The Dulwich Society Journal for Winter 2021.
In this issue Michael Coupe and Ian McInnes draw our attention to the government’s new draft planning bill and highlight the benefit which places such as Dulwich have from being within a Conservation Area. Conservation areas are defined as an area (usually urban or the core of a village) of special architectural or historic interest, the character of which is considered worthy of preservation or enhancement. East Dulwich is not included in either of Dulwich’s two conservation areas but is fully qualified to have its own such status granted.
Several years ago the East Dulwich Society was dissolved and its remaining officers asked the Dulwich Society to take over its interests. They also passed over the residual funds of £3000. The Dulwich Society was reluctant to extend its activities beyond the loose boundaries of the Dulwich Estate but agreed to accept some responsibility for East Dulwich. until a new society could be launched. The funds of the East Dulwich Society were immediately allocated to provide a ‘green wall’ in front of Goose Green Primary School in order to alleviate the effects of traffic pollution. Previously there had also been areas of mutual interest, including the site of Dulwich Hamlet FC, Greendale and the Dulwich Hospital site. Furthermore, the Dulwich Society had, in 2013, placed a number of plaques to commemorate civilians killed in WW2 in areas of East Dulwich. In this issue of the Journal there is the first of three articles by Gavin Bowyer recounting the history of the Friern Manor estate which occupied about half of what today is known as East Dulwich.
East Dulwich has in recent years gathered a reputation as an attractive and trendy place to live and many former Dulwich residents have downsized into its Victorian houses.
Professor H J Dyos in his seminal book The Victorian Suburb (1961) examined the growth of Camberwell and devoted much attention to the development of East Dulwich, pointing out that it was transformed from farmland to an area of dense housing within a generation. As a consequence, East Dulwich sits within a time capsule of Victorian house design when its developers (many of them insurance companies) built cheap accommodation essentially for the growing lower middle-classes, mostly an army of clerical workers employed in the expanding areas of insurance, banking and commerce. The builders sought to individualise the houses in the more or less uniform streets by detailing them with intricate decorations around the doorways, bay windows and porches, gables and paths.
With a few exceptions, where German bombers in WW2 had found a target, the area remains almost as intact today as it was when it was built up between the 1870’s and the 1890’s. Now, a new generation of houseproud owners are restoring its tessellated front paths, gardens and architectural features.
Unfettered redevelopment would deal a devastating blow to East Dulwich and its residents should be in the forefront of a call for it to be designated as a Conservation Area. The Dulwich Society could play a role in assisting this process, initially by calling a meeting of residents of the area to highlight the advantages which such a status attracts.
A Word of Thanks
At the Society’s AGM in September, a number of members of the Executive Committee stood down from their roles following years of long service. Dr Colin Niven OBE retired after serving ten years as president, Ian McInnes retired as chairman after eighteen years, Adrian Hill, the Society’s legal advisor also retired after eighteen years, Bernard Nurse, chairman of the Local History Group after twenty years, Angela Wilkes, chairman of the Wildlife Group after twenty years. The Society is hugely grateful to them all for their loyal and effective service and we hope to continue to have the benefit of their expertise in the future.
We thank Dr Kenneth Wolfe who has retired as vice-chairman and has been elected the Society’s president. We also wish to thank Sue Badman who has retired as secretary and has been elected vice-chair of the Society. We welcome James Thompson as chairman, Heather Stubbs as secretary and Sharon O’Connor as media & communications representative. In the sub-committees, we welcome Ian McInnes as chair of the Local History Group and Dr Peter Roseveare as chair of the Wildlife group.
An Interview with James Thompson - new chairman of the Dulwich Society
James hails from East Yorkshire, where he attended a school whose architecture had been based on that of Charles Barry jnr’s design of Dulwich College. It was not that link however that initially brought he and his wife Anne and their three children to Dulwich. After university, where he studied mathematics, James embarked upon his career in accountancy and worked for one of the Big Five. As a newly arrived employee seeking reasonably priced accommodation with easy access to his office in the City he explored all the stops on the Northern Line. Tooting was the nearest he could afford! A secondment for two years to Paris led to his meeting with Anne, also an accountant and a resident of Bayonne and marriage and living in Clapham.
Later, like many others, they were attracted to Dulwich because of its large houses with good sized gardens coupled with its educational and amenity assets. James has now lived here since 2001, where, as he says, he joined the Dulwich Society ‘as a passive member’! Nevertheless, he drew up the Herne Hill Velodrome Trust’s original business plan which created a sustainable range of activities for this heritage and community asset. He has also served as chair of the Stradella and Springfield Residents’ Association and is auditor of the Dulwich Festival. After retirement in 2017 he became more involved in the Society’s work and has served on the advisory committee for the Scheme of Management in conjunction with the Dulwich Estate.
