Traffic monitoring on Deptford High Street

Did you know that up to 800 vehicles an hour travel down Deptford High Street during morning commuting times?

Or that a fifth of them are going up to 10mph above the speed limit?

Neither did members of the Deptford Society until we started doing some traffic monitoring in response to concerns about traffic levels, the number of heavy vehicles using the High Street, and the speeds they were travelling at.

Since November, we have been doing traffic counts of the number of vehicles entering both Giffin Street and Frankham Street in hourly periods during the morning commuting time of 6–9am. We have also been counting traffic at other times of the day to provide a comparison.

In the first week of the new year we also carried out a community road watch with the local police and the road safety officer from Lewisham Council, using a speed gun to measure how fast vehicles were going.

Both these exercises gave us evidence to back up what we already knew from our own experiences – that the High Street is being used by large numbers of vehicles as a commuting rat-run towards London Bridge and beyond, and that the speed limit of 20mph is being routinely broken.

Traffic counts in November and December last year showed that between 400 and 550 vehicles per hour travel north along the High Street in the morning commute. Anything up to 25 of these were large tipper truck lorries. But during daytime working hours the number of vehicles dwindles to just 50 to 100 per hour.

Worryingly traffic levels seem to have boomed since the new year, with the average number of commuting vehicles per hour now reaching between 600 and 700 on a regular basis.

Our speed monitoring also showed that a significant proportion of the vehicles were travelling above the speed limit, with almost a fifth of the vehicles we tested clocking in at 25mph or more. One was doing 32mph.

The speed monitoring was done in conjunction with the local police, and they have sent warning letters to all those doing 25mph or more. We intend to carry out another session in the coming month, and anticipate traffic levels to be higher than during our first session.

We will also be meeting with Evelyn and New Cross ward councillors to discuss the most effective way of using this evidence to lobby the council for improvements.

We will be asking the council to consider one or more of the following:

  1. A ban on heavy lorries using Deptford High Street (except for deliveries and access)
  2. Traffic calming measures or chicanes on the High Street
  3. Additional speed limit reminders on lamp-posts and on the road
  4. Occasional speed monitoring sessions

If you are able to contribute any additional evidence, have comments on our findings, or our suggested improvements, please get in touch as we’d love to involve more residents and businesses in our work.

Deptford Stories festival

28 metre community quilt. Photo: Aston Leach

Deptford Stories Arts Festival launched on 31st October and 1st November at Anthology Deptford Foundry to celebrate the lives and legends of Deptford. Thirty artists exhibited an array of mixed media installations, sculptures, photographs, lights displays, textiles and tiling – attracting over 1,500 visitors across two days. The festival allowed new property developer, Anthology, to connect with the local community in an authentic and exciting way.

Deptford Stories History Display. Photo: Aston Leach

Curated by experimental arts space, Harts Lane Studios, and produced by Greenspace on behalf of Anthology, the festival’s priority was to involve the local community and create something truly unique to Deptford.

Local collaboration was crucial to the success of Deptford Stories, with support from Lewisham Council, Goldsmiths, University of London, Deptford X, and SLAM (South London Art Map) who helped promote the festival. Lewisham Historical Society Archive kindly helped with research into the past of the Arklow Road Trading Estate.

As well as commemorating the legacy of the local area, Deptford Stories celebrated the future generation of Deptford, by involving Childeric Primary School to showcase their artistic talent and contribute towards the 28 metre long community quilt made by Harts Lane Studios that decorated the front warehouse space.

In(ep)trepid Theatre group provided an immersive production of British playwright Christopher Marlowe’s final night and subsequent unsolved murder in Deptford. In(ep)trepid also created a soundscape installation which transported visitors back to when engineering company, J.Stone & Co occupied the site. 82-year-old George Arthur, who used to work at the site in the 1960s, narrated the soundscape.

Tisna Westerhof’s ‘Deptford Tiles’. Photo: Aston Leach

A film of the highlights can be seen here:

Lindy Hop is coming to Deptford

Temujin Gill at Celebrate, Greenwich Dance’s 20th anniversary show event. Photo: Alicia Clarke

Temujin is Resident Artist at Greenwich Dance, ex-Jiving Lindy Hopper, choreographer for the London 2012 Olympics Opening Ceremony and founder of Temujin Dance as well as the newly formed company Grounded, fusing traditional Jazz dance with more modern dance forms such as Breakin’ and Hip Hop. Temujin’s dance career started in New Cross, and much of his work has continued to revolve around the Deptford, Lewisham and Greenwich vicinity. He lived in the area for over 10 years up until very recently and will be back in one of his favourite South London neighbourhoods on Saturday 6th December at the Deptford Lounge, hosting a one day intensive Lindy Hop workshop so we took the opportunity to catch up with him.

There seems to be a growing momentum in social dance in London. Why do you think that is? And why now?
Classes and social dance events have been happening in different pockets around London for many years but I think there is now a critical mass of people waking up to how positive the social dance experience is, and increasing numbers want to get involved. There’s been a resurgence of enthusiasm for all things vintage and retro and a more consistent presence of partner and social dances featured on TV over the last decade or so, making it more popular with such programmes as Got to Dance, Strictly Come Dancing and Dancing on Ice. It’s also fair to say that the London 2012 Olympics Opening Ceremony featured dance very strongly and left a legacy of good feeling about everyday people getting involved and working together. There’s more classes and events for us to get a taste for social dance now with people increasingly recognizing the physical and psychological benefits of dance forms like Lindy Hop and having opportunity to meet new people from their wider community. Recently, one of my students was telling me after an event that he’s starting to feel more confident with leading a partner – not having to think so hard about the steps anymore – that his dance experience is becoming much freer and more of an expression than exercise. The joy he gets from actually being able to dance with somebody was in his own words immense. And it’s true, dancing with a partner can be very liberating, like having a conversation in a new language – a natural skill we all have that just needs to be teased out a little. The sense of connection and achievement from engaging through a social dance experience with others is uplifting and contagious.

What do you think is special about Jazz and particularly Lindy Hop?
For starters it’s beautiful and infectious music and it makes you just want to dance. Fats Waller, Billy Holiday, Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald, Count Basie… do I need to say more? The dance and music evolved together, and in response to each other out of a period of emancipation, social change and growing cultural identity for African Americans. Jazz is imbued with the essence and passion brought by African descendants, mixing with diverse culture from around the globe. This melting pot has given Jazz its richly rooted and emotive quality reflecting the dynamic period it was conceived within. Lindy Hop is just one of many creative cultural expressions and innovations under the Jazz dance umbrella. Its roots lie in the merging of the Charleston dance craze and Ballroom dances from the 1920’s and 30’s and it’s still evolving to this date.

It’s hard to capture in words the feeling you get from Lindy Hop, the pleasure, excitement and unbridled joy! Frankie Manning, one of the founders of the air step in Lindy Hop and original pioneer of the dance when it was conceived, once said in an interview “you can’t do Lindy Hop without a smile on your face”. That really resonated with me. Of course Lindy Hop evolved out of a difficult time in the US, ripe with ratial prejudice, but it was also a rich period of cultural awakening. In the creative hub of Harlem, poets, writers, activists and regular people were coming together. It’s exciting that this dance was so informed by its time, and its impact then and now remains so influential. I believe it’s a great example of social harmony, during a period in the US when segregation was rife. Lindy Hop was danced in Harlem’s Savoy Ballroom, where black and white Americans actually mixed together on the same dance floor enjoying the same music. A rare happening for that time, and in many ways a beacon of hope for civil rights and racial integration in the US and beyond.

Photo: Anna Stein

What got you into Lindy Hop? And what is the connection with Deptford and south-east London?
I remember many years ago seeing old footage of the Hollywood musicals and every so often these amazingly skilful, vibrant and often unbelievable dances would feature. At the time I didn’t fully appreciate what I was looking at. Years later, whilst taking a class with Keith O’Brien who ran South East London Youth Dance Company, I met these two guys from a group called the Jiving Lindy Hoppers. They turned out to be Terry Monaghan and Warren Heyes, the two founding members of the UK’s first authentic Jazz dance company. They were scouting for talent and came to watch Keith’s class at the original Laban Centre site in New Cross, and afterwards they asked me to join their company. I decided to give it a go. From then on my life opened up into this whole new exciting world of travel, working with Jazz bands and legendary Lindy Hop pioneers such as Frankie Manning and Norma Miller. The more I discovered about Lindy Hop and Jazz the more I wanted to do. I spent an amazing 4 years with the Jiving Lindy Hoppers and then formed my own company, Temujin Dance, continuing to explore the dance form, perform and teach throughout the UK and abroad. It was one of the richest and most intense periods of my life. I have returned to Deptford and South East London on a number of occasions since with performances at The Albany, the That Swing Thing production, running for two years with Lewisham College students and local professional and community cast, and in 2007 I was invited to teach Greenwich Dance’s first pilot Lindy Hop class. Now 7 years on I have two regular Tuesday night classes going strong, with between 40 – 60 adult students signed up across the two courses. I’ve run Lindy Hop intensive dance weekenders every year since 2012 and also direct Lindy Kicks, a wonderful group of local jazz dance enthusiasts all of whom have come out of my regular classes. It’s been an immensely rewarding experience for me so far and never ceases to amaze me as to how much joy and pride people from all walks of life get out of training, working and performing together.

There’s all these names bandied about – Lindy Hop, Swing, Jive, Jitterbug… what is the difference?
I think traditionally the difference between Lindy Hop and Swing is arguably about the speed and the music it was performed to. Lindy Hop in its hey-day, with groups such as Whiteys Lindy Hoppers, was fast and physical – check out the dance sequence in Hellzapoppin. I think describing it as Swing or Jitterbug was really just a reinterpretation, as Jazz music was developing into Swing and new facets of society were catching on to it. In essence, there is no fundamental difference between Lindy and Swing, only that Lindy Hop was the original form of the dance, the predecessor to all the other variations to follow. What’s happened with the descendants of Lindy Hop is that unsurprisingly it has reflected change in the music and cultural interpretation as the dance travelled across the globe after World War II. Some elements may have got a bit diluted, like Chinese whispers, each person will have their own particular slant or preference when passing it on. When I teach Lindy Hop and other Jazz dance forms I focus on giving students an understanding and appreciation for the physicality, form, music and their own individual expression. For me, engaging with Lindy Hop is firstly about this vibrant, interactive and rhythmical language. Steps come afterwards.

Temujin Gill with his adult Lindy Hop group Lindy Kicks in their first performance at the Thanet at War Festival 2013. Photo: Lindy Kicks

Teaching and classes and putting on social dance events are some of the activities that you do as a choreographer/dancer/teacher. What is your key focus now, where would you like to go next?
I’m in the process of working on a new production for my company, Grounded, so I will be busy over the next couple of months, getting finance and partners in place. I’m also really excited about creating social and cabaret style events with a little twist. Recently I put on a Harlem Renaissance night at Greenwich Dance as part of their Supper Room programme; it was sold out and a great evening with really positive feedback from everyone that came. My aim is to do more of these types of occasions, bringing different mediums of performance together: poetry, live music and dance within a social style event, that encourages people to meet, debate, be entertained and dance. I’m also looking to develop this model further into a mini festival!

Lindy Hop from your description sounds like a vibrant, complicated partner dance. Any tips for someone who’s never done it before but would like to get into it?
It’s good to try out a few classes and maybe even do a dance weekender or intensive to get started. Great if you have a friend as you can practice together. When you first start it’s a good idea to keep things simple and give yourself space to have fun. Don’t take it too seriously, and in turn you’ll learn a lot quicker than you might expect. Work with the music. Jazz rhythms are designed for dancing so good to really listen and let yourself get into the music. It will help you master the steps and find your own style. Remember, dance is just an extension of natural movement – and we move every day, so we are all potentially really good dancers just waiting to strut our stuff!

