The fact that ‘Deptford is Changing’ is not in dispute. Anita Strasser’s well researched and colourful book looks at today’s Deptford and the people who feel that they are not in control of their own destinies. The people who say that ‘this is not for us’ and feel that the social history, sense of community and cohesiveness of this super diverse part of London are not being recognised.
Deptford is known for being Henry VIII’s Royal Dockyard, the place where Russia’s Peter the Great came to learn shipbuilding and John Evelyn’s Sayes Court, his friend wood carver, Grinling Gibbons and Christopher Marlowe’s murder – he is buried in the historic St Nicholas’ Church in Deptford.
This maritime history led to a ship’s anchor being placed in Deptford High Street in 1988 becoming a famous and much loved symbolic landmark for many local Deptford residents. The book details to extraordinary lengths that campaigners had to go to get the anchor re-instated after Lewisham Council removed the landmark in 2013. Even when the Mayor of Lewisham had agreed to return the landmark a battle ensued with the resistance from the Executive Member at the time, Cllr Alan Smith being described as averse to it being installed in a position where it could actually be seen!
Interestingly, the book raises the prospect of a museum for Deptford and I can see with such a rich and varied history that this would be a very attractive proposition by the River Thames.
The influence of Goldsmith’s College is evident in the area. The Crossfields Estate is famed as the place where a radical arts and music scene that gained Deptford an almost legendary status in the 1970s and 80s. Local bands included Dire Straights, Squeeze, the Fabulous Poodles, The Realists, Electric Bluebirds and Mark Perry and his punk rock band Alternative TV. Members of the band Dire Straits lived on the estate and the band had its first gig in 1977 on the lawn behind Farrer House. A member of the group Squeeze also lived here. This is Deptford’s recent history as well.
Anita Strasser’s book has an admirable aim, to help work for and with Deptford’s diverse community – the very definition of a participatory democracy. It is well worth reading the incredible achievements of some wonderful South East Londoners.
Buy Deptford Is Changing here