He his keen to state his ‘green’ credentials - ‘living in a way which is not detrimental to the planet’. He is a strong advocate for the prevention of air pollution and is conscious of the effect of vehicle emissions on this and climate change. Ideally he would like to see fewer cars on local streets. However, for people for whom a car is a necessity, he is very keen on a switch to electric cars and would like to see more accessible charging points around Dulwich. He suggests that people have to be nudged to actually find better transport alternatives than car. James emphasises that he does not advocate prescriptive measures to change public behaviour, but rather to form a set of objectives upon which the majority people might agree. In his view, ‘doing nothing is not an option’. He sees household heating as important also. Insulation and air-sourced heat pumps are a way forward to minimise climate change but is keen that the pleasing streetscape of Dulwich is not impaired by unsightly installation and visible plant. He welcomes the opportunity of opening a debate on this issue.
He says that he has great admiration for all the work the Society’s sub-committees carry out and that he appreciates the amount of time and effort their members contribute and is very much looking forward to being closely involved with them.
He thinks that Dulwich residents are lucky to live in such a special place and recognises the contribution that the Dulwich Estate has made in managing the area for public benefit over so many years but he emphasises that change will inevitably occur. He would like to see any change carried forward gradually, and with public support and carried out sympathetically to respect Dulwich’s unique character.
2021 open gardens in Dulwich - a real treat!
Local gardens opening for charity are a firm feature of the social scene in Dulwich, and despite Covid this was also the case this year.
Social distancing rules began relaxing from mid-April, coinciding with the start of the garden opening season, which was pretty much in full swing in May and entirely so in June. The pandemic had a number of impacts. More gardens opened this year. With staycationing the norm, there were more visitors, and the growing interest in gardening meant more young families visiting as well. The move to a cashless economy has also been exacerbated by Covid and many garden openers had to grapple with card readers for the first time - which they took in their stride, as you would expect from such a determined group.
There was certainly more choice for those visitors - 27 gardens opened in June this year compared to 18 in pre-Covid 2019, so there was more competition for the garden openers. Local publicity is key, and the Society’s gardens committee is pleased to publicise the openings in its annual brochure Dulwich Gardens open for Charity, which is distributed to all Dulwich Society members and available in local garden centres and other outlets.
A lovely garden (or a group of two, three or even more) showing at its best, fine teas, home-made cakes and the chance to buy plants that you may just have seen, all at excellent value, is a winning formula. It also involves a lot of behind-the-scenes work, so hearty congratulations to all the garden openers and their helpers.
Village Orchard - Volunteers Wanted
Volunteers are needed to maintain the lovely and well-used Village Orchard in Gallery Road. At present there is a small group of volunteers and a few more are needed for a pruning session in February, mulching in the spring, watering in the summer. If you think you can help please contact Paul Millington (
A Fond Farewell from Dr Colin Niven OBE
When I was five my father took me from my native Edinburgh to Dulwich, in order for him to join the City of London Police. As we settled down in Denmark Hill my mother set out in search of a good local school for my brother and me. She came home triumphantly, having found her ideal school. Now, as I approach my eightieth birthday and after a lifetime in schools, I wholeheartedly agree with my mother that she made an impeccable choice. We all owe Dulwich Village Infants School a vast debt.
As I retire as President of the Dulwich Society I’m often asked what changes I have seen in these seventy-five years, and the one that predominates is unquestionably the improvement in our local education. When I was young our private schools all enjoyed great reputations that made it harder for the others to compete. However, year by year the gap closed, and now we can look around at so many fine schools, to the huge benefit of our community.
A recent school leaver in Dulwich is a fine symbol of this progress. Worthy to stand alongside everybody’s favourite, Emma Raducanu, is Alex Yee, who won both gold and silver medals in the triathlon events in the recent Tokyo Olympics. A splendid representative of Kingsdale Foundation School and of the many levels of success in all our local schools.
In the late twentieth century it was standard practice for three Deputy Presidents of our Society to be Heads of the private schools, and I was lucky to be a Deputy President. To general approval this policy has long disappeared, but by chance it placed me in a good position to become President.
At that time I was invited to become Chairman of the Society. I asked what that would entail. ‘Endless work, immense vision, care, judgement, stamina and no mean courage’, they replied. I declined politely.
Having watched Ian McInnes perform miracles in the role, supported by his equally talented, loyal and gifted wife, Diana, as our Membership Secretary, I see a tremendously thriving society that owes them so much.
I was approached again. ‘How about being President then?’ ‘What does that involve?’ I asked. ‘Absolutely nothing’. ‘Then I’m your man.’
And I’ve enjoyed it hugely! I’m sure my successor, Dr Kenneth Wolfe, will make a splendid success of a post that enables you to work with so many gifted officers on the committee and such a variety of experts in so many fields. And all of them delightful company.
It’s invidious to pick anyone from such a constellation, but we all owe Sue Badman endless gratitude for her tireless and brilliant work as our Secretary. And of course Brian Green is a legend. Since we were both little boys together in that wonderful Dulwich Village Infants’ School eighty odd years ago and throughout his time as a local historian and editor of this glorious magazine, he stands for the best in Dulwich, just as our Society will always try to make it even better.
