Friday, 10 October 2014

New shop fronts for Deptford High Street

The sharp-eyed among you may have noticed the new shopfronts that have appeared along Deptford High Street.

Six shops have had their signs and shutters replaced using the tail end of the Outer London Funding bid that paid for the repaving works and other projects.


I don't believe this work was actually part of the original bid, and I'm not clear where the funding was diverted from, but it is certainly being paid for out of the money that was awarded to Deptford.

One of the regular gripes by those who care about the visual appearance and public realm quality of the high street is the damage to shop fronts caused by cheap 'improvements' which usually involve ripping out the old shop front and bunging in a roller shutter. This is often done at the lowest possible cost and by contractors whose only concern is the speed with which they can get the work done.

There's also ongoing problems with planning applications for changes that are not appropriate to a conservation zone (yes! Deptford High Street is a conservation zone!) such as internally illuminated signs and plastic-framed replacement windows. Many of these have got through in the past but happily the planners at the council are now more aware of the problem and seem to be taking greater note of new applications.

The new shop fronts are intended to showcase 'good design' for the high street and demonstrate the type of solutions the council would like to see applied whenever renovations are carried out.

In my opinion the designs have all been successful to some extent - even those which I consider too gaudy or disappointingly underwhelming have a solid and unified quality. I assume the shop owners were consulted on the designs and colour schemes, which presumably explains why they vary so much.

At the south end of the high street (above) the replacement signage and awning are a huge improvement on the awful gaudy plastic thing that used to scar this lovely building. I like the colour choice and it seems the designer of the sign made the best of a bad job, considering how many words had to be accommodated.

I admit I find the light green squiggles adorning each end a little distracting though, they do put me in mind of a diagram of the female reproductive system.


Next up is Divine - the colour choice might be more reminiscent of a high-viz cycling jacket than anything else, but at least the shop front is in muted colours and the simple design works well.

AK Continental Foods looks good when it's open but the shutter design makes it look quite fun even when it's closed. Not much thought seems to have been given to how the design would fit on the shutters - to be honest it looks a bit like one of my attempts - but it's cheerful and colourful so the end result is a positive one.


Down at the more subtle end of the scale is Fu Quing Chao Shi Chinese supermarket - auspiciously red, no surprise there, and very clean design. The new awning looks great too.


There's always one who wants to stand right out, and in this case it's Family Halal Butchers & Grocers with their gaudy yellow and red sign and even a yellow edging to the bright red awning. Considering they are sandwiched between the non-too subtle shouty awning of Housewives and their other bright yellow neighbour, it's none too surprising.


My favourite of all the shopfront redesigns is Ralph's green grocery which has a strong Farrow & Ball feel to it - not just the colours of the shop front and contrasting awning, but the lower-case shop name and understated design. I'm sure the Guardian would have a field day suggesting that it's an unmistakeable sign of gentrification although you only have to step inside to note the absence of wicker baskets or eggs displayed in beds of straw.


When the previous shopfront was removed, the original sill of the window on the first floor was revealed, leading for calls to redesign the shop sign and reinstate the window to its original level. The building (formerly Caxton House) apparently used to be a ladies school in the 1800s and is one of the more significant historic buildings on the high street, although there are probably many more than you might think. 

As far as I know, extra funding is being sought to adjust the shopfront accordingly, let's wait and see.


And finally, here's the latest new shopfront. As far as the new occupier goes, shame to see another 'chain' on the high street (although in reality it's a franchise) but apparently there are lots of people out there who think buying sandwiches by the foot is a good wheeze.

I'm of the opinion that there are much better sandwich options available on the high street, and the only time I went into a Subway I got rather confused by the aggressive questioning about filling options. I like the old-school method where the customer tells the sandwich maker exactly what they want and the sandwich maker puts aforementioned ingredients in the bread. Mind you I seem to remember it was a branch in the US so I was confused as to why I might want cheese in a ham sandwich, particularly since I was then asked to choose between four types of cheese, none of which sounded real, and all of which had been processed to exactly the same extent except for subtle differences in colour.

