A Sylvan Jubilee

This year is the 25th Anniversary of the London Wildlife Trust at Sydenham Hill Wood and as such the Trust will be holding a celebratory "Sylvan Jubilee" Festival from Friday the 24th August to Sunday 2nd September.

The event will be launched with the "Upstaging Nature" art exhibition to be held over the August bank holiday weekend. Following on from art exhibitions at Sydenham Hill Wood in 2005 (the Art of Permanence and Change) and 2006 (Eco Vandalism) this years theme considers the consequences of placing art work in an environment which has a tendency to dominate everything around it.

Artists of various disciplines from sculpture to dance will be exhibiting/ performing throughout the weekend.

Other events planned for the Sylvan Jubilee include talks on the history and management of Sydenham Hill Wood at the Horniman Museum, guided walks including bat and moth evenings and a concert at the Dulwich Wood House Pub on Crescent Wood Road. It is hoped that the culmination of the festival will be a 2 day Woodland Fair along Cox's Walk with stalls, entertainment and educational activities for all.

Further sponsorship for this festival is still needed and any offers or ideas will be gratefully received. Please contact Ed Dean on 020 7803 4273 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

For further details of Sylvan Jubilee events please visit www.wildlondon.org.uk 

Woodland Bat Roost Project

London Wildlife Trust has launched its Woodland Bat Roost Project at Sydenham Hill Wood Local Nature Reserve. The three year £60,000 project which is funded by the SITA Trust through the landfill communities fund with 10% match funding from the Dulwich Community Council and support from Lewisham Council is designed to meet UK, London and Southwark biodiversity action plan targets.

The key elements to the project are to train local volunteers in bat ecology and survey techniques, assess the local habitat for potential bat roosts and activity, record and monitor bat activity, and enhance the local habitat by increasing roost opportunities.

Work to date has included the running of a bat ecology workshop at the Horniman Museum, and tree surveys where those trees that best meet bat roosting criteria are tagged and mapped for further investigation. The criteria include rot or woodpecker holes, splits, loose bark and ivy cover. Throughout the summer months night time surveys will take place in a bid to identify bat species and locate active roosts. In September new bat roost boxes will be installed in especially identified areas within the reserve and within the disused high level railway tunnel between the Wood and Vigilant Close in the Hill Crest Estate. The tunnel will be the centre piece of the project as enhancements to the grilles and the construction of hanging walls within the tunnel are planned to create micro climates favourable to bat hibernation.

Bats are very susceptible to disturbance and the destruction of roost sites in buildings is thought to be a key reason for their decline. By providing secure hibernation sites it is hoped that the decline in urban bat populations can be steadied or reversed. Records for the Dulwich area to date have found several species including, common and soprano pipistrelle, daubenton, noctule and brown long eared bats (first Southwark record in Sydenham Hill Wood, Oct 2005).

For further information on this project please call the London Wildlife Trust on 020 8699 5698.

Hearts of Oak

Oak is the key to the new visitor and education centre now nearing completion in Dulwich Upper Wood Local Nature Reserve, Farquhar Road, West Dulwich. "This five-acre site is mainly oak woodland, a fragment of what was the Great North Wood," says Trust for Urban Ecology warden Jim Murphy, who manages the reserve and its teams of conservation volunteers.

He gestures around the nature trail, its pathways spiralling ever-skywards in a series of terraces. Crystal Palace's mast can be glimpsed, framed within a small blue hole in the dense green canopy. "We have Sessile and English oaks, a few Turkey oaks, some hybrids. It seemed fitting, when we decided to replace our volunteers' portable cabin with something more suitable for visits from schools and ecology and conservation students, that we should have a building that was mostly oak, too."

Indeed, the walls of this latter-day cabin in the woods are of oak throughout. So is its flooring - reclaimed ships' decking, relaid reverse-side-up to present an unridged surface more suitable for its new land-locked lifestyle. When the centre opens to the public later this year, its furniture will include a set of fine, solid, stackable wooden chairs (in oak, naturally), handmade by a local craftsman and donated, free, by the Horniman Museum. The doors are made of a foreign hardwood, "But it comes from an ecologically-sustainable source", adds Jim. "We are trying to do the work in as 'green' a way as possible".