Thanks to you all.
Dulwich Society Website
About 100 people browse our site every day, seven days a week, making around 37,000 users a year. Not surprisingly, they mostly find us via internet search engines (70%), around 15% come to us via our Twitter account and around 10% are direct, meaning they type our website address straight into their browser or they bookmark us. They use phones and desktop computers, not tablets. Over 85% of our users are from the UK while the remainder come from the US (we are very popular in Virginia and California), China, Canada and Australia, though we do have single users in most European countries.
The top 10 most popular pages are:
- The home page
- Dulwich Estate maps
- The local history home page
- Southwark traffic measures report
- About the Dulwich Society
- The Grove Tavern saga
- The Journal archive
- Who Was Who in Dulwich
- Gazetteer of road names
New Logo for the Society
A new logo is to be commissioned by the Dulwich Society to better reflect its identity. The logo currently used is from a woodcut by Thomas Berwick (1753-1828) and depicts a swan. It has been used on all the Society’s publications for over fifty years and is thought to have been arbitrarily chosen by a previous editor of the Society’s then newsletter. Its use has become increasingly ambiguous as swans have not been found on any waters in Dulwich for over twenty years.
Please note that subscriptions for 2022 are due on January 1st. Subscriptions remain at £10 per household. Most members pay by standing order and if so, you do not need to take any action.
However, if you pay your subscription by cheque (or cash) then please send it, payable to The Dulwich Society, to me at the address below. To save on costs of posting reminders it would be appreciated if this was done promptly. If the Society has not received payment by the end of March then names will be removed from the membership list.
If you would like to start paying by standing order then please contact me at the address/number below for a form or download it from the membership leaflet on the Society website. Alternatively, payment can be made by bank transfer but please contact me for your reference number and our bank details.
A Happy Christmas and New Year to all our members.
Diana McInnes, Membership Secretary,
11 Ferrings, Dulwich, London SE21 7LU.
020 8693 6313
If you have not told us your email address you will not be receiving the monthly members eNewsletter, which is becoming a very popular source of up-to-date local news. Please send your email address to the membership email address above.
Your Journal will continue to be sent on a quarterly basis.
On 12th October a ‘listening post’, a solar-powered, vandal proof information device was unveiled by Dr Kenneth Wolfe, the Society’s president before an assembly of over 70 members. The post was paid for through the Mary Boast fund, a bequest to the Dulwich Society’s local history group by a former member, the late Mary Boast who was head librarian at Southwark and the author of a number of official borough histories including Dulwich. A niece and nephew of Mary Boast were able to attend the event.
Its provision was at the suggestion of Sharon O’Connor, secretary of the Local History group, who also organised the entire project, dealing with the narrator, the actor Wliiam Owen and arranging the adaption of the script by Mary Green. Sue Badman had seen Will and Mary’s Edward Alleyn cameo in the last Dulwich Festival to be held before the pandemic. It was part of perambulating performance depicting the originator of the A-Z street guide Phyllis Pearsall conducting a tour of Dulwich’s historical landmarks.
After the unveiling of the post, which is activated by the pressing of a button, and is located in the garden of Christ’s Chapel and the Old College, close to the Edward Alleyn statue, the members moved into the Chapel where Brian Green gave a short talk on the history of the 400 year-old building. Norman Harper, former organist of St George’s Cathedral, Southwark, then played a selection of organ music published around the time of the Chapel’s historic organ’s debut (1760). The pleasant morning, in sunny weather concluded with a glass of Buck’s Fizz under the cloisters.
Will Owen narrator
William comes from a family of actors. Both his father and grandfather were in the business, most notably for their work in the BBC comedy "Last of the Summer Wine" Sadly the show is no longer being filmed so Will has had to make do with recent appearances in ‘Deceit’ for Ch4 and the Queen biopic, ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’.. Along with acting,Will is also a musician. He has his own band Fire at Will and is “looking forward to playing live again very soon".
Edward Alleyn Listening Post Unveiled! - the text of Kenneth’s Wolfe’s address.
The name Alleyn adorns seven streets in Dulwich and no doubt the residents living in them or walking past - probably know little about this extraordinarily talented and eventually very wealthy fellow. He lost his father when he was just four. Luckily that father had been in service to Queen Elizabeth - the first [!] - an innkeeper and a porter - therefore with ‘elevated’ social connections. Alleyn’s mother was a Townley and eventually had a Dulwich road named after her. With his father gone, she remarried - this time to a notable actor named Brown. Theatre was part of Alleyn’s daily domestic atmosphere. By the mid-eighties, the Alleyn family was well established and Edward, Ned to his chums, was remarkably talented. It was said he was not only taller than most but now writing his own plays. With these and his team of actors there was success. Soon they were on the road acting in his own dramas as well as those of the likes of Marlow - all for a basic financial need. Touring from town to town, even risking the Bubonic plague - the Coronavirus of their time. They went courageously hither and thither, hopefully entertaining the non-coughing audiences; they needed the cash!
