Saturday, December 22, 2012

Greenwich Charity Pantomime Horse Race

Tomorrow Greenwich plays host to the annual Charity Pantomime Horse Race, with 20 ‘Panto Horses’ running, along with various fruit and vegetables and other animals, in aid of Demelza Children’s Hospice, who provide respite care for sick and terminally ill children. The race will be launched by comedian Arthur Smith who will be taking part as an Ostrich. Proceedings begin at midday at Devonport House, and the race starts at 1pm.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Frankham Street South – A New Residential Quarter

At the time of writing, there is a pop-up banner in the Deptford Lounge with the heading 'The future of Deptford Town Centre'. It stands alone, and there's no information to go with it.

Going to the web address given at the foot of the banner will not yield much more information except this two year old leaflet, which states 'the proposal will not go ahead unless the majority of residents support this proposal. This will take the form of an independent ballot. It is hoped that full consultation with local residents on these proposals will take place in late 2010'.

We're pretty sure Frankham House have not been consulted. Happy New Year, Frankham House!

Coming next: Faircharm Creative Quarter Planning Permission details

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Danny Baker – a Crossfields baby

Danny Baker (back row, second left) in the 3rd Year First XI at West Greenwich Secondary School. Front, second right, is his later punk cohort, Mark Perry, with whom he started the legendary punk fanzine Sniffin' Glue.

If you listen to Radio London during the day, you'll know that veteran DJ Danny Baker has recently departed his 3 o'clock slot (but can still be heard on Radio 5)*. Just a month before in October, he also brought out his autobiography, Going To Sea In A Sieve.

Danny grew up in Deptford and now lives in Blackheath. His early years were spent on the Silwood Estate in Rotherhithe in the now demolished Gillam House. But he was born on Crossfields in Congers House, and describes this on page 9 of his book...

"...After years of struggling to make any kind of progress with their lives, they [Baker's family] crossed the Thames – a huge upheaval in itself – to take up residence in a poky flat on the third floor of a pre-war block in downbeat Deptford called Congers House. It was here, in number 51, at 9am on Saturday 22 June 1957, that I was born. I was delivered by Nurse Walkerdene and my dad had to be summoned back from the pub as he was about to set off on a docker's beano – a boozy coach trip to Margate...
"At this point they had three children crammed into one bedroom. Consequently, when I was still a baby – indeed, because I was a very small baby – they were allocated a brand-new three-bedroom council flat on the ground floor of the Silwood Estate with a bathroom and a garden. They simply couldn't believe their luck..."

That's it for any more mention of Congers House, except on page 10 where he recalls that the family lived next door to a man called Jumbo Dray, who everyone called 'Jumb'. Congers House was subsequently refurbished.

Publisher's synopsis (provided by Weidenfeld & Nicolson)

"Born in 1957 in Deptford, south London, Danny's first job after dropping out of school at the age of 15 was in One Stop Records, a small record shop in London's West End, frequented by Elton John and Mick Jagger, a store rather like the one in High Fidelity. His career in print journalism began in 1976 when he co-founded the fanzine Sniffin' Glue leading to an offer from the New Musical Express, where his first job was as a receptionist. Soon after, Baker was contributing regular astute articles, reviews and later interviews to the publication.

"Danny then began making 30-minute documentaries at LWT for the cult series 20th Century Box, and appeared in two television commercials: Daz washing powder and Mars bar chocolate. His stellar career on the radio began on BBC GLR in 1989, then moved to BBC Radio 5 where he presented sports shows including the groundbreaking 6-0-6, which still influences the media's approach to criticism of players, managers and referees. He also worked on BBC Radio 1, back to BBC GLR, Talk Radio and later on Virgin Radio."

