Blur’s Parklife in Greenwich

A new, updated version of this post was published in August 2014.

Yesterday’s news of Blur reuniting to play a big gig in Hyde Park next July brought back a few memories of the peninsula, long before it became an entertainment venue, a buy-to-let landlord’s dream, and when the phrase “North Greenwich” would result in puzzled looks…

The video to Parklife was filmed over a couple of days in August 1994 in River Way, outside the Pilot pub. I remember this well – I was a big fan of the band and the filming took place on my 20th birthday. You can also see Ordnance Crescent (and the hoardings which covered up work on the Jubilee Line extension) and the Sun-in-the-Sands roundabout as well.

River Way, GreenwichOf course, it doesn’t look like that now – the old street, which contained the pub, the cottages, a power station and an industrial estate – and years before, a railway bridge for the line up to the gas works – was obliterated in 1998 as part of construction work on the Millennium Dome. The tenants in the cottages were given their marching orders as the Dome’s operators moved in, the industrial yards moved to Charlton.

But before then, there were a couple of reminders left behind of Greenwich’s contribution to Britpop history – the words “PARK LIFE” and an arrow were left painted on the road by the production crew where the road met the river, by the rusting jetty once used by the gas works. The “Parklife Walk East/West” signs were inspired by the old “Riverside Walk East/West” signs on River Way, back when it was impossible to walk around the peninsula and walkers had to walk down it and across the Blackwall Tunnel approach to continue their journeys.

All now gone, of course, but the houses and pub remain as some of the few remnants of the peninsula’s pre-1999 past. Indeed, the Pilot’s a fine pub, a great escape from the soulless venues inside the Dome. When the car park outside the pub is empty, though, it is still possible to remember what it was like that sunny day when Blur came to town, though.

Of course, it’s not their only link to these parts – the members of Blur met at Goldsmiths College in New Cross, and Alex James’s brilliant memoir of his time in the band, Bit of a Blur, details his days living in a squat on New Cross Road.

I’ve mixed feelings on the band getting back together again, myself – I tend to be the sort of person who thinks memories should be left in the past, and the thought of a load of 30somethings returning to the days when they were younger and less paunchy is a bit embarrassing. Mind you, that doesn’t stop Oasis lumbering on. On the other hand, Blur didn’t actually split up (no formal announcement was ever made of Graham Coxon’s departure, for example) and it’s only five years since their last album.

But then again, I don’t begrudge them the pay day, and might even try to get to Hyde Park myself. Now, I hope you’ll excuse this 30something another nostalgia trip…


  1. We went to see the Inspiral Carpets at Brixton Academy a couple of years ago. That was full of 30-somethings on a nostalgia trip, self included.

    We’ve also seen James fairly recently, they are still doing new stuff, though they’re on about their 10th different line up!

    I think you’re excused a bit of nostalgia from time to time.

  2. Excellent post Darryl, I live right next to the Pilot (in the flats you love so much) and never knew this.

    I saw Blur years ago in a small pub somewhere near Milton Keynes. It was before they became famous, about the time when Bang was released – I loved the line ‘sitting on an STD waiting for an underground to rumble underneath my feet..’

    Brings back memories!

  3. Thanks for that little video – it is a little time capsule and shows things now gone for ever.
    There are views down what was Riverway- and the river frontage at the end of Riverway -both almost completely gone and the river no longer accessible from there. The blue railings towards the end are the last remains of Blackwall Power Station and some bits of the Redpath Brown gateway- and of course several views of the gasholder. (sigh!!)

  4. Adam – It’s smartened up a little bit, gained some Charlton memorabilia, but it’s more or less the same boozer that it always was. Last time I was in there, in the summer, I got chatting with someone behind the bar who was there the day the Parklife video was filmed.

    I had a mate who squatted in Blackwall Power Station…

  5. Hmmm, have also been mulling over whether to fork out £35 quid for this or not, or maybe go to Glastonbury if they play there. Saw them play the NME stage (as it was then) at Glastonbury way back when, about ’91 or ’92 I guess. I seem to remember Damon Albarn got drunk and climbed up the rigging or smthg, but I was (and still am) short and miles back in the crowd and couldn’t see much – typically!

  6. […] newcomers to the area, whether I’ve made them wade through Thames Path puddles, pointed out our part in Britpop history or shown them The Street That Always Gets Used In Films, they’ve been interested […]

  7. Well – for information – the people who were doing the landscaping for the Dome actually had plans to pull the whole lot down. Happily English Heritage were very convinced by this vast great document I unearthed at the Public Record Office (it must have been about 5 ft square) which proved they were built in 1801, thus making them the oldest purpose built workplace housing in south London (or something) – so they we were – and I was later subjected to a diatribe from the landscapers.
    We also tried to get the modernist sulphate house opposite listed – it features in far more videos than the cottages ever did – but British Gas got it down quick as anything on the pretext of raves there.
    Always happy to talk about the history of the cottages, and the Pilot – and why they are there and called Ceylon Place.
    -and – gasholder fans – please get in touch.
    ps – you need to watch a lot of Dempsey and Makepeace

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