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, May 05, 2008

The Face of New Cross

The supposed face on Mars is well known, but what about the face of the New Cross Island? For just as those rocks on Mars look vaguely human so too does the Island resemble a face in this image taken from a satellite in space. Specifically a woman's face, with the road markings extending from the island forming a kind of headdress of the kind worn by nuns. And is she winking?
In my view this is evidence only of the capacity of the human imagination to project meaning on to a random universe, but other theories are welcome - perhaps she is signalling to the mothership in preparation for the alien landing in the New Cross Road. Or perhaps it is an image of Maleficent, Mistress of All Evil in Walt Disney's Sleeping Beauty.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

The Island 1910

Trams gather at the Island in around 1910, note there is actually a statue of a deer above the White Hart pub. From the Ideal Homes website.


London elections

A poignant moment on The Island this morning, this leaflet washed up on our shores featuring Ken Livingstone the outgoing Mayor of London. Although The Island is an autonomous republic, we have always enjoyed amicable relations with our neighbour, London. News reaches us that the new Mayor is an invader from an old tribe, the Etonians, who have plundered the city on many occasions. The Island doesn't have an army, but its partisans are on full alert.


On the island there are three cages which cover the entrances to the long-closed toilets. For some reason, the urban debris that accumulates inside them always seems to include drinking vessels.

Today these included the following tins: Stella (2), Skol Super, Tennent's super, Diet coke, Tizer, Coca Cola, Dr Pepper (2), Red Bull and Fosters. Bottles included Strathmore still water, Oasis summer fruits, Evian and Guiness and there were two Ribena cartons.

Perhaps these are all liquid offerings to the spirits of this crossroads.

May Day Greetings

May Day greetings from The Island Pansies


Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Spring Daffodils

It was the beginning of March (2008) on the Island and the daffodils were in bloom for St. David's Day.


Saturday, December 16, 2006

The Island 1923

Amother picutre from the Exploring 20th Century London collection, showing the Island in 1923.


Christmas Tree on the Island

Trees are rare on the Island, but once a year a large fir appears here, decorated with lights. The locals call it a 'Christmas Tree'.


Friday, November 17, 2006

Twinned with Shell Island

We are very keen to twin the Island with other interesting sites, including of course other islands. This could take the form of bringing offerings to the Island from other places, or vice versa. Our first such self-organised twinning arrangement is with Shell Island in Wales, from where Pirate Paul brought back these shells to the Island. We can now reveal that this was the content of the hidden treasure chest, now sadly swept away by street clearers.

Pirate Visit

Last night the Island hosted a visit by the Pirate Society from Goldsmiths. Timbers were shivered prior to retiring to the nearby White Hart. The Pirates had various ideas - could they seize another island further down the New Cross Road and proclaim a pirate republic? Can we get a Jolly Roger flying on the Island? Can we have a beach party on the Island (maybe when it gets a bit warmer)?

Wednesday, November 15, 2006


We like to think of the Island as a place which has abolished work, but the other day we did come across somebody in a fluorescent yellow jacket clearly engaged in paid employment there. He appeared to be counting the traffic passing the Island, with others of his colleagues sitting on the corner of Pepys Road doing the same. In a recent chat with Ken, landlord of The White Hart, we discovered that there is a proposal to change the traffic flow and possibly even join up the Island with the mainland by the pub. Presumably then it wouldn't be an Island anymore. We would be prepared to surrender this sovereignty in the interests of reducing traffic accidents, but only if the conditions on the Island can be extended to the New Cross mainland - no borders, no prisons, no violence, lots of flowers...

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Artful Mapping Exploration

October is Artful month, a 'non conventional convention', dispersed DIY festival of music and creativity happening at places across South East London and beyond.

