Some welcome news last week from The Exchange - the charitable community benefit society that runs the Old Carnegie Library in Walnut Tree Road, Erith - photo above - click on it to see a larger version. They published the following announcement:- "The Exchange receives £324K of support from Arts Council England and is recognised with National Portfolio Organisation status. Erith-based community organisation, The Exchange, is one of 276 new organisations across England to receive a share of £446 million investment in culture and creativity. The Exchange took on the running of Erith’s Old Library in 2019, transforming the derelict building into a vibrant community hub filled with craft, creativity and community. In just 3 years – and through a period of major upheaval – the organisation, that was founded and is owned by local residents, has now received a major hallmark for its work in the local area in being named a National Portfolio Organisation by the Arts Council. The Exchange’s Founding Co-Director, Sarah Batten, said: “This is an incredible achievement, and is testament to all the hard work of community members in making The Exchange truly a place for community and creativity. Our organisation was founded on the ambitions local people had for the Old Library back in 1906 when the building opened, and today that continues with a programme led and sustained by some incredible local residents. It is truly brilliant that the Arts Council recognise our passion, ambition and commitment to local culture and creativity.” Arts Council England Chair, Sir Nicholas Serota, said: “As well as continuing our commitment to our many established and renowned cultural organisations, I am deeply proud of the support we will be giving to those new organisations which will help ignite creativity across the country. We are facing economic pressures at present but this funding is about an investment in our future. This portfolio will support the next generation of visionary inventors, makers, performers and artists. In particular, the growth of our funding for organisations that support and develop work for children represents a profoundly important long-term investment in our country’s talent.” Arts Council England Chief Executive, Darren Henley, said: “Together, each of the 990 organisations that have been offered funding today will contribute to a portfolio that is rich, varied and truly national. This is our widest ever spread of investment across the country, ensuring that many more people will have access to a wider choice of exceptional art, culture and creative opportunities on their doorsteps. We are in tough times but we must remember creativity brings with it extraordinary dividends, boosting our country’s economic growth, creating jobs, bringing communities closer together, and making us happier as individuals. Everyone deserves to enjoy the benefits it brings, and with this investment, we believe we’ve taken a decisive step towards making that vision a reality.” Culture Secretary Michelle Donelan said: "Thanks to this new government funding package, spreading more money to more communities than ever before, people living in areas from Wolverhampton to Wigan and Crawley to Chesterfield will now get to benefit from the deep economic and social rewards culture can bring. "We continue to support our icons such as the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and Royal Shakespeare Company, but today's announcement will see organisations in places all too often overlooked get the support they need to transform access to the arts for everyone - no matter where they live." Comments to me at email@example.com.
Local specialist sports car maker Caterham Cars have got two very good reasons to celebrate. The company, which has its factory in Kennet Road, Crayford, is celebrating its 65th anniversary this month, and is also celebrating its highest number of car sales this year. Although it has not yet released the final numbers, it has announced that its sales this year have exceeded six hundred of their high performance, hand built sports cars, more than the previous record which has stood since 1996.
