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The Ragged School Blog Deptford

Friday, March 31, 2006

Blogging Lewisham and Britain

When anybody first starts using a search engine and is surprised at the millions of results a simple query can return, its not long before they start seeing if they can do the complete opposite and find something difficult and obscure, just to prove if you can find a needle in the worlds biggest ever haystack. After some success with sussing out search then you think "but if it has this, then why not this" ? Sometimes trawling through tens (or hundreds) of search results only makes sense if you perform the same searches repeatedly over a long time period, its then that trends become apparent. Trends such as broken, abandoned and disappearing web sites, or more positively perhaps, the gradual emergence of hubs or communities of interest and the growth of accurate and useful information. A trend in particular at the moment (not surprisingly) is local councillors getting a blog, because if they don't, they will be blogged about anyway, and in any competition which relies so heavily on reputation and active support, you simply couldn't afford not to have a blog now. I myself like discussions which transcend partisan politics to advocate useful ideas and make any idea open to analysis and improvement. So when I found this PDF (about 1.15 MB) about 'Civic Leadership Blogging' I was delighted at such a well thought out and presented exposition. As the wording inside the PDF file puts it:
The "“Civic Leadership Blogging Project," a UK Local e-Democracy effort led by NorthLincsNet of the North Lincolnshire Council, is a focused effort to look beyond blogging's current image and pilot ways it can be used for local civic leadership.
I really do recommend any serious bloggers to give it a flick even if they arent blogging for election purposes, and if your studying or teaching citizenship its very good material to cite. Meanwhile I welcome one of Lewishams newest blogs: Green Ladywell

Monday, March 27, 2006

Creative Commons edgital culture

On Friday as part of the deptford.tv series of launch events (which created a local context to explore the Creative Commons) there was a walk all over Deptford guided by Pete Pope and Ben Gidley. Starting at The Albany we went via Fordham park, past The Rubbish Fairy and Prangsta on New Cross Road and onto the Ben Pimlott building, the new purpose built facility for Goldsmiths. We were allowed to go onto the balcony and see the scribble sculpture close up. There was a terrific view of London, I especially relished the view of Olympia warehouse, a Victorian cast iron building at Convoys Wharf, which is mostly unknown to people in Deptford as the large site is enclosed by a 10ft wall. The beautiful shape of the twin roofs which covered the slipways is the hidden crown of Deptfords invisible history. Next we went to Bearspace cafe on Deptford high street, which is a calm oasis. At each stop we watched a short documentary built using the clips from the Deptford.tv video database. Participants were able to discuss architecture, film theory and technology in situ. Next we went to the Laban via the Thomas Archer masterpiece St.Pauls Church. Inside the Laban, we had a quick guided tour by a well meaning staff member who was blissfully unaware of the irony when she pointed out 'a feature' through the window saying "and you've got Deptford over there, which is an up and coming area."

After a visit to a participants home in Stowage, where the very personal story of how legacy film and video footage has been digitized into a legacy for local-social historians and The Creative Commons, we went to Deckspace inside the old Greenwich Borough Hall building for our last tea and cake, a nice sit down and a chat. In summary the walk was very much a clarion call for how culture at the edge (which I term edgital) is actually at the centre of whats really happening now. It was like looking into a crystal ball to see how digital technologies in combination with Free Software and Copyleft are transforming the social and historical landscape.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Old Ladywell Pool Fire

from London Fire Brigade :

Ladywell – fire in disused building
Eight fire engines and around forty firefighters were called to a blaze at disused swimming baths on Ladywell Road, Lewisham this afternoon. The fire destroyed approximately a third of the building.

The Brigade was called at 1601 and the fire was under control by 1832. Fire crews from Lewisham, Greenwich, Lee Green, Forest Hill and Downham fire stations attended the incident. The cause of the fire is under investigation.

picture from derelictlondon.com

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Telegraph Hill Festival

Banksy DeptfordOn Tuesday night I trekked to St.Catherines Church community centre opposite Askes in the first journey from home to 'school' in about 15 years. I walked via Brockley Station and was pleased to see the new Brockley Common is actually being built ! The reason for this foray was not to relive walking to school, though I was surprised at the amount of happy memories which came flooding back and stunned at the magnificent view of the city at night from Telegraph Hill. The purpose of my visit, to hear Neil Gordon-Orr from Transpontine give his talk about the musical history of New Cross and Deptford, which was a real treat. Afterwards I bought Neils 'Deptford Fun City' booklet which is a great read and valuable addition to my collection on local history. When the time came for comments, I was intrigued to hear that someone has apparently gone to that wall near the Laban and used an angle grinder to remove the girl wearing a divers helmet from the Blur series by Banksy. I'm yet to check but will pop past next time I'm nearby.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

East London Line

As I criss cross the web, following one link to the next, I occasionally see something that strikes a chord. I had planned myself to write an article detailing the manner in which Deptford is linked to Brick Lane by the umbilical cord that is the East London Line. This peculiar off shoot of London Underground in the peak hours terminates northbound at Pedley Street, Shoreditch which is so perfect for Brick Lane. I relish the prismatic culture of Brick Lane being the perfect backdrop for many Degree shows by art and graphic design students every summer at Free Range, Truman Brewery. Its also nice to walk via Brick Lane when visiting both The White Cube Gallery (Hoxton Square) and the Whitechapel Gallery (Aldgate East) in the same day. Sadly the Pedley street station will close to become another ghost station as it will eventually relocate in Shoreditch High Street near the Tea building. If you ever wondered whatever happened to that charming Revival Cafe (and gallery) which was an oasis on Deptford High Street, (a place I spent many an afternoon in 1997 when I studied multimedia at Lewisham College, Deptford Campus) well the gallery part, Hales Gallery moved to the Tea building. It was a great loss for Deptford. So when I saw this article I was happy to see the orange tube connection beautifully treated in lush reportage.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Common Knowledge ?

