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
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 to join the mailing list.

Friday, 15 August 2014

The Job Centre

As a now-regular haunt for me, I've been meaning to write about the Job Centre pub for some time. It has comfortably found its place in my social life, being sufficiently convenient that I can just drop in for a pint at early doors, and close enough that I can roll home without much bother if I end up staying for 'just one more'.  

As with many of Antic's pubs it's a work in progress, and every time I went for the first couple of months I noticed one or two improvements. The most important - addition of the kitchen - still hasn't happened yet but we are regularly assured it won't be long.

Until then I'm happy to go for the beer alone - it's well chosen and well kept, there is always a selection of two or three available. Usually it's properly poured and topped up without the need to request it. As well as local brews such those from the Brockley Brewery, there have been several from Portobello Brewery and even one of my favourite out-of-town brews, Jaipur from Thornbridge. I always have to remember that more than one pint of the latter is not a good idea however, since is has the lethal combination of high ABV and the innocent, subtle flavour of something much weaker.

A lot has been written about Antic's choice of moniker for the pub - I would have preferred the Labour Exchange if I'm honest; while I don't have a problem with them naming the pub after what formerly occupied the building, I reckon giving it a more archaic name might have reduced the ammunition for those who think it was in bad taste.

That being said, the Job Centre was closed several years ago, despite protests from local people and a campaign run by the PCSU. The building has been empty/squatted/used by an art collective on a short-term lease ever since then, and it's great to have a new business that brings people to the high street in the evenings.

I'm personally very happy to have a new pub on the high street - not only does it double the number of such establishments in the high street, it also means there's one I actually want to patronise now.

All the guff that has been written about it being a hipster joint is nonsense - I'm a regular customer and every time I go in there I see one or other of the locals, from shop keepers and market stall holders to former regulars at the Royal Albert who now have a more convenient watering hole. It does have its share of moustachioed scooter-toting customers but no more than anywhere else, including Deptford's most famous old-school pub, the Dog & Bell.

It has a pretty spacious interior and the tables and chairs actually seem less shabby and a bit more stable than those in some of Antic's other establishments. They have DJs playing records (yes, proper records!) most nights; after a slightly shaky start they seem to have got the volume sorted out.

The back yard - it cannot in all honesty be referred to as a garden - is now more or less tidy and clean, and there's half a dozen picnic tables out there, one under a gazebo, for the smokers.

Once the kitchen is up and running I look forward to checking out the menu - I have tested the pork pies and piccalilli and found the current offer a little wanting. My discerning taste in pickles is the stuff of legend, let's be honest, so I am eagerly anticipating the time when I can feast on warm, home-baked sausage rolls* with something a bit more challenging on the side than Haywards preserves.

*Updated: almost as soon as I published this post I heard that my feedback to the management about the pork pies had been heeded, and that they are now shipping in sausage rolls from the Albert. Hopefully still warm. I'll be heading down there in a peckish state in the near future to check them out. 

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Deptford Creek footbridge

You may recall that a new footbridge is due to be built to provide a direct link from Millennium Quay to New Capital Quay across Deptford Creek on the Thames Path. (Some of you may refer to it as Greenwich Reach. It's a free world after all.)

It will make it a much more pleasant trip along the river for walkers and cyclists than having to do the detour over the road bridge and past the pointless public realm.

Reliable sources inform me that next week updated: first delivery now due on 26th August we should actually get to see bits of the new footbridge arriving on site, with completion scheduled for later this year.

Don't get too excited/underwhelmed by these photos, which my source has received from the companies that were contracted to build it. They show the bits of steel being welded together in the works of SH Structures up in North Yorkshire to create several large pieces that will be brought to the site and assembled to make the bridge structure. Turns out it's the same company that supplied the large steel props that hold the Cutty Sark in place.

Photo above is the access at the tower end, I think, with the triangular bits being where the cables will be attached behind the mast (far right in the visualisation at the top).

