Brixton Blog is an online community newspaper about everything happening in Brixton, London. We cover local news, music, food, events and history. We hope to inspire debate and enthusiasm about an area we are passionate about.
This year residents in Lambeth have been marking the seventieth anniversary of the arrival SS Empire Windrush. Many of the 500 Jamaican passengers on board the ship that arrived at Tilbury Docks on June 22, 1948, had travelled to Britain to help ease workforce shortages caused by World War II.
The journey made by those passengers would go on to have a profound effect on Britain. It would later lead to a wave of migration from the Caribbean and the Commonwealth, in the fifties, sixties, and seventies, that would transform British society.
One Jamaican-born South Londoner who considers himself part of the Windrush generation is Tony Smith, 71, from Croydon. Mr. Smith, an avid dominoes player who moved to England from Jamaica at the age of 17, served in the British army in the 1960s.
Mr. Smith is also part of a Croydon dominoes team who were victorious in a cross-borough competition hosted by Brixton Dominoes Club last month to mark the seventieth anniversary of Windrush.
Brixton Bugle caught up with Mr. Smith at Windrush Square. Here he reflects on his love of dominoes, his early years in Britain and the plight of his friends whose lives have been affected by the Government’s hostile environment policy.
Tony Smith, Croydon Dominoes Club member. (Photo: Sandra Brobbey for Brixton Blog)
“Dominoes games are social events. We West Indians play a lot of dominoes. It keeps us together. We travel all over the world and play. I have been playing for sixty-odd years.
“I’m a product of Windrush. I have been in Britain since the early sixties (1964). I have been in this country for a long time and I have always lived in Croydon.
“When I first came here it was very hard for me personally. I joined the British army in 1966 and there were not many black people in the army back then.
“I went to Aden (a port city in Yemen) and I was fighting against black people. I was with the Fusiliers and I remember walking the down street one day and someone shouting, “you black b***ard” at me. It affected me personally.
“All the Windrush people who came here are English. I have been here since I was a young man. I don’t remember much about my life in Jamaica.
“At the moment I’m personally going through the same process as other Windrush migrants trying to get a passport and citizenship.
“The treatment of the Windrush generation with this hostile environment policy has been horrible. I have friends who have for the past five years struggled to get a place to live and they can’t get benefits.
“They have been to school here, they have worked here and now they have nothing. I just can’t understand that and I know many people facing this problem.
“I’m glad there has been a celebration of Windrush and it’s good there will be one every year. It’s good to see people being celebrated.”
Brixton Ballers are aiming for another top-three finish as they prepare for a new season in the Third Division South of the National Wheelchair Basketball League.
The team, who play at the Brixton Rec, won eight games and accrued 22 points, enough to earn them third place in 2017-18, one position higher compared to their previous season.
The Ballers’ last game was a 56-25 away loss to the Sussex Bears who finished the season top of the table. Assistant coach Percy Hutchful hailed his squad and expects the team to consolidate their efforts by pushing for another place in the division’s top three next season.
Hutchful said: “Coming third last season was a great achievement for us because we came up against some seasoned professionals.
“Being a young team it taught us a lot. There were games where we lost by a point or two, which could have made the difference in terms of where we finished.
“We really took this on as a learning curve and I’m proud of what they have delivered. I think next season is going to be really big.
“We have a player who is 15 and in his first season with us, he scored two points. Last season he scored 100. That shows there is development and growth within this team.”
Kyle Alexander, Brixton Ballers player (Photo: Sandra Brobbey for Brixton Blog)
The Ballers have been boosted by the addition of three new players and the return from injury of Kyle Alexander, 17, a squad member who represented England in the Powerchair Football World Cup earlier this year.
“I had scoliosis on my back to a severe degree and it meant I was out for a whole season,” said Kyle. “There was a lot of pain as it was in the nerve endings of my back. I had to get used to a new shape and a new feeling.
“To build myself back up there’s been a lot of physio, a lot of time spent in the swimming pool, a lot of early mornings and a lot of pushing to try and get back to full fitness.
“The biggest challenge I have faced as a player is coming back from injury, as it was definitely a lot more mentally demanding than I thought it would be in comparison to the actual pain I felt after surgery. However, once you get back there is no better feeling.
