Thursday, September 29, 2011

We love the Deptford Machine!

Don't miss the Deptford Machine by Ben Parry, at Utrophia Project Space – the jerky video above shows only one side of the sculpture but there is plenty more to see in this jangling kinetic wonder made of second hand market junk and treasures and poundshop specials. The machine gains more momentum as you walk its length but at its peak there's a contrastingly slow snail race and movement is imperceptable.

Deptford X continues this weekend, with early evening openings as part of "Last Fridays"....there are special events at Lewisham Art House and The Old Police Station, among others. As well as the galleries, open studios continue (Art Hub, Cor Blimey Arts, Creekside Artists, Hatch Space, Lewisham Art House and the Old Police Station) and the weekend ends with an art quiz at the Dog and Bell with Fred Aylward. Meanwhile The Bird's Nest pub now boasts a new sign by Adam Vass....

...and we hope Ashton & Mollett have baked a few more ship's biscuits. These 'ornately embossed edible artworks' – which were available last weekend at various locations while stocks lasted – depict the fate of the Golden Hinde. They are staging a Making & Baking performance at Creekside Discovery Centre on Saturday 1 October from 1pm–3pm.

There are three walking tours over the weekend: one starts at 1.45pm on Saturday at Creekside Discovery Centre (free), the other two are pay-what-you-can run by South London Art Map. At 5pm on Saturday there's performance art at Unit D in Crossfield Street by Amy Lord (apparently it contains nudity) and more on Sunday possibly anywhere in Deptford between 10 and 5 by Laura Cooper.

If you're wearing a Deptford X badge you can get discounts at Arch Materials, The Big Red Pizzeria, Creekside Cafe and Deptford Project Cafe. And public voting is taking place online for the Fringe Award – winners will be announced at the Deptford X pub quiz at the Dog & Bell on Sunday evening. It appears that Deptford In A Shell  (at the train carriage) has captured people's hearts most so far. There are also other small works by Crossfields resident Chrissie Stewart and ex-Crossfields resident Janet Currier in this space – not part of the main or fringe festival, but worth a look.

We liked Surrender To The Pleasure by Ar-se (yes, arse) at APT Project Space in Creekside and were struck by the poignancy of the shanty town construction built in the shadow of so much new development, recalling the fate of the Chinese street dwellers 'disappeared' by the Bejing Olympics.

There is much to see outside of the selected main programme and fringe, and we recommend the show at St Paul's House in the high street by five of the artists who have been temporarily based there whilst the building awaits redevelopment.

 A couple of other things we saw last weekend were also not part of the festival 'selection' – unofficial fringe, if you like. The mural for Douglas Square was a project organised by Lewisham Council – we caught the winner, photographer Peter Anderson, aboard some scaffolding putting paint to a newly rendered wall. We know Peter likes to develop his own photos, but this must be his slowest emerging image making yet.

Across the newly laid square was another team painting a wall. This one was from Goldsmiths, the project of two design students, "aiming to commemorate the dying industry of hand rendered sign writing, presently drowning amongst corporate messaging..."

Part of London Design Festival, Talking Walls "employ human hands to speak to the people". "Inspired by the charm of traditional advertisements, now fading but visible to the curious eye"...
Here's one they did earlier in the Deptford Project yard – possibly very short lived since that wall will probably be removed when redevelopment begins.

Talking of murals, we are reminded of Gary Drostle's Love Over Gold mural in Creekside. We reported in August that the mural was under threat by Cockpit Arts who wanted to remove the doors to make way for a Deptford X installation and replace them with metal security doors. The Chair of Crossfields TRA was going to write to them and tell them this was unacceptable – that the mural doors must be kept, pinned to the new security doors if necessary.

However, the doors are gone. Adrian Lee's piece is about CCTV cameras going feral and wild.

We hope Cockpit Arts intend to replace the mural doors when Deptford X finishes. There may be a bit of a ta-doo if not.

Meetings this evening: Crossfields Greenspaces + TRA AGM

Crossfields Green Spaces are meeting this evening at 7pm at The Pink Palace, Frankham Street, to elect a Chair, Secretary and Treasurer and establish a constitution so that they may apply for funding. Come along to stand for or vote on any one of these posts. See Crossfields Green Spaces for more info.

At 7.30pm, Crossfields Tenants and Residents Association (TRA) hold their Annual General Meeting, which will be run by a representative from Lewisham Homes in order to elect (or re-elect) the Chair, Secretary, Treasurer and other posts. All are welcome. Refreshments will be provided and baby sitting expenses can be reimbursed.

UPDATE: Unfortunately both these meetings were cancelled – despite a good turn out – due to the present Chair being "unavoidably detained". It was agreed to reschedule both elections for Thursday 27th October at 7.30pm.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Deptford Community Garden's next meeting: 4th October

Everyone is invited to a meeting about the proposed Deptford Community garden next to Crossfield Street to help decide how the garden should evolve.

