Saturday, November 24, 2012

Save Lewisham Hospital Demonstration

The awful weather didn't stop Lewisham residents coming out this afternoon in support of the campaign to Save Lewisham Hospital. Estimated attendance was well over 5000 (some estimate 15,000), and along the march, drivers stuck in traffic beeped their horns in support. People were still arriving at Ladywell Fields at the back of the hospital when the rally being staged in the park was finishing, and many attending were disappointed to get there too late to 'link hands' around the hospital.

This apparently happened earlier but not quite as smoothly as expected because there were too many people – causing the organisers to divert protesters to avoid disrupting the normal running of the hospital, especially emergency services. Our small posse of Crossfields residents (there were many others from Crossfields and other familiar Deptford faces on the march) arrived towards the end of the rally in time to hear the Lewisham Hospital Choir followed by a rallying speech from Deptford MP Joan Ruddock.

ITV video report here. Although the BBC has been covering the story, they seem to be following the plot of BBC2's The Hour, letting ITV scoop the local news and missing the momentum of their story – which is that what's happening in Lewisham reflects what is happening (or will happen) nationwide.

There is another Public Meeting on Wednesday 28th November, 7pm at Broadway Theatre, Catford.

After this, there's an important public meeting on Tuesday 4th December, 6pm at the Calabash Centre (George Lane SE13 6HH), where Matthew Kershaw, the 'Trust Special Administrator' will be present as part of the 'public consultation'. See this page, where you can also find guidelines on completing the consultation survey.

If you can do nothing else, at least sign the petition

For some great pictures and commentary see Transpontine's marvellous report plus more photos (and thoughts) from Darren at 853blog. Student journalists at East London Lines reported live (and shakily confused) from the demonstration but they now have a great report with video.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Demonstration against the 2005 Gambling Act

Those readers who joined the local campaign to stop Betfred opening the 8th betting shop in Deptford High Street may be interested to know that a young man called Ben Thacker has been continuing the fight in a national campaign.

With an emphasis on the dangers of gambling addiction to mental health, Neuroliberation is "campaigning against the rapid expansion of the gambling industry since the Gambling Act 2005 and raising awareness of its social manifestations" and is against "gambling 'normalisation' driven by corporate industries that create community difficulties and cognitive impairment (en masse)".

He has organised a demonstration in Parliament Square to be staged this Saturday 24th November, 12-6pm which has the full support of GRASP (Gambling Reform and Society Perception). Unfortunately, this clashes with the Save Lewisham Hospital demonstration, where many local readers may prefer to be.

However, we wish Ben the best of luck on Saturday, and meanwhile direct you to his various info pages and petition, and hope you will find time to give him some support:

Friday, November 16, 2012

There's a (washing line) thief about

I got up this morning and went to bring in a mohair top that I'd left to dry outside my front door last night.  Gone.

I then found a pair of discarded, damp jeans in the top stairwell of 1 - 20 Holden House.  I can only assume that the thief had already been on the prowl and decided he or she had too much to carry or had decided my top was much dryer. 

So watch out and be aware that there's a thief about.  If anybody else has lost clothing or has seen anybody furtive wandering around the stairs please let us know.  Scumbag.

Charity Auction at New Cross Learning

New Cross Learning are holding a Grand Auction this Saturday 17th November from 7pm–10pm.

NCL say it's a chance for people to buy Christmas presents, contribute to the local community and have fun at the same time. Donated items to bid for include clothes, object d'art, IT training, furniture, clothes, a framed print by Eileen Cooper RA, golf clubs, food to eat in and eat out, five nights in Deal, haircuts, books, meals out...and 'lots' more. There will also be a bar and a raffle and you can download the catalogue in advance at the New Cross Learning website.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Mural partially restored – and original Love Over Gold graffiti artists 'fess up

Our neighbour John alerted us on the weekend to the fact that work has finally taken place on the partial restoration of the Love Over Gold mural.

When Cockpit Arts replaced the doors in the middle of the mural, this blog campaigned for the central part of the mural to be reinstated. Money was subsequently found by Lewisham Arts Service and Cockpit Arts to pay for the mural's original artist Gary Drostle to do the work required (see our post from January). Due to other commitments and some terrible weather, it has taken Gary a while to get around to it, but now the mural's centrepiece is back – the evil Countess has returned to remind us how the gulf between rich and poor has only increased since the time Love Over Gold was first painted in 1989.