I suspect the new Subway will probably impact most on Percy Ingle's and Greggs' sandwich and hot food sales. Other branches seem to open late and I hope this one will too - it would certainly be good to see more places on the high street that open into the evening.

Sunday, 28 September 2014

Lesoco's expensive rebrand thrown out after two years

There are times when I think I must be in the wrong job. 

Last week, further education newspaper FE Week revealed what I'd first heard several weeks ago, but which was confirmed when I glanced up at the big red brick building on Deptford Broadway as I passed it this evening and noticed this change.


Yes indeed, 'Lesoco' is no more.

If you weren't even aware of Lesoco in the first place, it's hardly surprising since it was only brought into being a couple of years ago after a major 'rebranding' exercise. The rebranding took place after Lewisham and Southwark Colleges (the latter judged 'inadequate' at the time) merged in 2012 and became Lesoco. Or LeSoCo as they liked to write it (*cringe*).

The piece in FE Week is interesting because it answers a question I'd been musing on - how much were 'consultants' paid to carry out this rebranding?


Almost £290k according to the results of FE Week's freedom of information request. 

The 'rebranding' was done by 'the world's most effective brand design consultancy' (according to its own website) Elmwood. Certainly effective at extracting payment for ageing cordage, perhaps. There was even a rather lame video made by another agency. 

Here's some of the guff that was written about the rebranding at the time: 

Elmwood chose the LeSoCo name as it blends the words Lewisham and Southwark, and was influenced by other amalgamated place names like New York’s Soho – a shortening of ‘South of Houston Street’. (Ah yes, of course that's relevant to a small college in south east London).

The visual identity depicts a folded page corner, which Elmwood says suggests ‘the building sense of anticipation that’s felt when you can’t wait to turn the page to your next assignment, your next module or the next chapter of your life’. (Oh good grief).

The graphic device surrounding the name uses an ‘L’ shape with the corner turned up, ‘revealing an exciting new future’, says Elmwood. The red and white colour palette was inspired by London iconography such as buses, post boxes and London Underground signage. 

Elmwood says, ‘At the heart of the LeSoCo vision is the strong belief that the two colleges united as one are greater than the sum of their parts, setting them apart from other London colleges through their mission to instill students with an enterprising spirit and equipping them with the skills they need for the future’.  (*guff detector goes into overdrive*)

Simone Davies*, LeSoCo director of marketing and communications adds, ‘The new branding reflects our aspirations for the future, it has signaled the beginning of the new: joining two organisations, post merger, in to one to create something new and exciting’.

Since the rebrand things have not gone well. Ofsted gave the merged college an 'inadequate' grade at the start of this year, and in June, principal Maxine Room 'stepped down' to be replaced by interim consultant principal Ioan Morgan.

It seems one of his first acts was to ditch the pointless name that was despised by staff and misunderstood by students. They have managed to re-use the expensive logo to bring it back to something that makes sense, but they are still stuck with a website url that makes little sense and presumably a whole load of other branded stuff that will have to be phased out. Not to mention a big hole in the finances.

*Update: I note that Simone Davies, director of marketing and communications, also left Lesoco in May of this year.

Deptford Fun Palaces

Next weekend (4 and 5 October) there's lots of free, family-friendly stuff going on in Deptford as the Albany and other community spaces create their own 'fun palaces'. 


It's all part of Fun Palaces 2014, a nationwide celebration of arts, culture and sciences which has been created to mark the 100th birthday of Joan Littlewood. Fun Palaces 2014 brings to life the vision she and Cedric Price created for spaces linking arts and sciences, entertainment and education. 

Across two days, a consortium of creative and cultural organisations in Deptford will host an array of free spectacles and activities, alongside the weekend’s central event Source (Sunday 5 October, 3pm), which brings to life an underground world of six forgotten rivers of London.


Created by two of the UK’s leading creative event companies Cirque Bijou and Nutkhut, Source is performed outdoors by circus, dance, theatre and cabaret artists and depicts historic moments connecting Victorian London to pioneering philanthropists, social reformers, artists, inventors and engineers.

