Tuesday 22 September 2015

Deptford X 2015

Deptford X is one of my favourite times of the year in Deptford and as always, there's a packed programme of shows, events and open studios to get round in the week-long festival.

It kicks off on Friday from Deptford X's new home in Brookmill Road - an art gallery that was proposed as part of the Seager Distillery redevelopment and originally located in the lower floors of what's now Stay City. Under pressure from the developers, who claimed they had a four-star hotel operator lined up to occupy this building, the council allowed them to relocate the art gallery to Brookmill Road.

The gallery fronts onto Brookmill Road (while Deptford Broadway gets the blanked-out windows of Stay City apartments). Notwithstanding this, it's fantastic to see Deptford X getting a permanent home at last - they also have artist studios available for a very reasonable rent, although I understand they are mostly without natural light, so will only appeal to some.

Deptford X
Lead artist is Janette Parris, whose animation about Deptford will be showing throughout the festival at the Deptford Lounge. Her illustrations are colourful and quirky, I even recognise some of my favourite vendors on them. Her work will also be in a group show she has curated at the Deptford X gallery.

If you like your art in less conventional spaces, why not check out Uncle Ned's Beds at 147 Lewisham Way on Friday evening where Bernadette Russell's Bed will be taking place?

Bed explores magic, dreams, the power of suggestion, and the wonder of stories. It’s revisiting that childhood bedtime story experience as an adult, and it’s about what happens when we’re asleep in these times, when more and more of us have difficulty sleeping. 

Bed includes a 16th century spell and sweets made by a witch. What happens: in exchange for one story, you will be asked to sign a contract to provide Bernadette with the first dream you remember after this encounter. Your dream will provide inspiration for the next story, to be read to someone else, at some point in the future. After having listened to the story, you will be given instructions, which you may or may not choose to carry out, the contents of which are aimed at influencing your dreams. 

Bed takes about half an hour, for participants, it's free and non-ticketed - you just turn up and take a raffle ticket. They are also helpfully providing tea and cakes in exchange for a small donation to Macmillan.

One of my favourite Deptford X artists from last year, and winner of the 2014 fringe award - Luis Ignacio Rodriguez, who performed as a dancing builder on top of the Bird's Nest pub - is back again, on the main programme this year. 

This year Luis  is promising 'a series of daily LuisTV broadcasts, in, on, and for Deptford, ranging from 10 to 30 minutes, live on Periscope (viewable on various platforms), and displayed on a screen at Deptford Lounge throughout the festival. It will be recorded from various points in Deptford, from a market stall to a neighbour’s balcony, from the station to a takeaway shop, from some hidden corner to the LuisTV phone boxes. 

Look out for the standalone cardboard cutouts for the daily schedule. Programmes will vary in format and content, but, whenever possible, the public will be able to take part in them. Audiences can expect different programmes featuring exhibition reviews, interviews, puppet characters, art reading, walks, Deptford stories and more.'

You can see the broadcasts at the Deptford Lounge, or from the comfort of your own home on this channel https://vimeo.com/luistv4dx

As well as the main programme, there's an extensive range of stuff going on in the fringe programme, so don't forget to check it out - in venues conventional and unexpected - right across Deptford and surrounds.

Join Sean Roy Parker in the Old Tidemill wildlife garden to contribute your own 'exhibits' as part of the trading post; there's Deptford Delft at Deli X - reflecting Deptford's past history of shipbuilding and commenting on its future of potential gentrification; or check out The One:One Collective's interrogation of Deptford housing in Giffin Square. 

Open studios
The studios around Deptford that are part of the regular Deptford X trail are this year joined by the Propellor Foundry on Childers St - Acme Studios has been there for 25 years but seems to have recently been rebranded. 

I'm looking forward to getting a look inside - the huge windows of the building and the tantalising glimpses of artists at work have always made me curious about these studios, so it will be good to get a look inside.

They have open studios on 3 and 4 October from 12-6, publicised thus: 

"The event will both include features such as a ‘Historic View’ comprising a video and graphic story of the Propeller Foundry building and its industrial heritage and a ‘Family Trail’ for the younger family visitors. We will be holding a silent auction of artists' postcards over the weekend; artworks will be available to be viewed online from 26th September. We will also be opening the ‘Foundry Gallery’ which will exhibit selected works. Refreshments will be available, including hand-crafted pastries and a range of freshly ground coffee."