Date: Tuesday 4th October
Place: St Paul's Church
Time: 7.30pm

Clare and Harry from the Don't Dump on Deptford's Heart campaign, hope you can join them to talk about how the garden can be organised and come up with ideas for how it should look and be maintained – and see what can be achieved before the next Thames Tunnel consultation on 15th November.

A public meeting with Thames Tunnel representatives will take place on 15th November at 7.30pm in the Salvation Army Hall in Mary Ann Gardens. 

Meanwhile, the expert who recommended London should have the £3.6billion "super-sewer", Chris Binnie, has said there may be a cheaper alternative. Binnie led the study group in 2005 which led to the present plans, but now says a number of factors have changed since this research was done. Read the BBC report here.

Objecting to Convoys Wharf DC/02/52533

On Saturday concerned citizens met at The Albany to find out more about the plans for Convoys Wharf and how to object to them.

There was quite a lot to take in. Participants were invited to look at various documents, drawings, books and plans before the meeting was addressed by William Richards, one of the group of local residents behind "Deptford Is..."

William clarified a few points among the issues listed below, and identified a few more, whilst other members of the group contributed additional responses. Young architect Morgan Lewis had prepared a very clear document, some of which we reproduce here. We've also taken notes from the Deptford is... website where they have posted a crib sheet on how to object.

Here is what we learned...(and have learned since)...

(Feel free to nick the bits in italics for a short and concise 'holding' objection that is equally as valid as a blindingly long and detailed one. Don't go on about how the new development is going to spoil your view – that doesn't count, even if unfortunately it's going to spoil hundreds of peoples' views...)

The site was the first Royal Dockyard, created by Henry VIII in 1513, home of pioneering ship building for the next three hundred years. By building in Convoys Wharf the developers are not only destroying valuable archaeology but also squandering a public asset.

The King's Yard built many of the Navy's finest ships and was at the forefront of naval technology. The remains of the dockyard are extensive, accessible and in good condition – but do not feature in the developer's masterplan. Furthermore the application fails to meet criteria regarding heritage sites stated in National Planning Policy.

The development also ignores John Evelyn's garden at Sayes Court, one of the most famous and celebrated gardens of its time. Evelyn's many visitors included his friends Samuel Pepys and Christopher Wren, and even Charles II. The garden is internationally renowned as the principal antecedent of the English Landscape style – both Hampstead Heath and Central Park (New York) owe much to Evelyn's design. It was also the first garden to be 'held in trust', marking the beginnings of the National Trust.

Affordable housing, green space, employment, transport
The development does not include enough affordable housing, green space or employment opportunities. Not enough provisions have been made for the impact upon transport and education.

Out of the 3,500 proposed residential units, less than 20% are affordable homes. The London Plan asks for 35%-50%. Morgan said that only 14% are likely to be affordable, and 80% of those will be one or two bedrooms (no families then). And just what is 'affordable' anyway? At this stage it's not possible to know which Housing Associations may be charged with the cheaper residencies. These are usually the flats with bad views that are in shadow all day...but that doesn't mean there won't be luxury priced flats with no view and no sun.

Although in the illustrative masterplan (below, click to enlarge) there seems to be lots of green space with courtyards between each of the high rise residential blocks, in reality these gardens will be raised on 17m high 'podiums' that will contain the car parks that are to house over 2000 cars. The green areas on this illustration will actually be inaccessible and invisible from street level. This will not only create oppressive, monolithic streets but also reduces the amount of green public space to a minimum.

With 24% of the site being non-residential, there are obviously going to be some jobs – almost 7% of the site may be a hotel. Most of the jobs will be in retail and the service industries. Perhaps it can be a big campus for unpaid interns from Greenwich Community College, Lewisham College and Westminster Uni? There will be a lot of work in construction – but less than 10% of construction jobs at the Olympic site went to local people. Where are the real jobs and training that are so urgently needed in this area?

With over 2000 parking spaces for residents and 323 spaces for non-residents, the additional car traffic generated will create an unacceptable impact on the surrounding highway network, especially the roads in and out of the site.

Meanwhile, retail and service employees in addition to a potential 10,000 residents (who may keep a car but not use it to get to work) will make demands on existing local public transport that cannot be met. Add that to the other large residential developments already going on, and the pressures on the borough's infrastructures are clearly in danger of overload.

Density and size
The density and size of the development and the negligible commitments to architectural quality point towards a banal and alienating environment.

One of the three high towers proposed is twice as tall as the existing tall buildings in the area, whilst the surrounding blocks, which go right up to the perimeter of the site, will overshadow and curtail daylight on existing housing. The surrounding blocks can go up to a height of 60m – how is this in any way on a human scale? The density as regards the number of residential units (3500) is unsupportable in terms of transport, especially in regard to roads.

Other stuff...(for information)

There are no building designs to view at this stage. This is because they are only seeking 'outline' planning permission for the site – if accepted, they will be able to build whatever they like within the parameters of their application, for instance, the buildings cannot be higher – nor shorter – than specified here.