The London Mural Preservation Society took an interest in the renovation of the mural (see their page on it here), and in late summer they forwarded us an interesting email they had received from an ex-Crossfields resident, who owns up to writing the original words 'Love Over Gold' on a brick wall which went on to inspire Dire Straits and then Gary's mural:
One night in '75 (I think) four naughty art students from Goldsmiths College went out with a pot of white emulsion to paint graffiti. I was one of them. Three of us lived in Wilshaw House on Crossfields Estate, near the site of the graffiti/then mural. We can't remember which of us was responsible for Love Over Gold (but it was definitely one of us, I remember the night well!). We didn't tell anyone it was us, but have always been proud of it.

If anyone has a photo of the original graffiti, we would love to have it.
So would Crosswhatfields – so if any readers have a photo of the original graffiti, please let us (or the London Mural Preservation Society) know! Also write to us if you think you know the name of the ex-Wilshaw House resident(s) which for now we're keeping a secret. There may be a prize....

Meanwhile, last week, Gary also touched up the reds in the picture, brightening it considerably, and did his best to get rid of the damaging tagging that appeared earlier this year. Our neighbour John is very happy about the reinstatement of the mural's centrepiece, but is worried that the tagger who sprayed in white all over the mural will return to vandalise it again. He's insisted we publish his description of this pesky individual...(imagine Ray Winston doing the voiceover)...

White. Short to medium height. Very weedy. Furtive/nervous movements. Spotty or red complexion but face mostly obscured by light grey hoodie...It looks like he lives in the hoodie i.e. stained and bedraggled. Aged somewhere in his twenties. 'A really skint looking no-hoper' is my summing up of this cretin.

(Not a Goldsmiths student, then...)

A complete renovation still awaits the funding initiative promised by Lewisham Arts Service back in January (in which they would put together a funding package that could be used by us locals to approach potential funders) and, of course, it also requires concerted effort and support from local people. Anyone fancy taking this on?

Monday, November 12, 2012

Assembly Vote at Deptford Lounge TODAY!

Tuesday 13 November 
6.45-9pm Deptford Lounge

Update 10pm: 19 great projects were in the mix, and 180 people came to vote – by awarding each project a score on a scale of 0-5. Voting closed at 8pm, votes were counted and the results were announced just before 9pm. Nine projects were awarded funding. Unfortunately Crossfields was unsuccessful this time, although TRA Chair Tim had brought along a table-top ping pong table which kept some of the children at the assembly happily occupied for the last hour of the meeting whilst the votes were added up.

The top scorers were Deptford & New Cross Free Film Festival. They hope to stage their next festival in April 2013 and would like to stage an outdoor screening on Crossfields. We'd have to organise it but they would help with equipment and film licensing...So ideas for your favourite film, please!

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Jenny Harris RIP

Jenny Harris on the left, at the opening of the brand new Albany in Douglas Way, 1982. Credit: Art of Regeneration
Many local people have been stunned to hear the sad news that Jenny Harris, former Executive Director of The Albany, passed away on Tuesday 6th November, at the far too early age of 67 (1944-2012).

A memorial service will be announced shortly.

Such is the breadth of her achievements, influence and inspiration, that tributes have been pouring in for her at a special website Tributes To Jenny, set up for those who knew and worked with her to contribute their thoughts and memories.

I heard the news only an hour before I took a seat at Greenwich Picturehouse to watch Skyfall, and was immediately reminded that without Jenny, the cinema would not be here. In the late 80s, she hatched the idea, located the site and developed the plans for what eventually became the Picturehouse.

For most, she will be remembered for her extensive and passionate contribution to the arts and, in her own words, "as a persuasive advocate for education, training, cultural and creative action and engagement, and their crucial role in cultural, social, political and economic change".

Jenny and Deptford...

Jenny arrived in Deptford in 1972 as co-director of The Combination, a Brighton-based touring fringe theatre company (and cultural and community development project), which became the resident theatre company at the 'old' Albany on Creek Road. Working together with the Albany Institute and Deptford Fund team, the Combination helped to transform the old and forbidding Victorian building into a vibrant fusion of community work and the arts, renamed The Albany Empire.

Although many may attribute the demise of the old building to the arson attack in 1978 (in which it was burnt down), it was actually marked for demolition to make way for road widening. But there had long been plans for a new and more accessible building, and Jenny's drive, enthusiasm and beliefs were central to the creation of the new bulding in Douglas Way, which was opened by Diana, Princess of Wales, in 1982. As Executive Director of the new £15m Albany Empire, Jenny oversaw the funding, designing, building and running of the purpose built arts and 'cultural action centre' within which all the projects initiated in the old Albany building could expand and develop.