I think the photo above shows the main deck of the bridge, but it's upside down so that the welders can get access to the joints.

(From Twitter @Mnthorogood)

The pictures above show the equipment that will used to rotate the mast and span of the bridge when it opens and closes. Take a good look as they will probably be hidden away once the bridge is built. The company designing this part of the bridge is Eadon Consulting while the overall design of the bridge is being done by Flint & Neill.

The company building the bridge is Raymond Brown Construction - they have a nice time-lapse film on their website showing the access ramps being built. 

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Happiness needed

No, not a cry for help - or not in the emotional sense at least. And certainly not what you think if you read that headline with the emphasis in the wrong place *blush*.

This particular request for assistance comes from the people behind a new show which will be performed at the Albany on 11-13 September.

But the show cannot go on without memories of happiness in Deptford. Here's what the Albany website says...

Bring the Happy is an ongoing project about happiness, an attempt to map moments and memories of happiness in Deptford and across the country. 

A first kiss, a lost love, a longed for baby, childhood heroes, a proposal, a dance, a chance encounter – where did it happen and how happy did it make you feel on a scale from 1 to 10? 

For three weeks, Invisible Flock will occupy Deptford Lounge and transform it into a giant 3D map of the local area. You are invited to explore the map, discover what makes others happy and where, and in turn, submit your own happy moment or memory to add to the ever-growing database of the country’s happiness. 

At the end of three weeks the memories collected will be taken and transformed into Bring the Happy, a music and theatre performance at the Albany, that attempts an extravagant portrait of happiness, as the 1000s of memories collected are retold in all of their beautiful, sometimes tragic and sometimes ridiculous glory. 

In collaboration with Hope & Social the live performance promises to be an interactive, intimate and highly moving evening where we ask you to join us in celebrating the happiness of Deptford and the UK. 

For more information, please visit or

Mapping hours: 19 August to 5 September
Tuesday: 11am - 5pm
Wednesday: 2pm - 8pm
Thursday: 11am - 5pm
Friday: 11am - 4pm, and 7pm - 9pm
Saturday: 11am - 4pm

Deptford - popping out all over

One of the most overused phrases of the last couple of years has got to be 'pop-up', particularly in relation to shops/restaurants and bars. I'm not sure who first popped up (sorry!) with the concept, but I don't really see what's wrong with the myriad of other phrases and words that could be used to describe the same thing - temporary, one-off, short-term, seasonal, weekend, Sunday morning blah blah blah.

It's been used and misused heavily for some time now, so I think it's time we piped down with the popping up and went back to more appropriate terms.

Deptford seems to attract more than its fair share of such temporary bars and restaurants, presumably because it's blessed/blighted with a whole heap of short-term locations begging for 'meantime uses' /developers happy to sponsor such ventures to create a buzz around a place where they are trying to flog apartments and which has traditionally been a hard sell (- 'foodwashing' as Crosswhatfields dubbed it). 

But enough about terminology - what's on where and for how long? 

Presumably Deptford Twinkle - a 'riverside pop-up bar in sunny Deptford serving tasty cocktails, craft beer and south east London charm' takes its name from Twinkle Park at the bottom of Watergate Street even though it's not actually in the park. It sounds like this venture will be on the riverfront of the redeveloped Paynes & Borthwick wharf - go between the buildings and you'll find a rather nice terrace with some planted water features and views across the river and downstream to Greenwich.

Do take a jumper though, the terrace faces north/north east so there's no chance you will be sipping your cocktails in warm evening sunlight I'm afraid.

Deptford Twinkle (@deptfordtwinkle) is open two weekends only - 15th-17th August and 22nd-24th August. From 5pm-10.30pm on Fridays; 2pm-10.30pm on Saturdays and Sundays. Happy hour is 5pm-7pm every day.

Deptford Brunch Club

This venture - a weekly 'brunch club' in the heart of Deptford - is organised and promoted by Lewisham Council and seems to have a reasonable level of funding behind it as it is running every Sunday until October.

