Tuesday 24 July 2012

Deptford rail bridge in full technicolour

Walking along the high street is now much more pleasant with the scaffolding removed - it was a dark and unpleasant place at night time and a rubbish trap at all hours of day.

I must say the newly-painted steelwork looks very stylish and I'm delighted to see that no yellow has been allowed to mar the beauty of the bridge! It's also much improved with the roof and canopies removed, although that might not be much of a benefit for travellers when the rain and wind return.

Sunday 22 July 2012

Upcoming events: Deptford and surrounds

With a certain major sporting event imminent, and the impact being felt across the capital, there's also a wealth of other things happening as everyone ramps up the local events. Don't expect to have any time to watch the sporting highlights with all this going on!

Aside from the arrival of the torch at 7.30am tomorrow morning (don't expect me there, I've seen it already elsewhere and that was under duress!) here's a flavour of what south east London has to offer in the coming weeks and months.

28/29 July and 4/5 August: Faircharm Fair

Local artists and designer makers showcase their work at Faircharm Studios Deptford. The fair will coincide with the open studios on Creekside and Deptford X contemporary art festival 2012. 
The fair is open to the public from 11am-6pm. More info here.

27 July - 12 August: Deptford X

Deptford X chair Paul Marks says: "We have been working with our appointed lead artist-curators, Hew Locke and Indra Khanna, to produce a high-quality festival of contemporary visual art, and we are pleased to welcome Henna Nadeem, Dzine, Doug Jones and The Hidden Noise to Deptford X 2012.
"Deptford X has been commissioned the London Borough of Lewisham to produce three pieces of work: David Mach’s ‘Hell Bent’ sculpture will be displayed on Blackheath; Lewisham Council’s refuse trucks will be decorated with new work that has been created by students led by Bridget Lycett-Smith; and a sculpture from the Museum of Melancholy inspired by Olympic podiums will be exhibited in the Creekside CafĂ©.
"This year the festival will include over 50 fringe projects, plus gallery exhibitions, open studios and numerous tours, events and performances, making Deptford X 2012 a truly inspiring programme."

Lots more info on the website, as well as a downloadable programme. If you want a printed copy, you can buy one from Arch Materials shop for £1.

27 July - 11 August: Gallery Closed Studio Open 

This is a new Utrophia/Extra Bones project as part of Deptford X and will take place at the Utrophia project space.

From the organisers:
"Gallery Closed Studio Open is a programme of diverse participatory art projects, workshops, music making, live performances, screenings and talks, almost all of which are free. Our aim is to create something which all of Deptford will feel they can get involved in, and we think we have something to suit almost every taste!"

All the listings, as well as information on how to sign up for projects, can be found here.

The line-up also has plenty for all ages and the organisers have picked out a selection here which are particularly suitable for families and children

28 July, 4/11 Aug: Deptford X walking and cycling tours

Walking tours:
28th July Part 1: Studio & main programme tour 14:00 - 16:00
4th August Part 2: Studios & fringe 14:00 - 16:00
11th August with special guests: curators of Deptford X Hew Locke and Indra Khanna 14:00 - 16:00

Led by South London Art Map’s tour guides, all of whom are artists and curators practising in South London, these tours will give you the behind the scenes look at Deptford’s studios, galleries and most importantly the Deptford X fringe and main programmes.

All tours are pay what you like and begin at Bearspace Gallery, 152 Deptford High St, SE8 3PQ

Cycling tours:

29th July Part 1
4th August Part 2
12th August Part 3

Join Artouride (London's only art & design cycle tour company) in collaboration with SLAM on a visual cycle journey around the DeptfordX 2012 festival. Your guide will show you some of the highlights of the festival, including studios, exhibitions and installations. During these leisurely rides we will stop and view and discuss work on display, giving you ample opportunity to experience many aspects of the festival. We will also discover the local area's historical and contemporary landmarks.

All tours are from 14:00  - 17:00 and meet at The Deptford Project, 121-123 Deptford High Street, SE8 4NS

Tours are £15pp (Includes use of Artourides Brompton bike) and there are 10 places available @ £10 if you bring your own bike.

Booking info here.

5 August: New Cross Learning big summer booksale

A big summer book sale will be held at New Cross Learning, the community-run learning space and library in New Cross Gate on Sunday 5 August.

The event will run from 2pm-5pm, with second-hand books at (almost) pre-war prices, with paperbacks from 20p and hardbacks from £1. There will also be tea, coffee and home-made cakes for sale.