Those projects included a Community Health project, a Children & their Families Centre, a creche (most important), a silk-screen print shop available for community use (later, print and photography and video projects), an Unemployed Action Group to help those on benefits, an Active Age Project that helped older people, sports & cultural activities, estate-based Outreach Projects (that flourished most on Pepys Estate as Co-oPepys that included holiday play-schemes and community theatre), a special needs project for young people that developed into Heart n' Soul – one of the most successful arts projects ever. And then there's the carnival projects that later saw Harare Dread's Pax Nindi as the Arts Council's man-to-go-to.

Youth Theatre, Music and Dance projects at The Albany at this time launched careers for some of the young people involved. Those that have remained in Deptford include: Wozzy Brewster (now an OBE and originally a member of the Albany's Basement Youth Arts group) who founded Midi Music from the original Lewisham Academy of Music. Irie Dance Company was started by choreographer Bev Glean and continues to this day. Second Wave Youth Arts, started as a young women's drama project by Cath Kilcoyne, produced some successful female writers and directors, and expanded, under the directorship of Ann Considine, to include young men. As well as offering drama, writing, music, dance, youth leadership and advocacy, their exploratory and groundbreaking work with the Met Police, in partnership with Greenwich University, has gained international recognition.

There is no doubting the contributions various men (both black and white, young and old, gay or straight) made to those changing times, but it is notable how many young women, both black or white, were empowered to begin and continue the work started by Jenny and her contemporaries. It was known to all working with Jenny that she was gay, but this made no difference to how people were employed, which was on their merits, black, white, gay or straight. At that time Ken Livingstone and the GLC were leading the vanguard of human rights and equal opportunity, and funding accordingly. Far reaching changes were made during these times, and assimilated – though equality in gender and race may still seem futher away than ever these days.

At the time the GLC was abolished in 1986, The Combination managed a turnover of £2.5million and a staff of over 40 full and part-time staff. In that same year, Jenny left The Albany to develop other projects before going to the National Theatre in 1991, where until 2008, she was Producer and Director of Education & Training. Whilst there, among other things, she initiated the Art of Regeneration, a culture-led social regeneration programme which focused on the creative potential of young people aged 7-27 to access and participate in cultural activities. The partnership with Lewisham and Greenwich Councils, Goldsmiths, Lewisham College and The Albany provided an enormous boost for the latter with an opportunity for refurbishment – The Albany had suffered severe cuts in public funding in the intervening years and had been struggling to survive.

After leaving the National Theatre, Jenny went on to develop a range of projects as a freelance arts and education consultant, and to work with her longest and closest collaborator, John Turner. One of these projects is Emancipation of the Dispossessed, a South East London perspective on the slave trade, which features the docudrama, Blood Sugar, written and directed by John. She had also begun to digitally archive images connected to the projects she'd been involved in.

Jenny's return to The Albany in 2001 with the Art of Regeneration was, for some, like a mother coming home, since the 'new' Albany in Douglas Way was her baby. It is indeed poignant that she has died in the same year that The Albany celebrates its 30th birthday. She will be sorely missed.

Hear Jenny reflect on both the old and new Albany in an audio clip hidden away on the Art of Regeneration website.
See also Albany History on The Albany's website.
See Jenny's biography on her own website, which also documents many of her projects.

Modified 12 & 16 November 2012

Obituary in Guardian Online by Richard Eyre (18th November 2012)

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Anyone for Table Tennis?

You'll have received a leaflet (we got two) about the New Cross Local Assembly Fund. Local projects and organisations can apply for funding. The funding applications are then voted on at an Assembly meeting.

Crossfields TRA has put in a bid to buy an outdoor Table Tennis table and needs your support. To be successful in getting the cash, they need the Local Assembly to vote in favour of the project – that means you! The more people who go along to vote, the more likely Crossfields can get its own outdoor table.

Please come along on:
Tuesday 13 November, 6.45-9pm at Deptford Lounge
Refreshments provided. Arrive by 7.45pm to vote (voters must be over 14).

If successful, the table would be situated between the ballcourt and the railway arches. The idea grew out of this year's Crossfields Festival where an indoor table was wheeled out to the Farrer lawn, and proved to be a huge success.