“Now I’m back I’m just raring to go, I’m excited. It feels great to be back with my teammates. I feel like I have missed out on a lot but, I feel there is a lot of time to make up for it.”
A COACH of a football project founded on a Brixton council estate has become the new joint manager of Tooting and Mitcham. Ashley Bosah, 31, who coached at the St Matthew’s Project for a decade, will oversee Dulwich Hamlet’s old rivals when they begin next season in the Bostik One South division.
Bosah, who has been involved with the South London side for eight years, was hired to take on the role following the departure of Frank Field, the club’s former manager. Field and the club, who currently share their home ground with Dulwich Hamlet, decided to part ways in May this year following their relegation from the Bostik Premier division.
Bosah’s appointment as manager, alongside Cornelius Nwadialor, coincides with the Terrors’ decision to introduce a new football philosophy at the club. Their new approach will be based on fast-passing team play and youth development system Bosah and Nwadialor have helped to embed.
Speaking to Brixton Blog about his new role and the club’s relegation Bosah, said: “It’s a great pleasure to lead the first team and have the capacity to lead the younger teams. The senior team we will be managing next season are fairly young. The average age is 20 to 24. We have five or six players who are 26 to 30, but the majority of our team aged under-25.
“Some of these boys have their dreams and ambitions, so it’s good to be in a position to help get them through the club and give them opportunities at a higher level.
“It was a massive disappointment to get relegated last season, but that was the situation we found ourselves in. I feel we just didn’t have the quality to maintain our league standing.
“As a team, we weren’t scoring enough goals. If you are not scoring enough goals in the league it doesn’t really bode well for you. We had a chance all the way up until the last game to win. If we have had won that last game then we would have remained in the league.
“Right now it’s a rebuilding process for us and seeing if we can achieve the successes we had previously so we can get ourselves back up into that level of football again. We want to push ourselves and challenge for a play-off position, but we have to take things game by game.”
Ashley Bosah – Tooting and Mitcham joint manager and former coach at St Matthew’s Project (Photo: Sandra Brobbey for Brixton Blog)
Bosah, whose side will face Northwood away in their first game in the Bostik One South division in August, has bolstered Tooting’s attacking options with some new faces and some old ones. The manager, who shared details of the club’s new player additions exclusively with Brixton Blog, welcomed the purchase of Omari-Delgado from Greenwich Borough and the return of former Terrors striker Billy Gunn.
“We approached some quite experienced forwards who have played at this level,” Bosah added. “One of them is Omari Delgado who has been in and around Bostik South clubs such as Corinthian Casuals and Greenwich Borough. These are clubs that have played at this level and were at the top end of this league.
“We’ll also be drawing on the experience of Billy Gunn who was here previously and scored 30 plus goals. Both have been training with us in the pre-season and we are drawing on their expertise.”
Bosah, who helped build community links between Tooting and Mitcham and St Matthew’s, alongside the project’s founder Lee Dema, had initially been overseeing the South London side’s football academy. The grassroots partnership between the Brixton-based project and the club has led to five of St Matthew’s former members joining Tooting’s youth teams over the past two years. This includes midfielder Dominic Morgan-Griffiths.
Morgan-Griffiths, 19, who is now a member of the club’s senior team said: “I feel good about being here and being a part of Tooting and Mitcham. My hope is they can push me so I can make it as a pro. I feel the club is the right environment for me to pursue my dream.”
Club Secretary Jackie Watkins praised the links between St Matthew’s and the club and the ‘safe space’ for young players the partnership has helped to create.
Ms. Watkins said: “At Tooting and Mitcham we consider ourselves very, very lucky because we have Lee (Dema) coaching some fantastic players who we poach and bring into our first team and we also have Ashley.
“When Ashley came from St Matthew’s it was difficult for him to initially leave them because he was volunteering there, but he came and everybody here at the club is proud of his progression.
“Together with St Matthew’s we work to offer a safe space for young players. Our mantra is it takes more than just good feet to be a footballer, and it takes more than a coach to make a good footballer.”
Bosah added: “The club’s chairman and secretary are committed to our vision for the team and what we are trying to do behind the scenes. They want to see a pipeline of players come through from our academy.”