There isn't a green living roof, like the one at the Horniman. Instead there is a more traditional pitched, clay-tiled one. "We didn't put grass there because it wouldn't have survived in that position. We needed something strong, too, because of the odd branch dropping and the weight of so many leaves falling down". However, atop the roof is a turret with overlapping wooden-boarded sides which, it is hoped, will be used as a bat roost. Dulwich Upper Wood is used by two kinds of Pipistrelle bats, and the occasional Daubenton's, en route to local park lakes - "because we are so high up, many things land here and rest." Other ecological point-scorers are sheeps' wool insulation, reclaimed cast iron guttering, and the huge plastic former chemical-storage tanks which will harvest rainwater from the roof, for the three outside compost toilets (although the resultant compost will have to be used off-site since the woods are sufficiently nutrient-rich already). Visitors will be able to use loos of the more run-of-the-mill variety, including one for wheelchair users, inside the building.

The Bridge House Trust, a City-based charity, paid for the erection of the 12 metre by 6 metre building and its roof. The reserve also received some grants, including one from the lottery-linked Awards for All scheme. But almost all the hard manual work on site, including digging out the metre-deep foundations, has been done by volunteers, both the reserve's regulars and outside teams from the corporate sector. None, says Jim, had any pre-existing building skills before they started. "I've learned a lot," says Jim, whose previous professional training, pre-conservation days, was in public administration and politics. "Especially when it comes to bricks, floors and joists".

"Some people might question why we are putting a building in the middle of a relict ancient woodland," says Jim. "But we haven't really had to change much - we lost one sycamore and two false acacias - and we've raised the ground level around an existing yew, to build the new visitor path and wheelchair access. In fact, this place has been built on before - just once, in its history. There was a line of Victorian villas with big basements here, in the 1870s. They had the woods as their gardens. Some were bombed during the last war. The last one, close to where we are standing now, went in 1960".

When the centre opens, visitors will be able to see some of the Victorian "treasures" recovered during construction work.

Angela Wilkes, Dulwich Society wildlife committee chair 

More Green Successes

An alliance of ecology bodies has campaigned for many years to promote an integrated approach to wildlife in the local landscape; amongst them, the Friends of Belair Park down in the Dulwich Basin and the Ridge Wildlife Group on the Crystal Palace Park hill top. The RWG lobbied throughout a decade-long scrum as groups vied. Some became stalking horses for large developments to replace the multiplex, which failed as the financial climate changed. However, survey after survey showed that the overwhelming majority of people backed the RWG's green vision. Tilman Latz and Partners (for the LDA) have now put forward a scheme for the hill top, whereby the footprint of Joseph Paxton's historic 1854 Crystal Palace would be marked out by tree planting, retaining existing trees and undergrowth (though LDA plans for housing in the Park face mounting opposition).

The Friends of Belair Park are an independent stakeholder group for West Dulwich public open space, representing the Belair Wildlife Group, Dulwich Society, Friends of the Earth, and local residents. They have worked with ecology experts since the late 1980's to create wildlife areas along the lake, combining lake-margin, ditch and hedgerow habitats. On March 28th, 2007, the Committee met with Southwark officers and McMorran-Gatehouse Architects to discuss construction of new changing rooms and the fate of the "paddock field," presently closed to the public.

The Friends welcome the architects' enthusiasm for a benchmark innovative multi-use 'green' building, and ecological/public use for the paddock field. Southwark aims to involve the public at every stage, in a model of genuine consultation. With a documentary maker, we are investigating possible production of a DVD for planners, highlighting the area between Belair and Crystal Palace to illustrate retention and enhancement of urban wildlife corridors.

Martin Heath 

Green Failures - Bumblebee Decline

Spare a thought, as you garden this summer, for the humble bumblebee. It may surprise you to know that there are some 25 species in the UK, although local gardens are likely to attract a mere half-dozen varieties, including ones that nest in bird-boxes and under garden sheds.