The outdoor table Crossfields is bidding for is made of reinforced concrete, built to withstand extreme weather conditions, constant use – and vandalism. Therefore it's a pricey £2,200!

Here's a mock-up of the table in the place it would be by the ballcourt...

There's more information about the New Cross Assembly here and you can see what projects have been previously funded here.

Win £100 worth of high street vouchers
There's also the opportunity to win £100 worth of high street vouchers by filling in the online questionnaire about local assemblies (you don't have to have attended previously but you'll have to give your name and address).

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Roderick Johnny RIP

Deptford poet Roderick Johnny passed away on Wednesday 24th October 2012. Roderick was one of the sons of the Johnny family who run Deptford's much loved (and only) hardware store. Regular high street visitors will remember Roderick as a gentle and colourful character, who may have stopped them once or twice to read them a poem or sell them his latest published anthology.

The funeral service will be at the Catholic church, Our Lady of the Assumption, tomorrow (Wednesday 7th November) at 10.30am, followed by a burial at Hither Green Cemetery at midday.

Friends are invited to celebrate Roderick's life in the afternoon at Utrophia (120-122 Deptford High Street).

Neville Johnny, the lovely guy you'll usually find behind the counter at Johnny's, has set himself a challenge to raise funds for MIND, in Roderick's memory. Neville says "I started this in order to raise money for MIND having been brought up with two brothers with mental health issues. Recently, one of them, Roderick, has died very suddenly and I will now be doing this cycle ride in his memory. You are missed."

We're not sure how far Neville plans to cycle, but he's set a date for 22 September 2013, by which time he hopes to have raised £4,000. Donations can be made to MIND via this link.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Housing Matters update

For those wishing to understand a bit more about the Housing Matters consultation, there are a couple of opportunities on Wednesday this week.

Crossfields TRA have invited the Chief Executive of Phoenix Community Housing, Jim Ripley, to come and speak to us in the evening.

Wednesday 7th November, 7.30pm at the Pink Palace
(Apologies for the short notice).

Phoenix Community Housing is an example of how a "Resident-led" Housing Association (Option 3 in the list of Housing Matters Options) could work. It's a not-for-profit resident-led housing association situated in the Bellingham, Whitefoot and Downham area of Lewisham, made up of properties transferred from the Council in 2007. Read more at their website. Crossfields TRA is not advocating Option 3 as the only future for social housing in Lewisham, this is simply an opportunity for everyone to find out more about Option 3.

Meanwhile, in the morning, the Tenants Participation Advisory Service (TPAS) (who are monitoring the Housing Matters consultation) Council and Lewisham Homes will be holding a drop-in session
Wednesday 7th November, 9.30am-12noon, at The Albany


TPAS will also be knocking on doors in November to explain "the options" and get feedback  – though they've admitted they're not confident about this method since catching people in is difficult. Indeed, due to the increase in bogus callers, many elderly people have been strongly advised not to open their doors to strangers.

If you've got questions about this Housing Matters malarky, you can also call TPAS on Freefone: 0800 731 1619.

TPAS have produced a “Factsheet” of Frequently Asked Questions which you can download at their website. Since it's a bit hard to find on their dedicated page for this consultation we have also made it available to download here.


Representatives from Lewisham Council and TPAS attended the Crossfields TRA meeting on Thursday 25th October.

They apologised for the recent mismanagement of the mail-out to residents in which envelopes had been incorrectly addressed (see our previous post). This had resulted in many residents not opening the envelopes and reading the contents – which was a newsletter produced by TPAS that was intended as a follow-up to the recent newsletter sent out by the council. Apparently this cock-up was not TPAS' fault, but the episode had some people wondering if sabotage was afoot, and others unsurprised by the embarrassing bungle.

Many may still not know about the consultation or understand it. Some mistake it for something to do with the new changes in housing benefit. Some may not be interested because they perceive the invitation to "Have Your Say" as inconsequential since they suspect the Council (or Lewisham Homes for that matter) may have already decided what they will do, regardless of opinion.

Even after going to three poorly attended public meetings and spending many hours reading the literature, this writer is not sure what to think. A 'Finance Session' held by TPAS at the Albany last week (attended by only two people who thought it was a drop-in session when in fact it was a two hour presentation on the intricacies of social housing finance) only served to increase the confusion. TPAS themselves are still examining the financial information the Council has provided them.

