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.

1 comment:

  1. What you lot think of this then? Its nearby and it has towers and they're about to start building it.