The following story is of a man who was born, and for a time lived locally, and was one of the biggest reggae stars of his time, yet who received little press and no radio coverage, and who is now almost entirely forgotten. He remains an important historical figure. Although often dismissed as a novelty act, Judge Dread was actually a groundbreaking artist. Not only did he put more reggae records onto the U.K. chart than anyone else (Bob Marley included), he was also the first white artist to actually have a reggae hit in Jamaica. The Judge also holds the record for having the most songs banned by the BBC, 11 in all, which incidentally is precisely the number of singles he placed on the charts. Judge Dread was born Alex Minto Hughes in Crayford in 1945. In his teens, he moved into a West Indian household in the Caribbean neighbourhood of Brixton. Hughes was a large man, which helped determine his early career as a bouncer at the Brixton's Ram Jam club. He also acted as a bodyguard for the likes of Prince Buster, Coxsone Dodd, and Duke Reid. There was a spell as a professional wrestler, under the mighty moniker the Masked Executioner, and even a job as muscle for Trojan Records, collecting debts. At times he worked as a doorman at venues in Woolwich, Dartford and Bexleyheath. His biggest passion was music - specifically reggae; he had 12 hit singles between 1972 and 1976 - because it was achieved without any airplay on BBC Radio I and without his ever appearing on Top Of The Pops. His raunchy, risque Iyrics were full of sexual innuendo and were once described as being "as subtle as a smack in the ear with a house brick". As a result every new recording was banned from the airwaves as soon as it was released. For a while such notoriety sustained his chart career but his novelty appeal faded in the late 1970s when the fashion switched to harder-edged, authentic "roots reggae". A huge man, weighing 18 stone, Hughes was one of those colourful characters found operating at the fringes of the mainstream music industry. To supplement his musical income, he was briefly employed as a minder for the Rolling Stones. After watching the great Jamaican DJs such as Duke Reid and Sir Coxone playing at clubs in London, he set up his own "sound system". He began talking in the Jamaican patois and adopted his Jamaican-sounding stage name. When asked about it he mereIy replied: "Well, a man my size couldn't call himself the Magical Cabbage, could he?" His racial origins made him an oddity in the world he had chosen yet there was no doubt living his genuine love of Jamaican culture. To stay ahead of his rivals, he used to travel to Sheerness once a month when the banana boat the Jamaican Planter docked. There he would buy copies of the latest Jamaican sounds from members of the crew long before they were on sale in Britain. In he summer of 1972, Hughes decided to make his own record, "borrowing" a backing track from a Jamaican recording and adding his own vocals. It was by sheer chance that Trojan label head Lee Gopthal walked by during the recording; impressed, he immediately signed the DJ. His song was titled "Big Six" and Hughes chose the name Judge Dread in honour of Buster. The single was released, aptly enough, on the Trojan label imprint Big Shot. Initially an underground hit, once Trojan signed a distribution deal with EMI later in 1972, the single rocketed up the charts, even though the distributors refused to carry the record. The song was also a hit with a radio ban as well, and Trojan's disingenuous cries that it wasn't about sex were met with the same scorn as Max Romeo's "Wet Dream," the first of the rude reggae hits. The ban was no more effective this time either, and the single rocketed to number 11, spending six months on the chart. "Big Six" was just as enormous in Jamaica, and before the year was out Dread was in Kingston performing before an excited crowd. Those nearest the stage assumed the white man milling around was Dread's bodyguard or perhaps his manager, at least until he stepped up to the microphone. An audible gasp arose from the crowd as no one in Jamaica had considered the possibility that the Judge was white. The song became a disco hit and, purely by word-of-mouth, rose to number 13 in the charts. Hughes boasted that the record had cost him only £6 to make, but the nearest he got to Top Of The Pops was when his photo was shown during the weekly chart countdown. He even asked if he could appear on the programme, not to sing the offending Iyrics but merely to thank fans for buying the record. Again he was snubbed. Back in Britain, "Big Seven" was even bigger than its predecessor, thrusting its way up to number eight. It too was an innuendo-laced nursery rhyme, toasted over a perfect rock steady rhythm and reggae beat. In the new year, "Big Eight" shot up the chart as well. Amazingly though, Judge Dread's debut album, Dreadmania, failed to even scrape the bottom reaches of the chart. However, the British listeners continued to have an insatiable desire for his singles. In the midst of all this rudeness, in faraway Ethiopia people were dying, so he helped organise a benefit concert starring the Wailers and Desmond Dekker, and also released the benefit single "Molly." The single was the first of Dread's releases not to boast a single sexual innuendo, but radio stations banned it anyway and the charity record failed to chart. In an attempt to receive some airplay, Dread released singles under the pseudonym JD Alex and Jason Sinclair, but the BBC wasn't fooled and banned them regardless of content. By the time Big Ten had made the charts, even Hughes realised that things were getting out of proportion. He followed in stead with a reggae remake of Je T'aime . . . Moi Non Plus, a record first banned by the BBC when recorded by Serge Gainsbourg and Jane Birkin in 1969. There then followed the truly awful Y Viva Suspenders, but by 1976 his chart run was over. Britain was now in the grips of punk, but Judge Dread was bemoaning the lack of reggae in clubs, and wishing to "Bring Back the Skins," one of a quartet of songs on his February 1977 5th Anniversary EP. However, the artist was capable of writing more than rude hits. One of his songs, "A Child's Prayer," was picked out by Elvis Presley, who intended on recording it as a Christmas present for his daughter. However, Elvis died before he had the chance. In the autumn, the delightfully daft barnyard mayhem of "Up With the Cock" scraped into the Top 50. Dread's raging affair with the charts ended in December 1978, with the holiday flavoured "Hokey Cokey"/"Jingle Bells." It had been quite a run and 1980's 40 Big Ones summed it all up. Dread sporadically continued releasing albums, which were still bought by hardcore fans. He also continued touring, playing to small, but avid audiences. His last show was at a Canterbury club, on March 13, 1998. As the set finished, the consummate performer turned to the audience and said, "Let's hear it for the band." They were his final words. As the mighty Judge walked offstage, he suffered a fatal heart attack.
