Thursday, 26 May 2016

The river Ravensbourne in Brookmill Park

I came across this short film by Elly Hazael (@ehazael) yesterday, and loved it.

The quiet, slow movements and lives of the birds and the gently flowing water of the Ravensbourne as it drifts through Brookmill Park are set against the backdrop of the rattle of the DLR, passing lorries and the detritus of an urban river. It's magical and soothing, with its soundtrack of birdsong and water rippling over stones.

It always fascinates me to see how these shy birds carry on with their lives tucked among such densely-populated parts of the city.

The cycle route between Deptford and Lewisham is shunned by many as it winds back and forth through the park and there's a much quicker, direct route on the road, but for me the chance to catch a glimpse into this kind of gentle scene always outweighs the need to get there quicker.

Wednesday, 25 May 2016

Deptford Cinema needs your help

The community-run Deptford Cinema (Lewisham borough's only cinema and one run entirely by volunteers) is petitioning Lewisham Council to reconsider its demand that full business rates should be paid on the property in Deptford Broadway.

The petition sets out a long and pretty woeful tale of confusion, misinformation and downright obstruction by the council's business rates department.

The cinema is incorporated as a not-for-profit Community Interest Company, yet the council is applying standard business rates bill to it.

The petition explains:
Over the last 6-9 months, we have been in constant communication with Lewisham Council to alleviate this problem via the proper channels of relief, whether it be small business relief or hardship relief, both of which we believe to apply to us. Lewisham Council disagrees. Lewisham Council advised us to become a charity to automatically get the 80% rates relief applicable to charities. 

This wasn't immediately undertaken due to various factors, such as the ongoing relief applications, third-party advice that CIC was the correct form for the organisation and support from Steve Bullock, the Mayor of Lewisham, whom, over this period, has twice stepped in to support the cinema - by putting a 6 month hold on Deptford Cinema's rates status. 

When all our relief applications had failed, with no solid explanation why, and apparently, with no appeal process available, converting to a charity became our only option, one that would reduce future rates by 80% but would not solve the unfair and unpayable historical bill. 

Then we received a letter, the best letter we could hope for, from the Business Rates Manager at Lewisham Council. If we converted to a charity, the council would retroactively apply the statutory 80% charity relief to our existing account. 

With volunteers now spending their time working towards the organisation becoming a charity; Lewisham Council then told us over the phone that the letter was a mistake and they would not be honouring this promise. 

Back to square one... But worse: the Council wants Deptford Cinema to pay the outstanding business rates (£5,400) over three months and the rates for 2016/2017 in one payment (£6,897). Both of which will bankrupt and destroy a community asset.

Three volunteers therefore arranged a meeting with the head of business rates of Lewisham Council. We took our extensive business plan, showing the continued growth and sustainability of a young local project which is still not finished, and two proposals for payment: 

  • In light of the letter promising 80% relief, would it be possible to have 50% relief? It will still stifle the growth of the project, but it could be manageable...
  • ..if not, instead of a reduction and instead of three instalments, could we extend over a longer period such as 32 months. 

First, just so you know, there weren't enough seats at the meeting, so one of our volunteers, a 61 year-old retiree had to kneel for the duration of the meeting with the council, with no offer to fetch him a chair from elsewhere. Second, no interest was taken in the materials we'd brought to the meeting and both of our suggested proposals were rejected. Third, that letter I mentioned with the promise of 80% relief, the council tried to keep hold of it at the meeting. 

At no point have we tried to avoid paying our rates. Instead, we've tried to work with the Council to solve the problem and ask them to recognise Deptford Cinema for what it is, a charity in all but legal status. We are now faced with a deadline for payment, after which the Council will send round the bailiffs and destroy a project run by the community in Lewisham, for the community in Lewisham. 

It's a pretty embarrassing story for the council and it sounds as if launching a petition is the last thing that Deptford Cinema wants to do, but the council has left them stuck between a rock and a hard place. So much for supporting creativity and the arts in Deptford.

Tuesday, 24 May 2016

(More) Traffic chaos ahoy for Deptford and surrounds

It seems that the lifting bridge on Creek Road is in need of 'urgent repairs' and Greenwich Council has said it will be closed for three days from 31 May.

That's not going to be welcome news for those who already spent most of this evening stuck in the SE London gridlock or waiting for buses that never showed up.