If you are able to get there in time after a day at the office, you might want to join the architectural tour of Deptford being led by Burwell Deakins Architects on 1 October at 6pm.

"Although often overshadowed by the grandeur of Wren’s neighbouring Greenwich, Deptford itself is not lacking in architectural significance. Buildings designed by a Stirling Prize winner, RIBA Gold Medalist, international starchitects and some of the UK’s best emerging talent can be found within this rapidly changing Thames-side community. Join Deptford-based award-winning architect Nicholas Burwell and architectural historian and local resident Tom Ravenscroft for a walking tour of Deptford, where we will explore the historical highlights, modern masterpieces and hidden contemporary gems of this lively neighbourhood."

Or maybe you want to create your own guide persona and film your personal guide to Deptford? A project created by artist Jack Brown working with students from Tidemill Academy aims to do just that - and members of the public can join in either at the workshop on 1 October at the Albany, or simply by creating their own film and uploading it to You Tube, labelling it 'deptfordxtourguide'. 

And of course there's the regular South London Art Map tour taking place this Friday if you want a guided tour and an expert's view on the festival - tickets can be booked online.

Full programme available here http://www.deptfordx.org/programmes

Friday 18 September 2015

Open House in south east London

It's Open House London this weekend, the one time in the year that you get to snoop behind the doors of buildings, houses and other structures that are normally off limits to the public.

It's also a great opportunity for me to write something fluffy and cuddly for any commenters who think I should stop moaning and pretend everything's rosy in the garden. Don't expect me to keep it up though - I'm far more interested in digging into murky dealings by local landowners or commenting on planning applications. If you're looking for jolly restaurant reviews, events listings and bland observations about the local area you'll be sure to find them elsewhere.

On the doorstep
If you want to keep it local, there's plenty to see in and around Deptford and they are all worth a look if you haven't been before. These are Deptford Green School (you will have to be well-organised, only on Saturday 10-11.30); Deptford Lounge (tours on Sunday 11-5); Rachel McMillan Nursery School and Children's Centre (Saturday 10-1); South East London Combined Heat & Power station (Sunday 10-3); Seager Distillery Tower (Saturday 10-5, Sunday, 10-1).

Through the looking glass at the top of the Seager tower

Don't be confused by the suggestion of 'tours' at the Seager Distillery Tower - it's essentially a lift to the top floor where you get to enjoy the views. While dramatic, they are a bit restricted by the fact that the glazing is substantial and it's not fully 360 degrees, more like about 250 degrees around. But still worth it.

A bit more effort
If you want to go a bit further afield and are looking for something a bit different, here's some ideas.  I've tried to avoid any where pre-booking is required - these are all turn up on the day.

Trinity Hospital, Greenwich
A chance for a closer look at this lovely building should not be passed up - drop by on Saturday between 10am and 4pm and you'll be granted admission to the courtyard and chapel of the early 17th century almshouses, which sit somewhat incongruously next to the looming brick of the old power station. And you have the splendid Cutty Sark pub just a few minutes away for great ale and food.

Saturday 10-4

Severndroog Castle, Oxleas Wood
Even if you don't manage to get here for the free tours on Sunday, I recommend a visit some other time. There's not a whole lot to see in the actual building, but the views will keep you up on the tower top for some time. When I visited it was cold and drizzly - the tower top had been closed earlier that day due to the pissing rain - but we still lingered for some time, admiring the views and trying to work out what everything was and spot the familiar landmarks.

There's also a cafe in the bottom selling lovely soup, sandwiches and cake - you can sit outside on fine days - and of course you have the whole of the woodlands to enjoy too.

Bring plastic boxes for blackberries either here or on nearby Woolwich Common.

Sunday 10.30 to 4.30

I went on a tour of this new building in the heart of Greenwich when it opened a year ago, and was greatly impressed - little wonder it's nominated for this year's Stirling Prize. Definitely worth visiting, there's plenty to see behind the striking facade - including roof garden study spaces, a TV studio, beautiful library and plenty of other interesting study spaces. I visited just ahead of the first student intake - it will be fascinating to see how and if it's changed.

Saturday 10-5
Sunday 10-5

You'll have to excuse me for including this crime against architecture in my list, but I do have good reason. Firstly, it's always better to be inside an ugly building looking out, and secondly I reckon there could be some good views to be had. Apparently it has the largest pillarless ballroom in Europe (3,100sqm since you ask), 453 rooms, conference spaces and 'sky bar' (is that some kind of celestial structural engineering gadget?) in its 18-storied glory.