Workers there have been campaigning for years to be paid the London Living Wage and for other employment rights. In recent years they have been joined by workers at other London cinemas in the chain.
The application to vary the planning conditions, spotted by the Norwood Action Group, seeks to vary the planning permission granted just over two years ago to give Picturehouse and its architects longer to obtain a “BREEAM” certificate.
BREEAM (Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method) is the world’s longest established method of assessing, rating, and certifying the sustainability of buildings.
The original planning permission made occupation of the building conditional on it having a BREEAM rating of at least “very good”.
Picturehouse now want this condition to apply up to six months after occupation.
“This indicates that work and consequently certification is behind schedule,” said the Norwood Action Group (NAG).
It said the application “puts Lambeth planners in a cleft stick”.
What would happen if the change was agreed, but certification was not achieved within six months? asked NAG.
Would Lambeth council be forced to take the blame for closing its own library and a cinema recently opened in an area previously lacking one?
Either way, said NAG, it looked unlikely that the latest estimate for opening – “late summer” – would be achieved.
“Will Picturehouse ever come down from its lofty corporate approach to public relations?” asked NAG.
It made nonsense of its wish to be integrated with the community that would provide its future cash flow.
Sacked union reps (l-r)Tom McKain, Marc Cowan and Natalie Parsons outside the Ritzy in Brixton
London Living Wage
The eventual opening will pose another problem for Lambeth council. It is proud of its record of paying its staff at least the London Living Wage and successfully encouraging its contractors to do the same.
It has contributed more than £3 million to the estimated total cost of about £6 million for the new cinema/library and in December 2014 said it had “negotiated with Picturehouse that, in line with council policy, staff employed by the Picturehouse for the West Norwood cinema would be paid the equivalent of London Living Wage”.
Picturehouse, part of the massive international corporation Cineworld, has been obdurate in its refusal to pay the London Living Wage and, until it was increased to £10.20 an hour last November, had argued that its workers were receiving something equivalent to it when breaks and other matters were added to its calculations of what it paid staff.
Bad publicity and high-profile support for a campaign to boycott Picturehouse cinemas, which the Blog supports, may have influenced the neighbouring Lewisham council when it chose Curzon cinemas, rather than Picturehouse, to run a new cinema in Ladywell. Curzon does pay the London Living Wage.
It’s not only football and the weather that has heated up in recent weeks, but political protest too. 50,000 marched for the NHS last month and today (13 July) thousands more will bring central London to a standstill to mark their opposition to US President Donald Trump.
Many musicians are among those who abhor his policies, misogyny and racism. From the stages of last year’s magnificent women’s marches artists including Madonna, Alicia Keys, Lilly Allen, Janelle Monáe and Sleater-Kinney delivered performances and speeches, while improvised chants and songs reverberated on the streets.
In both Washington and London thousands hollered “Small hands, small feet; All he does is tweet, tweet, tweet” while in New York church bells rang out Woody Guthrie’s This Land Is Your Land and Lady Gaga’s Bad Romanc’
The President’s policies have been lambasted by Bruce Springsteen, Rihanna, Childish Gambino, Arcade Fire, Questlove, Deadmau5, Bat for Lashes, John Legend, Queens Of The Stone Age, Eminem, Grimes, Sia and many others.
These musicians join a proud tradition. Woody Guthrie was the first artist to challenge a chump called Trump. In 1950, on moving to a Coney Island apartment block, he was dismayed by the racist policies of his landlord Fred C. Trump – Donald’s dad. Woody penned the following poem:
Old Man Trump knows
Just how much
he stirred up
In the bloodpot of human hearts
When he drawed
That color line
Here at his
Eighteen hundred family project
In recent years Londoners Captain SKA have provided just the right remix for every political occasion. They recently released a song in solidarity with the Windrush generation and at the last election their tune Liar Liar denouncing Theresa May reached number 4 in the charts.
A new version targeting Trump has been recorded in time for his visit. Brixtonians can catch a live performance when the band bring their protest party to the Hootananny.
I asked bandleader Jake Painter what he hoped to achieve with the song.
