the rain off those wanting to indulge in what is essentially middle-class street-drinking. 

As well as being attached to the trees, the roof needs guy ropes to tie it down. The proposal suggests that large water containers will serve this purpose. You know the kind of thing.

The design and access statement which forms part of the planning application also suggests that plants in upcycled oil barrels will be dotted around the bar area, presumably to add a bit of greenery to make up for the greenery that you can no longer see. It proposes that patio heaters - one of the most environmentally-insensitive inventions ever - be used inside the tent. 

It also includes designs for the eight market stalls that will be placed opposite the existing carriage ramp, although this does seem a little like an afterthought. Six 'food trucks' will be parked between these stalls - on the diagram below, which has the high street at the bottom and the station top right, the yellow boxes are the bars, the red boxes the food trucks and the blue boxes the market stalls. 

The bar opposite the station would be placed right in front of one of only two public benches in the market yard, thus cutting public seating by half in one fell swoop. The remaining seat would fall within the bar area so it's unlikely to be available for public use, and even if you do get to sit on it you'll only be looking at a load of people drinking. Not to worry, you can always sit on the picnic tables under the tent - provided you have the money for a drink of course.

You're probably getting the drift that I'm not in support of this proposal. I'll set out a few of the main issues as I see it. 

1. The annexing of the public space. 
It's clear from the diagram above that the proposed bar would take over most of the public space outside the station (and quite a bit of the remainder has already been annexed by the bars and cafes at this end of the ramp). The public realm works very well, it has been refurbished to a high standard with good quality street furniture and it looks good. I often see people sitting on the benches enjoying sandwiches or just hanging out, watching the world go by. It can be, and is, used for events - whether that's dancing or a 'carless car boot sale', or any other temporary use. If a bar under a tent took over the space, this genuine public enjoyment would be lost, and temporary events would only be possible if they fitted in the space and outside the opening hours of the bar.

2. Where are the toilets?
No details have been provided of where the toilets will be - or even if there will be any. There is only one toilet for most of the carriage ramp (Little Nan's and Mousetail each have their own) so where are all these customers going to pee? Deptford already has a problem with public urination, this won't help. Perhaps they are going to dump (pun intended) some ugly Portaloos next to the remaining flower beds. Who needs greenery in any case? 

3. Why is it ok for some people to drink outside and not others?
Street drinking. The anchor got the blame for causing problems down at Deptford Broadway, but the street drinking that used to happen there is now rife in Douglas Square, and still causing problems. Why should that be classified as public nuisance but put the drinkers under a tent and charge them more, and it's a legitimate business. It also neatly leads me into the security issues. What's to stop the 'undesirable' drinkers just bringing their drinks and joining the party? Will they have to put barriers round the seating and have security on the door?

4. Loss of amenity.
The vast majority of the ground-level landscaping that was created as part of the public benefit from the development will be squandered. Seats will be unusable, plants will have their light blocked and the flower beds will become a litter trap, difficult to access for maintenance, the trees will become tent poles (and most likely leaning poles at the lower level).

5. Noise nuisance.
Residents in the Deptford Project already suffer noise from some of the units under the carriage ramp - speakers get brought outside by some tenants even though their leases prohibit it - and with a large bar in a mostly hard-landscaped area, the noise from drinkers can only add to this. Other local bars such as the Job Centre and Buster Mantis have limits on when outside drinking areas can be used, to limit noise for adjacent residents. Allowing a huge open-air bar in front of a huge residential building would make a mockery of this and could reasonably lead to other bars challenging such restrictions.

The planning application can be found online here

Sunday, 18 June 2017

Our air, your health - air pollution in Deptford

How has air quality in Deptford changed in the last 350 years? Scientists from the Centre for Environment & Health, which does research into the health effects of environmental pollutants, are hosting a free event at the Deptford Lounge this Monday.

This will be an evening of interactive activities and talks that will give participants the chance to learn more about how air quality can affect their health.

Find out how you could be breathing cleaner air, and learn how traffic noise and other pollutants might also be having an effect. Scientists from the MRC-PHE Centre for Environment & Health will be on hand to offer expert advice and answer questions. The event is part of the Medical Research Council's second annual Festival of Medical Research.

There will also be several presentations during the evening, including one on air pollution in Deptford from 1661 to the present!

Tea, coffee and soft drinks will be available. The event is free, but the organisers ask anyone wanting to attend to register online.

Deptford anchor consultation

Further to the council report in March which recommended the return of the anchor to Deptford High Street, Lewisham Council has launched a consultation into some aspects of its proposed reinstatement. These include the style and type of textured paving that will be placed around it (to assist the visually-impaired) and whether a plaque should be included, and if so, what this should say.

Current timescale intends the anchor to be back in position in time for Deptford X festival in late September.

The public is invited to respond via the online consultation survey where you can also find background information about the process (downloadable here).

There is also a drop-in session at Deptford Lounge on Tuesday 20 June between 3pm-7pm.

The current documents show the anchor to be somewhat sidelined in the proposed location at the top of the high street; why not have it more central in the streetscape? At the moment it looks like an afterthought.

The online consultation closes on Tuesday 27th June.