Temujin Gill will be running a very special day of Lindy Hop dance workshops Lindy Winter Warmer on Saturday 6 December 2014 at the Deptford Lounge, for more information and to book go to

To find out more about getting involved in Lindy Hop in Deptford and local area visit or email

Deptford Gardens Festival

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Deptford Gardens is a new initiative, started by local people keen to activate the green spaces on their doorstep. Its about teaming up and finding other green fingered friends in the area doing the same thing. Assembly at Old Tidemill Wildlife Garden, the Wonky Prong on the Crossfields estate and the Deptford High Street Community Garden on Church Street’s green, decided it was time to join forces and get the people of Deptford gardening!

Through a small grant from the Deptford Challenge Trust fund, the initial group plan to set-up a network to encourage more people in Deptford, to get gardening. This is just the start of something that will hopefully grow with the input of other groups and individuals.

With the fund we’ll be putting a few things in place to help grow the Deptford Gardens network. Firstly, a website will soon be up and running that will house a map, calendar and events listing, so groups can post and promote their activities. Next, there will be signage and notice boards popping up in public spaces, to guide people to the green spaces all over Deptford. Again the notice boards will be a space for groups to promote their own spaces and activities. Lastly, a number of coordinated volunteer days will be organised, to help out the gardens that are part of the Deptford Gardens network, with the hope that over time the network will grow and start a movement of ‘Deptford Gardeners’!

It all kicks off with the Deptford Gardens Festival at the Old Tidemill Wildlife Garden on 20th September  from 12–6pm. Come and celebrate the start of the project with us. There will be bands and performances, games and workshops, food and refreshments and plenty of fun! Sign up as a Deptford Gardener and become part of the movement.

To get involved as a volunteer or join the network as a Deptford Garden, get in touch at or send an e-mail to

Deptford Gardens Festival at
Old Tidemill Wildlife Garden,
Reginald Road,
Deptford, SE8 4NS

Leading up to the festival
We need keen volunteers to help set-up. We are working with MADCAP coalition to put on this fantastic urban festival, but we need help getting everything ready. We are looking for individuals to give us a bit of time to make this all happen.

  • This Sunday the 14th MADCAP are taking down their equipment at Fordham Park after the festival. We need help taking down and then storing equipment at Old Tidemill School.
  • Thursday 18th and Friday 19th, we are setting up the festival in the Old Tidemill Wildlife Garden and again, we need some keen and enthusiastic volunteers to help us get everything ready!

Contact to sign up and lend a hand.




Youth Company collaboration from Daisy Farris Dance Collective and Deptford Green School

Back in January I wrote an introduction to the Daisy Farris Dance Collective. Since then, The Collective has had a number of exciting opportunities and is continuing to expand its horizons through unique collaborations. I am now delighted to be blogging regularly here and hope to widen my network to the artistic community inhabiting the Deptford area.

My first work, Silence the song in them… was premiered at Resolution!14 Festival back in January and went on to be performed at a number of platforms and festivals, including: Swallowsfeet Platform in Brighton, Footprint Dance Festival at Roehampton University, Accidental Festival at The Roundhouse and the Big Dance Weekend on Sun Pier in Chatham. Silence the song in them… also marked the beginning of a fantastic collaborative relationship between myself and Portia Graves, a musician and composer. Portia and I worked closely throughout the creative process. With both of us being new to this type of collaboration, we found that we learned a lot from each other and truly went on a creative journey together.

The Collective has recently completed a Research and Development intensive to create a brand new piece of work based on the work of sculptor Antony Gormley. I am excited to get back into the studio with the dancers to continue creating this exciting new work. Portia Graves will be composing the music for this new creation and I am really excited to hear where her creativity takes us this time around.

The creation of new work also opens up opportunity for new collaborative relationships. I have recently been in conversation with an exciting emerging photographer, Antoine Lassalle, who is keen to photograph the new work. Antoine is interested in shooting in unusual locations that both contrast and compliment the work. Watch this space…

September also sees the launch of our Youth Company. Daisy Farris Dance Collective is teaming up with Deptford Green School to offer the students the opportunity to form a Youth Company, working alongside The Collective. Deptford Green will be supporting the continued work of Daisy Farris Dance Collective and providing rehearsal space in kind.

If you would like to find out more about Daisy Farris Dance Collective please visit our brand new website I will be blogging on our new website as well as on so be sure to follow us to keep up to date with the latest news and exciting announcements!

Redevelopment of Deptford station arches


Frequent users of Deptford station will have noticed a great deal of work happening over the past few weeks. Looking down from platform one you can see the great progress which is being made to refit the arches and turn them into commercial units. The plans are currently with Lewisham Council and members of the Deptford Society have submitted our thoughts on the proposals. As it’s a listed building what we end up with will be difficult to get rid of, because it becomes part of a listed structure, as well as setting the standard for the smaller arches being refurbished by Cathedral so it’s important to get things right.

Internal cladding to the arches
The fact that the cladding to the inside of the arches conceals the existing brick is extremely disappointing. If it is the case that the existing brickwork cannot be waterproofed from above (as has been attempted within the station arches) then greater consideration needs to be given to options on how to provide waterproofing and the consequences of that choice for incoming tenants of this use class. Whilst it effective, the system proposed is more suited to light industrial units which are generally not seen from the public realm.  The form of this material will inevitably impact on the form and geometry of and subsequent cosmetic ceiling treatment; the drawings are not clear in indicating whether or not the plastic cladding is curved or faceted. If this system were to be approved, the documents should include a number of approved cosmetic ceiling treatments for tenants to adopt. Detailing of the junction between the glazing and the internal ceilings should also be determined at this time and not left to chance or to a shop-fitter to resolve.

Trip Kitchen & Bar in Hackney. Exposed brick has been achieved here to stunning effect.

Aluminium cladding
The use of mock-timber aluminium strip panelling either side of the arches is particulartly unsatisfactory; this material is not suited to being cut to complex forms such as the inside of an arch. The detail at the junction with the brick arch has not been drawn and there is a concern that the cut ends of the thin aluminium (which will buckle when cut) will require the addition of a trim to follow the curve of the arch which will look quite unsightly. The brochure for this material shows it being applied to buildings of regular and rectilinear form; where the ends of the cladding strips are cut straight and not curved. However aside these concerns about detailing, is a concern about the fake-ness of this material and its suitability in this application; can the applicant show what precedence exists for the use of this material?

Detail of cladding. Note that the wood is in fact aluminium with a wood effect.

Detailing of the glazing and reveals
Whatever external cladding material is decided on, this needs to be extended to cover the inside reveal of the window. The internal extension as this would emphasise the transparency of the facade and help to extend the outside in and vice versa.

Example of glazing which fully follows the shape of the arch

Entry doors
These are not clearly detailed but are described as powder-coated aluminium with glass infill, this is not what is portrayed on the 3D visuals as these show frameless glass doors set within a flush glazed facade which would be preferable and in keeping with the frameless glass facade.

Door threshold
The section drawings show a floor described as a ‘hard standing’ outside the threshold of the glass entry doors, this is an infill between the doors and the existing (new) granite sets. The granite sets should be reinstated and extended to the threshold of the doors. This needs to be stipulated very clearly on the drawings.


Relative floor levels
The internal floor level is shown set flush with the outside granite sets; this limits the choice of internal flooring materials; should the tenant want to instal an underfloor heating system or a polished concrete screed or a timber floor, they will find the level change to be unacceptable; the painted floor finish should be set lower than the external level to allow for this; these units must be designed to be fit for purpose.

Ventilation grilles
The ventilation grilles that appear in the glazing reveals are extremely prominent in the front facade; the drawings show them as standard size panels cut into the cladding system; there is no attempt to integrate them into the design. The new facades are to a listed building off a major urban space; good detailing and choice of materials and components are key to the success of this project . Lack of coordination of elements such as these grilles (and the signage) will lead to the facades looking poorly considered.

External lighting
The scheme includes no external lighting; up-lighting of the brick arches from the side reveals would help enhance and compensate for the loss of visible brick internally. This ought to be included in the application so that there is a consistency in the appearance of the arches at night.

The aluminium signage boards described are not as depicted on the 3D visuals, on some arches these drawings show cut out letters fixed to the cladding panels. Signage design (as opposed to advertising consent) needs to be very carefully controlled; at present the only statement relating to the design of these is that the colour will be decided by the Contract Administrator (CA). This is far from satisfactory.

Another example of internal exposed brickwork being retained, although on a somewhat larger scale.

Orientation of the facades
Orientation of the glazing is skewed relative to the side walls; there is a concern therefore that the geometry of the shop fronts will be irregular, not a pure arch but an oval; this has not not been observed in the design. It would be easier to orientate the facades at 90 degrees to the walls of the arch and the result ought to be more build-able and therefore of a higher quality.

Shutter box
The relationship between the security shutter box and the glazing is very unsatisfactory; the drawings seem to indicate that the shutter box is either right up against the inside of the clear glazing which would create a dust-trap or its so close that cleaning between it at the glass will at best be extremely difficult and unlikely to be carried out. Whilst this is an internal feature, not only is the glass clear affording clear views of the dust and debris from the outside but the application is for works to a listed structure; the interior is listed as well as the exterior.  The consequences of this not poor detailing not being addressed are significant.

Security shutter
The type, colour and visual permeability of the security shutter is not stipulated; the application should not be approved without confirmation that it is an ‘open mesh’ shutter.

Rear extensions
The extent to which these are visible from outside the site is not clear from the drawings however this is a listed structure and any intervention needs to be properly detailed; the materials chosen and the detailing of the rear extensions has to be questioned. These are of very poor quality and do not appear to be durable.


Whilst the submission of construction drawings for a listed buildings application helps to identify the failings in the scheme, these also become the legal documents and description of the proposals. There are several instances where the drawings leave critical decisions to the contract administrator use if terms ‘equal or approved’ means by the CA and not the planners; this clearly needs to be rectified.

I realise that my comments focus mainly on details and materials (much of the form of the building being somewhat predetermined) but I do believe that when it comes to making alterations to a listed structure, the details are critical. The details seem to have been developed as if the intended use was light industrial units rather than retail or restaurant; the cladding of the arch and inherent problems with detailing the chosen materials successfully are illustrations of this point.

You can view and comment on the planning application on Lewisham Council’s planning portal. Please feel free to use the above comments as a basis for you thoughts if you agree that the plans need some improvement.

Living in the NOW: Festival of Arts & Mindfulness Comes to Deptford Lounge

IMG_4253NOW Live Events, the cultural enterprise championing the arts as a way of being in the now, will take residency at Deptford Lounge from Monday 23  – Saturday 28 June, presenting brilliant artistic experiences designed to stimulate the senses and bring conscious awareness to the present. Led by some of the UK’s most inspiring artistic talent, participants can learn to savour the moment by experiencing everything from sensory sculpture to interactive musical performances, cultivating the skills of ‘mindfulness’ that help us stay well, manage emotional distress and help us to enjoy life.

NOW Live Events has been specially tailored for Deptford as part of the new London-wide Anxiety Arts Festival happening across London throughout June 2014. The programme includes a variety of Deptford-centred events that include a Pop Up Poetry Stall at the market featuring Chill Pill Collective, a performance by top poet Simon Mole followed by an Ode to Deptford, a stress management workshop with Bromley and Lewisham Mind, alongside numerous opportunities to meet and interact with others across the SE8 community.

Each day of the festival carries its own theme from Art & Senses to Performance, exploring different methods of mindfulness. Highlights include interactive discussion The Six Habits of Highly Empathetic People with Roman Krznaric, Master Your Moods NOW interactive talk for all ages with head gardener of Mindapples Andy Gibson, The Vital Keys for Happiness are Right Here Right Now talk with Mark Williamson from (Action for Happiness), Craftivist Collective with Sarah Corbett that utilises repetitive crafting as a means to reflect upon the past and look towards the future both individually and globally, a theatrical technique workshop led by Polly Bennett of the Royal Shakespeare Company, and an improvisational song workshop led by Ampersand Media.