“Liar Liar has taken on a life of its own. I’ve had over 2,000 messages asking me to do a Trump version, but it was only when I read a fact-check report by the Washington Post listing over 3,200 lies that Trump has publicly told that I decided to do it.
“I think it’s really important for music to get these points across. Liar Liar is a simple song that a two-year-old could sing.
“There’s been a lot of really good music written about Trump, but it tends to be a little bit more subtle.
“I just thought: this is the biggest liar the world has seen in a long time, so the song couldn’t be more appropriate.”
Join the Together Against Trump rally in Trafalgar Square at 5pm on Friday 13 July and Captain SKA’s protest party at the Hootananny on Friday 20 July.
Dave Randall is a musician and author of Sound System: The Political Power of Music.
Sacked union reps (l-r) Tom McKain, Marc Cowan and Natalie Parsons outside the Ritzy in Brixton
Union representatives at Brixton’s Ritzy Cinema were unfairly dismissed, an employment tribunal has ruled.
Workers at the Ritzy have been campaigning over several years to be paid the London Living Wage and for other employment rights. Its owners, the Picturehouse chain, part of the international Cineworld conglomerate, has steadfastly refused to budge or negotiate.
The finding of unfair dismissal applies to two of three Ritzy workers who took their case to the tribunal. The third had been employed for less than two years, was barred from taking a case by current employment law.
The three members of the tribunal agreed unanimously that the sackings had been unfair but, by a majority, decided that they were not automatically unfair due to victimisation for trade union activity.
Gerry Morrissey, head of the Ritzy workers’ trade union BECTU, said: “The judgement is clear that Picturehouse management showed a lack of neutrality and assumed the guilt of our representatives.
“We are very disappointed, however, by the tribunal’s finding that our representatives’ trade union activity was not central to Picturehouse’s decision to dismiss.
“We find this hard to accept given the leading role which Ritzy representatives have played in our long-running dispute with the company. We believe that the company took advantage of the circumstances to dismiss BECTU activists.”
The sackings were ostensibly over an email in which the representatives said: “we are also going to have to start pushing cyber-pickets”. This is a potentially unlawful activity.
Six Ritzy representatives were investigated by Picturehouse in a process which led to three sackings in June 2017. A fourth representative was dismissed later and a further tribunal hearing in this case is pending.
The decision in the case of the two unfairly dismissed workers says that notes of the disciplinary meetings “show a lack of neutrality at the investigation and disciplinary stages”.
There was an assumption of guilt and during the disciplinary a Picturehouse regional manager stated that the onus was on the accused workers to prove, in effect, their innocence.
The decision also says: “There was a failure … at all stages of the process for the respondent [Picturehouse] to properly engage with the nature of the claimants’ defence. Further, we conclude that the penalties applied to both claimants were outside the band of reasonable responses.” The tribunal panel concluded: “Accordingly, in a number of respects the dismissals were unfair.”
A Ritzy workers’ representative said: “If anyone should be fired for dishonesty it is Picturehouse and Cineworld bosses.
“It’s now proven by the tribunal that they were biased from the beginning. Since the sackings last year many striking sites have been chronically understaffed which puts huge strain on remaining staff members.”
Support for workers at the Ritzy Cinema and at Picturehouses in East Dulwich, Crouch End, Central London and Hackney continues to grow.
Lambeth council has worked with Picturehouse to build a new cinema at the Nettlefold Hall former library site in West Norwood, contributing at least £3.4 million towards an estimated total cost of about £6 million. In December 2014 it said it had “negotiated with Picturehouse that, in line with council policy, staff employed by the Picturehouse for the West Norwood cinema would be paid the equivalent of London Living Wage.”
Herne Hill Velodrome, host of the 1948 Olympics, was more recently the venue for the “World Cycling Revival” – a fun-filled weekend celebrating 200 years of cycling. Organisers hope the event will become an annual fixture. The sun was out for a weekend (4-16 June) of bike racing and entertainment with live jazz bands and dancing from Swing Patrol.
