Tag Archives: Deptford

Paul Hendrich: 10 years on

I can’t believe it is ten years since we lost Paul Hendrich. Here I am posting: a remembrance of him I wrote for the CUCR magazine Street Signs in Autumn 2008, and below that a dedication I wrote for the book Pirate Strategies, edited by Adnan Hadzi, also published in 2008. 

From Street Signs

Paul Hendrich, from “#Megsmiles and the joy of living”, Go Feet

I first met Paul when I was an undergraduate student at Goldsmiths, in 1995, a time in Paul’s life characterised at his memorial event by his wife Sasha as ‘partying, partying, partying’. Over a May Bank Holiday weekend, I travelled down to Brighton to visit my old school friend Laura Shepherd, and found myself at a party at what turned out to be Paul’s flat. I don’t remember the party very clearly, but I vividly remember us lying the following morning on the uncomfortable pebble beach, talking about soul music and anarchism in the weak English spring sun, while a Brazilian percussionist busked nearby.

It would be a decade before I met him again. His talk at [the CUCR postgraduate conference] Failing Better, part of a wonderful session on pirates, struck an immediate cord with me. He got to know each other well when we were two of the five people who organised the Lewisham ’77 project, a walk, conference, concert and oral history project marking the thirtieth anniversary of the Battle of Lewisham. At one of our meetings at the Marquis of Granby pub, Paul mentioned Laura, our mutual friend, and the jigsaw piece of our earlier meeting in Brighton clicked into place. I remember telling my partner Vanessa about meeting Paul, and about instantly feeling certain that we would become friends, a rare experience in this age of emotional caution.

Paul was working with John Hutnyk and others on Migrating University, organised as part of the No Borders camp at Gatwick Airport in solidarity with migrants. The Lewisham ’77 commemorative walk became part of the ‘curriculum’ of Migrating University. Both Migrating University and Lewisham ’77, like Paul’s Town Hall Pirates project, were about exploding the border between the academy and various communities outside it. This border-crossing was not an empty radical gesture that scored easy points against the ivory tower in the name of a heroic proletarian “real world”
beyond its walls. For Paul, the first in his family to go to university, it was about opening up access for everyone
to the genuine knowledges housed in the academy, while refusing the feudal authority and aura of credentialised expertise that constitutes the academy’s social power.

This ethic of border-crossing resonated with Paul’s youth work with refugee young people in South London, and his ethnographic engagement on La Linea in Bisbee, Arizona. For Paul, these two parts of his life – day to day labour and academic theory – were clearly part of the same project. Something related that Paul brought into Lewisham ’77
was a rare spirit of openness. Oral history always reveals different, sometimes contradictory and occasionally incommensurate perspectives on the recent past, and this is especially so with political pasts, as old factional disputes throw their long shadow on the present and today’s battles are projected back in time. The anti-racist world is an exceptionally fractious one, and it was important that Lewisham ’77 recognised all of the contending histories. Paul’s generosity of spirit and disarmingly easy manner was vital in keeping the different parties on board.

The humanist Marxist historian EP Thompson wrote of rescuing the ordinary working people he wrote about
from the condescension of posterity. Paul’s work on the history of Deptford Town Hall, on the Battle of Lewisham and on present-day grassroots activists in Bisby was in this spirit. The stories he valued, to use a phrase of one of the Lewisham ’77 speakers, Martin Lux, were the footsoldiers’ stories, the stories of those normally consigned to the margins of history, not the stories of the leaders and celebrities. Paul was a footsoldier in this way; he derived no personal glory from his involvement in these projects, yet through them, and through the friendship with which he was so giving, he left the world a better place than he found it.

– Ben Gidley
A special edition of the on-line journal Anthropology Matters (tinyurl.com/55vchs) was dedicated to Paul’s memory, and includes an appreciation of him by his PhD supervisor Alpa Shah as well as Paul’s MA piece on Deptford Town Hall. Paul’s article “Over-Written in Stone” can be found in the Spring 2007 issue of Street Signs. The Deptford.TV book, Pirate Strategies (tinyurl.com/6af8ha), is dedicated to Paul’s memory. Appreciations to Paul also appear at the John Hutnyk’s weblo ((tinyurl.com/2nrvea) and Transpontine (tinyurl.com/5gdyzd).


From Pirate Strategies

This book is dedicated to Paul Hendrich, who died at the age of 36 in January 2008. Paul was a South London-based activist, youth worker, family man and scholar. He was doing an anthropology PhD at Goldsmiths, University of London, on cross-border activists on the frontier between the US and Mexico.

