Camberwell Online in the Digital Universe

This is… well, this is just astonishing.

As of April 6, a consortium of libraries — including the British, Bodleian and Trinity — will be given permission to archive the entire UK web. As promotion for this, they’ve curated a list of 100 websites that they think will be important for future generations to learn about life today. And on that list is this blog you’re reading.

And I’m amazed, and flattered, and humbled.

They say:

A community blog with lively comments section giving insight into life in South London today. In the future a blog like this could easily be lost, taking the personal insights of a community in 2013 with it.

And I think that the key words in there are “community” and “comments”. I started this blog in 2004 as a way for me to record my rediscovery of Camberwell, and never dreamed that it would be considered like this one day, and the fact that it’s happened is down to everyone who reads, comments, and otherwise gets involved in the discussions that go on here.

If you’re reading this in 2113, I just want to say that I’m sorry you never got to meet some of the great people I’ve met through writing this blog for the last nine years, and that I hope in your time Camberwell continues to be as vibrant and weird and grotty and beautiful and friendly and contrary as it is right now. Also, have you got a tube station yet? And please have a glass of future beer in the Hermits for me.

Camberwell, 19th to 21st Century

Back in the late 19th Century, Camberwell was reknowned for its Variety theatres, which included the People’s Palace of Varieties, the Bijou Palace of Varieties, and the pride of the area, the Camberwell Palace of Varieties. This stood from 1899 to 1956 (although it was converted to a cinema in the 1930s) on the site where the Post Office now stands (or slouches).

Variety shows have long since fallen out of fashion, but some people want to bring it back, and they’re holding their first show under the Palace of Varieties banner this Saturday, 2nd February, at St Giles Church Hall on Benhill Road. If this is successful they’re hoping to run a more frequent event at a smaller location, under the Bijou Palace monicker.

After the theatre boom, Camberwell had a cinema boom. Two of the old cinemas are still standing; one is now the International House of Praise (formerly Gala Bingo) on Camberwell Road, and the other is the former Jono’s Snooker Hall on Camberwell New Road, soon to be demolished for a new housing development. I’ve been contacted by someone called Nichol who’s planning to create an audio documentary about the history of Jono’s and is looking for stories about the place, or the people who used to go there. If you’ve got any stories you’d like to share, leave a comment or email me and I’ll put you in touch.

In modern times, Camberwell is better known for its arts scene. A new project called Our Art School is starting a series of workshops with young people in Camberwell and Peckham. Their next project, A Map of Objects, will teach film-making skills, and will take place at House Gallery this Saturday, 2nd February.

The South London Gallery opened in 1891, eight years before the Camberwell Palace, and is still going strong today (albeit having passed through various incarnations). If you’re around on 6th February you should pop in to see the proposed plans for the regeneration of Camberwell centre.

Goodbye to the Cadeleigh Arms

On Sunday night the Cadeleigh Arms closed forever. It was a small, unassuming back-street boozer, and it was also my local. Despite all of the people who never went there telling you it closed because it wasn’t welcoming enough or the regulars were pissed-up sad cases, it was a nice, bright, working class pub and you could not have found a more friendly pair of proprietors than Diarmuid and Mary.

Though the bulk of the Cadeleigh’s clientele was plumbers and electricians, you could also find architects and IT specialists and guidance counsellors, even the odd web developer. I made friends in there, I knew the staff by name, I could guarantee going in there and finding someone to talk to. Good luck with that in most places.

On Sunday there was a party to close the place down. There were speeches and dancing and tears and free booze; it was still going on when I rolled home at 3am. That night I met an old man who told me he’d been going there for 50 years, and his best friend for 40. They were Carribean immigrants who’d found a welcoming place in London. The Cadeleigh was always more mixed than many places; there were Sikhs, Africans, Carribeans, Polish… apparently many years ago, before Diarmuid and Mary, it was a reggae pub!

But sadly the night of the party was the busiest it had been for many years. Four years ago I used to have to arrive half an hour before the football started in order to get a seat. No chance of that any more. The mostly working class punters are hit harder than most by price increases, and even though they kept prices cheaper than many London pubs, £3 for a pint is only a pound cheaper than a pack of four from Tesco.

It was a very fast decline; for the last two years only the rent from the flats above it had been keeping the pub afloat. And now, it’s gone. So I’d like to raise a glass to Diarmuid and Mary and their family, and to all the regulars of the Cadeleigh, and say goodbye to a little corner of old London.

February’s Miscellanea

A couple of calls for participation:

Camberwell Business Network and SE5Forum would like some feedback from you about local shopping; and the Met police are looking for witnesses to a very nasty hit and run on Champion Hill last week.

Quick bit of transport news: TfL asked Southwark Council for their preference of proposed extensions to the Bakerloo line, and the Council have said that Lewisham via Camberwell and Peckham is their choice. However, that’s very far from being a done deal, and even if it were we’d be looking at some 15–20 years away. Still, perhaps one day…

The Council recently posted some historic maps online, which are interesting to look at. Did you know The Fox On The Hill used to be The Fox Under The Hill? Not sure what brought him to the surface.

That is all for now. I’m still looking for more contributors. Show of hands, please?

Camberwell swimming pool reopens

(Photo courtesy of Southwark Council flickr set)

Saturday saw the official reopening of Camberwell swimming pool with various events at the pool — it was reported on the BBC website and on Harriet Harman’s website and on the Southwark Council website flickr set but look out I guess for more pictures of the event in Thursday’s Southwark News or Friday’s South London Press. I’m pleased to say that the refurbished swimming pool is a great improvement on the previous pool. See the pool timetable for opening hours and other information.

In other Camberwell news the author of Camberwell through time will be talking about his book at a Peckham Society meeting on 17 April — more information on the Peckham Society website

As has been mentioned in the comments on a previous post the regimental football of the Royal Irish Rifles has been on display at their head quarters on Flodden Road — more about the football on the D Company (Irish Rifles) website

And finally Guardian journalist Dave Hill passed through Camberwell recently in his training for the London Marathon