The beginning of this month saw the return of the Jack in the Green, a revived English folk tradition stemming from the mid-17th century to celebrate May Day. The tradition was revived in Deptford in 1984 by Blackheath Morris and grew with the support of friends and local musicians, especially drummer and performance artist David Aylward (see image above, with David on the right). Every year on 1 May, there is a procession through Deptford led by The Fowlers Troop and the Jack – an animated bush, covered in greenery and a crown of flowers, evoking the spirit of Spring. The Jack’s attendants include David’s character Tired Tim, musicians, Morris dancers, milkmaids, chimney sweeps and the Oss (horse), who are joined by the local community with everyone welcome to take part in the procession.
This year the procession had a following of more than 400 people (my rough estimate), with people dipping in and out at various points, while others awaited the arrival of the Jack to pass by their homes, park or pub. It was a beautiful day of music, dance and supportive sociality. The Deptford Jack in the Green is a very local, grassroots and organic event, organised, kept alive and performed by local volunteers, folklore enthusiasts and musicians.
Only a few days after this year’s fantastic May Day procession, I received a message from David, informing me that the grassroots musicians organisation SILO SE8 to which David belongs is under threat. He told me the rent of their studio under the railway arches is being increased to levels the group cannot afford. They are facing potential displacement and extinction.
You may not recognise the name of this group or names of its musicians, except perhaps David Aylward, who has also featured on this blog many times. SILO SE8 do not really have a public profile. However, if you live or have lived locally and/or attended local music events and festivals, you are bound to have come across SILO SE8 musicians. They partake in organising, supporting and playing at local events and festivals, including Jack in the Green. They are thus a vital organisation that help keep the local music and performance scene alive. Losing this group would be a huge blow to Deptford.
They are asking for help: emails of support to evidence their importance to the cultural landscape and local community (for their landlord with the hope the rents won’t be increased), suggestions on how they might be able to fight this increase and/or suggestions of possible alternative affordable rehearsal spaces. Their email address is: email@example.com
Below is their plea. Please read it and help if you can. SILO SE8 will appreciate it very much.
SILO SE8 has been self-supporting for over 30 years and our members have performed for local venues and events but have seen no reason up to now to seek a public profile for the group as a whole.
We are not a label, we don’t specialise in a genre, we are just a group of disparate musicians who trust each other to share the rent and running of a rehearsal and storage space. No one is paid, all the work to keep it going has been voluntary. Over the years the membership has slowly changed as musicians have moved on and been replaced by new members, but the ethic has remained the same.
Unfortunately, our survival is under threat, our landlord is seeking to double our rent, so we are looking for help. We have legal advice but if someone could suggest how we could gain support for our cause, perhaps write a letter of support or point us toward an alternative secure tenancy in the Deptford area, please do.
As a group we have been so low lying that we easily qualify as a real grassroots organisation. We do not advertise; we are just known by word of mouth among networks of musicians. SILO SE8’s whole purpose is to share rent in order to make it affordable. Over time we have learnt that the maximum number of members who can share one space and give everyone enough rehearsal time in 7 days of 24 hours is about 27. Rehearsal time is obviously of the highest priority for musicians.
Having already reached this number of members, a doubling of rent by the landlord will mean a doubling of membership fee for each musician in SILO SE8. Plainly, some of us will not be able to afford this, not just the younger members but others who have to juggle their priorities, when UK music events and venues are suffering economically. This is why the rent increase, while not yet signed off, is looking like a fatal blow.
We need support to show our landlord that we really are a non-profit organisation worthy of a non-exploitative rental space among their tenancies.
Because of the nature of our membership, our community contributions have been an inevitable consequence. SILO SE8 Musicians have played in street bands celebrating the annual Deptford Jack in the Green and for the Deptford Anchor Campaign. We have also been involved in Fordham Park Festival, Lewisham People’s Day, Deptford X Arts Festival, Deptford Festival, Party in the Park, and Lewisham – London Borough of Culture 2022. People within SILO SE8 have organised benefit shows for Survivors Poetry, ALD Life, and supported the visit of the MS Stubnitz from Rostock Germany. SILO SE8 musicians have performed in all of these events.
On the one occasion that we did secure a small amount of grant funding, by dint of an extraordinary amount of work from one member in particular, we were able to network internationally and provide space for international acts to perform locally, with bands from Finland, Japan, France, Ukraine, Israel and other countries.
If you think ours is the sort of non-profit organisation that could do with some help, please share this news of our plight among your friends and social media and perhaps we can shake out letters of support to pass on to our landlords, or someone may have a secure space with a viable rent with 24-hour access we could move to.
If you would like to send a letter of support or have another helpful suggestion, please email: firstname.lastname@example.org
If you want to support and you are not sure what to say, something along these lines may suit:
“SILO SE8 is an essential part of the arts ecosystem in South East London. The demise of this non-profit, modest, self-organised association of musicians would have repercussions way beyond just its membership, which is why I’m writing in support. I would like to urge, whoever sets the rent to really consider whether they wish to support the local culture or damage it.”
It would really help if you could give your name and at least a postcode with your email.
Thank you from SILO SE8