Folks – it’s been a few days – sorry – ridiculous amounts on the Phantom plate just now. But I think it’s about time we started chewing on a few rumours that have been circulating and while I’m not panicking just yet, the ball should at least get rolling in our minds.
I’ve been hearing rumours at Phantom towers – slips and drips of information that I think you should know and we should discuss. This is going to be long post – sorry – but it all needs to come out and I won’t be able to rest until I’ve shared my fears.
Before I even get started on Greenwich Council’s rather strange new policies re. the arts I want to take you back – as I have done several times on this blog, to the late 1960s early 1970s when Greenwich was in turmoil. There was serious risk of a massive ring-road type motorway-thing being driven through the town centre as part of ‘modernisation’ plans, which would have seen off pretty much all of our historic town. However little we have left now, believe me there would have been less had the good burghers of Greenwich not fought tooth and claw against wholesale destruction.
At the same time other doughty Greenwichians (many of whom I am sure were the same guys we need to thank for saving the town centre…) were busy saving Greenwich Theatre. They held old time music halls, raffles, fund-raisers, dances – whatever – and didn’t just save the theatre they rebuilt it, then turned it into a performance space that attracted not just heavy-hitter actor and producers, but massive hitters.
We have the cuts of the 80s to thank for the loss of a West End class theatre in Greenwich, but despite a hiatus a few years ago when the place was temporarily closed, it has, so far managed to survive. The panto, as everyone who reads this blog will know, is a superb, but superb night out and the rest of the year there is a programme which while not always to my personal taste (though I do go, of course) continues to keep the theatre alive.
The Council are currently bigging-up as a good thing their plans to turn the beautiful Borough Hall (we’ll get onto that one in a minute) into a new-fangled ‘arts hub’. For this read ‘All Things to All Men and Nothing to Anyone.’ They’re planning to dump all their cash into one building and make all the arts groups work out of that. Believe me no one benefits from a multi-purpose space – it’s fit for no one.
My immediate thought on this was – what happens to the theatre? The one that the people of Greenwich built, not the council?
Currently we don’t know, but that’s where the rumours have been trickling my way, from various sources, none of them certain, but all of them worrying.
Apparently there’s been a consultation going on. I didn’t know about this, maybe it’s common knowledge, I’ve certainly been busy recently and things have been slipping by. Let’s assume I’ve been asleep.
The consultation has been thinking about what to do with Greenwich Theatre and a few possiblities have emerged.
OPTION ONE: To invest in both Borough Hall and Greenwich Theatre, work on the fabric of the building, improve front of house and generally make it all better. Of course this would be fantastic, but, call me a cynical Phantom but I’m not definitely counting on this one happening…
OPTION TWO: To sell both the Borough Hall and Greenwich Theatre on the open market and build a new-multi-purpose arts centre.
I will fight this tooth and boot. Both these assets belong to the people of Greenwich and it is not for an individual council to make a decision over a long-term asset. The Theatre, especially, would not exist but for the people of Greenwich. It is not theirs to sell.
I went to a class at GDA the other day and it was a pleasure – a superb floor, unencumbered by dents, nicks or spills because it is a dedicated dance space. Once a space starts to have to be ‘multipurpose’ it starts being not good for anything.
OPTION THREE: Sell Borough Hall and move GDA into a new dance space on the roof of Greenwich Theatre. The words ‘quart’ and ‘pint pot’ spring to mind. A ridiculous idea. The loss of such an asset is extremely short-termist.
OPTION FOUR: Sell Greenwich Theatre and move everything into Borough Hall. This seems to be what they’re planning to do – and trying, through Greenwich Time etc. to make it look like a good thing.
I repeat – if not actually, morally Greenwich Theatre is not the council’s to sell. It belongs to the people who saved it. We must not lose this facility.
I walked past the ‘Heart of East Greenwich’ the other day with a friend who was asking what would happen to the swimming pool at the Arches – I told her that we would be swapping two specialist swimming pools for one general pool with two shallow ends and no diving. We are actually going backwards with our sports facilities. We cannot allow this to happen with our arts too.
But the rumours continue – and not just rumours either. How about this planning application the council is applying to itself for? To add a Barratt-Homes-style extra storey on the top of Borough Hall? No drawings available (oddly… I’m sure they’d have asked anyone else applying for planning permission for a few elevations…) – but this is a beautiful late-art-deco building, balanced and fine. What the hell are they planning to do?
Worry, good citizens of Greenwich. Worry.
The Greenwich Phantom @ March 7, 2014
Phantom Anorak David’s eagle eye has wandered away from the fab Bakers signs across the High Road to the other side where a mysterious ‘GR’ is left.
Now, if it were down to me my first thought would be something King George-related, like the post boxes that have ‘GR’ on them. But David is more thorough than that. He tells me that Greenwich Wireworks were using the building in the 1920s, according to an old directory of his and reckons most of the lettering has gone when the bit of wall next to it was rebuilt.