The event ends in a 'bring-what-you-can' party in the Albany's main theatre. For more information see listings below or visit the website.



Make Believe Arts Giant Science Playground 
Deptford Lounge
Saturday 4 October, 12-4pm
Make Believe Arts is inviting children/families to create bunting and other crafty delights in preparation for the Giant Science Playground.

Sunday 5 October, 11am-4pm 
The whole family is invited to help solve a mystery of GIGANTIC propositions. Deptford was once the land of giants and the Ministry of Mysteries has unearthed some interesting findings, and the they need your help to work out how a giant from the past got sick!

Teatro Vivo Grimms’ Collecting Agency
Woodpecker Community Centre
Sunday 5 October, 11.45am 
Collecting stories is a family business for the Grimms, handed down through the generations - ever since their great great great great grandfathers, those famous brothers, heard the one about Hansel and Gretel. This year Grimms’ Collecting Agency will be popping up across London. On a mission to assess the state of the nation, the Grimms will be collecting stories. Your stories... Meet the Grimms and share your tales; who knows what you might inspire... Grimms’ Collecting Agency is a performance piece that will interact with a large audience, provide some one to one experiences and offer a performance of a brand new story each time it pops up!

Hunt & Darton Food Fight, 
Albany Garden
Sunday 5 October, 1pm 
Treated as seriously and adjudicated with the same respect as an Olympic sport the makers of Hunt & Darton Cafe bring you Hunt & Darton Food Fight.
Get ready to roll up your sleeves for some brutally brilliant food warfare. After a series of warm up workshops offering activity vital in your preparation to become a food fighter you will be ready to enter the arena. Take note of the rules and rigorous marking system, as there are unexpected ways to win. Perhaps you will be crowned ultimate champion, or be disqualified because your focus face was insincere, maybe you’ll secure additional points with legwork that deemed as beautifully absurd’, or maybe one of the meringues you threw caused the biggest and most spectacular splat. The rules are set, the pitch is painted and the food is prepared – Fight!

Dean Blunkell; Fibonacci Divine Principle
Goldsmiths 
Sunday 5 October, 12.15pm & 13.15pm 
The performance starts with performers appearing and encouraging the audience to view the architecture, apprentices begin to place models of baroque style buildings while other performers mark out on the floor Fibonacci plans gradually a model cityscape is created under the direction of the architect. At the end the ensemble all dance the Fibonacci, created especially for the performance.

Khiyo; Raga to Reggae
Market Square
Sunday 5 October, Midday & 1pm 
Khiyo is a London band that gives Bengali heritage music a modern, fresh sound. Its radical interpretations draw from rock, folk, and Indian and Western classical music. Khiyo is gaining a reputation as a formidable world music band, performing at the Purcell Room for the Southbank Centre’s 2013 Alchemy Festival.

Stefano Di Renzo; Hold On
Giffin Square
Sunday 5 October, 1.30pm 
Hold on is a circus theatre show using slack rope as the base of the theatrical language, exploring the relationship between a man and the system that governs his life.

Source
Cirque Bijou and Nutkhut 
Market Square
Sunday 5 October, 3pm
When London’s sewers and underground system were first created, six tunnellers were sent underground in a secret mission to find and save the sources of London’s rivers before they became buried forever. Now, 158 years later, during building works for London’s new super-sewer, these curious long-forgotten tunnellers emerge, travelling with their giant mobile water-spurting laboratory in a burst of song, dance and acrobatic displays. Cirque Bijou and Nutkhut invite the people of Deptford to join them as they seek the Source, in a mobile, free, outdoor show for all the family. 

Deptford Community Party
The Albany
Sunday 5 October, from 4pm 
A Bring-What-You-Can Party for all the community with live music and performance

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Kingfishers in the Ravensbourne

Several months ago I stopped to chat to a fella who was hunkered down on a low seat overlooking the Ravensbourne right outside Elverson Road DLR station.

