Sunday, 29 September 2013

Deptford X kicks off with a flourish

Deptford's annual arts fest Deptford X kicked off with a dramatic flourish on Saturday morning at 11am when Giffin Square hosted possibly the greatest density of people in its refurbished history.

A banner almost the length of the square was unrolled, and groups of volunteers, including festival lead artist Bob & Roberta Smith, were given five minutes to colour in one of the letters which spelled out the festival's theme 'Art makes people powerful'.

Elsewhere the cult of the missing anchor was a strong theme with a funeral wreath in the window of Ralph's greengrocers, stencilled anchors appearing along the high street and near Deptford X galleries, and t-shirts on sale from artists plying their wares through the market.

Deptford is Forever , a collective of artists and local shops, has appropriated the sailor's tattoo and the anchor symbol and built around them a series of interventions and 'giveaway' art works in the form of printed paper bags that independent shops and market traders are using instead of the ubiquitous blue plastic bags.

I hear that there's a special anchor-related event planned for next Saturday - make sure you're in the high street round about midday if you want to witness the spectacle.

Down the road in Gallop, Noemi Lakmaier methodically paints shoes blue for her work The Observer Effect. She has 500 pairs of second-hand shoes to paint, transforming them into 'unwearable art objects'.

The festival continues to next Sunday, ending with the traditional art quiz in the Dog & Bell. For more details of the galleries, installations, events and workshops visit

Friday, 27 September 2013

'Food court' relaunches as Giffin Square Food Fair

I was beset by a strange feeling of deja vu when I opened an email from Lewisham Council the other day, announcing the launch of the Giffin Square Food Fair on Saturday 5 October.

'On the first Saturday of every month shoppers can sample a mouth-watering array of street food and drink from local chefs, bakers and traders including: jerk chicken wraps and fish cakes from The Jerk and In a Pikkle, deli-style breads and pastries from Elvira’s Secret Pantry and freshly squeezed natural fruit juices and smoothies from That Natural Stuff. In addition to hot food and drink, there’ll be music, entertainment and a seating area at the monthly event which runs from 10am–4pm on the first Saturday of the month. '

You must remember the Deptford 'food court'? (yup, still using the inverted commas, still hate the name). Started off with about a dozen food stalls, some rickety benches and live music in Douglas Square in the summer; traders dwindled and was down to a couple of hardy stall-holders after barely a couple of months. I wouldn't exactly say it was launched with any great fanfare, the lack of consistent, ongoing marketing being one of the major things that caused it to fail.

I believe the 'food court' was one of the ideas put forward when Lewisham won money from the Mayor's Outer London for regeneration of the High Street and market. (I also note from that post that some of it was earmarked for recruitment of a town centre renewal manager - anyone heard who he or she is? They are not very visible!).

So a load of stalls were set up in Douglas Square, a few posters were circulated to local bloggers, and that was it. No signs or directions to the 'food court', no flyers being handed out to people passing along the high street on market day, no posters in shop windows or on lamp posts, no Facebook page or Twitter account. No wonder the stall holders gave up and buggered off.

I'm happy to see that the idea has been revived, and made into a once a month event which does make a lot more sense. Putting it on Giffin Street 'beneath the famous his ‘n’ hers mural in the heart of Deptford town centre' is also a good idea. It will give the 'food fair' its own identity and will make it much more visible rather than being shoe-horned between the stalls of the second hand market.

Although this revival was heralded as an initiative by Lewisham Council, I suspect there has been significant input by local traders such as In a Pikkle, who showed more marketing nous than all our 'professional' advisers put together. I know that they were very disappointed by the failure of the initial venture - let's hope that the relaunched version fares better.

Perhaps Lewisham Council should also ask for its money back from whoever was paid to launch the first one.

Thursday, 12 September 2013

Deptford Pearls

Following on from my last 'Deptford Tourist Board' post*, here's a short film about the recent refurbishment of the His 'n' hers mural in Giffin Square, uploaded by Tamistry. Alternatively watch it on You Tube at

Many familiar Deptford faces in here, if you don't know them then you need to start using your local shops and market more!


*Normal service will be resumed shortly, don't think I'm getting soft in my old age.

Friday, 6 September 2013

Come and see Deptford's highs and lows in Open House

One of my favourite weekends of the year will be with us in just over fortnight - Open House London, the time when London's grand buildings, architectural follies, private homes and quirky corners are open to the public.

I do love a good snoop around people's houses - something worth remembering if you ever invite me in, although I will always respect your privacy by not actually divulging what I find ;-) - so this is an event that really appeals to me. And whatever you want to say about the opportunity to examine the architectural detailing or admire the historic fabric of a building, I'm damn sure a lot of you love snooping too, you're just too polite to admit it.

So what will there be to see in Deptford? 

There's enough to keep you busy for a whole day in Deptford, and if you aren't from round these parts, I reckon you'll get a good introduction to our neighbourhood by coming down on Saturday 21st September.

Start with a trip to the top of the Seager Distillery Tower - a building which it's definitely preferable to be in looking out, rather than the other way round. I went up it last year and the views are stunning - you can orient yourself with views north to the river, following the route of the Creek, or look south towards the rest of the borough. Be warned space is limited at the top of the tower and you may have to queue.

