Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Outstanding results from outstanding kids in outstanding schools in an outstanding area - Bermondsey!

As another academic year draws to a close, it’s time to say a huge ‘well done’ to all of our young people living in Bermondsey.  Although the past ten months may have flown by for some, or dragged its heels for others, now is the time to pause and reflect on the magnitude of their accomplishments.

Getting up at seven on a sombre September morning, and with dogged determination, repeating this for another 194 days, takes some doing.  In spite of the challenges that life throws at many of our young people, most made it through each day, developing as they went a love of learning and thirst for knowledge and skills.

Bermondsey primary schools are some of the best in London.  Snowsfields is a ‘good’ school and was one of the top 100 most improved schools 2009-2012.  Keep it up!

In 2013 at St Joseph’s Roman Catholic school, 36% of year 6 children reached Level 5, the level expected of a 14-year-old, in both English and maths!  High expectations, or what?
Image © St Joseph's RC Primary School
Hot off the press this July from St James C of E primary, 92% of the year 2 pupils achieved a level 2 in maths and English, while 98% of the year 6 pupils achieved a level 4 in maths.  How do they do it?
But, steaming out in front is Riverside primary with 100% of kids securing a level 4 in English and maths in 2013, and a mammoth 51% achieving level 5.   Bang on target!
Image © Riverside Primary School
While our secondary schools have some way to go to beat their primary peers, both St Saviour and St Olave’s C of E school and Harris Academy Bermondsey added more value to their pupils last year than many other Southwark schools.

So, here's a message to all Bermondsey young people: enjoy the summer break, recharge your batteries and indulge in some holiday reading or research.  But, above all, be proud – very proud!

More information:
Primary school league tables in Southwark 2013
Secondary school league tables in Southwark 2013

St James' Church of England Primary

Riverside Primary


Harris Academy Bermondsey


St Saviour and St Olave's


Sunday, 20 July 2014

The Bermondsey Review: Art Stabs Power: que se vayan todos! at the Bermondsey Project

Can austerity and recession really be influenced by art?  A new exhibition at the Bermondsey Project seems to think so.
After a successful premiere in Lisbon, curator Inês Valle has transferred a mélange of artists to the UK, offering a contemporary feast of sculpture, painting, film and installation.  Although focusing on ‘policies of austerity imposed on Portugal’, Art Stabs Power is deliciously beautiful, bursting with colour and energy – less ‘art stabs power’, more ‘art styles power’.
On first glance, the collection doesn’t really encourage '[identification] with the real hardships that are being experienced in Portugal and elsewhere’ - it's too pretty for that.  But, what it does extremely well is create an enjoyable, aesthetically pleasing experience in one of London’s best white warehouse spaces.

Joana Gomes' UN Blue Berets/SOS Save our Sanity 2014
It’s contemporary art with a playfully retro feel.  From Joana Gomes' UN Blue Berets/SOS Save our Sanity 2014, to Hugo de Almeida Pinho’s performance piece ‘O Freunde, nicht diese Töne’ complete with cassette recorder, megaphone speaker and blue powder paint, they transport the viewer back to the halcyon days of youth. 
Hugo de Almeida Pinho’s ‘O Freunde, nicht diese Töne’
Fernando J Ribeiro’s 'In search of the French revolution’ is an alluring arrangement of post-it notes representing the French tricolor; together with Untitled (Euopean Union), 2012, which transforms the golden stars of the EU flag into crisps on the floor, they communicate strong messages about power and nationhood.  
Untitled (Euopean Union), 2012
Image © Fernando J Ribeiro 2012
Like much contemporary art, this collection relies on its glossy programme to explain context and elements of meaning;  without this, the exhibition would lack the oomph required to provoke anyone to do anything about this part of recession hit Europe
Paul Eachus' Anarchitectower, 2014
Sadly, this home to many homeless artists will close later in the year.  Art Stabs Power?  Unfortunately for the Bermondsey Project and Crisis, power stabs art in favour of fancy new apartments – and that’s a real shame.  Que se vayan todos!
Filipe Marques' Disclosedness space's underlying cause, 2014
More information:

Bermondsey Project
46 Willow Walk, SE1 5SF London
Telephone: 0207 036 2415

Website: www.bermondseyproject.com

Email: bermondsey@crisis.org.uk
Opening times: Wednesday – Saturday 1 – 6pm
Ends 3rd August 2014


Thursday, 17 July 2014

The Bermondsey Review: Gilbert and George Scapegoating Pictures at the White Cube

Just when you thought it was time to give up on 21st Century contemporary art, Gilbert and George return to Bermondsey Street and make you question why we ever doubted it.