The developer also wants 'outline' permission to divide the site into a series of 'parcels' (areas within the site, basically) and to build these 'parcels' (and their roads) in phases. There are six 'parcels' of varying sizes – how buildings are arranged within these areas can be decided at a later stage, and in the meantime, sold to which ever other developer would like to build there. They in turn will have to have their designs approved, but do not have to pay attention to demands from the community – that deal is being struck here. Several aspects of the things the developer is offering to the community are unresolved, but once permission is granted, it will be hard to secure anything more for Deptford.

Lewisham are quite keen on having a primary school (even though Charlotte Turner school lies unused a few metres away, but that's Greenwich). They have also had to consider the offer of turning part of the site into an 'energy plant' (another SELCHIP) which, needless to say, nobody in Deptford wants. A 'Working Wharf' is offered (considerably smaller than was originally offered) and the only building saved on the site, the Olympia Building (once used to build ships in) is designated for "cultural use", but the area around it reduced to a few metres – the access to the river to the north of the building will be built on, whereas it should be opened up as the "Great Basin" it originally was – where ships were launched into the Thames...

Deptford Is... want other hugely historical areas of the dockyard opened up and re-instated for modern day use, if not restored to their former glory, but most importantly, not built over. In 2000, Lewisham commissioned the London School of Economics' Urban Design department headed by Prof. Richard Burdett to recommend how the site should be developed. The layout produced from this study shows complete regard and respect for the historical parts of the site: Sayes Court Garden is fully restored, the Great Basin and the Dry Dock are reopened, and even the original Clock Tower (presently housed in Woolwich) is returned to its original place.

The LSEs' plans show that even when all the public space is opened, there is still room for a large amount of residential development to make the site commercially viable to the developer. After all, what sort of profits are they after? Regardless of the huge killing made by News International on the original site when they bought it from the MOD for a song (£2m instead of £35m), the site is now worth so much more than Hutchison Whampoa paid for it. Can this old Chinese family be persuaded to think a little more long term? Can we perhaps appeal to their sense of continuity?

Something that may be in Deptford's favour, (though it may not feel like that to the hundreds of people who have already campaigned before against this development), is the history of this application. Quickly: planning permission was requested in 2002 by News International for a scheme that followed a masterplan by Richard Rogers (which paid much more lip service to the site's history than the present plan). Afer difficult negotiations, permission was granted by Lewisham's Strategic Planning Committee in 2005. But the GLA (Greater London Authority) didn't like it and an amended application was put forward in 2010 which they further rejected.

The developers claim this application is an amendment to one submitted in 2002, but in reality it is considerably different and in many ways far worse. The 2002 plan fundamentally ignored the desires of local people and London authorities, and this current application is no improvement. It certainly falls short of any notions of regeneration (creating services and long term employment for local people), whilst completely ignoring the importance and history of the site.


"We strongly urge Lewisham Council to refuse this application and challenge the basic assumptions of the developer's proposals, and we request that the entire project is reassessed to ensure greater sensitivity to the site's history and to the needs of local people."

View the Planning Application from Hutchison Whampoa again here.
Then write to Emma Talbot, Lewisham Planning. Email:
Quote the Ref: DC/02/52533 (Convoys Wharf).

The alternative is to respond via the online form on Lewisham's website, which we don't particularly recommend since online forms at Lewisham have a tendency to go AWOL.  
Deptford Is... recommend you send your objection by post (or even by hand), but email should suffice and Planning will acknowledge your objection with an email back to you within a week or so (if they don't you'll know your objection's gone astray).

Copy it anyway to whoever you like: ideally, Joan Ruddock, Evelyn Ward councillors (or councillors you know may be helpful, perhaps those in other political camps). Joan has already replied favourably to one objector, despite her less than favourable response to our queries on the same subject earlier in the year. So do please copy her in so she knows how strongly her constituents feel.

The Mayor and the Deputy Mayor need persuading since they are under pressure to finalise the deal – faced as they are with the prospect of the Boris Tax*.

Have a look at the list compiled by Deptford Is...  (at the bottom of the objection information). 
But there's nothing stopping you sending it to people you think might be a lot more use than your local councillor: what about Time Team? Prince Charles? the Maritime Museum? British Museum? BBC? etc etc. If this were happening in Kensington you can bet there'd be some celeb on hand to big up the cause!

And don't forget to sign the petition...

*Boris Tax – something that wasn't discussed at the Deptford Is... meeting, and otherwise known as the Londonwide Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL), payable on all new developments from April 2012, but only collectable once the development commences.

The levy is intended to raise £300m towards the delivery of Crossrail and will be inflicted on all London boroughs – £50per sqm for Zone 1 boroughs, £35 for Zone 2 and £20 Zone 3. At £35per sqm for Lewisham in Zone 2, the implications for the new Convoys site are enormous. The tax is obstensibly on the developer but will replace in part the Section 106 offer a developer is obliged to provide in mitigation.

