Monday 30 July 2007

Deptford Properly

A new cafe is opening this Saturday 4 August at the bottom of Tanners Hill, opposite the south end of Deptford High Street.

I haven't even been up there to look at the building yet, but I am hoping to try it out at the weekend.

It's called Deptford Properly and is run by those irrepressible folks at Utrophia. See you there?!

Herb garden gig

I dropped into the McMillan Herb Garden on Deptford Green last night, at the bidding of Bob from Brockley, to see "the legendary Lol Coxhill and master Ghanian Drummer, Nana Tsiboe" in a modest gig.

I didn't stop long - the music was a bit too freeform for me and besides which I had a fruit cake in the oven - but it was great to see a little group of folks obviously enjoying themselves in these lovely surroundings. The vine was laden down with grapes and the garden was bright with colours and herbs. Around the musicians was a small group of appreciative fans, very into the music with tapping feet and nodding heads, and on the outskirts, a few other groups of people just enjoying the vibe and the surroundings. There were even a couple of students from the neighbouring blocks, drawn in by just hearing the music through their open windows.

I'm not sure who arranged the gig - in fact I don't even know who owns or looks after the herb garden - but it would be great to see a few more of these type of events. Well done, if you're reading this! And more please!

Friday 27 July 2007

I decide!

Evelyn ward in Deptford has been chosen as one of two wards in Lewisham to benefit from a £45k tranche of money from the Neighbourhood Renewal Fund (the other is Bellingham). This is part of the participatory budgeting policy being piloted by Lewisham Council.

Local groups and residents are being invited to bid for funding for schemes that aim to meet one or more of the following criteria: encouraging volunteering, supporting young people, addressing community concerns, improving health and bringing together diverse communities. Awards can be anything from £50 to £2k.

In September there will be a special community day at which those who have applied for funding will have chance to pitch their ideas to an audience, who will then vote on which ideas will get the cash. Sounds like some kind of Deptford Dragon's Den!

Apparently only those people presenting ideas will be allowed to vote on the other proposals, although future participatory budgeting events will allow all residents to vote. I don't know the reasoning behind this decision.

Well, the closing date for applications is 15 August and if you have any ideas you can phone 020 8314 9061 for an application form.

I wish they had called it something other than "U-decide" though. I'm sure we already have enough problems with literacy in this ward without the council joining in.

Thursday 26 July 2007

The Tower - latest from News Shopper

'Some people like it, some hate it'-story from Lewisham & Catford News Shopper. I particularly enjoyed the quote about some people being scared to go out after they had seen the programme. Do they go around with their eyes closed the rest of the time? Deptford has its share of problems like most places in London, but I think this comment insults the intelligence of our local residents.

Thames Gateway Bridge

Yes I know, a little bit out of my area but I confess a professional interest in this project as well as my local interest. The government has decided to reopen the public inquiry, thereby postponing a decision on whether or not to build this major bridge. They say that they want to further investigate information that has come to light since the inquiry closed last year, but it's just a fudge. The inspector recommended that the bridge should not be built. He said that the case for building it - that it would stimulate regeneration in the Thames Gateway - had not been sufficiently proven to outweigh the disadvantages.

The report says: "In my view, the key to this is the economic regeneration benefits claimed for the scheme. If they had been robustly shown, they might have been sufficient to tip the balance. But I do not consider the evidence to be strong enough or reliable enough to outweigh substantially the disbenefits of the scheme in terms of increased traffic, reduced safety, increased air pollution, and a shift against walking, cycling and public transport, in favour of the private car."

The environmentalists have got a very strong point on this; there is no way that Ken can promote this scheme while claiming to be trying to reduce pollution etc through congestion charging in central London. It can only serve to generate additional traffic and increase pollution in what is already one of the worst polluted boroughs in - is it the UK?

Just so you know - I DO support the congestion charge, I DO use public transport almost every day, I also cycle and walk regularly, and I also own a car!

Saturday 21 July 2007

Blast from the past

Before anyone starts accusing me of going all Andrew Brown on you and posting pictures of my dinner for no discernable reason, let me just explain.

Anyone who has lived in these parts for a more than six years or so may remember the legendary Heather's Bistro in McMillan Street, just off Creek Road. Heather's started off in a scruffy little cafe down on Trundley's Road in the New Cross wastelands; during the day it was a regular greasy spoon, but a few evenings a week, it was transformed into a vegetarian buffet which soon attracted rave reviews. Its location made it difficult to find, but kept it from getting too overcrowded.

When it relocated to a former pub in McMillan Street, not only was it more accessible but it was on much larger premises and was open six evenings a week. Having been meaning to try it for years, but never being quite sure how to get to the place, I started visiting the new premises fairly regularly.

