The artist and the punks of West Hampstead

In April 1977, Tony Drayton moved to London from Cumbernauld, a new town in Scotland between Glasgow and Edinburgh. From 1976 to 1979, Tony was the editor of the early punk zine, Ripped and Torn. He lived in London, Paris, and Amsterdam and had a very varied career, including fire eating. In the summer of 1978, his sister Val joined him in London. After living in several squats, in the autumn of 1979 they met some punks in West Hampstead. One was Adam Ant’s (Stuart Goddard) ex-wife Eve (Carol Mills) and one was Kevin Mooney, a bassist who later joined Adam and the Ants. They let Tony and Val move into an empty flat at 33 Sherriff Road, a house run by the West Hampstead Housing Association (WHHA).

Also sharing the house were Andi, the singer, and Ross, the bass player, of Australian band The Urban Guerrillas, and Dave Roberts, later a member of the band Sex Gang Child. There were more: Leigh Kendall, Andy Groome and Malcolm Baxter, who were members of The Last Words, another Australian punk band. They earned £6 a day by delivering leaflets and Tony said they spent most of it drinking in the nearby pub, The Railway, or listening to the punk bands at the Moonlight Club which was run at the pub by Dave Kitson from October 1979 until 1993.

Brett and Val on Westbere Road c1981

Tony began to edit a new punk zine and the first edition was produced for Adam and the Ants’ 1980 New Years Day gig at the Electric Ballroom in Camden. The run of 500 copies sold out on the night and had to be reprinted. Tony and his friends, who called themselves the Puppy Collective, produced six issues up to 1983. Tony also wrote articles for the Record Mirror, New Musical Express, and Zigzag. In the summer of 1980, Tony and Val moved to another WHHA house at 39 Westbere Road. Artist Jo Brocklehurst lived in the same street and saw them as they passed by her home. She thought they looked fantastic and invited them to her studio where she made wonderful pictures of them.

Tony Drayton, fire eating c1986 (Tony Drayton archive)

Jo Brocklehurst moved into 12 Westbere Road in the 1960s and stayed there until her death on 29 January 2006. She was born Josephine Blanche Brocklehurst in Lambeth in 1935. She was a very good athlete, and in the 1950s she competed for the Selsonia Ladies Athletic Club in the shotput and discus.

A precocious talent, Jo first entered St Martin’s School of Art shortly before her 14th birthday, on a junior art scheme. Having left the school at 18, she was a regular visitor to the costume life classes in the fashion department. From the late 1990s, Howard Tangye, then St Martin’s head of women’s wear and a close friend, invited Jo be a visiting lecturer to work with his students.

In the 1960s, Jo sketched jazz musicians such as George Melly, and worked in commercial fashion before becoming swept up in the punk scene. She is best known for her paintings of the early 1980s and her subjects included the punks in West Hampstead, The Blitz Kids, Siouxsie Sioux, Marc Almond, Philip Salon, Boy George, and, in Berlin, the dance company of Pina Bausch.

Her first one-woman show was in Amsterdam in 1979. Following her big breakthrough at the ICA’s Women’s Images of Men show the following year, Jo had considerable success with her drawings, showing twice at the Francis Kyle Gallery in London in 1981 and 1982, and later at Leo Castelli in New York and the Connecticut State University Gallery.

In 1994 the V&A (which holds a collection of her work), showed a series of her figure drawings in Street Style. Brocklehurst began to spend more time in Europe, especially in Amsterdam and Berlin where she sketched in the clubs.

Her friend Isabelle Bricknall said, ‘She liked Berlin because it was very punk in a lot of ways; it was before the wall came down. There’s so little known about her here, but in Germany and Poland at the arts festivals, they all knew her. She played artist in residence – she’d be sketching on a daily basis for newspapers such as Berliner Zeitung, drawing different acts from theatre to art. She also made some very good friends in Berlin.’

Although sometimes compared to the Austrian painter Egon Schiele (1890-1918), Jo was an original and she drew people without the aggression of Schiele’s work. Jo was always drawing. She never minded being stuck on a bus for hours in traffic, as she always carried paper and pens. She drew places, situations and people. She enjoyed landscape, and would regularly cycle to Hampstead Heath.

Tony and Val at the Jo Brocklehurst Private View, 1980s

In her house in Westbere Road there were vibrant pictures of characters from Alice through the Looking Glass, each with more than a hint of the fetish club. She was fascinated by Charles Dodgson’s alternative persona as Lewis Carroll and called the work ‘Brocklehurst through the Looking Glass’.

Isabelle Bricknall met Jo through Colin Barnes, a lecturer at the Royal College of Arts, St Martins, and Nottingham Trent where Isabelle studied for her MA in fashion and textiles. Jo was a lecturer with Colin Barnes in fashion illustration.

Isabelle worked in the fashion industry with many top designers, such as Zandra Rhodes. She has been a fashion designer, textile designer, artist and model, working in many art different mediums including fabrics, glass, steel, film, and photography. This drew Jo and Isabelle together to create with each other’s art work. Starting with Isabelle modelling her own designs and Jo drawing them, to working on art exhibitions and other art projects, and helping Jo to archive her work. She and Jo visited clubs together and their creative relationship lasted until Jo’s death.

A retrospective exhibition of Jo Brocklehurst’s work, Nobodies and Somebodies, was shown at the House of Illustration, King’s Cross London from 3 February to 14 May 2017. It was co-curated by Isabelle Bricknall and Oliva Ahmed.

Acknowledgements:
We would particularly like to acknowledge the help of Tony and Val Drayton, and Isabelle Bricknall. Anna Bowman helped us with information about the WHHA.

An Insight with: Roma Agrawal

This month we spoke to Roma Agrawal, engineer and debut author (and West Hampstead resident).

Roma spent six years working on the construction of the Shard. During that time she was asked to give presentations about the Shard, first to other engineers, to outside groups such as the Womens Institute, and then to schools. She really enjoyed going out and raising awareness, “People don’t really hear about engineers and certainly not in a positive way”.

One day she was asked, why don’t you write a book about it? And the result is ‘Built: The Hidden Stories Behind Our Structures‘, which is published today.

Roma, her book and some West Hampstead bricks

Before we learn more about the book, what brought you to West Hampstead?

“I had family connections to the south in St. John’s Wood and to the north in Mill Hill, so when we were looking for somewhere to live this seemed like an obvious choice.  I love the fact that it is between the Finchley Road and the Kilburn High Road but also has its own high street”.

What is your first/fondest memory of the area?

“The first time I went to the farmer’s market. I just loved it, it was so lively and it really felt like there was a community here.

A close second was the opening of the Sherriff Centre, it’s been a great addition. And as an engineer, I love just looking up at the brickwork and the ceiling.”

Tell me a bit more about ‘Built’?

“It came out of my talks and lectures. I just loved telling people about engineering. It’s all around us; the buildings we live in, the bridges we walk over and the tunnels we travel in. I wanted to peel back the facades.

Here in West Hampstead, the Victorians built a lot using different types of brick (which are made from clay that can be 50 million years old with tiny fossils in it). The churches, in particular, are amazing – I sometimes just go into the Sherriff Centre and gaze at the soaring ceiling.

I also researched people such as Emily Roebling, who engineered the Brooklyn Bridge (taking over after her father-in-law who died suddenly and her husband who got the bends from diving too deep). Or Fazlur Rahmen Kahn, a Bangladeshi child prodigy, who has changed the way we design skyscrapers. It used to be that they were 60-70 storeys, now they can build double that height.”

As for the book, Roma quipped “Do judge a book by its cover – I’m really happy with design!”

What is for lunch (or dinner)?

“I’m a huge fan of Anjanaas in Kilburn, at the bottom of Willesden Lane. They do South Indian food – I’m from India but don’t generally like Indian restaurants in London, but I love Anjanaas.

There is another good restaurant next door, Vijay’s which is also good but it is only vegetarian. Whereas Anjanaas does some meat and fish as well, in fact it does great fish, so it’s got the edge.

We also really liked Mamacita, so I miss that since it’s closed.”

Describe West Hampstead in three words

Eclectic, friendly, (with some great) sunsets.

It was 56 years ago today, Decca said the Beatles couldn’t play

On a very cold New Year’s Day in 1962 the Beatles arrived in West Hampstead for their audition at Decca Studios.

The Beatles’ manager, Brian Epstein had several record shops in Liverpool and had a meeting with the marketing people at Decca. They told Dick Rowe – Decca’s A&R (Artists and Repertoire) manager – about The Beatles and he sent his assistant Mike Smith to Liverpool to see them at The Cavern on 13 December 1961. Smith was very impressed by the audience reaction and an audition was arranged in London for 1st January 1962.

Back in 1962, New Year’s Day wasn’t a public holiday but Dick Rowe was away, and it was left to Mike Smith to organise the session. Brian Epstein travelled to London by train, but John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and drummer Pete Best, had to drive down the previous day in a van with their equipment. The freezing weather, with fog and snow, meant the journey took ten hours instead of the usual five. After getting lost, The Beatles finally arrived at the Royal Hotel in Woburn Place around 10pm on New Year’s Eve. Pete Best (who was replaced by Ringo Starr later that year) recalled what happened:

“Brian Epstein had read the riot act to us before we went down to London. You know, be good little boys, you mustn’t be out after 10 o’clock. And there we were with everyone else in the middle of Trafalgar Square as drunk as skunks. We were late getting to the Decca Studios the next day. Brian was there before us. He was livid and tore a strip off us left, right and centre. John said, Brian shut up, we are here for the audition’. (From: Love Me Do; the Beatles ‘62, TV documentary 2012).

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The boys arrived at the Broadhurst Gardens studio at 11 o’clock and were not at their best after a long journey and a night of heavy drinking. Mike Smith was more than hour late himself, having been held up by the snow, and Epstein was very annoyed. They briefly met Tony Meehan who went into the producer’s box. He had grown up in West Hampstead and been the drummer with Cliff Richard and the Shadows before working as an assistant producer at Decca. The Beatles started to set up their equipment but the Decca engineers asked them to use the studio amplifiers as the group’s were in poor condition.

Over the next few hours The Beatles played 15 songs, mostly cover versions; only three were Lennon and McCartney originals (Like Dreamers Do, Hello Little Girl and Love Of The Loved). Epstein had persuaded them to do a set that he thought would show their range of ability, including Besame Mucho, The Sheik Of Araby, Money and Till There Was You. Lennon and McCartney later said they had wanted to include more rock numbers. Epstein thought the audition had gone well and he treated the boys to a meal at a restaurant in Swiss Cottage recommended by Mike Smith.

Mike Smith at Decca

Later that same afternoon, Brian Poole and the Tremeloes auditioned at Decca. After the auditions Mike Smith wanted to sign both groups but Dick Rowe said they could only take one and told Smith to choose. He went with the Tremeloes because their audition was better than The Beatles’ and he thought it would be easier to work with a Dagenham band than a Liverpool-based group. Smith lived nearby in Barking.

The Tremeloes at Decca

After numerous phone calls, Epstein was invited to lunch with Dick Rowe and the head of marketing on the 6 February. He was told that Decca had decided not to sign The Beatles. In his autobiography Epstein said he couldn’t believe his ears.

“You must be out of your tiny little minds! These boys are going to explode. I am completely confident that one day they will be bigger than Elvis Presley!”

He said that Rowe told him:

“Not to mince words, Mr Epstein, we don’t like your boys’ sound. Groups of guitars are on the way out …. Your boys are never going to get off the ground. We know what we’re talking about. You really should stick to selling recordings in Liverpool.” (From: Brian Epstein, A Cellarful of Noise London: Souvenir, 1964).

Dick Rowe strongly denied that he said this, and believes that Epstein was so annoyed that the Beatles had been turned down that he made it up. But the story stuck and Rowe went down in history as ‘the man who turned down the Beatles’. But this is unfair because it was Mike Smith who made the decision. And he wasn’t alone; as Rolling Stones manager Andrew Oldham pointed out in his autobiography, “Everybody turned them down. Columbia, Oriole, Philips and Pye turned the Beatles down, based on what they heard from the Decca session”.

Epstein left the Decca meeting with the tapes of the audition. He stayed in London for a few days and on 8 February he met Bob Boast, the manager of the large HMV record shop in Oxford Street. They knew each other from a seminar in Hamburg and got on well. Boast was not very impressed with the recording tapes in Decca boxes and suggested that Epstein go upstairs where there was a studio that could make copies onto disk. He thought these would look better when Epstein approached the other record companies. The disk-cutter Jim Foy was impressed by the fact that Lennon and McCartney had composed three tracks, as it was unusual at this time for a band to write their own material. Foy told EMI’s head of publishing Sid Coleman who arranged a meeting with George Martin, who was then the head of A&R at Parlophone, part of EMI.

You can listen to 10 tracks from the Decca session for yourself in the video at the top of the article.

Most critics agree that it’s hard to appreciate the Beatles’ potential from this material. They didn’t perform well nor did their unique talent emerge. The original tapes were recently sold at auction to a Japanese collector for £35,000.

You can hear Mike Smith, Pete Best and Brian Poole talking about their memories of the audition after 40 years:

Epstein met George Martin on 13 February 1962. Martin was not particularly impressed by the Decca sessions demo either, but he admired the confidence Epstein had in the Beatles and he was struck by the freshness of the three original compositions. In May, Martin told Epstein that he wanted to sign the group and the deal was done on 4 June, two days before their audition at Abbey Road. The band recorded their first hit, Love Me Do, there in September. It was released on 5 October and reached number 17 in the charts. Their second single, Please Please Me, was released on 11 January 1963 and reached number 1 in the NME and Melody Maker charts.

Liked the Rolling Stones
Although Decca did not sign the Beatles, it did get the Rolling Stones. On 10 May 1963, Dick Rowe and George Harrison were judges at a local talent competition at the Philharmonic Hall in Liverpool. George told Dick Rowe about a band he had seen who were very good. Dick returned to London and saw the Rolling Stones at the Crawdaddy Club in Richmond where they had a residency. Four days later he signed them to Decca. Their first single was Chuck Berry’s Come On, which was re-recorded at Decca Studios and released on 7 June. It reached number 21 in the charts. Shrewdly, manager Andrew Oldham wanted to retain the performing rights of the music and he produced most of the Stones’ other records at independent studios and then leased them to Decca.

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Despite being lumbered with the tag of the man who turned down The Beatles, Dick Rowe in fact had a long and successful time at Decca. He went on to sign The Animals, The Moody Blues, The Zombies, Them (with Van Morrison), The Small Faces, Lulu and Tom Jones among many others. He died from diabetes in June 1986 at his home in Greenwich.

A rich history
What of the studio itself?

The building in Broadhurst Gardens was built around 1884 as a workshop and then converted into West Hampstead Town Hall. Despite its name, this was not a public building but a private venue that could be rented for weddings and concerts.

In 1928, it became the recording studio of the Crystalate Record Company. During the depression of the 1930s, small independent record companies struggled to survive. Decca and EMI bought most of them and became great rivals. EMI opened its Abbey Road studios in November 1931, and in 1937, Crystalate was acquired by Decca which moved all its recording to Broadhurst Gardens. Thousands of records were made here by Decca until the company left in 1981. As well as many classical records, these included sessions by David Bowie, Marc Bolan, Tom Jones, Lulu, Van Morrison, The Moody Blues, and Eric Clapton with John Mayall.

In its final form there were three main studios at Decca:
Studio 1: straight ahead as you entered the building, with the control room upstairs above the studios. This was used for many pop records.
Studio 2: a smaller room, was downstairs and was the main rock & roll and blues studio.
Studio 3: was opened in 1962 at the back of the building, and was large enough to take a full orchestra. Bing Crosby made one of his last albums, Feels Good, Feels Right, here in August 1976.

In 1974, The Moody Blues did a deal with Decca and took over Studio 1 as their Threshold Studios. They had made their previous albums at Decca and they recorded Long Distance Voyager at Threshold.

In 1980, Sir Edward Lewis, who created Decca in 1929, died. The company was sold to Polygram, and is now part of the Universal Music Group. The building on Broadhurst Gardens is now Lilian Baylis House, used by the English National Opera who took it over in November 1981.

Back in October 2017, I was asked by a Dutch radio station to give them a tour of the old Decca studios – it was also filmed and you can watch it here (the first bit is in Dutch, but the rest is all in English)

Hallelujah! Local carol singer raises £100,000 over 40 years

One of the best things about Christmas is the carol singing. It get’s you into the spirit of Christmas and those singing are raising money for good causes, a reminder of the true spirit of Christmas.

Well done Tessa Henderson (not in the picture as she was taking it) and her friends. Merry Christmas.

Every Christmas since 1977, West Hampstead resident Tessa Henderson has been organising her friends to go carol singing. They have had a pitch at Waterloo Underground ticket concourse for two evenings in the run-up to Christmas. I write ‘they’ because she couldn’t have done it without the support of friends and family, but she is very much the driving force behind it.

Tessa says “It’s all down to the tireless energy of the singers and collectors who come year after year.  I just do a bit of organising. It’s an amazing feeling to raise that kind of money just from opening your mouth”.

These aren’t just any carol singers. Tessa has been singing all her life and has recruited friends from renowned amateur and professional choirs, including over the years, a few who were members of the ROH and ENO chorus. It is hard work singing for more than two hours non-stop, in a chilly underground station, but it is also great fun and rewarding to be part of such an incredible fundraising effort.

Over the 40 years, they have raised money mainly for Save the Children, although in the early years they also raised some money for Shelter, Oxfam and Marie Curie. Thalea Turowski of Save the Children says “Huge congratulations to Tessa Henderson and the Waterloo carollers on their 40th anniversary! The incredible amount of over £100,000 raised during that time makes it possible for Save the Children to help children in the UK and around the world when they need us the most – thank you so much for your amazing support!”

In the first year, they raised £268.30 setting off on a journey, which, 40 years later, would see her reach the grand total of £100,160. To help reach that, in lieu of presents for her recent birthday she asked for donations to Save the Children, and this year she has set up a 40th anniversary Just Giving page.

The carol that gets the best response? Ding Dong Merrily on High! (Click on the link to hear them in action).

Mt Rushmore

From Kilburn to Mount Rushmore: The story of Gutzon Borglum

Mt Rushmore

Mount Rushmore: Photo by Brian Sandoval on Unsplash

It’s Thanksgiving in America, so what better time to dig into the link between Kilburn and the man behind one of the most iconic landmarks in the US.

American artist and sculptor Gutzon Borglum lived and worked at Harlestone Villa in Mortimer Road, Kilburn from about 1897 to 1902. The property was later renumbered as 6 Mortimer Place but was damaged in 1944 by the V1 flying bomb which destroyed North Hall, the house next door. Both buildings were demolished and today the site is covered by Halliwell House on the Kilburn Gate estate.

While at Harlestone Villa, Borglum painted murals for private homes but he is best known as the sculptor who produced the giant heads of US presidents carved into the summit of Mount Rushmore in South Dakota.

Gutzon Borglum in 1919

Born in a frontier town in Idaho in 1867, Borglum was of Danish extraction. His father was a Mormon with two wives who were sisters. Borglum ran away from home to study art in California, and at the Julien Academy and the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris where he was influenced by Rodin.

He arrived in London in 1896 and rented a studio in West Kensington before moving to Kilburn. Although gaining recognition as an artist he was not earning a lot of money. He said, “I have had the disturbing pleasure of being called Master by the French critics and some Americans, yet at the moment I cannot spend sixpence without wondering where the next one will come from.”

In 1901, the daughter of a Californian friend came to stay at Harlestone Villa. Her name was Isadora Duncan and at a party she danced for Borglum on the villa’s large lawn, scattering rose petals behind her.

Borglum received a commission for twelve painted panels to be installed in the Midland Railway Company’s new hotel in Manchester. The fee was five thousand guineas (today worth about £550,000). In 1903 he supervised installation of the panels which were made in America. They depicted scenes from ‘A Midsummer’s Night’s Dream’ and the court of King Arthur.

Returning to America, Borglum became a very successful sculptor. His politics were crude; he was anti-immigrant and a racist. He criticised other artists and even called for the destruction of a public statue. Borglum courted the press and they loved him. In 1915 he put his reputation on the line and promised to make a huge monument to Southern Confederacy at Stone Mountain in Georgia. His patrons, the United Daughters of the Confederacy, did not have sufficient funds so he mortgaged his 500-acre estate in Connecticut. But after ten years he had completed less than a tenth of the carving and was fired by the Stone Mountain Association, accused of wasteful expenditure and having an ungovernable temper. The Association claimed ownership of his models and put out a warrant for Borglum’s arrest. He destroyed the models and became a fugitive, deeply in debt and publicly humiliated.

Doane Robinson, a South Dakota historian, had read about the large numbers of people travelling to Georgia just to watch Borglum at work. He believed that a mountain carving could put the little known South Dakota on the map. He wrote to Borglum suggesting a project in the Black Hills, perhaps carvings of the western explorers Lewis and Clark, Buffalo Bill and Chief Red Cloud. Borglum replied that national heroes would be better and it should be the Presidents Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln and Teddy Roosevelt (a personal friend of Borglum). But the attempt to raise $50,000 as seed money from the public only realised $5,000. The project became a joke. One paper said, “Borglum is about to destroy another mountain, thank God it is in South Dakota where no one will ever see it.”

President Calvin Coolidge was persuaded to spend a summer holiday in South Dakota and this helped raise the total to $42,000. Coolidge pledged the government would provide additional funds. In 1929, Borglum began work with only about a tenth of the money he needed. He didn’t even know if the project was feasible as it was 500 feet to the top of Mount Rushmore and the weather in winter would make work impossible. Using jack hammers and dynamite Borglum thought the figures would take four years to complete. But money ran out and work slowed down.

In 1931 the Rushmore Association was in debt with little chance of raising any further funds during the Depression. Worse was to follow, after a severe drought created the Dustbowl. People left the state in droves and work stopped completely in 1932. Borglum and Senator Peter Norbeck persuaded influential contacts to obtain federal funds from the National Park Service and work recommenced after a year’s delay. Borglum’s 21 year old son Lincoln, who was very popular with the 400 workmen, was the site supervisor when his father was away.

In March 1941, just as he was completing the sculptures, Gutzon Borglum died suddenly from complications after surgery. He was 73. Congress stopped all funding as the United States joined the Second Wolrd War that December but Borglum’s son Lincoln finished the project, which had taken 14 years and involved removing half a million tons of granite to form the four 60-feet high figures.

Here is a film showing Gutzon Borglum working on the mountain:

Good Ship Comedy sets sail for new home in Camden

Sad times on Monday night in Kilburn as the Good Ship hosted its final Monday-night comedy gig. The Good Ship closes this weekend after changes to its licence has made it unprofitable and forced owner John McCooke to sell.

Monday night comedy was a core part of the formative years  of the West Hampstead community initiative I began in 2009. Thus it seemed fitting for a few of us to return on Monday to say farewell. It was a busy night. A great line up kicked off by Matt Winning (if you don’t know him – go see him), with local favourite Jay Foreman on the bill as well as one-time hosts Jonny & the Baptists. Angela Barnes will go down in comedy history as the woman who closed the final night – and she did a storming set.

Angela Barnes headlines the last night of Monday night comedy

The Good Ship always had a special place in my West Hampstead heart. For a couple of years around 2011/2012, a constantly evolving group of locals – initially loosely coordinated by me, but increasingly just turning up because they’d know someone there – would head along for an evening of (mostly) high-quality comedy hosted then by the irrepressible Juliet Stephens.

The Good Ship was a different sort of comedy night: low-key, friendly, light on the heckling, rich on the applause – and it even had a weekly raffle, free with your ticket entry. It attracted a mixed crowd. At just £4, it was well within the reach of most, so students from the Central School of Speech & Drama in Swiss Cottage were always well represented. But there were also some older people for whom it was clearly a friendly escape.

There were characters like Freddy, who some of you will remember from his stints as our doorman at whampgathers; there were running jokes about Fisk (look it up) and the bag of shit from the poundshop. But newcomers were always warmly welcomed and even the quieter nights were good fun, while the buzzy nights could be a pounding success with laughs reverberating around the pit. It was an integral part of creating a community.

Jay Foreman with his astonishing tube station song

Comedians themselves liked The Good Ship. It was a safe space to try out some new material – on one of my very first visits there Ed Byrne popped in to do 5 minutes – and the Edinburgh preview shows were a ridiculously good value way to see top stand-ups deliver full shows for a fraction of the price you’d pay once they reached Scotland.

Juliet finally moved on and after a few different interim hosts, her place at the helm was confidently taken by Ben Van der Velde, who has masterfully steered the Good Ship Comedy for the past few years. Ben has rebuilt the momentum of the club and kept that friendly vibe. Wonderful news therefore, that even as we mourn the end of the Good Ship, the comedy night will continue from November 6th at a new venue. The Colonel Fawcett pub in Camden will host; the name will remain (hopefully in perpetuity – no-one wants to see “Unfawced Laughter”) and (eek) the price will go up. By £1. Details and tickets here.

It’s going to be a a challenge to rebuild in a new venue, so do go along and support it if you can. The pub is really close to Camden Road overground station, so it’s really no big deal to get there from West Hampstead or Kilburn. The line-ups are just as good but any comedy night is really only as good as its audiences. The Good Ship’s always had one of the best. Long may it sail.

