Lewisham Policemen’s Day
July 12, 2009
Actually, Lewisham People’s Day, but you wouldn’t have thought it. And yes, I know, I should have put Lewisham Police Officer’s Day, but that doesn’t have the same ring to it, and so I didn’t.
This year it was Lewisham People’s Day’s 25th Anniversary. Hurray! It takes place at Mountsfield Park, just across the road from me (when I’m not housesitting in Finchley, as I am as I type) and I love it. So do the police apparently. Every year more and more of them come. And it can get a little confusing as every year more and more sellers turn up selling plastic novelty police helmets. And then there’s the private security firm hired to frisk us all as we go in. And they frisk everyone. The police liaised with the “young people of Lewisham” to see what could be done to make the day more harmonious. The kids understandably said “don’t just pick on us”. So, we all get picked on- sorry, searched, frisked. I briefly panicked as, just like at the airports, my asthma inhalers come under perplexed scrutiny. Lad-di-da. Today, Mountsfield Park has to be the safest place on Earth.
Here we all are, queueing to get in. My bag was searched, I was frisked. A security guard explained to a young mum ahead of me, “It’s to stop the gangs.” When I was young my second-ever 7″ single was I’m the Leader of the Gang (I am) by Gary Glitter. To this day I’m not sure how I feel about my lack of any kind of gang membership. Maybe a Lewisham posse’ll sign me up.
Ok, so why so many police? Well, it seems most years the Day ends with a good old runaround. The kids runaround, the police chase them. Everyone just likes running around. It can be scary if you’re not part of the chasing game, but I don’t think it’s quite as bad as the Lewisham portrayed in my latest read, In the Dark by Mark Billingham. It’s a great and thrilling read, and I recommend it, though I’m not so sure he’s describing the Lewisham I live in; “The place felt like somewhere people would visit only if they had to; only if the life they endured behind their own four walls was close to intolerable”. Then again Mark, spot on!
But it’s not all frisking and pretend plastic police helmets. There’s real ale tents, food from all over the world, theatre, jazz, world music, performance, dancing, stalls… great stalls, like Lewisham Youth Theatre’s, which this year was excitingly placed opposite the Ageing Well Funclub.
And then there’s Sucker! Featuring my comedy partner, Trev Neal. They’ve played every Lewisham People’s Day since it all started 25 years ago. Maybe. Trev, Josh, David and Gianfranco played there unique South London punk underneath the Mountsfield Park bandstand. You’ll never have heard anything like Sucker. Imagine a band made up of Paul Weller, Joe Strummer, David Bowie and Silvio Berlusconi (how about that for a bit of casual racism… though Trev’s the Berlusconi one- oops, that was meant as a joke, though he is off to Sardinia for his hols).
Here they are in action. Not bad for a bunch of oldies.