2019 has been another year of noise, way too much of it. But that’s enough, for now, about all the roadworks seemingly all round SE22 and beyond. In fact, the whole decade has been one massive cacophony of deafening alarm bells.
I suspect that the general election will have done nothing to change that as we head into the 2020s. Whatever one’s view on the general result, I think there is one point of consensus up and down the land – no more December general elections please, it’s really affected the mood I think. Anyway, congratulations to Harriet Harman, Helen Hayes and Ellie Reeves, for holding onto their seats with still sizeable majorities.
The election did expose the lack of faith in large swathes of the political class. One person who is still held in high regard in these parts is longtime MP Tessa Jowell, who sadly passed away in 2018. Her memory will live on in Dulwich as the new NHS health centre will be named after Tessa following a public vote. The Tessa Jowell Health Centre, at the site of the old Dulwich Hospital, is set to open on a phased basis from the spring and will house a wide array of services, from a GPs’ surgery, mental health facilities and physiotherapy. It’s a fitting tribute.
It’s not just Westminster that arouses fierce passions. Southwark Council has seen a huge local backlash this past year over its plan to introduce a controlled parking zone around East Dulwich. The decision to charge for garden waste collection has also raised an eyebrow or two. Especially when they go three weeks without collecting, but that’s a separate gripe! This writer would like to thank Southwark for one thing though. After hassling local councilors and the road safety department for eight years about the crazed speedsters on Forest Hill Road, Southwark finally backed a traffic calming scheme for the top end between Wood Vale and Francesca Cabrini School – three months of roadworks have never been greeted with so much glee. Better late than never, I suppose.
The local community did lose one fight. Efforts to ensure that The Palmerston remained in the hands of Jamie and Rema unfortunately failed. They were central to the transformation and rhythm of Lordship Lane over the past 15 years. Up the road, or is it down the road, Rod and Tim celebrated 20 years of running Franklin’s, one of this writer’s favourite watering holes and eateries, by serving the opening night menu at 1999 prices. Luckily, their partnership managed to survive the Champions League Final between Liverpool and Tottenham!
There’s nothing like a cup run to re-invigorate the spirits as evidenced by Dulwich Hamlet’s first round FA Cup match against Carlisle United, which was televised live on the BBC. Though Carlisle ran out 4-1 winners, it was a memorable, if wet, November evening for the Hamlet, with a crowd of around 3,300 at Champion Hill. It was a much-needed financial boost for a team that is struggling in the lower reaches of the National League South. A few wins will ease fears of a relegation dogfight in 2020. It’s been a year since the Hamlet returned to Champion Hill and though questions over the club’s future remain, there are hopes that the planning application for a new stadium nearby will progress next year. It will be a hugely consequential few months for Dulwich Hamlet, both on and off the pitch.
2019 was certainly a consequential year for English cricket. The national side won the World Cup for the first time in thrilling fashion against the Black Caps of New Zealand. One of the heroes that day was bowler Liam Plunkett who took three wickets. On a super-sunny Monday afternoon, the pace ace accompanied the trophy to Dulwich Cricket Club on Burbage Road. Every kid within a two-mile radius appeared to have bunked off school for the privilege of getting their bats and hats signed, testament to the impact of England’s win. When questioned, Plunkett did not rule out the possibility of turning out for the Dulwich 7th XI’s next annual tour to Somerset on what used to be termed the Whitsun Bank Holiday weekend but apparently isn’t anymore. Has he really got anything better to do?!
A must-have ticket over the coming few weeks has to be to the Dulwich Picture Gallery, which is showcasing works from the Dutch master Rembrandt. It’s fair to say that it’s not been the easiest of starts for the “Rembrandt’s Light” exhibition, which runs through to Feb. 2. An intruder, or intruders, broke in on November 13 and removed two paintings from the exhibition. Luckily, the police secured the paintings and the exhibition has re-opened after being closed for a fortnight following the (attempted) heist. Though the paintings, Pilgrims at Emmaus from the Louvre, and Philemon and Baucis from the National Gallery of Art in Washington DC, are safe and back with their lenders, the exhibition must still rank as one of the most inventive to have graced the gallery. Peter Suschitzky, the cinematographer of The Empire Strikes Back, helped design the lighting. It really is a must-see.
Anyway, these are just one person’s recollections of what went on over the past year in our rich and vibrant community. Clearly there’s so much more going on in and around Dulwich, so do keep the team at SE22 magazine posted and I’ll catch you all again next year. All the best for 2020 and the coming decade! One final thought. Isn’t it great that from New Year’s Day, we can say for the first time this century that we are living through a decade that we can actually refer to. It’s been discombobulating not being able to do so. Maybe that’s why there’s been so much noise. Anyway, bring on the twenties!
Pan Pylas is a correspondent at The Associated Press and the tour mastermind of the Dulwich 7th XI’s weekend forays in the West Country. You can follow him on Twitter at @PanPylas