Thursday 28 May 2009

Wavelengths response; good news for early morning swimmers?!

Further to my comments about the opening hours and availability of the 'training pool' at Wavelengths, centre manager Clare Motton was kind enough to reply via the noticeboard in the foyer.

I contacted her to ask for a copy of her response, and have reproduced it here.


•Swimming pool availability:

The pool programme is designed to cater for the specific needs of different sections of the community as well as those that wish to participate in general swimming. There are four swimming pools within Lewisham and all pool programmes are balanced to ensure that public swimming is available within the borough at any one time.

Due to the diverse population within Deptford, the centre aims to provide sessions, which allow all residents to use the facility. Some sessions are particularly targeted at specific user groups, for example, ‘women only’. Without such sessions being specifically programmed, it is known that numerous customers would not be able to participate in swimming and therefore not benefit in the centre’s facilities.

•Session names:

We try to state the names of the clubs that hire the pool, within any publicity material. Further to feedback, programme names will be adjusted in our next re-print of the programme.

• Early opening:

The London Borough of Lewisham and Parkwood Leisure are currently in discussions as to the possibility of opening the centre from 6.30am on weekdays. We hope to have a decision in the near future.

• What is casual swimming?

Casual swimming is a session that allows any member of the public to swim without the restriction of lanes. This enables both non-swimmers and children to use the 25-metre pool. This session was created at the request of our customers and has proven very popular.

• Club hire:

At present club hire only uses 13% of the total pool programme, providing 87% for a range of alternative swimming pursuits. Club hire is invaluable for providing development of our swimmers who could potentially develop into the swimmers of the future.


Naturally I was delighted to hear about the ongoing discussions with the council about opening the pool much earlier on weekdays. I know for a fact that Parkwood Leisure is very keen on the idea, acknowledging that it is guaranteed to boost the centre's membership numbers. Quite what the sticking points are and why the council is dragging its feet has never been fully explained to me. If anyone can shed light on the matter, please feel free to email me or leave a comment. Clare advised me that although discussions are still continuing, 'we are extremely hopeful of a positive outcome'.

If this could be achieved, it would also go a long way to improving availability for swimmers who live locally but work in London. I'm never going to change my mind about casual swimming sessions and I still think that there are too many exclusive sessions, but making more swimming hours available would be a huge boost.

As far as availability goes, there's very little merit in the response: 'There are four swimming pools within Lewisham and all pool programmes are balanced to ensure that public swimming is available within the borough at any one time'. Deptford is not in the centre of the borough, or even equidistant from several pools - it is stuck out in the north of the borough a long way from most of Lewisham council's facilities. While some people may have the choice between Wavelengths and Ladywell, there is a huge swathe of the catchment area who are closer to Greenwich or Southwark pools than they are to Parkwood's other centres. Offering us public swimming sessions that are miles away is pointless.

Let's keep our fingers crossed that the council pulls its finger out of wherever it is stuck and gets the ball rolling for earlier hours.

Sunday 24 May 2009

New market in Deptford

Make a date with the new market that is due to be launched next to the Deptford Project cafe on Saturday 6 June from 10am until 5.30pm. We are promised 'Vintage fashion, arts and crafts, world street food, furniture and bespoke items from local designers.'

Meanwhile, if you haven't been to the Deptford Project cafe for a while, it's worth popping back in to try out the new sofa and the rearranged interior. One of the things that I didn't like about the interior of the carriage was the arrangement of the tables - all in one long row down the centre of the carriage with stools along the side. It meant it was often difficult to get past other customers and their shopping if the only seats free were at the far end, and I'm sure it was a pain for the cafe staff who had to negotiate the set-up carrying plates of food and hot drinks.

Now the tables have been turned by 90 degrees and pushed up against the side of the carriage along one edge, creating smaller, more intimate seating arrangements where you are more likely to get a bit of privacy and which are much easier to negotiate.

The 'piece de resistance' is a new sofa and coffee table at the far end of the carriage to enable a bit of lounging - the sofa is a second-hand item which has been re-covered using a variety of very kitsch tea towels and old fabric. Well worth a visit just to see it!

