Wednesday, 30 September 2009


Tuesday night's showing of Babylon at the Albany was the first time I had seen Franco Rosso's fascinating film about reggae, racism and life in south east London in the late seventies.

Transpontine has done an excellent report of the evening and commentary on the film, which I won't attempt to emulate. There's also a great site here that contains a lot of interviews, pictures, reviews and so on of the film.

The showing was particularly interesting for me for two reasons. The first was seeing a film that was so firmly rooted in my own back yard - literally, in some cases! It was strange to see familiar places on the big screen and to imagine what it would have been like at the time having a film crew on the doorstep in Deptford. According to the Babylon website, the filming had to be kept very low key, given the subject matter and the potentially inflammatory nature of some of the scenes.

The second point of interest comes from my relative ignorance about the period. When Leeds, Liverpool and Brixton were rioting, I was studying for my O levels in a small northern town where the ethnic minorities were practically invisible. My political attention was focussed on opposing nuclear power and weapons and championing feminism, and although I was aware that rioting was happening it had very little impact on me. No doubt the events and attitudes were familiar to some - although not the Geezer's experience of growing up at the same time as a black teen in Peckham - but it was sobering to watch the film and imagine how it was for some sections of the community, and what effect that would have had on the areas we live in.

Antiques Roadshow

If you have got an antique in the attic (or perhaps just in a cupboard, as I'm sure the majority of Deptford's residents don't have attics) and you want to know more about it, or you just want to admire Fiona's eyebrows, then pop over the other side of the Creek to the Painted Hall at the Old Royal Naval College in Greenwich tomorrow for the Antiques Roadshow.

Doors open at 9.30 but if you want to be at the front of the queue, you will probably have to get there well before that time. And let us know how you get on, of course!

Saturday, 26 September 2009

Deptford X 2009: Flux

The Guardian online published an article yesterday about the Deptford art scene. It is a positive piece about the increasing number of galleries and artists in the area, despite a scattering of inaccuracies and the fact that the only mention of the Deptford X festival was a link in the sidebar. (I notice that it's also the top listing in the Guardian's Guide this week, which apart from the recommendation, contains no further information or even the website address!).

The festival runs from today until 4 October and offers the chance to visit artists studios all around Deptford, view special exhibitions at a dozen or so local galleries, participate in special events, enjoy film screenings and outdoor installations, and even vote on your favourite artist at one venue.

One thing is certain - if you want to see everything you will need more than just a couple of hours! Luckily the programme is spread over two weekends with many of the venues being accessible or open during the week too, offering a chance for locals in particular to dip in and out over the coming 10 days. Check the programme carefully (you can download it from the website or pick up a copy at any of the galleries or spaces) as the opening times are very varied. Many of the artist studios seem to be only open this weekend, and some of the shows only start next weekend.

A few things you might like to put in your diary:

This year's Deptford X award winner, Patrick Hackett's crazy 'Scape Boat' made of four steel drums, assorted pieces of wood, and sheets of the FT newspaper reporting on significant events in the recent financial crisis can be seen on the lawn in front of the Laban Centre. Believe it or not, he intends to sail this contraption on Deptford Creek on Sunday 4 Oct, at 'around midday'. In theory it should float, he says, although he hasn't trialled the actual vessel yet; find out what happens next Sunday when he launches it from the Creekside Centre. The Ha'penny Hatch footbridge is probably the best spot for a good view, have your video camera to hand!

As part of Fred Aylward's exhibition Before & After at the Albany, there will be a screening of the 1980s classic 'Babylon' at the Albany cafe on Tuesday 29 September at 7.30pm. Billed as 'a potent mix of music and social commentary', it was filmed in and around Deptford featuring actors from the Albany's Combination Theatre Group. It's worth popping into the Albany to see Fred's exhibition even if you can't make the film - fascinating photographs, old programmes and playbills of some of Deptford's former entertainment venues. Some of the venues still exist, albeit in very different guises, but sadly some of the grander ones are gone forever. Suffice it to say that in the 1930s, Deptford Broadway must have had some truly impressive facades, rather than the straggle of grimy and mismatched shopfronts that exist today.

Deptford Marbles' tea and dance event takes place on Saturday 3 October from 3pm till 6pm in front of the mural in New Cross Square. In contrast to the alcoholic liquids more commonly imbibed in the square, Artmongers and Laban dance students will be teaming up for a bit of 'participatory choreography' and some tea and cakes. There is a cake competition on the theme of 'Deptford Spirit', the winner of which will walk away with £50! So get your weighing scales out and have a go!

Also on 3 October you can see The Beastly Beauty at the Deptford Project Space from 2-3pm. This performance 'combines the use of staged fighting with cheerleading and acrobatics to comment on the nature of violence and upend the traditional roles of masculine and feminine and the distinction between highbrow and popular genres of art'.

And for those of you who like a party, the Deptford X Factor takes place at the famous Bunker club (on Deptford Broadway) on Friday 2 October from 10pm till 3am. Admission is £4 or £2 for students, and involves visuals, DJs and bands Toy Toy and Motel Blitz.

Just one small plea to the organisers for next year - with such a variety of venues, events and dates, it would be great to have an 'at a glance' programme with exhibitions shown on a calendar. This would make it so much easier for visitors to find out what's happening on any particular day, and prioritise their time accordingly. It doesn't have to be on the printed programme - you could just put it on the website for people to download as they wish.

Meanwhile here's just a little taster of what you can enjoy in and around Deptford over the next 10 days.

Thursday, 10 September 2009

Bags in Deptford

Thanks to Chris for pointing me towards this jolly little story. I had heard a rumour that there had been royal visitors to the 999 Club on Deptford Broadway - my neighbour downstairs, who occasionally drops in there for lunch, was quite excited about the prospect. My neighbour is already very well connected, having met both Camilla AND the Archbishop of Canterbury on separate occasions in Deptford. But I digress.

I rather like the old bag (the one she's holding that is - I don't really have a opinion on Camilla herself) and hope that they are going to be made available to local purchasers.

One bag which will be hitting the streets some time soon is the Deptford X bag which has been designed by Esther Yarnold along with young artists from Addey & Stanhope school. They have also designed a series of vinyl stickers that will be used as waymarkers to point the way to venues or artworks during Deptford X. You can read all about the design process here.

Apparently you will be able to get them from market traders during the festival, which I guess means they are plastic bags rather than reusable cotton ones - a bit of a shame if you ask me. There's always room in my life for another cotton tote, especially one with such a local theme, communicated in such a bright colour!