Baker joined BBC London 94.9 in 2001 presenting a Saturday show, then later the breakfast show. In 2005 he took over the weekday 3-5pm slot, featuring phone-ins and discussions with his on-air team regarding music and entertainment of the 1960s and 1970s*, and a Saturday morning show on Radio 5. "In May 2012, Danny won 'Sony Radio Personality of the Year' and appeared on Desert Island Discs. Six months earlier he had gone public on his cancer and chemotherapy treatment. This book charts Danny's showbiz career, the highs and lows, and everything in between, including the accusation that he killed Bob Marley..."

*The programme was axed in November 2012 as part of a programme of cuts at the station. Although due to continue its run until the end of the year, Baker announced on air on the day of the announcement that that day's show would be his last, branding his BBC London employers as "pinheaded weasels" for the way in which they cancelled the programme. (

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Housing Matters

The Council's survey on residents' views of Lewisham's housing priorities is now closed. Did you take part? Did you understand the options?

Firstly we were asked to comment on the council's five priorities for improving housing in the borough. What did we think was more important? Improving existing homes? Improving estates? Increasing the supply of affordable housing? Better housing for older people? Or giving residents more control?

The council said they aren't allowed to borrow enough money to do all these things properly. With a lot more money more homes could be built, and provision for older people could be greatly increased. Did we agree they should 'explore options' to do more?

Option One was to continue as is with Lewisham Homes managing our homes.
Option Two would see the Council managing the homes it owns directly.

We were told that with the above options, the Council could borrow enough money to build 250 new homes, continue to bring existing homes up to Decent Homes standard, make limited improvements to security and environments and sheltered housing, and build a flagship extra care unit for older people.

In Option Three the Council sells off its homes ('stock transfer') to a 'resident-led' operation, ie Lewisham Homes becomes a 'Community Gateway' organisation.  
Option Four is to sell off all the property to an existing Housing Association.

With these options, we were told that 600 new homes could be built, existing homes would continue to be brought up to standard, widespread improvements could be made to security and estate environments, all sheltered housing schemes could be made fit-for-purpose and the flagship extra care unit would still be built.

The Housing Matters survey asked us how well we had understood the priorities and options presented. The information was presented in several different ways – as tables, or as tranches of disconnected Q&As – in a series of newsletters. The efforts of the Tenants Participation Advisory Service (TPAS) to explain the options and, in particular, how Housing Finance works, only complicated matters. It's an extremely complex subject, and there was far too much information to digest. Without being housing professionals or accountants, how were we supposed to know what questions to ask?

We don't know, for instance, what other councils are doing. Apparently, some, such as Islington, are taking their housing back in-house, as in Option Two. This might result in a slight decline in services, but may also be around £1.2m cheaper to run. On the other hand, Lewisham Homes might save money by bringing all its services in-house (some are still run by the Council). 

Selling off the stock

The main difference between the first two options and the last two was that more 'affordable homes' could be built and housing for the elderly could be improved more than a little. Obviously we all want this. But it can only happen if the council sells off all its housing.

Options Three & Four represent the end of Council Housing as we know it – in Lewisham at least – although one could say that particular death knell sounded when Thatcher introduced the Right To Buy. (Local authorities had to spend the proceeds of sales to reduce their debt instead of being able to spend it on building new homes, resulting in a massive reduction in council housing stock – over 2m homes in the first two decades of RTB). The Labour government reduced the discount available, but the Tories have just put it back up to 75%. What is the point of building new social housing when tenants still have the Right To Buy? 

Affordable housing has been built as a result of planning agreements between local councils and private developers (Section 106), but these agreements are rarely enforced and delivered, and Boris Johnson ditched Ken Livingstone's 50% affordable target, so that it is now almost 0%. Most new-build properties in London are currently being bought by overseas investors buying-to-let. The government's response to the housing crisis is typically ideological (see Affordable Rents below).

Although Housing Association tenants only have Assured Tenancies, existing Lewisham Homes tenants with Secure Tenancies were told that under Options Three & Four they would not lose their rights in a 'stock transfer' and that rent levels would be protected for five years and then 'stay in accordance with central government's rent formula'. However, a promise by the new landlord not to use certain powers is not the same as the statutory rights ‘secure’ tenants have in law. See this report from a campaign group in Swindon.