So familiar is their drowsy buzz, that we take it for granted as background to a sunny afternoon spent in the garden. But bumblebees are in trouble. Several species have already gone extinct nationally in recent decades, and others are rapidly heading that way. Intensive farming methods, use of pesticides, habitat losses are all thought to be to blame. One new theory suggests that interference from mobile phone masts could be disorientating bees and preventing them navigating back to their hives or nest holes when they become cold, or tired.

The recently-launched Bumblebee Conservation Trust has put together a life-saver list of plants that could make all the difference. Bumblebees and their young only eat nectar and pollen and they're totally dependent upon finding the right plants flowering at the right times, when they are active between March and August. Many modern flowers, alas, look dramatic and colourful - and that includes most bedding plants - but they are of no use to bees because they don't provide enough nectar for them to eat.

Other flower varieties, such as those with double petals, have also opted for style over content and they can be impenetrable to a variety of insects. Traditional cottage garden favourites, like lavender, sage, aquilegia and lupins are, in contrast, life-savers. Native bluebells, foxgloves, comfrey, teasel, viper's bugloss, sainfoin, tufted vetch, knapweed and bird's foot trefoil, are also good for bumblebees. Many UK wildflowers totally depend on these bees to pollinate them, so if the bees disappear from our landscape, so will many plants. A more complete list can be had from the charity's website.

The Trust is working with the British Trust for Ornithology, through its Garden BirdWatch (sic), to record bumblebees and they are currently recruiting recorders who can log sightings from their gardens. Unlike wasps, bumble bees are not aggressive (and only the females can sting) - they will not hurt unless they feel threatened, or get trodden on! A colour chart to help you identify different species is available with the free information pack, via This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


THE DULWICH SOCIETY INVITES YOU TO

a summer evening walk through

DULWICH'S ANCIENT FIELDS AND HISTORIC WOODS

On Wednesday 27 June at 7pm.

Meet outside Dulwich college p.e. centre, pond cottages

The walk will be led by Brian Green assisted by members of the

Wildlife & Trees committees who will advise on Bird and Bat life and tree identification.

(Access to private sports fields, by kind permission of the Master of Dulwich College, and the Headmaster of Dulwich College Preparatory School.)

June 2007

Until 24th June - South London Gallery - Group Exhibition - Stay Forever and Ever and Ever - Curated by Andrew Renton Tuesday-Sunday 12-6pm. 65 Peckham Road SE 5.

Until 15 July Dulwich Picture Gallery - Exhibition - Artists' Self-Portraits from the Uffizi.

Sunday 3rd Sydenham International Music Festival - at 7.30pm The Endellion String Quartet performing Beethoven, Mozart, Debussy. St Bartholomew's Church, Westwood Hill, Sydenham. Tickets £12.50 concs. £8.50 Box Office tel: 020 8778 4701

Wednesday 6th Lecture - Modernism: designing a new world 1914-1939 Dulwich Picture Gallery Linbury Room 10.30am Tickets £10

Saturday 9th Sydenham International Music Festival - Children's Concert at 11.15am Hansel & Gretel by Humperdink. Soprana: Suzannah Clarke, mezzo-soprano : Emma Selway, Conductor: Robert Trory. At St Bartholomew's Church, Westwood Hill, Sydenham. Tickets £4. Box Office tel. 020 8778 4701

Sunday 10th Garden Open - North House, 93 Dulwich Village 2pm-5pm. Wheelchair access. Children welcome. Refreshments. Large mature garden with lawns, trees, climbing roses and flower beds. Garden Open in aid of National Gardens Scheme nominating Dulwich Helpline as the designated charity.

Southwark Concert Band - featuring the works of Holst and Grainger- including The Planets, First Suite in Eb ,Japanese Suite, Tuscan Serenade, County Derry Air. The Great Hall, Dulwich College at 7.00pm. Tickets £9 concs £5, children under 11 free Tel. 020 7733 6024 or on the door.