The festival focuses on the 2,500 year-old Buddhist psychology of ‘mindfulness’, or moment-by-moment awareness that focuses one’s attention on the present while calmly accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations with compassion and non-judgement. The benefits of mindfulness in managing and preventing stress and anxiety have been proven by clinical trials and it is now one of the most popular treatments for emotional distress. But as importantly, mindfulness works as an everyday tool to lead a more fulfilled life based on greater awareness of the present.

Elsewhere in the programme, Wake Up London will be staging a Mindfulness Meditation Flash Mob promoting a message of support for young people through meditation and the community. The festival will draw to a close with Interacting in Deptford, conducted by Peader Kirk,a collaborative event where people can meet each other and explore what it means to be a part of the Deptford community.

For a full listing of all the events, please visit

And to find out more about every contributing artist


Deptford pub crawl: The Duke


‘We’re an up-and-coming place with a lot of history – free live music, good food, excellent beer selection, good vibe, that’s what we’re all about.’

–   Wiktor Szary, The Duke

I have to start with a confession: I’d never heard of the Duke before starting this interview series.

The pub sits on Creek Road, just opposite the top of Creekside, in a kind of no man’s land between Deptford and Greenwich. I walk around that area all the time, but the particular side streets and river paths I usually take to and from Greenwich always steer me slightly away from the Duke, so it’s never become part of my personal Deptford geography.

Wiktor Szary, the pub’s recently appointed manager – who, appropriately enough, has just completed a master’s degree in human geography at UCL – acknowledges that this is a challenge for the pub (‘it’s a well-kept secret’), but is intent on putting the Duke on the map.

I drop into the Duke on a bright Monday lunchtime to chat with Wiktor over a coffee. Originally from Poland, Wiktor has been living around Greenwich and Deptford for about seven years, and first joined the Duke in 2012. When the previous landlord moved on to another job in January, Wiktor took over and immediately poached his mate Alex Sen from pub over the creek in Greenwich. Jim Donaldson makes up the third member of the Duke’s management team.

‘We’re really excited about running this place,’ says Wiktor. ‘Me and Alex have wanted to do something like this for quite a while.’

Alex is also a postgraduate, wrapping up his masters in maritime history at the University of Greenwich – although so far, an old rope fished from the Thames is the pub’s only bit of nautical decoration.

Like several pubs in the area, the Duke is a former ‘old man’s pub’ given a modern makeover. It was bought up in 2008 and refurbished by Innpublic, a small family-owned group of pubs that includes the Dolphin in Sydenham, the Dartmouth Arms in Forest Hill and the Crown in Greenwich.

The early days were rocky, with the recession biting just after the pub was acquired. The initial strategy of taking the pub rapidly upmarket was out of step with what local people wanted, says Wiktor, and the pub has since sought to provide more affordable food and drink, as well as free entertainment. It’s definitely a very smart, modern-looking pub, but the emphasis is on being an asset to the community rather than a flash consumer ‘experience’.

‘It’s a really big community of people who feel attached to the pub. The place has obviously been evolving a little bit recently, pushing in different directions over the last three months, but we are trying to make sure we don’t leave anyone behind and that everyone’s supported,’ says Wiktor.

‘We still get the old Deptford crew who used to drink here back in the day,’ he adds. ‘We still cater for them, they have their own night every Saturday – blues rock type stuff, a bit grimy!’

These days, the pub also attracts students from the University of Greenwich halls next door and the Trinity Laban Conservatoire down the road, as well as professionals living in the many new-build apartments that have sprouted up around the Deptford/Greenwich borders.

‘I think what we’re trying to do is get the right mix of the Greenwich student population and the Deptford and New Cross community, trying to merge those two together,’ says Alex. ‘I think the identity of the pub is based on its location, rather than actually trying to create an identity in itself.’

The hope, he says, is that the punters themselves will make their mark on the pub and forge its identity: for example, through Trinity Laban students putting on their own nights.

Not that the management are sitting back: the Duke team is working hard at putting on events and fine-tuning the food and drink selection. While Wiktor, Alex and Jim all pull pints, collect glasses and change barrels, each also has a specialized role for building the pub’s profile.

‘Alex is down with the kids, so he’s responsible for the live music and gigs,’ says Wiktor. ‘I’m the man with the stapler, looking after the admin and the business side.’

Jim, meanwhile, looks after the pub’s social media activity, as well as the cellar.

Live music and events are central to the team’s vision for the pub, which like many Deptford boozers has a strong musical heritage.

‘Dire Straits used to rehearse in what is now my kitchen upstairs,’ says Wiktor. ‘We’re still waiting for a blue plaque! It’s a place with a spirit, I think – we definitely want to keep the live music going. We want to do free live music for everyone, at least two or three gigs every week, and never charge for it.’

These events bring new people to the Duke, helping it to extend its reach beyond potential geographical barriers. And it’s a good space for live music: the back of the pub is roomy enough to accommodate the 16-piece big band that comes in once a month. Recent events include electroswing nights, film screenings, roots reggae gigs and blues nights. The Duke also hosts a weekly open mic jam session on Wednesdays, where people can sing or play along with a house drummer, bass player and pianist.

While the team is keen to make the most of the pub’s 2am license, the Duke will still remain at heart a comfortable pub rather than an out-and-out live venue.

‘It’s not going to be a big party every Friday and Saturday night, the idea is more to have the odd events and also have it be a nice pub to go to on the weekend,’ explains Alex.


Thanks to Jim’s social media work, punters can check when events are on with a quick refresh of a Twitter feed. Wiktor created the social media co-ordinator job as soon as he took over, and sees it as vital for spreading the word and building repeat business.

‘It used to be a bit jump-on, jump-off, but now it’s a bit more structured,’ he says. ‘The job is unique to the whole company – we just realised that we really need to push that side of things if people are to know about us.’

Giving customers constant updates via Twitter is particularly useful for attracting people to events, and Jim also lets customers know about guest ales and changes in the menu.

‘It’s never going to be a substitute for just being welcoming, but it’s a good way of keeping people in the loop,’ says Wiktor.

Speaking of ale, the Duke has a solid and contemporary beer selection: Meantime’s pale ale and lager, Czech lager Kozel, Leffe on draught (something of a rarity), Tribute as the house ale and two guest ale pumps. There is also a fridge full of craft beer in bottles. The cheapest pint of lager is Beck’s for £4 (£3.50 on student nights), with ales at around £3.85. House spirits are £3.

‘[The craft beers] sell very well, people clearly want that. They obviously still want a cheap pint every now and then, but they also want a good pint,’ says Wiktor.

The Duke’s food offering, meanwhile, embraces the trend for American diner-influenced ‘dirty food’.

‘We’re obviously trying to tap into the mood of the market – the menu is very modern, quite diner-y, all homemade, all freshly prepared,’ says Wiktor. ‘People like the food, there isn’t anywhere else locally that does that kind of menu. And we make sure to get quality products, we source all our meat locally, it’s not junk food.’

Having survived the worst of the recession, things are now looking up for the Duke.

‘For a good few years, they couldn’t work out if the place would sink or swim,’ says Wiktor. ‘But I feel like recently, especially this year, people either have more money or feel like they have more money, or they’re just tired of the whole recession thing and they just want to go out and have some fun. There’s only so much suffering and austerity you can take!’

I revisit the pub a few nights later as a band sets up for a gig. It is a modern, bright and airy room with almost café-like elements of décor. ‘If Friends was set in England, this would be Central Perk’, says my friend. World music hums over the speakers, and I spy a poster for a ‘pop-up wine making class’.

It doesn’t really tick the ‘pork scratchings / old men reading papers / real ale / darts board’ boxes I have in my head next to ‘community pub’. But I take a closer look around the room.

Towards the back, a family celebration is in full swing around a long table. By the far window, a dad and his young son, both in sports kit, sit having a drink. Some impossibly thin students wander in and stand by the bar, taking a very long time to discuss their order. A group of women share post-work cocktails at the next table – looking around, I realize that at least half of the customers are women. The crowd is also noticeably more multicultural than most other pubs, not just in Deptford but generally.

Everyone here seems very much at ease, very much at home.  Looking at it with fresh eyes, I see that Wiktor and team are well on their way to building a decent community boozer. Now if only I can remember how to get there…

The Duke, 125 Creek Road, SE8 3BU. 020 84698260. @thedukedeptford.

Correction: as per the first comment below, this article was amended on June 1 to remove an erroneous reference regarding the band Squeeze’s historical connection to The Duke.

Enter charity raffle and win some awesome prizes

As we all know, Deptford has an incredible community. I’ve felt this more than ever since deciding to hold a raffle for charity on 26th April. I’m fundraising for two charities that have been very important to my family since my cousin took his own life in 2011, and the encouragement that I’ve received from local businesses donating prizes and supporting the cause has been overwhelming.

First, a bit about the charities, between which all funds will be split 50/50: Cruse bereavement care provided my family with invaluable support after my cousin’s suicide. CALM exists specifically to tackle the issue of male suicide, which is the top killer of UK men under 35.

Did you know, 12 men take their lives per day in the UK? Male suicide accounts for 3 out of 4 suicides in this country and, globally suicide kills more people each year than murder and war, yet people don’t talk about it. Well, I don’t mind talking about it. Raising awareness is what I’m all about.

And the more I talk about my experience, the more I uncover those with a similar story to tell, a sympathetic ear, or simply a desire to help. One example of this is the wonderful generosity of the guys at local food producers In A Pikkle. When they heard what I was doing, they immediately donated a top prize of a Bajan foodie feast cooked at the winner’s home (as long as it’s within the M25!) Another local business that has signed up to help is the ever-popular Little Nan’s Bar on Deptford Broadway, donating cocktail vouchers and an endless stream of supportive tweets in the run up to the event.

Outside of the immediate Deptford ‘family’, prizes have come from all over. Raffle tickets are £2 each and, in addition to what’s already been mentioned, you could win: 2x Sunday tickets to Nozstock festival (Roots Manuva, Calyx & Teebee, Eddy Temple Morris, Fun Lovin Criminals all confirmed), a half day’s ride in a private chauffeured Bentley, a bottle of whiskey signed by PM David Cameron, limited edition vinyl and other goodies from awesome house DJ & producer Sonny Wharton, signed rock n roll merch from Falling Red, a free cut & blowdry at Karda Salon, and a batch of 9 of the most delicious brownies you’ll ever taste in your life c/o Batch Bakery London.

So go ahead and enter! It’s easy peasy – head to, donate £2 or any multiple of £2 (depending on how many tickets you’d like to buy) and comment with your email address and the word ‘RAFFLE’. I will then assign you the correct number of raffle tickets and you’ll be contacted after the event via email if you’re one of the lucky winners.

Don’t be shy, every little helps and you actually might win some pretty cool stuff – so dig deep and spread the word. Don’t forget the raffle takes place on 26th April so don’t delay! Thank you Deptford – as always, you’ve been superb 🙂

Be inspired with the Air Hunger community project

Photo: Loanna Zouli

‘We often forget that we breathe, but never forget to breathe’ This is the concept for the newest dance project choreographed by internationally recognised Hagit Yakira.

Yakira has choreographed other productions in London and around the world such as …In the Middle with You, Sunday Morning, Anna Blue, 2 B, Oh Baby, Leah and Somewhere. The Air Hunger community project is performed by 22, non-professional dancers who engage in contemporary dance and the essence of breathing.

Photo: Takako Hasegawa

Community members came together with Hagit Yakira to create a piece where storytelling, dance, music and personalities are intertwined in a very human way. The dance humanises how we take breathing for granted and how desperately we grasp for air when it is in short supply.

One of the dancers, Falli Palaiologou says, ‘I feel safe in this group of people. I think this safety comes from sharing. In the project we are exposed, we act upon our potentials and our limits, we share ourselves’.

‘I joined Air Hunger because it is about trusting the unexpected and initiating movement first from the breath and then by anything else. This is for me a very rare opportunity to experience life the way it is supposed to be in the first place. And of course to make people aware and remind them of their basic human rights and to invite them to join this amazing journey or game of life. To share with people and not with screens, machines and other prisons of the heart,’ says another of the dancers Stefania Triantafyllou.

