The Deptford is Changing book launch was opened by the drumming performance of David Aylward, friend and local performance artist and musician, with whom I have worked on a number of occasions to highlight issues of uneven urban change. David was also part of the organisation of the event, for which I want to thank him very much. The effects of the aggressive housing and property market have become so bad and urgent that David, who until then only campaigned via non-verbal communication, felt compelled to give his first ever public speech after his performance. As he stood on stage with his signature orange outfit, he gave this powerful speech (see below):
My name is David. I am born and bred here in Deptford SE8. I am an artist, musician, performer. I use non-verbal communication as my means of expression. I am a community activist, an environmental campaigner and I’ve been a cultural ambassador all my adult life.
I think local, I act local, I am local. I’m a localist. I love living here in Deptford and I’m very passionate about the wellbeing of its people and the spirit of the place.
I was lucky enough to be born into social housing, so I can remain here at least whilst my tenancy is secure, which I don’t take for granted as my landlord is Lewisham Council. I have witnessed, since Deptford was seized by the London Borough of Lewisham in 1967, the systematic demolition of perfectly good council homes in the name of regeneration.
I am a founder member of Silo SE8, a musician’s collective that has made its home here in Deptford for over 30 years. We have been pushed from pillar to post, moved from warehouse space to warehouse space, following wave after wave of regeneration scams that have bombed us out of affordable creative spaces. We now find ourselves in Mechanics Path – oops! I mean Resolution Way, or should it be called Revolution Way. In a railway arch under Deptford Station we’re literally with our backs to the wall, fighting for our survival, due to the dodgy sell-off of thousands of railway arches by Network rail to Arch Co. AKA Blackstone – the world’s biggest landlord.
We have just received a rent review, and Arch Co. want to increase our rent by 100% making our existence totally unsustainable. The old adage comes to mind “Think global, act local” so we have now engaged in a David and Goliath scenario. We have joined arms and have become members of Guardian of the Arches, and are well on the way to becoming the biggest tenants association ever. As we become stronger in number, we intend to stop their plan for social cleansing and cultural extinction by organising ourselves collectively, to prevent being picked off arch by arch. This is yet another expression of open rebellion as we try to safeguard ourselves and keep on keepin’ on, adding to this rich mix of community and culture that we have here in Deptford.
Now Deptford is changing.
It’s always been changing.
Since the first Mesolithic hunter gatherer stopped here seasonally at the bum in the bend of the river Thames, now known as Deptford Beach, and on through the bronze and iron ages when burial mounds were erected on the high ground at Deptford Broadway. The Romans came and built high status posh villas with mosaic floors, probably the first wave of re-generation to be seen in the area; the Saxon village of Mereton (town in the marsh) was founded here, followed by Chaucer’s pilgrims on their way to Canterbury along Watling Street; the erection of Henry 8th Royal Dockyard and the first observation of a curry being made on the street outside the Kings Yard back in the Eighteenth century. Its also born witness to the rebellions of Watt Tyler, Jack Cade and the Cornish, and more recently the battle of Lewisham kicking out the National Front, and not forgetting the battle of Deptford – the campaign Save Tidemill / Save Reginald – a brutal eviction leaving a permanent scar on Deptford’s psyche.
And so we come full circle, we now have new hunter gathers in town in the name of social cleansing and gentrification. So watch your backs my friends, the developers and council’s broom is already beginning to sweep us all away. But Deptford is still the Deep-Ford and still water does run deep. So together let’s turn the tide of Deptford’s changing for the better. As it says on the T-shirt:
DEPTFORD IS FOR EVER.
All photographs by Petra Rainer.