I Am A Man From Lewisham! in honour of the London Borough of Culture for 2022!

By Peter Cordwell

A quick word to dashing Damien Egan, Mayor of Lewisham: Congratulations on Lewisham being awarded London Borough of Culture for 2022!

The plans are plantastic, but guess what? Someone who lives in Lewisham has written the perfect song for the year-long festival that starts on January 28.

The song could do what Football’s Coming Home did in the world of soccer. That ‘someone’ is Billy Jenkins. That ‘song’ – wait for it! – is the unabashed I Am A Man From Lewisham!

It’s loud. It’s catchy. It’s vibrant. It’s heartfelt. And it’s ready to reverberate around the borough at every cultural event; in every pub and club; in every school; in every street.

Have a listen, Damien. Right now. On Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VZmZpJxvBmw

Isn’t it exactly what’s needed? 1 minute 52 seconds of pure joy and commitment to the best borough in south London. Get the kids, school bands, to add verses! Have a competition!

Not only would it enhance the whole event. It would also be a timely tribute to Mr Jenkins himself.

Sadly, in his mix-sixties, he can make no more music due to physical and psychological reasons – mainly hyperacusis (everyday sounds sounding louder) and tinnitus (‘constant screaming in my head’).

But let’s begin at the beginning.

“I started learning violin aged nine, then viola and piano, plus two years as a parish church chorister before I picked up the guitar aged 12,” said Mr Jenkins.

“I’ve had to put it down after 50 or so years, several dozen albums, countless live performances and much making of joyful noises.

“But proudly borne “industrially related” minor but chronic issues have now rendered me silent.

“A large back catalogue of, mostly, critically-acclaimed recorded works and a drip feed of stoicism allows me to remain quietly contented.

“After all, who was it who said that “the true improvisor should only perform once?” Oh, it was me. Hoisted. Petard.

“Now, the normal human threshold is about 80 decibels, but for me it’s painful at 60. Even washing up is painful.”

In 2016 Mr Jenkin’s album True Love Collection – released in 1998 – was voted by BBC and Jazz FM presenters, jazz musicians, critics and journalists as one of the ‘50 Greatest Ever Jazz Albums’, emphasis on the word “Ever”.

Billy Jenkins

Over the years Billy has organised events linking music to World Cup football and chess, while taking a great interest himself in speedway and playing bowls for the Francis Drake club on Hilly Field.

His ‘Retail’ sampler, released last year, is 42 minutes of music from 1981 to 2018.

Mr Jenkins said: “It’s 40 years of what I call “aural art”, most of it inspired by the South-east London environment I grew up in and where I’ve always lived – from Bromley to Greenwich to St Johns and in between.

“I chose the topic of retail due to the extraordinary effect the pandemic is having on global economics – and I thought it might be a marketing angle that the media might warm to.

Which has not been the case. But I’m not surprised, there’s ten zillion things to grab one’s attention online.

“That’s the joy and madness of the technological world we’re living in. I also created it especially for my Bandcamp site. I like Bandcamp. It’s like busking on the web. Some folks put a few pounds in the hat. Others just listen and appreciate.

Billy Jenkins

“Is my music jazz? Is it blues? Is it classical? The answer is “yes!” Often all at the same time.

So, if you’re reading this and have never heard of me or my music, give yourself a few minutes to focus on one piece.”

How would he like I Am A Man From Lewisham to be the official song of the London Borough of Culture in 2022?

‘Love it. Very moving, but I’m not going anywhere. I’m Lewisham ‘til I die.’

So…over to you, Damien.

For more: https://billyjenkins1.bandcamp.com/

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