Collaborating with the composer Domenico Angarano and Kiraly Saint Claire, the show gains musical and physical momentum as the dancers portray the struggle for air.

Photo: Takako Hasegawa

The Air Hunger community project formed part of the research and development phase for Yakira’s new professional work with her company. Hagit Yakira dance recently won the title of Respond Project at Yorkshire Dance Festival taking place in December 2014.

‘We invite you to take a moment to inhale deeply. The instant of losing one’s breathe evokes many reactions, images and memories. Performers and audience will be sharing the same breath in a collaboration that will inspire and allow moments of exhalation. Air Hunger is a sensual, emotional and honest sharing of experiences that will leave you breathless.’

The performance will open with its first show on 7th April at 7:30pm at JW3, 341-351 Finchley Road, London NW3 6ET. T: 020 7433 8988

The second performance will take place on 12th April at 2pm, at Laban, as part of Crossing the Creek festival.
Laban, Creekside, London SE8 3DZ. T: 020 8035 9400

The third and last performance will be on 11th May at 7:30pm and 8:30pm, at Tripspace, Arch 339–340 Acton Mews, E8 4EA.

Deptford pub crawl: the Star and Garter

DSCF1002 DSCF1002 Star and Garter

‘Just a friendly atmosphere, reasonably priced. There you go – spit and sawdust, but a warm welcome!’

– Patrick McGowan, The Star and Garter.

It takes me a few visits to pin down the landlord of the Star and Garter, which sits a stone’s throw away from the vanished Deptford anchor on New Cross Road. The first challenge is figuring out whether the pub still exists. Peeking through the windows in the late afternoon, I see that the front room has been renovated into something more like a café. The door is locked and a sticker on the window advertises an African restaurant. Hey-ho, I think, another pub closed for good – at least this is a nice change from the usual fate of flats or mini-supermarkets.

I’m about to scratch the interview off my ‘to do’ list when I notice a lone smoker standing around the corner, next to a side door marked ‘Back Bar’. It transpires that, owing to a bizarre renovation decision by a previous landlord, the Star and Garter is physically split in two: customers must walk out into the street to move from one bar to the other. To make things even more interesting, the front bar has recently been rented out to an Ivorian restaurateur while the back bar remains an unapologetically sticky-floored drinking den. This gives the Star and Garter something of a split personality – encapsulating, in one pub, the changes that have taken place in Deptford since landlord Patrick McGowan first moved to the area in 1987.

A landlord for over 20 years, Patrick took over the Star and Garter four years ago after running pubs in Bermondsey and Lee High Road. When I sit down to chat with him a few days after my initial visit, he is generous and frank in his assessment of the challenges facing Deptford’s traditional boozers – including his own.

‘I came in here to try to make a go of it and then hit probably the worst recession since the Thirties! So it was kind of bad timing but there you go.’

Clearly a glass half-full type, Patrick cheerfully catalogues the Star and Garter’s past and present travails:

‘This pub here has had a chequered history over the last fifteen or so years. It’s been closed, it’s had people coming and going, it had no regular customers. Back in the seventies and mid-eighties it was a West Indian bar, there was a girl here who had it for ten, fifteen years. Since she left there’s been no continuity. Different people have come in and had a go, and it hasn’t worked out, it’s been empty or whatever.’

Patrick took over the pub just as the Deptford Arms, formerly a hub for high street traders, was closing. He hired its manageress and was able to capture some of the Deptford Arms diaspora, but business remains tough.

‘Regulars are few and far between these days. A wee crowd comes in for football on Saturdays when Millwall are at home. We’ve got two pool teams who play [in the local league] on Tuesday – one that drinks more than they play, and one that plays more than they drink! But a lot of the old regulars have all died off, to tell you the truth,’ he says.

The pub is not struggling for lack of elbow grease – Patrick says he has tried everything to get people through the doors.

‘I tried to run it all as one bar at the start, in the front I had a folk night, things like that, English folk, old sea shanties, there were a few characters hanging about,’ he explains. ‘That went on for a wee while, then we had comedy nights in here. I’ve had a go at everything – open mic nights on Wednesdays, live bands on Saturdays, [bartender] Sharon’s doing a karaoke thing on Fridays.’

The Star and Garter has been given something of a lifeline by another diaspora: that of Francophone Africa. Last year, after initially trying to partner with an eel and pie shop, Patrick let out the front bar to the aforementioned West African restaurant, Les Delices de Tresor.

‘We had to move with the times with the French-African restaurant thing,’ he explains, ‘because if you look at the top of the high street there, you’ve got restaurants from Nigeria and other African countries, and you go right down to the bottom and you’ve got a Vietnamese bar. The whole population of Deptford has changed, obviously.’

I speak briefly to the eponymous Tresor, who recently moved to Deptford from the Ivory Coast, where she also ran a restaurant. She choose Deptford in order to reach Lewisham’s large Ivorian and West African community, but is eager to extend a welcome to all Deptfordians:

‘It’s a good area, good location. We really want people to come and enjoy our food. We will welcome them, we invite anybody to come try and taste our food,’ she says.


While it brings in vital revenue, the launch of the restaurant has caused some confusion among locals who assumed that the whole pub had been taken over (hence Patrick recently investing in the ‘Back Bar’ signage). With the ‘pub’ bit of the Star and Garter now off the main street, Patrick continues to struggle to find the right formula to attract customers outside of Tuesday pool nights and football Saturdays.

‘The back bar is a bit of a chameleon bar,’ he says, ‘I’m always moving furniture.”

Part of the problem is the recession, which has hit the Star and Garter’s traditional clientele hard – and there is also a generational factor, says Patrick:

‘People don’t have the money these days, they are picking and choosing their nights rather than being a regular feature through the week. Plus the older pub customers have not been replaced by younger people. They aren’t drinkers, or if they are, they are probably getting a few beers from the supermarkets and getting together with their friends at home and heading off to a club later on at night rather than coming to the pub. Plus with all the prices going up and people losing work – it’s a combination of quite a few things.’

Patrick can at least count himself lucky to be running a free house, which allows him to compete on price by selling cheap drinks – the bar offers mostly commercial lagers and Guinness for around £3 a pint.

‘My prices are lowest you can get,’ he says. ‘If people ask me for a certain type of beer I can get it in, it’s no problem, I can do whatever.’

And, looking determinedly on the bright side, the quietness can make for a friendlier atmosphere:

‘It’s friendly – we have to talk to each other because there’s not enough people,’ he laughs. ‘You get to know people a bit quicker, otherwise you’d be talking to yourself!’

This is certainly my experience of the Star and Garter’s back bar over the course of a few visits: a simple as a bar can be, but friendly service and talkative customers. The back bar is a small, rectangular room with the pool table taking pride of place (a shelf behind the bar heaves with pool trophies). A flatscreen hangs on the back wall, playing MTV on one visit and Olympic curling on another. This is occasionally drowned out by the pub jukebox: at one point, I bond with a man in a Millwall tracksuit over our shared love of Steely Dan as he pumps pound coins into the machine and sits on a bar stool playing air guitar.

Elsewhere, two other customers are locked in a deep and spirited personal conversation about the direction of their respective lives, while others periodically disappear through a back door to smoke in the concrete garden. Last night’s band comes back to disassemble their kit, having presumably been too pissed to do so the night before.

The Star and Garter won’t be for everyone. As Patrick says, it’s spit and sawdust. It doesn’t quite fit any of the traditional categories: I wouldn’t call it a classic old man pub, or a tidy backstreet boozer, or even a dive bar. But I’d still recommend a visit, to see firsthand how traces of Deptford old and new are inscribed here. I leave the Star and Garter hoping that Patrick will somehow crack the code and keep this curious, fragmented pub going.

The Star and Garter, 490 New Cross Road, SE14 6TJ. 020 8694 0240.



Deptford pub crawl: the Royal Albert


‘We’ll look after you – I just think that you need to look after people. They might come in for a pint of ale and you just pour it and give it to them. They might ask for a Bloody Mary on a Sunday morning. They might be someone calling up with an allergy to book some food. Or they could be someone who comes in and they’ve just viewed a house and we talk them through the area. Hopefully, the thing we’re best at is looking after people. That and beer.’ – Richard Salthouse, manager, Royal Albert

Several Deptford boozers can boast of early performances by Squeeze and Dire Straits, but more contemporary ghosts haunt the Royal Albert. A mere ten years ago, believe it or not, there was something called the “New Cross Scene”. As chronicled superbly in the Transpontine blog archives, art rock bands like Bloc Party, Long Blondes and Art Brut, record label Angular Recordings and a host of DJs and promoters ran amok up and down the New Cross Road, attracting attention from the likes of the NME and Vogue (yes, New Cross was the new Hoxton before Deptford was the new Shoreditch). The scene’s lynchpin was the gloriously scuzzy Paradise Bar, a live music venue on the Deptford/New Cross borders.

Eventually the New Cross scene fizzled out, unable to survive the day-glo horror that was “new rave”. Most of the art rockers hung up their guitars, knuckled down at work and started saving for a deposit. The Paradise Bar, meanwhile, was taken over by the Antic pub group in 2006, refurbished as a tasteful local boozer and relaunched as the Royal Albert, its pre-1990s name.

You’ve probably been in an Antic pub before, even if you didn’t realise it at the time. That’s kind of the point: it’s a chain that isn’t supposed to feel like one, ensuring a Time Out-approved standard of food and drink while giving its managers relatively free rein to inject their own ideas and respond to the character of the local area. While the ex-art rockers might feel a little conflicted about drinking in a pub owned by The Man (and behind Antic’s pumps lurk Byzantine ownership structures and complicated bankruptcies and restructurings), the actual experience, at least at the Royal Albert, rarely feels fussy, corporate or overly aspirational, and the choice of food and drink is generally excellent if keenly priced.

I meet Richard, manager of the Royal Albert, at 2pm on a Thursday afternoon. Despite not opening for another two hours, the pub is a hive of activity: we talk over the buzz of power tools (the kitchen is being upgraded), while chefs periodically wander over to offer Richard samples of potential menu additions.

Richard has been back at the Royal Albert since last November, his second stint after managing the pub from 2008 to 2010 (‘I’m new blood, but old new blood’). A Brockley lad, Richard started out at the Jam Circus pub on Brockley Road, another Antic pub, before coming to the Albert.

Antic will soon open the Job Centre pub on Deptford High Street, becoming only the second pub on a high street that used to boast seven or eight. The choice of location has raised eyebrows (as has the somewhat problematic name, but let’s save that for the comments section), but Richard faced the same skepticism when he first joined the Royal Albert.

‘In the early days when we opened this pub, Deptford was a risky place to open, to a lot of people anyway,’ says Richard. After a slow and fitful start, he says, business picked up thanks to hard work and more people coming into the area who were willing to go out and spend money in Deptford ‘rather than jumping on a train up East’.

What kind of crowd drinks here now, I ask.

‘I’m sure every pub in the world says this, but it really is quite a big mix,’ says Richard. ‘The day-to-day reliable crowd are probably people who are settled into their first or second job, anywhere from late twenties through mid-forties. That’s the bread and butter. On the Friday night it gets quite a lot younger, either students or recent graduates who have settled in the area and are part of the Goldsmiths art crowd. They come in when it’s a bit louder, a bit more high-tempo, with probably an average age of 20. And then at the weekend it goes back to the people having a bit of lunch, a bit of peace and quiet.’

As well as a few regulars who prop up the bar – ‘two blokes who have been coming as long as I’ve been working here, they stand in the same place and drink Amstel, lovely fellas’ – the pub attracts a couple dozen regular faces, including couples, who come in at least once a week.

The Royal Albert has become busier since 2006 – they have applied to the council to extend into the shop next door, which should probably happen by the summer – but the basic offer is still the same: ‘It’s incredible how quickly it felt like home again, the nuts and bolts downstairs haven’t changed, the customers haven’t changed, the regulars haven’t changed.’

