Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Guerilla art...Boris Island

Before Deptford X opened its doors last Friday evening, a scarecrow appeared on the Bird's Nest roundabout. Made of straw, brooms and a mop head, it sported a double breasted suit, shirt and tie – and the face on Boris Johnson on both sides.

The News Shopper picked up the story from Twitter yesterday and assumed the "man of straw" was part of Deptford X. It is not. Don't ask how we know, but it's not in the programme, and the organisers and artist(s) would have been obliged to seek the permission of TfL Highways and/or Lewisham Council to erect anything on the roundabout and would be highly unlikely to get it.

The scarecrow has survived the last few days without removal, and its tendency to turn in the wind like a whirling dervish (or weather vane) has been corrected. It is now being added to by locals and early this morning was to be seen completely re-costumed (with some very strange accessories) and no longer recognisable as Boris...though he may appear to some like this...

Update: Thursday 2nd October 

Boris is back! With a sidekick – possibly his Chief of Staff, Sir Edward Lister, the real power behind the throne (also known as "Eddie Air Miles" for his frequent trips to China and Hong Kong)...

Someone has glued some childrens' shoes to the base of the roundabout.

Update 9 November: Boris is still up...and has acquired a couple of accessories – two hanging baskets – one containing a synthetic cheeseplant, the other a large pound sign. Possibly a comment on the ludicrous Garden Bridge? Or perhaps the scales of justice are weighing in favour of green space versus developers...a local comment on the Tidemill development?...

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Deptford High Street re-presented

The Academy of Urbanism has shortlisted Deptford High Street in its Urbanism Awards 2016. The awards aim to recognise "the best, most enduring or most improved urban environments". The Academy has visited and assessed "over 100 outstanding examples of good urbanism" in the UK, Ireland and Europe – and our high street is one of 15 finalists.

There are five categories – European City, Great Neighbourhood, Great Place, Great Town and Great Street. Deptford High Street has been shortlisted for the latter category, along with Cairns Street (a residential street in Liverpool) and Oliver Plunkett Street in Cork. The winners of each category will be announced on November 6th at the Academy's Awards Ceremony.

Update 9 November: The 'Great Street Award' was won by Oliver Plunkett Street in Cork. For more info on the winners click here.

Tower of Babel by Barnaby Barford
© V&A
Meanwhile, the high street is one of many represented in Barnaby Barford's Tower of Babel at the V&A. Barford has created a six metre tower out of 3000 individual hand-made bone china buildings, each depicting a real London shop. Barford calls it a snapshot of our times; it "forces you to think where you fit into this hierarchy of consumption". Expensive shops and galleries make up the top part of the tower, with the cheap shops at the bottom. Creative Review notes that "It feels apt that it is the cheaper stores that are the easiest to examine at the base of the sculpture, as arguably these are the most unique, compared to the high street chains and even fancy boutiques that are out of sight higher up". There are 32 Deptford shops at the base of the tower.

Each of the small models are for sale, varying in price from £95 to £6000. You can browse the Deptford shops via the online V&A shop – they vary in price from £110 to £250 and, at the time of writing, over half have sold but you can still pick up Kids Love Ink for £210.

Deptford High Street also features in the child-like drawings of Jeanette Parris, who is 'lead artist' at this year's Deptford X. For last year's festival, Jeanette "spent time talking with local residents and stallholders at Deptford Market" and her depictions of those conversations were printed as a comic  and handed out free. This year she has "been building on these conversations" to create an animation called Brief Encounter.

A scene from Brief Encounter © Jeanette Parris @ Deptford X 2015

The theme of this year's festival is 'Deptford Conversations' and Jeanette will be talking about Deptford with 50 other 'guest' artists about what they feel is relevant to it. Deptford X runs from 25th Sept to 4th Oct.  Follow on Twitter @DeptfordX and Facebook. Also see the Deptford Dame's round-up.

Meanwhile, local fears about gentrification of the high street are demonstrated in the leaflet below that was distributed in last Saturday's market...(click to enlarge).

Local responses to the refugee crisis

Artists at local studios Arthub collected a large
haul for CalAid at the beginning of September

Despite previous and ongoing news of refugees drowning in their thousands, it was the image of yet another child's death on September 2nd that prompted hundreds of people into action. Londoners' proximity to Calais has resulted in efforts focussed on helping refugees in the two camps there.

Before then, CalAid had already been organising to provide relief and shift public opinion, and its growing network of volunteers were ready to receive donations at various drop-off points, the nearest being in Dalston. Close to the situation on the ground, they have been able to advise on what is needed – and warn against people dropping donations directly to Calais. Their next drop to Calais is October 4th – check their Facebook page or Twitter for latest info.

But rather than go to Dalston, you can now drop off to CalAid locally. Some Lewisham councillors set up Lewisham for Refugees on 3rd September, and arranged for drop-off points in local libraries and other locations across the borough. In Deptford you can leave stuff at the Deptford Lounge and at MP Vicky Foxcroft's office at 82 Tanner's Hill, London, SE8 4PN (10am-4pm Mon-Fri).

Meanwhile, local artists in Creekside responded by organising a speedy collection for CalAid at their studios in Arthub, and two Crossfields residents, Sylvia and Amanda, set up separate initiatives in association with other organisations already working in Calais.

Sylvia's group is Calais in October, based at the Laban Centre where she works. Heading to Calais on 17th October with donations of both materials and "their time", the delegation also intends to provide workshops in traditional Middle Eastern dances for people in the camps, working alongside Music Against Borders. Their creative response is in recognition of "the importance of creativity and culture in empowering people disenfranchised by war".

Calais in October are receiving donations at the Laban Building in Office 1 (or leave with Reception for the attention of Sylvia Ferreira) and are requesting the following:

• Tents, Sleeping Bags, Blankets, Camp beds, Roll mats, Canvas sheets
• Men’s: Socks, Waterproofs, Jackets/Coats, Trainers and Boots
• Pans, Pots, Grills, Cooking utensils, Plastic cups, Mugs, Plates, Bowls, Cutlery
• Mobile phones and the Chargers (Unlocked)
• Plug adaptors (UK -> continental, for UK phone chargers, etc)
• LED wind up lanterns
• Wind up Radios
• Basic Learning books (different languages)
• Instruments (for Music Against Borders project)
• Money – via CalaisDonation to buy food and hygiene products

Music Against Borders have a musical instrument donation programme and will be taking mostly drums, guitars, percussive (and children's) instruments and running music workshops in Calais from 18th October. See here for more info on how to donate your unused instruments – or drop them off at the Laban.

Amanda's group is Refugee Relief 2015, created among friends on Facebook. They are heading to Calais on 7th November and have have obtained large material donations from Robert Dyas, Decathlon and Waitrose, and are also collecting individually in their workplaces (so no local drop-off point, but they could pick up from you nearer the time if you join the group). They also have a Just Giving page to donate cash to.