Wednesday 13th Lecture - Post- War Architecture of the 50s and 60s. Dulwich Picture Gallery, Linbury Room 10.30am. Tickets £10

Thursday 14th Dulwich Decorative & Fine Arts Society Lecture - "Mr Stubbs the Horse Painter" by Carolyn Leder at 8pm at James Allen's Girls' School Lecture Theatre

Saturday 16th Sydenham International Music Festival - St Bartholomew Festival Orchestra perform Sibelius: Violin Concerto, Brahms: Symphony No 4. at 7.30pm St Bartholomew's Church, Westwood Hill, Sydenham . Tickets £15, concs £10. Box Office tel. 020 8778 4701

Wednesday 20th Lecture - Post- Modernism and Beyond Dulwich Picture Gallery, Linbury Room 10.30 am. Tickets £10

Garden Open - 5 Burbage Road SE 24. Garden open 6pm-8.30 pm for charity within the National Gardens Scheme. Sale of plants and cards. Wine included in £3 entry (children free)

Friday 22nd Dulwich Picture Gallery Garden - Opera in the Gallery Garden - The Perfect Picnic, a light hearted operatic entertainment set to the music of Mozart and presented by Opera on the Run. 6.30pm for 7pm. BYO picnic supper for the interval or buy one from the Café for £11.75 per person. Garden open 6pm. Tickets £35 (chairs) £18 (sitting on the grass - bring your own rug!) includes glass pf champagne.

Sunday 24th Garden Safari - In aid of the Dulwich Helpline 5 gardens open in Dulwich 2pm-6pm. Programmes available on the day £6 (children 16 and under free) from North House, 93 Dulwich Village which will also provide refreshments and be the 'hub' garden for the event.

Wednesday 27th Dulwich Society Local History Walk - Ancient Fields and Historic Woods led by Brian Green assisted by members of the Wildlife and Trees sub-committees - A summer's evening walk through Dulwich fields and woods for those interested in the past or wildlife. Meet 7pm outside the Dulwich College PE Centre, Pond Cottages (note change of starting point). Binoculars recommended for bird watchers. 

July 2007

Thursday 12th Dulwich Decorative & Fine Arts Society Lecture - Imperial Gardens of China by Dr Patrick Conner 8pm James Allen's Girls' School Lecture Theatre

Thursday 26th Summer Love - an evening of contemporary poetry Dulwich Picture Gallery Linbury Room (Café open from 7pm for light supper and snacks) Tickets £8

August 2007

Wednesday 1st Dulwich Picture Gallery Exhibition - The Changing Face of Childhood: British Children's Portraits and their influence in Europe - Exhibition lasts until 4 November.

Sunday 19th Dulwich Picture Gallery - The Seaside Comes to the Gallery. Summer Family Day 12-4pm. A fun-packed afternoon of art workshops, donkey rides, Punch & Judy, storytelling. Admission £2

Dulwich Choral Society

Elgar Anniversary Prom - Saturday 23 June, 7.30 pm

Dulwich Choral Society presents a Promenade concert to celebrate the 150th anniversary of Edward Elgar's birth. The programme is narrated and conducted by Aidan Oliver, and follows Elgar's remarkable rise from provincial obscurity to become one of Britain's best composers. It features some of his best-loved choral and instrumental works. The concert features Christopher Cromar, piano and organ, and David Brodowski, violin.

The beautiful Wren church of St James's, Piccadilly, has been chosen as the historic setting for this exceptional event. It is close to restaurants and bars, for those who wish to continue the evening in the West End. Tickets are £12 or (restricted view) £10, with £2 reduction for under 17s, from the Box Office, St. John's, Smith Square, London SW1P 3HA, tel: 020 7222 1061, or can be booked via www.sjss.org.uk.

Aidan Oliver has recently become a Dulwich resident, and was appointed conductor of DCS from September 2006. Under his leadership, DCS has performed to capacity audiences in Dulwich - Haydn's Creation (St Barnabas, December 2006) and Bernstein's Chichester Psalms and Faure's Requiem (St John's Goose Green, March).

Aidan is also Director of Music at St Margaret's Church, Westminster Abbey (the Parliamentary Church), and Chorus Master of Philharmonia Voices, a professional chorus of young singers formed to give high-profile oratorio and opera performances with the Philharmonia Orchestra. He was educated at Eton College, and undertook postgraduate studies at King's College London and Harvard University (as Kennedy Scholar), after gaining a double first in classics at King's College Cambridge in 1998.