Richard’s approach is essentially to stay ahead of what modern pub customers expect. This means real ale and craft beer, a decent food offering and a higher level of service.

‘There is definitely now an expectation for craft beer across London,’ says Richard. ‘The numbers of breweries has gone up and up and up – we always have people asking what beers we’ve got coming on, what’s on now, asking about certain breweries, asking for samples, and the shift in sales is incredible. Our biggest seller now is cask ale, followed by Amstel and Heineken. That’s a really big shift.’

The other main draw is the food, although having long considered the Albert to be a gastropub, I’m surprised to learn that food only accounts for about a quarter of the pub’s takings.

‘You need to be sure you are doing good food just to give yourself a chance in terms of reputation,’ says Richard. ‘It’s quite an expensive operation to run the kitchen, but it’s worthwhile because it’s part of the package, it’s part of what people expect now. That’s something that’s changed over the last five years – even if you’re not intending to eat, you feel better about a pub if it has food.’

A quiz night helps bring people in on Mondays, but otherwise the pub does steady trade throughout the week based on its food and drink offering – as well as ambience and service, which are also increasingly important to many customers:

‘It’s quite a familiar place to come in as a customer I hope, it’s the sort of place that looks quite homely as soon as you step in. People definitely expect a little bit more these days: the way pricing has gone in the last three to four years, it’s costing more of your wage packet to drink in a pub, especially as your wages are probably less in real terms. People can forgive a bit of graffiti in the toilets but they do expect a little bit more! It’s a good thing, it pushes us to be a bit more considerate.’

I return to the Royal Albert later that evening, sinking into a very comfortable armchair near the door with a pint of Railway Porter, a dark beer from Hackney’s Five Points Brewery (their IPA is now the Albert’s house IPA). Mismatched lampshades hang over the bar, which is backed by etched glass and barley twist columns. Fairy lights and bunting hang from the ceiling, while framed mirrors and pictures are clustered on the walls with a studied haphazardness. On the tables sit tealights and paper menus curled into half pint glasses.

The pub is busy, with drinkers lounging about on the big red leather sofas that bracket the front room. Nearby, a customer carries a round of drinks over to a group of flannel-shirted men and women in patterned dresses: ‘£6.60 for two, and it comes in a tankard!’ It’s actually a dimpled glass, but the point is well made – while the headline Five Points IPA is an eye-watering-for-Deptford £4.50, the ever-changing ale selection spans a range of styles and price points.

In front of me sits a young man with greased-back hair and a leather jacket, guitar case propped against the table – later, his place will be taken by a rockabilly couple wearing suspenders (him) and a short jet black fringe (her). Elsewhere, a seasoned punk with pink hair and a Ramones t-shirt waits at the bar next to a man in a shirt and tie, cardigan and clear-framed glasses. The music – a blend of old school country and Victoriana – is played at a discreet volume, and a few people sit on their own reading newspapers or novels.

I imagine this is what after-work drinks at 6Music must be like. Sure, at some point those mismatched lampshades have probably appeared on a PowerPoint slide back at Antic HQ. But hey, there are worse fates for ex-art rockers than a few pints down the Albert.

The Royal Albert, 430 New Cross Road, SE14 6TJ. 020 8692 3737.

Deptford pub crawl: Dog and Bell

D&B Outside

‘I think it’s a friendly pub for people who like to chat. You won’t be in long before you get invited into a conversation. You’ll always get a decent pint of beer. And you’ll be made to feel welcome, I think. That’s as much as I can say and it’s up to yourself after that!’ Charlie Gallagher, Dog and Bell.

The best way to approach the Dog and Bell is to start at the southern foot of Deptford High Street and work your way up.

This way, you start with sensory assault: the raw smells of fresh fish and meat, bold and gaudy shop fronts, the calling of traders and the cackling debates of betting shop street drinkers. As you pass underneath the railway bridge, this lively bustle recedes into a hum of alfresco coffee drinkers, grocery shoppers and the muted rattle of prams. The northernmost point feels more like a remote outpost, bracketed by the boarded-up Noah’s Ark and the boarded-up Harp of Erin, all quiet except for the rush of traffic, the stench of exhaust fumes. Continue on, over Creek Road, and walk up Watergate Street, enveloped in leafy silence. Rounding a corner onto Prince Street, deep in residential stillness, you will find the Dog and Bell, a classic back-street local.

Stillness permeates the pub. Wandering in on a Thursday afternoon, I find the front bar bathed in soft, contented quiet. There are two other customers: one sits at the end of the bar reading the paper, the other sits in the adjoining room near the lit fire with a pint and a novel. The pub is immaculately kept, well lit and warm, with a carpeted floor, wooden bar and light yellow walls. It feels like someone’s front room.

The quiet might unnerve the first-time visitor, depending on their disposition. There is no piped music, jukebox or fruit machine, just an unobtrusive, terrestrial-only television sitting above the door. Sit long enough at the bar, however, and you realise that this stillness actually makes for a more relaxed and sociable atmosphere. Drinkers drift casually in and out of conversation, old and new faces alike, playing along with TV quiz shows or sharing local gossip. Or not, if they don’t feel like it: it’s also the perfect place to steal some peace and quiet with a decent pint and the papers, suspended in a very English nirvana.

D&B bar

All told, there is something deeply civilised about the Dog and Bell, personified in the figures of landlords Charlie and Eileen Gallagher.

Charlie, who took over the pub in 1988, is a soft-spoken, modest man who apologises in advance of our interview for ‘not being very good at this sort of thing’ and is visibly relieved when the tape recorder is eventually switched off.

‘This was basically a dockers’ pub,’ he explains. ‘As Convoys Wharf closed down and left the area, more and more of the pubs around here have simply folded.’

The Dog and Bell has survived, however, thanks to friendly service and Charlie’s reverence for proper beer. The pub serves five or six real ales from the pumps at any given time, always in prime condition and at incredibly low prices; usually between £3 and £3.30 a pint (with similar prices for lager and cider). As a result, it has become something of a destination pub for real ale drinkers.

‘We have a decent reputation for real ales and there are enough real ale drinkers to keep us solvent, with the help of a few students and some newer people moving into the area,’ says Charlie. ‘There are still local people who come in, but most people travel here from any distance really, a lot from Greenwich, other parts of Deptford, New Cross, Brockley, as far afield as Lewisham. Also a lot of students have got into the real ale scene recently, and there is a big local student population.’

Listed for decades in the Campaign for Real Ale’s Good Beer Guide, the pub’s walls are heaving with certificates of commendation from both CAMRA and the Society for the Preservation of Beers from the Wood, whose members regularly meet and drink here. The latter group is particularly keen, having crowned the Dog and Bell as its “London Pub of the Year” three times in the past ten years.

As the independent owner of a free house (that is, a pub not tied to a single brewery or corporate owner), Charlie can stock whichever beers he likes, although this is less of a competitive advantage now that smarter pub chains such as Antic are now also offering greater choice. Still, this flexibility allows the Dog and Bell to mix old favourites with newer styles and trends: as well as traditional real ale, the Dog and Bell stocks around 20 Belgian and American beers in bottles.

‘I’m prepared to experiment. I quite like them myself actually!’ says Charlie. ‘I’m not anti-change. You have to move with the times, insofar as you can do it.’

Indeed, the pub’s pumps regularly feature innovative ales from upstart local brewers such as Brockley Ales and London Fields Brewery, alongside established brewers producing more traditional styles. Charlie draws the line, however, at craft beer dispensed from kegs rather than pulled from casks; while he acknowledges their quality, they are more expensive and he prefers to stick to his strengths.

Aside from excellent beer, the Dog and Bell offers an affordable lunchtime and evening menu of ‘traditional pub food’, including a Sunday roast. The pub is typically busiest on the weekends, with the beer garden proving a strong draw in the summer. The Sunday night pub quiz is also something of an institution:

‘The pub quiz has been going for 25 years, that attracts a jolly crowd. It’s set by customers who volunteer to do it, so they take the flak if it’s a bit too tough, and get the plaudits if it’s enjoyable. It works very well.’

The highlight of the year, however, is the annual pickles contest held at the end of November, which has been running for over 15 years.

‘It’s a wonderful thing,’ he says, chuckling. ‘It started off through a simple idea: what do allotment holders do with their vegetables at the end of the year? Most of them pickle them. One of our customers who had an allotment came up with the idea of a pickle competition to see who makes the best homemade pickles. Surprisingly, a lot of people like to do that sort of thing! It’s a hugely popular event, people come from far and wide with cakes and pickles, and jams and breads.’

And if this were not typically English enough for you, the Blackheath Morris Men sometimes meet here, practicing and performing outside the pub on occasion (‘they’re always looking for new recruits if anyone’s interested!’). There’s also a bar billiards table kept in pristine condition, although with so few of these tables around it’s difficult to organise any inter-pub competition.

I linger for a few pints after the tape recorder is switched off. With the “formal” interview over, Charlie now chats freely with me and the other patrons about beer, breweries, pubs and changing Deptford. As the evening draws in, a steady trickle of customers fill up the bar and the adjoining room, giving rise to a gentle conversational hum.

After pouring me a third pint of Trilby, a lovely 4% beer from Herne Hill nanobrewery A Head in a Hat, Charlie disappears to his office and returns with a sheaf of historical documents. It’s a treasure trove: a list of all of the pub’s previous landlords stretching back to the 1700s, a copy of a sea shanty – ‘Homeward Bound‘  that immortalises the pub in verse, an auction notice from 1859 advertising the pub as offering ‘to a clever man of business an opportunity of realizing a speedy fortune’, as well as several accounts of court proceedings that hark back to Deptford’s rough and tumble past. Of these, my favourite is an account of the 1895 mugging of John Cox, set upon outside the now-closed Navy Arms. His assailants were arrested shortly afterwards, having fled no further than the Dog and Bell, a few doors down.

I can only assume the beer was as irresistible then as it is now. By the time I make my way back home, Deptford High Street is quiet and still.

Dog and Bell, 116 Prince Street, London SE8 3JD. 020 8692 5664. Cash only. Not suitable for children.

Edward II screening at St Nicholas’ Church

Steven Waddington and Andrew Tiernan in Derek Jarman’s Edward II

The playwright, poet, homosexual, atheist, brawler, magician and spy Christopher Marlowe was born in Canterbury 450 years ago this month. A contemporary of William Shakespeare, he famously dramatised the stories of Doctor Faustus, The Jew of Malta, Tamburlane, Edward II and Massacre at Paris.

Although theories that Marlowe wrote a number of plays attributed to Shakespeare have been discredited, it’s certain that Marlowe heavily influenced his peer.

On 30 May 1593 – aged just 29 – Marlowe was stabbed to death in mysterious circumstances in a meeting house in Deptford. He was buried somewhere in the grounds of St Nicholas’ Church, just north of the junction of Creek Road and Deptford Church Street. It is rumoured that his ghost still lingers within the church’s underground crypt, and has been seen by children and the feeble-minded.

With this in mind, Deptford Film Club is marking Marlowe’s anniversary in the only way we know how: by taking over the church and turning it into a cinema, for one night only.

We’ve got history with St Nicholas’ Church. In 2012 we filled the church with an audience for Pasolini’s Gospel According to Matthew, as part of the New Cross + Deptford Free Film Festival. And twice we have dared to enter the crypt, creating a frighteningly intimate space to screen short animated films by the Quay Brothers and the Russian genius Yuri Norstein.

On Friday 28 February 2014, we’re in the main space of the church, replacing the altar with a screen and worshipping the power of cinema. While you buy a glass of wine and take a pew, the church will be filled with authentic 16th-century music from Deptford violinist Daniel Merrill, and at 8pm the film will begin.

Edward II is all about eroticism, violence, jealousy, and betrayal. It tells the true story of the bisexual King Edward II of England (1284–1327), who was deposed by his wife Isabella, the ‘She-Wolf of France’ (played by Tilda Swinton). The film was written and directed in 1991 by Derek Jarman, who set his 1978 punk movie Jubilee in Deptford. Using the original 16th-century text, the action plays out in minimalist sets and is punctuated with modern gay-rights protests, dance sequences and Annie Lennox singing ‘Ev’ry Time We Say Goodbye’.

