Sunday, 7 February 2016

Folkestone Gardens and Quietway work

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, 28 January 2016

Lewisham Council scraps plans for 3G pitch in Deptford Park

The recent consultation by Lewisham Council over plans to build an all-weather football pitch in Deptford Park did not go down well with local residents and park users.

In fact it created sufficient opposition to galvanise said residents into forming a group called Deptford Folk: Friends of Folkestone Gardens & Deptford Park.

They are today celebrating their first major victory, with the council announcing that it does not intend to proceed with the plans for the football pitch as a result of the opposition.

The council said: 

'A number of objections were raised during the consultation which all essentially focused on the disproportionate impact that a project of this nature would have on a relatively small Victorian park. As such it has been decided not to proceed with the Deptford Park project and consider other sites to deliver much needed facilities across the borough.'

Hopefully this will give the new organisation a boost and help them to grow and gain more local support. Personally I'm delighted there's a new group focussed on this part of Deptford - I've not visited Deptford Park much but I regularly go through Folkestone Gardens and am often saddened by the neglect and abuse this little park suffers. Of which more later.

In the meantime for anyone who wants to get involved with Deptford Folk, they are holding their first AGM on Saturday 13th February at Deptford Park Playclub.

More information on the websiteFacebook page and Twitter account.

Wednesday, 27 January 2016

Consultation on proposed Deptford High Street improvements

Lewisham Council is consulting on proposed improvements to the north end of Deptford High Street, being in possession of some funds from Transport for London to tart it up a bit. Which is music to my ears, given I've been banging on about its unloved state for some years now.

The intention is to improve the street for pedestrians and cyclists, which would make a huge difference to those who use it on a regular basis. There's some good stuff in here, but I'm don't believe the proposals go far enough, and in one respect, they miss the target completely.

Yes it's already a 20mph zone!
The overwhelming threat to the safety of pedestrians and cyclists on Deptford High Street is the traffic - not just the volume of traffic that uses it, but the way that traffic behaves.

Bowling along: a popular rat run with all sizes of vehicles

In the morning rush hour, from 6am or earlier, great convoys of vehicles bowl down Giffin Street and Deptford High Street seeking to escape the traffic jams of Deptford Church Street and Evelyn Street. As the shops start to open and vehicles begin parking along the high street, delivering goods to businesses or building sites, speeds are tempered but space is restricted and the pavements are seen as fair game by drivers.

Woe betide any pedestrians strolling unsuspectingly along those sections which don't have bollards - they are likely to find themselves face to face with scaffolding lorries, tipper trucks, white vans and even mopeds who mount the pavement and drive along it to pass traffic coming the other way, with no regard at all for anyone walking past.

If you live or work in Deptford, or use the high street regularly, you'll be totally familiar with this.

Unfortunately it seems that the people devising the scheme, or those advising them, have no idea about traffic in Deptford.

For example, where is it going and how does it behave?

Naturally in the morning rush-hour, the traffic is all London-bound, following rat-runs in an effort to cut the drive time. But the measures proposed by TFL/The Project Centre/Lewisham Council suggest that someone hasn't done their homework.

The proposals are to put a restriction at the end of Deptford High Street 'to reduce rat-running' and 'create a new public space'. It might do the latter but it sure as hell ain't going to do the former! 
It's clear to anyone who has spent even half an hour observing traffic movements on the north end of high street that the vast majority of vehicles are rat-running down Edward Street, not Evelyn Street. 
They follow the well-worn route along Edward Street and Sanford Street to Surrey Canal Road, where they either turn right to take Trundleys Road towards Surrey Quays/Rotherhithe Tunnel or left towards Ilderton Road and on to the backroads of Bermondsey. 

To eliminate rat-running, any one-way restriction should be on Edward Street or on the high street south of this junction, but this will still only resolve the problem when traffic is in one direction.

(Although of course there's always the possibility that a one-way restriction will be treated with the same contempt as motorists treat the one-way restriction at the end of Crossfields Street.)