I missed blogging about the original launch of this in June due to other commitments, but according to the council's press release the intention is 'to enhance the town centre's morning offer' and each Sunday showcases a new chef and new menu. It's being organised in conjunction with Grub Club, which is an online platform for supper club (or brunch in this case) promotion.

I haven't been so I can't comment on the quality of the food - looking at the menus on offer they certainly seem to be diverse and interesting and happily there's some very good feedback on the website.

The ticket price - £18 for this Sunday - does seem steep but since most of them now involve unlimited rum cocktails, or similar, as well as three courses, that's probably not bad for what you get. It's also quite modest compared to a lot of the other offers on the Grub Club site, although the vast majority of those are not at the mercy of the weather, nor are they presumably being subsidised by the local authority.

My main problem is the place and time - the idea of sitting in a tent in Giffin Square for Sunday lunch/brunch (it goes on till 5pm that's tea time if you ask me!) just does not appeal, although that could be a case of familiarity breeding contempt. I'm also not sure what it brings to the high street, apart from something to gawp at. Some of the high street shops do open on Sunday, but there's by no means enough to make it a draw for visitors to hang around afterwards, and of course there's no market, making the general atmosphere rather underwhelming.

I'm really struggling with this one. I am happy that the council is spending money trying to promote the high street, but I just think this venture is way off target. The culinary tours they funded last year seemed much more attractive and interesting, and a great way to get people experimenting with different tastes and using the local shops. Yo Yum Tum even made a film about one of the tours, which features my favourite store - Housewives Cash n Carry!

Beer Box

A bit out of the manor this one, but potentially another good stopping off point if you are fond of an evening bike ride around the Greenwich peninsula.

It's two-storey bar outside the O2, which is made out of shipping containers and has a roof terrace, serves Meantime beers and is presumably intended to host bands now and again, like the one that played at its launch. This is very much developer-led; Meantime is working with peninsula developer Knight Dragon on this, and it doesn't really count as pop-up to be honest, since it's due to be there for three years at least.

Little Nan's Bar

Of course the most famous 'pop-up' which everyone thought was here to stay in Deptford for good - Little Nan's Bar - was ejected from its tea-cup laden, antimacassar-strewn home on Deptford Broadway in an unseemly hurry last month, causing a great outcry among loyal fans.

Until they find a new place - back in Deptford, let's hope, we need its special brand of charm and eccentricity - it seems they will be popping up in Birdie N*m N*m's cafe (sorry I loathe the N*m word)  in New Cross.

Update: I forgot to mention this pop-up on the eastern side of the Greenwich peninsula 

Dance performance in some shipping containers and 'the most unique bar in London' (yes really, most unique ffs) on an old jetty downstream of the 02. As with Deptford Twinkle you'd be advised to bring a cardy if you want to sit on the jetty and have a cocktail.

Anyway that's enough from me, time I was popping off. Please feel free to share any other local pop ups in the comments.

Thursday, 7 August 2014

The Wharves, Deptford

A few years ago when the Wharves development on Oxestalls Road was granted planning permission, I wrote about the scheme on this blog.

You'll note I was vaguely enthusiastic about the proposals - that counts as high praise in my books - so I am somewhat wary to read on new owner Lend Lease's website for the development that they are planning to 'update' the proposals.

There's only a vague intimation of what this might be - ironically one of the few parts of the development that I thought could offer employment and training opportunities, the bespoke facility and showroom for the cab company, will no longer be included because apparently the company has moved out of the area already. Perhaps they got bored of waiting for the developer to start work on the site.

Other than that, there's no indication of what else this might involve - increase the amount of housing/height of towers? Reduce the percentage of social housing? Ditch the mysterious energy centre? Get rid of the water feature?

Your guess is as good as mine, but frankly with the way other developments are going round here, I don't have a good feeling about it.