Back in 1991, before we’d all seen Brookside and Brokeback Mountain, Edward II was quite racy. It’s certainly one of the only successful film adaptations of Marlowe’s work (Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor’s Doctor Faustus is famously appalling).

Friday 28 February is a Deptford Last Friday. We’d love you to join us for our celebration of Marlowe, Jarman, churches, cinemas and ghosts.

View the trailer above, find out more information and book tickets online

Deptford pub crawl: The Bird’s Nest

DSCF0217_edit‘There are a lot of good things happening in Deptford, and I think the Bird’s Nest is one of them. People should come here because it’s different; we’re not your average pub. We’ve got the art gallery, live music, good beer and great homemade food; the underground art scene is happening here.’ Joel Matthews, manager, the Bird’s Nest.

Ever fantasised about buying up your favourite pub? Just as everyone allegedly has a novel inside them, there are certain pubs that bring out the inner Frank Butcher or Peggy Mitchell. A beloved local boozer, a “surprise find” on a country walk: the pints drain blissfully away and the idle dreaming begins. No more rat race, no more commute, just an honest living running a “proper pub” – surrounded by friendly regulars, respected by the community, all of your favourite beers on the pumps and all of your favourite tunes on the jukebox.

The fantasy rarely outlasts the next morning’s hangover, but it’s reassuring to know that some people do end up making it happen. In the late 1980s, Joel Matthews was just another teenager growing up in Greenwich and going to gigs at the Oxford Arms, famous for hosting early shows by Squeeze and Dire Straits. A budding guitarist, he promised his mates that one day he would have a music venue to call his own. Twenty-five years later his teenage dream is coming true: the Oxford Arms is now the Bird’s Nest and, as of last year, Joel is its manager and soon-to-be owner. It’s not his first music pub – he cut his teeth in the Grove Tavern in Wimbledon– but if all goes to plan, it could be his last.

‘I plan to be here forever,’ he tells me. ‘I want to build a family business.’

The Bird’s Nest sits at the base of Creekside, tucked under the curve of the DLR tracks running north from Deptford Bridge station, right next to the eye-catching Big Red Pizza Bus. It’s a wet Friday afternoon when I cross Deptford Church Street to meet Joel, and there are already a decent number of regulars nestled around the bar. Joel counts himself lucky to have inherited such an uncommonly loyal customer base: ‘a lot of these guys have been drinking here for 40 years.’

It’s easy to see why. Ducking from the rain into the Bird’s Nest is like putting on a warm jumper – a well-worn, patched-up jumper, but all the more comfortable for it. The layout is traditional with a horseshoe bar, “barley twist” columns and an open fire flanked by two upright armchairs, but there are also traces everywhere of the pub’s more bohemian element: band flyers deck the bar like bunting, a small stage sits in the corner, a lone disco ball hangs over the door and Alice Cooper drifts over the sound system.

We retire to the quieter back room to talk about his plans for the pub. A musician hailing from a family of artists (his father was a fine art professor at Goldsmiths), it’s clear that Joel intuitively appreciates the Nest’s distinctive mix of booze and culture.

The pub has been steeped in the performing arts since the 16th century, when it adjoined the old Deptford Theatre. Over the last 40 years, it has become a bastion of south London’s underground arts and music scene, channelling Deptford’s creative energy more than any other local boozer.

‘Music, theatre and the arts have always been a part of the pub,’ says Joel. ‘Squeeze played here on their first ever tour in 1976, and upstairs, which used to be a theatre, there were always unusual plays on, quite cutting edge at the time. There was a big anti-racism movement that used to meet here; it’s always been quite a left-wing, radical pub.’

That doesn’t mean you need multiple piercings in order to enjoy a pint here, though.

‘You’ve got your core punk scene that’s here, you see the Mohicans and leather jackets, that sort of thing, but then there’s also the art influence from all of the studios and industrial estates on Creekside,’ he explains. ‘And there’s also been a lot more young professionals coming in since I’ve been here over the last year, which is really good. It’s a very diverse pub in terms of clientele, but there’s definitely a link in terms of people who appreciate arts and music.’

A chalkboard near the front door boasts a full slate of gigs organised by Joel and a loose affiliation of specialist promoters. A recent gig by squat-punk (no, we don’t know either) band P.A.I.N. brought in 200 people, forcing bar staff to move all of the furniture out to make way. Joel is also diversifying the music policy by bringing in folk nights and rock nights alongside the longstanding punk scene: ‘the common theme is underground music, just like the art.’

Sitting in the back room, I notice something different – wasn’t there a pool table here before?

‘Well as Creekside is a road full of artists, we converted the pool room into the Undercurrents Gallery,’ says Joel. ‘We’ve held monthly exhibitions since last May; there’s a launch night each month and bands connected to the artists come and play.’

The gallery is run together with Creekside arts group Minesweeper Collective, who have curated a series of collaborative exhibitions at the Bird’s Nest. The current show, Primitive Impulses, is a group exhibition of abstract drawings and painting from Bulgarian art collective the Cleaners. As I chat with Joel, a passing Minesweeper hands me a flyer for an upcoming show, and later, a man in a paint-encrusted jumper wanders in seeking permission to wash his brushes in the pub toilets, as the hot water in his studio is on the blink.

Joel clearly understands his mission as enhancing and building on what is already there rather than messing with the pub’s core appeal. While art and music remain essential to the Bird’s Nest, however, Joel says that his vision of the perfect pub has perhaps matured since his teenage years.

‘When I was younger it was all about having a rock venue. Now as I’ve got older, I also want to bring back the traditional pub. I hope the Bird’s Nest can become a really good, vibrant music venue but also be a traditional, historical pub that serves decent beer.’

To this end, he has introduced real ale pumps alongside draft and bottled lager.

‘Beer is your main product and you have to get it right. Heineken just installed brand new lines in our bar and cellar, so we have the latest technology that will give you a good pint of lager. But now that we’ve got that in place, we’ve also brought in a big ale brand, Doom Bar, and I want to try to bring in some smaller ones. We always stock a few ales from Truman’s, who have just reopened, and I’ve just signed an agreement with a smaller brewery to bring in a few of theirs. We’ll have flat ciders from the West Country, and something like a wheat beer on draft.’

Another new feature is food. Joel acknowledges that the pub’s interior doesn’t exactly scream “haute cuisine”, but since the kitchen opened a few months ago, around half of his customers will typically grab a bite along with their pint. The food is simple but well-made pub grub, including 15 types of homemade burger, all at incredibly affordable prices. Four pounds for a decent pub burger? I doubt Squeeze fans will have paid much more in 1976. I’m also pleased to see a basket of “Joel’s Rolls” going for a quid, having long considered the pub roll to be our own English form of tapas.

Other new features are altogether more futuristic. Inspired by the Pembury Tavern in Hackney, the Bird’s Nest has become the first pub in south London to accept the internet-based currency Bitcoin. Bar staff convert the price of a pint into Bitcoin using an iPad app and customers can pay by scanning their smartphone. It all sounds like a bit of a faff to me, but local Bitcoin investors at least now have a place to calm their nerves as their infamously volatile market twists and turns.

Any fleeting concerns that Bitcoins and burgers might see the Bird’s Nest drift into Shoreditch pretentiousness are allayed by the no-nonsense Happy Hour, still its biggest draw. All drinks are £2.50 from 5–7pm, Monday to Friday. Conveniently, this starts just as our interview ends, so I settle in at the bar for a cheap and serviceable pint of Truman’s Swift. The pub is soon packed with a mix of leather jackets, fluorescent work coats, parkas and flannel shirts. All ages are represented: on one table, post-work drinks unfold over bottles of Tyskie and the Guardian crossword, on another, young bearded artists in baseball caps huddle over a Macbook. I notice that almost all of the men are wearing earrings. Creekside’s grizzled old guard mill about in paint-flecked gilets and berets, handkerchiefs around their necks, thirsty after a hard day at the easel. The sky darkens outside. I order a second pint and think, wow, wouldn’t this be a great pub to run?

The Bird’s Nest, 32 Deptford Church St, SE8 4RZ. 020 8692 1928.

Q&A with Chris Boddington, singer with local band Reverend Casy

After our brief post A musical tribute to Deptford High Street featuring the video for Reverend Casy’s song ‘Deptford High Street’, I chatted a little more with band member Chris Boddington about the song, making the video and Deptford in general.

Do you live in Deptford? What made you write a song about the High Street?
I live just off Lewisham Way, so Deptford is my nearest high street. I’ve always loved the positiveness of the place. There have been some bad changes; the betting shops and legal loan sharks and the Tesco, but they haven’t killed the spirit. I guess that’s because there are still loads of market stalls and independent shops; people who’ve been there for decades. I tried putting some words about the bad things in the song, but it just made it miserable.

What other projects do you have coming up / where can people see you perform?
Watch this space for Reverend Casy gigs. They’ll be on our Facebook page. We’ve been busy recording, and our new album, Strike Like Lightning, is out on iTunes, along with older stuff. We’ve also made a video for the song ‘Saturday Bless My Soul’, starring five ducks! [see below]

What are your favourite venues / places in Deptford
My favourite cafe is Café Selecta, who do a lovely omelette and cappuccino. I like the new library. I generally go to Wavelengths about once a week with my son, then we get a sweet dumpling from the little shop next to the square by the Albany.

How did people react to your video?
It seems to make them smile and laugh a fair bit. And, especially at this time of year, I think they like all the sunshine that’s in it!

Tell me more about Jassah.
He was just there at the time, with his friend who runs a stall. Sean – our bass-player – and I were walking around talking to people and filming with the song coming out of a little amplifier, and he started toasting over it. I hope we’ve spelt his name right as I never wrote it down! I reckon he’s got quite a talent, and such a warm personality. Lovely rich voice that puts mine in the shade.

Pop down the road to visit another world called Little Nan’s

Take a seat and make yourself at home. Photo by Tristan Scutt

The first time I went to Little Nan’s I was meeting a friend and after a quick peek inside, decided to wait for them outside. As I waited (by the bunch of balloons tied to a handy chair with a menu also provided) I watched as a woman passed by, paused, turned around and walked past again.

‘Are you sure?’ she asks into her phone. ‘Are you sure it’s here?’

‘Are you looking for Little Nan’s? Yeah, it’s here!’ I chirp up – reassuringly I hope – and she breathes a slight sigh of relief before cautiously going inside, and down the corridor leading to the bar at the end, and I assume finds her friend at the end. I suppose it’s too easy a cliché to mention Alice in Wonderland, or the wardrobe leading to Narnia, but heck, I’ve just done both; it’s just too accurate a description to ignore.

Don’t be nervous. A warm welcome awaits at the end of the corridor. Photo by Tristan Scutt

This element of Little Nan’s being a secret, hidden, and possibly magical place has been present every time I’ve visited the bar, and is perhaps no surprise given its history, as the owner Tristan explains. ‘It used to be the unused storeroom for the Bunker Club since the early 90s, but the room was originally built as a family’s private Victorian rum distillery (they can’t have made much!), which then became a secret members club during the 1920s. We even found an old newspaper when renovating!’ Some people use the term “speakeasy” to describe the bar, which seems to nod to its past, but Tristan confesses that he prefers “cocktail boozer” as a more down-to-earth description.

What awaits for the intrepid explorer on entering down the corridor of Little Nan’s is something akin to entering a genie’s lamp, if the genie also happened to be a grandmother with an eye for vintage decor. So how did this theme come about, I ask. ‘I’m fortunate enough to be very good mates with local designer and pro-draper Matt Sargent who helped with the design and decorating. He turned my daydreams into my wonderland! I wanted to create a room that looked like my nan’s living room, but was functional as a fun bar too. My nan never had beaten up furniture or paint peeling from the walls in her little bungalow, so you won’t get that sort of behaviour round Little Nan’s Bar! Most of the furniture is from my nan’s house and mates have donated other pieces that they have inherited from their grandparents’.