A public space would be good though. Can anyone think what kind of iconic monument or sculpture we might put there to celebrate Deptford's incredible history? (Click here for a hint if you can't guess).

(Click to see full size)

The sketch shows potential improvements in front of St Paul's Church, which would be welcome as it's a very uninspiring bit of public realm at the moment; the suggestion that 'unnecessary street furniture' would be removed to unclutter the pavements is also a welcome one.

I was a little confused by the the flyer which is provided on the consultation page, because it includes two sets of objectives, some of which are the same and some of which are different. I've tried to distill them into the objectives, and the means of achieving them

The objectives of the scheme are:
  • Make the street more pedestrian friendly and encourage cycling and walking
  • Encourage a less cluttered and safer feel 
  • Enhance and conserve the historic character of the street 
  • Improve accessibility
  • Support the introduction of a borough-wide 20mph speed limit, reducing vehicle speeds and improving safety at junctions. 
  • Control parking and loading in designated bays
  • Provide a safe, attractive and direct route between the river and the High Street 
Here's how they intend to do it:
  • Improve footways to make them wider using quality paving materials and provide level crossing areas at junctions
  • Remove unnecessary street furniture
  • Connect with proposed crossing improvements at the junction with Evelyn Street 
  • Assist the local economy by improving power facilities for the Saturday Market between Giffin St and the station
  • Retain 30 minute parking provision and provide parking improvements for Blue Badge holders
  • Extend the Restricted Parking Zone (RPZ) along the whole street 
  • Introduce a new taxi rank below the railway bridge to serve the High Street and Deptford Station 
  • Improve lighting under the railway bridge
  • Provide level crossing areas at junctions
The objectives are all well and good, but some of the measures seem contradictory; I'm not sure if there is room to widen the pavements AND retain designated parking bays without blocking the road - certainly in the stretch to the north of the railway bridge, in front of the Waiting Room, Johnny's DIY and Bearspace Gallery etc. This is already the section where pavement rally driving is rife, and lowering kerbs like they have done at the south end is only going to make that worse.

Pavements are for tipper trucks, apparently.
The two ends of the high street are totally different in their traffic patterns and usage - the south end is one-way along its whole length, has a market on it three days a week, and is not really a direct or convenient route for highway traffic. The north end is a major commuter rat run, and combines this with a large volume of pedestrian traffic going to and from the station and the two schools. I strongly believe that a different approach is needed if there are to be any significant improvements for pedestrians and cyclists.

Enhancing and conserving the historic character of the street is going to take a lot more than just some new paving stones - for a start the council's planning enforcement team needs to get to work on all those UPVC replacement windows and oversize illuminated signs that keep sprouting up without planning permission.

I'm not sure how I feel about a taxi rank at the station - it's not something that I'm likely to use as I'm within easy walking distance of the station, and in any case there are at least half a dozen bus routes within a few minutes' walk. I guess there will only be taxis on the rank if there's a demand, but it will mean taking regular parking bays out of use for something that might not be required.

Enhanced lighting under the bridge, on the other hand, will be a great improvement.

The prospect of enduring another year or so of roadworks and disruption, with only minimal improvements, is not a pleasant one. I do hope that feedback will enable a more effective approach to be developed so that the benefits can be felt.

The council is holding a drop-in session in the Deptford Lounge foyer between 3pm and 7.30pm on 3rd February where you can speak to the project consultants, Project Centre, and the Lewisham Council team about the project, and presumably give your comments.

Thursday, 21 January 2016

TFL to take over Southeastern services from 2018

The Mayor of London announced today that TFL will be taking over operation of Southeastern train services from 2018, the first part of a phased takeover of all of the capital's commuter rail services.

Much as I abhor the floppy-haired one, I will mark this historic announcement by publishing a photo of him on my blog. Mainly so that I can mock the typo.

I am sure that the devil will be in the detail of this arrangement, and it sure as hell is not going to be simple, but I can't help feeling a glimmer of optimism. It's quite a few years - decades maybe - since I felt any glimmer of optimism as far as train services from Deptford are concerned. The full details of the proposals are here, they are not set in stone as yet, they are 'open for consultation'.