The food was magnificent - even die-hard carnivores were forced to admit that this veggie stuff was quite tasty! It was also very good value - customers paid £14 a head to visit the buffet as often as they liked for soups, salads, main courses (usually a choice of several) puddings, home-made bread etc etc. In fact, here's the menu from 2001 just to give you an idea of the sort of thing we are talking about. They also had a great organic wine list (long before anyone else did) and I think this was the first place where I tried English wine, and was pleasantly surprised!

It was also memorable for me because of the lavender shortcake I tried there; the delicate, slightly perfumed flavour was a revelation to me, I hadn't imagined that something which was usually found in overpowering bubble bath could produce such a delicious taste.

Yesterday I decided to try and recreate it - having bought some 'culinary-grade' lavender from the Herb Garden near Chesterfield in Derbyshire. Here it is - a regular shortcake recipe (mostly butter, sugar and flour in unhealthy quantities) with a bit of lavender mixed in. I'm looking forward to a taste of it, and being transported back to that revelationary experience that night at Heather's.

Sadly, the restaurant closed down in 2001 when the owners decided to move out of London and couldn't find anyone to take it over. Writing this post has reminded me what a great place it was and how much I missed it. Although I'm generally of the opinion that change is a good thing - if places and people stay the same, they become stale and tired - but I would have liked a couple more years to enjoy Heather's!

Monday 9 July 2007

Bloggers on parade!

Just in case you missed Le Tour, here's the views of various local bloggers, collected for you in one place! Compare and contrast the levels of excitement...

Charlton Average thinks the gendarmes' uniforms left something to be desired.

Greenwich Phantom agrees but was more interested in the mobile wheely bin.

Andrew Brown stepped into the Dame's territory for the day.

Smug Sheep was impressed by the speed of the riders.

Whimsy Chichi at the Greenwich Gazette thought it was a good dry-run for the Olympics.

The Inspector took up the challenge of following the tour with great determination.

Check out some great photos on the Flickr Greenwich pool.

Sunday 8 July 2007

Made in Deptford: the aftermath

After my rant on Friday, I decided to crash the party on Friday evening - as it turned out, there was very little crashing required. It was being held in 'the Cafe with no Name' - a tent and some tables in the old yard next to the station. Despite the fact that it hadn't been advertised anywhere sensible, the organisers failed to realise that in Deptford, stoking up a BBQ after 7pm is tantamount to taking out a double-page spread in the AA's house magazine (that's Alcoholics Anonymous, not the Automobile Association).

By the time I arrived, about 8.45pm, there was only water left to drink and every time a tray of chicken arrived from the BBQ, there was an unholy scrum as young creatives and hardened drunks competed for the spoils. I didn't stay long, just had a chat with Ozzi from the drycleaners, then made my excuses, as they say.

The tent and cafe stayed for the duration of the festival, intended to promote the new market that is planned for the station yard, apparently launching this autumn. It's going to be crafts, arts, collectables, fashion and food - presumably it will be more 'upmarket' than the traditional stalls in order not to compete. The new residential/live-work building and the station refurb are a little further down the line, it seems.

Well, this was the scene on Saturday in the disused car park on Hamilton Street. A fashion show of 'recycled' clothes designed by local students and sponsored by Chris Carey's Collections, one of the region's biggest employers. Ms Carey runs a clothes recycling business from the arches under the railway station, and is desperately looking for a new site for her business, where she can expand her currently £4 million turnover. Sadly, although there are some suitable premises locally, most of them are earmarked for redevelopment as apartments.

When I moved to Deptford, about two and a half years ago now, this car park was blocked off but still accessible on foot, and was a magnet to fly tippers and drug dealers. After about two years of constantly nagging the council, they finally agreed to fence it in, the plan being it would provide parking for businesses on the high street. This idea seems to have been abandoned - I know that the long-term plan for the site is to develop it for residential use - but it was great to see it actually in use this weekend.

On Sunday it was the home to Company of Cyclists, who brought many weird and wonderful bikes for us all to try - including the eight-seater I was so hoping for! I was one of the first on - and we were taken up and down the high street with a few sharp turns and many bemused glances from shoppers! I did come to grief on one of the recumbent bikes, and I found my legs were too short to safely attempt the Penny Farthing, but it was great fun, for kids and adults alike!

I made the effort on Sunday morning to stroll down Evelyn Street at about 9am and see what was happening. The French market was already flogging its wares, looking oddly out of place on that scruffy triangle of shops next to the John Evelyn pub, but people were milling about and enjoying the music, the sunshine and the sense of occasion.

The trail of sponsors vehicles came first throwing out freebies and blasting out loud music, tooting horns and generally being annoying to anyone who was hoping for a lie-in. This chap wandered out in his carpet slippers, clutching a pint of beer -not sure if it was last night's leftovers or if he was starting early.

