Archive for March, 2012


Saturday, March 31st, 2012

Marc and I are wondering what this view of the ORNC, kitted out with giant tarpaulin to look like a square, is for. We’re assuming a new film location – but what? Any ideas?

Pier Appearing

Friday, March 30th, 2012

Today, a little photographic wander around the pier area that Jeremy took with his camera-phone. It’s not going to look like this for much longer as there’s a race on to get it all finished; I’m guessing for the Marathon, which will be the first of a number of high-profile centre-stages this area’s going to take this year. I still don’t know whether or not runners will actually be going round the Cutty Sark (I wish them luck if it’s raining – anyone else foundthat new paving a bit on the slippy side in rain?) but even if they’re not it will be hard to keep the cameras away if it’s not finished.

So it’s go, go, go. Looks like the signs that have been refused permission are still there – imagine this lit up:

Someone said on the blog yesterday that they’re still illuminating it.

The one at Byron is a little smaller, but even if we didn’t like it, it’s inside – nothing can be done about that.

What bothers me more, actually, isn’t actually going to be lit up at all – it’s all that tacky red signage going round the emerging Nandos:


Moving on, the ticket booths are at least a little more discreet:

I find little to moan about with those. In fact I quite like them. Much as I’m pleased to see some actual plants going in Cutty Sark Gardens:

Most are going to be a bit locked away behind rather corporate-looking railings, but plants is plants. The Cutty Sark’s coming on – still finding it hard to imagine they’ll be done for their launch in a few weeks’ time, but it’s looking good.

It’s also hard to imagine just how in/obtrusive that access tower will be too. Looking at the scaffolding, it’s rather alarming, but this seems to imply it’s not quite as bad as it looks just now:

A month after we became Royal, a reminder of the Council’s old logo – almost completely obliterated already in main spaces:

Finally – it’s taken a bloomin’ age – but doesn’t the foot tunnel entrance, slowly emerging from its plastic chrysalis, look fantastic?

Steve agrees and sent me this view almost simultaneously with Jeremy. I love this, even if it does remind me of the missed opportunity with the pier buildings:

Compare and Contrast

Thursday, March 29th, 2012

Graham at Greenwich Meridian and I have been talking about the new pier buildings. Graham says: I don’t know what it is with the new pier buildings, but they make the Cutty Sark look terribly land-locked.

I can’t help agreeing. There’s now a long barrier of frankly inappropriate fake copper buildings (I’m sure the original plans said real copper – presumably that’s been dropped because of the high price and the risk of theft but this stuff’s vile) between the Cutty Sark and any kind of water. Of course the old pier was a mess, made worse when they took away the old Victorian waiting room ‘because it was unrepairable’ – it was sold to St Kitts, if memory serves, and, er, repaired.

Compare it with Graham’s other picture, of the tall ship Thalassa, at Woolwich:

backdropped by modern buildings that I don’t care for much either, but somehow they are far less in-yer-face.

I’m not saying we didn’t need a pier building at Greenwich – we most certainly did need one. It’s just that the one that’s been built gets more intrusive every time I look at it, not less. It just isn’t blending in.

Still, we have one thing to be grateful for. The giant illuminated Frankie and Benny’s sign has been refused permission by the council after sixty-six objections. Of course it’s possible F&B always knew they were on a sticky wicket and decided that the many weeks of free advertising to all those Clipper riders was worth the sign outlay even if they were going to be caught out. Doesn’t look like they’ve appealed yet.

The utterly unloved Euston Station, built in spite of huge public protest (the loss of the original building and especially the Euston Arch outside being the catalyst for the modern preservation movement) is now, after 50-odd years, in line to be demolished and rebuilt, perhaps reinstating that arch. I hope we don’t have to wait fifty years to lose that bloomin’ pier.

Thames Path Current Routes

Wednesday, March 28th, 2012

Thanks to Mary for making this map available, showing the current closures on the Thames Path. It’s what we’ve been asking for for some time.

Some of it’s good news – looks like the eastern section will be reopened next month if when the cable car gets looped up and running. I’m okay with that closure – no one wants a Boris-pod dropping our of the sky onto them.  And in theory the top bit which has some kind of weird double-closure thing going on is due to open in July (can’t think why they’ve hit on that date…)

Some of it’s much less impressive. The Lovell’s Wharf part is, ‘closed until further notice.’ I have serious worries about that stretch – nothing seems to be happening and the developers seem to have carte-blanche to close it as long as they damn please.

For now it’s a pretty dull walk around the Peninsula, and an even duller cycle. After July it should get better. But that Lovell’s Wharf closure remains a serious blight on the path.