I spotted him first on my way into Lewisham - he was facing the bit of the river that's barely visible from anywhere else, where it runs in a wide concrete channel behind the rail station and into Brookmill Park. At first glance I thought he was fishing, and given the level of river water, that he was also hopelessly optimistic.

But on my way back I saw he was watching a camera on a tripod in the river bed, so I stopped to have a chat and he told me all about his kingfisher watch. He told me that he spent several hours a day trying to get good photos of them, that they covered large distances along the river looking for food, he showed me their favourite perches and told me other places that were good for spotting them.

I was surprised and delighted to hear that there were kingfishers on this stretch of the river - I've only ever seen them down at the end of the Creek although given their range it was probably the same ones! - and impressed by his dedication to something he had such a passion for.

Tomos and his kingfisher photos were featured on the One Show yesterday and you can watch the clip here.

Some reporters get all the best jobs - crouching in a concrete culvert for three hours wearing a bin bag. Luckily they did get a sighting!

Monday, 22 September 2014

Deptford X: what is the value of art?

Our regular annual festival of contemporary art kicks off this Friday with a launch event at Faircharm and rounds off with a 'march for art' on 5 October, followed by Fred's traditional Art Quiz at the Dog & Bell.



In between there will be comics, a musical, film installation, music mash-up, book launch, dinner, workshops and a human chain. And maybe even some more traditional art too.

The theme of the festival, which this year is curated by artist Bob & Roberta Smith, is 'what is the value of art?' Bob & Roberta Smith will be working on a new painting and encouraging people to contribute to a collective response to this theme.


On the main programme I'm particularly looking forward to the film installation by Komori & Seo - not specifically because I am familiar with their work and feel an affinity for it, but because it will be in the crypt of St Paul's Church and you don't often get to go down there, especially if you are a confirmed heathen like myself.

Of course in days past it used to be the venue for parties hosted by the famous Father Diamond - such as the one featured in this film about Deptford (I've been looking for an excuse to post that for months). Ironically the comments in the film about St Paul's Church seeming to be aloof from the community could apply today. The frequently-locked gates might reduce litter and petty vandalism in the church grounds but do little to convey any welcoming message to the community.

But I digress.

Deptford X has a very healthy programme of fringe events, which I often find more fun and stimulating than the main events. I'm particularly intrigued by the idea of the Dancing Builder (live feed here), so much so that I may have to make a special trip on the DLR to see him; anything with the word 'fanny' in it immediately attracts the attention of my juvenile nature, and considering this particular fanny will be in the Job Centre, it's even more attractive; while we're on the subject, I've already done the screw jokes, but there's always room to slip another one in, so let's not ignore Johnny's DIY; and just to demonstrate that I'm not just about smut, I am looking forward to seeing Mandy Williams' photographs of Kentish riverbed despoilation, which will be on show in the Creekside centre and appeal to my love of urban landscapes, warts and all.

There's a myriad of stuff on offer, as well as all the open studios and South London Art Map late Friday opening on the first day, so you're bound to come across something going on even if you don't mean to. You can't ignore it, and to be honest, you'd be foolish to miss it!

Deptford X
http://www.deptfordx.org/programmes

Printed programmes will be distributed around Deptford on Thursday or Friday, and available in PDF format here


Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Open House Deptford and surrounds

There's plenty to do in Deptford and the local neighbourhood this weekend with Open House London giving us all an opportunity to see behind doors that are usually closed, or visit museums for free.

I'll be poking around the dusty corners of some places I've been to before, as well as having a nosy at a couple of the new kids on the block. It's exciting to see more and more local buildings taking part each year, even if it does mean lots of humming and hawing over what to do in a very limited time. How long till it becomes Open House month? (*crosses fingers*).

Top of my list for local must-sees is usually the Master Shipwright's House, which for the rest of the year is completely hidden from view unless you have a boat or know which way to look from the Thames Clipper as it sails past. This little beauty nestles snugly between Lower Watergate and the eastern extreme of the Convoys Wharf site - of course the house would formerly have been part of the site and was where the master shipwright of the Royal Dockyard would have lived.