Since graduating with an MA in Fine Art from Goldsmiths in 2006, Tristan became a live music promoter in various south London venues, co-managing two of them for over four years, whilst involving himself in local festivals and the emerging New Cross & Deptford music scene. ‘In 2008 I found myself co-launching a fashion and arts boutique in New Cross which was a fun venture till its closure in 2010. During this time, I also worked brief stints as an events and branding consultant for various venues and a record label in south London. I then ran the Cavendish Arms – a comedy, burlesque & events venue in Stockwell – for three years till July 2013. I learned so much at the Cavendish Arms and I was sad to leave, but I’ve been raving in the Bunker Club for over 12 years, and running nights there for six, so it feels great to be back working in Deptford!’

So how did it come about? ‘Me and my mates were fed up with going to the same two pubs in the area and wanted a different bar where everyone was friendly and the bar staff weren’t “too cool for school”. I waited for years for someone to open something new, and then decided to do it myself! I wanted to create a bar where everyone feels at home. I didn’t want a fridge full of beers that only the elite know, or a cocktail menu with names of spirits you are too embarrassed to ask what they are. I think opening any business is a risk, but if you believe in your craft, and are willing to put every hour you have into it, then it can certainly pay off in the end! I have the added bonus of my little nan looking down on me! Love you Nan!’

Cocktails served in teacups. Obviously. Photo by Tristan Scutt

If visitors come for the spectacle, they stay for the cosy mix of soft furnishings and alcohol, and the cocktail menu (enclosed in vintage recipe books) is a real crowd pleaser. ‘Everyone’s a lord or lady at Little Nan’s! If it’s your birthday then we name a special bespoke cocktail after you. Most of our cocktails are named after members of the Royal Family, TV legends and celebs my nan adored. Someone the other day asked me if Anneka Rice was a lady like it says in the menu. I told her that she was a lady in my nan’s eyes, so yes she is!’ Tristan giggles with affection.

Is there a personal favourite? ‘I have a few, but most recently the Sexy Scottish Santa has been so popular with our guests that I have had to put it on the permanent menu! It includes Big Peat whiskey, fig jam, fig syrup, fresh lemon juice and zest, garnished with a big sprig of fresh rosemary. My new fave is one we have just launched on the new specials menu called Duke of Deptford. It has chilled gold tequila, watermelon liquor, agava syrup, Manderine Napoléon and fresh lime juice. It’s like an instant energy boost I tell you!’

It’s not all about the cocktails though. ‘It was also really important for me to have draft lager, to make it a place where a group of mates can come to and there will be something that each of them likes. A bar ain’t a bar without a pint right?’

Picture frames bought in Deptford make up the bar. Photo by Tristan Scutt

So, if the interior of the bar is anything to go by, I assume Tristan (like me) must be a lover of vintage furniture. I ask him if he ever goes to the flea market in Deptford, and worry I cause some offence as his response comes before I finish the question. ‘Do I go to the market?! I’m there when it opens! I have so much stuff from the market that I have to ban myself from going. Most of it goes in my flat though as I want people to actually fit into Little Nan’s. I think I am more into “extreme kitsch” than kitsch, and I hate minimal. Minimal is just so depressing! Alan at Abstracticus a few doors down from Little Nan’s is my main point of call. I’ve been shopping at his for years. I bought the large frames which frame the bar at Little Nan’s from him over eight years ago as I thought I would need them some day… That day came!’

‘We opened in February 2013, so almost a year! From living and working in the area I know the sense of community around here is so tight, and I feel honoured to be part of it.’

Little Nan’s first birthday party is on the 8th February, from midday till 11pm and will feature local baker Maya hosting her first pop-up market within the walkway to Little Nan’s during the daytime, and Deptford Does Disco at Bunker Club from 10pm–3am.

They also have their own theme tune! Listen and watch the video here.

Little Nan’s is open Thursday – Saturday, 5–11pm and the last Sunday of the month from 1–5pm for the tabletop market and cocktail cream tea afternoon. The bar is available for hire on the other days for events including birthdays, baby showers and photoshoots. 


Meet the Deptford-based Daisy Farris Dance Collective

Photo: Dan Gunning

Established in 2013, the company is formed of fresh and exciting dancers who physically bring to life the creative vision of choreographer, and artistic director, Daisy Farris who discusses their work here.

My Background
Originally from Kent, I completed my undergraduate dance training at Northern School of Contemporary Dance in Leeds. In 2012 I moved to south London to join Transitions Dance Company and complete an MA in Dance Performance at Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance. It was here that I met the dancers who now make up the Daisy Farris Dance Collective team. Since completing my MA and setting up the Collective, I have continued to be based in Deptford as I feel there is a buzzing arts scene in the local area. I am always looking for local venues and artists who are interested in supporting or working with Daisy Farris Dance Collective.

My Work
My choreographic work focuses on non-verbal communication of the moving body; how can our physicality express our suppressed thoughts, feelings and emotions? Through detailed movement research, I have developed a rich and expressive movement language that is the starting point for my work. I am also really interested in collaborating with artists from different mediums as it adds a new dimension to the creative process and the final work. I am especially interested to platform the work of other artists at the start of their career, like myself. This is something I hope to continue to investigate in 2014 by offering opportunities to young people in Deptford.

Photo: Daisy Farris

The Team
I have the pleasure of working with five talented and creatively generous dancers: Hannah Cameron, Glynn Egerton-Read, Holly Preece, Laura Heywood and Sarah Lee. For our current piece I have collaborated with musician and composer Portia Graves who is also based in South London. I have also collaborated with Anne Schol on the lighting design for our current piece.

The Future
In the future I wish to continue to create new work with Daisy Farris Dance Collective and meet a range of collaborators who will bring fresh ideas to my work. I hope to take Daisy Farris Dance Collective to festivals and platforms up and down the country as well as getting involved with the local community in Deptford. I am extremely interested in working with young artists in the community on new projects to get more people interested in contemporary dance and collaboration.

Photo: Dan Gunning

Current Projects/ Performances
My first piece with the collective is entitled Silence the song in them… and explores our human capacity to communicate and the occasional break down of this communication. Relationships are formed between the dancers on stage as well as between the dancers and the audience. These connections form and dissolve before us, without ever fully realizing themselves, leaving the audience questioning. The human nature of the work draws the viewer in and allows each individual to form his or her own connections with it.

Contrasting these human gestures and afflictions is a rich and undulating movement language, giving the piece a warped and animalistic edge. Each dancer embodies this physicality in their own personal way and the audience can see each individual living the experience of their physical journey.

Daisy Farris Dance Collective present Silence the song in them… on Friday 17th January as part of Resolution! 2014. Book tickets online or call 020 7121 1100.

For all the latest company news and information like their page on Facebook and follow them on Twitter @DFDcollective

Reflections on oranges, Lai Loi and Deptford


It is about this time every year, without fail, that a big crate of oranges would appear in my family home back in Singapore. The oranges in question would be glossy, plump, with a stalk of leaves attached to each. In a few weeks’ time Chinese New Year will descend upon the island, and everyone will busy themselves with visiting relatives and friends, swapping stories of their previous year, all the while peeling and sharing these oranges. It is the singularly most festive period of the year and an important time for large extended families to gather and celebrate the coming lunar year. This Chinese New Year is the third I will spend in London. But that does not mean that the traditions that I have grown to love and welcome will die over the immense geographical distance.

In fact, it has already started. On a cold wintery December morning back in 2013 I sat on the sidewalk outside Lai Loi on Deptford High Street with a crate of oranges, offering them to passers-by in exchange for stories, or just a smile and a bit of information about themselves. I told some people about the significance of Chinese New Year and oranges, and also learnt more about the people of Deptford along the way. Some people lingered long enough for me to explain that I was doing an art project about sharing stories and travelling.

The story starts a few weeks earlier when I received an email from the curator collective Something Human about the possibility of staging a performance art piece outside a Vietnamese grocery shop. Something Human is an organisation that I have gotten to know through a friend, and whose work bears striking similarity to some of my own concerns. Immediately the possibilities started to flow and I recognised the numerous parallels in my personal life and the location that was to be the backdrop of my work.

I am not exactly a stranger to Deptford, having lived down the road in New Cross in my first year in London. One of my favourite things to do on a sunny day would be to walk all the way down the road to the Deptford Market, losing myself in the crowds clutching a few pounds to spend on whatever I fancy. One day I found some old scrapbooks and another day an old Monopoly set that has provided us with a lot of joy and tears since acquiring it. My boyfriend once journeyed back from Birmingham just to cut his hair at Chaplin’s of London, and we still make time to eat at both Panda Panda and the The Big Red, despite no longer living in the area.

My return to Deptford started at the Vietnamese grocery store Lai Loi that has been operating in its current location for the past 17 years. Two generations of the family work there tirelessly, day in day out, stocking up on Asian grocery products ranging from fresh fruits and vegetables to spices to beverages to traditional outfits. I spent about an hour there on my first day, talking to the sisters who were running the store that day, looking around the corners of the shop. We quickly decided that the inside of the shop gets too crowded for me to stage my work, so we discussed the possibility of me sitting outside the store. The conversation kept drifting back to the shop and I was eager to find out more about its history as well as the way it is run and the types of customer it gets. I was captivated by how much it reminded me of the blurry edges of my memory.

In Singapore we have something called “mama shops”, little family run businesses taking up a laughably small space at the void decks of certain high-rise apartments. The stores were always badly lit, selling small things you never seem to need but to want – candy, crackers, drinks, cigarettes and magazines. Sometimes they sold games too. They always seemed to be on the verge of closing down but children swarmed to them during every available break from school. As part of a project I went around to some of the last mama shops that had survived into the late 00s. Shrouded in darkness on even the brightest summer days, the shops nonetheless attracted a steady stream of customers, cluttered and orderly in their disorderliness.

In the same way I immediately felt a sense of closeness with Lai Loi. I work part time at a large oriental supermarket and I have grown to enjoy the different conversations that I have with customers, as well as recommending options and recipes for them to try out. Food is inextricably linked to cultures, and to stories. When one thinks of the identity of a place, food often comes up as one of the first triggers. I talked to the sisters about this as well, and thought about how travellers to a place will sniff out eating spots, not just for nourishment on a long journey, but also as a part of discovering a culture. Some restaurants capitalise on this, with many eating places in London advertising themselves as a “journey for your taste buds”; armchair travelling for the hungry gourmet.


Art and south-east London are inextricably tied in my mind. It is where I live and create work and where I traverse time, finding hints of my past in the cracks on the pavement and the tilted traffic barriers. It’s always much easier to make the move across continents than to live for the next few years completely at ease.

I arrived the morning of 6th December 2013 with a suitcase and a hot water bottle, right as the stalls were being set up. Dropping by Deli X to meet Something Human, I found myself starving as I glanced at their menu and settled for a spinach lasagne. We had a bit of a laugh over how tired everyone was and then immediately jumped into the swing of things. I borrowed a chair for myself and put the oranges into the suitcase.

During my day in Deptford the weather kept changing, from sunny to cloudy. The temperature kept dipping lower and lower and people started to thin out, but most people had a smile for me. I asked most people, “Hi, would you like an orange for free?” Some people were out buying groceries with their children and most of the people I talked to lived in the area. One man stopped by for a long chat as we talked about the significance of oranges. In the past, he said, oranges were such a luxury that for Christmas Day he would run downstairs to turn his Christmas stocking inside out to find one single orange inside it, and his siblings would get one each as well.

Yu Sheng, a popular Chinese New Year tradition

We live in a time when fruits travel frequently across oceans to reach grocery stores in far-off shores, but it must not have always been so. Durians, a spiky, pungent tropical fruit native to Asia, can often be found in oriental grocery stores nowadays, a thought that must have seemed quite ridiculous at some point in time. Similarly, too, oranges were an exclusive export of Asia, and the tradition of putting an orange in Christmas stockings started in America when Japanese immigrants received the fruit from their families in their faraway homes. The practice became popular amongst the rest of the population and the arrival of oranges began to herald the beginning of the festive season.

