About Me

"Use every man after his desert, and who should 'scape whipping?"

Thursday, 28 May 2015

Will the destruction of Vauxhall bus station be a worthwhile sacrifice?

Vauxhall Cross and Bondway Bus Station copyright Bill Hicks
War of the worlds architecture always helped make your trip on the 77a to Tooting Broadway all the more interesting…but what will replace this strange and rather beautiful construction?
Totally torn by news in our Co-operative Council's monthly freesheet - Lambeth Talk - re the future of Vauxhall bus station.

According to the somewhat depleted free local government propaganda sheet, the planned redevelopment of the Vauxhall Cross area has been given a big "thumbs-up" by the electorate.

Now it does not take much planning knowledge to realise the this area is a vital gateway to the as-yet unfinished Nine Elms development - all those new residents are join got need slick new routes along which to drive their lovely Audis etc to and from their city or Canary Wharf jobs.

Sorry, a bias leaks out…so, back to the Lambeth/Transport for London plans, and back to the great idea that the traffic around this nightmare junction of major routes from five, no six big directions needs taming. It is at the moment a hideous racetrack, but with an oasis of calm and public transport beauty at its heart - Vauxhall Bus Station. This was re-built at massive cost in 2004, yes just a decade ago. And already it looks like a design classic of its strange times.

The new plans will involve scrapping the current one-way gyratory system and re-locating the many bus stops on both sides of the once-again two-way streets of the junction.

It's a strange call for many of us who have gradually come to love this weird construction of space-age aluminium ramps and weird metallic extrusions --- it is a good enough place to wait for a bus to any part of the city, but would be even better if there were free public loos and a decent cafĂ©. The whole place seems to have been inspired by those silver Airstream trailers so beloved of Hollywoood  film stars. But it is beautifully executed, quite entertaining, and is also apparently eco-friendly as those crazy ramps leading nowhere  are actually covered in solar panels.

What exactly will the new plan bring? i tried to check the Lambeth website but access to this page:
 was denied.

Anyway it doesn't matter at all because -according to the aforementioned free sheet - "63 per cent support" for "proposals to redesign the existing bus station, providing safer, more attractive and more accessible facilities…."

So, that must be the killer - and I should shut up. All will be for the greater public good. Lambeth will fight for all our rights right to the bitter end, no worrying…

But meantime, I will be sad to lose that weird thrill I occasionally got of an autumn morning, seeing those silver ramps heading skywards, the gleaming buses churning their way through the tunnels, around and the Roman-style circus maximus track and back on the Cross and up and away over the bridge…

Somehow buses ruled in those days. Will they still rule in 2020?

Here's what I liked...

Tfl 's Vauxhall Bus Station: only 10 years old, and already facing demolition

Vauxhall Cross (Bondway) Bus Station, London: only 10 years old, and already facing demolition

Catch it while you can - Vauxhall's space-age bus station is soon to be replaced with a far
more boring (and yes, maybe safer and more sensible) structure as part of the Vauxhall-
Nine Elms redevelopment plans.
Photos: Bill Hicks

Wednesday, 27 May 2015

RIP Mauleverer Road mural - it really has gone this time

It's gone: the Mauleverer Road mural has been reduced to rubble to make space for new apartment blocks. 
Lonely horse: the only part of the 1980s mural that the
demolishers have spared (as of 29 May) are the horses in a stable at the
 west end of the original work.
In case previous reports left you with any hope,  it's our sad duty to report the beautiful 1980s mural on the wall of the old Tuborg Brewery in Mauleverer Road, London SW2 has now been demolished.

As you can see, the entire wall has gone, leaving just the bottom half of the "stables" in the original mural intact.

Those poor horses now look out at piles of rubble and demolition teams rather than at the luscious visions of rus in urbe those community artists dreamt up so wonderfully about 32 years ago.

The property developers will no doubt reap huge profits from the new homes going up in its place.  But Brixton (well, all of London actually)  really is another little bit poorer for this loss.

Monday, 18 May 2015

Forget the Chelsea Flower Show - what about the Clapham front garden no-show?

