A shining example of a local-area blog this week in the excellent Stockwell News. Providing a great resource of travel, in-depth news as well as local history and anecdotes including everyone from Houdini to the mysterious Rosemary Brown.
If you had to describe your blog in less than 15 words how would you do it?
News, information and history about the SW9 and SW8 areas of London. It does what is says on the tin. And although I might post the odd picture of a rainbow over Stockwell, I am not big on whimsy or musings.
Why did you start blogging?
I wanted to put old family diaries and letters on the net and was looking for a free way to do it. Later it struck me that after the Jean Charles de Menezes killing and other local events there was no immediate source of local news and information. The South London Press, although great as a local paper, does not cover neighbourhoods in the depth that it once did and that Stockwell people appear to want.
What about London inspires your blog?
I just post stuff I personally would like to know about! So, in general, although I don’t put much of my personal life in the blog, I do follow my own interests. If there is a major crime, for instance, I would like to know something about it. Equally, if there is something useful, interesting, curious or just fun, I would like to know about that too.
For news the blog is mainly a portal. I blog in my spare time - job, teenagers, house to run - so generally I can’t cover news as a journalist would. But I try to help people by directing them to original news sources and by providing a forum for discussion or emotion. I was very moved by comments on the shocking murder of 16-year-old Oluwaseyi Ogunyemi in Larkhall earlier this month.
I am also currently researching the names of the 565 men on the World War I Stockwell War Memorial by identifying them in the Commonwealth War Graves Commission database and cross-referencing with old censuses. Their details tell a terrible story of the destruction of a generation - the numbers are unimaginable to us now, but in some ways these deaths puts me in mind of the loss now of so many young men to gangs, drugs, prison and murder. A different way to lose a generation. The information I am collating also provides a fascinating snapshot of life in the area nearly 100 years ago - the jobs people did, the size of their families, the incomers to the area...Can you tell I am a history grad?
What’s your favourite post ever?
A woman whose great-uncle, Christopher Dartnell, is on the Stockwell war memorial contacted me and sent me wonderful photos of him, as well as the text of a letter written about his loss by his sister. The pictures are almost “before and after” in that he looks young and vulnerable but generally OK in the first picture but looks pale and shell-shocked in the second. It was a stark reminder of the terrible effects of war.
I am also quite pleased with my post on Rosemary Brown, a Stockwell-born housewife who wrote a thousand classical works, claiming that they were dictated by famous dead composers, and Houdini’s connection with the area.
What's the best and worst things about Stockwell?
The Swan Inn was a coaching stop in days gone by - just somewhere you stayed on the way to somewhere else. I think Stockwell has suffered from this perception that Stockwell has no centre, that it is just a crossroads.
However, if you look a bit more closely all human life is here: a wealth of beautiful and not-beautiful-but-interesting architecture, a rich history, fantastic people who are diverse in culture and origin but stand out for their warmth, tolerance and resilience.
Stockwell may not be cute but it is deeply cool.
Would you feel more or less connected to London, would you have missed out on things without your blog?
They do say if you want to know what’s going on, ask a middle-aged woman! Without pretending to be a Miss Marple of Stockwell, I do enjoy knowing what’s happening round about me. Not in a nosey-parker way, you understand. I hope I am doing a service to local people - it’s my attempt to make life in Stockwell a little bit more connected.
Occasionally people contact me to suggest stories, which I really appreciate. One anonymous contact alerted me to a series of intriguing poems about hurricanes that had been stuck up in bus shelters and phone booths. He then kindly then photographed them for me.
How has your blog connected you to another community of bloggers in London? The world?
I do have some contact with most of the local bloggers: Tradescant Road and South Lambeth and Lurking in SE11 are useful, and of course, onionbagblog combines news, great photographs and a personal perspective on south London life. And through flickr.com I have been able to use photographs by sarflondondunc and m-ewan.
Tell us about another up-and coming London blogger you like.
I am probably not as attentive as I should be to other bloggers across London, but I like the Shepherds Bush blog by Chris, who works in Stockwell. I love the content of eggsbaconchipsandbeans, and I have a lot of affinity for the American living in London - my family roots are across the pond - who does The Carnivore Project .
And for some general London chat Bit academic now, but where do you live and why do you love it?
Yes, it would be strange if I didn’t live in Stockwell! I have lived in the Kennington - Oval - Stockwell area for over 25 years now, longer than I ever lived in north London. I try to love wherever I live - warts and all.
What do you know about London that no one else does?
I’m not sure that I know something no one else does - isn’t everything on the internet now anyway?
Have you ever been sick on the tube?
I haven’t been sick but I have been sickened -by people eating fast food. Come on guys, the smell is nauseating (unless you’re eating it).