So while we only have a reduction in services to look forward to in the future, there's a chance they might at least run more promptly and maybe TFL will even have the freedom to order some new, longer trains, a problem which Southeastern has been battling with for years?

Thursday, 31 December 2015

Deptford food and drink - new kids on the block

Lots of new bars, cafes and pubs are opening up in and around Deptford - so many that I'm having trouble keeping track of them all, never mind checking out their wares and finding time to review them. The vast majority are independent, giving a great boost to the range of places on offer.

Here's a list of those I've noticed, with brief comments about the ones I've tried. None of them have been thoroughly reviewed; please feel free to add any feedback (or any I've missed) in the comments section.

London Velo 
Hardly a new kid on the block, but I've been too distracted with other things to blog about it since heralding its imminent arrival more than six months ago. It seems to have settled in nicely, although the evening opening that was a fixture when it first launched seems to have fizzled out - maybe not enough demand, or perhaps just for special events? According to Twitter, hours are now a regular 8-6 (9-6 on Sundays).

I've eaten here a couple of times; the food and coffee is good although it's generally a bit more expensive than similar Deptford High Street cafes. They also sell bike stuff such as clothing and accessories - the website suggests quite a range, although I haven't been into that part of the shop since the first time, when my eyes watered at the sight of panniers for £175.

It's also notable for regular fixture Maurice, the French bulldog who seems to like sitting just inside the door waiting to trip up hapless customers like me. 

Barely hours after I posted about the murky goings on in Creekside, street food trader Fleisch Mob announced that they were launching a pop-up restaurant in the former pizza bus. By all accounts they had to shell out a whole lot of cash to fix rotting floors and dodgy electrics to get the venue into a shape that was suitable for opening, and apparently only for a few months. The intention at the time of the launch was that it would only be there till the new year - now, according to the website it will be open again on 8 Jan so perhaps a longer 'pop-up' is in prospect? (Updated: apparently they now 'have the green light' to stay on at the bus for another year).

Wunderlust serves 'seasonal food with an Austrian influence' - the menu certainly features local ingredients from Kent, Essex and beyond, although the Austrian influence is harder to identify. Prices are higher than Deptford is used to, especially considering the surrounds - while generally cleaner and in better nick than before, with posh soap and hand cream in the ladies, you're still effectively eating in a covered yard.

I tried the food on the opening night and found it tasty and well-cooked; service was as you might expect on the first night (which was rammed) and I assume they have ironed out the glitches by now. 

As the name suggests, this new cafe in the Evelyn triangle is not particularly fancy, but it's very fairly priced and the food is tasty and filling. According to their Twitter profile, they work in partnership with Deptford Action Group for the Elderly (DAGE) and offer free tea and coffee to pensioners.  

Don't worry if you aren't old enough to benefit from the free beverages - prices are very reasonable and there's a range of sandwiches, quiches, soups and filled jacket potatoes on offer. Don't expect 'fancy' fillings like avocado or fried halloumi, but a (good quality) coffee and sandwich was less than a fiver when I visited, which is sufficient pay-off for me.

My only gripe would be the seating, which seems to be mostly sofas - not ideal for sitting in while you are eating, especially if they are the squishy 'pre-loved' kind. The Twitter profile says they are open seven days a week, but it was shut when I popped down on a Sunday in early December, so probably best not to rely on that.

Sneaking in on Resolution Way, just off the high street is Buster Mantis, a new bar and restaurant promising Jamaican-influenced food and drinks in two converted railway arches. 

It marks a new departure for Network Rail in the Deptford area; while arches are being converted all across south east London into micro breweries, eateries and delis, the trend is only just arriving here. It would be great to have one or two food and drink venues along Resolution Way, but I wouldn't like to see the wholesale loss of what still represent good-value rentals for offices, storage and space for small local businesses, bringing employment and a range of services to Deptford. 

I'm itching to check Buster Mantis out, but have been unable to do so as yet, there was a soft opening in late December, which I missed, and a (free-entry) New Years Eve do. But I intend to be there as soon as regular opening hours kick in - in particular I look forward to being able to enjoy West Indian food in a restaurant rather than just as a take-out.