As the Remix Conference at Goldsmiths College fast approaches, a meeting which will celebrate the fruitful cooperation between various strata of grass roots activists, I thought I'd revisit the origin of this blog to explain to my readers a little bit more about my motivation. As a old Askean with multi generational roots in Bermondsey, Camberwell, Peckham, New Cross, Brockley, Blackheath, Downham, Catford and Forest Hill, I was raised on stories about local history of the last century. Instead of going to somewhere like Goldsmiths to study art (which I had considered), I ended up leaving Haberdashers Askes to study Interior Design (which included architecture) at London Guildhall, and then University of North London, which have since both merged together to form London Metropolitan. I was very fortunate to have tutors whose commitment to social responsibility in design led to my interest in urban regeneration. Interpreting local history as a natural resource like ecology, which needs to be understood and respected is still a highly controversial topic, but at least it is no longer being monopolized by single groups, although everyone has hijacked it at various points. Being a design and architecture geek I eagerly traversed Docklands during the time the LDDC was having a whale of a time with its special powers 'remixing history and landscapes' to create the beginnings of what would become Canary Wharf mega city. In my naivety I was blinded by the optimistic literature and shiny newness to the real stories about displacement, struggles and damage to industrial archeology. I didn't even know there was such a thing as industrial archeology ! I still cant get over the thought that the new Convoys Wharf development will build itself over the site of Deptford Naval Dockyard without a serious proactive plan to take intelligent stewardship of some of the worlds most prime archeology. Just preserving the visible fabric, and making 'historic features' of them is not the same as devising a scheme to access the archeology of the site and leverage it - as the asset it is for education and tourism. You only have to look at Surrey Quays to see what happens when you make a themed shopping mall, which they have since edited. But time marches on, and the Internet is with us now, millions connected by the speed of light. Perhaps I thought, one day the dots will be joined and new sophisticated partnerships will emerge between thinkers, do-ers and imagineers and so it is beginning. No longer is the university an ivory tower, no longer is local politics the preserve of an exclusive clique. But before we convert more libraries to an Idea Store, or get swamped by anything DoubleSpeakish, consider staying indoors, logging on and accessing the worlds largest library in your living room. Furthermore why not start a blog and make pages for that library ? When I started this, I had one key idea. Deptford was under represented on the web. There was paltry visibility of its sheer wealth of common cultural inheritance, finding basic stuff is (still) surprisingly difficult. When my friend Nick and myself first approached James Stevens of SPC about possibilities for a 'Hacklab' in Deptford he suggested I create a blog, an underwhelming idea at the time (as I expressed), but he was right, I apologise. The more I looked at the problem of local visibility on the web, the more I started to realise that I would have to blog. The idea for the Ragged School Blog was to have introduced team blogging for the users of the Ragged School building whilst we awaited its fate, to simply broadcast something - a 'presence' , and thereby create a small but informative case study of DIY digital hactivism however grundgy. Then to use that as a launchpad for connecting to other community groups who evidently needed plenty of encouragement to start using the web, not just surfing it. Well of course things never follow a neat linear path, but instead I met lots fabulous people. Then Goldsmiths built that new building with the scribble sculpture on top and the expansion of studying regeneration as sociology. That's when I knew things would take a different turn. Enter Liquid Culture and I breathed a sigh of relief.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Greenwich Planetarium and Disposable Heritage

With the sad closure of The London Planetarium in Baker Street, the moment is perfect for the brand new Time Galleries at the Royal Observatory Greenwich. This is the first phase of an ambitious new program which will in turn be followed by a new planetarium in 2007. If anything, Greenwich continues to teach the world how to turn the accidents of history into an ongoing asset - Deptford could certainly learn a thing or two. So continuing to honour the late Ragged School in Hales street with a slow protest at its abandonment by both The Shaftesbury Society and Lewisham Planning department as disposable heritage, I have been tracking down other Victorian and industrial buildings saved and converted for good use. I went last week to the old Ragged School in Newport Street, Vauxhall and spoke there to David, who helped explain its conversion to the magnificent Beaconsfield. This gallery is a tour de force in sensitive, low impact conversion, leaving a flexible interior to meet the demands of an ever changing exhibition program, whilst preserving its intact architectural legacy. The current commission entitled 'Greenwich Degree Zero' by Rod Dickinson and Tom McCarthy imagines what would have happened in 1894 if the French anarchist Martial Bourdin had not accidentally blown himself up in Greenwich Park, but had instead set alight the Observatory. A mesmeric black and white film with ghostly relish shows the flames afoot whilst a Victorian gentlemen with top hat looks on. At Beaconsfield, the upper gallery has various documents about February 15th 1894, telegrams, diagrams, accoutrements and the various reportage about the true historical event. The smaller space on the ground level has an historical appraisal of Victorian anarchism to help us get a context around how the event took place more than a century ago. The show continues to the 30th April.