Not three overnights, or a series of short weekend closures, but three full days. In the week. With lane restrictions currently in place on Deptford Church Street, Edward St still closed to traffic in one direction and the general fuckwittery of Deptford High Street a given, it does seem as if drivers and bus passengers are looking at a week of supreme inconvenience.

The bridge had to be shut without notice last September due to problems with the locking mechanism that connects the two bridge decks when they are lowered, and the closure caused chaos for travellers in the area. The eastbound bus lane is currently coned off, restricting the traffic loading on the north side of the bridge.

Either the problem wasn't fixed properly last year or there's something else wrong - and it does lead to the question of whether the Royal Borough is investing sufficient maintenance funding in looking after this vital piece of infrastructure.

Thursday, 19 May 2016

More coffee coming to Deptford

If they were betting shops we'd be petitioning the council about clustering. But they are coffee shops and we're set to get even more, so prepare for hyper-caffeination Deptford!

Contrary to rumours that have been circulating for some time, Deptford's obligatory station coffee shop is not going to be a Costa after all, but small south-east London chain Mouse Tail that is branching out south east from uber-hip Borough High Street and Whitechapel to take up residence here.

From south to north I count the following among those doing 'proper' coffee:
- Vinyl (ok not quite on the high street but almost)
- London Velo
- The Amber Tree (not really in the same league coffee wise)
- The Waiting Room
- Deli X

There's also cafes in the Deptford Lounge and the Albany, you can swing round to the Greenhouse at the top of Watson St for an excellent brew, and don't forget the Dungarees coffee van on market days. But it seems we just can't get enough...

Tuesday, 3 May 2016


A couple of months back developer Anthology, which is building 'Deptford Foundry' on Arklow Road, launched a rather cringeworthy campaign under the hashtag #deptfordnotdalston.

The marketing blurb urged Twitter users to 'join in the conversation and tell us why you think Deptford is causing other newly established areas to quake in their boots, dripping with talent, creatives and authenticity, what’s not to love. Share your thoughts and ideas with us through our social media channels and let’s get this south east postcode trending.'

Anthology's project director Ben Allen kicked off the debate with his top five, which I've included below: I can't argue with the first four (even though I'd say the Amersham is more New Cross than Deptford and I still shudder to recall their dreadful toilets) but had to laugh at the blatant estate agent marketeering of the fifth.

1. The Waiting Room: A vegetarian and vegan cafĂ© with excellent coffee and a ‘free library’ where you can re-home one of the multitude of books as long as you promise to donate another book on your next visit 

2. Wunderlust: A new venture near Deptford Creek from street food experts Fleisch Mob who has opened an Austrian fusion restaurant with some really interesting food 

3. Amersham Arms: A really good club/pub which hosts a range of artists from international DJs to the best comedians on the circuit 

4. Art Hub: Interesting gallery on Creekside that hosts the best work from local artists 

5. Great location with new and improved transport links with affordability of property 

I suspect Anthology have got something of an uphill struggle selling this development, sandwiched as it is on a triangle of land between two railway lines and sufficiently far from Greenwich that there's no way they can claim to be anywhere near the royal borough.

The fact that they are putting a lot of effort into making Deptford as hip as they can (they were behind the heavily-promoted 'win a weekend in Deptford' competition in the Evening Standard) bears this out.

So I imagine there will be a few bollockings handed out in WC2 this week after a dozen or so signs went up along the route from Deptford station to Anthology's 'Deptford Foundry' marketing suite, which is set to launch this month.

Every single one of the signs has Deptford spelled incorrectly - and as if misspelling your adoptive town isn't bad enough, the irony is that it has been renamed Debtford by the unfortunate, illiterate sign writers.

Clearly no-one bothered to check them either.

Longer-term blow-ins may remember that in 2011 as part of the Deptford X festival, artist Adam Vass created a new pub sign for the Birds Nest which featured the coat of arms of 'Debtford' above the golden balls of the pawnbroker's symbol. Crosswhatfields included a photo of it in this post 

Maybe Anthology could claim the gaffe was deliberate, tapping in to the Deptford Zeitgeist in their inimitable fashion? After all 'we wholeheartedly believe that Deptford is indeed a cut above the rest' as they say on their #DeptfordnotDalston blog post.

Update: credit where it's due, they did manage to sort it incredibly quickly, so much so that I thought this morning maybe it was all just a bad dream...?