Sunday 28 July 2013

My Deptford

The focus on Deptford in the South Bank's Festival of Neighbourhood prompted some strange emotions. It may only be '8 minutes from here' (actually 11 mins according to official timetables and that's not including the walk to Waterloo East but I'll let that one go, it's a great name) but it was very odd seeing local artists, issues and initiatives on what is essentially a national, perhaps even international, stage.

Spoken word performances in the Clore Ballroom last night took place in front of a projection of the His n Hers mural, giving the impression that the performers were right back home in Giffin Square.

The big cardboard anchor which was commissioned by the South Bank specially for the festival by Laura X Carle was somewhat bare at the start of the day, but by the end of it was covered in Post-it notes, many of them demanding the return of the anchor to Deptford High Street.

More than 40 works by Deptford artists are displayed in the '8 minutes from here' show, with some familiar scenes bringing Johnny's DIY shop and the river view from Deptford to Greenwich (complete with aircraft carrier) right into the heart of the Festival Hall. 

Several panels of security fencing provide a fitting canvas to display photographs of Deptford - test yourself on how many places and people you can recognise - and visitors are invited to add cards with their impressions and experiences of Deptford.

The Deptford Market of Ideas has stalls promoting a number of local organisations, including galleries and charities, and an impressive display by the Build the Lenox campaign manned by its director, bewigged boat builder Julian Kingston.

Artist Hollie Paxton has made some beautiful little tins decorated with photographs of Deptford High Street shops - open the lids and you can hear soundtracks recorded inside those shops. Her metal brooches replicate hand-written signs from the high street, and she has also made an oversize knuckle-duster ring with Deptford written on it (as seen being modelled by local star Molly on the home page of her website).

There's still time to catch the Deptford show - from 10am today (Sunday) pop along and add your thoughts about the anchor or Deptford, meet Bernadette Russell (of 366 Days of Kindness fame) and see Ben Parry and Jacques Chauchat's sonic junk street machine.

Thursday 25 July 2013

Local community open day at the Fan Museum

Plenty going on this weekend, what with Deptford being the focus of the Festival of Neighbourhood at the South Bank and all that.

But if you don't fancy a trip up town (only 8 minutes away apparently) or want something local to do on the Saturday, pop over the border to Greenwich and you can visit the Fan Museum for free.

According to the press release:
The Fan Museum is holding a Local Community Open Day with the aim of encouraging residents from nearby boroughs to visit the museum. Since its inception over twenty years ago The Fan Museum has striven to foster a positive connection and increase engagement with the local community, and the forthcoming Open Day provides an opportunity for all sections of the community - particularly those who have yet to visit – to get a taste of one of the UK’s most unique cultural institutions.

The Fan Museum opened in 1991, in the heart of historic Royal Greenwich. Its 4000+ collection of predominantly antique fans is housed within two Grade II listed Georgian Town Houses. The permanent collection on the ground floor showcases the museum’s eclectic collection: from 11th Century Chinese fan leaves, via elegant Regency styles, to contemporary designs. Here visitors can discover the vast history of the fan, which encompasses themes of fashion, art, politics, court life and more. The first floor gallery houses thematic exhibitions, which change every four months. Each exhibition focuses on a specific subject, offering visitors a chance to view a selection of the world’s rarest and most exquisite fans.

FREE admission to all local residents will include

  • entry to the museum for all Royal Greenwich and Lewisham borough residents (bring proof of your address such as driving licence, utility bill etc)
  • curator-led mini tours throughout the day 
  • fan-making demonstrations throughout the day 
  • sessions for children to handle and learn about fans (requires booking in advance)
  • refreshments in the Orangery: a sample taster of our popular Afternoon Tea 

Friday 19 July 2013

Secret Garden Project Lewisham

Sue Godfrey Nature Park in Deptford features in a number of events based along the Ravensbourne and Pool Rivers as part of the Secret Garden Project, a pan-London programme of environmental art commissions focussing on the capital's lesser known green spaces.

Artist Rebecca Beinart will be exploring the history and botany of the Sue Godfrey Nature Park during a three month residency, starting with a number of events in the park.