This new corner cafe just opposite the Royal Albert on New Cross Road has been open just a month, serving similar fare (at similar prices) to London Velo. Handy if you are on the Brockley/New Cross side of Deptford, and it's friendly and comfortable.

I like the seats at the window for people-watching, and it's also a good spot for observing the traditional driving fuckwittery that seems to pervade this corner of London. Watching the shenanigans of motorists trying to execute the popular turns from Florence Road and Watson's St, using varied levels of diplomacy, will keep you entertained for hours.

Little Thames Walk cafe

Finally, one of the retail units in Creekside Village has found a useful purpose! This cafe is as yet so new that it doesn't seem to have either a website or Facebook page, but let's hope its presence will prompt other businesses to take up residence in those empty units.

The new cafe is on Little Thames Walk, one of the alleys through the Creekside development - look behind you as you go up Copperas St towards Greenwich. It's closed for the holidays at the moment, but promised hours include a 7am start and a 4pm finish, Monday to Sunday.

A wee bit out of the manor but a welcome new addition to the pub offerings in and around Deptford. Yes it's a chain pub, and it's close to the tourist fleshpots of Greenwich so it's likely to have a corporate approach rather than the homely appeal of local favourites such as the Dog & Bell, but I'm anticipating decently-kept ales and a reliable food offering. Its main attraction, especially for entertaining visitors, will be the riverfront views. Over two floors, there should be ample opportunity for exploiting its location.

The pub - on the riverfront of New Millennium Quay - is due to open in January (and is advertising for staff right now if you are looking for work.)

Finally let's not forget the Deptford Project, or Deptford Market Yard, or Rise or whatever it's called these days - the development next to Deptford station that's edging towards completion at an infinitesimally-slow rate. 

As well as a couple of large restaurant units in the new block and the refurbished St Paul's House, it's likely some of the small arch units will be taken on by coffee shops or food vendors. Whenever it completes (originally scheduled for May 2015, now presumably '2016') we are sure to see more competition/choice arriving. 

Let's see if Deptford has the appetite and the means to keep them all in business. 

Sunday, 15 November 2015

How Deptford has changed in a decade

A lot has changed in Deptford in ten years. If you remember Little Mo's cafe, Witcomb Cycles, The Last Lick wine bar (yes really!) and the old butchers shop that used to sell tins of pease pudding, you might know some of the faces in Michael Smith's three-day photography project in Deptford in 2005 the photos from which he's finally got around to posting online.

Many of the faces are still around on the high street, just looking a bit older and a bit thinner on top, but a lot of them have come and gone. Michael wants to hear from anyone who knows any of the people in the pictures, contact him at

All photos copyright of Michael Smith; see if you recognise any of the others on his page.

Tuesday, 3 November 2015

Petition to bring back the anchor

The Deptford Society has teamed up with Deptford is Forever to launch a new petition asking Lewisham Council to return the anchor to Deptford High Street.

The anchor was removed ahead of the high street refurbishment and in response to lobbying by some people who blamed it for attracting street drinkers to the south end of the high street. Money from the Mayor's outer London fund was used to pay for the refurbishment that was carried out - here's how the top of the street was intended to look after the work.

And here's what's there now: shabby and useless street furniture, electric points and broken bollards.

An abandoned waymarker, still wrapped in its plywood coffin. Covered in fly posters and slowly rotting.

An empty space where a cafe kiosk/row of trees/symbolic anchor/all three could happily co-exist. Now providing parking for Asda trucks to unload their goods noisily at anti-social hours.

The former setting of the anchor, on a low plinth, made it attractive to street drinkers, and their presence was one of the reasons given for its removal. Now the drinkers gather in Giffin Square instead, next to the school and library. 

Removing the anchor has swept away Deptford’s history, but the social issues persist. There is an empty space where the anchor once stood as a proud reminder of the Royal Dockyard. 
Our anchor can be reinstated without a plinth. The landscape architect responsible for installing the anchor in 1988 has said the plinth is not essential. There are many examples of anchors without plinths across London and the UK. 