It’ll be a great opportunity to get some holiday reading and take a break from the Olympics.  We have a superb stock of donated books for all tastes.

"It may have been a horrible summer, and we may not get as many medals as we were expecting,", said Chair of New Cross Learning Gill Hart, "but a good book never lets you down".

All of the proceeds will go towards keeping New Cross Learning, its library and other learning activities, open.

Various dates in July and August: Mystery walks and magical picnics

There will be six mystery walks and picnics on Fridays this summer from 27th July, leaving from New Cross Learning for an unknown destination!

The walks may be indoors or outdoors, depending on the weather, and are free (and sponsored by the NHS). People of all ages, and families, are welcome.

The walks will start at 11am and finish at 2pm, and there will be a magical healthy picnic half way through. They will offer the chance to get out, do something new and get (gently) fit while having fun, showing that you don't have to be an Olympic athlete to stay healthy.

The destinations will include some local beauty spots and London museums.

The walks and picnics will be on a first come, first served basis, and the dates are 27 July, and 3, 10, 17, 24 and 31 August.

Various dates: family events and low-tide walks at the Creekside Centre

A whole host of family fun days and low-tide walks are being held at the Creekside Centre this summer - for full details see the posters below or visit the website

As well as the low-tide walks noted on the poster below,  extra walks are being held during the Olympic period on 29 July at 2pm, 2 Aug at 7pm, 7 Aug at 11am, 10 Aug at 1.30pm and 30 Aug at 7pm.

28 July: Blurt & Satyre gig on board the MS Stubnitz

Not strictly in Deptford, but featuring some of our home-grown musical talent. This floating music venue from the former East Germany is currently moored in the Royal Docks on the other side of the river. Worth a look if you get the chance - see the Guardian's article here.

Friday 20 July 2012

Convoys Wharf public exhibition

I wonder how many of my readers went to the Convoys Wharf public exhibition in the Deptford Lounge last Saturday or Monday evening? I suspect it wasn't very many of you.

Several hundred read this blog every day and I estimate that barely a third that number came through the door in total during the eight-hour period the plans were on display. To my knowledge there were two posters on display locally - one in the Dog & Bell and the other in the Deptford Project. Neither of these was visible from the high street, and in a brief sweep of the shop windows on Saturday, not a single poster was on show - only a board outside the entrance to the Deptford Lounge. A survey of friends living within a three minute walk of the high street revealed that none had had flyers delivered either by hand or in the post. Apart from posts on blogs such as this one, there has been a marked absence of publicity.

It would be interesting to know from the people who actually made it to the exhibition, where they had heard about it - if you saw any flyers or posters, or just saw something on the internet. Even if you didn't go, it would be good if you could comment on any publicity you may have seen or received.

There was an awful lot of information on display at the exhibition - way too much in my opinion, and quite a lot of it unnecessary - but in fact probably the most important bit of information in the room, and the one that fewest people saw, was the label next to the large model. This label stated that it was a 'groundscape' model - ie lower floors only. No building heights at all, rendering the model incredibly benign, a low-rise development at a human scale and posing little threat to Deptford as we know it.

The label proclaims: 'Convoys Wharf: 3 squares, 3 linked parks and a riverside promenade'.

Not to mention 3,500 new apartments, several high rise towers, shops, hotels and a lot of parking spaces. The three parks it mentions (Pepys Park, Sayes Court Gardens, Twinkle Park) already exist outside the site boundaries; don't be misled into thinking the new development includes new parks, although they seem to have tacked a bit extra onto Sayes Court Gardens and propose to plant trees everywhere, including inside the Olympia Building. Work that one out.

But you wouldn't be misled by the model at all, would you?

Farrell's had clearly spent a lot of money on having this model built - architectural models don't come cheap - but the information it provided could just as easily have been conveyed on a plan, at a fraction of the price. Musing on this only led me to one possible conclusion - that it was a deliberate ploy to confuse or pacify people by the visual suggestion that the development was going to be in scale with its surroundings.

The model was made very green by the presence of large trees on every road, and pretty chips of coloured perspex were dotted everywhere to represent counters in retail units, boats, and other unidentified objects. Cocktail sticks bearing white flag-like labels were stuck all over the place, with touchy-feeling, wording on them, clearly carefully-chosen to appeal: 'local pub' and 'local shop' as opposed to 'pub' or 'wine bar' and 'retail'.