Option Four

Option Four may not be the best, despite these promises, and for other reasons too. As it comes nearer to the choice becoming a reality and a bidding war between potential housing associations begins for what will probably be an incredibly cheap sell-off, all sorts of other promises may be made to lure tenants, such as brand new kitchens etc. – which ultimately may not be worth it when you’re faced with eviction. Even if Option Three is preferred, there would need to be the strictest guarantees of tenants rights written into any transfer agreement.

New tenants with housing associations may be subject to the Government’s new 'Affordable Rents' policy, which is part of their “Affordable Homes Programme” (see the Homes & Communities Agency webpage). This allows councils and housing providers "the flexibility to convert a proportion of social rent properties to Affordable Rent at re-let; the additional financial capacity generated must be applied to support delivery of new supply." In other words, they can let out some of their social housing stock at 80% of market value to raise capital to build more housing. Any such social housing provider would also be able to implement a range of 'end of tenancy' options (tenancies could be as little as two years).

Lewisham Council recently voted against the introduction of 'Affordable Rents' and to keep rents at 30-40% of market value. But if our buildings were to be bought by a Housing Association, existing Lewisham Homes tenants with protected rents may find themselves living next door to someone who's paying twice as much rent as themselves.
One of the bidders for the Council's housing stock may be L&Q. According to Inside Housing, L&Q have recently reported the largest ever surplus (£95m) generated by a social landlord, and other social landlords such as Affinity Sutton and Orbit Group are also likely to achieve sharp increases in surplus. It has been suggested that service standards might be lower – and rents higher – than they need to be to generate these 'profits', and staff cuts may be on the cards to increase profits still more. The Chief Executive at L&Q earns £218,000. Inside Housing also asked why these organisations are 'stockpiling their cash' – one suggestion is they need a fat surplus to ride out the storm of benefit changes in April 2013 when rents will no longer be paid directly to the landlord.

Option Three
If Lewisham Homes residents choose Option Three, they would be able to have more of a say in how their homes were managed. But the current level of "involvement" from residents is around 1%. Most people just want to pay their rent and have their homes suitably maintained in return. Why give up time to get involved on a voluntary basis to work alongside professionals who are being paid?

The example given of a 'resident-led' housing organisation was Phoenix Community Housing, which owns and runs homes in Downham, Whitefoot and Bellingham. When Crossfields TRA met their CEO, Jim Ripley, he pointed out that his organisation works well with around 6,000 properties. At that size it is still possible for him to be familiar with all of the stock and many of the tenants. They operate like a Mutual (like the Co-op) – led by tenants with the interests of the tenants at heart. They currently have a 96% satisfaction rate, apparently.

However, the Housing Matters team has said that any stock transfer would be wholesale and not in parts – over 16,000 council properties in all. Jim suggested a stock transfer of this size may create too big an organisation to function properly as 'resident-led', and it might be better to split into two different organisations. Why not three?

The large number of homes Lewisham Homes is responsible for (along with Regenter B3) might explain why, despite the efforts of the 'Get Involved' team, it has failed to engage its residents more successfully. By contrast, L&Q has 68,000 properties – far too many to manage effectively with a 'tenants first' ethos, but then L&Q isn't 'resident-led'. With Lewisham Council's remit for up to 600 new homes to be built by a new landlord, Option Three needs considerably more thought.

Of course, the same is true of Option Two, with the Council managing in-house. They admit that Customer Services might be the first thing to suffer.

Leaseholders may also wish to know that housing associations charge VAT on their management fee. Just as there needs to be thorough examination of 'assured' tenancy agreements made in any stock transfer, there is an equal need for leaseholders to be protected. Brockley Leaseholders are currently in battle with Lewisham Council over the botched PFI contract that Lewisham negotiated with Regenter B3 to manage their homes, in which they were made liable to pay up to £10K every five years for unnecessary major works, in addition to annual service charges.