Scapegoating Pictures is the latest exhibition at the White Cube by the provocative septuagenarians, examining ‘fundamentalism, religion, paranoia, surveillance and victimhood’.  Old friends of the Bermondsey gallery, the pair present over sixty new works placing themselves, as always, at the centre of each piece.
Photograph Copyright 2014 @LexisAgency
So... how to put this?
Shebang (2013)
It was bloody awful and far too red; yet thrilling, enchanting and highly addictive.  Unflinchingly offensive to Christian, Jew and Muslim, yet oozing charm and chutzpah.  Terribly frightening and intimidating, yet delightfully easy on the eye.  It was complete and utter rubbish, while also being classically brilliant art.
Astrostar (2013)
The three-part title piece Scapegoating  (2013) is disgusting, forcing one to leave, whilst being at the same time simply mesmeric, commanding the viewer to wonder and stay (being confronted by images of white middle-aged men made up as beetles surrounded by three-word insults including ‘Mollest a Mullah’, has an anaesthetic-like effect on the body and mind).

Scapegoating (2013) - 1 of 3
Much contemporary art leaves the viewer cold and sterile.  Gilbert and George’s work provokes a violently confusing response, that ends in pleasure – doublethink that one is completely aware of.

Bodypoppers (2013)
Is this ‘Art for All'?  It will only be judged so if working-class Bermondsey man and woman appreciates and hates it in equal measure.  Gilbert and George would want nothing less.  Nitrous oxide, anyone?
Sweet Air Sweet Air (2013)

PLEASE NOTE: Some of the art in this exhibition is not suitable for children.

More information:

White Cube, 144-152 Bermondsey Street, Bermondsey, London SE1 3TQ Tel: 020 7930 5373

Opening Times:

Tuesday – Saturday 10am – 6pm
Sunday 12pm – 6pm

Scapegoating (2013) - 2 of 3

Canister found on Tower Bridge Road - 'hippy crack'?

Sunday, 13 July 2014

A bevy of Boris Bikes backpedal to Bermondsey's Spa Terminus

How heartening to see that Bermondsey’s premier market is now so popular that customers are hiring Boris Bikes to journey there and back home again!  At the cost of £1 for the first hour, increasing to £10 for two and a half hours, cycling to Spa Terminus on one of the ubiquitous London bikes ain’t cheap, especially when you’re paying Spa Terminus prices for your weekly produce.
Thankfully, at least one outlet believes that bargains make Bermondsey business sense.  Located in a railway arch in the Voyager Business Estate, South East Fruits trades to the public every Saturday.  Their uniqueness lies in the fact that they price their goods low and pile them high - austerity prices for an area populated by some of Britain’s poorest yet hardworking people.

But, therein lies the problem: how appropriate is it to site a 'people's market' for the few at the heart of a working-class community populated by the many?  12 satsumas and a punnet of juicy white Spanish grapes, both priced at £1, is more than affordable.  100g of ‘champignons’ for a fiver is not.
While Spa Terminus (or Spa Road as many local Bermondsey families will always call it) is a jewel in the Bermondsey crown, and a welcome addition to the Spa area, it is missing a trick by excluding so many local families, as it prices its products into another stratosphere.  We have written about this issue before, and South East Fruits notwithstanding, we see little evidence of any reduction in prices or broadening product ranges to suit all prices.  Social exclusion does not create highly profitable businesses.
So thank you to those who support the local business community by freewheeling along Frean Street, or back pedalling down Bermondsey Street on their Boris Bikes to shop in our beloved Spa Road.  You bring vibrancy, charm and cash to our area.  However, the time has now come for these local businesses to work harder to include all of the local community, old as well as nouveau Bermondsey, in the Spa Terminus experience.  After all, we’re experiencing difficult financial times - we should all be in this together.
More information:
Spa Terminus

South East Fruits

Barclays Cycle Hire (Boris Bikes)

Food outlets in Spa Terminus, Spa Road
Carrington Brown florist
What's behind the blue door? Spa Terminus!