I got chance to go home for a cup of tea before the riders came along - but it was very much a case of 'blink and you'll miss it'. They were sandwiched in between endless vans and motorbikes with flashing lights, and the phalanx of cars with racks of spare bikes on the top. By now, the streets were quite crowded, and most people wandered back up the high street to check out the other festival events. There was very much a chilled-out vibe in the town centre, it was great to see that people were enjoying themselves, and enjoying Deptford!

Incidentally, Chet were very good! Look out for them...!

Zut alors!

Le Tour comes to Deptford! And so does the summer, at last!

Full report later.

Friday 6 July 2007

Considered reactions

Well, Bob from Brockley asked, reasonably enough, what we all thought of The Tower.

I managed to catch the second episode last week, having been out of the country and missing the first one, and have to say I was rather underwhelmed. There was a lot of the stock documentary fare of 'here's several very diverse people living with severe difficulties, some of them are striving to improve their lot, others are dealing with the situation with humour but little hope, and others are just resigned to life but hoping for better things for their children'. There was also a gaggle of blonde women who formed the marketing team for the developers of the new tower. They specialised in inane comments and giggling, and in this episode were organising an event (in central London) for prospective buyers. The closest these buyers were going to get to the tower was a boat trip. So far, so predictable. Sadly, the programme never got any better and there was very little attempt to dig beyond the surface of the story. The oddest thing was that as far as I could make out (forgive me if I missed this, if it was in the first episode..) the local residents they were following didn't even live in the tower, they were in neighbouring buildings. I would have been more interested in seeing how those who'd been rehoused were adapting, if their lives had been made better or worse by the move etc.

I will continue to follow it when I get the chance, it might improve - who knows? But I won't be making an effort to stay in for it.

What about the rest of you?

Very interesting!

I came across this site via some torturous route that started when I was looking at photos of Deptford on Flickr.

This site is created by the developer Cathedral, which is responsible for the planned redevelopment of the old carriage ramp and site right next to Deptford Station. This is a competition to think of a name for the development, and the winner will get a hand-built bike from Witcomb Cycles.

I mentioned the old station redevelopment/Richard Rogers' proposed live-work and residential block on my post about Made in Deptford. At last year's Made in Deptford festival the architect told me that work would start later in 2006. Since then, nothing, and the yard has only been used as a storage area for all the gubbins that the contractors need for the water main replacement work.

But looking at this, it seems that things are more advanced than I thought, although giving it a name proves nothing, I guess.

What really irks me, is that the only way I found out about this was through some creative arts network called RSVP that's having a party there tonight. Apparently Cathedral is laying on music, food, drinks, marquee etc, for those creatives whom I guess might become future buyers of the live-work units.

I'm not suggesting that they should have invited all the local residents to the party, they obviously have their own agenda - but I am sure I'm not the only one who would like a chance to win a new bike by choosing a name. Have I seen this competition advertised anywhere locally? Have I buggery!

So much for engaging with the local community. Pah. Excuse me while I go off and wrack my brains for the winning name..!

PS shall I see you there?

Things to do in Deptford when you' a loose end

It's great to see that this year's Made in Deptford festival is moving a little further north; instead of being centred round the Albany/Giffin Square and the south end of the High Street it is extending right up to the northern end of the borough, with quite a few events in Evelyn Street and surrounds.

Of course this is largely due to the fact that on Sunday morning, a gaggle of muscley blokes in Lycra will be cycling along Creek Road to Greenwich for the start of the first stage of the Tour de France. Whatever the reason, we think it's something to celebrate - Evelyn and Pepys estates make up a huge chunk of Deptford's population and often get sadly neglected.

I have been researching some facts about Evelyn ward, which I will post in due course, but in the meantime, the Deptford Dame's preview of this weekend's Made in Deptford festival has the following recommendations (in no particular order):

1. Made in Deptford Market/Deptford Market. Saturday 9-5/8-4. Let's face it, Deptford wouldn't be Deptford without its market. Flash 'Arry tells me that when his mum first came to the UK, she used to travel all the way from the upper reaches of Lordship Lane to shop at Deptford Market on a Saturday, as it was the best place to buy West Indian ingredients. Now, of course, Peckham Rye is a rival to Deptford in terms of shopping opportunities, but in my opinion, Deptford wins for its sheer range. Where else can you get your hands on ingredients for English, West Indian, Asian and African foods in just a kilometre of high street? I still mourn the absence of good cheese and the miniscule range of wines available, but this inconvenience is more than made up for by the fact that you can ALWAYS find ripe avocados and the bundles of fresh coriander, mint, parsley and so on are about five times the size of the supermarket packets. This weekend, as well as the regular market and the junk market, there will also be the chance to buy limited-edition 'Shop Local in Deptford' bags and Tour de France/Made in Deptford T-shirts. On Sunday there will be a local arts and crafts market.