As our modest contribution we will be collaborating with You are here but why? on some exploratory mapping of the Island at 3 pm on Sunday 15th October 2006. After a guided stroll around the Island we will consider ways of mapping the Island and the routes through and around it in time and space. If its raining we will be in the White Hart pub opposite.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Another view from space

A new satellite image of the Island from Google Earth, not as clear as the previous one - perhaps it was a cloudy day.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Tram Shelter 1933

Thanks to Clare for noticing this fine picture of the Island in 1933 (from the interesting Exploring 20th Century London site). Seemingly emerging from the now vanished tram shelter is a lamp post which remains there to this day (of which more secrets will be revealed shortly).

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Sunday, September 17, 2006


Today was transnational Chalk4Peace day, and a number of peace signs and messages appeared on the island, including 'Peace Everywhere Now!" and "Peace is Cool, Be Cool".

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Seasons turning

August turns to September, and the first signs of Autumn appear with an early leaf fall on to the Island.


Tuesday, August 08, 2006


Human visitors to the Island may sometimes imagine that they are the only life there, apart from the plants in the flower boxes. They are wrong. Beneath the surface of the island there is a whole colony with thousands of tiny inhabitants. I became aware of this today as I followed a trail of ants across the island to the hole from which they emerged - a sure sign of an ants nest. Following the trail in the opposite direction also led me to stumble across the suspected site of Pirate Paul's treasure box (see previous post).


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).

Thursday, June 29, 2006

The view from space 2006

Courtesy of Google Earth, a satellite photograph of the Island. From somewhere in space, you are being watched...

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

The Island 1850

In the mid-19th century, the Island was the site of the New Cross turnpike gate, where tolls were collected from traffic using the New Cross Road (on the route from London to Dover). This picture was painted around 1850, looking east along Queen's Road with the still-existing White Hart public house at the rear.

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Monday, June 26, 2006

Midsummer Flora

The island's flora is mainly to be found in its 31 flower boxes. The unobservant may imagine that these just grow and change by themselves, but in fact they are regularly replaced with ready potted flowers. Earlier in the spring, daffodils were in bloom, to be replaced by pansies. Last week, after a few days empty, these new boxes appeared.


Thursday, June 15, 2006

Escape to the Island

On the mainland, a few metres distant from the Island's north coast, there is a Barclays Bank. Yesterday the combination of the heat, the cashpoint queue and money stress led to a small commotion. Shoving, fists raised, woman shouting to man 'get your fucking hands off me. Maybe you hit your woman in your country...'. Others intervening to separate or aggravate. Pushed to the edge of the road and the pavement, there's only one place to go... escape to the Island.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Smile like you mean it

Visited the Island unexpectedly today. Paused and decided not to leave until I had smiled, made eye contact and engaged with five people. Response: 5 smiles and 2 scowls. Left the Island with a spring in my step.

[Report from Juleigh, 9 June 2006]

Friday, June 09, 2006

Black Dog, White Hart and the Boogie Man

Does the Island have its own tales of enchantment and mystery, of heroes and villains, of monsters glimpsed in the moonlight – in short, its own folklore?

Observed last Sautrday, a mother waits to cross to the Island with her child and black dog. 'Watch for the green man' she says. Next to her a young girl wanders off, ignoring her mother calling her back who shouts 'The boogeyman is up there'. Overlooking the whole scene, the old inn of the White Hart.

Welcome to the Island

Every day many visit and thousands pass close by, though few notice it. The Island is a place of brief encounters, of buried secrets, of moments glimpsed in rear-view mirrors. It is a place of waiting, but not for long, a brief pause on a journey.

The Island has no border controls, no prisons, no soldiers or priests, no buying and selling. Is it a utopia? Perhaps it could be, a sanctuary of non-interference amidst the surveillance cameras.

We want to share some of what happens on the Island, perhaps create situations to see what else could happen. But we do not claim it as our Island anymore than it is your’s. The Island welcomes everybody...

Where is the Island? It is here, surrounded by the flowing rivers of traffic at the junction of Queens Road and New Cross Road, SE14.