The website describes the park as 'a small and inconspicuous wild land, wedged amongst residential blocks in the heart of Deptford which has become a haven for wildlife. Originally the site of the Parry's pottery works, when industry trades began to diminish in Deptford it was left as a wasteland, with parameters ringed and only the ruins of a 17th century kiln as a nod to its past. 

'However, after a lengthy campaign by local residents, Sue Godfrey Nature Park was established in 1984, opening the site back up to the public and wildlife alike and who have since successfully fought off several attempts for redevelopment. 

'Drawing on the the rich history of local activism, trade and green spaces in Deptford, Beinart will host a series of medicine making workshops, conversations and shared meals over the coming months. The project seeks to open up wider questions around urban ecology, local knowledge and land use in cities.'

As well as events in Deptford, the project involves the creation of new permanent artworks for Ladywell Fields and Cornmill Gardens, as well as development of a mobile app and digital sound installation for the River Pool Linear Park down towards Bellingham.

Meanwhile here's a photo of my favourite 'secret' artwork in Sue Godfrey Nature Park - you will only get to see it if you walk right through the middle.

Wednesday 17 July 2013

His 'n' hers gets a refresh

Nice to see that Deptford's most famous mural, 'His 'n' hers' by Artmongers is getting a bit of a refresh - not before time in fact!

Must be pretty hot work up the scaffolding tower, they have already spent several days filling the cracks in the render, and repainting the large swathes of colour. Today they were putting new pearls on the necklace - looks like the work will be finished in the next day or two.

Monday 15 July 2013

No more Charing Cross trains after 2014; massive loss in service proposed for Deptford

Here's your new station. What do you mean, you want useful train services as well?!

I'm unashamedly putting a rather more journalistic spin on the story published on the Deptford High Street website last week about plans to permanently cut Deptford's direct services to Charing Cross.

If proposals go ahead as planned, after next year it will no longer be possible to get a train from Deptford to Waterloo East or Charing Cross stations.

After 2014 trains from Deptford will ONLY serve Cannon Street station - worse than that, for THREE YEARS you won't even be able to change at London Bridge!

So now you are probably thinking - what the hell, I'll walk to New Cross station and go from there, might add another five minutes but it'll be so much easier.

This won't be an option either - New Cross will be similarly affected!

As Greenwich Line Users' Group convener Mike Sparham explains in the article, this massive loss in amenity is down to proposed improvements to the Thameslink services at London Bridge. All well and good for those using Thameslink, but it will leave Greenwich-line users severely restricted in terms of travel options.

It will also increase travel costs - whereas currently you can get into central London for the cost of a Southeastern train ticket to Charing Cross, in future those travelling to the West End for work or leisure will be dumped in Cannon Street and face the additional cost of a tube or bus ride to get to the centre of town.

Contact details for the user group are on Mike's post; whether or not a campaign can have any effect at this stage of the game is uncertain, but I'll try and keep you updated.

*Update: new local site West Greenwich Blog has an update on the current plans for changes. You can read it here.

Sunday 14 July 2013

New footbridge for Deptford Creek - at what cost?

This week Greenwich Council's planning board approved a planning application for a new swing bridge over the mouth of Deptford Creek. This is great news for pedestrians and cyclists using the Thames path, and once access along the front of New Capital Quay is fully open, will make the journey from Deptford to Greenwich so much more pleasant.

The original proposal put forward by NCQ developer Galliard was pretty gruesome, and thankfully died a fairly rapid death under the derision heaped upon it. It's fair to say that the new design, a cable-stayed swing bridge, is a vast improvement from an aesthetic point of view and also in terms of accessibility.

But while the bridge will offer improved amenity to pedestrians and cyclists, if its operation is not properly managed it could well become a serious obstacle for those who live on boats on the creek itself, or who use its waters for pleasure or business.

Being entirely cynical it's easy to suggest that this is not a concern that Greenwich Council loses much sleep over - as boaters have pointed out, the Greenwich banks of Deptford Creek are noted for their long line of signs proclaiming 'No Mooring'. While they don't have any signs saying 'Keep orf my land!' you can kind of read that between the lines.