DCS is a friendly and go-ahead group which welcomes new members - especially sopranos and basses - who wish to be part of the musical success and growth of the leading large choir in south London. Phone Jo on 020 7737 3169 for more information.

Dulwich Picture Gallery Forthcoming Exhibition - The Changing Face of Childhood: British Children 's portraits and their influence in Europe

The British have always enjoyed portraits. Portraits of themselves, their houses, their wives, their dogs and their children.

As early as the 1630's Van Dyck was producing portraits of Charles l's children as loveable innocent creatures, though he subjected them to the established style of courtly representation. Gainsborough, 100 years later, set new standards: in keenly observed renditions of childlike behaviour; the children he painted developed a carefree presence emphasised by dynamic loose brushwork - and landscape played an important part in placing the children in their own environment. Sir Joshua Reynolds and his successor Thomas Lawrence also adopted the motif of children in a landscape setting, making it popular throughout Europe. And European artists (like Angelika Kauffman) travelled to England to see the works and contributed to the wide dissemination of the 'modern' portrait type, which originated in Britain but was fast becoming popular abroad.

All over Europe, in the Age of Enlightenment - the second half of the eighteenth century - the interest in children's portraits was spreading through not only the royal and noble families, but more widely, generating also an interest in the moral concepts associated with the bourgeois family. Children began to be seen as independent characters, not just as future rulers, but also as childlike figures. It was a time when sensitivity observed portraits of royal children gave no indication that the French Revolution would soon shatter their sheltered world.

The Changing Face of Childhood, Dulwich Picture Gallery 1 August - 4 November

South London Art Gallery Exhibition - Stay Forever and Ever and Ever

This group exhibition brings together the works of 10 international contemporary artists, whose practice involves assembling familiar objects that connote feelings of nostalgia. At the heart of the exhibition is a discussion around the idea that memories and objects are inexplicably linked: that our memories are stored within objects and objects arouse our memories.

Many of the works presented are inspired by various artistic movements from the latter part of the 20th century, such as Art Povera, High and Post Modernism. Concepts of appropriation, sampling and archiving, issues of authenticity and originality are raised by the work, as is that of figuring contemporary sculpture as object. The ambiguous status of Spartacus Chetwynd's cardboard props, exhibited after their use in performances; Georg Herold's wall-based 'drawings' which incorporate a curious selection of everyday objects, such as vodka bottles and bricks; or Tony Conrad's preoccupation with the physical elements of film in his Yellow Movie, that play out, or age, over decades, all challenge traditional conventions of sculpture, painting and installation.

The exhibition proposes that our understanding of art is driven by our desire for a physical encounter with it, and a need to retain something of the work beyond illusion or memory. De Rijke/De Rooij's vase of flowers, replenished daily throughout the show, has particular resonance here, as does Ann Veronica Janssens's work which demarcates wall space using colourful lamps. Even the installation itself, which encourages visitors to pass through, around or under the works, emphasises the significance of making connections between assembled elements, challenging the way we encounter the objects around us.

Stay Forever and Ever and Ever South London Gallery 65 Peckham Road SE 5 until 24 June. Gallery open Tuesday- Sunday 12- 6pm

Plans being drawn up for regeneration of this historic Grade II* park are nearing conclusion with a master plan expected to be finalised this summer, followed by a planning application to implement this being made to Bromley Council, the local planning authority, in September 2007.

The background to the present position is that following Bromley's withdrawal of its abortive multiplex cinema project in May 2001 in the face of fierce local opposition, including that of the Dulwich Society, a Stakeholders' Dialogue Process, led by an independent facilitator, was set up in 2002 to consider the future of the park and of the National Sports Centre that it hosts. The aim of the dialogue was to establish a consultation process between the local community and the authorities responsible for the park. The matters that the dialogue addressed were the future of the National Sports Centre, which since the 1960s has dominated the centre of the park; the regeneration of the remainder of the park, and governance and management issues.