Meanwhile, TPAS has published the minutes of the Housing Matters Resident Steering Group (a group of 12 residents from various TRAs) on their dedicated webpage – although November 28th's minutes are not yet available at this time. The minutes of 14th November reflect the difficulty TPAS have had in getting anyone interested in 'Housing Matters' whatsoever, although it also shows that the steering group have learned all the jargon and given a great deal of time and thought to the issues. There is also supposed to be a third newsletter from TPAS to conclude the process. Then there will be TPAS's report which must go before Mayor and Cabinet.

Perhaps the most that might be gleaned from the survey is the answer respondents may have given to the question How satisfied are you with the services you receive from Lewisham Homes? That is the only thing we can truly say we have knowledge and experience of...except of course, how even more awful it could be before they took over in 2007. But maybe it's a case, yet again, of better the devil you know...

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Christmas on Deptford High Street

If you weren't in Deptford High Street last Saturday, or indeed, the weekend before, you won't have picked up this flyer or noticed anything out of the ordinary going on. But some of the money awarded to the high street by the Mayor's Outer London Fund is being put into action in the lead-up to Christmas and events have already begun.

There'll be more events on each of the remaining Saturdays – including the showcasing of the Deptford Community Cookbook, an idea conceived and put together by Niaomh Convery, who lives on Crossfields. GCDA (Greenwich Co-operative Development Agency who are the new 'Renewal Managers' and have organised the activities), have also funded the printing of Niamh's book and will be selling it at live cooking demos outside Cod Fathers.

There will also be a 'Sewing Surgery' (altering clothes while you wait), buskers by the Anchor, a present wrapping service, singing in Douglas Square, a street dance workshop and performance (on 22nd December) and also on the 22nd a Lantern Making Workshop at Deptford Lounge (with Emergency Exit Arts - booking required) that will lead to a giant Christmas Tree Procession from Giffin Square.

Seven new young traders are also showcasing their wears, including Niamh's Preserves (not Niaomh Convery), Daisy's Decor, Icee Coutier, American Bites, Mr Denim, Sylvia's Vintage Gems, and Cates Cakes. Have a look on Lewisham's website to read more about these brave young entrepreneurs, or click on the leaflet above to read in brief.

To book for the lantern making workshop contact Mel on 020 8269 4880 or email

You can also find out how the rest of the money (£1.5m) that was awarded to Deptford High Street is going to be spent here.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Lewisham Hospital update

© Andy Worthington

Local investigative journalist and photographer Andy Worthington attended the 'Consultation' held at the Calabash Centre on December 4th. See his rather good report on his website. Although we suggest you read it in full, we've extracted some of it (with his permission) to publish here:
...Every London borough needs its own fully functioning A&E Department, and Kershaw’s proposals will essentially disembowel Lewisham Hospital in a very short period of time. Without being able to deal with emergencies, the hospital will steadily be starved of patients, and, in any case, a hospital that has had 60 percent of its buildings sold, and is giving over most of the rest of its capacity to elective surgery — private surgery, in other words — is clearly not even a cottage hospital and certainly not one that can provide for the needs of a population that is as big as Brighton, or Newcastle, or Hull.
At the consultation, the majority of the people who attended — either those protesting outside, or those who attended the consultation (to be, for the most part, patronised) — were extremely angry, and with good reason, I believe, as these plans are being sold as a necessity to improve clinical care across south east London as a whole, when, in reality, they are driven by the need to dig the South London Health Trust out of a hole, and by the demands of the government to make savage cuts and financial savings. Money can be found to support the NHS as it needs to be supported, if the political will is there.