Paul’s interest in borders permeated his recent projects, and resonate with the Deptford.TV project. Like Deptford.TV, his work was about transgressing the border between academia and the “real world,” both in the local community of Deptford and New Cross and in the wider global public sphere. For example, he was one of the organisers of the Migrating University based at Goldsmiths in 2007. As part of the No Borders activist camp at Gatwick airport (campaigning for the freedom of movement across borders of the world’s citizens), the Migrating University brought a motley crew of activists and refugees into the space of the academy, opening up a very different model of pedagogy. (You can see footage of the Migrating University, including of Paul busily helping to make sure everything hung together, on the Deptford.TV archive.) A similar project in which Paul was a moving spirit in was Lewisham ’77, which commemorated the victory of local people and anti-racists over the fascist National Front in New Cross in 1977 – also documented by Deptford.TV as part of its commitment to recording the underground and alternative histories of the area.

Paul curated the Deptford Town Hall Pirates project, which similarly aimed to reconfigure the relationship between the university and its neighbourhood. The project focused on Deptford Town Hall on New Cross Road, transferred from Lewisham council to Goldsmiths as part of Deptford City Challenge on condition it retained community access. Paul’s project was about making this community access meaningful. It also commemorated the histories of slavery and colonialism that made Deptford what it is – histories inscribed in the area’s urban landscape in the form of the statues of imperial naval “heroes” on the façade of the Town Hall: four men who were involved in the trans-Atlantic slave trade.

By emphasising the way these men acted as pirates for British mercantile capitalism, and by seeking to creatively re-appropriate the enclosed space of the Town Hall, Paul staged the tension and ambivalence in the concept of piracy. On the one hand, there is the robbery which Marx named ‘primitive accumulation’: the plunder of goods from the commons which forms the foundation of capitalism. As Paul wrote: ‘it is remembered as only a footnote in most histories that in 1568 John Hawkins [one of the figures in the statues], accompanied by his young nephew and protégé Francis Drake [one of the figures in the statues] and bankrolled by Elizabeth I, was able to ‘obtain’ between 400—500 West Africans and sell them in the West Indies. Such were the profits from this arrangement that they were soon repeated with Deptford and its renowned shipyards producing many of the vessels that were used in this commerce.’

But on the other hand, there is the piracy which Deptford.TV celebrates: the capture of social value back from the robber barons of capitalism for the benefit of the commons. In this spirit, Paul started a Pirate Society at Goldsmiths, temporarily capturing The Island (the traffic island at New Cross Gate) as an autonomous pirate republic in 2006.

In Paul’s memory, long live the island!

Turning the Tide? Deptford regeneration event 25 April

This event is being organised by the Centre for Urban and Community Research (CUCR) as part of its twentieth anniversary, inaugurating a series of events that range from crime in urban Brazil to the global travel of flip-flops to the future of urban art.

3.30 – 5.30 Seminar: The changing face of “regeneration” in London
Short initial interventions by: Alison Rooke, Michael Keith, Heidi Seetzen, Rob Imrie, Luna Glucksberg
5.30 – 6.00 Screenings and sound intervention: Creative Responses to Urban Change in Deptford (food and drinks provided)
6.00 – 8.00 Workshop: 21 Years of Urban Regeneration in Deptford
Short provocations by: Ben Gidley, Jess Steele, Jessica Leech, Neil Transpontine, and Joe Montgomery
Followed by roundtable discussions:
– Creative Deptford: arts, culture and regeneration
– Housing and neighbourhood
– DIY Deptford: regeneration from below?
– Convoys Wharf: regeneration or land grab?
– The changing face of Deptford: migration, identity, diversity and generation

CUCR blog link | Hashtags: #ttt21 #cucr20 | Email to register: f.calafate AT gold.ac.uk

The following day, the Radical Housing Network’s Housing Weekender will be in Lewisham.

For Pete Pope

The past weekend marked a year since the passing of my friend Pete Pope, community activist, custodian of local memory, merry prankster, cyclist, leaflet distributor,  ale-quaffer, kind soul, and free man of the parish of Deptford. Pete was one of the first people I interviewed when I started out as a researcher at the Centre for Urban and Community Research at Goldsmiths, as part of the Creekside regeneration programme evaluation. I’ve spent hours interviewing him, most often in his regular haunt the Dog and Bell, where the half the interview below also took place. He was incredibly kind and generous with me, and I know he was to many others too. I miss him. 

Here are some edited extracts from the transcript of an interview with Pete which I conducted on the Pepys Foreshore and in the Dog and Bell on 16th March 2004 as part of Cacao’s Pepys Portrait Project, a life story/portrait project conceived by Simon Rowe and Francesca Sanlorenzo, from which the photo (by Simon) also comes.