Un ‘Insight’ avec Hélène Clément

West Hampstead has a quite long literary pedigree – which continues to this day, with three local book launches in September alone. This month sees the launch of another one, but not in English and not at West End Lane Books. Mais non! This book is called “Le Plus Beau Reste á Venir” (Ed = The Best Is Yet To Come) and the launch will be at the French Bookshop, La Page, in South Kensington on Saturday 14th October. The author is Hélène Clément, one of West Hampstead’s large and growing French community.

What brought you to West Hampstead ?

Luck, really. When I had just moved to London nine years ago I was staying in Hounslow, which was way too far from… everything. When a colleague said she had a spare room in her flat on Lymington Road, I took it before even checking West Hampstead out. Best decision ever ! I immediately fell in love with the area. Since then, I’ve had to move flat twice, but never looked anywhere else. West Hampstead truly feels like home.

Behind the bar at the Alliance

Tell us a bit more about your book. Is it your first one ?

‘Le Plus Beau Reste a Venir’ is my first book, yes, so I’m over the moon and really proud that it got published by an important French publishing company.

The book tells the story of four characters, when they’re teenagers in the 90s, and when they meet again in 2010, after eleven years of estrangement, to overcome the loss of the teacher who had changed their lives and brought them together in high school. ‘Le Plus Beau Reste à Venir’ is about second chances, family, friendship and little attentions. Those little attentions which cost nothing but can make a huge difference in someone else’s life.

Where did you write it? And did West Hampstead inspire you?

Some writers need silence and stillness. I need activity. I need fresh air. I need to watch people and everyday situations. So I wrote 90% of my novel outdoors, in West Hampstead, on my notebooks. I was managing a coffee shop in Hampstead Heath at the time. Every day, I would leave work around 3pm and walk back to West Hampstead, to oxygenate my brain and gather my ideas. Once on West End Lane, I would find my writing spot of the day, at one of the cafes in the area if it was rainy. Otherwise, I would head to West End Green, Fortune Green, Hampstead Cemetery or the playground between Lymington Road and Potteries Path. And I would write for hours, inspired by the buzzing life around me.

My story takes place in a French high school, in the French countryside, so not in West Hampstead, obviously. But my readers will never know how much less obviously it’s been fed by West Hampstead. But it does and my affection for the area has grown stronger through the writing of my novel. I can assure you that, one day, I’ll write a novel all about West Hampstead !

What are you West Hampstead favourites ?

For coffee, I always go to Caffè Nero because the team, led by the lovely Teresa, is amazingly friendly, and I’m addicted to their mochas. For a drink, I would highly recommend Thunderbird. Moussa is a gem of a manager ! As for food, Lena’s Café was one of my all time favourites, I’m really sad it has closed down.

Now, if you’re looking for everything at once: great coffee, great drinks and incredibly good food, just come to The Alliance. I won’t get a pay raise for writing this, I truly mean it. I was a customer there long before starting to work for Mike. This is one of the coziest places around and the dining menu is a marvel!

How is life as a French expat in London? What do you miss the most ?

Life in London is amazing. I feel very lucky to live in such a vibrant and open-minded city. If it wasn’t for my accent giving me away, I wouldn’t feel like an expat anymore ! I’m from Carrières-sous-Poissy, a small suburban town, forty-five minutes west of Paris, really close to Saint-Germain (if you follow French football)!

What do I miss the most ? Cheese, obviously ! And pavement seating areas, there aren’t enough of those in Central London.

Describe West Hampstead in three French words :

Paisible – Chaleureux – Charactère. (Ed = peaceful, warm and characterful)

A different kind of Insight: with artist Lora Verner

Lora Verner is an eighty-something artist and photographer who has lived in West Hampstead since 1979, and whose vintage Biba photographs feature in the V&A Museum’s permanent collection.

Born in New York in 1929, the only child of Russian Jews who had fled the pogroms, Lora grew up in Philadelphia where she studied Abstract Expressionism, and became a student at the University of Philadelphia. In the swinging sixties Lora moved to London, where she trained in photography through the Inner London Education Authority with her work influenced by the striking photography of Bill Brandt (who lived in nearby Belsize Park).

Image thanks to Lora Verner

While working as a teacher at the Holland Park School, Lora heard about a new shop called Biba, located near the school and popular with her pupils. Taking her Roloflex camera, she visited the now-iconic, dimly-lit shop. As she disliked using flash, she had to return another time with a higher speed film, which would achieve the high contrast black-and-white images she was after. Fascinated by the mannequins, which reminded her of Surrealist art, Lora took several photographs of the Biba display, saved them, and forgot about them. For fifty years.

Image thanks to Lora Verner

During the 1980s, sometime after her move to West Hampstead, Lora bought a round-the-world ticket and travelled to Japan and China, where she took colour photographs for the first time. Her photographs of Japan were exhibited at the Camden Arts Centre, and she submitted her photos of China to the Photographer’s Gallery in a competition – and won. The prize was an exhibition of her pictures, which drew favourable reviews from The Guardian among others. In later years, Lora travelled often to India, and created a series she entitled ‘Faces of India’.

For personal reasons Lora stopped taking art classes but, in 2011, at the suggestion of a friend who was taking an art class at the West Hampstead Community Centre she went along and started painting again. The depression she had been suffering from began to lift. Over the next three years, Lora created more than 30 portraits from imagination, and in September 2017, she was offered the chance to show her ‘Not Your Usual Portraits’ in a glass kiosk below the Edgware Road/Harrow Road crossing – the Joe Strummer Subway.

Image thanks to Lora Verner

And the Biba pictures? Lora said, “ I had been thinking one day that I should do something with them. I called Christie’s to have them appraised. Then I called the V&A Museum and they said they were very interested.” Lora’s initiative was perfectly timed: the V & A was working on a retrospective of Biba for the fashion label’s 50th anniversary, and they bought several of Lora’s pictures. Three of them are now in the V&A, and her work is featured in the book ‘The Biba Years 1963-1975’.

Image thanks to Lora Verner

What does Lora like most about West Hampstead? She smiled and said, “We have everything here… the different restaurants. We have Chinese, Japanese, Indian, Italian.. we’re spoiled for choice, really!” For this world traveller and photographer, West Hampstead is picture perfect.

Twelve Things to do in West Hampstead in October

First up, West Hampstead is a good place to live. But like most (and WHL would argue all) good places it only gets that way if YOU get involved keeping it that way…

1st. This month is the Area Forum* on the 19th, presumably in the Synagogue Hall. High on the agenda will be public safety. And rubbish. *The Area Forum is your chance to speak to councillors about local issues and they mostly have guest speakers.

2. And at the end of the month the Friends of Fortune Green will have their last activity session of the year on Sunday 29th – bulb planting.

If it is music you are after

3. Suitably for third on the list on October 3rd it’s the last of the Troubadour sessions at the Railway. Live music by singer song-writers hosted and featuring Peter Conway.

4. Or if you are down in Kilburn there is an open-mic night (organised by the same guy I think) every Monday at the Sir Colin Campbell.

5. Or (our top tip) thanks to our friends at the Friends of West Hampstead Library on Tuesday 24th October there will be an evening with Graham Gouldman (ex-10cc, Wax etc), writer of songs from ‘No Milk Today’ to “I’m not in Love”. Kids – look him up! He will probably bring along his guitar. Tickets via Eventbrite.

Fancy a laugh?

6. On Sun 8th Upfront Comedy will be starting a monthly session at the Tricycle.

7. But it’s a very bitter sweet session at the Good Ship on the 23rd – it will be their last COMEDY night. (Plus before that there are comedy sessions on the 2nd, 9th and 16th)

On the Art front…

8. There is a new exhibition opening at the Kingsgate Project Space. Seems a bit perplexing again but it makes sense when you go along, learn a bit and concentrate. Opening on Friday 6th Oct 6-9pm. And it seriously ups your cool factor.

9. At the Hampstead Art School (just over the other side of the Finchley Road) they are exhibiting art works by the homeless (until Oct 13th). While you are there it’s worth checking out the courses coming up, in particularly some fun ones over half-term.

The Community Centre the Photography Group are having an exhibition from 6pm on Sat 7th Oct on Broomsleigh Street.

10. The Camden Arts Centre had their new exhibitions opening, Natalie du Pasquier and Christian Nympheta the first under their new director.

And finally, the Community Association are organising a quiz in Emmanuel Church

It’s National Poetry Day!

Today is National Poetry Day and the theme this year is freedom. Ted Booth, the just-stepping-down writer in residence at the library has written the following poem to bring some poetry to our West Hampstead lives.

You may be lucky enough to be handed a copy as you cross Fortune Green or pass the library (they are handing out 1,000 copies)! If not, here it is. First, as written (the form is important) but in case that is too small to read on your phone, additionally below that fully written out.

West Hampstead, enjoy National Poetry Day.

Carpe Diem

The boys have been led
into a corridor,
long walls hung with photos.
Alumni, class after class,
year after year.
So what have they all
got in common,
asks the teacher.
Rich, famous, successful,
hazard the boys.
No, says the teacher,
they are all dead.
So this is the lesson boys,

carpe diem (1)

Carpe diem, an exhortation
given great poignancy
by the fate
of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe.
Held in an Iranian jail,
she and her fellow prisoners
have written down
their hopes and fantasies
for the first, longed for
day of freedom.
Their notelets hang beribboned
from a tree on Fortune Green. (2)
They dream of tomorrow
to keep the energy for today.

For us the fortunate ones
who are not incarcerated,
nor staring at a ceiling
from a hospital bed,
nor staring across
a care home lounge,
tomorrow is our next,
first day of freedom,
to choose our coffee,
shut the front door
and cross the green
and go to our chosen work,
which is not, dear Phillip (3)
a toad which
squats upon our back.

In the evening
we will return
to re-cross the Green
and open the front door,
having seized another day
of freedom.

Ted Booth

(1) Robin Williams – Dead Poets Society

(2) www.freenazanin.com

(3) Phillip Larkin -‘ Toads’

The poem refers to Nazanin Ratcliffe, the West Hampstead wife and mother who is not able to enjoy her freedom. Inspired by the poem her husband Richard in front of the Iranian Embassy will be reading it, along with other poems written on the theme by Nazanin and her fellow prisoners.

The bard of Fortune Green, Ted Booth, is former artist in residence of the Friends of Fortune Green and  just stepping down as writer in residence of Friends of West Hampstead Library. A friend indeed. Thank you, Ted.

‘The Art of Failing’, the West Hampstead way

Local author Tony McGowan’s new book ‘The Art of Failing‘ is described by the publisher as ‘A laugh-out-loud chronicle of one man’s daily failures and disappointments, set in West Hampstead‘.

He has a book reading coming up at West End Lane Books on Thursday this week, so we popped by for a cup of herbal tea to have a chat. Tony couldn’t actually find a herbal tea bag, so the following events took place over a cup of hot water with a measly slice of lemon.

The book is in diary format and according to his agent was ‘not an obvious book to publish’ as it is a series of Facebook musings turned into a book, but published it was, with a book launch last week at Daunt books in Marylebone.

'Don't cry for me, West Hampstead. The truth is I never left you.'

‘Don’t cry for me, West Hampstead. The truth is I never left you.’ Pic: at the book launch at Daunt’s Books

How did it come about?

“Well, my personal writing style is observation and a touch surreal so I needed some space, but I was interested in writing something over social media. As Twitter is only 140 characters, Facebook seemed the natural choice. Quite early on I realised that the ‘likes’ (which became quite addictive) offered a feedback loop on what was popular so it helped shape things. So the musings on cricket, for example, had to go!”

The book appears to be a diary or journal, but a lot of what happens seems bizarre and extraordinary. How much of it is true?

“All of it to some extent, much is as true as I could make it, there is a kernel of truth in all of it.

For example, take the dwarf doppelgänger called “Heimlich” who I encountered one evening when I was out walking the dog. Suddenly I heard this panting and pounding sounds behind me. I turned around and there he was. I stared at him, he stared at me, but then ran off. When I got home I told my wife and kids about him and they said ‘nah’, but I occasionally saw him after that and yet they continued to think he was figment of my literary imagination. This ties into another strand of the book about my marriage being under strain by increasing weirdness during that period. When that was over I was out with my wife and daughter and we ran into Heimlich; we all saw him. So they realised he did exist and yes they agreed he did even look a bit like me, just smaller.

My approach is to look at the world in a different way, even at mundane events, so even something usual becomes a new thing”.

For a book that is supposed to be funny, some parts are quite sad/poignant. Does the sadness undermine the humour?

“Part of the narrative is the disintegration of my character and my isolation from my family – it’s exaggerated of course, but it came after a successful period and things felt a bit flat, my career seemed to be heading downhill. Yet the comedy comes from that – it has an edge. However, the reviews and feedback I have had tended to see only the humour. As writer (or artist) you create what you can and put it out there, you can’t control how others react”.

Your family appears in the book. How do they feel about that? Especially the fearsome Mrs McGowan*…

“The kids are fine with it, they drift in and out of the text. My wife Rebecca plays a more central role so that was trickier. She can appear hard and cruel but is also rather beautiful so that was OK. I’ve discovered that way round is fine for people I write about, but not vice-versa”.

(* I was at university with Mrs McG and we nearly went out, except she turned me down. How different history could have been.)

What else have you written?

“I written a number of books for teenagers. The ‘Donut Diaries’ is a comic trilogy set in the north of England where I grew up.  The other books are all stand alone novels; ‘Hellbent’ about a teenager who dies and goes to hell – it’s a comedy, ‘Jack Tumor’ about a boy who discovers he has a brain tumour and keeps hearing voices. It’s inspired by Henry IV with the tumour playing the role of Falstaff. I’ve also written ‘The Knife That Killed Me’, which tackled teenage knife crime and was made into a film”.

In some ways the book is a love song to West Hampstead.  What are you favourite things about the area?

“What are my little stations of the cross? Well there’s Hampstead cemetery, the best open space in the area. It has everything; wilderness, history and a sense of poignancy of the graves. Each one is a story.

I’m also a big fan of the charity shops as a collector of first editions I’ve found a couple over time. Socially, a recent find is Tannin and Oak. Plus a long standing favourite where you often find me and Mrs McG having lunch is the Wet Fish Cafe. I used to go a lot to the Czech (and Slovak) Club but that’s tailed off.  And of course there is Lately’s.”

 

 

An Insight into: Ted Booth

Who is Ted Booth you are asking?  This month’s Insight is a bit different. Instead of interviewing a local business owner, WHL sat down to have a chat with Ted Booth, who is the current writer-in-residence for the Friends of West Hampstead Library. Ted’s a very cool guy but wouldn’t consider himself as such – he’s far too modest for that. He is retired and his last job was lecturer in creative writing in the art faculty at Middlesex University. He said it was ‘terrific fun’ as he was working with art students on writing; they would discuss diaries, poetry, short stories, postcards and occasionally lyrics.

Ted’s been writer-in-residence at the library since June 2016. He was suppose to finish his stint in June this year, but was asked to stay on until September because as Friends’ chair Simon Inglis, put it – we are looking for ‘someone younger’. Ted will end his stint with another evening of poems with Cllr Flick Rea in September. I really enjoyed the last one, so watch out for that. And if you can’ t wait you can also read his blog here.

Ted at his desk

Ted at his desk

Before his library post, Ted was artist-in-residence for the Friends of Fortune Green (2013/14), where he started writing a poem for National Poetry Day, on a different theme each year. Last year, the FoFG gave away more than 500 copies of this poem to passing commuters (and you can also see the poems of other years on the FOFG website). Look out for this year’s poem, which will be published on September 28th. Ted really does bring a touch of poetry to West Hampstead.

What brought you to West Hampstead?

“Simple, my wife Janet’s work brought us here as she started the Mulberry House school. We moved from Leytonstone. People used to say ‘where’s that?’ but now it’s a bit more on the map.”

What is your earliest memory of the area?

“It was seeing this house. The estate agents showed us three houses, a couple on Burrard Road and this one. I soon as I stepped through the door, I thought “wow'”.”

Just a small part of Ted's poetry collection

Just a small part of Ted’s poetry collection

How has West Hampstead changed?

“I’ve noticed the rapid turnover of retailers on West End Lane and here up at Fortune Green.  There’s hardly anything left that was here when we arrived. Although the wonderful West End Lane Books had just opened then and that is still here.” Ted and I discussed a nearby corner shop which has been in turn a wine merchants, wooden flooring shop, motorbike showroom and now a skiwear shop and also the long-standing scuba shop in Child’s Hill. London is certainly full of odd shops we agreed.

What’s for lunch?

Ted surprised me. “I’m very fond  of Café Plus”. If you’re not familiar with it, it’s the greasy spoon café on Mill Lane, near Tiffin Tin.  “I also like the Bridge Café opposite the Overground station”.  He says Café Plus offer quick cheap and tasty food, “It’s always very welcoming and run by immigrants making a living.”

Otherwise – and Ted has many facets – he likes the Nigel Slater mid-week dinner which he cooks for himself and Janet.

Describe West Hampstead in three words

Happy, peaceful and enjoyable

 

Cinema on Fortune Green – Arrival in West Hampstead

FilmonFortuneGreen_ft

This Saturday, the Friends of Fortune Green is putting on its first screening of the summer. The film will be Arrival it’s a science-fiction movie from last year that got generally pretty good reviews. it will make you think and feel, but I don’t want to give too much away.

Due to popular demand, the screening will be cycle-powered. So, West Hampstead we need your leg power. There will be a couple of kid-suitable bikes for the younger audience members. But not too young as it’s a PG-13.

Arrival

As we’re almost at the longest day, and it needs to be dark for anyone to see the screen, the film will start at about 9.15pm. However, as those of you who’ve been to previous Films on Fortune Green will know, you need to get there early to bag a good spot.

It is an obvious bring-a-picnic event but Fortune Green offers other options; the Green Room is offering a hotdog, tortillas and popcorn special (best to pre-order), Nautilus has fish n’ chips (obvs) or if it’s a curry you’re after there is Bombay Nights. Whatever you chose, please take your rubbish home with you and keep the Green clean!

This weekend is also the Big Lunch/Jo Cox Great Get Together, so the aim is not only to show a great movie but to bring West Hampstead together at what continues to be a febrile time. Come along, meet your neighbours, celebrate your neighbourhood.

How much does it cost? It’s free; but… this screening is more expensive than the last couple. It’s costing more than £2,000 (including £100 to Camden for use of the park). A good part of this cost is sponsored by local estate agent Benham & Reeves (thank you) but the Friends are having to dip into their reserves so – if you can afford a donation it will allow them to put on future films (and if you don’t they can’t)!

There is a second summer screening planned for August 12th. As it is during the summer holidays it will be more kid-friendly (and will start earlier), though the exact film is to be decided.

Miss Compton Collier – West Hampstead’s pioneering society photographer

3. Miss Compton Collier with her plate camera_top

For fifty or even sixty years, Miss Compton Collier, based at West End Lane, Hampstead, has toured the English countryside. With her haversack of heavy photographic equipment, wooden camera and tripod she has stalked the great English families in their lairs.” – Cecil Beaton.

In The Tatler magazine from 1916 to 1948, photographs regularly appeared by ‘Miss Compton Collier, West End Lane’. The earlier pictures were of popular actresses, and then from 1920 onwards they were of society celebrities in their houses and gardens. At the time, she was one of the few woman photographers.

Dorothy Marguerite Cuisset Collier was born on 24 January 1899 at 1 Goulton Road Clapton, near Hackney Downs. She was the only child of Edward Allen Collier who was a distillery manager. By 1911 the family had moved to 28 Victoria Mansions in Willesden.

In November 1919, at St Augustine’s Church in Kilburn, Dorothy married John Davis, a 35-year-old business manager who lived at 22 Kilburn Park Road. She had left home and was living at 115 West End Lane. The witnesses at the wedding were Owen Nares and his wife Marie Pollini, both very popular actors. For most of the 1920s, Nares was Britain’s favourite matinée idol and silent-film star. Dorothy had befriended them during her work for The Tatler, and her photo of them appeared in 1918.

Owen and Marie Nares, Tatler 1918

Owen and Marie Nares, Tatler 1918

In 1922 Dorothy and John moved just six doors down to 103 West End Lane. Dorothy continued to use the professional name she had created of ‘Miss Compton Collier’. Sadly by 1931, their marriage failed and the couple divorced.

In 1966, renowned photographer Cecil Beaton wrote an article called, ‘The Woman who made me want to be a photographer’. This provides the best insight into Miss Compton Collier, and how her pictures influenced the young Beaton:

Many of my adolescent glimpses of the grand world came through the photographs in The Tatler which bore the credit line ‘Miss Compton Collier’. They invariably showed us delightfully fair-haired ladies caught in a silvery light enjoying, in a leisurely manner, the herbaceous borders, clipped yews, stone garden seats and sundials of their country houses. Pouring over these reproductions week after week I came to know Miss Compton Collier’s taste extremely well.

Daphne Du Maurier, Tatler, 4 July 1945

Daphne Du Maurier, Tatler, 4 July 1945

Wherever possible she chose to photograph her subject standing on a piece of flagged path… Balustrades, terraced steps and rustic bridges were also other favourite haunts. Occasionally Miss Compton Collier would sprinkle a successful actress or two among her aristocratic sitters, but these too, would be photographed as far as possible from the atmosphere of the theatre and would be found on holiday, leaning against a gate surrounded by cow parsley, or holding a sheaf of corn in some stable yard. In fact, my earliest family snapshots were mostly made in emulation of Miss Compton Collier…Trying to appear the Ladies and Honourables, or stage stars ‘on holiday’, my wretched schoolgirl sisters would then be made to pose by garden urns or sundials, or among the Japanese anemones and harebells. But, try as I might, my sepia prints, brought from the wash basin of hypo, never acquired the silverpoint effect of the original inspiration.

Other photographs that appeared in The Tatler were attributed to ‘Rita Martin’ and ‘Lallie Charles’ and ‘Basano’, so why, I wondered, should it be ‘Miss Compton Collier’. Who was this lady? I was intrigued to discover her whereabouts but I knew of no one who had ever met her, and her name was not listed in the telephone book.

It was many years after Miss Compton Collier’s photographs had ceased to appear that I heard that she had continued her career with unimpaired zest, and each spring would send to people of high rank an itinerary of her summer tour stating that she would be in the neighbourhood during a certain week in case she were needed for an ‘at home’ sitting. I was intrigued to know that this mysterious lady still existed, so I wrote to ask if she would deign to include me professionally in her schedule and take some pictures of my mother and myself in the garden at Broadchalke. Miss Compton Collier graciously announced her willingness to oblige me. [Ed: this was in 1955].

Miss Compton Collier with her plate camera

Miss Compton Collier with her plate camera

Miss Compton Collier proved to be an extremely agile spinster of over seventy with a pale brown face of minor distinctiveness with the flesh solid and shiny. She was dressed in old-fashioned clothes, somewhat like a land girl of the 1914 war, with large felt hat and flowing skirts. She projected a personality that brooked no nonsense, and no interruption; her main objective was to seek out the nearest flagged path and the most lichen-mottled stone garden ornaments. A slightly forced giggle was part of her stock-in-trade. This softened any of her criticisms and enabled her to make all sorts of observations that, without it, might have caused offence; it was certainly not a giggle from the heart. I felt that Miss Compton Collier did not approve of the decoration of my house; she was only interested, and that for utilitarian reasons, in the bathroom, and the quicker outside the better.

Miss Compton Collier is extremely knowledgeable about gardens: ‘After all, I have photographed eleven thousand of them!’ She knows her England well: ‘Dorset has the best little manor houses. Oxford is where the nouveaux riches live in gardens planned by Sutton’s. That thatched wall is typical of Wiltshire; we must take it quickly – but, oh dear – the horrid sun is coming out! I hate the hard light it gives. Such a bad week last month – sun every day! I loved the summer before rain all the time! People can’t believe it when I photograph them in a downpour. But I say: “I’ll give you your money back if you don’t like it!” Recently in Scotland she had placed a whole tribal family in the garden under umbrellas, and at a given moment ordered the gillies to rush up to take away the umbrellas while the exposure was made.

Miss Compton Collier took pictures of my mother and myself obediently sitting on an old stone seat with the dog at our feet. Behind the camera her performance was dynamic – even acrobatic. In order to stimulate the interest of her subjects she would jump up and down, wave an arm, squeak a rubber dog, and hum in a high musical voice. Suddenly, with a heavy click, the shutters of the lens would open and close. ‘Got it!’ shouted Miss Compton Collier in triumph. Her face was now a matter-of-fact, rather sullen mask. The switch from such inspired enthusiasm to the merely businesslike was somewhat of a shock.

At lunch she told us that for many a donkey’s lifetime now she has lived in a small house in West End Lane, Hampstead, tended by an old servant of seventy-six. Miss Compton Collier appears so strong and healthy that one knows it is true that when she goes to bed it is to sleep so soundly that nothing will disturb her: – not even a bomb. In fact in one raid when the roof was blown off the house and all her rooms but two were destroyed, Miss Compton Collier went on snoring. [Ed: this was the V1 that hit West End Lane in June 1944].