...Kershaw and his colleagues, who included Dr Jane Fryer, his chief medical advisor, Dr Mike Marriman, the medical director of King’s, and, alarmingly, Dr Andy Mitchell, the medical director for the whole of the NHS in London (see Andy's picture above), were left in no doubt by the audience that they were regarded as liars and as devious operators who had already made their minds up, that their consultation was a sham, and that people will die if the plans go ahead. 
The proposals regarding journey times to Woolwich were accurately dismissed as a fantasy, and there were numerous important contributions from audience members who pointed out the cost, for poor and elderly people, of having to travel elsewhere, and who gave examples of how a degraded A&E, turned into an Acute Care Centre but unable to deal with genuine emergencies, would be revealed as a dangerous absurdity if a sudden emergency occurred — if, for example, a seemingly straightforward birth turned into an emergency because a baby was strangled by its umbilical cord, for instance, let alone if there was any kind of major disaster in Lewisham as a whole.
...And also remember that it is not just in south east London that hospitals are threatened. In north west London, four out of nine A&E Departments are under threat, and the Lewisham campaign has already made contact with the campaign there, called Save Our Hospitals. In total...26 A&E Departments will be “closed or downgraded across England and Wales as part of a policy to centralise services — despite fury among patients and scepticism from medical experts.”
As Andy says, "the best way to keep the government and the executioners of the NHS worried is for people to keep fighting". Sign the petition launched by Heidi Alexander MP (top right on this page), and fill in the official consultation form online before December 13th, when the consultation closes.

An easy-to-follow guide to filling in the consultation's "Online Response Form" has been provided by Save Lewisham A&E. It really is simple, takes about five minutes, and you don't have to leave your name and address.

You can also follow Save Lewisham A&E on Twitter and on Facebook — and look for the Twitter hashtag #thankslewisham, where people are telling their moving stories of how staff at the hospital helped them into the world, or saved their lives.

Tort Notices

Some, but apparently not all, residents at Castell House were served TORT notices on 9th November. Such a notice in the context of Housing is usually served "when there are uncollected goods and/or possessions that have been left or abandoned in premises by a tenant or lessee" under the Torts (Interference with Goods) Act 1977.

In this case it refers to the possessions tenants and leaseholders are keeping on the balconies outside their flats, and residents were given 14 days to remove them. The 'Tort' is a tool landlords can use to give them the power to remove items situated in communal areas such as corridors and staircases that are likely to represent an obstacle or trip hazard, such as on a walkway which is a fire exit from the building.

Since the items in this particular case are not "uncollected", "left" or "abandoned", it's a rather ambiguous way of asking residents to keep the communal areas around their homes clean, tidy, and free from obstruction, and is therefore open to misinterpretation.

Some residents in Cremer House have now been issued with the same letter and 'Tort Notice'. When a Castell House resident, who has a couple of plant pots (plastic) outside her door, called the number provided (the Tenancy Team) she was told it was a blanket letter and to ignore it.

Another resident who called has plants and a bit of wooden furniture outside and was told the same thing. It was only when she questioned further that she was told they knew she had flower pots and wooden furniture that were in contravention of the notice and that she must remove them. Had she not pressed the matter further she might have disregarded the notice and then found her items removed. She removed the wooden furniture, but left her vegetable and flower garden, which is all in non-flamable containers. She has had washing machines, furniture and fridges delivered, and been visited by friends with baby buggies and wheelchairs, with no access problems whatsoever, so didn't consider them as 'obstacles'. She was later called by Customer Services who told her the flower pots would not be removed.

As we reported previously, only about 10 people attended the Fire Safety meeting called by Lewisham Homes on 6th March. We also referred in that post (which we urge you to read again) to the guidance issued in 2011 by the Local Government Group regarding Fire Safety in purpose-built blocks of flats, in which a 'managed use' policy might permit residents to place pot plants and door mats outside their front doors.

After a walkabout with the Fire Safety Officer in March, the TRA suggested that the Fire Safety team print up and distribute a leaflet that explained exactly what is and what is not permitted, with guidelines as to widths and heights of permitted items. This never happened. So residents are not sure what they're allowed to store outside, and neither, it appears, are Customer Services or the Tenancy Team.