A prominent member of the council has said off the record that this was a big consideration in the Convoys Wharf proposal, and, without having any specific figures to quote from, the equivalent of losing, say, £13m of £50m. It appeared that a decision may need to be rushed in order that development could commence before April 2012.

We suspect there may be some delay in the implementation of this tax, since the business community is worried councils will pass the tax on to them. If we understand it right, in any case, larger London businesses are to be taxed a 2p supplementary rate if their rateable value is in excess of £55k. It is particularly objectionable to those boroughs and businesses who will not benefit from Crossrail. So the implementation date of April 2012 may be delayed amidst opposition...fingers crossed. This may or may not account for Joan's new found confidence in supporting a fellow objector...

Please correct us if we are wrong.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Creekside Discovery Fun Day on Sunday

Sunday 25th September, 2-5-pm
Creekside Discovery Centre, 14 Creekside SE8
Bug hunting, crab painting competition, wild flower hunt, fishy type things like gobys...

Friday, September 23, 2011

Wavelengths Library closure

Those who use the library regularly will know already, but those who pop in occasionally may not...Wavelengths Library will be closed from 5pm tomorrow for five weeks, whilst it moves to the Deptford Lounge to become a "new state-of-the-art district library providing a whole range of community facilities".

We have no news of the official launch of the Deptford Lounge, but library staff told us they plan to re-open on 31st October and if you borrow anything today or tomorrow it will be stamped 31st October (although you may return it to any other Lewisham library before then).

The Leisure Pool is also due to close at some point, but we are assured the Training Pool will remain open throughout these changes.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Convoys Wharf Planning Objection Workshop

A new campaign has been started that hopes to respond to the plans submitted by Hutchinson Whampoa and News International for the massive site at Convoys Wharf.

The group, calling themselves DEPTFORD IS..., have organised an urgent Planning Objection workshop to help people understand what is planned for the site and to show folk how to object if they feel Deptford is not best served by what's on offer. Objections must be submitted to Lewisham Planning by 27th September, hence the urgency.

Saturday 24th September 10am (for 10.30) – 12noon
The Blue Room at The Albany

They also have a few ideas of their own that go much further than the developers' present plans in honouring the site's international heritage as King Henry VIII's royal dockyard, which they hope to present at the end of October. To keep updated, join their mailing list or sign their petition Hands Off Our Heritage, see their blog at


There are three towers proposed for Convoys Wharf – Tower A is 148m tall with 46 storeys, Tower D is 124m with 38 storeys, and Tower I is 106m with 32 storeys. But it is the density of the buildings around the towers that gives cause for concern – some are as high as 60m. 3500 homes and 2000 parking spaces also seems excessive.

To get an idea of these heights, compare with the Z building (aka Aragon Tower) on Pepys Estate at 92m with 29 floors. Eddystone Tower is 26 storeys. The Seager Tower on Deptford Broadway is 82m with 26 storeys, with still to come, its accompanying highrises (9 storeys sloping down to 3).

Meanwhile, the Deptford Dame reports on The Wharves (Evelyn Street/Grove Street/Oxestalls Road), which has just received the go ahead including detailed planning permission for two thirds of the site. The whole development will comprise 905 residential units plus shops, restaurants, bars, takeaways and other non-residential uses. It will be very high density – above London Plan guidelines – with buildings as tall as 18 storeys.

Though small in comparison, the development by Cathedral at Deptford Station/Octavius Street is far too high (eight storeys) in the context of the high street, and they plan to add another floor to the existing St Paul's House overlooking the street. There will be 124 luxury apartments and 11 'affordable' flats. Although not what you'd call a tower, the new building will cast an enormous shadow over the planned public piazza (and the repositioned train carriage) in the afternoon.

The tallest buildings at Lewisham Gateway are 77m. At Loampit Vale, the development looms above the local landscape. Local residents fought hard against these plans but failed to stop the latter.


At WorkSpace on Creekside, at least one tower is planned. At Creekside Village we still have towers to come. The present nine storey buildings may be joined by 14, 17 and 22 storey structures.

Still, it could be worse – the Shard at London Bridge is due to reach 310m by completion in 2012 when it will be the tallest structure in London (and the European Union). Presently the tallest building is the 50 storey One Canada Square (Canary Wharf) at 235m followed by Heron Tower in the City of London at 230m.

Deptford X : Billboards...

Above is a piece by Polish artist Ivo de Jeu which is about to appear on a billboard near us...

How about this for reality? The plan for Convoys Wharf...

Deptford X 2011 opens this Friday

Anywhere arty you go in Deptford this Friday you're bound to come across an "opening"...(expect more of the same on Friday 30th September, the now traditional Last Friday of the month late opening – though I'd hardly call 8.30pm 'late').

If you have a friend or acquaintance (I have) who is an artist working in Deptford you'll already know there's something going on (they'll either be very stressed getting ready for it or not bothered and a bit bolshy and possibly very drunk). Without this influence in your lives you could be forgiven for not knowing anything was going on (though of course you may not be interested even if you knew).