Sounds highly plausible but maybe someone else has some suggestion of what GR means?
The Greenwich Phantom @ March 3, 2014
…is to move to Wembley. I hope that it will do really well – and stay there.
I never really worked out why I enjoy the London Marathon running through our streets and hated Run to the Beat with such a passion.
I suspect it was just that it always felt so ‘imposed’ – that a bunch of people who had nothing to do with Greenwich, no interest in it and no care for the disruption (streets closed off for hours, buses re-routed, locals effectively locked-in) and noise pollution came and took over our streets with officious officals and no actual gain for the local community.
I know it was for charity, good causes, and helped people get fit yada, yada, but it always felt – and acted like – a commercial enterprise that had somehow hijacked Greenwich to the point where people couldn’t even get anywhere on a bloomin’ bus.
I am glad to be rid of it and I don’t mind who knows it.
The Greenwich Phantom @ February 27, 2014
I notice Greenwich Visitor is leading with local artist Townly Cooke’s photo of Nelson in the back of a van (we talked about the pic a little while ago too. I’m not going to reinvent the wheel here – there’s interesting stuff in there – go and pick up a copy or read it online, but it’s all very fishy stuff.
Basically Greenwich Inc claim they can’t put the statue back because Greenwich Council have refused planning permission; Greenwich Council claim Greenwich Inc told them it had vanished without trace. It’s an odd thing to argue about – surely pretty easy for Greenwich Inc to prove if they chose to/actually can.
A pic that David shared with me last week does seem to imply that there was an attempted metal theft and I do remember seeing Nelson seriously on the squonk myself. (I took a snap too but recently lost a whole bunch of images when my computer decided to corrupt some random files and my incremental backup decided to backup the duff stuff, bah…)
It’s entirely possible he’s ended up as a block of bronze anyway. It’s just down to whose block of bronze.
This needs to come out in the thorough wash INC’s liquidator is giving the company. If INC had hoped that everyone would forget Greenwich’s ugliest statue they are clearly wrong – even Nelson’s absence is present. He’s just too big a historic figure.
I find myself in two minds about it. Anyone who has followed this blog for any amount of time will know I hated that statue from the moment it was erected. I had looked forward to a tribute to Britain’s greatest Naval hero being some way along the lines of Britain’s former greatest hero – General Wolfe, up on the hill. That chin takes some getting used to but Wolfe’s is at least an accurate-looking representation, given the paintings available and it captures something of the man’s ahem, thrust and charisma. I was utterly depressed at the reptilian monster unveiled outside the Traf Tavern and I don’t find Greenwich’s art scene the poorer for its loss.
What I do find the poorer is Greenwich itself. Just walking past places like the Spread Eagle, a Grade A. piece of Greenwich history, closed and dead, makes me want to see the administrator being as thorough as it can be.
Ultimately for Greenwich though, however thorough an investigation and however hard any discovered mismanagement is punished, is it will be a Phyrric victory. We have lost a little bit of our soul. a hole has been made in the side of the town’s ship I fear is impossible to plug. A hole made by a small chain that giant chains will be only too pleased to thrust their way into.
The Greenwich Phantom @ February 24, 2014
Yup, folks, we’re back on that rather wonderful faded Greenwich in Greenwich South Street/Prince of Orange Lane. If you recall, we first discussed this back in 2009 then the front of the old shop last week.
Well, Dave has been getting in touch with his inner anorak again and doing a bit of digging. He tells me:
Further to the faded ‘BAKER’ at the front of the building, if you look hard enough (although I don’t think you can make it out on the photo), you can just about make out a ‘..K_ELL’. A bit of detective work shows that the place was occupied by an Edward Blacknell, baker, in 1852, and a Mrs. Sarah Blacknell, baker, in 1860 and 1870. The address in those days was 3 Orange Place.
I confess I can’t actually see the ‘…K_ELL’ so I’ll try to pop to South Street this weekend to have a look.
Dave’s even found us an advert from the ‘Invicta Official Directory of Greenwich, etc, for 1893-4′
The Greenwich Phantom @ February 21, 2014
Okay, so this is the world’s worst image. I was actually taking a picture of The Crown, which I’m excited about, but managed to capture its next door neighbour too, which I’m even more excited about just now.
Apple & Orange have been a proper greengrocer’s shop up at Blackheath Standard forever, and always have a good range of fruit and veg. They’ve now branched out into a shop at Trafalgar Road and I am utterly delighted.
Of course it was a greengrocer’s before, but it always felt a bit…tentative. I wasn’t really sure what they sold; whether they were actually into fruit & veg or pet supplies.