The term “oranges” actually refers to a shocking number of different varieties of the fruit, which originated from South-East Asia. As all citrus trees are interfertile, they are a symbol to me of what happens to culture when travel and transport become more possible; there is a great intermingling leading to cultures changing, taking different forms, and even giving birth to subcultures. In Chinese society they are a symbol of good fortune, with the common practice of bringing a pair of oranges when visiting relatives during Chinese New Year. The peel of the orange can also be put in the fridge to absorb odours, or dried for medicinal purposes. It was evident to me from the one day that oranges are almost universally enjoyed, the one fruit that you rarely find people disliking.

When the stream of people thinned down, I talked to my new friends at the store. They generously refilled my hot water bottle periodically as I started to shiver, and would wander out to arrange some fruits and to chat. It was from them that I learnt that there is a big Vietnamese community in the area and that a lot of non-Asian people frequent the store because they, too, love Asian food. It is not surprising given how friendly and accommodating they are. I also learnt from our conversation that part of the perfect recipe of Lai Loi is how much all the siblings enjoy talking about the products they are selling and the food that they love.

I remember finding it funny that there were so many Asian takeouts in my area, selling strange dishes that I have never heard of in my time in Asia. We are sometimes too quick to dismiss the neon “Sweet and Sour Pork” or “Beef in Black Bean Sauce” as forgeries of the real cuisine back home, but I would like to imagine they reflect what happens when a culture migrates overseas. It becomes something else of its own right and, whether or not “Singapore fried rice” is actually Singaporean, it is equally loved.

Eventually the sun began to set and the temperate dipped too low for me to continue. A man hurried by and I gave him an orange. “Where are you off to?” I asked casually. He looked at me for a single second, seeming quite shocked that I had spoken. “I guess I’m just drifting. That’s all I do in life; drifting.” I don’t know if it was the cold that caught in my throat but I didn’t reply in that moment. I almost wanted to say I do the same myself, but I had a purpose in mind and a place to go. I make these plans to stop myself from drifting away, I suppose, because when you move away from home, you try and fashion every place into it. I felt quite at home on the sidewalk beside Lai Loi that evening as I packed up and chatted with them before I boarded the cab home. Deptford reminds me of home, because of its people, the crowds, the sincerity, the wetness of the market, the loud bawdiness and the moments of quiet serendipity, and mostly because all these exist within such a small place.

‘If on a Winter’s Day’ was a collaborative project between the newly-formed Deptford Society, Something Human, A.P.T. Gallery, the Deptford Lounge and this website (among others) to promote Deptford’s markets, independent shops and businesses. Click the button to subscribe to our mailing list:

Lai Loi is at 180 Deptford High Street and is open 8am–8pm Monday to Saturday and 10am–6pm on Sundays.

For more information about Megan’s work, visit

Maddy’s Fish Bar to open in New Cross, with a little crowd-funding help


I’ve arranged to meet up with Madeline, outside her newly-acquired fish shop which will become Maddy’s Fish Bar, at 397 New Cross Road. Arriving a bit early on a blustery winter morning, I pop next door to the London Particular to see if she’s arrived already and to also grab myself a coffee. It’s quite busy, so I wait by the door and keep my hands wrapped around the coffee cup to thaw out (whilst adding “gloves” to my shopping list).

Maddy arrives with her husband Kiyoshi and friend Kanji. We head next door, and as the guys open up, Maddy and I chat about her plans. I’ve already noticed that the old fish shop sign has been removed, revealing a lovely old wooden painted sign beneath. ‘We’re hoping to keep that, and see if we can fix our sign above it’ Maddy says ‘if not, then we’ll at least be able to cover it over again but leave it in tact’. Other plans for outside is to install the same kind of awning as at the London Particular, so that in winter if  next door is busier they can share the outside space and vice versa. ‘It’s going to be a very family-looking business between the two of us,’ Maddy adds, which makes sense as Becky who runs the LP is a partner in the new restaurant too.

Maddy and Becky

We settle down at the counter inside, as Kiyoshi and Kanji go through to the kitchen and start discussing refit plans. Maddy talks me through them too. ‘We’ll do little bits ourselves, but we have an amazing builder who’ll do the kitchen, and another friend  who makes bespoke wooden fittings, so we’re hoping to have really nice Danish wood on the floors and counters. We don’t want to match with next door, but there will be similar vibe of wooden fittings. Everything really has to be ripped out’.

As part of the refit, they’ve set up a Kickstarter page. ‘I think it was my husband who suggested it as a few of our friends have done it and we’ve seen how successful it is from just looking at the website’ Maddy explains. ‘And I think it’s quite a trendy thing, and people want to give something to it. We’ve had people from America and different countries – even if it’s just a few pounds. It’s definitely a good way to get exposure too’. Part of the appeal of Kickstarter projects is that the donations come with linked benefits. ‘We have all different kinds, from a VIP dining for you and three friends on the opening night, to having a cooking class with how to fillet and prepare a fish, and for £1,000 you receive a Gold Card which gets you unlimited fish and chips!’

‘Unlimited forever?!’ I exclaim. That could be a lot of fish and chips!

‘We wanted to do it for a lifetime, but Kickstarter wouldn’t let us,’ she laughs, ‘so we set the limit at three years.’ Still sounds like a good deal to me! ‘You can also have your own daily special for £150, which a few people have done. My little sister has signed up for that one!’

The crowd-funded money will be used for one specific purpose. ‘That’s specifically for the frying range. I’ve never been so into frying ranges in my life! The amount of gadgets you can get. Different timers, different…’ she cuts herself off, ‘well, I don’t want to bore you, but I suddenly find it so exciting! We’re aiming for a really amazing model with a filtration process to allow the oil to be cleaned throughout the day even during cooking and it’s highly energy efficient too.’

Talking about the frying range makes her eyes light up and her passion for the details in food preparation shows. She puts this down to her training. For her, it’s always been that way. Maddy studied three years at Westminster Kingsway College for a chef diploma and, once qualified, worked for the Caprice Group, whose restaurants include the Ivy. She worked for Scott’s, a fine dining fish restaurant in Mayfair and then at HIX restaurant in Soho, and also for the Tramshed in Shoreditch. It also explains the seasonal approach of the menu.

‘Each of those companies work with seasonality and with British produce,’ says Maddy. ‘The way I’ve been trained at college and in the different restaurants I’ve worked in, we’ve always focused on seasonality. So for me, it’s just practice. I’ve been trained to work within seasons. So if cod isn’t in season in January, it won’t be on the menu in January. Instead we want to showcase a fish of the month. I’m sure there will be some people who will think “oh, there’s no cod today so I’m not going to go,” but I hope people will be educated and openminded, because I think overfishing is a very serious issue and in the past we ate to seasons and it wasn’t a problem.’

That disconnect between the food we buy and where it comes from has been talked about for well over a decade now, with supermarkets and cheap food imports meaning people expect fresh produce to be available a throughout the year, and if they aren’t in the shop the perception is that it’s because they’re out of stock, not because it’s not in season. But if the issue is still as prevalent today, perhaps the reaction to it is becoming more recognised through TV chefs cooking within the seasons, and an increasing importance given to where food is sourced from in restaurants. That’s another thing which Maddy is obviously passionate about.

‘That’s the biggest thing that we want to push. The menu itself will be very small. It’s not going to have pies and kebab rolls. We’ll have two round fish that will be battered, and then we’d like to have a breaded flat fish that’s seasonal. A few sides that either stay or will be seasonal, and then a specials menu which will change. Tempura will definitely be on there and will change depending on what vegetables are seasonal.’


The menu sounds great, and a well thought-through take on the fish and chip shop, but my disappointment with other such “posh” fish and chips has been a frustrating substitution of mushy peas with a smudge of pea purée, offered more as presentation than to be eaten. But Maddy allays my fears. ‘We’re not going to do the traditional big peas. We’re going to instead do garden peas, with shallots and butter, and slightly blitz them but so they’re still coarse and then add mint. So hopefully more satisfying than a pea purée!’

Maddy is fairly new to the local area and confesses the main reason she comes to New Cross at the moment is to visit the London Particular. ‘I’m excited to explore more. I’m learning! I’ve visited Brockley Market, Deptford Market and the Allotment shop in New Cross. I think the London Particular and the Allotment, are the shops we need to regenerate the area. I think it’ll draw more income into the high streets and hopefully make the streets more attractive. The owners ideally wanted it to stay as a fish shop, just because that’s what it’s been for so many years (as the old sign shows).

‘But I was really excited, as going back to when I was 15 I worked at Billingsgate fish market, not actually in the market, but above it they do training courses. Half the day we taught people how to fillet fish, and the other half was spent teaching how to cook the fish you’d filleted. So I did that from 15 to 18 and through my summer holidays I used to work full time and travel to the different fish fairs from Cardiff to Cornwall. So when they said they wanted to keep it as a fish and chip shop, I was really excited.’

‘I know when you think “fish and chips” you may not think of necessarily a high establishment. We don’t want it to be pretentious in any way, but I think fish is such a delicious and delicate thing. I think you can make it so tasty so simply, and I’m not saying we’re the healthy option – we are still deep frying it!’

Maddy also says how they’re planning on having a white wine and a sparkling wine on tap. This seems a bit opulent to me at first, and I ask if she thinks there’s a conflict there with something which seems so excessive with the fact that there’s a food bank a few minutes’ walk away.

‘That was a main concern that I said to Kanji and Bex next door. I said I don’t want to do pretentious fish and chips when people can go to a chicken shop or could go to another fish and chip shop that’s half the price. I want to reasonably match the price. Because we’re using really fresh ingredients the price might be a little more but we can justify that by it being totally fresh and totally homemade, but I don’t want to be pretentious and the wine isn’t going to be expensive –  it’s really easy; you have a chilling system within it and a valve so it doesn’t go off – and I hope to make it as affordable as possible as a takeaway as well as a restaurant.’

She moves on to explain just how ‘totally homemade’ she hopes to be. ‘A lot of fish and chip shops don’t use homemade batter. To the point where when we were looking at the fish and chip fryer ranges, the companies have been trying to sell us their product of batters, and when I told them I’ll be making my own batter they were quite surprised that we were going to go to that extra trouble. But it’s so simple. And with the batter they sell, you still add water to it, so it’s about two seconds longer to make it yourself. And there will be different batters. We want to use fresh herbs, for flavour and to add something visually. Dill which complements fish, and maybe cayenne for extra flavour. But we also don’t want it to be so different that people can’t relate to it. We want to celebrate the traditional dishes. Already we’ve had such varied responses. From my dad, to other relatives, to friends saying “you’ve got to do your chips like this!” or “you have to have this on the menu!” people have a really big opinion on everything!’

‘Like me with the mushy peas!’ I exclaim, suddenly feeling a little guilty for adding another demand to her already unmanageable list.

‘Exactly! You want your curry sauce like this, or your mushy peas like that. Ketchup has to be on the table! So the pressure is on for me to hopefully accommodate everyone, but do it in a way that I view the meals. Maybe I’ll just have to change things when all the different people come in! They’ll just have to give me notice!’ she jokes.

As we finish up the interview, it occurs to me what she slipped into her last sentence. ‘So you’ll be serving curry sauce?’ I ask, slightly questioning whether I’m reading too much into that. ‘Yes’ Maddy replies brightly, ‘and I think we’ll be making it ourselves. We’re currently doing a lot of research on what it is that people like and where we can make it a bit different. A lot of curry sauces are just pre-packed. My husband is Japanese, and the Japanese style curry sauce is probably one of my favourite sauces so maybe we’ll have twists and influences.’

The fundraiser is ongoing until the end of January, watch the video for more background and donate here. Maddy’s Fish Bar is set to open in March after a two-month refurbishment. You can keep ahead with news on their Facebook page.