In the last post about Deptford X it wasn't mentioned – the number of new galleries and venues open this time round – including a showcase in the new Barratt's Delta Development on Creek Road. As well as the usual, there are a few additions to the Art Trail, including some places on Tanners Hill... Let me check for you on the website...Ah, galleries...Oh, have a look for yourselves...

It's a PDF download, titled (one assumes) for admin use only – 'Programme-DX-08 medium res.pdf'. Not "Deptford X 2011 Programme.pdf" as you might expect. It's a pdf version of the little printed booklet that you may or may not have seen. It looks great, but you might find it hard to locate this file again on your hard drive, and any time you click on this website you're likely to get another version of this file. If you treat this website like a normal website you're just going to end up with about 30 versions of the same file.

So has it been updated (always the web's advantage over the printed version)? Well, I was looking at the Deptford X Showcase that is supposed to be in that shit looking new brown building on Creek Road that is the new Barratts' development...I haven't got a problem that they're showing in this shell of a shit development, I'd like to know how they've dealt with it. BUT in the printed Deptford X booklet on page 11 it says SEE WEBSITE FOR TIMES. On the website it says nothing, and every time you click on anything you DOWNLOAD A PDF OF THE PRINTED BOOKLET YOU JUST READ.

Then there's the posters. The posters and leaflets have a QR CODE (Quick Response code) as the actual design (see above), which is a great comment on decoration (a theme of this year's Deptford X) and the strapline "Look beneath the surface" would have some resonance if the QR CODE worked. Does it? I don't have a device that scans QR codes, but it would seem this is of little use if all it gets you is the Deptford X website, where most of the festival is only available to view by downloading a pdf.

That would be OK, but each category downloads the same pdf (of the printed booklet) – so you end up downloading the booklet many times. Is this a cheap equivalent of having a Deptford X App on your mobile – saving you lots of online time? That's a good idea, but if you're viewing the website any other way (er...on your computer), you could be cringing when you read that Deptford X is "London's FOREMOST Contemporary Arts Festival". That is obviously SO not true. SOUTH LONDON's foremost might be...More on the QT than the QR. 

Events-wise, there appear to be things going on during the days, but they're not listed to easily find. As for evening Openings aka Private Views (aka the only real public viewing some exhibitions get), whilst it is actually possible to get round every gallery and venue in one evening in three hours (I tried it last year but don't remember anything and didn't they have some bicycle taxi thing?) it strikes me that the organisers could've done some organising and requested that all the different venues open a different night in turn throughout the ten days of the festival – or at least an alternative Friday/Saturday/Sunday over the two weekends. Then festival goers would have an event to look forward to every evening at one or two venues instead of ten or more on the same evening, and an opportunity to spend more time at those venues and not miss the action at all the others. It would at least give the artists involved the opportunity to get out and meet practitioners from other studios and venues instead of being stuck at their own premises entertaining non-existent visitors who are busy at another venue...and it would encourage venues to make their private views (aka public events) more interesting.

I recommend you download the map and programme and work out for yourselves how much you can see over the next two weekends, with apologies for not cherry picking. I know that lots of people have been working really hard to show you something you might like – there has got to be more than just the surface, and definitely something that works for you better than a QR code...See you there – or rather, HERE...!

Sue Godfrey Nature Park Fun Day this Saturday

Saturday 24 September 2pm-5pm
Come and search for all manner of wildlife by pooting, sweeping and beating, or join one of the wildflower rambles through OUR VERY OWN fantastic brownfield site.
Meet at Sue Godfrey Nature Park (entrance on Bronze Street)

A FREE event organised by the Rivers & People Project

Monday, September 19, 2011

Coral gets robbed

It had to happen sooner or later...

Coral Bookmaker at 70 Deptford High Street was broken into last night via the back of the premises. According to local shopkeepers who watched the police in action this morning, the alarm and CCTV were disabled and the safe blown open. We're guessing there may have been an entire weekend's takings to be had in what looks to be a professional job. The bookies was trading again by early afternoon.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Deptford Community Garden wins funding

At the Evelyn Assembly today, the Deptford Community Garden was one of seven projects voted to receive funding. The campaign has been allocated £500 to cover costs for publicity and initial planting. Watch this space for news of the first public meeting.
See our recent post for more info or go to Don't Dump on Deptford's Heart.

Sound Tracks Festival – New Cross-Shoreditch-Dalston

We normally like to post about stuff that is free, but this innovative idea caught our eye:

featuring The Amersham Arms and New Cross Inn in New Cross, Concrete Space in Shoreditch, Cafe Oto and Eastern Curve Garden in Dalston, plus the Travelling Stage on the train.

Saturday 17 September from 7pm. Tickets (wristbands) £12.50
The 'stages' are located less than 3 minutes walk from each station, making it speedier to travel from one stage to another than at Glastonbury! Linked up by the 'Travelling Stage', you'll be able to get from one venue to the next without leaving the music behind.
North Londoners! Overcome your bewilderment of the South! South Londoners! It's really not so bad in the North! Come and join us on a journey from one side of the river to the other (it takes 22 minutes max!)