Deptford began as a small fishing village and grew prosperous from its position on the river. The anchor serves as a reminder of the skills, industry, trade and international links so significant to the town’s history. We therefore demand that the Deptford Anchor is returned – without a plinth – to its rightful place, marking the gateway to the river where the town was born. 

It's time for something different. Time to bring back the anchor.
Sign it here.

Tuesday, 27 October 2015

Deptford Park 'all weather' football pitch consultation

Lewisham Council is inviting feedback on its plans to put an astro-turf football pitch in the middle of the athletics track in Deptford Park. There's a month of consultation which started last week and goes on until 22 November by means of an online survey, with plans also due to be presented at the Evelyn Assembly at the Evelyn Community Centre in Kingfisher Square this Saturday.

I'm not far from Deptford Park but I rarely go there - probably because it's not very permeable, being surrounded by a big fence; it's not on the way to or from anywhere I want to go, and by and large it's quite well hidden from general view. It also has a rather old-world, forgotten feel to it, and certainly seems to have been well down the list for improvements over the years.

In 2008 a masterplan was developed and some changes were implemented, such as improvements to the entrance off Evelyn Street, but it has been slow progress. I haven't been back for some time so I'm not sure how many of the things that were highlighted on the plan have seen improvements. The fact that the map uses the word 'forlorn' is probably a good indication of the general feel of the place at the time.

On the plus side, it's tucked away behind houses that shelter it from the worst aspects of Evelyn Street, and mostly surrounded by quiet residential. It has a lot of mature plane trees, open space and benches for anyone wanting a bit of peace and quiet away from the hustle and bustle of Deptford; there's a playground for kids as well as the athletic track and a path all around the park circumference for runners. The 'secret garden' which was presumably created on a former bomb site where a gap was left in Evelyn St, is most definitely secret!

Does it need a flood-lit astro-turf pitch? It might be a good idea, if there was a clear shortage of such facilities in the local area - however I don't agree that that's the case.

For a start, it's just a stone's throw from the 'New Bermondsey' redevelopment on Surrey Canal Road where we are promised 'Energize Sports Centre & Onside Youth Zone' as part of phase two, which will include 'an indoor 3G football pitch that can be used by the Millwall Community Scheme (reproviding the Lions Centre), as well as for hockey and rugby and available to divide into 5-a-side pitches for hire to the leisure market'.

This is a huge development that was given outline planning permission three years ago but has yet to start on site. The fact that Boris announced earlier this year that New Bermondsey had been adopted as one of his new 'Housing Zones' might give it a rocket; if, like me, you've just read press release I linked to you'll be none the wiser about how these housing zones actually work. There's a bit more info here if you want to read further, but basically points mean prizes (and being chosen as an HZ makes you/the local authority eligible to bid for funding).

As his brochure says:
'The Mayor has made £400 million of funding available for Housing Zones. The funding can be used flexibly, from financing infrastructure to supporting individual schemes. This will maximise the number of new homes built and address the unique challenges at each site. The focus is on recovery and recycling investment, rather than conventional grant. Housing Zones are adaptable in terms of both funding and planning. That means it is up to London boroughs and their partners, to agree with the Mayor just what each Zone needs. in addition to investment, Housing Zones will offer focused planning, place-making and intensive engagement with a wide range of delivery partners important to making things happen, from utility companies to network Rail and Transport for London.'

But I digress. The park is also not far away from Deptford Green school, which coincidentally has a full size 4G astroturf pitch for hire (none of this 3G rubbish!). I think it's safe to say that demand is quite well addressed in this part of Deptford - especially when you take into account all the outdoor pitches that continue to be used throughout the year.

I'm not convinced it would be wise to do away with such a large area of wildlife habitat, carbon-dioxide-guzzling plants and a natural solution for soaking away rainwater without some serious consideration of the impact a football-pitch-worth of plastic would have on the ecosystem of the park.