‘Every day of my summer is taken up with work; from April to October I’m busy, so I leave everything else that has to be done to my winter months. I only do shopping in January: if a cup gets broken it has to wait till the first of the year. But I hate shopping in any case – it bores me. Now these clothes I’m wearing were bought fifteen years ago. I never read the papers: they’re so vulgar. I’ve never listened to the radio; I hear everything I want to hear. And I wouldn’t dream of doing the usual things like filling in a census or having a ration book. I just haven’t time. I hardly ever go to a play, but when I do I ring up and find out first if it’s got a nice happy ending because I hate all these squalid dramas that are so much the fashion. I loathe magazines and won’t contribute to them any more now that they’re full of Communist propaganda. I’ve never worked for the Press; if, in the old days, my pictures were used in The Tatler, it was I who chose the people to photograph: I never took people especially for the paper.’

How did you become a photographer?’ I asked. ‘I had a weak heart at school and wasn’t allowed to play games. Someone gave me a camera and I suppose that the artistic feelings, always in my family, came out in my generation in this different way. In another century I would have been a painter.’

Cecil Beaton by Miss Compton Collier, 1955

Cecil Beaton by Miss Compton Collier, 1955

Miss Compton Collier does most of her own photographic processing, and said she was up till three o’clock last night developing plates. All her paraphernalia is entirely obsolescent. She climbs under a dark red velvet cloth attached to her wooden 1895 camera with its long rubber tube with ball-shutter release. Hanging from the wooden tripod is a large bag containing a menagerie of toy dogs, mice and other pets to attract the attention of her aristocratic children and animal sitters. Miss Compton Collier has never visited a photographic exhibition, and shows complete ignorance of the work of other photographers. She had never heard of the work of Steichen, Bill Brandt or Cartier-Bresson. Although she has no further ambitions, she is never bored with her work; each sitting is a thrill for her.

In the silvery prints that resulted from her visit to Broadchalke both my mother and I appeared calm and leisurely, our faces smoothed and our hair silken. We were not only amused, but delighted.

Miss Compton Collier lived in her own closed world with little regard for current events. She took no newspapers; did not own a radio and did not watch television; she relied entirely for news of the world on her Kilburn bank manager. Her bank manager, not unreasonably, said: ‘I shall need some guidance, Miss Collier. If I am to provide you with news of the world, could you give me examples of what you mean?’ ‘Oh, yes’, she said, ‘it is perfectly simple. I mean the death of the sovereign or the outbreak of war’.

103 West End Lane, May 2017

103 West End Lane, May 2017

Dorothy continued to live at Number 103 West End Lane until her death on 27 June 1977 at ‘Chilton House’ a nursing home near Aylesbury. She left £60,361, worth about £340,000 today.

Opera Up Close and Personal at ENO on Broadhurst Gardens

Over on Broadhurst Gardens the English National Opera (ENO) has launched its ENO Studio Live programme. This involves performances in the former Decca studios, made famous by recordings by the likes of David Bowie, Fleetwood Mac, the Rolling Stones and others. For a reminder of what the building is like from the inside we went back stage last year.

But now you get a chance to go backstage too as part of the ENO Studio Live programme, which will be showcasing rising talent in the British opera scene. The productions are performed in English and are fully staged. The idea was conceived by Daniel Kramer, the ENO’s Artistic Director, who felt that the opportunity to open up the famous studios for audiences to see the work of up-and-coming directors was just too good to be missed.

The Day After rehearsal

The Day After rehearsal

These days the studios are primarily used as rehearsal rooms and business administration offices by the ENO. It is relatively rare for the building to be open to the public so this new programme offers the chance to attend intimate opera performances in a place of historical importance to the music industry. With a capacity of just 200 the audience will be much closer to the performers than they would most likely be at a more traditional opera venue.

The directors of the two productions are both in their 20s. Matthew Monaghan, director of Trial by Jury, told West Hampstead Life that ENO Studio Live is a great way to support the next generation of directors by giving them the opportunity to have their own shows, working with full choruses and celebrated performers. He also stated that the shows will be performed in a very special space where operas are rehearsed and where talent is developed.

The Day After rehersal

The Day After rehersal (Richard Peirson, James Henshaw, and Nicholas Ansdell- Evans)

The first production is the UK premier of The Day After, a new opera by Jonathan Dove which based on the Greek mythological story of Phaeton. The opera is directed by Jamie Manton and is conducted by James Henshaw with a full chorus and stage productions. This is showing on 26, 27, 30 and 31 May at 7.30pm

This is followed by Trial by Jury on 3, 6 June at 7pm, 5 June at 7pm and 8.30pm. This production is a comic opera by Gilbert and Sullivan satirising the pomposity of the law. This opera originally ran in the 1870s but has been updated for modern times including a satirical take on celebrity culture. Trial by Jury is directed by Matthew Monaghan and is conducted by Martin Fitzpatrick.

Tickets for ENO Studio Live are £25, with a buy-both discount of 20% available online and from the box office. For further details visit the ENO website at https://www.eno.org/ or call the box office on 020 78459300.

ENO 3

Lucy Worsley grabs local kids’ attention with tales of Victorian intrigue

Words like ‘history’, ‘church’ and ‘books’ don’t always conjure up images of children’s happy, smiling faces. Especially in combination. However, the rapt attention of 300 schoolkids from Emmanuel, Beckford, Francis Holland, South Hampstead High, St Anthony’s and Rainbow Montessori schools told quite a different story this Tuesday.

History royalty rocked up to Emmanuel Church in the form of TV presenter/Chief Curator of Historic Palaces and all-round jolly good egg, Lucy Worsley.

I know, Miss! I know!

I know, Miss! I know!

Lucy was here at the invitation of West End Lane Books, to talk about her latest foray into children’s fiction, My Name Is Victoria, her imagined account of the youth of Queen Victoria.

The kings and queens, princes and princesses of West Hampstead

The kings and queens, princes and princesses of West Hampstead

Forget ‘We are not amused’; Lucy had the kids agog and in stitches from her thrilling intro: ‘The most exciting thing a historian can ever find is a letter ending ‘burn this”, to her creation of a Victorian family tree with much audience particpation to the final show stopper – a photograph of her Royal Highness’s, er, knickers.

The children were certainly won over. “I don’t really like history,” said Lina (11), “but I did enjoy the talk because it was interesting, and actually it was funny!”.

“I found it interesting finding out about the first toilet”, said Chynna-Lee (10). You know you’re going to strike gold with children if you’ve got some toilet-based material. She added, “I thought it was funny that one of the dukes had a pineapple-shaped face.”

As you’d expect from the hugely enthusiastic Lucy Worsley, My Name is Victoria, which has been reviewed as ‘Wolf Hall for kids’, is crammed with authentic period detail, packed with intrigue, secrets, treachery and is a ripping read. Although the plot pivots on the relationship between the young monarch and a young commoner who is sent to be her companion, the boys in the audience seemed every bit as interested in it as their female counterparts

And the finale of a successful book talk.

And the finale of a successful book talk.

The queue of kids wanting their book signed at the end of the talk is further testament to Lucy’s persuasive touch. Yes, people, history can be fun. Ask your kids. And if yours didn’t attend the talk, signed copies of My Name Is Victoria (suggested reading age 9-13), are available at West End Lane Books.

Lucy herself clearly had a good time too.

Full house for Downton star’s romp through an illustrious career

Jim Carter. Photo by Eugene Regis

Jim Carter. Photo by Eugene Regis

Local actor Jim Carter, best known for playing Carson the butler in Downton Abbey, broke all records at West Hampstead Library on Wednesday night by drawing the biggest crowd for a Friends of West Hampstead Library event since Stephen Fry in 2001. The “house full” notice went up at 7.30pm, just as the event started.

The evening, hosted by FoWHL Chair Simon Inglis, began with Jim playing a guessing game with the audience based on key elements of his acting career. With typical generosity he handed a bottle of champagne to the winner.

With Simon as a foil, the two of them made a fine comedy turn as Jim embarked on a riot of anecdotes, starting with his story of how he abandoned a university degree in English for a career in street theatre in Brighton. One early performance for kids, he recalled, was interrupted by an invasion of Mods and Rockers. Punch and Judy ended up in the sea while Jim, dressed head-to-toe as a thistle, ended up being chased along the beach by a psychopath in a leather jacket. An unusual seaside memory.

He then took us on a tour of America. His first visit was to enrol with a circus school. He then returned with the legendary Ken Campbell and his surreal roadshow. All he needed at that time, he said, was a rucksack and a pub. Then it was back for the National Theatre’s triumphant run of Guys and Dolls and a meeting with fellow actor, Imelda Staunton. They married a year or so later.

Clearly Jim is a proud resident of West Hampstead, with a long record of community and charitable work. He spoke with particular pride of his six years as president of Hampstead Cricket Club in Lymington Road – especially the setting up of a women’s team – also of the fundraising evenings he is putting on at, and for, the Tricycle Theatre. (Note, Jim’s event with Maggie Smith and Judi Dench is sold out, but there are still tickets available for Danny Boyle on March 26).

A packed house. Photo by Eugene Regis

A packed house. Photo by Eugene Regis

Finally, as no doubt many in the packed audience were hoping for (one fan had reportedly come over from Germany especially for the evening), the conversation arrived at Downton Abbey. Jim entertained us all with stories of life upstairs and downstairs (for the actors as much as the characters), and a recollection of George Clooney’s visit to the set. Apparently after he kissed Maggie Smith’s outstretched hand she affected a theatrical swoon and fell off her settee. Asked if a Downton movie is on the cards, he revealed that the actors were all in favour – they had all enjoyed working together – but that the script would have to be good.

The evening was an hour of theatre, full of nostalgic generosity and Falstaffian humour. It’s a long way from his roots in Harrogate to West Hampstead, but Jim Carter took us with him every step of the way. And to cap it all, Simon was able to announce at the conclusion that Jim had kindly consented to follow in Stephen Fry’s footsteps by becoming a patron of the Friends group.

The author is FoWHL writer in residence

The Good Ship late licence at risk

The late license of Kilburn’s popular music/comedy venue, The Good Ship, will be reviewed this Thursday. At the moment, it opens until 3am, but if the licensing committee rules follows the wishes of the police, it will be required to close at 2am – crucially with the last entry at midnight.

You could be barred from entry after midnight

You could be barred from entry after midnight

Owner John McCooke says that a very significant percentage of the venue’s revenue is generated between midnight and 3am so the suggested measures would “effectively closes the venue at midnight, making the business unviable”.

If you don’t know The Good Ship, it’s a bar with a friendly stage that hosts an astounding number of bands, comedians, DJs, charity and community nights. Music ranges across all the genres from math rock to REM cover bands to jazz funk. It provides a valuable opportunity for new acts to get exposure and more established acts to practice new material – it’s pretty common to turn up for the comedy on a Monday night and see a household name added to the bill.

This decision is happening in the same month that a London night tsar has been appointed to champion late-night culture. Amy Lamé, who is the first person to fill the role, told the BBC ‘We need to stem the flow of those closures [of clubs and venues across London]. Long-time locals may remember the sad closure of Kilburn’s The Luminaire in 2010. This was a huge loss to the west London music scene, which began its inexorable march east.

There is inevitably some dispute about whether the Ship’s opening hours are contributing to antsocial behaviour. In the Kilburn Times, McCooke says reports of bad behaviour are exaggerated. My personal experience, and that of local friends, has always been that The Good Ship offers a fun night out and it’s certainly an important, vibrant contributor to London’s arts culture. How many more pubs and venues will be turned into coffee shops, bakeries and luxury flats? We wish John and team all the best of luck on Thursday.

An Ode to poetry evenings in West Hampstead

Just as the camp monthly quiz night in the Sherriff Centre, which caters to the 20-somethings, was getting started, the Friends of West Hampstead Library were kicking off their ‘evening of Hampstead poetry’, which seemed to appeal to a more mature audience. I’d been to the last quiz (and really enjoyed it), so it seemed time for some poetry.

The evening was organised by the FoWHL and Ted Booth, who is writer in residence at the Library. He was joined for the readings by local councillor and former actress, Flick Rea. Ted is a long-standing West Hampstead resident and a generous, gentle guy. And quite a good poet to boot, so it was no surprise that there was full house for the evening.

Flick channelling Edith Sitwell

Flick Rea channelling Edith Sitwell

Ted structured the evening as a programme of a dozen or so loosely linked poems, all by poets from Hampstead and its surrounds. If the poets were local, the poems ranged far and wide. A Year in London by Tobias Hill (formerly of Minster Road) took us on a journey down the Kilburn High Road, while Coming Back by Al Alvarez, and Autumn in Toas by DH Lawrence took us all the way to New Mexico.

We returned close to home with two poems of the same name, Parliament Hill Fields, by totally different poets: Sylvia Plath and John Betjeman. Ted said it would take a consummate actor to do both of them justice, but fortunately we had Flick on hand – and even with a nasty cough – she performed with gusto.

Earlier on she had read Portrait of A Barmaid, by Edith Sitwell, which Ted felt was surreal, but Flick just weird! Also in the programme were two works by Owen Sheers, a welsh poet who, like Tobias Hill is both a poet and author. The first, Mametz Wood, takes us back exactly 100 years to the battle of the Somme. The second , Coming Home, is about the awkardness of returning to the childhood home as an adult. Good stuff, and someone new to me.

The short evening ended with The Mission Jazz Band, written by Ted himself and recited by him and Flick. It was the lightest poem of the evening and brought back memories of warm summer afternoons in Golders Hill Park. Ted left us with some questions to ponder, what did we think of the evening? What did we think of the poems? I’m glad I went; it was a pleasant evening, it’s good to try something different and don’t we all, young or old, need a bit more poetry in our lives?

Vera Lynn to Verdi: Go backstage at the ENO’s remarkable building

Welcome to the Tardis of West Hampstead.

Outside, people scurry past its flaking blue paint, barely noticing it’s there. But find a ruse to get in the door and you could get lost exploring for hours. There is a Bible Archive, but no holy books. There is a Rail Store and a Crew Room, which have nothing to do with the tube station across the road.

ENO building - Lilian Baylis House on Broadhurst Gardens

ENO building – Lilian Baylis House on Broadhurst Gardens

This is Lilian Baylis House, the English National Opera’s (ENO) rehearsal rooms tucked unassumingly down Broadhurst Gardens, and it is an unusual place. A meandering corridor concealed by Escher-like steps, which you must climb in order to descend, opens out into a vast hangar-like space. It’s disorienting. Are you underground or above? Which way did you come? And where is that singing coming from?

“Everyone who works here seems to love it because it’s so full of character,” says my guide Natasha Freedman. “There is something about the quirks of the building that make them nice spaces to work in.”

Perhaps its past plays a role. These walls have absorbed a century of celebrated musical history, with the ENO just the latest chapter.

Constructed as Victorian craftsmen’s workshops, the building served for a while as West Hampstead’s own Town Hall before becoming a recording studio in the 1920s for Vera Lynn and other big names of the day. Decca Records bought it in 1937. For almost half a century it recorded classical music and popular artists here, from big band leader Ted Heath, to Fleetwood Mac, the Rolling Stones and David Bowie.

Broadhurst Gardens could have been as famous as Abbey Road given its history – but Decca only had itself to blame for missing that chance. In one of the music industry’s most notorious mistakes, its talent men auditioned The Beatles here in 1962 but turned them down. “Guitar bands are on the way out,” the band’s manager was told.

The studios closed in 1980 and were bought the next year by the ENO, which had outgrown its Coliseum home near Trafalgar Square. Today, it still needs to hire other rehearsal venues, despite three large spaces here. The site is now a confusing warren of different levels, stairs and corridors connecting three converted studios, all of it adapted to new uses rather than rebuilt.

ENO named the building after theatre producer and manager Lilian Baylis, who in the first half of the 20th century ran companies that evolved into the ENO, The Royal Ballet and the National Theatre.

Studio 2, deep in the bowels of the building where Django Reinhardt and Stephane Grappelli once played, now has a grand piano, a wall of mirrors with barres – and a basketball hoop high on the wall that seems in keeping with the premises’ lived-in feeling.

“There is still evidence of the past, like the glass window in Studio 2 behind which all the recording equipment was,” says Freedman, who heads the ENO’s outreach division, simply called Baylis, which aims to bring opera to people who could not afford it or might never think of it.

“The building takes a good punishing, we’re moving equipment around all the time,” Freedman says.
Old soundproofing tiles still cover walls and ceilings, layered with pipes and cables that zigzag around the ENO maze. Doors in all directions are fitted with blue signs announcing the function of the rooms they guard, inside which are more discoveries.

“You can open a cupboard and it’s full of organised buttons – or another full of gentlemen’s shoes of every style,” says Freedman. “There’s one near our room full of underwear of all shapes and sizes.”
The building is long and thin and full of corners that never see daylight. It seems huge, having been extended to the back in the 1960s to house Decca’s giant Studio 3, which can fit a mock-up of a whole Coliseum stage.

During the opera season, the director, conductor, lead singers and chorus are here rehearsing for any of the three shows the ENO runs at one time. The singing you might occasionally just hear from outside will nearly always be in English, the language the company performs in.

The singers get fitted for their costumes here, occasionally giving a sense of time travel. “Walk down a corridor and you can hear a singer in one room having coaching and in the next, members of the costume department are doing fittings with their tape measures and pins,” Freedman says. Mozart’s doomed seducer Don Giovanni was here the other week to be measured up to meet his fate. Soon it will be the turn of the pitiful pirates and blundering bobbies of Gilbert & Sullivan’s comic opera, The Pirates of Penzance.

Since 2015 “LBH”, as its inhabitants call it, has got more crowded. The ENO’s off-stage staff – marketing, communications, administration and Baylis – all moved in from offices in St Martin’s Lane to help the cash-strapped company save money.

Lovely as West Hampstead is, can West End Lane really compete with the West End as a place to work?
Freedman smiles. “Um… for [my team] it’s great being close to the rehearsal rooms,” she says diplomatically. “Stuff is being created and made all the time. This increasingly feels like our home.”

Freedman says long hours mean there has been little time to explore the attractions of the area but named three ENO favourites: The Sherriff centre “very good church-cum-post office-cum-wonderful whatever a real community centre should be”; Wired coffee shop outside their front door; “We love Wired, everyone goes there to keep going”; and Vietnamese restaurant Pham House – “really lovely people and delicious food”.

Unsurprisingly, West Hampstead itself is not a priority for the ENO, although Freedman says she would love to find local partnerships to help reach teenagers who have never thought of opera before. “Camden as a borough is relatively well served in terms of the arts. Our focus is more on Brent, which is very poorly served.”

The ENO has links with secondary schools in the neighbouring borough. Students regularly come to the studios to watch rehearsals and see what goes into a production, from making hats to shifting stage sets.
Around 50 students spent a week here in the summer to create a project linked to ENO productions which involves performance, set and costume design and investigating some of the moral dilemmas shown on stage.

“Opera’s not just a museum piece written 200 years ago but is storytelling through music, drama and design,” says Freedman. “Once you start talking about opera like that with young people they totally get it.”

LBH is not open to the public, so how can a local get in to have a look? You could join the 110-strong no-audition-needed ENO Community Choir which meets here on Wednesdays (and where warmup exercises, to stick to the Dr Who theme, can include singing like a Dalek).

Frenchman Julien Molinet, a West End Lane resident since the summer, joined the choir after checking out the ENO – which he had never heard of – online. “It all looked a bit derelict and at first I thought it was a closed factory,” he said. “It was a real surprise when I walked in, the size of this place!”

Or you could email Baylis to join its community mailing list and be alerted to the next “Know the Show” in the spring – a one-day singing and drama workshop open to anyone who wants to get a feel of what it’s like to be an opera chorus member. For details of these events, email gro.o1519360122ne@si1519360122lyab1519360122.

In case you never make it but were wondering about those rooms … well, the Rail Store is for clothes rails and the Crew Room is for stagehands. And the Bible Archive? For “costume bibles” from every production going back decades, minutely detailing all the designs, sketches, photos and alterations so that one day, it can all be brought back to life.

Is it Ginger, or Toxic Orange?

LondonOverground_IainSinclairIain Sinclair came to West Hampstead library on July 4 for a Q&A about his latest book, “London Overground: A Day’s Walk Around the Ginger Line”, and before too long the colour question came up.  The Hackney-based author, who walked along in hearing distance of the 33-station ring at the heart of the Overground, called the branding for the ever-expanding network “toxic orange”.

But his imagination had been caught by a group of fancy-dress partygoers he met on his way who organise flash gatherings at stations on the ring and call themselves the Ginger Liners.  “Maybe it’s only in the Hoxton/Shoreditch hipster area that it’s called that,” he told the sixty-strong audience at the free event run by the Friends of West Hampstead Library  At least it has a nice bright colour now.

The 35-mile ring, in some ways a Victorian railway just stitched back together, was completed in 2012.  “It connects a necklace of places that are unfamiliar and lets you get to places you did not know.  Inglis agreed. “Now in some ways we feel closer to Dalston than to Cricklewood.”

Local author Simon Inglis reminisced about the Overground’s drab predecessor in these parts — the underused North London Line, with its empty, gloomy stations, ghost trains that just wouldn’t turn up, and where you could fear for your life once darkness fell.

The reconstruction of our overcrowded Overground station is about to start, but Sinclair’s talk was more of a deconstruction of the line, its past, the developers moving in to build what he has called parasitical flats on every bit of spare trackside land, and how its success has reshaped the mental map Londoners have of how their city is connected.

Sinclair was left with a strong impression of how noisy the railway was. He has called it “a 14-hour sigh of mounting, but never-quite-satisfied sexual bliss”. I wonder what he would say of the nerve-shredding metallic grinding of the old North London Line trains.

“What’s it like to live there in a new-build flat right by the train line and hear the announcements from the platform?” he said.  Hundreds of new West Hampsteaders will soon find out – in stereo, Inglis joked. Developers of the new West Hampstead Square blocks rising up between the Overground and Underground have decided to rebrand it as Heritage Lane.  “What heritage?” Sinclair asked.

West Hampstead does not having a starring role in his book, but is wedged between expanded musings on Willesden-based expressionist painter Leon Kossoff and Freud up in Hampstead’s Maresfield Gardens.

Sinclair, from Wales himself, has written many books focusing on sense of place in London including London Orbital, about a bigger circular walk he took around the M25.

If you would like to support the library’s future via the Friends, click here.

Tricycle’s theatre to close for a year in multi-million pound revamp

Last Thursday, the Tricycle Theatre in Kilburn held an open day to show off its plans for the “Tricycle transformed“. We learned that the Tricycle really will be transformed. The theatre will close on July 2nd, at the end of the current show (The Invisible Hand), and will remain closed “for about a year”. Fear not, film fans, the cinema will remain open.

Better sightlines and more seats as "scaffolding" style replaced. Image via Chapman Waterworth

Better sightlines and more seats as “scaffolding” style replaced. Image via Chapman Waterworth

The project has two main goals. The first is to open up the entrance on the Kilburn High Road and completely renovate the theatre. To make it easier to understand — a quick history lesson. The Tricycle Theatre was originally the Foresters Hall, but was acquired by Brent Council in 1980 as a permanent home for the Wakefield Tricycle Touring Theatre Company (so that’s why it’s called the Tricycle). Recently Brent/the theatre also acquired a long lease on the Order of Foresters shop, next door to the current entrance. The plan is to put a café there and so make the Kilburn High Road entrance much more prominent.

The second, and arguably more significant change, is the complete transformation of the theatre. Out goes the 1980s scaffolding seating arrangement, down goes the floor level to allow step free access for disabled theatre-goers (and the number of wheelchair places will rise from two to up to eight), and up goes the number of seats overall, by 50 to 290, with improved sightlines. Not to mention there will be more, and better, loos. Plus, the stage will be enlarged and the original Order of Foresters hall proscenium arch will be more visible.

Overall my impression was it had been well thought through and it will tie the theatre and cinema sides of the Tricycle together. The one controversial issue that arose during the discussions: whether or not to keep the Tricycle carpet. Locals were keen on keeping it, the architects less so … We’re running a poll on Twitter to see what you think.

Should it stay or should it go?

Should it stay or should it go?

All this work doesn’t come cheap, but the Tricycle’s fundraisers have already got an impressive £5.5 million (£2.5 million from the Arts Council and the rest from trusts and donors). They still have a further £750,000 to raise; if you have some spare cash in search of a good cause there are ways to support the project on the website, such as dropping a grand to name a seat.

Film on Fortune Green: Easy right?

Photo via Eugene Regis

Photo via Eugene Regis

Watching a film is a great communal experience. Watching that film outdoors surrounded by your friends and neighbours is even better. But it doesn’t happen by accident. As well as taking on the role of editor of West Hampstead Life, I’m also involved with the Friends of Fortune Green (FoFG). This is the fifth year of FoFG’s outdoor film screenings, so here’s a behind-the-scenes peak at putting on the outdoor film screening of Brooklyn this Saturday (June 4th) at 9pm (doors ‘open’ around 7pm).

