Notes from the Island

The Island welcomes everybody. Every day many visit and thousands pass close by, though few notice it. It is a place of brief encounters, of buried secrets, of moments glimpsed in rear-view mirrors. A brief pause on a journey. The Island has no border controls, no prisons, no buying and selling. Is it a utopia? Perhaps it could be, a sanctuary of non-interference amidst the surveillance cameras. The Island, London SE14 - much more than just a traffic island on the A2, New Cross Road.

Monday, July 31, 2006

Buried treasure on the island

We received an email last week from a visitor to the Island:

"Ahoy... I sailed to the island today from the isle of Battersea and stopped to water and explore. Whilst I was there I decided to bury a treasure chest with all the trinkets I've found in Deptford & New Cross during my 2 year association with the place. If it isn't discovered then I will periodically add to my stash. But here's a warning for any lubbers that intend to steal my booty - only I've got the key to the chest. splice the mainbrace, etc Pirate Paul"

Monday, July 17, 2006

Everything here is free

There is no buying and selling on the Island. As a contribution towards extending this non-economy, free distribution was initiated on Saturday with the arrival of two boxes marked 'everything here is free, please help yourself'. By the end of the afternoon, books, cds and clothes had been taken by visitors to the Island, who even now may be settling down to read works by William Burroughs, Roddy Doyle or Homer while listening to Ce Ce Peniston's 'Finally' or Dusty Springfield's 'Tupelo Honey'. Perhaps they preferred some Ladytron, New York Dolls or Handsome Family with a smattering of Afro-Celt Sound System, or are practicing moves from a yoga book in their new summer short-sleeved shirt... We hope that the Island anti-market will re-emerge periodically, with others coming down to give it all away.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Cult of Saint George

The World Cup is over and the flags are coming down. As a stateless zone the Island flies no flags, but we did observe that the flag of our nearest neighbour, the cross of Saint George, has been prominent in the vicinity. In a survey carried out in the evening of June 30th, a car flying this flag passed the Island's northern shore every 1.75 minutes.

We will leave for now discussions of contemporary forms of nationalism and simply note that the Island witnessed an earlier manifestation of the Cult of Saint George in May 1416. On the 1 May Sigismund, Emperor of Germany, landed at Dover, and travelled up to London via the Old Kent Road, passing therefore the site of the Island. On the 7th he was met at St Thomas a Watering (now the corner of Old Kent Road and Albany Road) by the King, Henry V. Sigismund was said to have brought with him as a gift the heart of St George, which was placed in St George's Chapel, Windsor (source: Boger, E., Bygone Southwark, London, 1895).