Last year was great fun as they pulled out all the stops to celebrate the 500th anniversary of the dockyard receiving its royal charter - there were some handsome re-enactors showing off their weapons, and sticking it to the Convoys Wharf open house next door with a load of regular bangs.


Of course Convoys is not open this year; the developer having been granted planning permission has no need to schmooze the public and clock up brownie points with 'public involvement'. So it's tough if you wanted to enjoy their waterfront again.

The Lenox Project will be at the Master Shipwright's again this year with their restored Saker cannon - always a hit with the kids - and Twitter tells me they are also serving homemade cakes! Could be a nice spot for your morning coffee break or an afternoon tea.
Saturday, 10am-5pm.

While you are in the vicinity you might want to pop into the Rachel McMillan Nursery which is also open on Saturday from 10am till 2pm. The nursery was opened in 1914 by Rachel McMillan who pioneered the benefits of an open-air environment for children.




The local 'landmark' architectural buildings of Deptford - the Deptford Lounge, the Laban Centre and the Stephen Lawrence Centre - are taking part as usual, and are worth a look if you haven't had chance to see the bits behind closed doors, although the architect David Adjaye did refer to the latter as a 'failure' in a recent interview, perhaps an opportunity to make up your own mind this weekend?

There's a chance to go inside some of our less architecturally-distinguished buildings too, but in the case of the Seager Distillery Tower this has two major attractions.


The first is that when you are inside it, you can't see it! The skyline looks a little more peaceful and refined, even if you are looking across the road at Lewisham College.

The second attraction is that access is to the rooftop viewing area, and if it's a clear day, the views are magnificent despite being through the glass (and it's like an oven in there when it's sunny - I mean, who designs a 'roof terrace' like that?!).


Go and enjoy the views while you can, before someone builds more monstrous towers to block out the vista.



My local choices for those of an architectural bent would be the Richard Hoggart Building at Goldsmiths, which has been remodelled over the last couple of years with new landscaping out front.

In Greenwich the new University of Greenwich building on Stockwell Street is running tours on Saturday and Sunday, offering the chance to look around at the start of its first year of use.

Deptford Green School has tours for just a couple of hours on Saturday, so you need to time your trip carefully if you want to have a look around this one.

Meanwhile the developers of the major Surrey Canal Road redevelopment have got an onsite 'roof top box' (sounds glamorous!) where you can find out more about what's happening there. Presumably it's more than the Sweet FA I see every day when I ride past on my bike.

Monday, 15 September 2014

Deptford Gardens festival

Next weekend sees a whole host of stuff going on in Deptford - as well as Open House London, about which I'll be posting later this week, there is the inaugural Deptford Gardens festival which is being held in the wildlife garden at the back of the old Tidemill school on Reginald Road.

The event will be a great opportunity to find out about community gardening opportunities in Deptford - not just the Assembly collective that runs the wildlife garden in Tidemill, but also the Wonky Prong garden on Crossfields Estate, the Sayes Court Garden CIC which will be based on the Convoys Wharf redevelopment, and the Deptford High Street Community Garden  on Coffey Street next to St Paul's Church.

The latter faces an uncertain future with the disappointing announcement this week of the go-ahead for construction of an access shaft for the Thames Tunnel on the same land. It seems that despite a long and well-argued campaign against the disruption this will bring to Deptford residents and local roads, the government has given permission for the shaft to be built



The press release says:

The Deptford Gardens Festival will be a great day of fun, food, music, games and performances to celebrate the great community gardens we have in the area. 

The festival kickstarts a project to get community gardeners in the area talking, promoting and sharing resources together. Join us for the day and see music and performances by the MADCAP coalition as well as creative workshops and games in the Old Tidemill Wildlife Garden. 

Find out about other green spaces in the area, get a chance to meet the volunteers working at these spaces and sign up as a volunteer yourself, become a Deptford Gardener!