First decision: what film? This is the judgement of Paris. Whatever we choose some are happy, others not. But be aware, dear reader, there are several factors that limit the films we can choose. We can only start screening at sundown, which at this time of year it is c. 9pm. If the screening has to end by about 10.30pm that means the film can be about 90 minutes long. This first screening starts later (sundown in August is 8pm), so it is aimed at an older audience, but it still needs to be suitable. For example, I’d forgotten the language in the Blues Brothers (our September 2013 offering) was, well, rather blue. It prompted Javi (aged 8) to comment with a smile the next day, “it was a bit rude”. Recently we realised that  films are available for public screening more quickly than when we started back in 2012. You, the people, seem to like recent movies, as we get bigger audiences so more recent films are to the fore. Hence, Brooklyn

Photo via Eugene Regis

Photo via Eugene Regis

However, it’s not just a question of ‘putting on a DVD’. To show a film legally we need a public screening licence, which costs c. £300. We also need to hire equipment, a decent projector, a good sound system and a big enough screen. It’s not cheap, but working with the more community-minded suppliers the hire cost is c. £400. If we get the popular cycle-cinema guys back for the August screening (not promising) that will cost a bit more.

Get there early to get a good view! Photo via Peter Coles

Get there early to get a good view! Photo via Peter Coles

On top of that, we have to pay Camden £100 for putting on an event on the Green. Yes really. In all fairness it does take officer time to monitor events taking place in parks across Camden (and they are seeking to raise revenue). They also need to review our health and safety form – we have to submit one of those too. As well as that, we have to apply to Camden for a TENS (temporary events licence). It’s a cumbersome seven page on-line form to fill in. So in total around £800 to put each screening, which is why we are really grateful to the local businesses that sponsor them. Thank you Benham & Reeves! (FoFG do ask for donations at screenings, as this adds to the pot should the day come when we can’t get a sponsor and we have to self-fund and also to help fund other activities and events).

So that’s everything? Not quite. We have to publicise the films! This involves leafleting the houses in the surrounding streets with 500+ flyers , time-consuming but not too bad if you do with someone else, as well as putting up posters and sending out e-flyers. Leaflet, e-flyer and posters all need drafting and copying. On the film night we have to set up the (heavy) equipment, steward the event and at the end pack the equipment up again – in the dark. The stuff on the night is the bit most people see but it’s just final one of many steps.

Finally, not forgetting the great British weather. From about ten days in advance we keep a beady eye on the long range forecasts with anxiety levels rising and falling along with the barometer as we get closer to the date and the forecast changes. Latest update – anxiety levels have fallen since this morning’s forecast for Saturday night is OK! Might be a spot of rain early evening but on the whole it’s good and warm(ish). Phew. See you at Brooklyn in West Hampstead.

So there you are: how to put on a outdoor film screening. Not quite as simple it appears, but worth the effort.  It’s not just me, it’s a joint FOFG committee effort but if you would like to help at this or future screenings don’t be shy, speak to a steward on Saturday.

Review: Come In! Sit Down!

The award-winning Muslim and Jewish theatre company, MUJU crew, have brought Come In! Sit Down! to The Tricycle Theatre in celebration of their tenth anniversary. The piece is a devised sketch show, tackling perceptions of Muslims and Jews in Britain, and the challenges faced by those communities. It doesn’t sound like that would be a barrel of laughs, but the cast take great delight in sending themselves up, holding a fun house mirror up to some difficult and controversial subjects.

Dominic Garfield & Stevie Basuala

Dominic Garfield & Stevie Basuala [Photo courtesy of Rooful.com]

The performances across the board are very strong. Each of the actors brings their own skills to the group and for the most part they are well cast. Particular stand outs for me were Lauren Silver’s Jewish mother routine and Dominic Garfield’s Disney terrorist (to explain will give too much away!). There’s a great rapport among the company, and their enthusiasm and energy is infectious.

The musical numbers are very strong, and were the highlight for me. Although not all of the cast members have outstanding voices, they can all carry a tune, and it’s the sheer enthusiasm of the team which carries things along at a good pace.

Some sketches worked better than others, but that could be that the mixed audience missed some of the in-jokes, which would go down well with a mainly Jewish or Muslim crowd. The high points were very pertinent, but the message started to feel rather one-note as the piece went on, and at times it did feel like the audience was being rather ‘hit over the head’ with the inevitable commentary on terrorism. I would have liked to see a more nuanced approach, with the headline-grabbing material interspersed with more ‘everyday’ experiences.

My companion for the evening observed that the show has the feel of a weekly revue, with that slightly anarchic frenetic edge, and the sketches as a collection of hits and misses. While this is to be expected of a show that is being put together with very tight deadlines every week, one would expect a theatre piece, which has been developed over a longer time, to have been tightened up a bit, with some of the less-successful sketches re-worked or put out to pasture.

Overall though, the hits outweigh the misses, and at around 75 minutes, it’s a fun show with great performances, which whips along at a brisk pace. Its irreverent approach won’t be for everyone, but it’s great to see very talented people from Jewish and Muslim backgrounds coming together to challenge perceptions while making us laugh quite a bit.

Come In! Sit Down! runs at the Tricycle Theatre until Sunday 2 August. Tickets available here.

Is West Hampstead library at risk?

West Hampstead Library is a vital community asset, sitting in the heart of West Hampstead.

It is about so much more than books. As well as lending books, it serves as a space for community groups, hosts IT facilities for those who do not have them at home, and has various other classes and activities for people of all ages. During elections it serves as a polling station. It is also an attractive building with a good presence on the West End Lane high street. Public libraries are among the last indoor spaces in West Hampstead – or indeed anywhere – where you can sit for free.

However, its future may be in jeopardy – and together with my fellow local councillors – we’re asking for the help of local residents to keep it open.

Because of central government cuts, which are halving Camden’s budget over eight years, Camden needs to cut £800,000 from its library services and it has not ruled out closures.

This coming Wednesday, a 12-week consultation will start on the future of Camden’s libraries. The council has specifically mentioned West Hampstead among the libraries that might be considered for closure.

A lot rests on the response to the consultation. If the public response is a big ‘no’ to closures, it will help them to discount that option.

Of coursse, in light of the current financial pressures, the council needs to look at creative ways to make savings and modernise the service. I don’t think enough work has been done to look at partnerships with local groups – or bringing in other services to share costs and make the library an even better community hub. Closure should not be an option.

The West Hampstead councillors have started a petition against closure, to give an early show of the strength of feeling. If you want to, you can sign it here. Within a couple of days, it has already got more than 200 signatures.

Some of the comments are really quite moving. They show just how much this place means to local people. We need to show the council the strength of local feeling on this and we call on all residents to help.

The campaign already has its own Twitter handle, @SaveWHamLibrary and a hashtag, #SaveWHampLibrary which interested people can follow for updates. (The missing ‘p’ in the handle is due to Twitter’s tight character restrictions.)
As councillors, we are calling on residents to fill out the consultation from Wednesday and urge Camden not to close West Hampstead library.

NW6 Film Club July: Amy

Amy-PosterThere has been an equal amount of buzz and controversy about the new documentary from Asif Kapadia (creator of the remarkable Senna). Amy promises to tell the story of Amy Winehouse in her own words, featuring unseen archival footage and unheard tracks. It is also the holder of a 100% ‘fresh’ rating on Rotten Tomatoes after 34 reviews, which is no mean feat.

As a result, we thought it would make an excellent choice for our next NW6 Film Club meet up on Wednesday July 8th. This is the first time we have selected a documentary in the 2 ½-year history of the film club but we feel confident that this one will bear out our choice.

So what do you need to know?

  • Everybody is welcome!
  • We are going to the 8:40pm screening at the Tricycle Cinema on the Kilburn High Road on Wednesday July 8th
  • We will be meeting from 8:15pm in the bar area of the Tricycle, and there will be post film drinks in the Black Lion opposite.
  • If you want to sit with us then please ask for Row G when buying your tickets on the night (you don’t have to)

Should be a great night, see you all there!

Mark & Nathan

La Traviata at The Tricycle

As a total opera novice, I was not sure what to expect when I sat down in the Tricycle’s auditorium for two hours of Verdi. Would I be able to suspend my disbelief and go along with all the characters singing at each other? Will the operatic performances just be too big for the tricycle’s small theatre? Will I even understand any of it?!

I needn’t have worried. OperaUpClose have spent the last six years developing opera performance for small spaces, having started with La Boheme in the now sadly defunct Cock Tavern Theatre on Kilburn High Road. Their work is designed to be accessible to everyone, and for an intimate ‘up close’ performance. They have even managed to bag themselves an Olivier Award for their efforts.

This production of La Traviata has been around for a while, but has been revived for a short run at the Tricycle. Artistic Director Robin Norton-Hale has translated Verdi’s original into an English version, so there’s no need to worry about not speaking Italian, and the score has been edited, zipping along at a pacy 2 hours 15 minutes, including interval. Yes, I was in the pub by 9.30!

Verdi's La Traviata_poster

The story, which will be familiar to many, focuses on lovers Violetta and Alfredo, and their doomed relationship. This version is set in 1920s America, and the set and costumes are really stylish, with the entire cast permanently dressed to the nines – Violetta manages to look glamorous even when wearing pyjamas! We are instantly drawn into this world of parties, dancing and champagne, but even at the opening it is clear to see there is a darker side to all the frivolity.

The set looks great, a lovely touch is the subtle backdrop of a proscenium arch and curtain, behind the set, serving as a reminder that this is, after all, theatre. There are a couple of slightly clunky set dressing moments, which are carried by the musicians and it is a shame that they end up tucked away in the corner of the action, barely visible. The trio keep the piece moving along nicely, adding backbone to the muscular vocals on display, and are given the occasional moment to shine, but this production is all about the voices.

As Violetta, Louisa Tee steals the show. Her vocal dexterity is mesmerising, and she carries herself so well, exuding charm and vivacity, it’s easy to see why Alfredo is so enamoured of her. Robin Bailey’s Alfredo has a less-polished delivery, but the raw edge to his voice really worked for the character and I felt the hair on the back of my neck stand up whenever he sang. In a good way. During the run, four of the five cast members are on rotation, with three singers alternating for each of them. I don’t know if this is a regular practice in opera, but I can certainly see the need to protect the performers’ voices, as they are absolutely giving their all.

The English translation worked for me, because I am only a little familiar with the Italian original, but I can imagine that purists would find it jarring. There were a few moments where the singers seemed to struggle with the phrasing, trying to fit the English words into a rhythm created for Italian, and I couldn’t help but feel that some of the beauty of the arias was, literally, lost in translation.

These moments were, for me at least, few and far between, and I had no trouble losing myself in the story and getting caught up in the emotion. Within a few minutes I had ceased to be aware that the cast were singing in this elaborate manner and I was transfixed. The drama is high, with little room for subtlety, but this is opera, after all, and a thoroughly enjoyable night at the theatre. I’m not ashamed to say I left the auditorium with a tear in my eye, and I will be going back for more.

La Traviata runs at the Tricycle Theatre until 4 July. Catch it while you can!

St Cuthbert’s showcases world-class pianists

Fancy enjoying some wonderful music performed by world-class musicians this summer – all within easy walking distance of West Hampstead?

The Fordwych Master Concerts series of performances, held at St Cuthbert’s Church, starts on June 13th with the outstandingly talented young Italian Scipione Sangiovanni, winner of second prize in the prestigious Hastings International Piano Concerto Competition.

Scipione photo

Following a marvellous inaugural concert in September involving both local and international musicians, the church has been host to musical fund-raising events for Save the Children and Camden Music Trust, and this summer the church launched its “Fordwych Master Series”.  Upcoming performers include pianists James Lisney and Piers Lane.

Good acoustics are not always achieved by church architects, but when Jeremy Allen re-designed St Cuthbert’s in the 1980s, he secured a hit: the “church in the bushes”, nestling in its pretty garden in Fordwych Road, turned out to be the perfect venue for small scale concerts.  Sadly it did not have a piano to match, but last year, after some fund-raising, investment by the church, and help from internationally renowned pianist Professor Frank Wibaud (a neighbour), the perfect piano for the church was at last in place.

St Cuthbert’s – and West Hampstead, can look forward to an exciting future, with more high quality professional performances, and opportunities for young musicians.  For more information visit the Fordwych Master Concerts website.

St Cuthberts Road   Church Piano

Paradise regained, by way of Keats House

Here’s two names you rarely encounter in the same sentence: John Keats, peerless Romantic poet, and Nancy Dell’Olio, peerless, er, socialite, and, it turns out, major Keats aficionado and Hampstead resident.

With this knowledge on board, it’s less of a total surprise that Nancy was on hand to cut the ribbon and officially open Keats Festival at the poet’s former residence in NW3.

Nancy poised to cut the ribbon (Photo (c) Alex Brenner)

Nancy poised to cut the ribbon (Photo (c) Alex Brenner)

The beautiful Georgian house in Keats Grove will be hosting a season of delights… and not just for the poetry minded either.

The House has used its recent Arts Council grant to further upgrade its exhibits and as well as the usual cache of treasures from the two years the young poet lived there, during which time he wrote his most brilliant cycle of Odes, the House will feature a rolling cycle of rarely seen items: from letters to manuscripts and even annotated copies of Keats’ copies of Shakespeare and Milton. So, chances are, if you visit more than once, you’ll see different things each time. They’re clever, these Keats peeps!

A star object in the collection - Keats' love letter to Fanny Brawne (Photo (c) The City of London)

A star object in the collection – Keats’ love letter to Fanny Brawne (Photo (c) The City of London)

The Festival includes poetry readings and lectures, family activities and several musical events. Among those appearing will be Owen Sheers, whose recent novel is set in Hampstead, and also former Children’s Laureate Michael Rosen, who is newly named Poet in Residence at the House.

The Festival runs from 28 May – 7 June and you can view all events on the website, with bookings via this page.

Keats House is a quiet gem nestling a stone’s throw from the Heath in the heart of Hampstead – a very pleasant amble from West Hampstead and always a tranquil haven to visit while in the area. The festival, plus the wonderful new exhibits and the fact that one ticket buys you entry for a year (and under-17s go free) mean that it’s a fantastic place to discover the work and life of this most endearing of geniuses… a joy forever, one might even say.

Keats House in its full sunny splendour

Keats House in its full sunny splendour (Photo (c) The City of London)

NW6 Film Club May: Mad Max Fury Road

Mad Max Fury RoadThirty six years ago (yes really!) – Australian ex-doctor George Miller made his astonishing first feature, Mad Max.This low budget post apocalyptic cost less than half a million dollars to make but grossed more than 100 million – making it one of the most successful movies (dollar for
dollar) of all time.

Not surprisingly it spawned a couple of sequels, Mad Max 2 being one of those rare sequels general regarded as superior to the original.

What’s perhaps more surprising is the 30 year gap between the third installment and the fourth, Mad Max Fury Road, which is this month’s Film Club choice.

Mad Max 4 should provide quite a contrast to our recent more restrained Film Club movies. That said, for all its high octane action, this movie is getting plenty of critical support too – currently a massive 99% on Rotten Tomatoes. It’s even being attacked as being “feminist propaganda“!

More than filling Mel Gibson’s shoes is the always superb Tom Hardy – whilst Charlize Theron apparently is at least his equal.

To get the full sensory overload we’re going to see it at the Imax Odeon Swiss Cottage on Wednesday 20th May at 9pm.

Tickets aren’t cheap but you can get a discount with Meerkat Movies. By all means tweet/search using #nw6filmclub to pair up. It could well be busy so best book well in advance.

We’ll meet in the bar at 8.30pm and assemble there after for a drink if we’re still conscious.

See you there!

Nathan, Mark and Jonathan

NW6 Film Club April 22nd: Force Majeure

ForceMajeureFor a while it’s seemed like you can’t turn on the TV without coming across yet another high quality Scandinavian drama series. It’s a remarkable achievement for a relatively small population a long way from the resources of Hollywood. The Nordic Noir phenomenon has also had some success in the cinema and now we have a new Swedish film getting rave reviews: Force Majeure.

The Times calls it “one of the most perceptive and savagely funny films of the year”; the Standard “a gripping film with a superb cast,” and the Guardian says it’s “compelling, intelligent and grimly entertaining”. It also warns that its not a date movie. So, the perfect film to see with your Film Club friends!

Force Majeure tells the story of a Swedish family on holiday in the French Alps. A tragic event changes everything and the film follows the repercussions. It may not sound like a cheery premise but many reviews describe the film as darkly funny. Come along and decide for yourself whether it’s a comedy, a tragedy or both.

We’re seeing the film at our usual home The Tricycle, but not on the usual day! We’ll be going to the 8.40pm screening on Wednesday April 22nd. As usual, we’ll meet in the bar beforehand from 8.10.

We’re delighted that once again there’s a special NW6 Film Club discount. Just quote WHAMPFILM when you book online or on the phone and you get £1 off.* To get the discount you must book ahead of the screening, if you just turn up on the day you’ll have to pay full price, and unfortunately it can’t be combined with other offers so if you’re already a Tricycle member, you’re better off using that to get £1.50 off.

As usual – book Row G if you want to sit with the rest of us (you don’t have to).

The film will end fairly late but hopefully there will be time to head to the Black Lion across the road for a very quick drink and discussion.

See you there,

Nathan, Mark and Jonathan

FILM CLUB FAQ
How do I join Film Club?
There’s no membership as such. Just come along to the screening and join us in the Tricycle bar beforehand to say ‘hi’.

How often does Film Club meet?
Usually once a month. The exact date depends on the schedules at The Tricycle (our usual home) and other local cinemas.

How can I hear about future Film Club events?
Just subscribe to the West Hampstead Life weekly newsletter, check the website or follow @NxNW6 on twitter.

* T&C’s: Limited offer, advance booking only. Not available retroactively or in conjunction with any other offer. Available at management’s discretion.

Review: After Electra at the Tricycle Theatre

It’s Virgie’s 81st birthday, and she gathers together her friends and family for a celebration, and an important announcement. Virgie intends to kill herself. The play follows the reaction to Virgie’s declaration and explores how the choices we make can change our lives forever.

Virgie is a woman who has always been torn between her art and motherhood, and it becomes apparent that her dedication as an artist has severely compromised her relationship with her children Haydn and Orin, who are, as adults, scarred by her neglect. Virgie’s sister Shirley, and friends Tom and Sonia, make up the rest of the party, all coming to terms with Virgie’s announcement, trying, and failing, not to give in to the absurdity of it all.

Marty Cruickshank as Virgie (Photo: Steve Tanner)

Marty Cruickshank as Virgie (Photo: Steve Tanner)

None of the characters are particularly likeable, they are all self-involved and thoughtless, but in that they are relatable and frequently very funny. Tom the actor, and his long suffering wife Sonia, provide a lot of the comic relief, as two people more or less tolerating each others’ eccentricities. It’s hard to tell if Virgie really wants to die, is succumbing to madness, or if this is all some play for attention, but ultimately it is the question of control over one’s own existence, and of dealing with loss, which the play forces us to address. While this is a comedy, and I frequently laughed out loud, it is also a moving tale of family and friendships, and the lengths we will go to in order to find a sense of normality in the chaos.

Rachel Bell, as Shirley, the officious younger sister, steals the show in a really well written part, just the right amount of self involvement, tempered with pathos and played with the perfect level of self awareness. She has some great lines and delivers them with total relish, you can’t help but warm to her despite her apparent cold heartedness, which, as the play develops, we learn is really just her mode of survival.

Haydn, Virgie’s daughter, is believable, real, less a caricature than the others, and genuinely seems somewhat lost. Veronica Roberts has a lovely subtlety in her performance, we see glimpses of the rage burning within, but this is someone who has learned to swallow her pain, leaving her unable to connect intimately with others. Her sense of daughterly duty is something many will relate to, doing the right thing no matter how much it costs her personally. Her interaction with Roy, the poor cabbie who finds himself inadvertently caught up in the drama, is a real highlight.

The one misstep is the character of Miranda, a former student of Virgie, who appears in the final scene, to provide a new perspective on the story we’ve been fed piece by piece throughout the play. Unfortunately her wide-eyed youthful exuberance jars with the ageing melancholia of the other characters, whom we have been investing in from the start. It’s an interesting proposition, that we would open up and confide in a relative stranger, while hiding truths from our nearest and dearest, but I found Miranda’s complete lack of tact and diplomacy wildly irritating and so in the end the message was somewhat lost on me. But perhaps that’s the point.

Set and Costume Designer Michael Taylor has done a fantastic job of bringing a flavour of the Essex coast to North West London, completely transforming the stage at the Tricycle, so the action is thrust into the horseshoe auditorium. Virgie’s home feels lived in but isolated, windswept, with autumn creeping around the door.

Given the uncomfortable and dark subject of suicide, it takes a while for the audience to really get into the comedy of the piece. But this is a well-directed ensemble, with several strong performances, finding the humour in tragedy, without playing for laughs unless it is appropriate. A few choice nods to the Electra myth work really well without being heavy handed and I found myself laughing in recognition at the pain and pathos of life and its inevitable end.

After Electra is at the Tricycle Theatre until 2 May 2015.

Read our interview with director Sam West.

Interview: Sam West’s After Electra is “hotter and faster” at the Tricycle

After Electra opened at the Tricycle Theatre last night. We sat down with the director (and acclaimed actor) Sam West to find out more about the play and his take on Kilburn.

The full cast of After Electra. (Photo: Steve Tanner)

The full cast of After Electra. (Photo: Steve Tanner)

The play is called After Electra, should we expect a Greek Tragedy?

No, you should expect a black comedy, inspired by a Greek Myth but certainly not one you need to know anything about Greek drama to enjoy. The play is about an 81 year old artist called Vergie, who calls together her daughter and best friends on her birthday and announces she’s going to kill herself and they argue and try and stop her. It is very funny! It’s mostly about the difficulty of balancing work and children. In the original story, the Electra Myth, Electra and her brother Orestes kill their mother Clytemnestra, that doesn’t happen in this play, it’s mostly a comedy about what to do when you want to kill your mum!

We’ve all been there…

We’ve all had those feelings! And the Greeks put on plays about it so you didn’t go out and kill your mum. April De Angelis, the writer, has very carefully and cleverly written it about a woman who is a very accomplished artist and feels a calling towards her art, more than she does towards her children. So it’s a lot about what you do when you feel like that really, because I think one of April’s points is that men, on the whole, don’t get pilloried when they go off and excel in business and neglect their children and women, if they do that, get put on the front pages. They’re expected to have this bottomless well of unselfish motherhood, and the play is about what happens if you find that you don’t have that.

The play features several strong female roles and a generally older cast…

Yes, it was written in response to a request from Plymouth Theatre Royal, where it started, as a way of improving the situation about the lack of decent roles for older women. Because we have a lot of very good older actors who aren’t getting the parts… there are fewer meaty roles. It’s a cast of eight, only one of whom is under 30, and although the leading character is 81, there are very good parts for people in their 60s and 70s.

After a successful run in Plymouth, you’re bringing the play to London. How did the transfer to the Tricycle Theatre come about?

Yes, it’s a Plymouth production and the Tricycle decided that they wanted to pay for it to come to London so, although we’ve been working in tandem with them, it’s not a co-production. We’re delighted that Plymouth work gets a chance to be seen in the capital because we’re all very proud of it and most of the company live in London. Because Plymouth is a local regional theatre, it’s important for it to go to a theatre which has a good feeling of constituency, a good feeling of localism, like the Tricycle does. Not all London theatres feel like the Tricycle, do they? Some of them feel like posh transfer houses, where you put on things for a small metropolitan audience. But the Tricycle, whenever I’ve been, has always felt like a theatre that is really in the heart of its community and I’m really pleased that we’re taking it there.

And has the transfer been a smooth one?

Yes, though we’ve had to cut a metre off the set! It fills the space quite well but the stage at the Tricycle is not quite as wide as the Drum in Plymouth. Because the Tricycle is a bit like an Elizabethan theatre, a sort of horseshoe, there are some really interesting angles from where to see the show, which I was very pleased about when we brought it in. It would have been boring to have to add a metre, that would have made everything take slightly longer, but in fact we’re sort of squeezing it like a box, so the pressure should get slightly bigger and the show should get slightly hotter and faster.

Have you performed at the Tricycle in the past? Are you familiar with Kilburn?

I’ve never performed there. I’ve rehearsed there and I’ve seen many things there. I rehearsed a Donmar production there about 6 years ago and was delighted to be going there every day for 5 weeks, but this is the first time I’ve put a show in. I live in North London and have friends in the area, so it’s a pretty easy journey for me. I’m very fond of Middle Eastern food, and we’ve been trying out the various Turkish and Lebanese restaurants in Kilburn, which has been really great.

So, why should locals come to the Tricycle and see the show?

Because it’s very funny and quite short! (Laughter) It’s a play for anyone who is a mother, or who has one. It can’t fail to teach you something about your mum, and if you’re a mum it can’t fail to teach you something about your children, and it is pretty funny, but will make you think a bit. It’s done by ten o’clock, so you can still go the pub afterwards!

After Electra is on at the Tricycle Theatre from 7 April to 2 May.

Theatre review: The Dissidents

Last week the Tricycle Young Company took over the Tricycle for a festival of theatre, film, music and poetry. Headlining the takeover was The Dissidents, an energetic play with a large ensemble cast, all aged between 19-25. It was written by Shamser Sinha for the Tricycle Young Company, and depicts life in contemporary London for young people living on the breadline.