Monday, 12 October 2015

Silvertown Tunnel and beyond

Transport for London opened the formal 'consultation' on its Silvertown Tunnel scheme recently and is inviting the public to comment on the proposals.

The official line is that the Silvertown Tunnel (which will go under the river from the east side of the Greenwich Peninsula to the Royal Docks) is needed to relieve pressure on the Blackwall Tunnel and make it easier to cross the river in the east side of London.

While it might increase capacity under the river itself by doubling the amount of traffic lanes, this traffic will still have to squeeze into the same road system on each side of the river, so it seems obvious that the congestion on local roads each side of the tunnel will remain - and more than likely, will be exacerbated as it's long been known that new roads generate additional traffic. This was established by the Department of Transport itself, in its infamous Sactra report of 1994.

We already know that pollution levels in south east London are well above the EU recommended limits and additional traffic is only going to make the situation worse, with greater risks to public health, especially in children, the elderly and those who already suffer respiratory problems.

Quite aside from the debatable case for relieving congestion, is the fact that TFL is proposing to impose a charge on users of both the new tunnel and the existing one. They say this will be so that they can 'manage demand'. Hang on a minute, I thought the new tunnel was going to do that? So TFL is admitting that the new tunnel will not relieve the congestion, it will merely generate more traffic that will then have to be 'managed'. As an afterthought they also say that the user charges will pay for the tunnel to be built. Clearly the only reason they think they can get away with imposing charges is surely because there are so few other options for drivers in east London, especially if the Woolwich ferry is closed.

No to Silvertown Tunnel campaigners have published quite a lot of detail on their website, including the case against, and an interesting live air quality widget from the air quality centre at King's College.

We've also very recently seen the knock-on effect of the highway restrictions on Deptford Church Street, which came into play a couple of weeks ago. While these lane restrictions are currently only temporary, they are going to be in operation on and off for the next couple of years, and then for longer periods when the Thames Tunnel construction work actually starts. There's been a noticeable increase in traffic levels rat-running through the high street this last couple of weeks, and not only are there more vehicles, the proportion of heavy goods vehicles and lorries also seems to have increased.

Admittedly I've no solid evidence to back this up (traffic survey anyone?), it is merely perception, but considering I walk or cycle up and down the high street at least once on most days, it is a fairly well-informed perception. There's also been an increase in the number of times I have to dodge out of the way to avoid cars and even HGVs which mount the pavement to drive along because they can't be arsed to wait for parking drivers, or oncoming traffic. This type of behaviour appears to be ingrained as perfectly acceptable in the drivers who use the high street. I think it's high time the council took a proper interest in traffic levels, safety and driver behaviour on Deptford High Street and began to think seriously about how it can be improved.

Tuesday, 22 September 2015

Deptford X 2015

Deptford X is one of my favourite times of the year in Deptford and as always, there's a packed programme of shows, events and open studios to get round in the week-long festival.

It kicks off on Friday from Deptford X's new home in Brookmill Road - an art gallery that was proposed as part of the Seager Distillery redevelopment and originally located in the lower floors of what's now Stay City. Under pressure from the developers, who claimed they had a four-star hotel operator lined up to occupy this building, the council allowed them to relocate the art gallery to Brookmill Road.

The gallery fronts onto Brookmill Road (while Deptford Broadway gets the blanked-out windows of Stay City apartments). Notwithstanding this, it's fantastic to see Deptford X getting a permanent home at last - they also have artist studios available for a very reasonable rent, although I understand they are mostly without natural light, so will only appeal to some.

Deptford X
Lead artist is Janette Parris, whose animation about Deptford will be showing throughout the festival at the Deptford Lounge. Her illustrations are colourful and quirky, I even recognise some of my favourite vendors on them. Her work will also be in a group show she has curated at the Deptford X gallery.

If you like your art in less conventional spaces, why not check out Uncle Ned's Beds at 147 Lewisham Way on Friday evening where Bernadette Russell's Bed will be taking place?

Bed explores magic, dreams, the power of suggestion, and the wonder of stories. It’s revisiting that childhood bedtime story experience as an adult, and it’s about what happens when we’re asleep in these times, when more and more of us have difficulty sleeping. 

