I have been in the unenviable position of knowing about a really interesting local story, but being unable to report on it, as it could have affected an ongoing Police investigation. I have been aware of the story for a couple of weeks - here are the details, as now it has finally published by the Metropolitan Police:- "Officers attended Bexley Road DA8 after a call to excessive electricity at the location. After forcing entry to the location officers found a huge and complex Cannabis factory consisting of 6 rooms full of mature plants ready for harvest and new seedlings. They quickly assessed that the setup of the factory was extremely sophisticated and due to the excessive electricity input there was a major hazard to safety. Officers arranged power network to attend and due to the complicated set-up they had to dig the road to make the scene safe. The professional assessment showed that had this not been discovered then there was a severe fire hazard and due to the hot weather this could have proved fatal. This was even more vital due to the fact that a nursery is situated above the location and there was living quarters identified inside the property. Upon collection of the plants which in itself spanned over 2 days, property services assessed that a current conservative estimate of the value of plants was in excess of £750,000. The investigation into the factory and associated potential offences is continuing". The building, known as Electricity House has had a very chequered recent history. A nursery called Bright Steps operated on the site for a number of years. It would appear that the nursery had been under performing for several years, and had refused to obey a series of previous compliance orders by Ofsted. The final straw seems to have been when in January 2018, a member of the public observed a member of the Bright Steps nursery staff smacking a child under their care. Subsequent to this, the nursery managers deleted CCTV footage of the assault, and tried to cover up the event when Ofsted and the Police then carried out an investigation. After a court case and an appeal, Ofsted removed Bright Steps licence to operate. After this forced closure, the nursery part of the building was advertised for rent, and nowadays another nursery completely unconnected with the banned Bright Steps operates out of the building. Comments to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Last Thursday marked the fifty fifth anniversary of the closure of an unusual radio station with a strong local connection. As I have previously written, Erith based Grooms “The Hygienic Baker”, who began in a shop in West Street in Victorian times, became extremely successful, and later moved into dedicated premises in Belmont Road, Northumberland Heath. This massive bakery also featured stables for the horses that pulled their vans, along with a tack room and even a forge for their dedicated Farrier. The bakery is still there nowadays, though it is now owned by Hovis, and the stables are long gone. In the mid 1960’s, Rank Hovis McDougall (the company who took over and absorbed Grooms prior to the advent of British Bakeries, and the later name change to Hovis) were a major sponsor and commercial partner with offshore radio station Radio 390. Radio 390 was located on the abandoned Red Sands sea fort, off the coast of Whitstable. The station was the third enterprise to broadcast from the fort – previously it had been used by Radio Invicta from June 1964 until February 1965, followed by KING Radio from March to September 1965. Both these earlier stations were amateurish affairs, and used a relatively low powered one kilowatt AM transmitter feeding into a rather inefficient antenna system. This meant that their signal was not heard over a wide area, and they struggled to gain a decent audience, and consequently they were largely ignored by advertisers. All this changed with the advent of Radio 390, which was a far more slick and professional, and had both a rather more powerful ten Kilowatt medium wave transmitter (which they told people was actually thirty five Kilowatts, but it wasn't), and a huge and very efficient 297 foot tall vertical antenna mean that the signal of Radio 390 was audible all over London and the South East – the most lucrative market in the UK as far as advertising revenue was concerned. The format of the station was also a complete contrast to that played by the ship based offshore giants – Radio London and Radio Caroline; they both played non – stop pop music. Instead, Radio 390 was firmly targeted at housewives. When regular broadcasts began on the 25th September 1965 at 4pm on a wavelength of 388 Metres (773 KHz) the musical format was easy listening, smooth classical and big bands – the first track played was “Moonlight Serenade” by Glenn Miller. While other offshore stations had shows lasting two or three hours, Radio 390's schedule contained a number of short programmes. This was more like a BBC schedule than an offshore one. And, although slightly more warm and informal, the presenters had an almost BBC-ish style too, even to the extent that at the end of each show one of the presenters would give a credit (“South Of The Border was introduced by....”) in the manner of a continuity announcer. As Radio 390 grew, other programmes