Members of the Tricycle Young Company (photograph: Mark Douet)

Members of the Tricycle Young Company (photograph: Mark Douet)

We catch a glimpse of the experiences of brother and sister, Juan and Selena, who are struggling to make ends meet after the death of their father. Their lives are overshadowed by austerity measures, including their final moments with their father in an overworked NHS hospital, and Juan’s brief career at Poundland as part of the government’s ‘back-to-work’ scheme. The play encapsulates the anger and frustration of its young characters, who feel they are being stereotyped and criminalised, without being given the opportunities they need to improve their situation.

The production made great use of the stage, transforming it between scenes within seconds into familiar urban settings. Many members of the cast played multiple parts, and the quick changes between scenes and characters made the play a little hard to follow in places. The dream sequences were particularly well choreographed however, making use of the large cast, and creating an eerie, disturbing atmosphere.

Stevie Basaula and Tania Nwachukwu did a fantastic job as Juan and Selena, particularly in the emotional final scenes. The play could have done with a bit of polishing, but overall it was a very enjoyable evening and it would be great to see more of the Tricycle Young Company.

Review: The 2000 Year Old Man at JW3

Taken from the famous 1960s recordings by Mel Brooks and Carl Reiner, this specially commissioned adaptation is a live re-creation of material from The 2000 Year Old Man sketches, in which an interviewer questions a man who claims to be 2000 years old and shares his memories and opinions on the history of civilisation, in a broad Yiddish accent.

BLAKE_EZRA_2000_YEAR_OLD_MAN012

The hour-long show is funny and engaging, and very much a celebration of a simpler time for comedy.  There are decent performances from both sides, with Chris Neill’s Interviewer nicely understated to balance the larger-than-life 2000 year old man, played by Kerry Shale, enthusiastically channeling Mel Brooks.

The energetic performances go some way to bringing a modern feel to the work, it is pacy and they have made the most of the opportunity to physicalise what is essentially a verbal exchange, but for the most part the material itself feels, unsurprisingly, dated. There is very little subtlety at play and I think modern audiences expect to find layers in comedy which are simply missing from the broad stereotyping and sex gags we are presented with here. It’s funny, sure, but all just a bit one-note.

In putting the piece together, Kerry Shale has selected moments from the original recordings to create a cohesive whole. I’m sure this was quite an undertaking, and the team have done a great job of constructing the show so you can very rarely see the ‘joins’. There are a few moments which are laced with satire and this is where the work felt fresh and relevant, and got the biggest laughs of the night.

I went into the show with no knowledge of the original sketches, and I’m sure fans of Brooks and Reiner would appreciate this homage in a way that I, in my ignorance, am unable to. At an hour, it’s the right length and is a fun, lighthearted show that entertains and does provide several laughs, just not side-splitting ones. It’s a show which works well in the JW3 hall, a fantastic performance space, and I hope it will find an appreciative audience who are looking for good, old-fashioned gags.

The 2000 Year Old Man runs at JW3 until March 22nd.

NW6 Film Club March 22nd: Still Alice

Still AliceWe’re now in that delicious post-Oscars season when the award-winning films we’ve heard so much about finally get a UK release and we get to see what all the fuss is about.

This month we’re going to see Still Alice, which won Julianne Moore a Best Actress Oscar. Perhaps surprisingly, this is her first despite having been nominated four times before. But by all accounts she gives an astonishing performance, quite possibly the best of her career – high praise indeed given her superb record. The rest of the cast is impressive too with Alex Baldwin and Kristen Stewart playing supporting roles.

The film is the story of a linguistics professor diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s. It’s based on a novel written by a working neuroscientist, which was itself a phenomenon: it was self-published but went on to reach the New York Times bestseller list.

What’s also unsual is that the film is co-directed by a married couple – Wash Westmoreland and Richard Glatzer. What’s more, Richard has ALS, another degenerative neurological disease, making this a film of immense personal significance.

The Telegraph calls it “astonishing” and gives it 5 stars. Mark Kermode in the Observer calls it “uplifting”.

We’re seeing it at our usual home The Tricycle, and we’ve negotiated a special NW6 Film Club discount.

Just quote WHAMPFILM when you book online or on the phone and you get £1 off. To get the discount you must book ahead of the screening, if you just turn up on the day, you’ll have to pay full price, and unfortunately it can’t be combined with other offers so if you’re already a Tricycle member, you’re better off using that to get £1.50 off.

As usual – book Row G if you want to sit with the rest of us (you don’t have to).

We’re seeing it on Sunday 22nd March. The film starts at 8.15pm and we’ll be in the bar from 7:45.

Afterwards we’ll head to the Black Lion across the road for a drink and discussion. The film isn’t too long so there should be time.

Hopefully see you there,

Nathan, Mark and Jonathan

Review: Multitudes at The Tricycle Theatre

MultitudesTricycle

Bradford. On the eve of a Conservative Party Conference the country is in turmoil and one of its most multicultural cities awaits a visit from the Prime Minister.

Multitudes, a play by actor and new writer John Hollingworth, focuses on a modern British family dealing with the issues of multiculturalism in their everyday lives. Kash, a liberal Muslim and widow, and parliamentary hopeful, prepares his address to politicians about the state of the nation. At the same time, his girlfriend Natalie converts to Islam and supports women at an anti-war protest, while his teenage daughter Qadira is looking at more radical action. The family is completed by Lyn, Natalie’s mother, a local Tory big shot who frequently airs her own views about multicultural Britain. As the nation questions immigration policies and military support in the Middle East, the family faces its own internal conflict of faith, belonging, and who gets to call themselves British.

There’s no denying that this is a bold and urgent new work, incredibly timely in light of the recent events in Britain, across Europe and the Middle East. Hollingworth is addressing a really important issue affecting contemporary Britain, and it is done in a way that doesn’t try and offer solutions, but simply forces us to look at the realities of the situation in a way that is not only accessible, but at times very humorous.

And that is part of the problem with the play. In a bid to make these representative characters more well-rounded, Hollingworth has written some great dialogue and there are many laugh-out-loud moments. During the first act this generally works well as we get to know the characters and it balances out the message we are rather heavy-handedly being given. However, the tone of Act Two is darker as the pace of the action picks up, and the quips and jibes still at play feel very out of place.

While Natalie, played well by Clare Calbraith, is relatable, the other characters often feel like stereotypes, and it’s hard to believe that Kash, even as a wannabe politician, would be so focused on his image in the media that he would fail to care when Natalie is injured in the protest, or ignore the worrying behaviour of his daughter. Credit though to both the direction and the performance from Jacqueline King; xenophobic little-Englander Lyn is, if not exactly likeable, a somewhat sympathetic character who simply feels out of her depth and desperately clinging to a familiarity that no longer exists.

I would have liked to know more about Qadira’s motivations, as her storyline is incredibly resonant and timely, but we are given very little insight into her past, and any understanding of how she came to think the way she does is lost behind a teenage sulkiness, which makes her more difficult to empathise with or take seriously until it’s too late.

Special mention must go to Asif Khan, who plays a range of supporting roles with real conviction and fantastic physicality. He has fun with the different roles without straying into parody and has a great energy on stage which draws you in.

It is a slick production, and the scenography, made up of a bare brick wall and sliding metal doors, works really well, used to create intimacy in the space, but also reinforcing the starkness of a place with confused identity, where the fenced-in protest camp is ever-present off-stage.

This is a brave attempt at addressing an issue that resonates across the UK and beyond, but I can’t help feeling it would have more impact if it had opened in Bradford, directly addressing the people it purports to represent. An engaging enough production, it is strangely both overzealous and not hard-hitting enough, so fails to really grab you by the throat and make you think harder about a challenging aspect of the modern world. And that is a missed opportunity.

Steve’s Strange moniker from West Hampstead postman

Steve Strange, frontman of 1980s band Visage, has died in Egypt following a heart attack. He was 55 and best known for the Visage hit Fade to Grey.

Local historian Dick Weindling recalls how Strange (real name, Steven Harrington) picked up his unusual name:

“In 1978, Jean-Jacques Burnel the bass player with The Stranglers lived in Tower Mansions, 134-136 West End Lane. He had been with the group since they formed in 1974. Steve Strange had just arrived from Wales where he had previously met JJ Burnel at a Stranglers gig. Steve and Billy Idol squatted in the basement of Tower Mansions. One day the local postman saw Steve and his girlfriend Suzy with their dyed spiky hair and said, ‘You two are an odd looking couple, you’re Mr and Mrs Strange’. They liked the idea and called themselves Steve and Suzy Strange. After playing in several other bands, Steve formed Visage in 1979.”

NW6 Film Club February 8th: Selma

SelmaWith awards season in full swing we’re spoiled for choice when it comes to high quality movies.

After the superb Birdman, Film Club is going to see another Best Picture Oscar nominee. Selma is a film about Martin Luther King Jr and his fight for equal voting rights. MLK is a towering figure in American history: he has streets in over 700 US cities named after him not to mention his own birthday as a national holiday.

Which makes it extraordinary that this is the first major movie telling any part of his life story (at least I can’t think of any – please comment below if I’ve missed one).

The other astonishing fact about this movie is the sheer array of British acting talent. King himself is played by Brit David Oyelowo (for me best known as Danny from Spooks) and Tom Wilkinson is President Johnson. With King’s wife also British (Carmen Ejogo) and Tim Roth playing a major role – this is a real testament to the quality of British actors.

The film itself is getting rave reviews and numerous award nominations (as well as getting 99% positive review on Rotten Tomatoes). With racial politics in America as important an issue now as it’s ever been this is set to be a powerful and timely film.

We’re seeing it at our usual home – The Tricycle – on Sun 8th Feb.
The film starts at 8pm and we’ll be in the bar from 7:30.

Everyone is welcome, and you can book in advance or turn up on the day Book Row G if you want to sit with the rest of us (you don’t have to).

Afterwards we’ll head to the Black Lion across the road for a drink and discussion if it’s not too late.

Hopefully see you there,

Nathan, Mark and Jonathan

Review: Happy Birthday Without You

Photo by Luke Pajak

Photo by Luke Pajak

Violet Fox is a self-proclaimed “live and visual spoken word vegan solo artist and occasional collaborator”. Don’t let that put you off though; this show isn’t quite the tirade against men and carnivorism that you might expect. Fox is the fictional creation of Sonia Jalaly, the writer and star of Happy Birthday Without You. In mock-autobiographical style, Fox tells the story of the traumatic birthdays of her childhood, and her relationship with an alcoholic, balloon-popping mother.

The show has its dark moments, but mostly it’s just highly enjoyable silliness. At one point she literally brings her emotional baggage on stage (complete with a taxidermied cat), and although the birthday anecdotes help to give it structure, the show works mainly as a springboard for Jalaly to showcase her knack for physical comedy and impersonating Broadway dames. Her voice is actually rather good and she has the audience in fits of laughter with impressions of Julie Andrews, Judy Garland and Marilyn Monroe, all singing ‘Happy Birthday’ in their own unique styles.

Photo by Luke Pajak

Photo by Luke Pajak

As she gets the audience to pass around party bags and blow up red balloons to throw on stage, Jalaly helpfully throws out a few quotes for theatre critics – “look the lights have come on, it’s so immersive” and, to be fair, it is a pretty immersive experience. Parts of the show feel more like a stand-up performance in the way she speaks to, and interacts with the audience.

So if you like comedy, balloons and caterpillar cakes, this show is for you. Sadly its short run at the Tricycle is over, but if you can catch Sonia Jalaly in any future productions, I would highly recommend it.

Review: A Series of Increasingly Impossible Acts at The Tricycle

Eight actors hang out on stage, warming up in their gym gear, chatting to the audience a little, as if waiting for a rehearsal to begin. The show has quietly started as we walk in, but gets going when one of the performers’ names is picked out of a hat by a member of the audience and they become the focus of the action. What follows is a series of vignettes; snapshots of a life lived so far, tales of love and loss, interspersed with lots of physical challenges and silliness.

Series of Increasingly Impossible Acts Tricycle

 

Our protagonist for the evening is Stevie (Steven Webb), who brings the audience into the action enough to make you feel involved, but not so much that you’re terrified you’ll be picked on for a bit of participation! His energetic, physical commitment to the performance is staggering and I found myself trying to catch my breath, after watching him writhe around the stage with gusto for an hour and a bit.

The cast are clearly having fun, and you can’t help warming to them and their antics, about which I will say as little as possible. For all its big energy, there are also several smaller, beautifully observed moments, which add depth and poignancy and raise the show to another level. Though admittedly there is something profoundly enjoyable about watching two people wrestle in a bid to remove each other’s shoes.

Inevitably, with an ensemble piece like this, you don’t get to see as much of some of the performers as you do others, and my guess is this varies depending on who is pulled out of the hat each night. It seemed a shame that not everyone was equally involved and I would have liked to see a few more scenes with the whole cast taking part. One stand out performance was that of Hammad Animashaun, whose deadpan comic delivery was perfectly judged.

For the most part the bare-chested honesty of the piece works but it’s not without its flaws. A couple of times the action feels self-consciously ‘edgy’ and wanders into cliché territory. One scene using very well known Shakespearian dialogue is, in my opinion, a misstep, and breaks the pacy, frenetic feel of the show.

With its stripped back set and simplistic lighting, the show often feels like a well polished student production, which some might see as a negative, but actually it’s the raw youthful energy of the performers, with their well-developed improvisational skills, that keeps the show fresh and engaging. It’s the sort of show that could work in all sorts of spaces, and at times I wanted them to burst forth from the proscenium arch and take over the whole auditorium. I felt they wanted that, too.

This young theatre company is definitely one to watch. This is exactly the sort of show that is perfect for the Edinburgh Fringe, where it ran to critical acclaim. I hope it can find the right audience in NW6, one that will embrace the non-narrative structure, admire the honesty and openness of the performances, go along for the energetic ride and be ready to laugh. A lot.

Win a pair of tickets to the show!

T.S.Eliot’s “gloomy” West Hampstead home

T.S. Eliot – arguably the greatest poet of the 20th century – lived for two years in Compayne Gardens.

Local actor and writer Edward Petherbridge has put together a short film, While the Music Lasts, about Eliot’s time in West Hampstead, which is well worth six minutes of your time.

In 1915, Eliot married Vivienne Haigh-Wood in Hampstead Registry office and the couple moved in with Vivienne’s parents in Compayne Gardens. “A house Eliot found rather gloomy, with long dark corridors”.

It was during this time that The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock was published, although Eliot had written it a few years earlier and – the video claims – the seeds of The Waste Land were sown during his time in West Hampstead.

Edward Petherbridge’s original article is here.

NW6 Film Club January 11th: Birdman

BirdmanFilm Club is back in 2015 with a movie that looks like it’s going to set the quality bar high for the new year.

Birdman is an extraordinary film from the visionary filmmaker Alejandro Iñárritu. It stars Michael Keaton; once a Hollywood A-lister thanks to his role as the superhero Batman, but an actor whose recent career hasn’t exactly been triumphant.

He plays an actor – once a Hollywood A-lister thanks to his role as the superhero Birdman – but whose recent career hasn’t exactly been triumphant.

As you can probably tell, this a satire on Hollywood that uses clever casting to blur onscreen and offscreen truths. It’s also a technical masterpiece, much of it filmed in a single take (or at least appearing as such).

Strange, funny, unique, beautiful and fun are just some of the adjectives being used in rave reviews. It has already won many awards and is a hot tip for Oscar success.

We’re going to see it at Kilburn’s Tricycle Cinema on Sunday 11th January. The film starts at 8pm and we’ll be in the bar from 7.30.

Everyone is welcome, and you can book in advance or turn up on the day. Book Row G if you want to sit with the rest of us (you don’t have to).

Afterwards we’ll head to the Black Lion across the road for a drink and discussion if it’s not too late.

Hopefully see you there,

Nathan, Mark and Jonathan

Review: Lionboy at The Tricycle Theatre

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Lionboy is this year’s family show at The Tricycle Theatre. Suitable for everyone aged 8 and up, it’s a riotous adventure based on Zizou Corder’s novels. Elsie Oulton, 13, went to review it for West Hampstead Life; here’s her verdict.

Having not read the book, when I went to see the Lionboy production at the Tricycle, I had no idea what to expect. There was a cast of around 8, who each helped to tell the story by playing many different parts, including percussion and sound effects on stage. It was a vibrant and tense production, and the lead, who played himself and the lions, was amazing. There was also the use of shadow puppets to help tell the story, which were really cool. The use of props was also extraordinary, for example using swaying ropes to represent a river, and ladders make a prison, giving the Corporacy an eerie atmosphere. The circus family on the ship were particularly colourful and bizarre. My favourite was the French bearded woman, who was very witty and talked to the audience a lot. All the children in the audience were totally gripped, booing, hissing, cheering and shouting. Overall, I think that it was a great production, which glued you to your seat, and left you wanting more. See it!

Lionboy runs until January 10th. Book tickets here.

NW6 Film Club December 8th: St Vincent

St VincentAfter a great turnout for The Imitation Game, NW6 Film Club is back at the Tricycle on Monday December 8th, for another bargain night.

The movie is St Vincent – the story of a misanthropic hard living old man who unexpectedly ends up looking after a 12 year old boy. This may sound like a familiar set up – but apparently its elevated by superb performances from both from the leads.

Bill Murray has a career to die for and this is said to be one of his best – high praise indeed – while newcomer Jaeden Lieberher gives Bill a run for his money with an astonishingly assured performance as the teenager.

Since it’s the last Film Club of 2014 we’re planning to meet a little earlier: 7.30pm at the Black Lion on Kilburn High Road, for food and drinks. The pub does excellent 2-for-1 burgers on a Monday so you can enjoy bargain food as well as bargain cinema.

At the Tricycle, Monday tickets are just £6 and if you’re a Brent Resident then take along proof of address and you get a ticket for even less (£4.50). The film itself starts at 8.45pm so you might want to get your ticket first and then come and join us in the pub.

Everyone is welcome, and you can book in advance or turn up on the day Book Row G if you want to sit with the rest of us (you don’t have to).

Once again – we’re not meeting in the Tricycle bar but in the Black Lion pub opposite from 7.30. Do tweet us if you’re coming, or just turn up!

See you there,

Nathan, Mark and Jonathan

NW6 Film Club November 17th: The Imitation Game

imitationgameFew people’s lives seem more deserving of the cinematic treatment than Alan Turing’s. His achievements are astonishing: laying the mathematical foundations for all modern computers and helping the Allies win the Second World War by breaking the Enigma code. But his life encompassed tragedy as well as triumph – he was persecuted by the state for his homosexuality, with terrible consequences.

With such an epic life story it’s amazing that there hasn’t been a movie about him before (though there have been plays, books, documentaries and a made-for-TV film starring Derek Jacobi). A film about the Enigma story was made, though it strangely omitted Turing, replacing him with a very heterosexual fictional lead. But finally, Turing’s story is told in The Imitation Game. Lets hope it’s worthy of the man himself. The buzz is certainly extraordinary – it opened the London Film Festival and won the top award at the Toronto Festival.

It seems that if you want a portrayal of a repressed and socially awkward British genius there’s only one actor to turn to: Benedict Cumberbatch. His performance is reportedly so remarkable that it has even won over Turing’s family. With a cast that includes Keira Knightley, Mark Strong and Charles Dance, this looks set to be another showcase for British talent (albeit with a Norwegian director).

For a change, we’re going to see it on a Monday night, which thanks to the Tricycle’s generous Monday pricing means bargain tickets of just £6. Brent residents do even better; take along proof of address and you get a ticket for just £4.50.

The film is at 8.40pm, on Monday November 17th. As usual, we’ll meet in the bar beforehand from 8:15. Everyone is welcome, and you can book in advance or just turn up on the day. Book Row G if you want to sit with the rest of us (you don’t have to).

Afterwards we’ll head to the Black Lion across the road for a drink and discussion if it’s not too late.

See you there,

Nathan, Mark and Jonathan

Kilburn gets bookish with week of events

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If you thought that literary festivals mainly happened in fields on the outskirts of small Welsh towns, think again.

The first-ever Kilburn Literary Festival starts today and runs until 4th November, with events in various local venues including West Hampstead’s very own Sherriff Centre. The eclectic programme includes talks by authors, workshops for budding writers (including “How to Publish and Sell your Erotic Fiction”!), quizzes and a “flash fiction competition”. Two highlights are local history buff Ed Fordham’s talk on the history of Kilburn authors, at the Tricycle on Saturday morning, and the (esoteric perhaps) History of Fighting Fantasy and Adventure Game Books talk on Sunday afternoon, which will appeal to boys and girls who are now of a certain age!

Most events are ticketed, with prices ranging between £4 and £10, but there’s also a free “Festival of Books” at the Sherriff Centre at St James’ Church on Saturday. As well as readings, there will be activities for children, such as the chance to make their own book, and would-be authors will be able to talk to publishing professionals for advice on how to develop their writing.

You can find a full programme of events, and buy tickets, at the festival’s website.

Jack Bruce: the Cream of West Hampstead’s musical talent

Jack Bruce in Hamburg, 1972. Photo Heinrich Klaffs

Jack Bruce in Hamburg, 1972. Photo Heinrich Klaffs

The great singer, songwriter and bass player, Jack Bruce died age 71 on Saturday 25 October. Jack was best known as a member of the supergroup Cream. He lived in and around West Hampstead in the 1960s.

Born in in Bishopsbriggs, north of Glasgow, Jack was the son of Charlie and Betty Bruce, who were working-class parents with strong left-wing convictions.

My mother sang Scottish folk songs and my father was a huge traditional jazz fan of people like Fats Waller and Louis Armstrong. But my older brother loved modern jazz. There’d be literally, physical fights in my house between my father and brother arguing about the role of the saxophone in jazz or something, real punch-ups.

As a teenager, Jack sang in a church choir, and won a scholarship to the Royal Scottish Academy of Music to study the piano and cello. Classically trained, Jack also played jazz and blues. To earn money he played in the Jim McHarg’s Scotsville Jazzband, but The Academy disapproved. Jack said; ‘They found out, and said you either stop playing jazz, or leave college. So I left college.’

In 1962, soon after he arrived in London, he shared a flat with trombonist John Mumford on the top floor of Alexandra Mansions on West End Green. Jack joined Alexis Korner’s ‘Blues Incorporated’, which included Graham Bond on organ, Ginger Baker on drums and Dick Heckstall-Smith on sax. In 1963, Jack and Ginger joined Graham Bond, with John McLaughlin (guitar), to form the ‘Graham Bond Organisation’ (GBO). They were very popular and played numerous times at Klooks Kleek in the Railway Hotel, West Hampstead. A session at Klooks was recorded by Decca next door and released as ‘One Night at Klooks Kleek’.

On 26 September 1964 Jack married Janet Godfrey, who was the secretary of the Graham Bond fan club. They moved to a flat at 25 Bracknell Gardens, just off the Finchley Road, and not far from Jack’s old home in Alexandra Mansions. The phone books show they were still there in 1968. Later, with the success of Cream, they bought a house in Chalk Farm.

During their time in GBO, Jack and Ginger had a very fiery relationship both on and off stage, and in 1965 Bruce left the band. He briefly joined John Mayall’s ‘Bluesbreakers’ with Eric Clapton on guitar. In 1966 Bruce was with Manfred Mann’s band when they had a Number 1 hit with ‘Pretty Flamingo’.

In May 1966 Ginger Baker had approached Eric Clapton about forming a band. Eric suggested Jack should join them, not fully understanding how difficult they had found it to work together in the Graham Bond Organisation. However, Ginger agreed to try it out and the three of them rehearsed at his Neasden home, 154 Braemar Avenue.

#3166524 / gettyimages.com 20th August 1967: (from left) Jack Bruce, Ginger Baker and Eric Clapton

Cream was formed and they played their first gig at Manchester’s Twisted Wheel on 29 July 1966. Then on Sunday 31 July they played at the Windsor Jazz and Blues Festival and although it poured with rain, the band caused a sensation. Their manager Robert Stigwood thought Cream would have a similar appeal as the GBO and had already booked them into a number of clubs on the Blues circuit. So two days after their success at Windsor they played their first London gig – again at Klooks Kleek in West Hampstead on 2 August 1966.

Geoff Williams who ran Klooks Kleek with Dick Jordan, remembers Ginger asking him how much they would get for the evening. He expected a grumpy response to the reply “£89”, instead, Ginger expressed surprise and thanks, as the bands he played with previously at Klooks had usually been on about £50. Maybe Ginger felt good because Cream were about to embark on their first US tour playing stadia for five-figure dollar sums each night. Cream’s popularity grew very quickly and the only other time they played at Klooks was on the 15 November. This gig was recorded next door at the Decca Studios. Planned as an EP it was not released, as the band saw LPs as the future.

After great success, Cream spit up in July 1968, with a farewell concert at the Royal Albert Hall on 26 November 1968. In 1993, Cream were inducted into the ‘Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’ and they reunited to play four sellout shows at the Albert Hall in May 2005, and three in New York in October.

After Cream split up Jack began recording solo albums such as, ‘Things We Like’ in 1968 and ‘Songs for a Tailor’ in 1969. He played in several bands but struggled with his heroin addiction. In 2003, Jack was diagnosed with cancer, and underwent a liver transplant. Although his immune system initially rejected the organ, he recovered and kept playing. But his poor health finally caught up with him in 2014 and he died at his Suffolk home.

