Wednesday 17 October 2012

Black history month - local events

There's plenty going on in and around Deptford over the next few weeks for Black History Month - tomorrow's event at the Deptford Lounge caught my eye in particular. Deptford's maritime history is very much in focus at the moment, what with plans to build over the remains of our royal dockyard at Convoys Wharf, and the threat that the anchor on the high street will be sent back to Chatham, eliminating the last visual reminder of Deptford's considerable boat-building heritage.

Tomorrow night historian and novelist S I Martin will be talking about Deptford's black maritime history, and he will be accompanied by singer and spoken word performer El Crisis. It promises to be a fascinating evening.

I saw El Crisis performing this song at the Deptford Lounge some time ago - I think it was at the opening or some time around then - and it brought tears to my eyes.

Deptford Lounge 

18 October 7-8.30pm
Deptford’s black maritime history: S.I. Martin and El Crisis
Deptford’s black maritime history explored by S.I. Martin.

19 October 4-5pm
Bessie Coleman: story and paper plane mobile craft
Chatterbooks special for ages 8-11.

20 October 2-3pm
African Batik craft
Come and make your own African inspired pattern.

27 October 2-3pm
African landscape craft
Come and make an African landscape scene.

29 October 2-3pm and 3.30-4.30pm
Half Term Tour - Stories from Many Nations
Alison Blunt, internationally acclaimed musician and storyteller, presents stories and songs from many nations.

3 November 2-4pm
Black History Month Sing Out!
You can be part of a barnstorming sing-out performance at Deptford Lounge.

8 November 7-8.30pm Chibundo Onuzo and Noo Saro-Wiwa: Author event
Chibundo Onuzo and Noo Saro-Wiwa share the platform at Deptford Lounge to discuss their new books.

Moonshot Centre (Fordham Park)

27 October 12noon–9pm Moonshot family fun day
IRIE! Dance Theatre invite you to step back in time to the Moonshot Centre in the 70s and 80s.

New Cross Community Library 

30 October 3.45-4.30pm Half Term Tour - Stories from Many Nations
Alison Blunt, internationally acclaimed musician and storyteller, presents stories and songs from many nations.

Full listings and more details about all these events can be found on the council's website.

Friday 12 October 2012

Deptford High Street improvements - save the anchor!

You may recall at the beginning of this year that Lewisham Council was awarded funding for high street improvements and published some proposals of what changes it intended to implement.

As well as addressing the paving, layout and lighting of the street, there are also a number of other significant changes that the council wants to implement, including parking and traffic flow on the high street.

The original plans for the south end of the high street at Deptford Broadway seem to have been modified somewhat compared to the new visualisations that are included in the leaflet that the council is delivering locally.

Oddly, although the council says it wants to remove the anchor and the low wall around it (ostensibly to remove the focus for the street drinkers) the new renderings show a nice little planted area with a lovely low wall. Looks the perfect place to meet your mates for a can of Red Stripe and a fight. Right outside Peacocks, oh sorry I mean the 99p shop.

Apparently the council is 'trying to find' a new location for the anchor (massive hint: how about that unfinished and uninspiring square outside the Deptford Lounge which currently has no focus whatsoever if you don't count the hoarded off corner? You're welcome, the invoice for the consultancy fee is in the post).

If you feel strongly that the anchor should stay somewhere in Deptford, I recommend that you fill in this online survey which includes a question about what should happen to one of Deptford's most well-known landmarks. 

Traffic is to be restricted to one way only (I assume from the junction at Giffin Street) which might reduce some of the motoring fuckwittery that is regularly experienced down there, but I'm not holding my breath. The council also says that it's going to replace the current high street parking regulations with bays where drivers can park for half an hour only, so I assume this means there will also have to be enhanced parking enforcement.

Other measures include the employment of 'an experienced events and town centre renewal manager who will work with local businesses over the next two years to showcase Deptford’s potential'.

There are plans for a series of special events, 'refresher courses' (not sure what in) for existing market traders and shopkeepers and to work with local artists/designers to 'create a more attractive look' for the high street.

The council is also offering support to up to a dozen under-25s who want to start up their own businesses and market stalls. They will get six weeks’ training and a pitch on the market in the lead-up to christmas. 

You can find out more about these plans (and inevitably 'have your say' for what it's worth) at a drop-in event being held at the Deptford Lounge next Wednesday 17 October from 4pm-7.30pm.