Friday 22 May 2009

Cycles UK, 'Greenwich' (Deptford really)

I have been somewhat remiss in reviewing the new Cycles UK shop on Creek Road, which opened in March, and the recent review by Sustrans' Bike Belles has prompted me to get my act together.

First off, apologies for the poor photo, which is not particularly representative of what you should see as you approach the shop - as Jane mentions in her review, it usually has racks of bikes outside on the pavement.

Just a bit of background - I would describe myself as a very experienced touring cyclist (yikes, is it really 25 years?!!) and one who now commutes daily by cycle into central London. Although I'm very practical and can do most of my bike maintenance myself, I have never been the sort of person who reads cycle magazines, pores over technical specs, or knows about the latest type of gear shifters/brakes/tyres etc. I'm fairly old-school and low tech in my approach to cycling. That being said, I'm happy to spend money on good quality items and can see the benefit in waterproof panniers, good lights, comfortable clothing etc.

I was delighted to see the arrival of a new cycle shop in the area (technically it's Greenwich borough, but since it's this side of the Creek I will claim it for Deptford!) and since Witcomb's has now deserted Tanner's Hill for a much bigger facility in Wales, I won't feel bad about patronising the newcomer!

To be honest I was never able to give Witcomb's much of my business because they rarely had what I wanted in their restricted stock, but I did use them for occasional spoke replacements/wheel trueing and won't ever forget Barrie digging around in one of the many boxes behind the counter and finding some second-hand old fashioned brake levers for me to fit on my new bike. My fallback for inner tubes, helmets etc was Decathlon - not far on the bike but a bit of a pain when buying awkward items such as new tyres.

I visited the Cycles UK shop shortly after it opened, with nothing more in mind than browsing the shelves and seeing what sort of stock they were carrying. It's a spacious shop with quite a lot of bikes on show, including some lovely Pashley classics, which I would definitely be tempted by if only my bike storage wasn't up two flights of stairs!

As well as lots of wall space carrying a wide range of parts, accessories, tools and clothing, they have some great panniers which overcome the old problem that as waterproof as my panniers are, they don't look great and are not very easy to carry when you are going out in town after work.

I was particularly taken by this model of Basil bag, which can be bought singly or as a pair and each has a webbing strap so that it can be slung over your shoulder messenger-bag stylee.

I found the level of service attentive without being overbearing; during the time I was browsing, almost every member of staff asked if I needed any help, but managed to do so without making me feel like I was under any obligation.

The shop also offers a Tacx trainer which means you can try out different race stages from around the world, and the more practical implication is that beginners or less experience riders get a chance to try out and get used to the bike before going on the road.

If you want to check out the shop (and I recommend you do!) it's open seven days a week and is only about five minutes' walk from Deptford Station, Cutty Sark DLR, and Greenwich overground/DLR (take the side exit from Greenwich station/DLR). Or cycle there of course...

Current opening hours are:
Weekdays 10-7
Saturday 9-6
Sunday 11-5

Wednesday 20 May 2009

Art in Deptford

Most of Deptford's galleries and art spaces have got new exhibitions starting about now, so if you are looking for something to do over the long weekend and beyond, why not try an art tour of the area?

Throughout the bank holiday weekend there is the chance to get a peek inside the beautifully tiled ground floor of Gallop (198 Deptford High St) to see the exhibition 'Last Orders' by Anna Lincoln. The show is made up of a series of screenprints showing former pubs in Deptford in their new incarnations.

According to the press release; "Last Orders presents a selection of screen prints inspired by Deptford’s historic pubs and deciphers the clues embedded in the buildings that reveal their fascinating history. In doing so the exhibition also draws our attention to the future of Deptford‘s commercial landscape.
The minimal, striking style of Anna Lincoln’s illustration mimics architectural plans and draws inspiration from pub signs, many of which still remain above new shops and businesses in the area.
Supporting work also on show includes a film about local people’s opinion of the changes happening in Deptford, and a photographic installation encouraging people to take a renewed interest in their environments.
Gallop is an unconventional exhibition space, worthy of a visit in its own right: from the outside it appears to be just another shop on the High Street; inside all the walls are covered in tiles located around the UK. The effect is similar to the historic interior of ‘Manzes’ pie shop, just a few doors down, and the practical impact is that all artwork will be suspended from the ceiling."