Harry Shapiro has produced a very good biography, Jack Bruce: Composing Himself (2010). For more about Klooks Kleek, see our book, Decca Studios and Klooks Kleek.

Be a tourist in Kilburn’s dispersed art installation

Think you know Kilburn? A new art project invites you to (re)discover Kilburn High Road and the surrounding streets.

Sculptures by Yunsun Jung

Sculptures by Yunsun Jung

For the project, entitled You Are Here, the organisers have brought together artists and local businesses to create a number of diverse artworks scattered throughout shops, cafés and public spaces. It runs until November 2nd.

Kingsgate Project Space, on Kingsgate Road, has been transformed into a “tourist information office” for the duration of the experiment. When I dropped in on Sunday, the day after the project’s launch, I found it complete with postcard racks, maps, and welcoming “Tour Agents” on hand to answer questions about the art on display around the neighbourhood.

A map of exhibits and selection of Kilburn postcards

A map of exhibits and selection of Kilburn postcards

One of the tour agents, or project organisers, was Sam Mckeown, who told me many of the artists had been inspired by Kilburn and their surroundings, and hoped to engage with the community through what they had created. He said the hope was “to get people visiting places and seeing things they might usually just walk past”.

After taking a brochure and map, I set off, excited to be sightseeing in my own area. After checking out the artworks on display in and around the Kingsgate centre itself, including some sculptures crafted from discarded cardboard found on the streets of Kilburn, I made my way to Folkies Music on the High Road – a fascinating shop in its own right – where artist in residence Vesta Kroese has spent the past few weeks working with the shop’s spaces and contents to create an exhibit entitled 13 Ways of Looking at a Guitar. 

Down the road at Cara Cosmic Coffee, there’s an installation by Chloë Morley, a video installation in the basement, and an interactive drawing game for families intriguingly titled The Doughnuts for Peace Union.

It is an interesting and quirky celebration of an area I thought I knew well, and I liked having the opportunity to slow down and discover some of the shops and sights I’d usually walk past, whilst finding hidden artwork in and among. There are many sculptures, installations, performances and other art in various locations, so it is possible to visit just one or two, or devote more time to following one of the self-guided art trails. Whichever you choose to do, I’d recommend the tourist office at Kingsgate Project Space as a good starting point.

So in the words of the tour brochure, why not “Come and celebrate Kilburn High Road’s uniqueness before the inevitable onslaught of gentrification!”

The "tourist office" entrance

The “tourist office” entrance

Object idea by Vesta Kroese

“Object idea” by Vesta Kroese, on display at Folkies

Shop basement transformed into gallery space by Vesta Kroese

Shop basement becomes gallery space for Vesta Kroese. Even the door that’s ajar is art!

Read more on the You Are Here Tumblr page or follow them on Twitter or Facebook.

Jazz night at The Wet Fish Café

Wet Fish Clement RegertThis month the Wet Fish is draped in guitars so owner André Millodot decided to invite a talented guitarist to lead his latest mid-week music night and say thank you to his guest Stephen Marlow, who made the guitars. French jazz musician Clement Regert brought along the rest of his trio, a drummer and a keyboardist who filled in the bass and harmonies.

We arrived for the second sitting just as the trio was kicking off. These music dinner events are very relaxed, as you’d expect from the Wet Fish, so you are seated and order when you are ready. The band played while we ate but diners were able to chat quietly and everyone paused to clap with gusto after each piece. In true West Hampstead-style we happened to be seated next to our real-life neighbours so took the opportunity to get to know them a bit better.

Mr Regert entertained everyone with his dry, young-Parisian humour and his playing was note perfect. The drummer carried the set despite softening the volume for the second sitting. A rousing and unexpected rendition of the theme of Pirates of the Caribbean finished off a very enjoyable, chilled midweek night out.

Wall of sound: Art guitars on display at local restaurant

artguitars_wall

The Wet Fish Café on West End Lane often showcases artists’ work on its tiled walls but, for another week, there’s a different kind of artwork on display.

West Hampstead resident Steven Marlow, builds professional-quality guitars for musicians, celebrity clients and collectors from all over the world, working closely with each customer to create bespoke instruments to their specifications. His guitars are in many celebrity collections, including those of Queen’s legendary guitarist Brian May and The Kooks’ frontman Luke Pritchard.

For his ongoing Art Guitars project, he collaborates with established and up-and-coming artists, most notably leading British artist Stuart Semple, to create these unique and striking works.

Steven said the Wet Fish Café was the logical place for his latest exhibition as “I’ve been going to the Wet Fish for years”.

For anyone interested in seeing Steven’s work, you have until 30th October to go and check out these beauties over brunch…

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Steven Marlow, guitar maker, with Wet Fish Café owner André Millodot

Steven Marlow, guitar maker, with Wet Fish Café owner André Millodot

NW6 Film Club October 19th: ’71

71-poster-400After the last month’s Film Club movie – the wonderful Pride – we are going to see another British film dealing with a troubled period of recent British history.

The movie is ’71 and whilst it’s probably not going to have the feel-good factor of Pride, it’s getting spectacular reviews (97% on Rotten Tomatoes) and great audience feedback.

The film is set in Belfast at the height of The Troubles and follows an English paratrooper as he fights to survive, alone, in a seemingly hostile land.

Don’t worry if you’re not an expert on the politics of Northern Ireland. By all accounts this film avoids big “P” politics and uses the real-life situation as the backdrop to a suspenseful thriller that should have everyone biting their nails. With great performances and superb direction from first-timer Yann Demange, this is lining up to be one of the most critically acclaimed films of the year so far:

“This taut drama about a British soldier caught behind enemy lines in Belfast is a cracking debut” The Guardian
’71 hurtles along, visceral and daring.” This Is London
“This is a tense, gripping thriller that combines real-world relevance with high-concept entertainment.” Empire

The film is on at the slightly earlier than usual time of 5:30 on Sunday 19th at the Tricycle Cinema. We’ll meet in the bar from 5pm and there should be plenty of time to chat about it over a drink afterwards.

Hope to see you there,

Nathan, Mark and Jonathan.

Local filmmaker sheds light on Great Train Robbery mystery

Simon Howley, a West Hampstead film maker, has spent two years producing a new documentary about the Great Train Robbery.

A Tale of Two Thieves features interview footage with one of the last surviving gang members, Douglas Gordon Goody, now 85 years old and living in Spain. He reminisces about the notorious 1963 robbery that shocked the nation. More than £2.6 million was stolen (the equivalent of almost £50 million today), and the train driver was badly beaten.

Simon, who has lived in West Hampstead for 20 years, travelled regularly to Spain during the production of the film to meet Goody and gradually built up a relationship with him. It wasn’t the original plan. “We set out to make a TV series about a rock legend, which never happened, but through our meeting with his management team we were introduced to Gordon Goody.”

Film producer Simon Howley (right) with Douglas Gordon Goody

Film producer Simon Howley (right) with Douglas Gordon Goody

Through meetings with Goody, the truth behind another kind of legend was uncovered – the identity of the man known only as “The Ulsterman”, the insider who passed vital information to the rest of the gang that enabled them to carry out the robbery. Goody broke a 50-year silence to name The Ulsterman as postal worker Patrick McKenna. The film production team hired a private detective to track down and identify the man in an attempt to piece together the missing elements of the story. It turned out McKenna had died some years earlier.

Simon says he and his team were not initially drawn to the project, thinking that the Great Train Robbery had been covered so many times that it was “old hat”; but upon meeting Goody “we realised that there was actually lots of life left in the story and a very strong new angle – first naming and then finding the mysterious insider.”

The film’s UK release was last Friday. No local screenings are slated as yet, but the documentary is available to buy on DVD from Amazon, or look out for it when it airs on TV in the new year.

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True West Tricycle

Review: True West at The Tricycle

It only took a short westerly stroll for this writer to see the new blockbuster play at The Tricycle, pity the Guardian journalist who had to go all the way to Santa Fe to interview the playwright Sam Shepard. Tuesday was press night however and it was nice to see Tricycle supporter Meera Syal and a rather photogenic chap I smiled at assuming we’d met at Whampgather but no, I had just seen on an episode of Sherlock.

True West is a wonderful exploration of the American dream. Two brothers represent different interpretations of the dream of heading out west and the flaws in both visions.  What’s success in Hollywood vs freedom in the desert? The curtain frames the stage horizontally to offer a familiar Hopper-style peek into an American domestic setting which transforms as the play progresses.  Performances from the brothers are intense as their interactions straddle affection, exasperation and violence. Credit to the toasters, golf club and typewriter that make a surprising impact. The play was written in 1980 but resonates today and although intense, is very funny at times. Buy your ticket now before it sells out.

NW6 Film Club September 14th: Pride

PrideAs the dark nights and drizzle approach there’s something to look forward to: NW6 Film club is back!

Our next film is Pride, a British movie that some are calling the new Full Monty.

It’s not always easy to predict a Brit Hit – who would have thought a movie about speech therapy would be a runaway success? Two themes that do feature in a lot of successful British films are industrial disputes (Billy Elliot, Brassed Off, Made in Dagenham) and sexuality (My Beautiful Laundrette, The Crying Game, Kinky Boots and many others).

Pride brings the two subjects together to tell the story of the Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners campaign.

It’s one of those “so ridiculous it must be true” stories and early signs are promising – all 11 reviews currently on Rotten Tomatoes are positive. And if that’s not reason enough to see it, it has a superb British cast including local regulars Bill Nighy and Imelda Staunton.

What’s more, some scenes were even filmed locally.

We’re seeing the film at 8pm on Sunday 14th Sep at the Tricycle. As usual, we’ll meet in the bar from 7:30.

Everyone is welcome, and you can book in advance or turn up on the day (it pretty much never sells out on a Sunday night). Book Row G if you want to sit with the rest of us (you don’t have to).

Afterwards we’ll head to the Black Lion across the road for a drink and discussion.

See you there,

Nathan, Mark and Jonathan

Review: The Kilburn Passion delivers tears and laughter

As a former Kilburn resident who has now somehow found herself living on The Other Side Of The Heath, I jumped at the chance to saunter back down my favourite high road to review The Kilburn Passion on its opening night. Initially performed in April as part of the Tricycle Theatre’s ‘Takeover Festival’ by its Young Company, the group of 19-25 year-olds have been welcomed back for a short run, due to popular demand. Having clapped, gasped and sobbed my way through it, it’s easy to see why.

The vivacious, brightly-dressed ensemble cast have a genuine and apparent bond as a company which shines through their performance of Suhayla El-Bushra’s collection of vignettes of the interconnecting lives of Kilburn residents.

All walks of life are presented in the actors and their characters; the bus driver pushed to the edge, the fashion retailer with delusions of grandeur and the struggling young family – all are portrayed with understanding, tact and wit. Their tales take us on a walk through the details of their own lives and histories, whilst the wider story forces us to examine our interactions with those we’re involved in as well as the people we may not pay attention to.

Usually put off by shows with “dancy bits” and musical numbers, (and such a high concentration of young talented over-achievers), I found the energetic, modern and impressive choreography and use of sound perfectly captured the spirit of Kilburn, with obvious passion. You cannot help but get swept up in the performances of this cast.

Peppered with perfectly-timed laughs and fly-on-the-wall glimpses of relationships of all sorts, The Kilburn Passion holds a mirror to our own experiences of work, community and time spent on any London high street.

My love of Kilburn is no secret. I was even moved to write my own rambling praise of the place on my walk to the theatre. But stand-out performances by Nathan Powel and Jade-Marie Joseph in particular moved me to tears, thigh-slapping laughter and to participate in a well-deserved standing ovation – the first I’ve witnessed at the Tricycle in 6 years of visiting.

The Kilburn Passion runs until Saturday August 9th.

Tricycle Theatre rejects Jewish film festival over Israeli embassy sponsorship

The Tricycle, Kilburn’s highly regarded theatre and cinema, has found itself embroiled in controversy this evening after announcing that it will no longer be part of the UK Jewish Film Festival.

The cinema was due to screen films at the festival, which takes place in November.

In a statement, the artistic director of the theatre, Indhu Rubasingham said

The Tricycle has always welcomed the Festival and wants it to go ahead. We have proudly hosted the UK Jewish Film Festival for many years. However, given the situation in Israel and Gaza, we do not believe that the festival should accept funding from any party to the current conflict. For that reason, we asked the UK Jewish Film Festival to reconsider its sponsorship by the Israeli Embassy. We also offered to replace that funding with money from our own resources. The Tricycle serves many communities and celebrates different cultures and through difficult, emotional times must aim for a place of political neutrality.

We regret that, following discussions, the chair of the UKJFF told us that he wished to withdraw the festival from the Tricycle.

To be clear, at this moment, the Tricycle would not accept sponsorship from any government agency involved in the conflict. We hope to find a way to work with the UK Jewish Film Festival to allow the festival to go ahead at the Tricycle as it has done so successfully for the past 8 years.

The theatre has, unsurprisingly given the strength of feeling on this emotive topic, come in for a fair amount of criticism for its decision, with many pointing out that other festivals it holds receive funding from governments that some people would consider parties to conflicts. The statement above does specify that it is the specific conflict in Gaza that it is objecting to, but that will be of little comfort to those who feel its actions are politicising the arts.

Judy Ironside, executive director of the UK Jewish Film Festival, said

The Tricycle Theatre have shown themselves unwilling to work with what is clearly an apolitical cultural festival is tremendously disappointing. They have chosen a boycott over meaningful engagement – to the great detriment of this celebration of Jewish culture, which is of course intrinsically connected to the state of Israel.

We pride ourselves on showing a diverse programme of films, which present a comprehensive view of international Jewish life and Israeli films are of course an important part of that.

We have always sought to convey a wide perspective on the conflicts in the Middle East and initiate open dialogue with our audiences and guest speakers; and the Israeli Embassy have always supported us in this. The Tricycle have refused to take this into account in their decision.

On social media, accusations have also come of anti-Semitism from some critics, which given the Tricycle’s long-standing association with the festival seems a spurious argument, but there’s no doubt that the decision will rankle for a long time within the Jewish community.

Today should have been a day for celebration for the Tricycle as its Youth Theare project The Kilburn Passion returns to the stage.

NW6 Film Club July 21st – Boyhood

The next Film Club will be the last before we take a short summer break, but it should be a good one.

Boyhood_large

The film is Boyhood – a movie as unusual as its creator and the only film to be Film of the Week twice on West Hampstead Life! Director Richard Linklater is truly one of cinema’s unique talents. He’s made everything from mainstream comedy (School of Rock) to obscure animations (Waking Life).

He made the wonderful romantic Before Sunrise/Sunset/Midnight trilogy and now he’s back with perhaps his most ambitious project yet.

Boyhood follows the life of a child, Mason, from the age of 7 through to 19 – nothing too unusual there. What is unique is that it was filmed using the same actor growing up on screen in a sort of realtime – taking 12 years to complete.

The result is, by all accounts, phenomenal. Mark has already seen it called it “unique and brilliant”. On Rotten Tomatoes it currently has a very rare 100% rating. This could well be the film of the year. It’s so good Mark is going to come and see it again!

Because of the Monty Python codgers being broadcast live it’s not showing in the usual Sunday night slot. Instead we’re going to go to the Tricycle’s Monday night showing on July 21st at 8pm. That means we can benefit from the Monday night reduction: tickets are only £6 – what a bargain!

As usual, we’ll meet in the bar from 7:30.

Everyone is welcome, and you can book in advance or turn up on the day (it rarely sells out). Book Row G if you want to sit with the rest of us (you don’t have to).

If there’s time for a swift half afterwards then we’ll head to the Black Lion across the road for a drink and discussion.

See you there,

Nathan, Mark and Jonathan

Review: Making Stalin Laugh @ JW3

You’re probably familiar with David Schneider from his work on The Day Today and I’m Alan Partridge. At the very least, you’ve almost certainly stumbled upon his prolific Twitter presence – short, snappy laughs often accompanied by amusingly-Photoshopped images. However, like me, you probably weren’t aware that before becoming an actor, writer, director and power-Tweeter, he researched a doctorate in Yiddish Drama at Oxford.

During his studies, he came across the intriguing GOSET – the Moscow State Yiddish Theatre. The company’s stars, stories and stage productions kept cropping up, and their influence on Russian life, Yiddish culture and the arts became hard for Schneider to resist.

MakingStalinLaugh

During its heyday in the 1920-30s, the GOSET’s charismatic artistic director Solomon Mikhoels was world-renowned, collaborating with Chagall and praised by Shostakovich. By the mid-1930s, the company went from being celebrated and adored to being accused of counter-revolutionary acts, to the point that a bad review could literally be a death sentence.

Making Stalin Laugh, commissioned by West Hampstead’s impressive JW3 cultural centre, is not a classic wartime tale of ordinary people triumphing over adversity in the face of terror. Schneider has found in the Moscow State Yiddish Theatre a unique story that definitely needs sharing.

The group of talented, culturally important celebrities struggled to ensure that “the show must go on” in spite of defection, the Second World War, purges and post-war anti-Jewish executions.

Schneider focuses specifically on his knowledge of Yiddish culture, rather than ‘Jewish life’, and flexes his joke writing muscles throughout the second half with some excellent stand-out one-liners. As political tension grows and the world around the theatre becomes unpredictable and deadly, the cast deliver Schneider’s short, snappy tweetable pun-style laughs perfectly.

Darrell D’Silva is well-cast as egocentric, promiscuous genius Mikhoels. The rest of the cast work wonderfully together, sharing vodka-soaked highs and lows in each other’s arms.

Beverly Klein offers excellent comic delivery as witty seasoned actress Esther, but D’Silva’s towering Brian Blessed-esque grandeur and self-referential Topol/Tevye-style egotism overshadows any hints of stand-out performances or sub-plots. Tangled romances and vague mentions of back-stories are left undeveloped to make way for the caricature of Mikhoels. This may be an honest interpretation of life in a theatre company alongside such a personality – arrogance, affairs and all – but it left gaps where the audience needed to develop sympathy and understanding.

The political backdrop is, aside from a couple brief moments or scenes, spoken about rather than performed or experienced. Whilst the focus remains, rightly, on the lives and work of the GOSET, I found it hard to feel concerned about anything the characters claimed to be going through because I didn’t go through it with them.

The GOSET’s story has all the ingredients of an engaging and captivating script – fame, ego, scandal, sex and spies – but ‘Making Stalin Laugh’ fails to provide the audience with quite enough character depth for us to feel as sad as we should when faced with loss and, essentially, the end of Yiddish culture in Europe.

Making Stalin Laugh runs at JW3 until 9th July. Full details and tickets here.

NW6 Film Club June 1st – Jimmy’s Hall

After the mega-budget monster mayhem of Godzilla, NW6 returns to its usual home of the Tricycle for an all-together smaller scale drama – Jimmy’s Hall (not to be confused with Jimmy Hall – the harmonica player from Alabama). This is the latest film from veteran British director Ken Loach – with rumours that this might be his last. Loach has made almost two dozen films – including Kes, The Wind That Shakes the Barley and, my personal favourite, Land and Freedom.

Jimmy's Hall

His films are often political and Jimmy’s Hall is no exception. It’s based on a true story and deals with the tension between politics and religion in 1930s Ireland. But don’t let the politics put you off; Loach always seeks out the human stories behind the issues and whilst his films often deal the brutal realities of life, The Independent has called this one of his “sunniest, most optimistic films“.

The film is on at the Tricycle Cinema on Sunday 1st June at 8.15pm.

As usual, we’ll meet in the bar from 7.45pm. Everyone is welcome, and you can book in advance or turn up on the day (it very rarely sells out on a Sunday night). Book Row G if you want to sit with the rest of us (you don’t have to).

Afterwards we’ll head to The Black Lion across the road for a drink and discussion.

See you there,

Nathan, Mark and Jonathan

Bradley Wiggins honoured in Kilburn at last

Wiggins Sculpture

It’s been a long time coming but in the wake of Bradley Wiggins’ astonishing achievements in 2012, his secondary school in South Kilburn now looks out over a shiny new sculpture that commemorates these and the rest of his illustrious career.

If you’ve been on another planet for the past few years then you’ll still have been aware of Sir Brad’s palmares. It would be hard to top being the first Brit to win the Tour de France, but Brad, who grew up in South Kilburn and went to St Augustine’s School, went on to win gold in the men’s time trial at the London Olympics, adding to his already impressive medal haul from previous games.

In the aftermath of this, everyone was clamouring to claim him as their own and there was a push for a victory parade down Kilburn High Road. Sadly this never came to pass but, on the eve of Wiggins winning the Tour of California (proving there’s plenty of life in the old mod yet), a sculpture has been unveiled at St Augustine’s sports centre, across the road from the school.

The sculpture is the work of artist Sophie Marsham, who was helped by Year 8 students from St Augustines, and the project was supported by Groundwork London and the South Kilburn Trust.

Godzilla – Opening night screening event

Up from the depths, 30 storeys high…. breathing fire all over the sky… Ballymore. GODZILLA

Godzilla

Thursday May 15th is the opening day of Godzilla and before the screening sells out completely we dived in and got the best 24 Odeon Premier seats in the house for a Film Club special opening night screening at the Swiss Cottage IMAX. Read on for more on the film and how you can join us.

West Hampstead Life‘s film correspondent Mark says, “Godzilla is a huge icon of Japanese cinema and hopes for this latest incarnation are sky high. With an excellent cast including Breaking Bad’s Bryan Cranston and with red hot Welsh director Gareth Edwards at the helm – this should be the blockbuster of the year.”

The plot synopsis is basic enough: “The world’s most famous monster is pitted against malevolent creatures who, bolstered by humanity’s scientific arrogance, threaten our very existence”.

I’m sure everyone’s familiar with the general Godzilla concept, either from the 1980s cartoon series or the original Japanese films from the 1950s. Godzilla – originally devised as a metaphor for nuclear war – has fluctuated between being the outright enemy, the hero and sometimes the lesser of two evils.

It’s relatively unusual for a mainstream action film to have such an ambiguous character at its heart and it will be interesting to see whether Edwards is able to stick to his aim of capturing the essence of the original Japanese Godzilla while satisfying a contemporary blockbuster audience.

As you’ll see in the trailer, this 2014 reboot leans on the backstory, which is encouraging, and Legendary Pictures has a good track record with the Christian Bale Batman films of understanding the light and dark that makes all the best fictional characters interesting.

This will be the fourth of our #whampIMAX premiere nights after Dark Knight Rises, Skyfall and Man of Steel.

We all meet for a drink in the Odeon’s upstairs bar first and we’ll be talking to the cinema about arranging snacks etc. as well, which they’ve provided before. Then there’s plenty of time after the film to head back to the bar to dissect, criticise or heap unconditional praise on what we’ve just seen. Or talk about the weather.

To get your hands on tickets for the May 15th 7pm screening, simply mail moc.e1519360122filda1519360122etspm1519360122ahtse1519360122w@nah1519360122tanoj1519360122 with your name, mobile number and whether you’d like 1 or 2 tickets. The tickets are £20 each and I’ll contact you regarding payment. This is strictly first-come-first-served.

Polite apologies not required at Good Ship gig night

At a loose end on a Saturday night, we decided to check out the gigs at The Good Ship. After wandering down the hill, we stopped for a drink at Kilburn’s The Black Lion, intrigued by two things – the Burts Bees lipsalve at the bottom of my handbag and the fact that the only draught beer on offer was Guinness – what’s the story there, is it an Irish thing? [Ed: no, it’s a brewery dispute thing]

Across the road at The Good Ship we had missed the first couple of bands but arrived in time for new band Royal Youth, three young lads who make a lot of noise with one guitar, drum kit and voice. For such a new band they were incredibly tight. Their first song had echos of Radiohead’s Paranoid Android and their big sound reminded us of Muse. They have much time to continue to develop their own sound and I look forward to seeing them again one day.

Royal Youth

Royal Youth

Joe Mills followed, a strong acoustic guitarist/singer songwriter with a powerful voice that conveys great emotion. He kicked off with a wonderful irish ballad-type song but once joined by his band became less interesting including a Talking Heads cover (why do bands so often cover Talking Heads?).

The audience had thinned once headliner California Gypsies came on. This is a really likeable band from Camden whose line-up surprisingly includes a cello and a drummer/beat box. Their first song, Nothing is for Certain, reminded us of Darwin Deez. They introduced a cover of Common People with a polite apology and proceeded to deliver a brilliant upbeat rock reinvention of the song – I love it when bands can carry that off.

California Gypsies

California Gypsies

As usual the audience was an eclectic group of self aware teenagers, proud parents, middle aged music lovers and strange men in hats. It’s great to have bands on our doorstep, especially without a long overground ride home from East London.

Listen to the bands here:

Sunny Afternoon shines at Hampstead Theatre

Sunny Afternoon is a musical that charts the rise of The Kinks, incorporating (unsurprisingly) the music and lyrics of Ray Davies and a new book by Joe Penhall, the Olivier-award winning playwright.

The story follows the ups and downs of The Kinks, from their working class north London beginnings, through the World Cup winning “Sunny Afternoon” of ’66 to finally playing to a sell-out Madison Square Garden. Along the way it explores some of the controversies that plagued the band, including legal battles with their management, being blacklisted in America and strained relations between band members.

