Film by Ben Graville
Published on Apr 21, 2019
In the beginning there was an Anker
and now there is a gentrified Anchor.
Well, here we are. Five years later from when the anchor was taken away by Lewisham Council, 2013. And one year from when it was returned, 2018. Through public pressure for its presence to be felt again. These pictures are of the latter, 2018-2019. During the anchorless period of 2013 to 2017, not much really happened on the site. No real social gatherings, other than religious groups who would gather there to preach, pray or sing. Aggressive sellers would also use the space and the site turned more into a car parking area than anything remotely sociable.
The main difference is people now are more likely to use the anchor for a selfie opportunity, or to point at it and discuss its historical significance within groups of people doing a cultural walk-and-talk. There are now aggressive sellers plying their trade for some credit card or sky TV, not letting anyone pass unscathed by their demands to save money on this or that. You need to have it to save it. What is the difference between aggressive begging and aggressive selling? Aggressive begging is illegal, aggressive selling – no crime. Our society tells us that.
Kids love the new anchor. They loved the old anchor too. They are not biassed. They know whats going on, when there’s fun to be had. Free of societal concerns, or civilised society, their unconditioned minds see the anchor for what it is: an object to climb up in the middle of the high street and play around until it is time to leave. It is, after all, a landmark for Deptford’s naval history, put there in 1988, the year music and society changed in Britain, due to youth culture. And Deptford high street changed that year too. We have a lot to be thankful for through the youth of this country. What happened to the anchor crew? Over the years, I have noticed a few of their hangouts. Most notably in the square in front of Deptford Library and the primary school. There is seating there and it is a popular hangout. Behind the Deptford DLR, there is a bench by the bend in the river Ravensbourne that was popular for a bit. I also noticed a few old faces outside an empty office block near London Bridge station. Most of the old anchor crew seem to have dispersed around the area. The 999 club charity seems to be very busy doing an amazing job providing an open-access day centre for homeless and vulnerably housed people.
Noise pollution has got worse as a result of Asda moving in and taking over the environment. All their crashing and banging the night away. Of all the years of people hanging out on the anchor, no-one ever moved away due to their noise or put a petition together about their behaviour, but I have already lost my neighbours opposite me, due to Asda’s racket. For eighteen months after they moved in, night and day deliveries kept me and my neighbours awake. We got a petition together and pressurised our local MP to act and get the council aware of noise complaints. The council were not interested initially. Business tax goes a long way. Asda was forced to relent when faced with a fine if they deliver within the hours of midnight and 5am. Now, every evening, there is a range of HGVs, with their refrigeration motors and diesel engines going whilst metal cages bang against metal and get wheeled into the supermarket of noise. That, compared to a group of people hanging out, shooting the breeze, is a breezy memory for me.
The anchor is back. But it’s dead, socially. It’s not a hang-out anymore. It’s a reminder of what was, and what happens when councils wash/gentrify/cleanse or destroy the soul of an area. It’s like your favourite bar/pub being refurbished and you go back in and it’s totally different. The sign is still the same, but the place, people are not the same. It’s been marketed for other people. For persons yet to arrive or know the area. Of all the different areas of London I know, and have seen first hand the gentrification of, (Notting Hill, Brixton, Clapham, Bermondsey, Peckham, Shoreditch, Hoxton) Deptford feels like a vulnerable, haphazard gentrification.
My question is: where were you all before? There were no selfies, or walks and talks that involved the anchor before. Maybe the anchor crew did scare people away. I mean, now Deptford is trendy and desirable, people act like the anchor is their friend. It wasn’t only a hardcore hang-out, many different people used to congregate at the anchor, and pass by, see someone they knew and chat and converse. Do we only really approach/use public areas when they are sanitised and safe? Are we that scared of our environment/community? We are our environment. So are we scared of what we have become? Do we fear ourselves or others? I ask, as I can only see the environment I am surrounded by. I have looked at the anchor area for the last 13 years and I think, do we really believe what we read about the streets and antisocial behaviour? Surely, we know as well that the media and authorities print/influence stories to sell newspapers/ideas and get website clicks. Or to win elections. And those are the real events/stories, let alone the current state of affairs where any idea/lie that seems to fit your purpose/agenda will do, as long as it progresses your self/interests.
Journalists are paid by developers to write and make Deptford Luxury desirable.
The anchor seems to have been reclaimed by a new Deptford that has emerged from gentrification, good or bad. The area changes day to day and the seemingly transient nature of the anchor now suits the new Deptford as an area geared towards mid to high earners, working in the city. I believe and now there is a vibe in Deptford that is unique and will remain and it belongs to music and the arts. Basically, what Deptford has always been good at is creating a desirable story from an undesirable area in the realms of what our class-ridden society deems desirable. Just look at the reasons shown and given to us why this area is changing so much. Money and class.