Friday, September 16, 2011

London Open House

It's London Open House this weekend 17 & 18 September. There is so much going on (770 venues) that trying to find things on the website is quite a daunting prospect. Narrowing the search down to Lewisham produces a list of 25 venues in the borough. See here, or pop over to the Deptford Dame who has highlighted a few. There are another 26 venues/tours in Greenwich.

We were quite intrigued by the tour of Deptford Town Centre landscapes – the bumpf says of the Deptford Market revamp: "In the space of a few months market trade is up with locals now enjoying an enhanced and welcoming space including strategically placed seating, lighting and tree planting." Not a word about the agonisingly long time it took, the amount of trade stall holders lost during that time, how the brand new paving is now as dirty as it was before, or how the stall holders are using the space contrary to how the designers envisaged...Still, the two parks are now very very nice – for that we may be glad!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Don't Dump on Deptford's Heart Update: Deptford Community Garden

We've received an update from campaigners Harry and Clare Richardson at Don't Dump On Deptford's Heart who are trying to save the triangular green between Coffey St. and Crossfield St – currently under threat from being claimed for a huge access shaft to the Thames Tunnel super-sewer. See

They are proposing to install a Community Herb Garden and Orchard on the site and aim to begin before the upcoming consultation with Thames Water on the 15th November. They hope that such an immediate and substantial voluntary effort from the community will demonstrate the strength of feeling about retaining this green space and create a symbolic barrier to Thames Water's proposals. Harry and Clare said, "It will also provide an ongoing focus for the campaign, which might play out over a long period of time, with the garden continuing to raise awareness and galvanise support for protecting this open space.

"It is also intended that the garden will go on to provide Deptford with a wonderful green facility long into the future, turning this often overlooked space into a valuable resource that is open to all to visit and to garden in. It is especially hoped that local schools will get involved and that it will become a place for young and old to share the satisfying activity of gardening, growing produce and supporting local wildlife."

To date the Community Garden has gained support from local landscape architects Roundfield with the offer of free consultancy and garden design, plus free website delivery from local designers Studio Raw. They also have the support of Deputy Mayor Alan Smith to use the site, advice from the council on setting up an accountable body to manage it, and approval of Father Paul at St Paul's.

The next step is to publicise the activity, invite public involvement and raise some money to help get things started.


The Evelyn Assembly will be allocating its funds at a public meeting this Saturday. Those attending will be voting on various proposals from other parts of Evelyn Ward. The Community Garden is asking for £500 to cover the cost of printing to publicise it as widely as possible and to kick off a fund for plants and seeds. The proposal needs people at the meeting to vote for the garden to get funding since it will be competing with many other causes.

Date: Saturday 17th September
Time: 10.30am for registration. (No vote if arriving after 11am)
Location: 2000 Community Action Centre, 199-201 Grove St. SE8 3PG

There will be a meeting (details of time and place to follow shortly) to describe the plans so far and to gather ideas from local residents about the best way to develop the garden. The meeting will decide upon a steering committee and fix a timeline for getting the garden installed. Everyone is welcome, keen gardeners and absolute beginners alike, whoever wants to help make the garden a success.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Yet another pawnbroker for Deptford High Street

Albemarle & Bond have put in a planning application for 37 Deptford High Street. The company is 29% owned by Ezcorp, a US company that "acquires, establishes and operates pawnshops" and is just one of the many businesses profiting from the recession. Their corporate website boasts that business has grown substantially, with an aggressive expansion rate of 25 new stores opening per year.

They see an increased demand for their services "since high street banks have reduced lending levels, making it harder for individuals and small businesses to access loans. As a consequence more customers are experiencing the ease and simplicity of accessing short term, flexible loans via our stores." ( According to the National Pawnbrokers Association (NPA) there are about 800 pawnbrokers in the UK and this number is set to grow at 10% per annum.

A&B's pre-tax profits surged by 75% in the second half of 2009, despite a 5% decrease in retail sales due to a reduced demand for gold jewellery as more people pawn or sell their jewellery rather than buy any. Higher gold prices also helped to boost profits. "Consumer awareness of the higher price of gold and difficult economic conditions are creating increased demand for short term cash." The following six months saw a 48% increase in turnover, and although early this year there was a 1% drop as they funded their ambitious store expansion, by May 2011 their "pledge book" (the pawnbroking side of business) had risen 24% over the previous year.

Meanwhile, Signet (parent company of H Samuel and Ernest Jones jewellers) reported UK sales were 'flat' at 0.2%. These high street jewellers do not offer other services except repairs and fittings (although they do buy gold online).

On the website of Albemarle & Bond's rivals H&T Pawnbrokers – at no.72 Deptford High Street, next door to Coral the bookmaker – the cost of their pawnbroking loans is clearly spelt out: they will charge £144 on a £300 loan over 6 months which they claim is an APR of 119% (we make it an APR of 150%?).