UPDATE: I’ve just read on Darryl’s site that developments include “changes to the adopted alignment of the Thames Footpath”. No details yet, but I don’t know about you, folks. I’m up for a fight on that one if I hear our path is to be eroded piecemeal on a permanent basis.


Wednesday, March 28th, 2012

Lucy asks:

I wonder if you or any of your followers know of a good van hire place near Greenwich/Lewisham? It’s rather urgent as we’re moving on Saturday!

I’ve never had to hire a van, so I don’t know of any but I’m sure someone here can suggest something. Has anyone tried that StreetVan scheme, for example?

Theatre Ventures

Tuesday, March 27th, 2012

I am feeling increasingly guilty at having borrowed The Greenwich Theatre Book for as long as I have, so today I thought I’d take one last look at the spirit of the ‘new’ Greenwich Theatre back in 1969 before popping it back to its owner, looking at the ‘extra-curricular’ activities that were going on in the theatre all the time of the rebuild. All great ideas and, who knows – perhaps one day…

The theatre part-funded its rebuild through the raucous Music Hall nights held at the now-long-dead Green Man. As the Greenwich Theatre Book was being written the pub was just about to be demolished and although at the time another pub was mooted to be built on the site (it never happened) they realised it was the end of an era for Greenwich. But it had been an incredibly popular fund-raiser and no one wanted to see the nights end, so they were continued in the newly rebuilt theatre as an appetiser in between the serious drama that was now the main course down the hill. They still happen every so often – usually as charity performances.

Folk music was enjoying a renaissance during the 1960s and the Greenwich Theatre re-builders, always looking for new fundraising methods, started its own Saturday night club at the Gloucester Arms (the Greenwich Tavern for more recent Greenwichians) in August 1968. I’m going to talk about folk in the 60s and 70s in more depth another day as I recently met one of the founder-members of Skinners Rats who used to play for the fabulously-named Blackheath Foot & Death Men and I want to pump him for memories (and photos) but it rapidly grew to be one of the big names on the folk circuit.

Folk music’s enjoying another revival just now. Just a thought. Though I’m hazarding they’d need to find another venue…

We’ve already looked at the way Ewan Hooper encouraged the whole community to get involved, even down to schoolchildren knocking on doors fundraising (can’t imagine that happening now) and it seemed only a short step to starting a Youth Theatre. Hooper started it in Woolwich, and it was one of the very first projects to begin, in 1966. it was ambitious – Brecht’s  Threepenny Opera was an early production, but in true Keith-Johnstone-1960s spirit, a fair few of the productions were entirely spontaneous improvisation for invited audiences.

The Youth Theatre was not to be confused with the Bowsprit Company. This was essentially Theatre in Education before TiE was invented. Actor-teachers based at the theatre presented shows in schools illustrating curriculum (note the small ‘c’ – no ‘Curriculum’ then) subjects and local themes – the first one was the Thames, which affected all the schools in the theatre’s catchment area, which went as far afield as Whitechapel and the Isle of Sheppey.

There was one other ‘extra-curricular’ activity the Theatre had right from the start. The Art Gallery was the first part of the theatre to be finished, in 1967. It was all part of Hooper’s cunning plan – he wanted local people as well as folk from all over London to establish Greenwich Theatre in their minds by actually going there – ostensibly to see the art, while at the same time seeing an exciting theatre building in progress.

They made sure that they attracted ‘names’, though I have to confess that being a total philistine I can’t tell you which names from the List of Pride in the Greenwich Theatre Book are the big hitters. I do note that one of the early exhibitors was Terry Scales whose Greenwich paintings are brilliant and who often exhibits at Paul McPherson’s Gallery these days.

I do wonder whether a gallery is something that would be relatively easy to reinstate – and perhaps even bring the theatre a few quid.  The walls in the bar always feel rather bare to me these days. For a long time there were photos from past productions but I don’t recall that they’re still there (I might be maligning them here; I actually can’t remember, which is shocking given the number of times I’ve been in the past three weeks…)

Ah, so the end of the Greenwich Theatre Book. I can’t help feeling it needs a new one though – much, both good and bad, has happened since 1969 and the theatre’s rags-to-riches-to-rags-to-respectable-attire story would be well worth telling…

Today’s Special…

Monday, March 26th, 2012

… Andrew’s hat, served with a little sauce on the side.

Toria has just seen actual movement on the Heart of East Greenwich site – a JCB. She says it’s “doing ‘stuff’ (technical term) within the old hospital grounds! It’s moving and everything..”