The dialogue process, which still continues, consists of a Main Group on which is represented about 200 self-selected local individuals and organisations concerned about the park, and which meets about four times a year. In addition there is a much smaller Park Working Group of about 20 local stakeholders, including the Dulwich Society and other amenity groups and various public bodies and their advisers, which meets about monthly. Finally there is an even smaller Sports Working Group mainly concerned with sporting activities in the park, which also has frequent meetings. The dialogue was initially conducted with Bromley, who funded it, as the owners and managers of the park, but they never showed much enthusiasm for major regeneration (though they did undertake restoration of the dinosaur area and other restoration works, not always successfully). 

The Park and the London Development Agency

In late 2005 the London Development Agency, part of the Greater London Authority, became seriously involved in Crystal Palace and took over the lease of the NSC in the summer of 2006 and has an option until March 2009 to take over the running of the rest of the park. They are now major players in the dialogue process and fund it. In the view of the writer they have shown a genuine interest in consulting with the local community through the dialogue. In the autumn of 2006 the LDA appointed Tilman Latz and Partners as master planners with the brief to prepare a master plan for the regeneration of the park as a whole which was to be the basis of a planning application to Bromley. Latz is a leading international firm of landscape architects with an impressive record on the restoration or creation of public parks on the Continent and further afield. Since their appointment, Latz have participated strongly in the dialogue process and have kept it informed of the evolution of their ideas for restoration. In general their ideas have been well received by the community, though their plans are not yet finalised.

Currently their plans envisage leaving the top site open with a tree-lined broad walk and no large building, though there may be a viewing tower and the Crystal Palace museum may be relocated to be adjacent to the vaulted subway, now inaccessible, under Crystal Palace Parade which was the main access to the old Crystal Palace. The plans also envisage the greening of the centre of the park, which is now largely taken up by sports facilities, roads and car parks. It is planned that the sports centre will be relocated to a site between Crystal Palace station and the existing athletics stadium, which will remain. The new centre will be regional rather than national, but should consist of state-of-the-art facilities, including a 50 metre swimming pool and diving facilities (see page ?). Its structure will be put out to an international design contest. It was originally hoped that construction work on this would commence before 2010 but the Mayor of London has decided, without consultation with the dialogue process, that this will not now commence until after the 2012 Olympic Games. 

National Sports Centre

It was never intended that Crystal Palace would be part of the facilities for the Games, though it will have a role for training. It had originally been proposed by the LDA that the present NSC building be demolished but, this being Grade II listed and widely regarded as an iconic example of 20th century architecture, it became apparent that English Heritage was unlikely to support its demolition. The LDA has therefore decided that the shell of the building should remain as a dry-sports area, though the surrounding unsightly concrete walkways and tarmac will again become open green space. Through this will run a restoration of Paxton's central walkway through the park, lined by a series of small defined spaces for various recreational uses. The swimming pool in the NSC will be closed, though temporary arrangements will be made for continuation of swimming until the new pool is built, either in a new 50 metre temporary pool near the station or in the existing NSC building, with upgraded servicing plant as the existing plant is on its last legs and could fail at any time. No decision has yet been made on this. As a start to the greening of the park, the existing ugly turnstiles and concrete bridge near the station are in the process of being removed. It is estimated that the new sports centre will cost in the region of £50 million and the restoration of the remainder of the park an additional £35 to 50 million.

Former Crystal Palace Farm

Though most of the current proposals are widely supported, there remain a number of points which are highly controversial. Opposed by some people is a proposal to establish on the site of the presently disused "farm" buildings (which have suffered fire damage) a youth training centre for horticulture and animal husbandry. Subject to planning permission from Bromley, this will be run by Capel Manor who have a number of similar centres around London. Present plans involve no new buildings other than a greenhouse and the proposals will make it possible for there to be again a range of animals in the park, including guinea pigs, alpacas, Shetland ponies and small reptiles. It is intended that the new farm will be open to the public, especially children, four to five afternoons a week free of charge, with school parties able to visit in the mornings.