Anna was also responsible for the 'Deptford Now!' leaflet and recent exhibition at the Albany, which followed a similar theme. The leaflet gives some history to 18 different buildings in Deptford, and urges you to 'look closer at what you know'. I was particularly intrigued to learn that the Shades Snooker & Pool Club used to be the Deptford Mechanics' Institute, and offered a library and weekly lectures to the skilled elite of the town - in 1908 it became Deptford's first cinema, the Electric Cinema.

Anna's show at Gallop runs from 21 to 26 May, every day from 10am till 5pm.

If you get a chance, I also recommend dropping in to the Albany where they have some old music posters on display in the cafe - including one for a performance of the legendary Squeeze. Of course the venue has made it even more worthwhile for you to drop by since it is hosting two free events this weekend - Unplugged at the Albany on Saturday, 12-3, and Brassroots, playing as part of the new Sunday Sessions which kicks off at 3.30pm on Sunday.

The latest cool venue to wash up on the shores of 'Scruffy Deptford' (copyright Daily Mail) is the Old Police Station, which has been taken over by Antony Gross of temporarycontemporary. Take a look at the website and see just amazing the building really is - just down the road from New Cross railway station it is exactly what the name suggests, an old police station! Complete with cells, interview room, booking office and even the former gym - many of them now kitted out to become performance/gallery space, artist studios, a private members club and party space.

As Antony says: "The building is a monolithic 1912 institutional monster laden with an archeology of drug helpline stencils, seizure warning posters, operational room door signs, all mixed with an Edwardian building design - fanlights, bay windows, caramel green tiles - with even some Arts and Craft touches. A heady mix, especially when you enter the heavy holding cells with their intense history. Then there is the process, the old fingerprint room, followed by 'the surgery', the soundproofed and heavy 'audio interview room', then 'photography' for your mug shot and the cells. What is this now used for? Well its our bar and social hang out of course with exhibition in the cells and booths for private views and a whole host of proposals (cabaret and one-on-one theatre performance kind of thing). I can't wait to do some food nights in there if we can - know any good Dim Sum chefs? - anyone want to run a café?"

Just don't get confused and go next door, which is the new police station!

On to a rather more traditional venue, with a new exhibition at the Arch Gallery (Resolution Way, the street of arches which connects Deptford High St and Deptford Church Street down the side of Tomi's Kitchen)
The show is Paul Marks: the butterfly effect
Runs 29 May - 20 June: preview evening 28 May 6 - 9pm

"The butterfly effect is a phrase used to describe changes to the initial conditions of interdependent, complex systems in Chaos Theory. Humans, economic & social structures, nervous systems and climate are all examples of such systems. This term, first made popular by Edward Lorenz in the 1960s relates to the idea that a butterfly's wings could cause small changes in the atmosphere, that may ultimately alter the path of a tornado. The flapping wing causes a small change in the initial condition, the effect of which results in a chain reacion leading to major changes in the system. Paul Marks continues to explore the notion of interdependence in his work with this new body of drawings. Each drawing is composed from hundreds of free-hand lines, drawn directly onto a painted canvas. Each line is influenced by the previous one and therefore has an effect on the next. Each line is unique with individual properties, but clearly cannot exist on its own. These drawings, that all start with a single straight line, gradually evolve into wildly exaggerated forms. Mark’s drawings are often interpreted in one of several ways. As contour maps, cell structures and bodily crevices. Some appear overtly sexual, others, like a meandering flow of air, smoke or water. There is though, an other-worldly quality about these new drawings, like alien organic forms or lunar landscapes. These ‘specimens’, collected for examination and magnified for our scrutiny, entice with a curious seductiveness that is quite compelling."
There's an interesting promo clip on You Tube here.
ARCH gallery, 15 Resolution Way, Deptford, London SE8 4NT

The APT Gallery on Creekside is showing the first exhibition in the Creekside Open 2009 (works selected by Jenni Lomax) until Sunday 24 May, Thursday to Sunday 12-5pm. The second exhibition (works selected by Mark Wallinger) will be on show 4-21 June, Thurs to Sunday 12-5pm.

