Wednesday 25 September 2013

London Open House

The Master Shipwright's House on Deptford's waterfront dates from 1513 and is a regular feature of London Open House. It is sandwiched between the Convoys Wharf site (formerly the King's Yard of which the building was a part) and Paynes & Borthwick Wharf (now a luxury housing development).

Along with plans, maps and photographs of Deptford Dockyard inside the house, there were other attractions in the garden – which overlooks the river – in order to celebrate the founding of the Royal Dockyard exactly 500 years ago.

Build The Lenox had a strong presence, and on Saturday had invited a re-enactment group from the Isle of Wight to come and fire their cannon and muskets and demonstrate their sword skills all day. The cannon could be heard next door at Convoys Wharf (which also had visitors - see below) and across the river.

The Lenox Project invited ship's carver Andy Peters to display his work inside the house. Some enthusiastic visitors kept him talking for a long time.

In celebration of the Quincentenary the Lenox team is selling T-shirts and tote bags to raise funds for their campaign.

In addition, they held a Press Conference on Saturday morning, featuring local actor Jim Conway playing Samuel Pepys, which resulted in BBC News coming down to film and, because of their interest, also a 10-minute spot on BBC London Radio early in the morning before the press conference. The conference was chaired by Ben Willbond and Larry Rickard, the actors from Horrible Histories. See the coverage here. The BBC News item went out on Monday morning and lunchtime, but is unfortunately not archived for viewing now on iPlayer.

Also on show in the garden was a model of John Evelyn's Sayes Court Garden, as part of a presentation by the Sayes Court Garden project.

Local artists Laura X Carlé, Sue Lawes and Hollie Paxton displayed artwork, Willi Richards showed a film about Deptford, and on Saturday evening, Up Projects held an art seminar to examine the part played by artists in regeneration, chaired by artist and educator Rebecca Beinart. That debate requires further discussion, since the Hutchison Whampoa application has a Cultural Strategy attached to it that feeds on Deptford's creative reputation that may not be able to survive the gentrification and high rents that may result from the developer's masterplan.

Meanwhile, next door on Convoys Wharf, developers Hutchison Whampoa also took part in London Open House on Saturday, and erected a marquee inside the historic Olympia Shed. There were a couple of additions to the display boards that were shown in their previous exhibition, and a new model, which showed much more of Deptford than the previous model, making the Convoys site appear much smaller. Spread out like this, the impact of the taller buildings and their surrounding masses was lessened. But not many were fooled.

The 48-storey tower at the front of the development was see-through, so that it almost disappeared in some views. The Olympia Shed was also dwarfed and hidden from many views. One display board invited visitors to suggest uses for the Olympia Shed (because the developers don't have any?). Some visitors were infuriated by the attitude of the developer's team, and returned to the Master Shipwright's House to show their support by purchasing Deptford 500 T-shirts from the Lenox team.

Also on Saturday, Henry VIII, who had been lurking in the gardens of the Master Shipwright's House, took a wander over to the Convoy's site, where he found the Deptford Anchor being stored in the Olympia building. This was Bill Ellson in costume, resuming his role from the local campaign of 2005, Convoys Opportunity, which had presented a viable alternative plan for the site (as a cruise liner terminal) when the previous owner, Rupert Murdoch, was attempting to get planning to build almost as many luxury flats as the present owners.

On Sunday at the House, a highlight was the appearance of the Deptford Dolphins, who took to the water off Watergate steps for a swim in the high tide. They were subsequently invited into the house to wash off the Thames water, and stopped to pose next to Laura X Carlé's giant cardboard anchor.

Abridged from an article on Deptford Is Forever – a new website created for Deptford X Visual Arts Festival 2013. The theme of this year's Deptford X is "Art Makes People Powerful" so Deptford Is Forever is campaigning to bring back the Deptford Anchor and Save the Royal Dockyard.

Thames Festival - 14th & 15th September 2013

Build The Lenox brought their restored cannon to the Blue Ribbon Village on Potter's Fields, as part of the Thames Festival this year. They had a great pitch next to Tower Bridge, but the weekend weather was less than clement.

One of the highlights of the festival was on Sunday when a choir of 600 children sang a repertoire of songs inspired by the maritime history of the Thames, composed and conducted by local Deptford resident and school teacher Jonathan Pix (a great supporter of the Lenox Project and the work of Deptford Is...).

Many children's imaginations were captured by the restored cannon and the cannonball, but most thought Lenox skipper, Julian Kingston – dressed as John Shish master shipwright – was a pirate!

David models the Lenox Project's new merchandise...Go to the Build The Lenox website to order yours!

The Great River Race, 7th September 2013

Build The Lenox took part in the Great River Race earlier in September. The team were not involved in the rowing race itself, but were invited to have a presence at the start and end of the race. The programme for the race had a large centre spread over six pages focusing on the history and future of Deptford Dockyard, with a special feature on the Lenox project.

We have extracted some points from the article by Sylvia Wicks here:
"There are three realistic options for the future of our Royal Docks: replacement with high-rise blocks of flats; preservation as a heritage visitor site linked with Greenwich; or the reinstatement as an interactive heritage visitor site and working boatyard.

"An application to build multiple high-rise blocks of luxury flats has been made to Lewisham Council. If it is approved, the docks will be lost forever. In future, Great River Race coxes might need to manage wind gusting between more tall buildings.

"Maritime Greenwich, a World Heritage Site, is downstream from the Race start....It is The Royal Docks that authenticate Greenwich's historical Maritime significance....

"World Heritage visitors are generally well educated, mostly well informed, and often well travelled...Visitors now want to see the real thing..."
She then goes on to make the case for the Lenox, and for the establishment of a Maritime Enterprise Zone. She makes the point that London needs a substantial, centrally located working boatyard, since only three remain in London.  
"It seems perverse to destroy a restorable, urgently needed dockyard in order to build blocks of flats on a flood plain....Reinstating the Royal Docks as an interactive Heritage attraction with a contemporary working boatyard would show visitors that the maritime facilities developed, and still available, at these Royal Docks over some 500 years, remain appropriate for use today."
To read such advocacy was a great boost to the Lenox team. Meanwhile, at the start of the race on Millwall slip, opposite Convoys Wharf, the Lenox skipper Julian Kingston was interviewed by various film crews in his guise as John Shish, the master shipwright. 

After the last rowers had left the starting point, the Lenox team joined the organisers, VIPs and a Dutch brass band aboard the committee boat which ran along side the rowers. 

Further up river the Lenox team had the opportunity to cheer on the rowers from Deptford's Ahoy Centre, who had several rowing teams taking part.

 A great reception for rowers at Richmond...

More pictures can be found on the Lenox website.

Previously, in August, the Lenox Project took part in the South Bank's Festival of Neighbourhood, as one of the local community groups invited to participate in My Deptford. They were also met with great interest and support at that event. Read more here.