No doubting Apple & Orange. Lots of good quality fresh and seasonal produce (the pears are particularly lovely just now) chirpy service and prices not too dissimilar to others – certainly no worse than supermarkets. They also sell a few odd deli items, though not enough to scare La Salumeria next door but two.
I don’t know – a proper deli, a proper pub and a proper fruit & veg store – perhaps Traf Road is going up in the world after all. Shame we lost the fishmongers, but hey – at last we’re beginning to get stores that aren’t bookies, estate agents and hairdressers and that can only be a good thing. It’s now up to us to use them so they thrive and we get more of the same…
The Greenwich Phantom @ February 13, 2014
I was baking with my significant other last weekend with some fresh yeast we’d brought over from Scandinavia. Does anyone know of anywhere in Greenwich where you might get fresh yeast over the counter? A bakery, a supermarket, somewhere where it doesn’t cost ridiculous money?
The Phantom replies:
Last time I made bread you were able to just go into a baker’s, ask nicely and they’d let you have some yeast for free. Of course, that was before the Ark, and your problem these days is actually finding a bakery where they make bread on the premises. Greggs obviously don’t, I don’t think Hursts do and Rhodes don’t. BUT they do bake all their bread (including for the branch in Notting Hill Gate I saw the other day…) in their factory in Lassell St – you might give them a call – I can’t see they would be so insecure in their empire that the odd Phantophile wanting to make the odd loaf of bread is going to topple them. They might sell it to you – on the other hand they might just let you have a bit…
The Greenwich Phantom @ February 12, 2014
Okay, so I’m a bit slow on the uptake – this was one of the things that arrived when I had my eye off the ball at the back end of last year. We’d already talked about a new, purpose built theatre for Greenwich but it took a step further when the plans were submitted in December.
It would seem that Telford Homes in seeking to deal with the thorny issue of their having to provide affordable stuff in their Creekside development have gone with affordable workspace and, in a possibly interesting move, the opportunity for Galleon Theatre to move into part of it. You can see the proposals here.
The main proposal is the third document down and it it does have the potential to be interesting, and I’d love Galleon to find a new theatre space after the disgraceful, deceitful behaviour of Bed & bars over their last home at Belushis.
One note of caution though. I see that in the ‘smaller print’ Galleon have a specific amount of time to raise the funds for the fit up and if they don’t manage to do that Telford will sell it off at proper market rates, slapping themselves on the back for having kept their side of the bargain and provided the opportunity for affordable stuff, it was just The Poor People who couldn’t stick to their side. So if this goes ahead, I hope Galleon have a strong campaign in place for fitting-out or we’ll all be in trouble.
I’m sort of surprised I haven’t heard anything about this as if I was part of Galleon I’d already be out with a provisional begging bowl.
But then I’ve been under a stone. Perhaps I’ve missed that too.
The Greenwich Phantom @ February 6, 2014
Back in 2009 we had a spendid Faded Greenwich down what’s left of Prince of Orange Lane, best viewed from the trains coming in from Maze Hill. Take a peek, it’s a goodun.
But we didn’t look at the front of the same building. David did – and discovered more evidence of Justice’s delicious (and long-gone) Pure Bread, Cakes and Pastries:
Sadly I still can’t find anything whatsoever about the business, but they were clearly proud to announce their presence, both to the occupants of passing trains and to the good burghers of Greenwich walking along the High Road.
This little block is also the home of the enigmatic ‘Cigar Warehouse’ that I’m always being asked – and have no clue – about. Sorry.
The Greenwich Phantom @ February 5, 2014
I’ve just been sent a link to a feature in Propel magazine that certainly makes it seem as though Greenwich Inc probably deserve to sit on the Inland Revenue’s naughty step. If you can’t click through to the link from this, go to www.propelinfonews.com, check the archives and search ‘Greenwich Inc’ – you’ll find the piece dated 31 Jan 2014.
Basically it would seem that, seeing the empire going down in flames, INC incorporated a number of new companies in Scotland to hand over the healthy businesses to (i.e. the pubs and restaurants not losing money) without any payment to Greenwich Inc. This meant that when the liquidator came in, he was only seeing the failing businesses, the others having been already hived off. Trouble was, this was done so close to the actual failure that it actually looks extremely dodgy and it’s all a bit of a mess.
When the liquidator looked at the figures Greenwich Inc owed HMRC £3,920,502 in VAT and £2,108,696 in PAYE. The staff had not been paid for their work in November – something they were, apparently, ‘not unaccustomed to.’ It doesn’t help that INC went for advice about the potential insolvency well over a year ago and despite the advice to call in the liquidator, continued to trade for over twelve months, which I’m told is an offence.
It’s all beginning to stink – and I don’t just mean the mouse droppings and raw sewage found in the sinks at the Trafalgar Tavern last March, for which the company was fined nearly £20,000.
The Greenwich Phantom @ February 3, 2014