Other local art and craft places to keep an eye on, of course, are:
Utrophia on Tanner's Hill, which hosts an evening of paintings and performance by Tim Spooner on Friday 22 May.
Although the Bear Cafe is closed for the summer, the Bearspace Gallery is still open and has a new show starting on 29 May, with work by Lisa Slominski and Sally Spinks.
Creekside Artists
Corblimey Arts on Creekside
Cockpit Arts (next main event is the open studios June 19-21)
Lewisham Art House on Lewisham Vale (gallery, studios and lots of workshops available). Next exhibition starts on 27 May.

Meanwhile I was lucky enough to see an old shop sign uncovered on Deptford High Street today: the shop between the dry cleaners and Iceland, which is in the process of being renovated.

Here it is, on show for one day only: (click to make it bigger)

Please feel free to add your suggestions of other arty venues I might have missed in the comments box, or if you remember the place with the 'latest pin tables', share your memories!

Friday 8 May 2009

We are the best!

Gosh, I seem to be listed in Time Out as one of London's best bloggers! And in very good company, I hasten to add! A shout out to my fellow SE bloggers - Brockley Central, the Phantom, Darryl at 853, Neil at Transpontine, and the Bugle (links on the left along with quite a few more - Caroline should definitely be on the TO list in my opinion!)

For once, Time Out gets it right, asking whether the fertility of the blogosphere in this part of the world is a result of the fact that SE London is usually ignored by the mainstream media. Time Out has long been an offender in this regard, and I see the policy still continues, even when they are trying to convince readers that south London sucks!

Crime mapping

A lot of the responses to the recent hoohah about Deptford have involved comments about what a crime-ridden area it is. Certainly recent events have lent some weight to this argument; the appalling details from the trials of the men who killed two students in New Cross are still fresh in many peoples' minds, and the death of another teenage stab victim yesterday just a few streets away from the station would surely back up the Daily Mail's case. (Before we start, let's get one thing clear though - wearing a jacket with the hood up is NOT a crime, or it wasn't last time I checked, nor does it make you automatically a criminal.)

But if like me you prefer to see the evidence rather than believe everything you read in the papers, you might be interested to check out the Metropolitan Police's Crime Mapping service.

Input your postcode and you can find out how your area rates in comparison with other London boroughs - whether crime rates in your area are average, or higher or lower than the rest of London. Click on the map to get information for each ward about the actual number of incidents, the figures from the previous months, and trends for the month or the year.

I've discovered that in March 2009, the overall crime rate in Evelyn ward (north of the railway line and all the way up to the river, the 'dreaded' Pepys estate and all) was up slightly on February's figures, but still average by London standards. The area south of the railway line, up to New Cross road was above average.

The overall figures can also be broken down further, revealing that although 'violence against the person' is above average for my ward, and high for a neighbouring New Cross ward, 'most serious violence against the person' is only average in most of Deptford, although above average in parts of Rotherhithe and high in Lewisham town centre.

We did not do so well in 'personal robbery'. In March the ward's figures were high by London standards, although surprisingly many of the surrounding wards scored 'low or no crime'. Business robbery was also high - although to be fair, the figures recorded a single incident in the month, showing the rating system to be a rather blunt tool on this occasion.

Residential burglary is also average or low in many parts of Deptford, while many neighbouring Greenwich wards are above average or high. 'Other burglary' ranges from low or no crime (Evelyn) to high (High Street towards New Cross).

The information on trends shows that although February and March of this year recorded a rise in crime compared to January of this year, they show a reduction on the number of crimes at the same time last year. Even personal robbery figures show a decline over the last few years.

Ultimately of course it's possible to pick out whichever statistics suit your argument and ignore the rest - but having this information available at least enables readers to get statistics about crime rates in the area they live in, and make up their own minds about whether or not they want to come here.