There's no detail of which of these attractions you get to visit in the guided tours, but hey, it's free!

Saturday 10-1 (tours on the hour)

Under construction - arguably more attractive than now

Slice of reality, Thames Path near the O2 Arena.

I've been trying to get on this chopped up bit of ship that hovers on the fringe of the river next to the Millennium Dome for years but always seem to miss it! It's a combined sculpture/studio for its creator Richard Wilson, which explains why you will sometimes see it occupied. Diamond Geezer went to it during Open House a few years ago and his blog post tells the interesting story of how it came to be there.

Saturday 10-5

(Photo: Chris J Dixon)

There's plenty more gems in the listings that I just don't have time to cover, including 'Many ways to sit: the social dynamics of General Gordon Square' in Woolwich, which takes a look at the public realm, the problems and potential of seating in public places - presumably how to balance the needs of the general public against the perceived problem of attracting street drinkers and the like.

Use the listings here to search by borough, date or type of building. Open House has also created an app which is available for £2.99 and is a great way of supporting the charity that organises this annual event.

Wednesday 2 September 2015

Murky goings on in Creekside

It's coming up to three months since Deptford's Big Red Pizza bus abruptly closed its doors for 'refurbishment'. If you are waiting for it to reopen, I suggest you don't hold your breath.

Despite the fact that the service was occasionally shambolic and the toilets none too clean - not to mention the removal of my favourite chorizo and morcilla pizza from the menu a couple of years ago - I still enjoyed my visits and the pizzas were always worth the trip.

Its success was largely down to the staff, serving up consistently good food and being welcoming and helpful in accommodating whatever was thrown at them.

The closure was sudden and unplanned - not how 'refurbishment' usually happens - they even had to cancel bookings for Fathers Day which they'd been promoting only a day or two earlier.

Just a few days later came the sudden closure.

Since then the Twitter feed has been one a long string of increasingly-plaintive claims that there will be 'news' soon, and links to the website where you can sign up for their mailing list in order to be the first to hear about the 'exciting new developments'. I'm starting to wonder how long the person doing the feed can keep this up for.

What's more, if you have been past the Big Red recently, you'll be forgiven for thinking "what refurbishments?!" No sign of life, never mind refurbishments, within the ramshackle enclosure - if you don't count the rats of course.

So, what the fuck is going on?

Landowner John Cierach was the sole director of the operating company, Busbar Ltd, when it went into voluntary liquidation on 9 June. Staff were sent home without proper redundancy pay or compensation, some of them having worked there from the start. The winding up details say that the company owed £230k; according to the statement of affairs, some £78k of this was owed to Cierach himself, and some £85k to a company called Meredale (director J Cierach, secretary Mrs F Cierach) in lieu of rent.

Busbar Ltd also owed £30k to HMRC in income tax and £45k in VAT, as well as being in debt to EDF Energy to the tune of almost £10k. Not a happy state of affairs if you are planning to reopen a business any time soon. But a new company Bus2bar Ltd was registered in April (director Anthony John Mark Cierach) and maybe it is only a matter of time till the Big Red rises phoenix-like from the ashes. I don't know enough about corporate fraud or the insolvency laws to comment further, but there's a strong whiff of something dodgy going on if you ask me.

Cierach not only owns the business and the land on which the Big Red Pizza bus is parked (most of it at least, although I understand it does encroach over the Birds Nest's boundary), he also owns 2 Creekside (the big yard behind the Birds Nest pub) and 3 Creekside, site of the old Medina print works across the road. The latter is actually owned by a company called Grestar Ltd (directors Anthony John Mark Cierach and Fiona Cierach).

He has aspirations to develop all of this land, but his aspirations occasionally suffer from a lack of practicality - some might say they are even borderline delusional. Anyone want to buy a new flat under the DLR viaduct?

Maybe not even Cierach believes he will get permission for a large residential development at number 2, but his latest wheeze is that he is going to establish a Shoreditch boxpark market thingy on the land. All the paying tenants have moved elsewhere, and the yard that remains is a jumble of rubbish and discarded crap. If his ramshackle extensions and additions to the pizza bus are anything to go by, he is not known for his quality building work, so don't expect Deptford Boxpark to look anything like this.

For a start, there is a whole heap of shit still to be cleared out of the yard. Probably best to wait for that to happen first, before signing a lease on a new pop-up designer boutique container shop thingy.