Alleyn became a great success widely praised and in demand; parts written for him playing the title role; so to say - he was the Lawrence Olivier of his day! His only close rival was Richard Burbage. He married Joan Woodward in late twenties; she sadly died in her early thirties. As with so many notables, the church was a central consolation to his life, limb and spirit. The link was comforting: six months later, he married the daughter of the poet and Dean of St. Paul’s John Donne with whom Alleyn would doubtless have agreed: ‘No Man is an Island.’ Yet at the height of his career - he decided in his mid-thirties to leave the stage and go into business not the least to build and support theatres, one in Finsbury Fields to rival the Globe on Bankside. He was also Master of the King’s Games - of bears, bulls and dogs, riotous fun with their dogs barking up the audience’s gangways - and leaving their calling cards. Alleyn himself once baited a lion in the Tower of London.
Rumour has it that the Queen asked him to return to the theatre and indeed, he did. In his mid-thirties he was now the talk of the town, praised by Ben Johnson; perhaps above all, praised by those ordinary folk enjoying the entertainment. He continued acting on and off - responding to demand while becoming a wealthy businessman. A notable cleric Thomas Fuller wrote of Alleyn’s acting ‘he made any part to become him’ - he was ‘inimitable’.
Aged just under forty as the seventeenth century emerged, Alleyn by then owned a huge span of land and property having bought a great chunk from one Thomas Calton; a landscape that stretched all the way from Herne Hill to a high spot that happily somewhat later, allowed the BBC to erect an impressive aerial!
Above all the College building was his major project in Dulwich that began in 1613. He possessed a dynamic energy that linked theatre with learning: entertainment and erudition. It was perhaps a gesture of thanksgiving; hence ‘God’s Gift’ for all his successes and adulation on and off the stage. Alleyn encouraged theatrical performances: he was hugely influential - and of course, getting older, yet creatively successful in business. He was clearly a man of talent and influence, with one eye on adults in the stalls and another on the young at their desks. Above all, Edward Alleyn knew that the rising generation was in need of knowledge. Hence his commitment to the school, once he had acquired the land. By 16th June 1619 when Alleyn was in his fifties, the College of God’s Gift was founded.
His life is testimony to his youthfully creative energy and perhaps has something to say for us today. His College and his theatrical appreciation was more than schooling: it embraced insight more than just knowledge; perhaps laying a foundation in young minds upon whose maturing insight much would be built and in later years would show signs of wisdom and maturity.
Louise Simson’s sculpture here is thus a dynamic and eloquent image of Alleyn reaching down to the little chap enticing him to act and to learn, a sculptured narrative. Dulwich would provide the chance to play as well as to study, learning from what the teachers might say and what the actors might proclaim. We have to thank Edward Alleyn for creating an area of London that has been safeguarded from local authority intrusion; it remains to this a rural oasis in this city.
We must thank him for setting up a famous educational foundation that has taught and educated many hundreds of pupils many of whom would become famous and influential. And we must be proud! Of this powerful sculptured symbol that makes this important feature of local history dramatically accessible to all: it brings him to life. As a thespian, he would have loved this dramatic piece.
Thus we unveil a technology providing a means to understand a foundation that Alleyn would have cherished. His wealth had found a special purpose. Thus Louise Simson has him offering his enticing hand in the classroom, on the stage offering those essential educational components. And for this unique innovation, we must thank the generous Mary Boast legacy; and indeed, we must welcome Mary’s nephew Michael and his family. Her legacy brings this dynamic statue to life through the voice of Will Owen and his attention to detail in the recording; alas, he is busy recording this morning. The words of course, do not fall out of the sky but have been scripted by Mary the daughter of Brian Green - who knows more than most and will forgive my errors. Between the two of them, we are informed, educated and entertained. Unveil!
Ebullient and combative, the architect Owen Luder was a Dulwich resident from 1975, occupying 105 Dulwich Village, a large Georgian house, quite different in character to his own architectural style. Probably attracted by its large garden, where he enjoyed a daily early morning swim in the pool he built, he gave expression to his joie de vivre through his colourful bow ties and penchant for performance sports cars, owning amongst others an Aston Martin DBS.
Twice president of the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA), Owen Luder was responsible for what has become some of the most controversial architecture of the twentieth century. His champions argue that his distinctive and imaginative Brutalist buildings with their emphasis on the use of raw concrete and functional design were inspirational. However, the wider public have shunned his work in recent years although he continues to be highly regarded by a number of dedicated admirers. Owen Luder’s commissions included the Eros House and the adjacent shopping centre in Catford, the now demolished Tricorn Centre in Portsmouth, Derwent Tower (aka the Derwent Rocket) and the Trinity Square Shopping Centre and Car Park in Gateshead - which famously featured in that early 70s classic crime film 'Get Carter'.