Saturday 20th September
12-6pm
Old Tidemill School, Reginald Road

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Deptford Cinema projector appeal and debut screening


I wrote briefly about the plans for a new community cinema a few weeks ago and since then the group has been busy with all kinds of things, most notably launching a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds for a digital projector.

As the website explains:
Deptford Cinema is a new, not-for-profit, volunteer-run cinema focusing on art film and experimental film. The cinema is opening in autumn 2014 and will be the Borough of Lewisham’s only cinema. We will be providing a 50-seat cinema space, a cafe/lounge area, and studio and darkroom facilities for film processing and workshops. Films will be shown with a digital projector as well as on 16mm and 8mm film reels. Our upcoming programme of content is directed towards supporting the local community and providing opportunities for experience and education in experimental film and art. We are currently hard at work building on-site and preparing everything for the opening of the Cinema.

The group wants to raise £6,000 to buy a projector for the cinema, which is based on Deptford Broadway right opposite the site of the former Odeon. So far they have managed to raise more than half of what they need, but there's still a way to go.

As with all Kickstarter campaigns, any money pledged by backers is only paid if the full amount is reached, and there's a range of rewards on offer including free tickets, tote bags, a book about the cinema or a year's membership. The Kickstarter page is here.


The first events in the new cinema space kick off at the end of this week with a 'debut DIY screening' on Friday 5th September at 7pm. This will be 'a lively evening of 16mm films and video works celebrating local film artists and community projects from near and far'.

On Monday 8th September they will be hosting a pub film quiz at the Amersham Arms. Quiz starts at 8pm, £2 entry per person.

And if you want to get involved, pop along to one of the public meetings that are held every Sunday at 4pm at the cinema.

Monday, 1 September 2014

Oxestalls Road redevelopment: exhibition and discussion meetings

Consultation meetings and an exhibition about the proposed redevelopment of The Wharves on Oxestalls Road are scheduled for later this month, according to the newsletter which has just been published (link here).



The new owner of the site, Lend Lease, says that it is going to 'update the plans to respond to changes in the wider area and reflect current and future local needs' so watch out for extra housing and less employment space to follow the pattern elsewhere. Details of the previous plans can be found here, and here.  

I'll be keeping an eye on what they are intending to do with the lovely old pub on Grove Street that has been slowly decaying the last few years and was previously slated for restoration as a pub. 

Events are as follows:

Saturday 13 September 10am-4pm; drop-in exhibition and arts workshop
Riverside Youth Centre, Grove St

Tuesday 16 September 6.30pm-8.30pm; discussion session 1
2000 Community Action Centre, 199-201 Grove St

Thursday 18 September 11am-6pm drop-in exhibition
6.30pm-8.30pm discussion session 2
2000 Community Action Centre, 199-201 Grove St



Sunday, 17 August 2014

Deptford High Street Community Garden

Next time you walk along Crossfield Street past St Paul's Church, take a peep through the hoardings that currently line it. 

The hoardings fence off a site that Thames Water's contractors are busy digging up, doing ground investigation work for the Thames Tideway Tunnel project which may well take over this green space for several years. If so, it will have a massive impact on traffic in and around Deptford, not to mention the disruption for the neighbouring school and local businesses and residents. The decision on whether this site will be chosen for an access shaft over an alternative on Millennium Quay is expected to be announced next month. 

Before the hoardings!
But right in the middle of all this work, the latest local community effort is taking shape. The willow circle, which was originally created to demonstrate the size of the shaft that Thames Water want to build, is now leased to the Deptford High Street Garden Association for creation of a community garden which will be open to all, at least for the time being.


The last couple of weeks, local volunteers have been building raised beds and filling them with soil, ready to plant them up with herbs, vegetables and flowers ready for the winter season.


Nine tonnes of soil was shifted by shovel and wheelbarrow, and four of the eight beds are now finished. 


The next step will involve fund-raising for additional soil, plants and seeds - all donations and suggestions welcome. The group will also be holding a planting party in the near future - watch out for updates or email committee@gallop.co.uk to join the mailing list.