Housing Development Proposals

Most contentious are proposals for building housing in parts of the periphery of the park, mainly near the Rockhills Gate (at the junction of Crystal Palace Parade and Westwood Hill) and to a lesser extent at the Sydenham Gate (near the current car park opposite Sydenham Avenue). The LDA has proposed this to raise funds to finance some of the improvements in the park, though despite numerous requests it has not yet indicated what will be lost if finance from this source is not forthcoming. Its plan for the Rockhills Gate is to recover the six acre site on Metropolitan Open Land which is currently occupied by the Caravan Club (and not open to park users) and to build the housing on two acres of this nearest Westwood Hill and to return the other four acres to the park. The Caravan Club has this land on long lease and the LDA's plans are dependent on their being induced to give up their lease and move to a site somewhere else in London. Currently it appears that the Caravan Club has no intention of moving. The possible housing near the Sydenham Gate is less contentious as it is not on MOL and would be mainly infilling between existing villas, though many find objectionable the proposal for a four story apartment block on the site of the lodge by the entrance to the car park. The LDA's original proposal to build additional apartments and commercial buildings at the Norwood Gate (at the top of Anerley Hill) has been dropped as a result of public pressure.

"With a Smile and a Song" - the biography of Anne Shelton, the Forces' and family favourite

by her niece Kelly Richards. 227 pages.

Anne Shelton was a well-known Dulwich resident, living in some style in Court Lane for over 50 years until she moved in 1994.

Born Patricia Sibley and educated at the Sacred Heart Convent in Forest Hill, she shot to fame as a singer after auditioning with the Ambrose Orchestra in 1940. The wartime "Forces' Favourite" (Vera Lynn was the "Forces' sweetheart"), Anne Shelton became hugely popular with the forces and civilian population alike, with a wonderful voice, youthful appearance, blond hair, blue eyes and large bust. It was Anne who recorded the first English version of Lili Marlene; and she sang with Bing Crosby and Glenn Miller, only by chance not joining Glenn Miller on his fatal last flight.

Her successful career continued after the war, with tours of the United States and a number one hit in 1956 Lay down your arms (and surrender to mine), which caused controversy with the authorities in Suez-torn Britain. In the 1980s and early 1990s she was increasingly associated with wartime reunions and revivals, including the organisation of shows for disabled ex-servicemen and women for the Not Forgotten Association, for which she was awarded the OBE in 1990. She died in July 1994, a few days after entertaining at a Not Forgotten Association concert at Buckingham Palace.

As well as documenting Anne Shelton's career, Kelly Richards records the private life of an essentially private person with a close-knit family, who were also her professional and personal support team. Their deaths in the early 1990s led to her move from Dulwich. The book includes a complete list of the songs that Anne Shelton recorded, running to over 25 pages, and many photographs.

Kelly Richards will be signing and selling copies of "With a smile and a Song" at 142 Court Lane from 2-5pm on Sunday 3rd June 2007, when the garden of Anne Shelton's former Dulwich home is open under the National Garden Scheme. The book is also available from www.anne-shelton.co.uk, at £10.99+£2.00

The Story of St Stephen's Church, South Dulwich

By Michael Goodman

The book traces the history of the church from its consecration in 1868 until the present day. St Stephen's, which is a listed building was built by Charles Barry jnr. in the fashionable Victorian Gothic style and contains a highly decorated interior. In the chancel is a fresco of the martyrdom of St Stephen by Sir Edward Poynter PRA. The church was one of the local subjects painted by Camille Pissarro when he was living in Penge during the Franco-Prussian war.

Considerable interesting detail is given by the author, a member of the congregation and a retired circuit judge, of the life of the church during World War II when it suffered bomb blast on several occasions and then was severely damaged by a VI 'flying bomb' in 1944. The congregation was forced to meet elsewhere and there were fears that the church might have to be demolished as the walls were starting to lean outwards. An ingenious solution was proposed; to hold the walls together with the use of steel bars (which still remain). Restoration included the installation of new stained glass to replace that destroyed, although almost miraculously, the great east window had survived. Insufficient funds prevented a full restoration of the highly decorated interior which had to wait until the centenary in 1968 when much of the original design was reintroduced.

The book gives a fascinating picture of the ups and downs of a suburban parish church; the challenges of a changing social fabric and liturgy are met with the devotion of its congregation and priests.

The Story of St Stephens by Michael Goodman is available at price £7 from local bookshops from 14 June. Books may be ordered from the church by post and will be delivered free of charge to addresses in Dulwich. All proceeds will go to church funds.

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