were added to the mix. There was a daily drama serial, “Doctor Paul”, imported from Australia, and bravely scheduled opposite the BBC Light Programme's long-established Mrs. Dale's Diary; and there were shows devoted to musicals, blues, country and light classical music. After only three weeks on the air, the station was receiving some five hundred fan letters a day. By May 1966 National Opinion Polls estimated the station's audience as 2.6 million listeners, a majority of whom were women. This was an absolute goldmine for the advertisers, who flocked to the station in droves. Back in the sixties, it was less common for women, especially once they were married to go out to work; many stayed at home and looked after the children. They had almost complete control over domestic purchases such as brands of food and cleaning materials. The fact that Radio 390 very cleverly targeted this audience meant that advertisers were prepared to pay high rates to get their commercials broadcast; companies that took out ambitious and successful campaigns on Radio 390 included The News of the World, and the magazine Reveille, along with a host of smaller companies, but the biggest of the lot was for Mother’s Pride bread, which was produced by Rank Hovis McDougall in the Northumberland Heath bakery. There is some evidence to suggest that the advertising campaign and programme sponsorship on Radio 390 was so extensive that the baker became an investor and business partner in the radio station during the summer of 1966, though as the Government began to take action to stop the offshore stations, and prepared to introduce the Marine Offences Act, many investors decided to distance themselves from offshore broadcasting altogether. The fort-based sweet music station Radio 390 was a huge success but, broadcasting from a fixed site in the Thames, it was vulnerable when the law governing the territorial limit in marine estuaries was changed. There was a long drawn-out legal battle as the two sides argued over the exact point from where the three mile limit should be measured but ultimately the pirates lost. In March 1967 the Post Office applied for an injunction to force the station to stop broadcasting. This was granted but Estuary Radio, the operating company, was given leave to appeal. This appeal was heard on 28th July 1967. The company lost again. This time there was no alternative. The station had to close. One of the presenters of Radio 390 recalled their memories of the close down on the website The Pirate Radio Hall of Fame; which I reproduce here. Radio 390 announcer Graham Gill was on board at the time and remembers the sad day: “I was on the air with ‘Teatime Tunes’, the time was 16.38 and I had Herb Alpert and his Tijuana Brass spinning on the turntable, and coming up Summer Moon by Karl Werner and his Orchestra, then Music to Watch Girls By - Bert Kaempfert & his Orchestra. Then we had the 390 Bike Offer and more music etc. etc.. After that I said ‘well that's all for Tea Time Tunes. This is Graham Gill wishing you a very good afternoon’. I hit the gong and then said ‘This is Radio 390, your British family station. Here are the news headlines read by Graham Gill.’ After the bulletin I started the tape of ‘On The Scene’ presented by Christopher Clark. Just after that, Chief Announcer Edward Cole came in and read the closing text which gave instructions to close the station down immediately.”The announcers on Red Sands knew that the end might be looming and had been working on a closedown programme. But when instructions arrived from the office on land, they were told to close the station immediately. There was to be no time for a formal final show. So the announcement was made, the engineer switched off the transmitter and the broadcasting team got on the tender home.
Post Covid lockdown, the Thamesmead festival will shortly be taking place. Here is an excerpt from the event's press release:- "This community-powered London festival returns to the iconic urban setting of Southmere Park this August, bringing together residents and visitors alike for a free celebration of all things Thamesmead. Organised by local people and with a programme packed full of home-grown talent, the day features live music, dance, performance, food and family activities as well as the much-anticipated annual dog show. Attracting more than 6000 attendees in 2021, this unique festival is fast-becoming a staple in the London cultural calendar and with the newly opened Elizabeth Line making transport to Abbey Wood that bit easier, Londoners are invited to come and see what Thamesmead has to offer. With confirmed acts including south London-raised singer Samm Henshaw and Britain’s Got Talent champions Twist and Pulse, this year’s event will see the return of its three main stages – the Park Stage, up on the hill; the Southmere Stage on Southmere Square and the more informal Unplugged Stage among the trees in Southmere Park – showcasing music, spoken word, dance, magic and comedy. The entire festival is programmed and led by the Festival Production Group, a committee of 14 residents representative of Thamesmead’s diverse cultures and neighbourhoods. Together with acclaimed cultural event producers Serious, they are working to deliver an ambitious showcase of local talent, having