Closer to home, he built two houses in Herne Hill Road, the sale of one allowed he and his family to occupy the other. He was involved with works to St Saviours Herne Hill and he oversaw the conversion of the Grade II-listed Victorian fire station in West Norwood into the South London Theatre.
The initial design work on his firm's larger projects was often carried out by his partners, but according to Ian McInnes chair of the trustees of the Twentieth Century Society, without Luder, none of those buildings would have been built; “He had the energy and business skills to make them happen, and many of them were works which continue to inspire new generations, who sadly can now only discover them through film and photography”.
Owen Luder was born in Islington in 1928, the family moving to the Old Kent Road in 1935. and he grew up in South London. He stayed in London throughout WW2 and for a time attended SLESS (South London Emergency Secondary School, formerly Peckham School for Girls established for children remaining in London before proceeding to study architecture as a career firstly at the Brixton School of Building then at the School of Architecture at Regent Street Polytechnic. He established his own practice in 1957. He was elected for two non-consecutive terms as president of the Royal Society of British Architects (1981-83 and 1995-97). He overcame opposition to change by the elitist wing of the Institute when he sought to place the profession on a more business like footing and was supported by the Institute’s rank and file. He is credited with bringing better managerial skills into both RIBA particularly, and the profession generally.
At a dedication ceremony on 7th August four sculptured stones bearing the text of John Donne’s prayer: Bring us O Lord God and designed to invite completive reflection, remembering and reflection, were unveiled in the church’s memorial garden following a bequest from Russell Vernon, the former Architect and Surveyor to the Dulwich Estate. He lived locally in Frank Dixon Way and was an active member of the Dulwich community, being chairman of many local charities and also, for many years, diocesan architect and surveyor to All Saints.
A verse of the poem ‘Bring us, O Lord God, at our last awakening into the house and gate of heaven’ is carved on the threshold stone and the remainder of the text is spread across four stones (three vertical and a bench) to encourage people to journey through the text and into the garden. The vertical stones have strong sentinel qualities and like a spire on a gothic cathedral are intended to symbolise contact between the earth and the divine.
The artist, Thomas Sargeant, a past apprentice of The Lettering Arts Trust, through whom the commission was arranged, used Caithness stone and the John Donne prayer was selected due to Donne’s link with Dulwich - his daughter was Edward Alleyn’s second wife.
Russell Vernon (1916-2009 was educated at Alleyns School and studied architecture at the Regent Street Polytechnic. He joined the army in 1939 and was demobbed from the Royal Engineers in 1946 with the rank of major. He was in the forefront of the British Army’s advance into Germany early in 1945 and his command was one of the first to reach the Belsen concentration camp. He was awarded the MBE for his work there.
He joined his uncle, Austin Vernon, the Surveyor and Architect to the Dulwich Estate, in practice locally in 1946 and became his partner in 1948. The first major projects of the new practice, Austin Vernon & Partners, were the building of the new Dulwich College Science Laboratories and the almost complete reconstruction of the severely bomb-damaged Dulwich Picture Gallery - opened by the Queen Mother in 1953.
During the early 1950s he was heavily involved in the negotiations over the Dulwich Development Plan which set the pattern for the redevelopment of the area over the next twenty years - the objective being the regeneration of the Estate and the Foundation Schools. He succeeded Austin Vernon as Architect and Surveyor to the Dulwich Estate in 1959 and his practice designed well over 2000 houses on the Dulwich Estate, as well as buildings at Dulwich College, Alleyn’s School, JAGS, and the Dulwich College Prep School.
The current Crystal Palace Football Club was founded in 1905. It is South London’s major football club and, if Dulwich residents want to see Premier League football, Selhurst Park is the place to go. ‘The Crystal Palace Football Club 1861-76’, by Stuart Hibberd, Chair of the Norwood Society, tells the story of a previous club with the same name that played at the Crystal Palace between 1861 and 1876. That club was one of the original founder members of the Football Association in 1863 and was represented on the committees that determined the rules of the game (local Allison Gardens resident Louis Sordiet was one of the attendees). The club competed in the first ever FA Cup competition in 1871-72, reaching the semi-finals where the team lost to the Royal Engineers. Out of 50 players who represented England at international matches in those early years, 16 played at some point for Crystal Palace.
Several of the players came from Dulwich - Walter Cutbill (in later life a Captain of the Dulwich & Sydenham Hill Golf Club) was regarded as one of the top fifteen forwards of the day and the Allport family from East Dulwich were also well represented. The club played many of their games against local opposition around the area - football was popular in the area, and both the Crown Inn and the Greyhound Inn in Dulwich Village had football pitches, and there were other pitches on Dog Kennel Hill, Dulwich Common and Burbage Road.
The book is full of illustrations and covers in detail the club players and the histories of the teams they played against. It also includes a section on other sports played in Crystal Palace Park at the time. The references and notes ruins to a total of 29 pages and is a superb resource for anyone interested in football in its early years. In addition, the book features extracts of the diary of Charles John Chenery who represented England in the first ever football international in 1872. He lived locally in Thicket Road, adjacent to the Crystal Palace.