The fact that Ray Davies, a prolific songwriter, frequently drew inspiration from events around him means that The Kinks’ back catalogue fits seamlessly into the narrative. The variety of song performance style also helps; sensitive acoustic duets sit alongside concert-style performances complete with backing dancers in wonderfully evocative ’60s outfits. The set is similarly evocative of the early ’60s and director, Edward Hall, has even gone so far as to include a catwalk style extension to the stage, which adds to the concert-feel and draws the audience in.

The stage is liberally scattered with musical instruments, which the actors switch between with ease. The cast itself was well balanced; I particularly enjoyed John Dagleish’s understated portrayal of Ray Davies, a man who by his own admission is self-conscious and publicity-shy.

At times the performance felt a little raw, but given this was only the third preview show I am sure that these will have been polished by the official opening on 1st May. Overall it was a great show, the depth of The Kinks’ back catalogue is sensitively showcased in a fun yet gentle and at times moving production.

I would recommend it, regardless of whether you are a Kinks fan, but expect to spend the following few days humming many of their songs!

Sunny Afternoon runs until May 24th. More details and booking here.

The eventful life of singer and composer Turner Layton

Turner Layton was a great black singer, pianist and composer, who lived in Aberdare Gardens from the 1930s to 1978.

He was born John Turner Layton Jr. on 2 July 1894 in Washington D.C., the son of a singer, hymn composer and director of music at a local school. In 1915 John married Emma Lee and they had a daughter. John was studying at Howard University dental school when his father died in November 1916. There was no money to continue paying the fees and the family moved to New York. Here John began to sing and play the piano to make a living.

In 1917 he teamed up with Henry Creamer, who wrote the lyrics for the music Layton composed. They achieved success with some of the most popular songs of the day including; ‘Way Down Yonder in New Orleans’ and ‘After You’ve Gone’ which became a million selling record for Sophie Tucker in 1918.

Layton wrote songs for stars such as Al Jolson and Eddie Cantor and made his own first recording in 1921 for the Black Swan label.

In 1922 he formed a double act with Clarence Johnstone and they achieved considerable success when Layton played piano and they both sang. Layton and Johnstone performed in Harlem and were in demand for society events, including parties held by the Astors and Vanderbilts. They showed a more refined musical technique than most other black artists of the time and when Lord and Lady Mountbatten heard them sing, they suggested Layton and Johnstone should try their luck in England.

Turner Layton (l) and Clarence Johnstone (r) in 1933

Turner Layton (l) and Clarence Johnstone (r) in 1933

In May 1924 they opened at London’s Queen’s Theatre, in the revue ‘Elsie Janis at Home.’ They were an overnight success, partly because Edward, Prince of Wales raved about their performance and engaged them to play for his guests at St James Palace. Soon all of Britain wanted to see Layton and Johnstone. After topping the bill across the country, they decided to stay in England. The duo made more than a 1,000 recordings with sales exceeding 10 million records. Their BBC radio appearances meant they were equally popular at exclusive West End clubs such as the Café de Paris as in music halls such as the Hackney Empire, where they played to full houses. They were also popular in Europe and played in Berlin and Paris.

In the early 1930s, Clarence Johnstone had an affair with a married white woman. Raymonde Sandler was the wife of Albert Sandler, violinist and leader of the orchestra at the Park Lane Hotel. The Sandlers lived at 233 Goldhurst Terrace until they parted in March 1933.

Johnstone had signed a letter for Albert Sandler in May 1932 saying that he would leave Raymonde alone and giving his word that he would not see her again. But Sandler was later given evidence by Johnstone’s chauffeur of the dates when they had met. The public turned against Johnstone after the high profile divorce in 1934, when he was ordered to pay damages of £2,500.

Even though he married Raymonde in December 1935, bookings were cancelled and Layton and Johnstone faced demonstrations outside theatres they were playing.

Layton decided they had to dissolve the partnership and Johnstone was declared bankrupt in 1936. During the hearings it was revealed that between 1928 and 1935 they each had annual earnings of £64,000 worth about £3.5 million today. Johnstone had frittered his money away. In 1931 when his flat at Castelain Mansions, Maida Vale was burgled, it was reported he lost furs, a large diamond pendant, a diamond ring plus a platinum and diamond watch worth more than £6,000. After the divorce case, Johnstone and Raymonde returned to America, but he failed to revive his career and ended up working as a janitor. In 1939 he broke down and spent some time in a sanatorium. Raymonde divorced him and later remarried.

In contrast, Turner Layton continued to both work and tour successfully, from 1936 to the 1950s. He appeared in several films and during WWII he boosted troop morale with concerts and recordings. He retired soon after being the guest on Desert Island Discs in 1956. Layton’s description by a record executive as ‘a cultured fellow and a collector of early Augustus John drawings,’ was echoed by a friend who said he was, ‘a modest, soft spoken, and quiet individual – genteel, polished and cultivated.’

Turner Layton lived at 77 Aberdare Gardens and died at the Royal Free Hospital on 6 February 1978. His daughter A’Lelia Shirley Layton inherited his musical estate and left the copyright and royalties to Great Ormond Street. In the 1993 BBC Radio 4 play ‘After You’ve Gone,’ Layton was played by Clarke Peters and Lenny Henry took the part of Johnstone.

You can hear Layton’s wonderfully smooth tone singing ‘Deep Purple’ and ‘A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square’.

Film Club April 6: The Double

The Double

What do you get if you cross Dostoyevsky with The IT Crowd? Possibly The Double, a movie from Richard Ayoade (star of TV comedies and director of the impressive debut Submarine) based on a novella by the giant of Russian literature. It’s not a pairing you might expect but, judging by the reviews so far, it’s a good one.

The story on which the film is based was itself inspired by the writings of Dostoyevsky’s contemporary Nikolai Gogol. Gogol also inspired the book and movie, The Namesake. The film The Double itself has a namesake, the 2011 spy thriller staring Richard Gere. However that was pretty dire… so back to the film in question.

With the stellar pairing of Jesse Eisenberg (x 2) and Mia Wasikowska, an intriguing premise, and a great trailer it looks like it could be a hit. The Guardian gave it 5 stars – but what will film club make of it?

I hope you can join us at the Tricycle Cinema on Sunday 6th April. The film starts at 8pm and as usual, we’ll meet in the bar from 7:30.

Everyone is welcome, and you can book in advance or turn up on the day (it pretty much never sells out on a sunday night). Book Row G if you want to sit with the rest of us (you don’t have to).

Afterwards we’ll head to the Black Lion across the road for a drink and discussion.

See you there,

Nathan, Mark and Jonathan

Get passionate about Kilburn in new Tricycle play

The Tricycle Theatre has always been vocal in its support of young people but for the first time, Kilburn’s premier cultural venue is putting its money where its mouth is and handing over control of the building for a week to the Tricycle Young Company. During The Takeover Festival, which runs from March 30 – April 5, this group has programmed a week of theatre, film, music and poetry.

Tricycle Young Company members

Tricycle Young Company members

During the week, seven new plays will be performed by young people aged 11-25 on the Tricycle stage, including some written and performed in partnership with the National Theatre. The biggest production is The Kilburn Passion, written as a new commission by Suhayla El-Bushra, a successful writer for stage and screen, former resident of Kilburn and herself a one-time member of the Tricycle Young Company.

The drama takes place along the Kilburn High Road, and anyone familiar with the area will “definitely recognise a lot in the play,” according to cast member Hayley Konadu. It tackles issues such as the stereotypical perceptions of Kilburn and its community that are familiar to many of us.

There’s something in it for everyone, says director Emily Lim, whether or not you’re familiar with Kilburn High Road. “Most people in the company are local, and there’s a lot of diversity of experience that has gone into the play. Londoners tend to look at our shoes rather than looking into people’s eyes, so it’s about questioning why we’re so hesitant to look and see and listen to the people around us and to place ourselves within a broader context of relationships and friendships and networks and community.”

“Suhayla was inspired by the Easter tradition of a Passion Play and we’ve really enjoyed the idea that a passion play was something traditionally performed by a community for its own community, and it’s also about a community.”

The play’s genesis was a very collaborative process, with El-Bushra meeting the Young Company at the outset and incorporating their ideas and personalities into the finished work. Emily explains “Suhayla’s brief was to write a piece that reflected Kilburn, and a piece that reflected our company of young people to unlock the spirit of what this company is and what makes them tick.”

It’s also been a rare opportunity for young people aspiring to careers in performing arts to work with a professional team of lighting and sound designers and stage managers. As well as supporting the young performers’ professional development, Emily is keen to point out that the scheme is “also hugely about personal development and creating a culture of support and kindness because we think that’s how we’ll create our best work, and we know that this work helps our young people to learn more about who they are and what they can be.”

As well as being a fun process, it’s clear that a lot of work has gone in to the creation and evolution of The Kilburn Passion and that the cast has risen to the challenge and the high expectations placed upon them.

As Hayley explains, “The Tricycle has always supported the youth, but the Takeover is taking it one step further. We’re the next generation, so why not push us to greater things? The pressure is good, because it forces us to act professionally. Because sometimes you’re treated as ‘just the young company’. But where’s the line between young company and professional? I like the way they’ve forced us into the professional world: ‘This is how you do things.’ And the best way is by learning.”

Hayley’s enthusiasm for the project shines through as she explains the evolution of the play. “The rehearsal process has been amazing. We started in September with our selection workshops based around what we like, what we don’t, what we’re passionate about, and what we want to have in our play – because The Kilburn Passion is a play that has come from us. Suhayla’s taken all the ideas we’ve put into it and just connected it up into an amazing play.”

Emily says “It’s the first time that the building has done anything like this, and put so much faith into its young people, and by giving us the main stage to perform on and giving such a high level of professional investment in terms of the creative teams and the writer that we’re working with, it’s showing an incredible amount of belief in the work and it’s making a very important statement that reflects the Tricycle’s whole ethos about bringing marginalised voices into the mainstream and it’s very unique in London.”

The Kilburn Passion runs from April 3-5 and West Hampstead Life readers can get discounted tickets by entering the code WestHamp when they book online.

Jeff Norton on the importance of reading… and a margarita

Jeff_Norton_Bookshop

Canadian ex-pat author/producer Jeff Norton talked to West Hampstead Life about the importance of getting kids to read, his love of a margarita, and – of course – his next book.

Was it always your dream to be a writer? If not, how did you start?
As a kid, I was pretty sure I wanted to be in the entertainment industry, but wasn’t clear on what that would entail. Growing up in suburban Canada, it felt as far away as the moon! I have been lucky enough to work in different areas of show business, developing and producing for film and TV, but when I moved to the UK seven years ago and was managing the Enid Blyton literary estate, I decided that I had stories of my own to tell. That was when I embarked on writing as a full-time creative pursuit.

West Hampstead is an area full of writers, musicians and actors, do you think there is something about the area that attracts creative types?
West Hampstead has a very active streetscape, which I feel stimulates the creative mind. There are characters all around us here, and it’s a joy to just walk down the high street with open eyes and an open mind. I think it also helps to be just a few minutes from central London, but also able to quickly retreat to the relative quiet of West Hampstead to focus on the craft of writing.

Do you have a favourite West Hampstead spot?
West End Lane Books, of course! And the library is somewhere I love to take my kids. But aside from those ‘bookish’ places, I’m a huge Mexican food fan so I was thrilled when Mamacita opened up. They do one mean margarita!

What are the best and worst things about living in West Hampstead?
The best is probably the people. Everyone is friendly and dynamic. I feel like West Hampstead is a place filled with people doing interesting things with their lives. The worst is probably some of the aesthetics: too many estate agent signs, saturation of similar services (how much hair do we really have to cut?), and way too much dog poo!

As a parent and busy author how important is a healthy work/lifestyle balance?
It’s very important, but it’s hard to attain. I work as many hours as I can in a week and yet time with my two boys and my wife is critical to a healthy family life and a positive relationship, but it’s a daily balancing act to get it right.

You’ve done several events at local schools, how important is it for schools to carry on encouraging kids to read outside lessons?
Establishing the habit of reading for pleasure is a gift that a school (and parents!) can give a child. It’s less about the literacy or information-intake, and more about opening up the world to the child. Plus, like anything, the more you do it, the better you get at it. I was a very reluctant reader as an adolescent so, for me, helping to inspire young people to work out their reading muscles is a very personal pursuit. It sets children up for success in so many areas.

Your latest book is the last installment of your MetaWars series; what’s next?
Memoirs of a Neurotic Zombie publishes on August 7th and I couldn’t be more excited. It’s the story of a twelve-year-old boy with OCD who rises from the grave to solve his own murder. It’s actually inspired by a short film I shot in West Hampstead a few years ago [which you can watch below].

If you could have written any other book what would it have been?
That’s impossible to answer! I have a lot of stories I want to tell; so hopefully it’ll be one you’ll be reading very soon!

Jeff Norton is on the web at www.jeffnorton.com and tweets @thejeffnorton.

Did Jimi Hendrix owe it all to West Hampstead’s Linda Keith?

Without a Cholmley Gardens resident, Jimi Hendrix might never have made it over to England and global stardom and almost certainly wouldn’t have ended up hitting the ceiling of Klooks Kleek, the club over what is now The Railway.

A new biopic about Hendrix’s pre-fame years, All Is by My Side, has just been released in the US starring André Benjamin (aka André 3000) as Jimi, and Imogen Poots as his West Hampstead girlfriend Linda Keith.

Oscar-winning screenwriter John Ridley (12 Years A Slave) said he was inspired to write and direct this film after hearing an obscure instrumental recording by Jimi in 1970 called Send My Love to Linda.

In 1941, Linda’s actor father Alan (who had changed his name from Alexander Kossoff – he was the uncle of Paul Kossoff, the guitarist with Free) married Pearl Rebuck and together with Linda and her brother Brian, the family lived in 81 Cholmley Gardens from 1951 to Alan’s death in 2003.

Linda, who was born in 1946, had a far from conventional life. At 17, she became a model after she was discovered as an assistant at Vogue. Her first photo shoot was modelling hats for a spread in the Observer. She was photographed by David Bailey on numerous fashion shoots. Here she is in Soho in 1967 modelling an Ossie Clark outfit.

Her best friend was Sheila Klein, the daughter of a psychiatrist who lived in Frognal. Sheila was dating and then later married Andrew Oldham, the Rolling Stones’ manager. Linda was encouraged by Sheila to talk to the shy Keith Richards at a party and he fell in love with her. Linda said they had a shared interest in blues music.

West Hampstead Life reader Paul Ernest contacted us with his recollections:

Around 1964/65, I briefly dated a very pretty girl called Linda Keith who lived in Cholmley Gardens. She had a gold pendant that said Linda on one side and Keith on the other. She told me she was also dating Keith Richards and he was apparently tickled by the fact that their names were thus intertwined. Our dating came to nothing but I recently read in Keith Richards’ autobiography that she was the love of his life. I also heard that another friend, Neil Winterbottom, was driving her in his Mini for 1964’s midsummer dawn at Stonehenge, but he fell asleep and wrecked his car on a roundabout. Linda was thrown through the windscreen and suffered cuts and bruises. She said that in the hospital Keith Richards lent down and kissed her on the face, showing that she was not ‘a monster’.

Linda travelled with the Stones on their American tours and this was when she saw Hendrix. Arriving a month before the Stones she explored the New York music scene. Linda is interviewed in the documentary, Jimi Hendrix: Hear My Train a Comin’. She said she first saw him in May 1966 at the Cheetah Club in New York:

“I couldn’t believe nobody had picked up on him because he’d obviously been around. He was astonishing – the moods he could bring to music, his charisma, his skill and stage presence. Yet nobody was leaping about with excitement. I couldn’t believe it.”

Linda invited Jimi back to her apartment on 63rd Street where she played him a promotional copy of Hey Joe, a new record by Tim Rose. He was playing with Curtis Knight and the Squires because he didn’t own a guitar having pawned his. Linda lent him a white Fender Stratocaster that belonged to Keith Richards.

Jimi formed his own band called Jimmy James and the Blue Flames and Linda invited Sheila and Andrew Oldham to see Jimi but it was not a good evening. “It was a dreadful night,” she said. “Jimi was dishevelled in his playing and the way he looked. Andrew was weird as well. He didn’t want to know.”

Linda believed in Jimi’s unique talent and in August 1966 she invited Chas Chandler to hear Jimi play his regular mid-afternoon set at the Café Wha? Linda said that when Chas heard Jimi play the opening chords of his version of Hey Joe it just blew his mind.

Chas was still touring with The Animals, but then he brought Jimi to London and success. Keith Richards was concerned by Linda’s drug use in New York  (his own was yet to develop), and phoned her father Alan. Linda said, “When he walked into the Café Au Go-Go, I thought, God that looks like my father. He took me by the arm and marched me out.” Back in England her parents made her a ward of court and she had compulsory psychiatric treatment.

The relationship between Linda and Keith Richards had turned sour in the spring of 1966 when her drug habit came between them and she began to use acid and cocaine. Keith and Brian Jones wrote Ruby Tuesday in January 1967 about Linda.

Jimi’s visit to West Hampstead came when he sat in with the John Mayall band at Klooks Kleek on 17th October 1967. During the break, the drummer Keef Hartley remembers talking to a young American guitarist in what passed as the Klooks dressing room. “He was so shy that he did not respond to me. His manager, Chas Chandler, was showing him round the British clubs.”

It was agreed that Jimi could sit in for the second set and borrow Mick Taylor’s guitar. But when he picked it up he accidentally hit the low ceiling. After checking there was no damage to the guitar, Jimi Hendrix played a blistering set holding the right-handed guitar upside down, as he was left-handed. As he played he smiled as his Afro hair style got caught in the low hanging lights of the room.

In 1968, Linda made headlines when she went to an apartment in Chesham Place that Rolling Stone Brian Jones was using because it was close to his recording studios. She phoned a doctor, told him where she was and that she had taken an overdose. The police arrived and found Linda unconscious.

Brian came back to the flat after working all night and not knowing what had happened. He was shattered when the landlord asked the police to remove him. He protested to no avail that he only rented the flat for his chauffeur and had paid six months in advance. Linda recovered remarkably quickly and was released from hospital the next morning.

Linda lost touch with Jimi Hendrix but she said that just before his death he wrote to her saying he had written a new track called, See Me Linda, Hear Me, I’m Playing the Blues.

Linda now lives in New Orleans with her husband, record producer, John Porter. Jimi is currently framed on the wall of The Wet Fish Café.

Jimi Hendrix by Ben Levy

Jimi Hendrix by Ben Levy

Why local author Susie Steiner loves West Hampstead

Susie Steiner, Guardian journalist and novelist, chatted to West Hampstead Life about life as a working mother in West Hampstead.

Susie Steiner

Susie Steiner

Looking from the outside, you appear to have it all. How did you do it?
The career was very slow – I’m very slow and ploddy – I started on local papers and did work experience on the Ham and High. Then I trained as a cub reporter and did moonlighting shifts on the nationals. Eventually I got a staff job at The Times as a news reporter and then as a feature writer, and then I went to the Guardian in 2001 as an editor on the Weekend Magazine. That was a very lovely job and that’s where I had children, so it was punctuated by an awful lot of maternity leave! I got to a point that lots of women get to after their youngest is a bit more independent and you think: what now?

West Hampstead seems full of writers, musicians and literary agents, do you think there is something about the area that attracts creative types?
Well it’s just the most gorgeous place to live. I can’t think of anywhere better to live. It’s got is the gorgeousness of Hampstead and Belsize Park without the wankers really! It’s not as moneyed, it has a shabby edge to it, which is lovely. It hasn’t got that investment banking feel which is the death knell of creativity. It’s got a very nice low-key ordinariness to it and an amazing feeling of community, it’s hard to walk down the street without knowing everyone. You can be whatever you want here, you don’t have to put on a front when you walk out the door or dress a certain way.

How has West Hampstead changed since you first arrived?
It was a very different place, it was really shabby. There were no supermarkets, just a rash of 24-hour shops where you could buy fags but that was it. It’s changed a huge amount. I think it’s become better and better, there are fabulous places to eat and lovely shops. It’s amazing to go into shops and know the people who work there! It’s delightful.

What’s your favourite spot in West Hampstead?
Oh God I love so much! I like the guys in David’s Deli hugely who say hi to my kids. I love the food at The Wet Fish Cafe. I love the Kitchen Table – who doesn’t? I love the community centre where I do an exercise class and the nursery below it where both my kids went. I feel knitted into the whole place. I love Emmanuel School where my children are, which is a roll down the hill. We’re really embedded. I moved here in about ’94 and I lived in Kingdon Road in a bachelorette pad with my mates. When I was single I didn’t know anyone here, it was just great for work because of quick transport. But then when I got married and had children I suddenly got to know all my neighbours in an amazing way.

What are the best and the worst things about West Hampstead?
The number of estate agents makes my blood boil! The number of very average cafés makes me a bit annoyed. I’d like a kid’s shoe shop, I’d like a clothes shop. I think we have a problem with the variety of shops, there is a great deal of repetition. The best thing is the community – the people. I’ve never been happier, there’s no better place to live in terms of friendliness and the feeling of belonging somewhere and I’d never imagined how important that feeling would be. Saying hello to people on the hill every morning really makes a big difference. It’s extraordinary.

What book do you wish you’d written?
American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld. It’s a few years old. It’s a fictionalised life of Laura Bush and it poses the question of how did a bookish, shy Democrat come to marry this sports jock, hard drinking, handsome Bush? It’s riveting and it doesn’t have shock tactics of sex and violence, it’s a very intricate study of character. It’s slow, detailed and absorbing.

Susie Steiner’s latest book, Homecoming is out now in paperback and was reviewed here. She will also be running a creative writing workshop on May 1st at West End Lane Books.

Improv comedy comes to Lower Ground Bar

Did you know there was a regular comedy improv night in West Hampstead? You do now. Every other Tuesday, The Inflatables and sister group StoryBag perform at The Lower Ground Bar (or Bar 269 as it seems to be called now).

The evening kicks off at 7.45 (doors 7.30pm) with 40 minute of “short form” improv. Those of you like me, who grew up on a diet of Whose Line Is It Anyway, will recognise this style of improv. The audience throws out suggestions while a troupe of four comedians runs through various games and scenes at a rapid pace.

After a break, it’s longform time. If you’re not familiar with longform improv, it’s all the rage. Rather than quickfire games, this is a 40 minute long play based loosely around three initial audience suggestions. It’s a different beast to the short-form stuff you may have seen before, but no less enjoyable.

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The impresario behind this new night of laughter is local resident, voiceover artist and actor Andrew Gentilli. He realised at drama school that he loved the improvised scenes more than the scripted material. “It’s so much fun to perform and so much fun to watch. It has a certain energy to it”. He fell in love with improv and now he runs two groups of his own – The Inflatables (which is the short-form group) and Story Bag (the long form group).

The Lower Ground Bar may not be the most obvious choice of venue for comedy, although it has hosted a regular events in the past. Andrew lives locally but he wasn’t aware of its venue potential until another local friend suggested it. “It’s got charm, and it suits the raw energy of improv. It’s got a no frills quality that I like. There’s a real intimacy between the audience and the performers, which is really good.”

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Improv has exploded in London over recent years. Local resident Phil Lunn, who often provides musical accompaniment to Andrew’s shows (though has yet to grace the ‘stage’ at the Lower Ground Bar), points out that 15 years ago there were probably only 30 or 40 people performing improv in London. “Today it’s 10 times that,” he says. “The audience is bigger too, and there’s more interesting stuff going on.”

Andrew’s quick to quell the idea that his show is too outré. “It’s great to be aware of the trends in improv, but it’s also important to have an eye on what a fresh audience will enjoy. I’ve always loved short form and that’s fallen out of fashion as people went for long form and free form and whatever form but it’s now coming back into fashion. Regardless of that, I love watching it and performing it. As an actor I love having the audience throw curveballs at you.”

If you want to throw some curveballs at Andrew and his comedy friends, then get yourselves to the Lower Ground Bar with a crisp £5 note in your pocket. Next one’s tonight.

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Review: Homecoming, by Susie Steiner

HomecomingMy husband has oft commented that with our Farmer’s Market, our feisty WI group and altogether friendly villagey atmosphere in Mill Lane and West End Lane, West Hampstead could be twinned with Ambridge.

Not entirely surprising then that Susie Steiner, one of the area’s community of writers, has chosen to set her debut novel, Homecoming, within a farming community.

The narrative follows the fortunes of the apparently hapless Hartle family with the story unfolding to the rhythm of the farming year.

The Hartles’ farm is suffering financially, the family is suffering emotionally: one son sinking into alcoholism, the other hotfooting away to open a garden centre so halfheartedly that he actually names it Garden Centre; parents Joe and Ann struggle to balance the books and make sense of a year so bleak that the prevailing advice is to sell up and cut their losses.

But Homecoming, set in Yorkshire, is resolutely not a ‘grim oop north’ story. It’s about community and family, belief and commitment. The portraits of the family and the locals, in particular the Hartle boys’ partners – the energetic and sparky Ruby and the embattled Primrose – provide a warm and vivid counterpoint to the harshness of the landscape and the seemingly unremittingly bad news that rains down on the Hartles.