Saturday, 12 July 2014

Did the NUT strike help Bermondsey's children, teachers and parents?

Bermondsey’s teachers are brilliant!  From the split-site St James Church of England school, to the vibrant Riverside primary – both graded ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted, both in the top 6% of schools nationally – our schools are getting better and better.  So, it was disappointing for many Bermondsey pupils and parents that members of the National Union of Teachers chose to hold a one-day strike on Thursday of this week, disrupting the domestic and work lives of some of Britain’s poorest families.  Without a time-limited ballot, the union was able to call-out its members on an old mandate, voted for by a tiny proportion of its members – hardly democracy in action. 
Image © Daily Telegraph
But, with thousands of schools nationally forced to shut up shop, what was so important that local parents had little option but to miss work and lose a day’s pay, or find urgent child care?  Well, the NUT cite workload and bureaucracy, performance-related pay, changes to pensions, talks between government and unions and teacher numbers as the main reasons.  But, four out of five of these were problems for the NUT under recent Labour governments too – is there anything that the union agrees with?  Stuck in the 1970s, it doesn’t understand that the world has changed; paying by performance raises standards and spurs on individuals to work harder and achieve better results. 
Image © BBC
Strikes in the education sector do not work. Dialogue does.  Choosing arbitrarily the issues on which it bases strikes, the NUT ignores a myriad of other perfectly valid reasons for action: class sizes (30 children is too many); standards of behaviour and lack of discipline; absence of competitive sport and learning; lack of parental responsibility and involvement; under-performing teachers.  Bermondsey’s  teachers need their unions to act responsibly, defending their interests but acting primarily in the needs of the children.  These strikes test parents' patience, and damage the reputation of the teaching profession.
Image © The Guardian
Thankfully, not all Bermondsey classrooms were closed.  The NUT should spend less time focusing on the needs of the union and vested interests, and more time fighting for better lives and opportunities for our children.  They should promote higher expectations of teachers and children, encourage a diversity of schools and, yes, share the best practice of the top schools in the state and private sector. Bermondsey’s poorer kids deserve nothing less.

More information:
NUT - 5 reasons to strike
The NUT strike as it happened
10th July strikes

Friday, 4 July 2014

The Bermondsey Review: 'Affordable art' should be affordable

Contemporary art divides people; but there’s one thing we
can all agree on - an ‘affordable art exhibition’ should at least
be affordable. 
Looking for a piece of modern art to adorn the humble
homestead, the Beach attended the private view of the
Affordable Arts Exhibition Vol XI at Trispace Gallery in
Bermondsey’s Biscuit Factory.  Met by a wave of youthful
enthusiasm, hopes were high that the price tag would match
the average artist’s age. Sparkling hubcaps, surreal images
of landscapes and recycled bits of metal suggested that
bargains were for the taking.  
'Bhuru Rababa (2013)' by Trymore Sengai - £850
However, even the locally-brewed Kernal stout could not
wash away the bad taste and disbelief on discovering the
cost of these glorified bits of trash posing as art.  Unable to
afford even another beer, the exit seemed the most inviting
'Pig Man' by Nicola Morrell - £1300
But turning a corner, the Beach discovered a range of
deeply personal paintings presided over by artist Martial
Durou.  With an eloquence to match his arresting images,
Durou restored faith with paintings of around a quarter of the
price of the rest of the exhibition.  His passion, integrity and
yes, the price, points to where the affordable arts exhibition
should be for volume XII.
'Fallen Angel' by Martial Durou


Trispace Gallery - www.trispacegallery.com

Martial Durou (artist) - www.martialdurou.com