South London Hardcore: "I think the place is overdue some recognition beyond street crime statistics."

Rob Pollard interviews South London's biggest promoters.

South London is a fascinating area of England. It has a rich cultural history, and was the birthplace of many iconic people: from David Bowie and Rio Ferdinand, to Ken Livingstone and Daniel Day-Lewis. Despite this, South London is often viewed negatively. Sneered at for its perceived social ills, it has a reputation for being an area riddled with crime and feral teens, with those who live above the Thames looking down on those from below. It’s the Cinderella of the capital’s sub-regions.

South London Hardcore (SLHC) is a podcast which looks closely at the area’s history, celebrating the people, ideas and art that define South London. Launched in late 2011 by Jack McInroy and Steve Walsh, SLHC has already covered many aspects of South London’s past and present: a discussion with author Alan Moore and photographer Mitch Jenkins; an insight into Dulwich Hamlet Football Club, including interviews with their star midfielder and club historian; and a detailed look at the trilogy of Lambeth-based films: Me and My Girl, Passport to Pimlico, and We Are the Lambeth Boys.

Jack feels the negativity that surrounds South London is what compelled him to launch the podcast. “I think one of the reasons for concentrating on South London is the way it is seen by people on the other side of the river. It is widely looked down on, but we have a rich history and much to take pride in. From Michael Faraday, Tim Berners-Lee, Charlie Chaplin and Mick Jones: some of the greatest and most important people to have ever lived are from here.” A desire to re-assess South London and begin celebrating its achievements rather than dwelling on its stereotypes is also important to co-presenter Steve. “Once we started doing the show we realised that people have a very firm idea of what South London is. Unfortunately it’s an idea that is perpetrated by a cultural and media bias that requires South London to live down to some very unfortunate stereotypes. South London is too often used as cultural shorthand for poverty, ignorance and violence. What we try to do on the show is to examine the rich history of the area and celebrate the people, places and ideas that we can lay claim to. South London has given the world Charlie Chaplin, David Bowie and Enid Blyton. We’ve played host to William Shakespeare, Vincent van Gogh and Mary Wollstonecraft. Transpontine thinkers were innovators in electricity, computing and the Internet. I think the place is overdue some recognition beyond street crime statistics.”

SLHC’s slogan also feeds in to this theme, as Jack is keen to explain. “Our motto is Pluvis Lutum In Tibialibus Nostris, which is latin for ‘clay dust on our socks’, a reference to lesser known tennis players that arrive at Wimbledon with orange dust stains from the clay court season still on their clothes. The idea is wherever we go where we’ve been is always evident.”

The passion of the presenters to uncover the best of South London is what makes SLHC so good. It involves detailed research and a strong desire to uncover the best South London has to offer. Steve feels the possibilities are endless. “There’s no end in sight. It’s started to feel that the more we talk about the more possibilities open up for us. It didn’t take long for us to realise though that we had actually struck upon a goldmine of material and potential points of discussion.”

So, assuming SLHC continues to grow, who would the ideal guest be? “I’d love to have Danny Baker on the show,” says Steve. “I think he’s a cracking broadcaster and I was always fascinated as a kid that this guy from our area was basically allowed to go on telly and just be funny and cheek people. Jack, on the other hand, wants either “David Bowie, Rio Ferdinand, or Gary Oldman, but at the moment I’m trying really hard to get my mate Hassan on.”

Find out more about South London Hardcore here

On the south bank, looking North. Photograph: Getty Images

Rob Pollard is a freelance writer. You can follow him on Twitter @_robpollard

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Find the EU renegotiation demands dull? Me too – but they are important

It's an old trick: smother anything in enough jargon and you can avoid being held accountable for it.

I don’t know about you, but I found the details of Britain’s European Union renegotiation demands quite hard to read. Literally. My eye kept gliding past them, in an endless quest for something more interesting in the paragraph ahead. It was as if the word “subsidiarity” had been smeared in grease. I haven’t felt tedium quite like this since I read The Lord of the Rings and found I slid straight past anything written in italics, reasoning that it was probably another interminable Elvish poem. (“The wind was in his flowing hair/The foam about him shone;/Afar they saw him strong and fair/Go riding like a swan.”)