Bed includes a 16th century spell and sweets made by a witch. What happens: in exchange for one story, you will be asked to sign a contract to provide Bernadette with the first dream you remember after this encounter. Your dream will provide inspiration for the next story, to be read to someone else, at some point in the future. After having listened to the story, you will be given instructions, which you may or may not choose to carry out, the contents of which are aimed at influencing your dreams. 

Bed takes about half an hour, for participants, it's free and non-ticketed - you just turn up and take a raffle ticket. They are also helpfully providing tea and cakes in exchange for a small donation to Macmillan.

One of my favourite Deptford X artists from last year, and winner of the 2014 fringe award - Luis Ignacio Rodriguez, who performed as a dancing builder on top of the Bird's Nest pub - is back again, on the main programme this year. 

This year Luis  is promising 'a series of daily LuisTV broadcasts, in, on, and for Deptford, ranging from 10 to 30 minutes, live on Periscope (viewable on various platforms), and displayed on a screen at Deptford Lounge throughout the festival. It will be recorded from various points in Deptford, from a market stall to a neighbour’s balcony, from the station to a takeaway shop, from some hidden corner to the LuisTV phone boxes. 

Look out for the standalone cardboard cutouts for the daily schedule. Programmes will vary in format and content, but, whenever possible, the public will be able to take part in them. Audiences can expect different programmes featuring exhibition reviews, interviews, puppet characters, art reading, walks, Deptford stories and more.'

You can see the broadcasts at the Deptford Lounge, or from the comfort of your own home on this channel

As well as the main programme, there's an extensive range of stuff going on in the fringe programme, so don't forget to check it out - in venues conventional and unexpected - right across Deptford and surrounds.

Join Sean Roy Parker in the Old Tidemill wildlife garden to contribute your own 'exhibits' as part of the trading post; there's Deptford Delft at Deli X - reflecting Deptford's past history of shipbuilding and commenting on its future of potential gentrification; or check out The One:One Collective's interrogation of Deptford housing in Giffin Square. 

Open studios
The studios around Deptford that are part of the regular Deptford X trail are this year joined by the Propellor Foundry on Childers St - Acme Studios has been there for 25 years but seems to have recently been rebranded. 

I'm looking forward to getting a look inside - the huge windows of the building and the tantalising glimpses of artists at work have always made me curious about these studios, so it will be good to get a look inside.

They have open studios on 3 and 4 October from 12-6, publicised thus: 

"The event will both include features such as a ‘Historic View’ comprising a video and graphic story of the Propeller Foundry building and its industrial heritage and a ‘Family Trail’ for the younger family visitors. We will be holding a silent auction of artists' postcards over the weekend; artworks will be available to be viewed online from 26th September. We will also be opening the ‘Foundry Gallery’ which will exhibit selected works. Refreshments will be available, including hand-crafted pastries and a range of freshly ground coffee."

If you are able to get there in time after a day at the office, you might want to join the architectural tour of Deptford being led by Burwell Deakins Architects on 1 October at 6pm.

"Although often overshadowed by the grandeur of Wren’s neighbouring Greenwich, Deptford itself is not lacking in architectural significance. Buildings designed by a Stirling Prize winner, RIBA Gold Medalist, international starchitects and some of the UK’s best emerging talent can be found within this rapidly changing Thames-side community. Join Deptford-based award-winning architect Nicholas Burwell and architectural historian and local resident Tom Ravenscroft for a walking tour of Deptford, where we will explore the historical highlights, modern masterpieces and hidden contemporary gems of this lively neighbourhood."

Or maybe you want to create your own guide persona and film your personal guide to Deptford? A project created by artist Jack Brown working with students from Tidemill Academy aims to do just that - and members of the public can join in either at the workshop on 1 October at the Albany, or simply by creating their own film and uploading it to You Tube, labelling it 'deptfordxtourguide'. 

And of course there's the regular South London Art Map tour taking place this Friday if you want a guided tour and an expert's view on the festival - tickets can be booked online.

Full programme available here