We don't know if any personal items have been removed by Lewisham Homes as a result of any resident's non-compliance with the Tort Notice, but if Lewisham Homes wants to continue their stated policy of "managed use" (to avoid a "zero tolerance" policy) they might do better to circulate a leaflet that clearly spells out the issue first (or even a poster in the stairwells), rather than issuing a legal notice that threatens to remove "unwanted" items – when most of the items in question are very much "wanted".

UPDATE 11 December: Some Frankham House residents have also received the Tort.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

New tree for Wilshaw back yard

When the estate's trees were pruned in July, the TRA requested that any trees that had to be removed might be replaced, preferably with evergreens. On Monday, this Strawberry Tree appeared at the corner of the air raid shelter next to the allotments behind Wilshaw. The small evergreen should flower in autumn, and its edible (but bland tasting) fruit will serve as food for the birds. One resident who was pleased to see the new tree remarked "It's good to see them keeping their word!". Has anyone spotted any other new plantings?

Update 12 Dec: Another new tree planted at Farrer...

The Deptford artists advent calendar

The countdown to Christmas wouldn't be the same around these parts without local artists and crafts people popping up to sell you their wares and work, along with an offering of mulled wine and mince pies. This coming weekend it's the turn of Cockpit Arts and Arthub in Creekside, both opening on Friday 7th (Cockpit 11am-9pm, Arthub 5-9pm, both free entry) and from 11am-6pm on Saturday 8th and Sunday 9th (£3 admission to Cockpit includes entry in a prize draw, no charge at Arthub).

South London Art Map has a tour on Saturday 8th (2-4pm) that will visit these and other open studios (Creekside Artists and Hatch Space). See here.

Deptford artists kicked off the season last Friday evening with lots of gallery openings as part of SLAM Last Fridays. Over the weekend, APT opened their Christmas Parlour, to raise money for their new studio block (a new show opens at APT on Thursday). Utrophia held music events on Saturday afternoon and evening, and have events and shows running up to Christmas (look out for Crossfield's own Merlin Hayward curating a performance on Friday 14 December, 9am-3pm).

Meanwhile, St Paul's House Project Space in the high street held a most unusual Charity Auction Event on Saturday evening which raised an amazing £1782 for Cooltan Arts, the art and mental health charity based in Walworth Road.

Artworks were donated by St Paul's House artists and friends, with starting bids set at £20. The auction featured a commanding performance by artist Julia Bardsley as auctioneer, dressed as a 'fallen angel' in an elaborate close fitting black outfit which included a rather large and protruding codpiece from which she occasionally dispensed gold chocolate coins. Her gavel was a cloven hoof, and she was assisted by a stylish and professional salesroom staff who ensured the auction ran smoothly. Some of the works for sale achieved a price of over £100 and one or two up to almost £200, with bidding wars breaking out for some coveted pieces. A £2 Lucky Dip meant attendees with smaller pockets could go home with a small postcard sized artwork.  

Barry Sykes, Julia Bardsley, Kira O'Rielly and Bernadette Russell, the auction team at St Paul's House

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.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Save Lewisham A&E, maternity & surgical units

The Lewisham NHS Choir who've we've been following on BBC2's The Choir (Sing While You Work) may not have won at the final (screened last night) but they've certainly got something to sing about now, more than ever. If we ever needed a choir it is now, since it is almost official: the newly refurbished Lewisham A&E is about to be closed, as reported on BBC News tonight.

Lewisham borough patients will have to go to the Queen Elizabeth in Woolwich (part of the heavily PFI indebted South London Healthcare Trust) so that it can justify its existence. Other services may follow and most at threat are maternity and surgical.

If the newly-refurbished Lewisham A&E closes, the boroughs of Lewisham, Greenwich and Bexley will have one accident and emergency to share. This is not a ‘difficult decision’ that the government is making, it is a ‘deadly decision’.