If you are the sort of person who thinks that if the developer or council writes such a thing on a model, it will become reality, then you no doubt see a rosy future for this site. Museums, art galleries, schools, squares and public areas, not to mention the gardens on the old jetty.

But despite the wealth of historical research and the jaunty flags, I found very little changed in the masterplan. Some additions that were welcome at first glance turned out to be less than logical under closer inspection, and nearly all of the previous major sticking points still stuck badly.

Initially I was excited to see that the architects had included the Lenox Project on the masterplan - until I noticed that it had been located in the protected wharf at the west end of the site. Knowing what I do about the Lenox Project, I understand that it needs visitors to sustain it financially - and many of those visitors are expected to be drawn from the tourists who visit maritime Greenwich to the east of Deptford.

I also know that a ship needs launching facilities - slipway or dry dock - and although these are present in spades on the Convoys Wharf site, none exist where the masterplanners have dumped the ship. There's a massive whiff of tokenism about it and suggests that perhaps they just grabbed on to the suggestion as a way of filling up part of the big gaping hole in the working wharf.

Many of the other aspects of the development proposals that made local people unhappy remain unchanged.

The developers still intend to build 'up to' 3,500 units and still maintain that this is because Lewisham Council demands such numbers (a claim which has been flatly denied by Lewisham Council's planning department).

The transport proposals are still at the same pitiful level: 'enhancements' to bus routes along Evelyn Street, a new bus route through the site, and a jetty for the existing river boat service to call at (expensive and only really practical for travelling across the river to Canary Wharf).

Around 1800 car parking spaces are proposed, and this has a number of implications for the development and its neighbouring estates. Firstly the fact that those cars have to get in and out of Convoys Wharf, and local roads are ill-equipped to allow this. Moreover, in excess of 300 spaces are proposed for non-residential use.

Secondly, while the developers may boast that the proportion of parking spaces to residential units is below the allowable level, don't break out the applause and champagne until you've considered what this means. People buying or renting the new apartments are unlikely to sell their cars just because they don't have a parking space. They'll just find somewhere nearby to park it, probably a local road or car park. Most of the estate car parks already require permits, but when residents finally move into the new development, a controlled parking zone will inevitably be required on all streets around the site.

Employment prospects are still restricted to retail or service industries - aside from the Lenox Project, the ever-shrinking protected wharf was eerily bereft of anything except a label saying 'temporary uses'.

With no building heights or massing information it was impossible to assess the real impact of the proposed development. Only a series of tiny models made out of polystyrene gave any clue as to what we are going to see at the second 'consultation' in September when a more complete masterplan is intended to be revealed.

The Convoys Wharf website is now back online; they have made a series of little videos which explain the research they carried out before nominally tweaking the previous masterplan.

You can submit comments via the website, although since there's no information about the new masterplan on it as yet, it's difficult to do so if you weren't at the exhibition.

Several members of Deptford Is.. were at the exhibition and a thorough review of the proposals has been published here. I recommend signing up for their mailing list if you want to be kept up to date with what's going on (and be informed about future exhibitions).

In the meantime, I feel a post on 'public consultation; what on earth is it?' coming up.

Tuesday 10 July 2012

Council contractors decimate wild flower garden

Yesterday I published the following post:

The Deptford guerrilla garden is now in full bloom - walk down to the roundabout at the bottom of Edward Street (next to the MOT place) and you will see poppies and daisies galore.

There's a scattering of nasturtiums, some sunflowers that are striving up towards the rather elusive sunshine, some little unidentified purple flowers and various other things that I don't know what they are, along with loads of tiny pansies and a scattering of weeds.

A welcome splash of colour in this bed where the roses (at the other end) are usually the only decoration, if you don't count tin cans and empty chicken boxes.

When I went past the other day, in a sunny moment, the flowers were awash with bees, making the most of a dry period to gather a bit of nectar. Great to see a new habitat for our poor honey bees.

Do take a look if you are passing, and enjoy the display while it lasts.

Little did I realise how short a time we would actually have in which to enjoy this: coming home from work on Tuesday I found this scene of devastation.

It seems the council's over-zealous grounds maintenance contractors - presumably Glendales, who don't have the best reputation locally - have been along and 'tidied up' the flower bed by removing almost everything of beauty.