Pro-riders and amateurs went head to head racing special edition David Millar CHPT3 Brompton folding bikes. A Le Mans style start saw riders run to their bikes and unfold them before joining the track. After three hotly contested races 25-year-old local Alec Briggs (below centre) won the final and took home an (oversized) cheque for £10,048 presented by ex-pro David Millar and Brompton founder Andrew Richie. Alec has been riding at Herne Hill since he was 8 years old but had never ridden a Brompton until a couple of days before.
Round-the-world-record cyclist Mark Beaumont rode a penny farthing 21.92 miles in an hour to beat the 127-year-old British record (Set at Herne Hill). He was agonisingly close to breaking the world record as well – coming up just 290 yards short.
Local riders put in a strong performance against a multi-national field in track racing over the weekend. VC Londres (home club of the velodrome) rider Oscar Nilsson-Julien won both the Golden Wheel scratch as well as taking first in the Men’s Introduction races on the Friday.
The Marymoor Crawl has riders “trackstand” for up to 4 minutes before the bell rings signalling a single lap sprint to the finish line – VC Londres Christine Robson took first place.
Keirin racing is where riders are paced up to speed by a motor driven ‘Derny’ bike before the racing starts. Germain Bruton of De Ver Cycles won Fridays’ Keirin racing and took first place in Saturday’s Derny race.
“Reverse win and out” has the winner of the first lap taking fifth place and dropping out of the race with the fifth lap winner taking first place. Brixton Cycle Club’s Niki Kovacs won Thursday’s womens and VCL’s Philip Glowinski won the Men’s race.
Off the track there were cycle polo matches, a museum of cycling and some entertaining interviews hosted by sports journalist and presenter Ned Boulting.
Greatly helped by the weather it was a successful first year for what the organisers are hoping to make an annual event.
Local Labour party activists are organising an educational event in Brixton to explore Home Office policies in the light of what has been happening to the Windrush Generation and the creation of a “hostile environment” over the last decade.
The organisers are all migrants to the UK and, they say, “the outcome of the policies has resonated with us deeply”.
Th free event is scheduled to take place from 7 to 10pm on Thursday 19 July at the Brixton Community Base in Talma Road (SW2 1AS).
It is organised by Streatham Labour party activists under the umbrella of Brixton Hill Labour party ward.
Panelists will include:
Professor Gus John, director of All Africa-Advisors and a former director of education for Hackney
The event is dedicated to the memory of Nechamah Bonanos, who died suddenly last month while she was a member of the event working group. Born in a Kibbutz in Israel, she was a lifelong campaigner for justice, and spent time volunteering in immigration detention centres.
The Portuguese community of Brixton and wider South London features in a film exploring immigrant experiences and national identity in London through the lens of the World Cup.
Made by AlleyCat Films based in South London, the film features several London communities watching their teams in places from bars to barbershops.
Portugal fans watch their team
The new owners of Brixton Village will again set up a giant screen in Granville Court on Coldharbour Lane to allow fans to watch tomorrow’s England v Croatia semi-final.
“Fans wanting to see the matches on the screen should arrive early to get a good view and to sample the excellent food and drink options in the surrounding area,” says Hondo Enterprises CEO Taylor McWilliams.
Filmmakers aged between 16 and 19 are being offered the chance to pitch for funding and support to make a “microshort” film with a mobile phone.
Four winning films will be screened in December this year at the London headquarters of BAFTA – the British Film and Television Awards – as part of the annual TriForce short film festival.
Four teams of two will be selected to take part in a mobile phone filming workshop and will get £250 to complete their projects.
They will also be offered expert help from film education charity INTO Film and the TriForce Creative Network that aims to open doors to the film industry to people from all walks of life and to provide a way for the industry to discover diverse talent.
Paul Reeve, CEO of INTO Film, said: “We’re very excited to be working with TriForce short film festival on this project. It gives us a great opportunity to engage with more young filmmaking talent and support them to get their ideas made and then screened at BAFTA”.
Minnie Ayres, creative director of TriForce said: “We’re all about increasing access and inclusion in the film and TV industry and INTO Film work with a huge range of children and young people across the UK, getting them into film at an early age.
“We want the young people taking part in the competition to realise that working in the film industry is possible, no matter where you come from.”
Budding filmmakers will be asked to write one page of A4 outlining their idea for a microshort (two to five minutes) film.
The micro pitch competition is open for submissions until 27 July.