I've been finding it difficult to penetrate the mountain of information I have gathered about the beautiful, remote location surrounding Cove Park.
As a poet I had to find another way in, to the creative heart of this stage of my journey. By chance I was listening to the audio book of John Berger's 'And Our Faces, My Heart, Brief as Photos'. I found myself coming back to this passage again and again, especially the first three words:
'Everything moves on, the larches, the bracken, the caledonian pines, the heather, the juniper bushes, the scrap grass.
And then moving into the land, water: the rivers running to the sea, the sea with its tides filling lochs.
And across both land and water the wind'.
John Berger 'And Our Faces, My Heart, Brief as Photos'.2005
Everything moves on. This. Sparking my thoughts, lighting my creative fire again. At last! A springboard to dive from the practical research into the art itself!
Deptford X 2021
Deptford X 2021
Deptford X ‘I Love U ‘Anker’
John Evelyn Community Garden
Windlass Place Deptford SE8 3QZ
Deptford Anchor Part 11
Deptford Anchor became more than just a gift from Chatham dockyard to the people of Deptford. It became a symbol, an emblem for the pride that local people felt about their area.
When I studied landscape design at Greenwich University in 2013, the area we focused on and researched was Deptford. We were looking at the beginnings of huge change. Developers were circling an area that had for centuries housed some of London’s poorest. Just like other areas in London, such as Elephant and Castle and Peckham, conglomerates and money men were swooping upon Deptford looking to maximise the rising land prices in London. Deptford became a prize and the winners were not going to be local people.
Amongst this ongoing development, the Deptford Anchor became a casualty of the local authoritie’s regeneration plans. After the London riots of 2011, the local authority received some money from the ‘Outer London Fund’ (Waywell, 2018) and a regeneration project was started. The anchor was sited on a raised brick plinth and attracted local ‘drinkers’. A cabinet report at the time said ‘It was felt that the position of the anchor on a raised plinth… provided an opportunity for loitering, street drinking and antisocial behaviour.’ (Waywell, 2018).
One day in April 2013 the anchor was removed. Local people thought the removal was temporary, expecting the anchor to be reinstated after a short period. Well it was temporary but it would be another 5 years before the anchor was reinstated on the High Street. The anchor went into storage, generating a local campaign called ‘Bring us Back Our Bloomin’ Anchor’ started by the resident led group Deptford is Forever (DIF) (Fraser, 2018). A petition was started that gathered over 4,000 signatures.
In the next 5 years the anchor was reported to be stored in a warehouse at Convoys Wharf (Henry V111’s historic dockyard, now a prime piece of real estate owned by a Malaysian corporation who plan to build 3,500 luxury homes on the site) and then seemed to have been ‘lost’.
In 2018 the anchor was mysteriously found. Deptford Anchor reappeared, with much fanfare and regained its rightful place back on Deptford High Street. There was much celebration among locals with a procession, performance art and huge cheers from crowds who welcomed back their symbol. Depford had its anchor back and locals rejoiced. Unfortunately the development continues on.
As I said before, initially, during my residency at John Evelyn Community Garden, I resisted leaning on the usual maritime tropes associated with Deptford. That was a mistake. You can’t have a conversation about Deptford without including its maritime heritage, which is a huge part of its past.
Sure, Greenwich has Queen Anne’s House and Henry V111 had many palaces and places of note throughout the country. But, despite the huge negativity inextricably linked with England’s naval heritage – its undeniable that Deptford’s past cannot be divorced from the huge part it played in England’s naval development. It’s a difficult conversation and one that begs closer attention, but to the people of Deptford, the anchor, a gift from one naval dockyard to another maritime area has come to represent local pride.
My anchor, to be honest isn’t an anchor. It’s a representation of an anchor and for me it’s a tribute to the people of Deptford and their resistance against the notion that public realm can be designed without asking the very people that public realm is supposed to represent – what they want. It is if you like two fingers to ‘regeneration professionals’ in the UK who don’t involve their local community in plans that are supposed to be FOR the local community.
This isn’t an anchor, it’s a representation of an anchor. Just like the Deptford anchor, it’s not part of Deptfords heritage – but it represents the people of Deptford and for me is by far the most important exhibit in the garden.