They have not just removed the weeds, which admittedly could have done with a bit of attention, but also the poppies and daisies, which were in full flower, the one or two cornflowers, the nasturtiums around the edges which were just coming into bud, the small hollyhocks which had not yet taken hold properly, and a myriad of other plants that added colour and diversity to the flower bed.

Thankfully they left the sunflowers - although not all of them, there were many others dotted around the flower bed. The many bees and other insects that were buzzing round the flowers when I visited at the weekend were long gone. Another habitat, however small, destroyed.  

I got in touch with the local resident I know who gardens here, she was understandably upset. "I can't believe what they've done - how is this any improvement on the situation?" she said. "And what are they going to put in it instead? I've been living here more than five years and in that time the council has never spent any money on flowers or even seeds for this bed. It has always been empty, which is criminal really when so many people are waiting for allotments and don't have gardens.

"Me and my friends spent quite a lot of time trying to make it more attractive by digging up the weeds, sowing seeds and planting flowers here. After all this hard work it was looking so lovely, and now it's just a vast expanse of empty soil, which will be full of weeds and rubbish again within a few weeks. I really don't know what they think they have achieved.

"Proper gardeners would have had the knowledge and patience to weed selectively and would certainly not have pulled up any flowers, even poppies which can be invasive. They would have come back once the flowers were gone, removing most of the seed heads to keep next year's poppy growth manageable.

"What they've done here is just vandalism."

Monday 9 July 2012

Poundland and the 99p store

It's not as if Deptford is in need of bargain stores, but it seems that when large retail units become available, we have a ready-made bargain-store vacuum that sucks them in.

First of the two giants in Deptford is Poundland, which opened its doors last Friday.

Doors that still don't have planning permission, that is.

The generic design of a cheap and nasty facade with aluminium frames and illuminated signs was refused planning permission by the council some months ago, on the grounds that the shop is in a conservation zone and the developer should make a greater effort with the design of the shop front.

In a move of incredible cynicism and downright contempt for the planning process, the developer simply installed the shop front to the original, rejected design, and then put in a retrospective planning application for the same design.

Perhaps the applicant drew two fingers at the top of the application form and scrawled 'F*ck you Lewisham!' across it, just to make sure the message was received loud and clear?*

Meanwhile at the other end of the street, the former Peacocks is to become a 99p store, and work on the shop unit was starting at the weekend as I passed. With Deptford High Street and the market book-ended by these two stores, I do worry for the survival of some of our shops and stalls.

Not the other pound stores particularly, but those shops that rely on making some money off shifting cheap plastic stuff to help them survive, while selling the other products that set them aside. I'm thinking about Peter & Joan's (haberdashery), Johnny's DIY and our two pharmacists, for example.

All sell things that you can't buy in Poundland or the 99p store, as well as things that you can. If you want to support diversity in the high street, and maintain our market and wide range of shops, please give this some thought when you do your shopping.

*If you want to object to the application by Poundland, the reference number is DC/12/80201 and you should email planning@lewisham.gov.uk with your name and full address.

Sunday 8 July 2012

Giffin Square - public realm?

Lewisham Council's contractors seem to be suffering an ongoing case of 'finish-itis' when it comes to the public realm in Giffin Square.

A certain amount of money has been spent on this part of the redevelopment works, and although the Lounge and Tidemill School have been finished and open for more than six months, this part of the works has remained frustratingly fenced off ever since.

I have no idea why the corner of the square has remained unfinished for so long - I've heard rumours that it's a problem with the utilities. But if that's the case, someone at the council needs to be chasing it up rather than just waiting to get a response and pushing the paperwork to the bottom of the pile.

The mature trees which were carefully planted around the square have been badly neglected - I have no idea whose job it is to water them, but they actually do need watering, even in the inclement weather we've been seeing. But they are not getting watered, and the tree pits are full of broken bits of paving stones and rubbish. It's a sad sight indeed, and if this situation continues we are likely to lose the trees altogether, which would be a shameful waste of public money for want of a bit of care.

Still, it's good to know that the council can get it together to cover up our blushes in time for the arrival of the Olympic Torch in a couple of weeks' time.

The grotty corner of Giffin Square was hoarded off on Saturday to ensure that when the eyes of the world (or whoever happens to be tuning in at that time of day) are on Deptford, they are not offended by the sight of our public realm. Who knows, perhaps they might actually get round to taking down the depressing steel fences too, so that we can get a bit of use out of Giffin Square at some point.