issued an open call that will serve as the basis for selecting the full line-up, scheduled to be announced later in the summer. The group is: Manny Adeneye, Samuel Aribisala, Joanne Bernard, Adedapo Dalley, Deborah Frimpong, Jules, Carolyn Long, Whitney Manassian, Pastor Bunmi Omidiran, Anne Poole, Ian Tyson, Jerusha Ujanga, Kim Vale and Jamie Zubairi. As part of a stellar line-up of talent, the festival will welcome back Thamesmead-based street dance group Dynamix for a special performance and Greenwich Dance, who recently relocated to The Nest community building, for their debut festival appearance. Vitally expressing the ethos and background of the Festival Production Group, dance forms an integral element of the programme, a medium through which many young people in the community have been able to tell their stories, with globally renowned Thamesmead-raised rapper ENNY recently describing how joining a local street dance group at just seven years of age helped shape an early interest in music. The festival will also feature community stalls run by local groups and charities, providing information about their work in the community, free workshops and activities for children and adults, and a mouth-watering menu of food and drink from across the world. This year’s offering includes Peter’s Panas serving the best Venezualan gluten-free arepas in London, tasty Jamaican eats from The Caribbean Hut, Nigerian cuisine from Yeti’s Authentic Kitchen and Bexley Mixology providing a refreshing selection of handcrafted mocktails. Other stalls include hand blended holistic pink Himalayan salt products from Pink Salt UK, Cool-Caricatures by local artist Femi and Deluxe Bubbles, selling bath bombs, soaps, scrubs and balms fit to pamper a king. As part of the day, a spectacular 25m high hot air balloon tapestried with stories from Thamesmead will be inflated and tethered on the festival site. The winning proposal for the Thamesmead Open competition, Fields of EveryWhen is a collaborative artwork by artists Neil Musson and Jono Retallick and the Thamesmead community. Created over the last two years, it weaves together stories by and about the people and places of Thamesmead, which have been converted into embroideries, textile collages and illustrations, then digitally enlarged onto the fabric of the hot air balloon to form a ‘floating gallery’ celebrating Thamesmead’s rich history, community and creative talent".
The upper of the two photos above was taken on the 17th July 1966; it shows Erith High Street. In the far left distance you can see the Prince of Wales pub, which was on the site of what is now the McDonald's drive through. The block of shops in the middle of the photograph is now the Sherwood House residential home, and the Tip Top Bakery was on the site of what nowadays is Erith Health Centre. The lower of the two photos shows (as close as possible) the same location exactly fifty six years later - and it could not really look any more different; nothing at all survives from 1966. If you have any photos of old Erith, please send them to me - I would like to re - photograph the same site so that "then and now" comparisons can be made. Contact me by Email at email@example.com.
Two weeks ago I wrote about how a number of Hive branded internet connected devices such as smart doorbells were going to be going out of support, and would become effectively useless as a result. Since then, another issue has become apparent from another manufacturer of internet connected devices - the issue currently affects users in the USA alone, but as is usual with technology, it is only a matter of time before the problems crop up in the UK and Europe. Ring, the Amazon-owned video doorbell and home security company, came under renewed criticism from privacy activists this month after disclosing it gave video footage to police in more than 10 cases without users’ consent thus far in 2022 in what it described as “emergency situations.” That includes instances where the police didn’t have a warrant. While Ring stands alone for its extensive history of police partnerships, it isn’t the only name I found with a carve-out clause for sharing user footage with police during emergencies. Google, which makes and sells smart home cameras and video doorbells under the Nest brand, makes as much clear in its terms of service. Other manufacturers of home security cameras, such as Wyze and Arlo, only provide footage after a valid warrant, while devices that use Apple’s HomeKit Secure Video are end-to-end encrypted, so footage cannot be shared at all. In other words, if you live in the United States, it would be best to avoid Amazon’s and Google’s offerings – especially if you’re a member of a minority or are a woman seeking essential healthcare – and stick to Apple’s offerings instead. This as previously mentioned, currently only affects the USA, but this kind of issue is likely to crop up here, sooner or later.
The end video this week is a bit different; it features the late Bernard Cribbins in a short film promoting British Beer from back in 1972. The talented actor appears as several different characters explaining how beer ingredients are grown, and how beer is brewed. Thanks to Ian for suggesting this video. You can contact me as usual at firstname.lastname@example.org.