Go to to find out about what you can do to help, support and possibly change. First off is a public meeting on Thursday 8th November, 6-8pm at Lessoff Auditorium, Lewisham Hospital with speakers including the Mayor of Lewisham.

UPDATE 30th October: Transpontine analyses the Special Administrator's draft report that was officially published today.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Housing Matters - People Don't.

Or at least that is the strong impression given by the latest Lewishambles mailout.  Residents will by now have received a letter from Lewisham Homes with the wrong name on it.  As my address has been used by persons unknown for mail order scams in the past, I simply wrote NOT KNOWN AT THIS ADDRESS - RETURN TO SENDER on the unopened envelope that arrived yesterday and put in straight in the post box.

Some time later this email arrived in my inbox.

Dear Resident,

You may have received the attached newsletter in an incorrectly addressed envelope. 

Please read this newsletter as it contains important information about the future of your home.  We apologise for this clerical error and want to reassure you that your details are held correctly in our systems.
If you would like to discuss this further please contact the Communications team on 0800 028 2 028 or
If you would like to speak to TPAS regarding the Housing Matters consultation process please call 0800 731 1619.
Lewisham Homes
Holbeach Housing Office, 9 Holbeach Road, Catford, London, SE6 4TW T: 0800 028 2 028  F: 020 8613 7659

I know other people did not get this email - to be on the email list I think you would have had to have signed up to a ''getting involved'' programme some time ago.  But the advice given is to ignore the name and read the post anyway.  Because, Dear Resident, you or the name on the envelope don't matter, it's the address itself that counts.

Personally, I'm not going to open mail that's not addressed to me and I don't think that it's up to someone I don't know at Lewisham Homes to tell me to either, just to get them off the hook for their organisation's incompetence.  Houses and flats only matter because people live in them. 

As a version of the newsletter was attached to the email in PDF format, which can't be uploaded to the blog (or if it can, I've no idea how to), I wrote to the address and asked them for an address where the newsletter could be found online.  24 hours later I'm thinking I should have addressed my email to for all the good writing did me - still no reply.  Communications? 

Thanks to the blog editor, this newsletter can now be seen HERE

A couple of notes of warning.  It's not in the same format as the mailed version.  Apparently, to read it in order, you have mentally fold it up, starting on the right-hand side of page one and then presumably you descend to the right-hand side of page 2 before returning to where you naively expected to be able to start reading it.

And don't take any notice of the orange box which says
Also call this number for other formats, including Braille,
large print, audio tape, BSL or computer disc.
Typetalk: 18001 020 7253 7700
020 7253 7700
I've spoken to Pearl Linguistics, who it seems were surprised to be getting strange requests from Lewisham residents.  Pearl do the translations, not the Braille, large print, audio tape, BSL or computer disk versions.  For these versions you'll need this number:

Freephone: 0800 731 1619

So, wrongly addressed letters, incorrect information, instructions to read other people's mail, a non-communicating communications department.  Not a bad day's work, eh?

UPDATE 24 Oct 2012:
1) The communications addressees still haven't deigned to communicate.
2) Someone at Lewisham has obviously seen this post because the blog received this message (I've left the name of the sender out to spare embarrassment):
Hi Crosswhatfields!

I know you’ve posted some items about the Housing Matters consultation. Do you want to post this? I’ve added a direct link to the consultation portal on our website in case you want to use it…
However, don't try to use this link, which doesn't work.  It was recalled shortly afterwards and replaced with this:
Your views matter. To access the Housing Matters consultation go to and click on ‘see all Council consultations’. The survey is open until 5pm on 30 November. While anyone can fill in the survey we are particularly keen to get the views of Lewisham Council/Lewisham Homes tenants and leaseholders and those who would like to be social tenants.

Not that the link will get you anywhere.  The spelling of consultation should give you a clue as to why not.

So, after misaddressing the newsletter to who knows how many Lewisham tenants, they've now given us not one but two incorrect links.

I think it's time to consider whether there is active sabotage going on here.