Over at Fish Brothers – a couple of doors down near Paddy Power – we find a monthly interest rate of 6.5% for loans of £5–£999, supposedly an APR of 93%. They also give examples, which make the whole business look quite agreeable: only 50 quid to pay on a £2K loan over 15 days with a diamond ring as collateral. Only 12 quid on a £100 loan over 2 months with a gold bracelet as collateral. Only 36 quid to pay if you borrow £5500 for five days! Amazing.

What rates can we get at The Money Shop (in between Ladbrokes and William Hill)? At their yellow & black website, the only rate advertised is the special offer on PayDay loans: £90 over a month will cost a tenner instead of the usual £17, with an APR of 260%. The Money Shop is also a pawn broker but doesn't pretend to sell jewellery.  

Albemarle & Bond (who aim to be across the road dead opposite The Money Shop) are not as forthcoming about their pawnbroking rates as their competitors. But on an equally gawdy yellow and black website they advertise a typical APR on a £1000 loan as 281.5%.

With so much building going on in the area, they must be anticipating an increased market in cheque cashing and payday loans. Branding wise, A&B, in its use of the same garish yellow as The Money Shop, appear to be competing directly.

A bank loan is much cheaper than a pawnbroker loan, but banks generally don't lend small amounts except as overdrafts which can be expensive. Pawnbrokers like to say they perform a valuable function for people struggling on benefits or low wages, those who don't have bank accounts or can't get overdrafts, those with a bad credit history or with county court judgements against them. But a member of staff at Deptford & New Cross Credit Union (165 New Cross Road  SE14 5DG, 020 7277 7477) told us that often some of their members have joined the union to borrow money to pay back a pawnbroker loan that has spiralled out of control. The not-for-profit Credit Union has all sorts of members, both working and unemployed, who may access cheap loans at 1 or 2 per cent. Unfortunately the Credit Union cannot provide on-the-spot loans (a loan may take ten days to set up).

Hogarth captures the scene outside Paddy Power and Ladbrokes (Wikimedia Commons)

Pawnbrokers have always had a place in the high street, but do we really need four of them within spitting distance of each other? It doesn't help that the main Building Societies keep closing branches but at least banks and building societies are regulated to some degree. Although pawnbrokers are required to ask for ID when they lend and buy, it seems they have to be reminded to be vigilant about receiving stolen goods. According to a news report in the Evening Standard in August, robberies had leapt by 18% in the previous three months resulting in Cash Converters signing a deal with the Met to exchange information.

Meanwhile, the intended site of Ablemarle & Bond is far from ideal: opposite two bookies and a 'money shop', within a 150m stretch that has five bookies and three money lenders. It's no coincidence that betting shops always seem to be accompanied by pawnbrokers. Here's the cluster:

70: Coral
72: H&T Pawnbrokers
60: Fish Brothers Pawnbrokers
52: Paddy Power
48-50: Ladbrokes
44: The Money Shop Pawnbrokers
38-40: William Hill
37: Albemarle & Bond Pawnbrokers
14: Better

Albemarle & Bond are applying for change of use. The shop used to be an amusement arcade and was not classified – arcades and theatres among others are 'sui generis' (of its own kind). It is likely the amusement arcade suffered with the increase in the number of betting shops full of slot machines. A&B's application is for A1 Retail use.

A&B know this part of the high street is a Designated Core Retail Area and are at great pains to emphasise that their main business is Selling Jewellery – even though they admit in their own reports that there is a big reduction in retail sales and their website plays down the retail aspect: "Our high-street pawnbrokers specialise in a range of pawnbroking services, gold-buying, pay day and short-term loans and offer a range of quality pre-owned and new jewellery through convenient locations across the country...Our friendly and experienced staff can help you manage your finances or find the perfect gift."

The amusement arcade as out of town by the betting shop slot machines?

Just as the bookies take advantage of planning laws that enable them to easily take over pubs and estate agents (A2 class), pawnbrokers are classed as A1 as long as the cheque cashing and similar activity remain ancillary to the main use as pawnbrokers/jewellers. But who's going to check?

As Albemarle & Bond open more and more retail outlets (like Paddy Power and Betfred), in areas where property is cheap and punters are desperate for cash, they have modernised their shopfront design. reported in February 2011 that A&B were "rolling out a new fascia across its portfolio as it looks to revamp its image as its retail sales fall in the face of soaring gold prices." (Yet more proof that they are not primarily retail).

And A&B's new logo now features the word "Bond" more prominently – because, according to CEO Barry Stevenson, their "customers have difficulty saying 'Albemarle and Bond'".

How will this modern design go down with the planners? The proposed internally illuminated double sided projecting sign reading "We buy gold any condition" jutting out from the bright yellow fascia illuminated by a continuous strip light doesn't exactly conform to the guidelines issued by Lewisham relating to those properties considered as heritage assets. This is not a listed building, mind, but it is in a conservation area. A&B want to replace the present timber framed shopfront (which has panelled pilasters and stallrisers) with a modern aluminium frame so that the shop looks like all their other branches and pays little attention to Lewisham's Shopfront Design Guide which requests that traditional materials must be used in conservation areas.