The book costs £20 + £3.50 P&P and is available from
After heading the Dulwich Festival for eighteen years Alpha Hopkins is handing the baton over. The Festival, which began in 1993 was originated by three local working mums, Marguerite Weedy, Alison Lloyd and Valerie Thorncroft. Their successors, Alpha Hopkins and Nina Jex were also working mums when they took over. In the following year, Dulwich Artists’ Open House, curated by Rachel Gluyas and Liz Boyd was launched to compliment the original Festival’s format. The Dulwich Festival has, over many years, maintained a very high standard and has been a much looked forward to annual event. Even during the restrictions of the past two years, the organisers have managed to stage both the Festival and Artists’ Open House online. What a remarkable record! The Journal has asked Alpha and Rachel to reflect on the events of these years.
Alpha Hopkins, Director, The Dulwich Festival 2004-2021 writes:
As my time as Director of the Dulwich Festival comes to an end, I look back on all the events and endeavours with joy and no small amount of amazement that the Festival team and wider community brought so many diverse and wonderful experiences to Dulwich during those eighteen years. I can still hear the rapturous applause at the premier of The Mozart Question with Michael Morpurgo and The Dante Quartet; still feel the compassion in the audience as author Judith Kerr related the facts surrounding her escape as a child from Nazi Germany and her immense gratitude towards Britain and its then ready acceptance of refugees; and still sense the buzz of excitement at the visit of performance group, The Last Poets, from the US in 2018. And that is just a fraction of the moments that spring to mind. We eventually commissioned Icelandic film-maker, Odinn Orn Hilmarsson to document each Festival & Artists’ Open House and these can be viewed on the Dulwich Festival You Tube channel as a vibrant reminder. I just wish we had captured the many other inspirational performers and speakers in action, including amongst many others John Hegley, Jo Brand, Patrick Holden, the Chilingirian Quartet, Max Porter, Andrew Motion, Craig Sams, The Swingle Singers and Imelda May.
In some years we adopted an over-arching theme to the Festival, which worked incredibly well, including: the Dulwich Street Art Festival in 2013 with Ingrid Beazley; an exploration of the history and musical life of Christ’s Chapel during its 400th anniversary year in 2016 with the Dulwich Estate; and free taster sessions at all local sports clubs in celebration of the London Olympics in 2012, with great support from all involved.
Holding the position of Director of the Dulwich Festival has of course been a responsibility, ensuring that the charity is well managed financially and is meeting its artistic objectives, but it has also been a privilege to work with many dedicated colleagues including the Trustees, who are so generous with their time and expertise. We have been supported by many local organisations without whom it just would not have been possible to create the Festival, including The Rotary Club of Dulwich & Peckham, the London Wildlife Trust, the Dulwich Picture Gallery, the Friends of Dulwich Park, Dulwich Going Greener, Bell House and of course, the Dulwich Society. It has also been remarkable how we have been welcomed in by so many churches, sports clubs and schools who have hosted events, and generously supported by many sponsors including long-term partners Suzanne James Catering, R. Woodfall Opticians and Ludlow Thompson.
Whilst each year has brought the challenge of creating a new programme, the unifying thread has been the amazing Festival team. There are so many colleagues I would like to thank for their unstinting support, I know they will forgive me if I just give a huge vote of thanks to Alison and Marguerite who have remained kindly guides since they too stood down as Directors, Nina Jex and Simon Edwards who initially ran the Festival with me, Ken and Barbara Deller who were Trustees and continued to support the Festival for many years, Alastair Hanton who quietly guided me in our environmental and social justice events, Ingrid Beazley who brought such energy to establish the Dulwich Outdoor Gallery, Rose Chapman and her family who have continually supported the Festival, Rachel Gluyas & Liz Boyd who have developed the Artists’ Open House with tremendous drive and good humour, and Mark Arn whose graphic design has elevated the Festival beyond measure.
I am already missing creating next year’s programme but definitely looking forward to the new chapter in the Dulwich Festival story.
Rachel Gluyas Co-ordinator of Dulwich Artists’ Open House writes:
The Dulwich Festival Artists’ Open House takes place over two weekends in May. What began as a small event with around 25 artists has grown to include over 250 artists at 170 venues. At its heart it is still very much a community event which aims to celebrate local talent and give a platform to both emerging and established artists, showcasing work in a variety of media from Fine Art to Furniture, Glass, Ceramics, Jewellery, Homewares and more.
Many of the artists who take part have done so since the early days and it is wonderful for those of us working on the organisation to see the breadth of talent involved. Many are professional artists who enjoy the opportunity to connect with the local community but the event is also a good springboard for artists who are developing and evolving their talent and who are keen to receive feedback from visitors and for whom working towards an exhibition helps inspire, consolidate and curate their best work. Many of the artists we work with have become friends but new artists are always welcomed and this ebb and flow keeps the event fresh.