Pete Pope, by Simon Rowe and Francesca Sanlorenzo

“I grew up down Surrey.  I grew up in Farnham in Surrey.  But I knew from an early age that the only way to get on in Farnham was to get out of Farnham, you know.  And the kind of social world is split into two camps, which became the stayers and the goers, as it turned out, so I sorted that one out very quickly.

I came to Deptford in ’82. Okay I’d been at Rose Bruford Drama College in Sidcup. I was living in Kilburn. I was living in private rented accommodation and the landlord just decided to double the rent.  “No way, no!” And because I had been to Rose Bruford, it had the kind of student grapevine basically. And through the grapevine I discovered that Pepys Estate, which at that time was a GLC estate, was officially classified as hard to let, and you just have to go to the GLC office down on the Old Kent Road and say crudely I want to get a flat and I’ll take Pepys, and you get “Oh yes, great fantastic, bless you”.  So that was it and at a fraction of the rent.

I had to have a low rise because, as much as I’m fascinated by the geography and love views, I’ve actually got no head for heights on a long-term basis.  If I was up at the top of a tower and I woke up one morning with a hangover and the wind was blowing, I’d just be walking over the ceiling howling, you know.  So I got myself a second floor flat and that was it: I’m stuck there. Continue reading

Secret Streets

Drawn map of Deptford High Street, London

The Secret History of Our Streets has been a fascinating and brilliantly made BBC documentary series on London and its recentish historical geography. It tracks particular streets mapped by Charles Booth in the 1880s, with streets in Deptford, Camberwell, Bermondsey, Shoreditch, Caledonian Road and Notting Hill. The links in the previous sentence are to illuminating blog posts about these by Laura Vaughan of UCL’s Bartlett School. There’s also an Open University webpage and booklet with the series.

It’s quite strange for me, as I know Deptford High Street so well, and have recently been researching (with my colleague Ole Jensen) both Bermondsey and the very street in Camberwell, Camberwell Grove, the programme looks at.

The programmes have had some flaws, in particular the constant but un-articulated presence of the politics of race and racism, and occasional lapses into the kind of golden age discourse of nostalgia, melancholy and resentment that drives white backlash culture.

Here are some of the key links on the Deptford programme, which was both excellent TV and the most flawed of the series, via BfB: “Ken’s responsethe Brockley Central discussion thread,the Crosswhatfields postthe Deptford Dame’s responseCaroline’s comments… Bill [Ellson]’s post on sexy fish and the Les Back/Dawn Lyons production it links to.” In addition, read Bill’s return to the question of fish;  the definitive account of Deptford, Jess Steele’s Turning the Tide; and  Deptford: Putting the Record Straight, produced by friends and family of Nicholas Taylor.

If you are interested in Booth, read the Occasional paper I wrote about him [.pdf] a decade ago.

Pete Pope

My friend Pete Pope, who died in May, has received some moving testimonies on the internet. Jess Steele has a lovely post, “Scattering Virtual Ashes“, which includes a narrative of some of the Deptford history that Pete was part of. Pete’s friend Bill Ellson had several posts, starting with the funeral notice including some wonderful photos; some more fantastic photos; another; a video of his send-off; and a photo narrative of the send-off. Transpontine has a nice short post, where I left a comment. Crosswhatfields has more great visuals.

Pepys Portrait Project

From Cacao’s tumblr:

Pepys Portrait Project London, 2004 - Present

Pepys Portrait Project

London, 2004 – Present

HIGH-RES 1/12/12 — 7:22pm SHORT URL: http://tmblr.co/ZihICxEfi7ug FILED UNDER: #Pepys Portrait Project

Pepys Portrait Project

Pepys Estate was built in 1965, a modernist high rise GLC estate, seen as one of the best housing estates in London. The estate symbolised the utopian dream of a better future for working people. Since then, the reputation of council housing has changed, and tower blocks are associated with social problems.

The population has become more diverse. As part of the regeneration of the estate, some blocks have been demolished and their residents rehoused; others have been sold to private developers for luxury homes.

Since 2004, Cacao has been documenting the lives of the people in the estate, revealing the different worlds behind their doors and windows. From photographs of residents and their homes, we have built a portrait of a changing estate. The project interweaves the images with their stories, a diary documenting an account of the social life of the estate over the four decades of its life. Through these images and voices, the residents express universal truths, hopes, dreams and fears.

In 2007 Simon Rowe continued the photographic exploration of the Estate as part of a personal project Local Authority. (www.simonrowe.co)

See also:

 ‘What’s so great about SE8’? Continue reading