As recently as five or ten years ago there was a thriving community of houseboats on the Creek, now there are only a handful left. Many of those moored on the Greenwich side were evicted when the creekside sites were redeveloped; no provisions to support the continued presence of these boats were considered and they were moved on as if they were illegal squatters. A more enlightened local authority might have seen the benefit in opening up the banks of the creek and encouraging houseboats to moor there, adding colour, interest and vibrancy to the creek side.

The river is also used by James Prior boats to deliver aggregates to the site right next to the Creek Road lifting bridge; here the aggregate is mixed into concrete and supplied to construction sites locally. This system keeps a large number of lorries off our local roads.

During the consultancy phase for the Thames Tunnel project, it was suggested that the traffic impact of construction work at the Greenwich pumping station might be reduced greatly by the use of the creek for deliveries of shaft lining units and removal of spoil. The developer at Faircharm has also given a (somewhat vague) commitment to exploring the use of the creek for deliveries, but at least the idea is there. All this could come to naught, however, if it proves impossible to synchronise the operation of two movable bridges within the limited tidal window to enable boats to get upstream and service the sites.

Practicalities aside, what really gets my goat about this particular planning decision is the fact that New Capital Quay developer Galliard has demanded permission for extra storeys on two riverside buildings in order to 'pay' for the bridge. At the same planning meeting, permission was given for an additional 22 residential units to be built on top of two blocks on the riverside. The two applications were inextricably linked.

If this pedestrian bridge had been a last minute demand from the council, dreamed up recently and imposed on the developer without any thought, I would have considered such a request reasonable. But the bridge was part of the S106 agreement drafted when planning permission was granted for the initial development, and as such I believe it should have been honoured by the developer (or indeed demanded by the local authority). In fact Galliards has said it can't afford to build the bridge because of the change in the housing market since it bought the land.

I was staggered to read the following statement in the planning department's report on the application:

"The applicants have been in discussions with the Council about the requirement to provide the footbridge stating that the Greenwich Reach site was purchased at the top of the market at the end of 2007 for a premium just prior to the financial crisis in 2008 and subsequently the reduction in house prices and value of this site means that the site is only now marginally viable. The obligation to provide the footbridge without providing the additional residential proposed by this application would make the scheme unviable. The scheme has been assessed by the Council’s Independent Viability Assessor who has agreed with the finding of the viability appraisal."

So: "We speculated on the purchase of a piece of land and we got burned. We can't make enough profit because house prices crashed."

Anyone who's taken a peek behind the new Waitrose will be aware of the density of this development. The handkerchief-size square of open land outside the store is probably the biggest bit of public space between buildings on the peninsula. The road through the middle is a soulless chasm of sheer-sided apartment blocks which, given its east-west orientation is unlikely to see sunshine for much of the year. Aside from building taller blocks, the developer couldn't have fitted many more units on this site.

So 'in return' for fulfilling an obligation made five years ago in specific circumstances, the devcloper has now been given permission to increase the density further by adding more units to two waterfront buildings. Galliard shareholders can rest easy now, their annual dividend assured by the local authority.

Tuesday 2 July 2013

Labour party de-selects Evelyn councillor after just three months in the job

Evelyn ward's most recently-elected councillor has been dumped by the local Labour party after just three months in the job. Newly-appointed councillor Olufunke Abidoye won the seat in a by-election in March, replacing former councillor Joseph Folorunso, who resigned just before he was about to be sacked for non-attendance of meetings.

At a meeting last week to select candidates to stand for Evelyn ward in the next elections, the local party members chose new boy Jamie Milne to run alongside long-serving councillors Crada Onuegbu and Sam Owolabi-Oluyole.

Out: Abidoye

In: Milne

The shake-up is unlikely to come as much of a surprise to observers, given that Abidoye became mired in controversy just two weeks after she was elected. A story in News Shopper revealed that she had been suspended from her nursing job while under investigation as a result of allegations questioning her honesty and integrity.    

The revelation was not just frustrating for the constituents who elected her, it was highly embarrassing for the local party members responsible for selecting Abidoye in the first place. Let's hope they have been more thorough with their questioning this time, and that there's no skeletons tucked away in Milne's closet.