Now approaching its 18th year Artists' Open House has become so established in the local calendar that visitors return each year to revisit their favourite artists and also to discover new talent. A large part of the appeal is that visitors can see art in a domestic setting normally closed to the public and in a relaxed atmosphere. Working studios also open their doors and this gives visitors a unique opportunity to see the creative process at work. The experience of seeing the artists’ materials, smelling the paint or seeing molten glass emerging from a furnace and being blown into an exquisite vase is thrilling.
Connecting with the Artist directly is an integral part of its appeal, making the viewing and buying of a much loved piece of art a very personal experience.
While most of the artists live locally some invite friends and family to show with them making it an opportunity to throw a good party too. This hospitality is often extended to visitors and is also a great opportunity for neighbours to get to know each other and new friendships to be made.
The internet and social media have transformed the organisational process. Its now hard to believe that less than 15 years ago many people did not have fast internet access or even email, so in the early days much of the communication was through letters. Social media has also meant that we can publicise the event in a much more direct way and give live updates.
This has not diminished the popularity of the Artists' Open House booklet which features all the artists taking part including an image of their work on show. Visitors will often visit an artist with the intention of buying that particular piece so the image that they choose to promote their work is key. 20,000 copies of the booklet are printed and distributed to local shops, bars, cafes and galleries before the event and it is a delight for us to see visitors wandering around the area consulting their copy of the booklet.
While most of the Open House venues are private homes and studios other venues also participate including Dulwich Picture Gallery - Britain's oldest public gallery which has opened its permanent collection free to the public on one day during the Festival and hosted local artists involved with the Gallery enabling them to show their work.
The permanent collection at the Dulwich Picture Gallery also served as inspiration for The Dulwich outdoor gallery. Founded by our friend and colleague Ingrid Beazley (1950-2017), her idea was to bring together some of the world’s most prolific street artists - Stik, Thierry Noir, Connor Harrington and Remi Rough to name just a few, resulting in a unique marriage of fine art and street art with Old Masters from the gallery reinterpreted on walls around Dulwich. It is pleasing that Ingrid’s street art walking tours have been continued by Amanda Greatorex. In this way the Baroque art of the Old Masters is brought to a new audience of people who love street art and vice versa, just as Ingrid intended.
Making art open and accessible to all is really what inspires all of us involved with the Dulwich Festival. To support local artists and make it possible for people to meet them and see their work in a relaxed and informal setting. Over the years we have been so inspired by the generosity and hospitality of all the artists taking part. While Liz Boyd and I have decided that the time has come to step down from our organisational roles we look forward to helping a new team for next year and to enjoying the Dulwich Festival as visitors.
High house prices, and the difficulties for the younger generation and the less well-off members of society in entering the housing market, have exercised the minds of politicians of all parties for some time. Searches for simple solutions to the perceived crisis have in the past tended to concentrate on building more houses. More recently attention has focussed on the planning system, which is being criticised as overly complicated, cumbersome, slow, and effectively a block on development.
Whether or not this is the problem, there are now a number of new government initiatives aimed at charting a smoother way through the planning system for development interests, notably those concerned with housing. In August 2020, the Government launched the Planning for the Future White Paper, which was effectively a consultation paper on proposals for a future Planning Bill designed to address the ‘shortage of beautiful, high-quality homes and places where people want to live and work’. The quest for more attractive development reflected the aspirations contained in the report of the Building Better, Building Beautiful Commission co-chaired by the late Sir Roger Scruton, and it was no doubt thought that this would go towards mitigating the widespread ‘NIMBY’ opposition to the poor quality ‘pattern book’ estates being inflicted upon existing settlements. Local authorities were asked to focus on identifying land in three categories:
- Growth Areas - suitable for substantial development, where planning permission would be automatically secured for forms and types of development specified in the Local Plan.
- Renewal Areas - suitable for some development (eg ‘gentle densification’);
- Protected Areas - where development would be restricted (eg conservation areas).
The White Paper proposed new national development management policies, with local authorities spelling out site and area requirements alongside the development of local design codes - there was a new emphasis on resident engagement in the early stages of the preparation of these policies but, controversially, this community involvement would be limited to the early stages of the plan. Residents would be denied an opportunity to object to individual design code compliant proposals in growth areas, because these would receive automatic outline permission.
At the same time, a government algorithm was released, setting housing targets for individual local authorities, based on local house prices. Given that 80% of high value areas were in London and the South East - the very areas arguably under the most pressure from ill-judged development, the proposals met with near unanimous opposition, including representatives from the housing sector itself. Unsurprisingly, the proposals were abandoned in December 2020, and it is now understood that the twenty biggest cities will take a larger share, with a shift to the North and Midlands, presumably in deference to the ‘Levelling Up’ agenda, and there will be a concentration on brownfield sites (ie previously developed land) and densification (as noted above). In the meantime, other ‘minor’ changes to the planning process have been implemented, particularly with regard to ‘permitted development’ (development that can be carried out without the need for planning permission). This has allowed offices to be changed to residential, high-street shops to be turned into housing and up to two additional storeys being added to an existing dwelling. Luckily on the Dulwich Estate we have the Scheme of Management which will effectively prevent permitted development rights being implemented but this will not apply in East and West Dulwich. At the same time, Southwark and Lambeth Councils are attempting to keep some sort of planning control in key shopping streets by the use of Article 4 Directives.