I made my way to Erith Station on Wednesday morning; I normally permanently work from home, but that day I had occasion to visit the company office for a couple of face to face meetings. When I arrived at the station I was immediately recognised by local Councillor Nicola Taylor, who, along with some of her Labour Party colleagues was distributing copies of the leaflet shown above - click on either page to see a larger image. Following this, the party published the following press release, which I reproduce in full here- "Erith and Thamesmead MP, Abena Oppong-Asare has challenged the Government’s record on Southeastern Railway failure and called on Southeastern to reverse their proposed timetable changes, due to be introduced on 11th December 2022. The cuts will result in no direct line to Charing Cross or Waterloo from Abbey Wood, Belvedere, or Erith stations, a reduction in the frequency of trains to London Bridge, and reduced services for residents who use Barnehurst, Bexleyheath, Plumstead, and Slade Green stations in neighbouring constituencies. The changes were proposed without consultation with the public and commuters who rely on those routes. A Government Minister said yesterday in Parliament, “it is vital that passengers are consulted on any changes to services, whether timetabling or other changes”. The Government owns Southeastern, so it is unclear why they have allowed the operator to press ahead without input from the public. Abena Oppong-Asare is standing up for commuters and urging Southeastern to reconsider and carry out a full consultation with those impacted. She has engaged with their Chief Executive, demanding answers on behalf of worried commuters. She had also secured a meeting with the former Transport Minister, but government chaos means there is now a new Minister. Ms Oppong-Asare hopes the new Minister will honour the previous Minister’s commitment to meet with her. Alongside this, Ms Oppong-Asare has submitted a number of written questions to the Department for Transport, to ask whether they believe the timetable changes are acceptable. Ms Oppong-Asare has encouraged worried constituents to sign up to updates on her campaign against the cuts on her website, where they can find more information about her work. Constituents can also share their views on the cuts and bring any transport concerns they have to her attention. Abena Oppong-Asare MP said: “I am supporting residents who are calling for Southeastern to reverse the proposed cuts in services. Timetables need to work for constituents. There has been a lack of consultation, cooperation, and engagement from Southeastern. Working with stakeholders and constituents, we will continue to fight for a reliable and well organised timetable that provides opportunities for all in Erith and Thamesmead and the South East.”
Britain's car theft capital has been named as Romford, in East London, taking the mantle from neighbouring Ilford, which had earned the unwanted crown last year. The locations with the worst record for stolen motors were identified by analysing the number of motorists per area who reported a vehicle stolen in the last five years. Data from 16 million insurance enquiries in the last year found that 19.87 of drivers per 1,000 in the large town in the London Borough of Havering had made a claim after their car was stolen, which is more than anywhere else in the country. Some time ago I was a guest on a radio talk show on the excellent Time 107.5 FM - from Romford. One of the other guests was the then head of Police for Havering. The discussion was about crime and anti - social behaviour, and specifically motor vehicle crime. The head of Police stated at the time that he had intelligence that a significant proportion of the vehicle crimes in his area were actually committed by criminals from the other side of the river - specifically the London Borough of Bexley, and the criminals were using the Dartford River Crossing to "commute" to where they undertook their criminal activity. I have no reason to believe that this situation has changed markedly since then.
The end video this week is an explanation of the proposed Lower Thames Crossing, which if it goes ahead will be designed to substantially reduce the level of traffic that currently uses the Dartford River Crossing. Please send any comments or suggestions to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.