If you feel compelled to write an objection, you may want to emphasise the unsuitability of the proposed shopfront design in a conservation area. This may carry more weight than arguing that Albemarle & Bond are not really retailers, or that we've already got enough pawnbrokers, or that this particular site is not suitable due to its proximity to a cluster of betting shops...Objections must be in to Lewisham by 4th October 2011. See the application here and the documents here.

Sign of the Times by Adam Vass, to be featured in Deptford X at The Bird's Nest pub (click to enlarge)

Debt Advice
Crossfields residents may be interested to know that Lewisham Homes have teamed up with the Financial Services Authority (FSA) and their Moneymadeclear service to provide residents who need debt advice the opportunity to speak face-to-face with a trained money guide. They can provide impartial information and guidance with no fees. Call 0300 500 5000 or Lewisham Homes 0800 028 2028 (free from landline)/020 8613 4000 (if calling from a mobile) or go to

Debt advice is also available at 170 Community Project in New Cross Gate (170 New Cross Road, 020 7732 9716). Unfortunately the Deptford Citizens Advice Bureau no longer exists – Catford Citizens Advice 0844 826 9691 (5p per minute) is the nearest within the borough.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Thames Festival Carnival and Fireworks

There's still time to get up to Waterloo to see the Night Carnvial and Fireworks! The Carnival starts at 6.45pm, the fireworks at 9.45pm. The carnival begins on Upper Ground on the South bank then heads north over Blackfriars Bridge and turns left onto Victoria Embankment. The fireworks are let off from two barges positioned mid-river between Blackfriars and Waterloo Bridges.

Photo by Barry Lewis, video by Rufai Ajala.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Deptford X 2011

The Deptford X website now has full details of the 2011 programme, running over two weekends from Friday 23rd September to Sunday 2nd October.

The main programme features work by artists responding to the theme set by the lead artist-curators Hew Locke and Indra Khanna. Other sections include the Renewal Award in which artists' images have been chosen to go on billboards around the area – also featuring four artists selected to exhibit on billboard sites in both Poland and Deptford as part of ArtMoves Festival; and Deptford X Fringe where artists responding to the theme can be found in smaller venues – culminating in an Art Quiz at the Dog and Bell on the last Sunday. 

Meanwhile, other shows and events not specifically programmed by Deptford X will be taking place in 14 other Deptford galleries and venues (see Gallery Listings) and most of the main studio spaces in the area will be opening up for either one or both weekends (see Open Studios).

We are looking forward to Ben Parry's Deptford Machine (above), a sound sculpture created from damaged goods and shop trophies donated by local traders that will be sited at the Utrophia Project Space. Last year Ben's noisy milk float charmed visitors as it trundled and clanked around the area. We also note Katie Surridge's Fed Up – a collection of elaborately decorated oversized bird feeders to be sited next door to us in Sue Godfrey Nature Park. Of course there are far too many artists participating to mention here, but among those selected for the main programme we have checked one or two who at first glance appear to be dealing with familiar Deptford themes: Adam Vass, Amy Lord, Bridgette Ashton & Nicole Mollett, and Nicholas Cornwell.

There are also two walking tours during the festival: one by Q-Art on Saturday 1st Oct, 2–4.30pm for which you have to book (see the Main Programme), and one by Productlkj which starts at The Old Police Station (Wed-Sat 12noon–4pm) where you will be given an MP3 player and map (see Fringe Programme).

Deptford X co-curator Hew Locke is one of the artists featured in the Folkestone Trienniale this year which continues until 25th September. It is well worth the visit to see his beautiful installation For Those in Peril on the Sea in St Mary & St Eanswythe Church (the oldest building in Folkestone), consisting of around 100 model ships suspended from the nave.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Near and Fahrr├Ąder (Nummer 3)

Children brave the weather forecast and tackle today's London Skyride (Himmelfahrt?)
...and ride past the bottom of our road.

The very tall man in the blue jacket is not really that tall - he's riding a Pfennig-Grosschen, or whatever they're called.

Near and Far #2

Sunday 4th September, 2-5pm
Wild Trees
Trees growing wild in Lewisham? How can this be so?...
Meet at Creekside Centre...

Sunday 4th September, 5-7pm
is a specially constructed performance by 10 or 11 drummers from the south east London underground, a highly motivated and vibrant scene with wildly individual players. We will be playing throughout the garden so that the sound moves across and through the space. Strategies have been devised to keep the playing fresh.

Charles Hayward • Arnold Lane • Riley Hayward • Rik Irvine • Ashleigh Marsh • David Aylward • Kit Mackintosh • Russell Bond • Merlin Hayward • Matt Rigsby-Smith • Sir Eddie Real • Anonymous Bash • Tom, Kick & Battery
The Herb Garden

Update Monday 5th September: Drum Garden pix