Anyone who writes about politics encounters this; I call it Subclause Syndrome. Smother anything in enough jargon, whirr enough footnotes into the air, and you have a very effective shield for protecting yourself from accountability – better even than gutting the Freedom of Information laws, although the government seems quite keen on that, too. No wonder so much of our political conversation ends up being about personality: if we can’t hope to master all the technicalities, the next best thing is to trust the person to whom we have delegated that job.

Anyway, after 15 cups of coffee, three ice-bucket challenges and a bottle of poppers I borrowed from a Tory MP, I finally made it through. I didn’t feel much more enlightened, though, because there were notable omissions – no mention, thankfully, of rolling back employment protections – and elsewhere there was a touching faith in the power of adding “language” to official documents.

One thing did stand out, however. For months, we have been told that it is a terrible problem that migrants from Europe are sending child benefit to their families back home. In future, the amount that can be claimed will start at zero and it will reach full whack only after four years of working in Britain. Even better, to reduce the alleged “pull factor” of our generous in-work benefits regime, the child benefit rate will be paid on a ratio calculated according to average wages in the home country.

What a waste of time. At the moment, only £30m in child benefit is sent out of the country each year: quite a large sum if you’re doing a whip round for a retirement gift for a colleague, but basically a rounding error in the Department for Work and Pensions budget.

Only 20,000 workers, and 34,000 children, are involved. And yet, apparently, this makes it worth introducing 28 different rates of child benefit to be administered by the DWP. We are given to understand that Iain Duncan Smith thinks this is barmy – and this is a man optimistic enough about his department’s computer systems to predict in 2013 that 4.46 million people would be claiming Universal Credit by now*.

David Cameron’s renegotiation package was comprised exclusively of what Doctor Who fans call handwavium – a magic substance with no obvious physical attributes, which nonetheless helpfully advances the plot. In this case, the renegotiation covers up the fact that the Prime Minister always wanted to argue to stay in Europe, but needed a handy fig leaf to do so.

Brace yourself for a sentence you might not read again in the New Statesman, but this makes me feel sorry for Chris Grayling. He and other Outers in the cabinet have to wait at least two weeks for Cameron to get the demands signed off; all the while, Cameron can subtly make the case for staying in Europe, while they are bound to keep quiet because of collective responsibility.

When that stricture lifts, the high-ranking Eurosceptics will at last be free to make the case they have been sitting on for years. I have three strong beliefs about what will happen next. First, that everyone confidently predicting a paralysing civil war in the Tory ranks is doing so more in hope than expectation. Some on the left feel that if Labour is going to be divided over Trident, it is only fair that the Tories be split down the middle, too. They forget that power, and patronage, are strong solvents: there has already been much muttering about low-level blackmail from the high command, with MPs warned about the dire influence of disloyalty on their career prospects.

Second, the Europe campaign will feature large doses of both sides solemnly advising the other that they need to make “a positive case”. This will be roundly ignored. The Remain team will run a fear campaign based on job losses, access to the single market and “losing our seat at the table”; Leave will run a fear campaign based on the steady advance of whatever collective noun for migrants sounds just the right side of racist. (Current favourite: “hordes”.)

Third, the number of Britons making a decision based on a complete understanding of the renegotiation, and the future terms of our membership, will be vanishingly small. It is simply impossible to read about subsidiarity for more than an hour without lapsing into a coma.

Yet, funnily enough, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Just as the absurd complexity of policy frees us to talk instead about character, so the onset of Subclause Syndrome in the EU debate will allow us to ask ourselves a more profound, defining question: what kind of country do we want Britain to be? Polling suggests that very few of us see ourselves as “European” rather than Scottish, or British, but are we a country that feels open and looks outwards, or one that thinks this is the best it’s going to get, and we need to protect what we have? That’s more vital than any subclause. l

* For those of you keeping score at home, Universal Credit is now allegedly going to be implemented by 2021. Incidentally, George Osborne has recently discovered that it’s a great source of handwavium; tax credit cuts have been postponed because UC will render such huge savings that they aren’t needed.

Helen Lewis is deputy editor of the New Statesman. She has presented BBC Radio 4’s Week in Westminster and is a regular panellist on BBC1’s Sunday Politics.

This article first appeared in the 11 February 2016 issue of the New Statesman, The legacy of Europe's worst battle