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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Air pollution: 5 steps to vanquishing an invisible killer

A new report looks at the economics of air pollution. 

110, 150, 520... These chilling statistics are the number of deaths attributable to particulate air pollution for the cities of Southampton, Nottingham and Birmingham in 2010 respectively. Or how about 40,000 - that is the total number of UK deaths per year that are attributable the combined effects of particulate matter (PM2.5) and Nitrogen Oxides (NOx).

This situation sucks, to say the very least. But while there are no dramatic images to stir up action, these deaths are preventable and we know their cause. Road traffic is the worst culprit. Traffic is responsible for 80 per cent of NOx on high pollution roads, with diesel engines contributing the bulk of the problem.

Now a new report by ResPublica has compiled a list of ways that city councils around the UK can help. The report argues that: “The onus is on cities to create plans that can meet the health and economic challenge within a short time-frame, and identify what they need from national government to do so.”

This is a diplomatic way of saying that current government action on the subject does not go far enough – and that cities must help prod them into gear. That includes poking holes in the government’s proposed plans for new “Clean Air Zones”.

Here are just five of the ways the report suggests letting the light in and the pollution out:

1. Clean up the draft Clean Air Zones framework

Last October, the government set out its draft plans for new Clean Air Zones in the UK’s five most polluted cities, Birmingham, Derby, Leeds, Nottingham and Southampton (excluding London - where other plans are afoot). These zones will charge “polluting” vehicles to enter and can be implemented with varying levels of intensity, with three options that include cars and one that does not.

But the report argues that there is still too much potential for polluters to play dirty with the rules. Car-charging zones must be mandatory for all cities that breach the current EU standards, the report argues (not just the suggested five). Otherwise national operators who own fleets of vehicles could simply relocate outdated buses or taxis to places where they don’t have to pay.  

Different vehicles should fall under the same rules, the report added. Otherwise, taking your car rather than the bus could suddenly seem like the cost-saving option.

2. Vouchers to vouch-safe the project’s success

The government is exploring a scrappage scheme for diesel cars, to help get the worst and oldest polluting vehicles off the road. But as the report points out, blanket scrappage could simply put a whole load of new fossil-fuel cars on the road.

Instead, ResPublica suggests using the revenue from the Clean Air Zone charges, plus hiked vehicle registration fees, to create “Pollution Reduction Vouchers”.

Low-income households with older cars, that would be liable to charging, could then use the vouchers to help secure alternative transport, buy a new and compliant car, or retrofit their existing vehicle with new technology.

3. Extend Vehicle Excise Duty

Vehicle Excise Duty is currently only tiered by how much CO2 pollution a car creates for the first year. After that it becomes a flat rate for all cars under £40,000. The report suggests changing this so that the most polluting vehicles for CO2, NOx and PM2.5 continue to pay higher rates throughout their life span.

For ClientEarth CEO James Thornton, changes to vehicle excise duty are key to moving people onto cleaner modes of transport: “We need a network of clean air zones to keep the most polluting diesel vehicles from the most polluted parts of our towns and cities and incentives such as a targeted scrappage scheme and changes to vehicle excise duty to move people onto cleaner modes of transport.”

4. Repurposed car parks

You would think city bosses would want less cars in the centre of town. But while less cars is good news for oxygen-breathers, it is bad news for city budgets reliant on parking charges. But using car parks to tap into new revenue from property development and joint ventures could help cities reverse this thinking.

5. Prioritise public awareness

Charge zones can be understandably unpopular. In 2008, a referendum in Manchester defeated the idea of congestion charging. So a big effort is needed to raise public awareness of the health crisis our roads have caused. Metro mayors should outline pollution plans in their manifestos, the report suggests. And cities can take advantage of their existing assets. For example in London there are plans to use electronics in the Underground to update travellers on the air pollution levels.

***

Change is already in the air. Southampton has used money from the Local Sustainable Travel Fund to run a successful messaging campaign. And in 2011 Nottingham City Council became the first city to implement a Workplace Parking levy – a scheme which has raised £35.3m to help extend its tram system, upgrade the station and purchase electric buses.

But many more “air necessities” are needed before we can forget about pollution’s worry and its strife.  

 

India Bourke is an environment writer and editorial assistant at the New Statesman.