2. Feast your eyes, Laban Centre. Saturday (11-1 and 6.30 onwards) and Sunday all day. The cafe at the Laban Centre has recently been taken over by the Ethical Catering Cooperative, whose food is as wholesome as their name. I've lunched here a couple of times - they offer a small but daily-changing menu of sandwiches, meat and veggie main courses, soup and salads, as well as cakes and a good range of organic fruit juices, teas etc. The light and pleasant cafe area is a lovely place to sit and muse, never too crowded but always with a good buzz. They are promising sculptures, music and performance (fire-eating on Sunday evening) and market themselves quite imaginatively as 'the only cafe by the river in the whole of Deptford'. They do have outside picnic tables too.

3. Wavelengths Library Celebrations. Saturday 9-4. I will be mostly avoiding this, as it involves 'a full day of fun for all the family'. However it does feature multi-cultural craft making and food, and makes no mention of face-painting, so it can't be all bad! They are offering books of recipes by local residents, which I am keen to obtain.

4. Deptford Creek Experience. Saturday at 12.30, Sunday at 2.30. Booking advised.
Another chance to don thigh-length waders, grab a big stick and slosh along the Creek.

5. A Taste of Deptford. Saturday and Sunday from 12 onwards. More food - have you spotted the theme yet? Ahem! Anyway, this is a chance to check out various restaurants along the High Street and sample traditional food from England, Malaysia and Nigeria, among others, for £1 a go. Look for the posters in the windows.

6. The Tour! Sunday from 8.30am! Have your breakfast at the Albany from 8am, or the Laban Centre from 10, or just skip the baguettes and cheese, and nip down to the Harp of Erin or the John Evelyn pub for a front-row seat and a French beer. The Albany will be screening the Tour in the cafe, if by any chance it rains and you don't fancy being outdoors.

7. Dr Bike/Company of Cyclists. Hamilton Street, 11-3. Come along to the Dame's front yard to continue the bike theme - get your own bike checked out by the doctor, or try out some of the weird and wonderful bikes owned by Company of Cyclists. The Dame is personally hoping they bring along the amazing 8-seater she tried several years ago at another event. Believe me, it's freaky!

8. Find out about plans for Deptford. Galliard (Sat/Sun 10am onwards); Deptford Station Market meet & greet (Saturday 12-2); Recycle it! (Saturday 10-2); Emergency Deptford (Sunday 9-4); East London Line Information (Sunday 9-4). With any luck we'll be able to find out what's happening with the new market. Apparently due to launch 'this summer'. At last year's event, the developers told me that work on the station/carriage ramp/live-work units was set to start later that year, so don't believe everything you hear...! You also get chance to meet your local plod, find out about progress on the East London Line extension - north to Dalston and south to Croydon - and whine to the council about how badly their recycling facilities compare to those in Greenwich....For those who don't know, Galliard is the developer working on the Old Seager Distillery. Have a look at their site for a laugh. See if you can find any pictures of Deptford.

9. Punk band Chet at the Bird's Nest, 8pm. I've no idea what the band are like, I'm jut fascinated by the thought of a smoke-free Bird's Nest! In the past I've done my best to support this pub and its live music (of hugely variable quality, it has to be said!) but it was always the worst-ventilated, most smokey bar I know. I suspect it will still stink, but perhaps it might prompt a bit of a refurb...! If you've got your dancing feet on later, there's 'Out-Dance' at the Albany from 11pm-4am - a new club night for the lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender community, but welcoming all with open minds. And if you've got the energy, your ticket will also get you into the after hours party (2am till 8am) at Two 8 Six on Lewisham High Street. Phew, I need a lie down just thinking about it...

10. Grand Finale: Mimbre; The Bridge. Laban Centre, Sunday 7.30pm £7/£5 concessions.
With this story of three women and a bridge, 'the performance and impressive set will transform the open air amphitheatre into a world of humour, energy and visual poetry'! Best bring your brolly as it's outdoors.

A few other things that are worth a mention.

Open days at Creekside Artists at the Faircharm Trading Estate (Sat and Sun 12-6), the APT studios on Creekside (Sat 12-5 and Sunday 9-5); 21 Tanners Hill (Charlotte Pearson and Robert McLeod); Deptford Arts Network (shops on the High Street - see what you can spot!).

Deptford Lives at the Albany. Showings throughout the day Friday, Sat and Sun. See a 15 minute film by the Community Channel about some of the characters of Deptford, from our very own crazy Artmongers to the rag and bone traders.

There is much, much more - lots of kids stuff, jazz and other music events, there's even face-painting, karaoke and tombolas if you want it, so check out the festival website for full details.