The original proposals met with widespread opposition, given an added twist by the startling Chesham and Amersham by election result, which provided additional evidence of the depth of local feeling on the subject. More recently, there is a now a new government department charged with delivering the Planning Bill (ie. the Department for Levelling Up, Housing, and Communities), with a new Minister, Michael Gove, and an announcement ‘pausing’ the draft Bill, pending further consideration of the proposals. The recommendations of the Building Better, Building Beautiful Commission are to be carried forward by a new Office for Place under Nicholas Boys Smith, charged with delivering design codes to every part of the country, and there is now a National Model Design Code to work from. A selection of local authorities has been charged with piloting the proposals, including our own Southwark.
The final outcome of the revised draft Planning Bill consultation is not known, and there are hints that residents may yet be able to keep the right to comment on individual applications after all, but it might be prudent for members to involve themselves as closely as possible with councils in putting together design guides/codes reflecting the character and appearance of the different parts of our areas. Much of Dulwich is covered by conservation areas, each with their own existing character appraisals, but for those areas outside, including East and West Dulwich, residents should press for complete character area assessments in order to provide a proper basis for attaining appropriate design code coverage. Other issues to be looked out for include a likely pressure to develop Metropolitan Open Land - a key feature in keeping the Dulwich area ‘green’, and proposals for the redevelopment of houses in large gardens
In the past, local authorities have been singularly unsuccessful in drawing residents into the plan process, and this becomes even more problematic if new plans have to be prepared as soon as the changes to the planning system have been settled, and if the whole process now has to be completed over a period of thirty months. Residents need to press local councillors and our local MP, Helen Hayes, who has a particular expertise in planning matters, to take account of their views and make sure that concerns are reflected in the policies agreed.
By Charles Dickens adapted and directed by Jane Jones
What could say Christmas more than a production of A Christmas Carol! This much-loved classic has been adapted from the novella in a faithful but stripped-back version that brings drama and wit to the story of Ebenezer Scrooge. Dickens’ superb story-telling is brought to life by a cast of well-known characters and narrators. Staged in St Barnabas Parish Hall, the Dickensian feel couldn't be greater and this production promises to bring Christmas cheer and an antidote to Humbug after the cancelling of festivities last year.
Dates: Saturday 18th December/Sunday 19th December at 4pm and 7.30pm. Monday 20th December at 7.30pm.
Venue: St Barnabas Parish Hall, 23 Dulwich Village SE21 7BT
Tickets: £12 and £8 (under 18’s) through Ticketsource via our website: www.dulwichplayers.org. Suitable for ages 8 and above.
10 Year Anniversary Advent Concert Sunday 5th December
J S Bach & Christmas Music
Shaking off the Covid shackles and fresh from the triumph of their recent performance of Bach’s Mass in B Minor in St James’ Piccadilly, the Dulwich Chamber Choir is delighted to be returning to Dulwich’s Christ’s Chapel on Sunday 5th December for its annual Advent Concert, this year featuring excerpts from Bach as well as Christmas songs.
Founded in 2011 by Richard Mayo, this is the 10th anniversary season for the Dulwich Chamber choir. Originally designed to give experienced singers short on spare time the opportunity to gather and perform a variety of wonderful music, the Choir’s first concert with the English Heritage Orchestra took place in October 2011. Since when it has gone from strength to strength, deploying its flexible ensemble to perform a wide range of formats embracing both the secular and the sacred.
Concerts, performed in local venues, have included Pizzetti’s Requiem and Rachmaninov’s Vespers, as well as works by Bruckner, Haydn, Howells, Walton and Eric Whitacre. The choir has also put on several themed musical events, including a 2013 concert to mark the 50th anniversary of the death of President J. F. Kennedy, and a Victorian evening of music and words.
Lockdown has been tough for singers, as for everyone. Though Zoom singing gave some an important sense of community, Dulwich Chamber Choir decided the experience would be too ‘wooden’ compared to the vibrancy of actual rehearsals. As one choir member explained: ‘Choral singing is like a team sport – a massive joint effort to produce something inspiring and memorable both for those producing it and those listening. After 18 months of silence, during which choir members saw their share of loss and difficulties, it means the world to be back in the joyful business of live singing to an audience. Christmas 2021 deserves real celebration.”
Concert Details: Excerpts from J S Bach Mass in B Minor, Christmas music & carols 7-9pm Sunday December 5th Christ’s Chapel, Gallery Road, SE21 7AD Tickets on the door: £15 (£10) concessions