Thursday 18 February 2016

Consultation for Sun Wharf on Creekside

Proposals for the redevelopment of Sun Wharf on Creekside are going on show next week at the Creekside Centre and the Laban Centre. 

As Crosswhatfields reports, this is much earlier than was predicted, with the main occupier of the site, Jones Hire holding a lease until 2022. Maybe they were given an offer they could not refuse, to vacate the site early and make way for the redevelopment.  

The site also encompasses the Deptford home of Cockpit Arts, which according to the flyer, will be relocated into a 'purpose-built facility. Given the density of development that's shown on the flyer, it could be difficult to replicate the conditions they currently enjoy, in particular in terms of natural light.

And Crosswhatfields also asks what is going to happen to the Love Over Gold mural which decorates the wall that faces onto Creekside? 

All good questions which you can put to the developers at the Creekside Centre on Wed 24th Feb from 3.30pm to 7.30pm and at the Laban Centre on Sat 27th Feb from 11.30am to 3pm.

Tuesday 9 February 2016

Smashfest UK is back!

After its successful debut last year, Smashfest UK is back in Deptford from 18-20 February. A free festival for all ages, it features comedy shows, music, film, experiments and theatre, it is intended to encourage exploration of science, technology, engineering and maths through art and design.

The festival is created around a compelling story; a massive solar storm is forecast which wipes out electrical and electronic infrastructure, throwing the world back to the mechanical age: how will we cope without our phones, tablets and social media? How will we survive as our networks, power, transport, medical and supply chains collapse?

Last year's event involved a biohazard spillage
Taking over the entire Albany theatre, including the performance spaces, cafe and garden, the programme includes a human power station, a geodesic dome full of giant ‘Maths’, comedians, poets and astronomers, human-sized mutant fruit flies, a premier of a new play written for the festival, the interactive Solar Storm Survival Unit, a variety show, electric paint, an Aardman animator, survival village building & survival skills, a pilot virtual reality experience and a Mutant Generation Unit. 

There will also be events running all week at the Deptford Lounge library, including the Smashfest UK planetarium, the Mechanical Mobile Phone Exoskeleton, a code-club, a solar exhibition, an artist's residency and a film programme, all themed around the imminent solar storm.

Over the next decade, the UK is heading for a shortfall of more than 50,000 workers for the science, technology, engineering and maths  sector, but only 15% of students aspire to science careers. In boroughs like Lewisham, the school population comprises almost 75% black and minority ethnic students, yet black students identify even less strongly with science as a career aspiration because of its overwhelmingly white, male, middle class image of science, and the multiple inequalities they face growing up, according to recent studies.

Recent research carried out by the National Science Foundation in their Art of Science Learning project demonstrates that art-based learning of STEM works, and works beyond expectation. Harvey Seifter, head of the NSF funded project and founder of the Art of Science Learning firm says "We found a strong causal relationship between arts-based learning and improved creativity skills and innovation outcomes in adolescents, and between arts-based learning and increased collaborative behavior in adults".

Dr Lindsay Keith, festival director & CEO of Refinery TV said: “Science festivals in the UK tend to cater to people who are already engaged with science, and an audience that tends to be ‘non-diverse’. So we thought – ‘why not bring a festival to the young people of Lewisham?’ “You won’t find lectures or debates at Smashfest UK – we’re about mass entertainment, bums on seats and science by stealth! If it’s not fun, it’s not in the schedule – simple as that.”

Find out more at

Sunday 7 February 2016

Folkestone Gardens and Quietway work

I regularly go through Folkestone Gardens and am often saddened by the neglect and abuse this little park suffers.

With gates wide enough to admit cars at two sides of the park, it often fell victim to fly-tipping and I once witnessed a motorist trying to drive a car through the park on the footpath and flying into a rage when a dog-walker challenged him. Eventually the park managers clocked that it might be a good idea to restrict access at these gates, and the problems stopped for a while.

Where once was shrubbery...
Meanwhile the vicious 'pruning' exercised by Glendale last year saw the bushes and trees decimated to a shadow of their former selves, and problems with rough sleepers using wood from the remaining trees to create campfires does not help. is a campsite

As part of the implementation of TFL's new Quietway cycle routes, the council has been able to leverage some funds to make improvements to Folkestone Gardens, and both of these projects are under construction concurrently, albeit at a snail's pace.

A new skateboard park is being built at the east end of the gardens, as part of a scheme that was intended to make much better use of space in what was originally a somewhat sprawling play area. This came out of an initiative by a youth group who successfully applied for a grant of £50k towards improvements to the piss poor skate ramps that were already in the park. The council weighed in with a further £225k from section 106 funds and carried out a consultation exercise about what it proposed for the new 'skate and play' park.  

The consultation document had some plans of how the skate and play park would look.

Unsurprisingly, given the name, and the published plans, local people were expecting that there would be some new 'play' as well as some new 'skate'. Now that the work is almost finished, however, it has become clear that the new 'play' is just the old 'play' in a smaller area. 

Promises of new equipment have not materialised, and it seems that the contractors have just lifted the old play equipment and moved it to the other side of the play area. 

One beacon of hope is that the disused toilet block next to the road has been given planning permission to be refurbished and opened as a cafe. I suspect a new roof may be necessary, but it will be good to have this rotting shell brought back to life.

As far as the 'Quietway' goes, the paths through the park have been made bigger, presumably to accommodate cyclists as well as pedestrians. But they seem oversized to me, especially the huge junction by the old toilet block - I've been using the park for years and the only conflict I've ever witnessed on the footpaths was the aforementioned car driver and dog walker. I think the park would have been better with a bit more grass left intact.

It will be a great improvement to have better surfacing in the tunnel between the park and Gosterwood Street, which has always been a bit of a gloomy route at night and prone to fly-tipping. Let's hope that there will be lighting too, which might deter some of this abuse.

I was disappointed to read in Lewisham Cyclists response to the plans for the quiet way that in Folkestone Gardens they made a plea for 'significant vegetation clearance around the route to make it more visible, particularly on corners'. Well they certainly got that.

I found this comment particularly unnecessary because there are two routes through the park; the one with the vegetation, blind corners and absolutely no lighting, and another one with very little in the way of blind corners, and which is lit by the street lights at night. In the summer I tend to take the former, in the winter I take the latter. They both lead to the same place. There is also a perfectly reasonable, direct alternative on the road for anyone who feels uncomfortable using the park when it's dark.

It does beg the question of whether it's a park or a cycle route with some greenery. I would like to see them co-existing happily, but the recent changes seem to be putting more emphasis on cycle access than on the green environment, wildlife and somewhere that can be quietly enjoyed by all.

As an aside, and with reference to my post about the high street rat-running problems, the initial plans for the quietway included a road closure at the junction of Childers St and Rolt St, but this was vetoed by local people who didn't want to have their driving routes impacted. I thought it was a great idea and suspect if it had gone ahead we wouldn't now be faced with the continued problem of rat-running on the high street!