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.
“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