Lewisham Council insists that at this time we are not being asked to vote on anything, we are just "having a conversation", suggesting it is not necessary, at this stage, to fully grasp the implications of the potential radical changes proposed in the ‘options’ presented to us. The rather complicated and politically charged issues at the heart of these options have been simplified for our (?) benefit, and even TPAS appear to be glossing over the controversial aspects.

However, if changes are to proceed in a democratic and transparent manner, it should be necessary for residents to be properly balloted (possibly sometime in 2014), so that the Mayor of Lewisham does not make the important decision (to sell off the Council's housing and land, or not) by himself. Nevertheless, we are told the Mayor will be 'drawing conclusions' from the feedback received when this consultation ends on 23rd November.

We will be writing a bit more about it shortly.

Save Lewisham Hospital – Petitions and Diary dates

Sign the petitions:
Petition set up by Heidi Alexander MP
Petition to HM Government

Thursday 8th November, 6-8pm at Lessoff Auditorium, Lewisham Hospital
Public meeting: Speakers include Jim Dowd MP, Heidi Alexander MP, Steve Bullock Mayor of Lewisham, Dr Louise Irvine (Lewisham GP and BMA council member).

Tuesday 13th November 7pm, Waldron Health Centre
Local Keep Our NHS Public (KONP) meeting
Contact the Lewisham group: Helmut Heib & Dr Louise Irvine
On Twitter

Saturday 24th November
Link Hands Around Our Hospital
2pm March from Loampit Vale roundabout to Lewisham hospital
3pm Link hands around Lewisham Hospital
Facebook page

Further reading:

Information about the NHS’s £4billion reserves… which are not allowed to help South London Healthcare.

Treasury raids £1billion from NHS

Lewisham has lowest male life expectancy in London

333 donations totalling £8.3million made to Tories… from health companies that benefit from South London Healthcare not being allowed to access NHS reserves.

Ha'Penny Hatch lighting

Lots of folk crossed the Ha'Penny Hatch last night in pitch black darkness on their way to Blackheath fireworks. With the moon hidden in cloud and not one of the seven lamps working on the Lewisham side of the pedestrian path leading to the bridge, it was a spooky, if not potentially dangerous, experience.

Street lights are usually numbered so that faults can easily be reported on Lewisham's webpage where you should also be able to track the fault. There are, however, emergency situations in which you can call the Croydon & Lewisham Street Lighting service on 0800 028 5986.

"Three or more adjacent street lights unlit" constitutes an emergency, as does "damaged apparatus posing a risk to the public". So we've called them, got a log number, and look forward to the situation being remedied as soon as possible.

Unfortunately, none of the lamps are numbered and there's no postcode for the Ha'Penny Hatch, so the online reporting form is somewhat useless. Nor is the river crossing marked on most maps by name. This has resulted in the police being unable to locate it when responding to reports of crimes being committed there. We hope the Street Lighting team can find it.

Regular users of the path will know that many of the lamps on Ha'Penny Hatch are often unlit or broken on either side of the bridge. You can report faulty lights on the Greenwich side of the bridge (where the lamps are also unnumbered) here (or call 020 8854 8888 in an 'emergency'). Next time, instead of moaning about it and avoiding using the path, try getting in touch with either of the councils responsible instead of waiting for someone else to do it. This applies especially to the person who just told us there is now also a light out on the Greenwich side.

UPDATE Wednesday 7th November: 
We're pleased to report the lights on the Lewisham side have been fixed!

Friday, November 2, 2012

Fireworks on the Heath

A little short notice but you'd probably heard bonfire night (now without bonfires for health and safety reasons) was on its way.  Somewhat jumping the gun(powder), Lewisham will be hosting its annual firework display a couple of days early - Saturday night, 3 November.  There's a fair starting at 4pm, food from 5pm, and the fireworks will begin at 8pm.  More details HERE

Since Greenwich Council have stopped joint funding of the display, Lewisham is once again asking for donations (HERE) so that the royally deprived citizens of Greenwich Borrow Council can get a peek for free.  So, if you climb up the hill onto the heath via Greenwich, spare a thought for the needy scurrying out of their hovels in Hyde Vale, Crooms Hill and Point Hill to steal a glimpse of the spectacle.

In other loosely connected news, Edenbridge has chosen who to burn as their guy.  Not George Osborne - too boring; not Jimmy O'BEast Savile, whose name was removed from the candidate list.  Not even Abu Hamza managed to  get the role.  In recognition of his disservices to cycling, Lance Armstrong will be their effigy of the year.