Utterly disgusting is this habit of paving over old front gardens when these Victorian houses in Clapham are re-developed as crash pads for corporate bakers families: please, stop this.
This has to be stopped - it's a crime ! A decade ago, all but one of those houses had thriving gardens, some with beautiful mature trees; the houses have been  bought and sold and gutted and re-gutted. All people want now is somewhere to park their fat-cat bonus-bought SUVs: the rest of us lose not only the beautiful gardens, but also our scarce on-street parking space. 
So pleased the RHS has fired a warning flare about the revolting habit of Britain's car-owning class to replace established front gardens, some of which had been lovingly tended for a century or more,  with a few slabs of stone or concrete.

The paving-over has reached drastic levels nationally - according to the RHS, over a quarter of front gardens are now concreted over, with the consequently terrible consequences for  wildlife, not to mention water-tables.

In this area, of the 10 large four-storey houses visible from my window,  all but two have destroyed their front gardens in the past 10 years.

They have all dug up and paved-over beautiful old front gardens, simply to turn them into miniature car-parks. In some cases, beautiful old trees have been felled.

As if these acts of vandalism against horticulture were not bad enough, think again about the implications.

For a start, they further reduce the absorbency of the land - this road pitches downhill steeply towards Battersea. If they get some bad flooding in the Nine Elms area soon, I will not be weeping on their behalf.

Of, but don't worry, the fuckers living in those developments will no doubt have some super-sewers dug especially for them, to ferry away their very large and smelly excrement. And of course they will all have blue chip insurance cover.

Meanwhile, up here, just walking along the street becomes more of a hazard: it seems that,  from every other house some fat cat or one of their unfortunate employees is trying to reverse the Audio SUV out of the paved -over front yard, just as you are trying to walk or cycle past.

It's hell, it is shit. Don't cycle up this street in SW4, the gap between parked BMW SUV's is already narrow enough: then there are the white vans delivering all those online purchases and the non-stop school-run or nursery run Range-Rovery manoeuvres. There are the supermarket deliveries, and then there are even vans coming to collect the dear family doggies for their daily walks.

I kid not, there are even vans coming to deliver new gardens, new chunks of flowering glory for the summer. If any of these new residents feels they are lacking in something  they go online and a van-full of experts arrives. And blocks the road for the duration for  the rest of us.

But - back to the point. Lambeth Council controls this street. Over a year ago they said they'd stop this ridiculous conversion of gardens into parking spots. And by the way, in case you didn't notice – each time they allow a garden to be concreted over, and a set of kerbstones to be lowered, they are depriving the local flat dwellers of another parking space.

We talk of winners and losers. After a while, chronic losers begin to get angry. Fucking angry!

Monday, 11 May 2015

Paradise Lost: another little bit of Brixton's cultural heritage is demolished

No more rus in urge, though apparently this garden was based on a bit of Brockwell Park…but who will the new homes be for?
This small detail from the Mauleverer Road mural was
 still visible today (11 May 2015): but if you want to see
any of it you have to move fast,  as the demolition
seems to be starting up again.
For the last few weeks, locals  and visitors to Mauleverer Road in Brixton have been faced with a sorry sight: one the area's  biggest and best known murals, showing scenes from local history, has been half-demolished.

You almost wish someone would finish of this dirty job, and put the much-loved painting out of its misery.

The Mauleverer Road mural was painted by a group of artists in the early 1980s, and it has already survived one demolition attempt, thanks to prompt local campaigning. The story of its creation,  and its role in the local community, is told in detail on the excellent London Mural Preservation Society website.

This time, however, it seems the luck has run out. Demolition began back in April but for whatever reason, it seems the builders are stretching it out , removing one layer or two layers of brick every week or so.

The last time I dared to look (on Monday 11 May) the main wall was cut down to less than half its original height, so that most of the woodland scenes a had gone, as well as half the formal garden (above right) and half the Caribbean beach scene. The horses in their stables were still intact and apparently they might be spared, as this part of the outer wall is to be retained - or so I heard.

But even if they are, the integrity of this great work with its many hidden jokes and references, will be lost forever. To those who love this mural, myself included, this seems like a form of torture, or at least of unmitigated cruelty to works of community art. Why is this happening?