Can the long-awaited development have actually started at last? That JCB looks a little lonely – but small beginnings…


Monday, March 26th, 2012

A couple of weeks ago we were talking about a school in Surrey that was briefly owned by Greenwich Council and we were discussing other places the council owned outside the borough. Rob at mentioned a hotel by the seaside and Sven told me about this:

In fact it’s still called the Greenwich Hotel and it’s on Sea road at Westgate on Sea, though I don’t know if where I’ve put the arrow is where the hotel actually is as I haven’t been there (yet – looks like a jolly Phantom Day Out to me…)

I’m guessing this picture was taken in the 1950s or 60s. It’s now a residential home for, I believe, people with special needs. It doesn’t have a website and I can find precious little else out about it (aw, c’mon – you try googling ‘Greenwich’ and ‘Hotel’ and see what you come up with…) so I’ll just have to go and see it for myself. Westgate is, from the maps, just up the road from Margate, so next time I need a Mad-Hatter’s-tearoom-and-creepy-shell-grotto fix I’ll make a detour to view the Greenwich Hotel. It’s certainly the weather for a trip to the seaside. Shame about it being a Monday…

Hosepipes, Ships in Bottles and H&S Gone Maaaaad

Friday, March 23rd, 2012

Lots of little things going on in the Park, most of which are related in some way or other to the Olympics. Ruth spotted the course being watered over on the eastern side :

I find myself wondering whether there will be special dispensation for Olympic hosepipes when the ban comes in in April. I guess so, since you’ll be able to get the old jalopy cleaned at a commercial car wash but woe betide you if you try to water your runner beans. Not that I’m bitter or anything – it’s not like Thames Water have a serious pipe burst reported by half of East Greenwich on Christmas Eve and take until 10th January to do anything about it…

But, moving on, it’s not all bad news. It would seem that the rather wonderful Ship In A Bottle that lived on the fourth plinth at Trafalgar Square for a few months last year is to come to Greenwich.  Greenwich Meridian Graham noticed what looks suspiciously like the plinth being erected outside the NMM RMG

One might think this was a bit previous, since, from the posters outside, it looks as though they don’t actually have the money yet, but according to someone’s newsletter I was reading somewhere (can’t remember if it was the FoGP or the NMM or even somewhere else) they’ve been planning the move for months which makes me think that when these appeals for the public to save works of art for the nation come round the people in charge of them already know which ones will succeed.

But hey – I’m delighted. I really like the Ship in a Bottle – deffo my favourite Fourth Plinth incumbent so far – and hell – a lot better than that tedious Anthony Gormley ‘People’s Plinth’ installation – just imagine if we’d got that

Moving up to the Observatory and Graham also notes that they’ve been sawing-off the spikes from the railings of the path that lead round to Observatory Gardens:

He says that the gruesome reason he was given was “Someone told me that a tourist had impailed himself and that the emergency service had to be called to get him off” but he also very wisely suggests that ‘ you might like to check that…’

Of course being a lazy Phantom and having a real work deadline today, I haven’t gone anywhere near actually checking whether someone’s speared themselves or not – but it feels pretty unlikely to me. My suspicion is that it’s more the fear that a tourist might impale himself. A shame, really. Not one I’m going to kick and scream about – but the railings do look just that a little bit less charming now. Do we have no sense of personal responsibility in this modern world that it’s someone else’s problem every time we do something stupid?

Finally, Graham also sent me a rather wonderful article on Garden Visit dotcom which suggests a bit of creative arson that makes me smile. I hadn’t ever really thought about that particular avenue – but now they mention it, it’s something Royal Parks should be flagging up as an important feature of the park, rather than using it to store bins. A campaign in the making, methinks…

Happy weekend in the Park, folks – enjoy that central avenue before it’s closed off in a few weeks eh…


Wednesday, March 21st, 2012

Matt asks:

Myself and my girlfriend are relocating to London after university (we both live in rural Devon at the moment – quite a change, then!)

For the first year or so, while I’m doing law school, we will have to live off her teacher’s salary. She will be working in Thamesmead West, and we are looking to live in or around the Greenwich area because it seems very nice. I was wondering if you had any advice on where would be the best places for us to be looking, if we have a rental budget of about £850pcm? Is it realistic for us to be looking in East Greenwich, or will we have to venture further afield like Lewisham, Charlton etc..?

I have to confess I haven’t really been keeping much of an eye on rentals around Greenwich recently but I have a horrid feeling you’ll be struggling to find very much in central Greenwich for that sort of money, I’m afraid. But I could be wrong.

Have you rented recently? What’s the going rate? And where would you suggest for Matt and Mrs Matt to look?