Thursday 11 October 2012

Evelyn Assembly Saturday 13 October

Evelyn Assembly is holding its annual voting event this Saturday from 11am - 2pm upstairs in the Deptford Lounge on Giffin Street.

Attendees will be able cast their votes for the local groups and organisations they think should receive assembly funding - 17 in total have applied and they will be represented at the event, providing information about their projects and what they want the funding for.

If you want to vote, you will need to arrive by 11.45 at the latest.

There's also dancers, free face painting, a balloonist and local musicians, as well as free refreshments. Not to mention the opportunity to catch a glimpse of the ward's elusive councillors.

Meanwhile the council is seeking your opinion about local assemblies - for your chance to win £100 in 'high street vouchers' (I take it that's not the opportunity to buy 100 items in Poundland or 101 in the 99p shop) you should fill in the online survey here.

Finally the leaflet also promises the opportunity to 'sign up to have your say on the changes happening around convoys wharf in Evelyn ward'.


Tuesday 2 October 2012

Albany sells off its back garden for housing

Do you enjoy sitting out in the garden at the back of the Albany Theatre enjoying a meal or a cup of tea in the sunshine? Perhaps, like me, you often wander along Idonia Street and take pleasure in watching the birds flit among the row of mature trees that stand along the edge of the land bordering Octavius Street.

If so, my advice is to make the most of it.

Last month the Albany finally made public the deal it struck more than a year ago with developer Cathedral Group to sell off this little green oasis for residential use, and announced that plans for the land will be put out for public consultation later this year.

According to the press release on the Albany's website:

The Albany and Cathedral Group have entered into a partnership to kick start an investment and development programme which will secure a vibrant future for the Albany as the leading arts venue and community hub in south east London. 

As we celebrate our 30th anniversary on Douglas Way this year, a lack of capital investment in our building over the previous 30 years has restricted the ability of the Albany to fulfil our potential in delivering a full range of events, activities and community uses. 

As part of the investment programme, a residential development will take place on land to the rear of the theatre, providing necessary finance to help facilitate the development and expansion of our operation, knitting the Albany further into the heart of Deptford. 

The proposed development will fund a programme of major external and internal improvements, ensuring the Albany can continue to innovate and remain a leader in arts provision by creating a new, reinvigorated and sustainable local arts complex with expanded facilities. Plans for the residential development will be brought forward for public consultation in the autumn of this year.

These plans have been in the offing for more than five years now, but apart from a vague mention at the Albany's last AGM and a couple of paragraphs in the accounts and annual report for the 2010/2011 financial year, the Albany has been playing its cards very close to its chest.

As far back as 2007, architectural practice Project Orange was working on potential designs for the site, and at that time the proposals were pretty depressing. Almost the entire area of the site was taken up by residential units, apart from a large extension for the Albany Theatre of course, and a tiny 'garden' between the old and the new units.

The grey building on the right is the carriage ramp development which was given planning permission earlier this year, but which has not yet started construction. The green and yellow blocks behind it are the original proposal, with the Albany to the left for scale.

A plan view shows the existing land at the back of the Albany comprehensively built over.

However since I downloaded these images a year or so ago, it seems there has been something of a revision to plans, with the Project Orange website now showing these renderings of the Albany Housing 'in progress'.

I'm assuming that the dark grey circular shaped things are trees, it seems from the information on the Cathedral Group site that these trees are actually protected, so at least some of them will be retained, and the layout certainly looks a lot more permeable than the previous proposal.

Here the black and white block on the right is the carriage ramp development, the two new blocks - still a considerable height and higher than the flats on Idonia Street - at the rear of the Albany.

It's good that the Albany's management and trustees are planning for the future and that they seem committed to improving and expanding the facilities on the site. But I am sorely disappointed by the path that they have chosen.

The sell-off of this green space right at the very heart of Deptford risks undermining any good the Albany might achieve in securing the future of the theatre, and it seems to me that they have taken the easiest route to getting the cash they need without considering what impact their actions will have on their immediate neighbours and the local community.

Campaigners across the other side of the high street are fighting the temporary loss of green space which is threatened by construction of a shaft for the Thames Tunnel, but it seems to me that the Albany's backdoor tactics are far more insidious and harmful.

The area is already going to change dramatically with the construction of the eight-storey block next to the carriage ramp and redevelopment of St Paul's House on the high street. The loss of even more green space does not signal an improvement to me.