As so often with these community murals - many of which were created in the heady years of peak squatting and resistance to the the Thatcher government - the painting came as a complete surprise to any visitors to this otherwise quiet,  unremarkable street, a few blocks south of Acre Lane. It covers one of the huge brick walls of the old Tuborg brewery, which had a frontage on Mandrell Road and which closed, according to another blog (Painted Signs and Mosaics), over 30 years ago. This brewery had clearly occupied old carrier's stables, hence the horses and stable doors at the western end of the mural (these are still intact)*.

Discussion on the Brixton Buzz blog  forum reveals that he building was later used as a distribution depot for the yuppie clothing retailer The White Stuff, but that too has moved away. The whole building now looks set to be turned into apartments. Let's hope they are at least as visually pleasing and imaginative and become as much loved by the local community as the artwork they are replacing (opens sick bag, turns away).

Here are a few more pics of what we are losing:

Artists signed their names on the punch and Judy stall
Wgen they finished the mural in 1983, the artists - Jane Gifford,
Mick Harrison,  Caroline Thorp, Ruth Blench - added their
signatures to the Punch and Judy stall

The massive Mauleverer Road Mural in Brixton, is being destroyed to make way for new flats
The painted horses in their stables reflect the original use of this building - even before it was a brewery, there were stables here for carrier horses and donkeys serving all of London and its suburbs.

* Sad footnote - as of 19.05.15 it looks like the horses and stable doors are going to go as well - a glimpse of what's left of the mural last night suggested the whole length of the wall has now been levelled down to about 2m above pavement height.

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Property jackals murdering the gay soul of London

There's a massive crime wave hitting London, and the chances are it's happening in a street near you.

All over the city, popular, cheap, accessible centres of community are being snuffed out, suffocated by rising rents and aggressive property speculators. Each day comes news of a new outrage. Last week, for example, we heard that the The Black Cap pub in Camden High Street is to close because the owners of the property want to convert the upper floors into luxury flats.

A little later that day - in that sort of newsroom coincidence that makes you want to scream out loud, what the fuck is going on?– we heard that campaigners are now having to fight to save the Royal Vauxhall Tavern, which would - if anyone asked you - probably be the second LGBT pub you'd name after the great centre of all things drag in Camden Town.

I have fond memories of the Black Cap, spending a few evenings there with my dear friend Phil as she make her first steps into the lesbian world. I've never been inside the RVT but always enjoyed seeing the clientele milling around outside in minimal clothing of a summer Sunday evening as I made my grim way back from Cambridge.

In case you think they're picking on gays - well, probably not, but - who knows? Madam Jo-Jos in SOho has already gone the way of all lovely, anarchic, scruffy centres of joyous everything, to be replaced by wtf hideously expensive flats, god knows.

The sort of property developer we all suspect is doing these things is certainly the type who wants to attract clients who will not be best pleased by all-night partying, loud music and noisy, boisterous clientele emerging from the premises at 4 or 5 am in full voice.

To which the only possible riposte is, if you don't like noisy parties and antisocial behaviour, don't move into any of  London's party districts. Instead, just buy a flat in a docklands high-rise or go to your natural habitat, the Surrey-through-Berks-through-Bucks stockbroker belt.

Early and sustained resistance worked at the Elephant and Castle, where the Ministry of Sound managed to overturn a planning consent for luxury flats close enough for the exhausted traders living there (if anyone would have actually lived there) might be kept wake by the booming bass of the dance floor.

But elsewhere pub after club after music venue has gone dark  - whether in Soho, or Brixton, or Islington, they're all falling away. New Cross and Dalston and Deptford will be next, you can be sure.
Another place fighting for its survival is the beautiful community arts centre in Shoreditch, the Rich Mix, which is apparently losing its council funding. If that happens - and there's every sign a massive campaign will fight this one to the bitter end - then it takes little imagination to work out who the land will go to.

Similar developers are even planning the destruction of the very heart of London's music business, Denmark Streeet.

If, when that happens - and heaven knows what ghastly tribute to the  music industry heritage they are planning to knock up there to keep the council happy - then we'll know it really is all over, won't we?