Once you've descended, you may wish to head over to Deptford New Town where you'll find the pocket-sized Connearn Studio in Friendly Street. I've not been to this one, and from the picture on the website it looks like it won't keep you amused for long - but the walk is a pleasant one, especially if you go through the park and pass by the Stephen Lawrence Centre. Just try and ignore the ugly block of houses they built next to it (replacing the ugly houses that were there before). You can come back along Brookmill Road past Mereton Mansions, or go the other way to pass Wellbeloved's butchers on the bottom of Tanner's Hill, in a row of Deptford's oldest buildings. 

From there I would recommend a wander down our fabulous high street and through the market (not forgetting the huge second-hand stalls outside the Albany) to Tidemill Academy and the Deptford Lounge, to dig out the substance behind the bling. You might want to linger in the library for a while, browse a few books or have a coffee.

If you like your coffee super-charged, be sure to stop off at the Waiting Room to get your caffeine fix, and a falafel wrap or veggie burger with super hot sauce to keep up you sustained for the afternoon. Any visiting vegans will be happy to discover this place, which serves vegan-friendly fare without making a fuss about it.

Alternatively if the Waiting Room is too crowded - or you want something a bit more substantial for your lunch - Deli X a few doors down is another great option. If you want to eat on the move, or it's too nice to go indoors, I recommend filling up on fresh salt-cod fishcakes or souse from In a Pikkle or try the jerk chicken with rice and peas from the neighbouring stall. Both are in Douglas Square in the middle of the market. 

From here, keep walking towards the river for two more very interesting Open House experiences. Convoys Wharf site is well worth a visit just to get an idea of its vast scale and the glorious riverside vistas it has kept to itself all these years. 

You're too late to see any of the remaining underground structures - they are still there but covered up for now - but you will be able to venture inside the Olympia boat-building shed with its distinctive curved roof and lovely internal iron structure.

According to the Open House listing, there will be displays showing Hutchison Whampoa's redevelopment proposals. It's more than possible they will wheel out the famous groundscape model of the scheme although perhaps they'll also show the little polystyrene blocks (above) which are supposed to show the building density and heights.

Right next door to the site is the historic Master Shipwrights House, which will be open to the public on both days - a rare chance to see this beautiful building. I visited a few years ago during Open House and was mightily impressed - you can read about it here. Normally this house is only visible when glimpsed from the river on a Thames Clipper - don't miss the chance to explore behind the big steel gates.

What's more, I've got it on good authority that there's going to be some very interesting events taking place here over the course of the weekend - of which, stay tuned for more details in due course.

While you are down Watergate Street, it's well worth popping into the Dog & Bell for a pint or two of the best-kept (and by far the cheapest) ale in Deptford. Have a game of bar billiards or sit out in the garden at the back - it's a real old-fashioned boozer of the best kind. 

If you're visiting from outside the 'ford, do take the opportunity to explore our lovely little corner of SE London to the full. Every one of these is only a stone's throw from the high street.

Deptford Creek - tide half in, half out. Look out for herons and swans, or watch the DLR trains rattling over the bridge.

St Paul's, Deptford - a Baroque beauty with a bit of guerrilla gardening on the adjoining green space. The grass circle marks the size of the access shaft that Thames Water wants to dig for its supersewer.

The Laban Centre on Creekside was designed by Herzog & de Meuron and won the Stirling Prize for architecture in 2003. Sadly it's not part of Open House London, which is a shame. But they do have monthly architecture tours you can book at £12 a head  - and it has a very pleasant garden if you want to picnic.

Finally, if St Nick's church in Deptford Green is open, it's worth taking a look inside at the Grinling Gibbons woodcarvings. But even if you can't get inside, you might want to walk past just to look at the famous skull & crossbones sculptures atop the two gateposts.

Other eating and drinking highlights close by are the rotis at Chaconia, grilled pork noodles or banh mi at Panda Panda, cocktails out of teacups with cheese straws in the living room of the painfully hip Little Nan's Bar, a wide range of ales and reliably top-quality dinners at the Royal Albert, and if you are prepared to walk that bit further, there's the small-but-perfectly-formed London Particular, another place for great quality grub, top coffee and fantastic cakes.

London Analogue Festival launches in Deptford

The first London Analogue festival is being held in Deptford and New Cross this weekend - it's a two-day festival celebrating analogue photography, film and sound art

The press release says: "In an era when digital technologies are ubiquitous, the first London Analogue Festival will celebrate the beauty, power, and aesthetics that come from analogue technologies. On Saturday the 7th and Sunday 9th of September 2013, the festival will draw together international artists for a weekend of live performances, talks, and exhibitions in South East London.

A diverse range of analogue moving images, photography and sound art will be showcased. Encouraging participation, the LAF will offer workshops, discussions, and networking opportunities. These and door prizes will be offered in collaboration with festival partners, including Lomography, Silverprint, The Impossible Project, Moo Cards, and Room 66."

The festival has a Facebook page from which I lifted this photo of them setting up the venue in Deptford Town Hall - worth a visit if you can make it down there Saturday or Sunday.

There's a full programme on the website with some interesting-looking events in the former town hall, the Amersham Arms and the Old Police Station.

Best of all - it's totally free of charge!