In essence, Homecoming is all hearts and minds. Will there still be a viable farm for one of the boys to inherit? Will any of the marriages survive let alone prosper? Is stoicism the right response to the Hartles predicament?

For those of us who like to really submerge ourselves in the characters that writers like Steiner create, there are tears and literally laugh out loud moments in Homecoming and while reading it I ran home to seek it out as one would a warm hearth on a bitter day. And there are precious few novels one can say that about.

Homecoming, by Susie Steiner is out in paperback on March 6th
Faber & Faber, £7.99

Film Club March 9: Grand Budapest Hotel

GrandBudapestHotelWes Anderson is one of those directors whose films you can spot without even a glance at the credits.

His trademark elements: meticulously detailed perfectly composed shots, a timeless retro ambiance, quirky characters and dialogue, and Bill Murray.

If you check all those boxes you’ve got a Wes Anderson film. What his films don’t necessarily have is lots of action. But now Wes is back with Grand Budapest Hotel which has all the above, plus a gun fight, chase scenes, even a jail break.

With a spectacular cast (Ralph Fiennes, Willem Dafoe, Jeff Goldblum, Tilda Swinton to name just a few) and equally spectacular reviews (currently 91% on Rotten Tomatoes) – this looks like it could be the most accessible (and profitable) Anderson film to date.

But what will NW6 Film Club make of it? Is it as perfect as his beautiful composition, or as imperfect as his flawed characters?

To find out, join us at the Tricycle Cinema on Sunday March 9th at 8:30.
As usual, we’ll meet in the bar from 8.

Everyone is welcome, and you can book in advance or turn up on the day (it pretty much never sells out on a sunday night). Book Row G if you want to sit with the rest of us (you don’t have to).

Afterwards we’ll head to the Black Lion across the road for a drink and discussion.

Hopefully see you there,

Nathan, Mark and Jonathan

Review: Deep Shelter by Oliver Harris

DeepShelterWhen Harris’ debut, The Hollow Man, was published in 2011, I thought ‘It doesn’t get much better than this’. His thriller, set in Hampstead, fulfilled my fantasy requirements of an intelligent crime novel: sharply written, fabulously paced, wonderful central character and a plot so local I wouldn’t have been surprised to see my own road turning up. And actually I’ve never been to Starbucks in South End Green since [spoiler alert].

But it turns out that I was wrong.

This follow-up, Deep Shelter, still tracking the fortunes of Byronesque bad-boy cop Nick Belsey (‘a beguiling bastard’, according to crime writer Val McDermid), adds a maturing style and a broadening appeal beyond the parochial to the long list of boxes ticked.

Briefly, if you love the early discovery of names to drop, you should pick this up.

Deep Shelter finds Hampstead nick’s Belsey attempting to keep his nose clean. But then a car chase in Belsize Park leads him to be confronted with the sort of riddle that Agatha Christie could have dreamed up, when the driver legs it down a blind alley and disappears.

What unfolds is a vivid cold war conspiracy drama. And while London swelters in the slick heat of an oppressive summer, Belsey goes underground to uncover the degenerating secrets that lie beneath our great city.

Where The Hollow Man was a no-holds-barred kitchen sink of a high octane rollercoaster, Deep Shelter is pace and pitch perfect and depicts London every bit as masterfully as the Scandinavian thriller-meisters paint their home territory.

Out March 20th, Deep Shelter is well worth investigating.

Love defined by Emmanuel School pupils

What is love?

This has occupied many great minds through the ages, from Stendhal to, erm, Haddaway. It even topped the list of Google searches a couple of years ago.

Now, pupils at Emmanuel School in West Hampstead have tackled the question, and published a book of their thoughts on the subject. Definitions vary, but range from “Love is kissing and smiling and hugging” (by Conor L, 7) to Rohan’s thoughtful “Love is something that makes you remember people that have passed away”.

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Called 31 Ways To Define Love, it’s the work of the Topaz class at Emmanuel, all of whom are aged 6 or 7.

what is love extract

The idea for the book came from Sarah Trueman, whose son Arthur is in the class. As the school has expanded in recent years, it needs more books for its growing library, and Sarah hit upon the idea of creating a book with the children as a perfect way to raise extra funds.

Along the way, the children have learned what is involved in the process of writing, illustrating and publishing a book, and  also had a lot of fun. Sarah spent a day with the class and found the children enthusiastic about the project and “lovely to work with”.

Sarah praised her son’s class teacher Miss Willis, as well as Emmanuel headteacher Miss Fitzsimmons, who she described as “super-engaged with the process” and extremely encouraging of the children’s creativity and literacy.

The book is available for £2.99 from West End Lane Books, and all proceeds will go to the Emmanuel School Big Read Quest. The bookshop is open until 7pm tonight, so this could be the ideal extra Valentine’s gift to pick up on your way home.

Musicians in West Hampstead and Kilburn – part three

Since publishing two stories last year (part one, ask part two), readers have suggested more musicians who lived in the area. Some stayed only briefly as their career was just beginning and they had young families.

Hank Marvin – Greville Place

Guitarist Hank Marvin was born in Newcastle as Brian Robson Rankin. When he was sixteen he came to London with his school friend Bruce Welsh and in 1958 they joined Cliff Richard’s band The Drifters after meeting their manager at the 2Is coffee bar in Old Compton Street. The band also included drummer Tony Meehan who had grown up in Sidney Boyd Court on West End Lane. After changing their name to The Shadows because of the US group called The Drifters, Cliff and the band achieved considerable success. Hank and his first wife Beryl were married in 1960 and lived in Greville Place about 1962. They had moved to Hendon by January 1963 when he legally changed his name to Hank Brian Marvin.

Ginger Baker – Mowbray Road, Brondesbury

In his autobiography, Hellraiser, Ginger Baker says he lived in Mowbray Road for a short period. He left the house because his wife Liz was pregnant and no children were allowed. At the end of November 1960, he moved to share a basement flat with fellow drummer Phil Seaman (who Ginger called ‘God’), in Ladbroke Grove. In 1966 Ginger formed Cream with Eric Clapton and Jack Bruce.

Cream was one of the most successful British Supergroups and played their own mix of blues and jazz. In 1966 Eric Clapton was playing with John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers, Jack Bruce was in the Manfred Mann band and Ginger Baker was with the Graham Bond Organization (GBO). Because of Graham’s drug problems and erratic behavior, Ginger was effectively running GBO and wanted to form his own group. The three of them met at Ginger’s house, 154 Braemar Avenue, in Neasden to rehearse. The first Cream gig was at Manchester’s Twisted Wheel on 29 July 1966. Then on Sunday 31 July they played at the Windsor Jazz and Blues Festival and although it poured with rain, Cream caused a sensation. Their manager Robert Stigwood thought they would have a similar appeal as the GBO and had booked them into a number of clubs on the Blues circuit. So two days after their success at Windsor they played their first London gig at Klooks Kleek in West Hampstead on 2 August. They left the small clubs and were soon filling stadiums. (For more information see our book Decca Studios and Klooks Kleek).

Brian Jones – Weech Road

As is well known, Brian was a guitarist in the Rolling Stones. He was born in Cheltenham and came to London at the beginning of 1962 where he met Mick Jagger and Keith Richards at Alexis Korner’s blues club in Ealing. Brian’s young girlfriend Pat Andrews arrived in April with their baby son Julian who was born in October 1961 and named after Julian ‘Cannonball’ Adderley, the great American sax player. They had a short stay in a flat in Weech Road, opposite the Hampstead Cemetery, but were asked to leave because of the baby. Then they found a flat in Powis Square and Brian got a job in a civil service clothing store. Pat went to work in a laundry. But in September 1962 she took the baby and left Brian and he moved into the infamous Edith Grove flat with Mick and Keith.

About this time Brian took a job in the sports department of Whiteleys, the large store in Bayswater. The Stones became famous under their manager Andrew Oldham, but a rift developed between Brian and Mick and Keith. Then on the morning of 2 July 1969 Brian aged 27, died under suspicious circumstances in the swimming pool of his home in Cotchford Farm in East Sussex. Three days later the Rolling Stones played in Hyde Park and Mick read a tribute to Brian. The Stones went on to become one of the most successful bands in the world.

Rod Mayall­ – Sherriff Road

Rod was the half brother of John Mayall from the second marriage of their father Murray Mayall, a jazz guitarist. Both the brothers became keyboard players in the 1960s. Rod played with several Manchester bands including Ivans Meads. In 1969 he was in the band Flaming Youth with a young Phil Collins. Rod said that he lived in Sherriff Road about 1970/71.

Doris Troy – Cholmley Gardens

Doris was an R&B singer and songwriter who was born in the Bronx and sang in her father’s Pentecostal choir. She sang with many soul singers before she co-wrote and recorded ‘Just One Look’ which reached US Number 10 in 1963. The song has been covered by The Hollies, Linda Ronstadt, and Bryan Ferry. She was a backup singer for James Brown, The Rolling Stones, Dusty Springfield, Cary Simon and Nick Drake. In 1969 she came to England and signed with the Beatles Apple Records and released her first album the following year. Throughout the 70s she worked in England and was known to her fans as ‘Mama Soul’. With her sister she wrote ‘Mama, I Want To Sing’, a musical based on her life which ran in both New York and London – Chaka Khan played her aunt in the London production. She was interviewed at her flat in Cholmley Gardens in 1974. Doris died in her home in Las Vegas in 2004.

Chaka Khan – Hilgrove Road, near the Belsize Road roundabout

Born as Yvette Marie Stevens in Chicago, Chaka Khan has had a singing career since the 70s. Known as the Queen of Funk, she has sold about 200 million records. In 1973 she was the lead singer in the band Rufus and the following year, their record ‘Tell Me Something Good’, reached Number 3 in the US charts. Between 1974 and 1979 with Chaka’s powerful voice they had six platinum selling albums. Her first solo album was in 1978. In 1980 she appeared as the church choir soloist in The Blues Brothers film with John Belushi and Dan Ackroyd. In a wonderful career Chaka has won 10 Grammy Awards and collaborated with people such as Ry Cooder, Stevie Wonder and Ray Charles. She has lived in London since the 1980s and was in Hilgrove Road, by the early 90s.

Chaka Khan, 2006, WikiCommons

Chaka Khan, 2006, WikiCommons

Jon Moss – Burrard Road

Drummer Jon Moss was born in the Clapham Jewish Boys Home and was adopted when he was six months old by the Moss family in Hampstead. He went to Highgate School from 1970 to 1975. He had several jobs after leaving school, including working in his father’s clothing store, and as a tape operator at Marquee Studios. In 1976, after meeting Joe Strummer in Camden Town, he tried out as a drummer with the Clash. But this did not work and he joined Riff Regan in a band called London. After an injury in a car crash on New Year’s Eve 1977, Jon joined The Dammed. In 1981 he and Boy George formed Culture Club and achieved considerable success. Since then Jon has played in many other bands. In 1977 he was living in a flat in Burrard Road which he said was terrible; with no heating and no hot water and an electric meter. There was another local connection when he held his wedding reception in the wine bar on the corner of Aldred Road and Mill Lane.

Miles Tredinnick – 94 Fortune Green Road and Shootup Hill.
Steve Voice – Crediton Hill

Miles was a musician who called himself Riff Reagan in the 70s. In 1976 he put an advert in the Melody Maker for a drummer, which was answered by Jon Moss who had briefly been in The Clash. Jon came to Miles’ flat in Fortune Green Road in his father’s gold Rolls Royce and Miles thought it was a windup at first. With Steve Voice, who lived in Crediton Hill, they formed the punk band London. They rehearsed in a lockup garage just off the Kilburn High Road. Managed by Simon Napier-Bell, they played at the Marquee and toured with The Stranglers. The band broke up and Miles went on to be a writer of stage plays and scripts for Frankie Howerd. In the 80s he moved to Shootup Hill.

Steve Voice became a successful record producer. In 1985 he married Liza Rosen who had been Billy Fury’s lover for 14 years until he suddenly died in their St John’s Wood home in 1983. Liza and Steve had famous friends such as Paul and Linda McCartney and Morrissey sang at their wedding. But after eight years of marriage Steve, using large amounts of cocaine, became very violent and beat Liza up. They were divorced in 2000 and he died in America in 2003.

Charlie Dore – 3 Lymington Mansions

Chalie Dore is a singer, songwriter and actress who appeared in The Ploughman’s Lunch (1983). Her biggest hit was the 1980 ‘Pilot of the Airwaves’ which received considerable airplay in the US and reached Number 13. It was also the last record to be played on 5 November 1990 by Radio Caroline as an offshore radio station. Her songs have been recorded by Tina Turner, George Harrison and Celine Dion. Charlie lived in Lymington Mansions from 1978 to 1984.

Natalie and Nicole Appleton – Cheshunt House, Mortimer Estate, Kilburn
Melanie Blatt – Priory Road

Mel Blatt and Shazney Lewis formed the group All Saints in 1993.  After Simone Rainford left the group the Appleton sisters joined in 1996. Nic and Nat were two of the four daughters of Ken and Mary Appleton who had moved to Canada in the mid-1960s. About 1980, when Nat was seven and Nic was five, their parents split up and Ken returned to London with Nic and older daughter Lorri, while Nat and Lee the eldest child, stayed in Toronto with their mother. Eventually, the family reunited and the girls were brought up in Canada, New York and London. About 1981 they lived in Cheshunt House in Kilburn. Nic and Nat attended the newly opened Sylvia Young Stage School where Melanie Blatt became a friend of Nat’s.

All Saints, who were named after the road near the ZTT studio, had their biggest worldwide hit with ‘Never Ever’ which was Number 1 in the UK charts in January 1998. They became one of the most successful groups of the 1990s with sales of over ten million records, including nine top ten singles and platinum and gold albums. The group broke up in 2001 but reformed in 2006 to record a third studio album. However they did not tour as a group and each went on to have solo careers.

Nicole was married to singer Liam Gallagher and they lived in Hampstead. They split up in 2013. Natalie is married to Liam Howlett, the bass player with The Prodigy. Melanie Blatt had a daughter with Stuart Zender who had been a bass player with Jamioroquai. Mel and Stuart spilt up in 2006. She recently lived in Priory Road.

Roisin Murphy – 40 Brondesbury Villas

Roisin is a singer songwriter from Ireland. In 1994 she became part of the duo Moloko with her then boyfriend Mark Brydon and they released their first album in 1995. ‘The Time is Now’ was their most successful single reaching Number 2 in the 2000 UK charts. After they broke up Roisin continued with a successful solo career. She was living in Brondesbury Villas until recently.

Nick McCabe, Simon Jones, Peter Salisbury and Simon Tong – Brondesbury Villas

Richard Ashcroft, Nick McCabe, Simon Jones, and Peter Salisbury formed The Verve in 1989 in Wigan. Guitarist and keyboard player Simon Tong joined them later. At one time all the band, apart from Richard Ashcroft, lived in Brondesbury Villas. Their single ‘Bitter Sweet Symphony’ became a world wide hit in 1997. The band recorded four albums between 1993 and 2008 and broke up and reformed several times.

Thanks to ‘PostmanNW6’, John McCooke, Rod Mayall, Frida Siton, Jeff Banister, Paul Stone and Keith Moffitt for additional information.

Film Club: Dallas Buyers Club Feb 9th

The envelope has been opened and the award for February’s NW6 film club offering has been decided. And the winner is… Dallas Buyers Club on February 9th at The Tricycle.

DallasBuyersClub

Yes, it’s awards season and so our screens are packed with high quality offerings. The next of the main Oscar contenders to get a UK release is Dallas Buyers Club: the true story of an unlikely hero who fought the medical establishment to get the AIDS drugs he needed. With six nominations, including best picture and best actor, and an impressive 93% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, it looks set to be a strong contender.

A few years ago, the idea of Film Club going to a Matthew McConaughey movie might have seemed ridiculous. Although his mainstream rom-com offerings were always successful, they were largely devoid of critical success. Matthew’s acting style tended towards the wooden, earning him the nickname Matthew Mahogany.

Over the past few years that has changed, with Matthew taking on a series of challenging roles in independent films: from Mud to Magic Mike and now Dallas Buyers Club. For his latest role he not only had to lose his plank-like acting style but also his bodyfat – shedding a reported 23kg. It paid off and he’s received rave reviews and his first Oscar nomination.

The film is on at the Tricycle on Sunday 9th Feb at 8.30pm. If you want to book, then we suggest you select Row G (this way you can book online). There’s no compulsion to sit with us though, and you can book in advance or turn up on the day (it pretty much never sells out on a Sunday night).

We’ll meet in the bar from 8pm and head to The Black Lion across the road for a drink and chat afterwards. Everyone’s welcome, so see you there!

Nathan, Mark and Jonathan

Mandela for NW6 Film Club Jan 5th

If you’ve been super organised and got your 2014 diary already then here’s a date for it: NW6 Film Club on Sunday 5th Jan.

We’re kicking off the New Year with what should be a great start: the biopic Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom. There couldn’t be a more appropriate time to look back at the life of this unique leader – the film’s London premier was on the very day of Mandela’s death.

MandelaLongWalkToFreedom

Despite the subject matter, this film is another triumph for UK talent. Its director (Justin Chadwick), writer (William Nicholson) and stars (Idris Elba and Naomie Melanie Harris as Nelson and Winnie) are all British. The film is based on Mandela’s autobiography – and his life certainly has enough drama to compete with any Hollywood script.

But is the movie the tribute such a great man deserves? Or is it impossible to capture his epic story in a mere 2 1/4 hours? Come along and find out.

We’re returning to The Tricycle in Kilburn, where the film starts at 7pm.
http://www.tricycle.co.uk/current-programme-pages/cinema-program/cinema/mandela-long-walk-to-freedom/

We’ll meet at 6:30 in the Tricycle Bar, which also does light food.

As usual, we have a reserved block of seats so if you book by phone (020 7328 1000) or at the box-office, mention the Film Club if you want to sit with the rest of us (you don’t have to!) Unfortunately you can’t book a seat in that block online – but the film is unlikely to sell out so you should be able to just turn up on the day.

As usual, follow @NxNW6 and we’ll let you know if it’s filling up. If you can, drop us a tweet to let us know you’re coming. Hopefully everyone will have recovered enough to go for a drink and discussion after the film.

Hopefully see you there,

Nathan, Mark and Jonathan

Whampfilm Review 2013

It’s been a fantastic year in local film with the opening of a new cinema, some great one-off events and the introduction of the NW6 Film Club.

We continue to be spoilt in NW6 and NW3 with the sheer abundance of places to watch films. If you haven’t had the chance to check out the latest addition to the group (the cinema at the JW3), then we cannot recommend it enough – it’s akin to a private screening room and all for the same price as a ticket to the Vue.

Elsewhere we ran a series of one-off film events from the opening night of Man of Steel at the local IMAX to the regular monthly strand of the NW6 Film Club that took in less commercial films such as Trance, The Bling Ring and, most recently, Blue is the Warmest Colour across local independent cinemas.

Thank you to all of you who attended these events, they would be nothing without you.

The film club kicks off again in January next year with the much anticipated Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom at the Tricycle on Sunday 5th.

Hopefully we will see a few of you there.

We have listed some of our favourite films of the year below, let us know what we’ve missed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And the five that just missed the cut?
Upstream Colour, SpringBreakers, Blue is the Warmest Colour, Captain Philips, Stories We Tell.

Our full list of films of the year is up here: http://letterboxd.com/nxnw6/list/best-of-2013/

Have a good Christmas and New Year and see you all in 2014,

Mark

NW6 Film Club is back!

December 8th 5.30pm – Blue is the Warmest Colour – JW3

by Nathan Williams

After a slightly extended break (sorry about that!), the film club returns with a special event: an epic romance that’s received rave reviews at a stunning new venue.

The film is Blue Is the Warmest Colour – the story of a passionate affair between two women based on a graphic novel. The film is controversial, both because of its explicit nature (one sex scene reportedly took 10 days to shoot) and because the author of the original novel disowned it as a straight person’s fantasy. Others have been much kinder. It won the Palme d’Or at Cannes and has been getting great reviews.

It’s not often that The Guardian and The Daily Telegraph agree on something but both have given this film 5 stars.

It’s been called “an extraordinary, prolonged popping-candy explosion of pleasure” (Telegraph) and “a film of extraordinary richness and emotional complexity” (Independent). But what will NW6 make of it?

We’re seeing the movie at the neigbourhood’s latest addition to an already stellar collection of cinemas: JW3.

This new Jewish Community centre has a luxury 60 seat cinema that shows a wide variety of films. It also has a cafe/bar where we’ll gather after the film to discuss the movie and enjoy a drink or food.

The film is at 5.30pm on Sunday December 8th. It’s three hours long, so you definitely get your money’s worth – but as it should starting at 5.30 prompt there will be plenty of time to chat afterwards.

We’ll meet around 5pm in the cafe and we recommend you book your cinema ticket in advance as we’ve no idea how popular it will be. There’s a special event page here.

We’ll have a reserved block so, if you book by phone, mention the film club if you want to sit with the rest of us (you don’t have to!)

As usual, follow Mark’s @NxNW6 twitter account and the #nw6filmclub hashtag for the latest and if you can, drop us a tweet to let us know you’re coming.

Hopefully see you there,

Nathan, Mark and Jonathan

Musicians in West Hampstead and Kilburn – part two

Errol Brown

Errol Brown

This is the second part of our trilogy. Here’s the link to part one.

Thanks are due to Ade Wyatt, Simon Inglis, Dean Austin, Wally Smith, Pat Wilkinson, Adam Sieff, Phil Shaw, Steve York, Val Simmonds, Brian Wilcock, James Moyes, Dave Kemp and Peter Murray for their help in identifying some of the musicians.

Cleo Laine, Johnny Dankworth, Stan Tracy, and Dudley Moore –80 Kilburn High Road
This building, next to Sainsbury’s in Kilburn High Road, was full of jazz musicians. Singer Cleo Laine lived upstairs with bandleader and composer Johnny Dankworth. One of the early British jazz musicians, Dankworth composed music for many 60s films and he and Cleo often appeared on TV. After a long and successful career he died in February 2010 just as Cleo had organised a concert for him. She decided it would go ahead and the audience were shocked to hear about Johnny’s death.

Stan Tracy lived on the middle floor of the Kilburn High Road building. For many years he was the house pianist at Ronnie Scott’s club. His 1966 album called ‘Under Milk Wood’, a jazz suite inspired by the Dylan Thomas play, is one of the most celebrated jazz recordings. Already awarded an OBE, Stan was given a CBE in the 2008 New Year Honours list.

Out of work, Dudley Moore had returned from New York and Dankworth gave him a job as pianist in his band. Dudley slept on a sofa in Cleo and John’s Kilburn High Road flat. In 1960 Dud joined Peter Cook, Jonathan Miller and Alan Bennett in ‘Beyond The Fringe’ which became a huge success. For more than ten years Pete and Dud had a very successful double act on TV and then Dudley went to Hollywood and stardom with the 1979 film ‘10’. Dudley was a highly talented jazz pianist influenced by Oscar Peterson and Errol Garner, who regularly performed with his trio.

Maurice McElroy and Wes McGhee – West Hampstead
Maurice was born in Belfast and started to play the drums when he was thirteen. He was in local bands before he came to London at the end of the 60s. Maurice played drums in soul bands in US bases in Germany and then met singer-songwriter Wes McGhee. They have worked together since 1970 and both lived in West Hampstead. Since 2000 Maurice has played with guitarist Ben Tyzach and bass player Constance Redgrave in the band Spikedrivers.

Wes McGhee was from Leicestershire and played guitar in a local band when he was thirteen. After time playing in German rock clubs, Wes got a record deal with a division of Pye Records. This was not a good experience and Wes formed his own Terrapin Records label. After receiving positive US reviews, Wes went to Texas where he played with many of the leading local musicians. He has written music for theatre and TV.

Mike Hall – 30c Priory Terrace, 63 GondarGardens, and 21 Iverson Road
Keyboards player, Mike Hall was brought up in North Wales where he played in local bands and Lemmy, later of Motorhead, was a roadie. Mike came to London in the 1960s. He said:

In 1969 Christine Perfect offered me the job of keyboard player with her band when she left Chicken Shack and went solo. She then changed her mind and did the keyboard work herself, but only did one tour before marrying John McVie and joining Fleetwood Mac. Then I played with a band called Canterbury Glass. We made an album at Olympic studios, and had the pleasure of hearing the Stones and Humble Pie recording at the same time. I was also doing work with blues singer/harp player Duffy Power during this time; gigs including Les Cousins, and the Marquee, and we recorded a session at the Maida Vale studios for Mike Raven’s show for BBC radio.

He remembers the night in October 1967 at Klooks Kleek in West Hampstead, when he heard Jimi Hendrix sitting in with John Mayall’s band. In 1972 Mike moved to GondarGardens and played regularly with the Lee Lynch Sound. Lee was an ex-Irish showband singer, whose show included everything from Country music to Presley covers. Then Mike joined Union Express with tours in Englandand Europe, and recording sessions for a single in Decca Studios. In 1975 he began a three year course at Leeds College of Music, followed by night club, big band, cabaret and cruise ship work in many parts of the world. During his time on the QE2 Mike played for The Queen, Princess Diana, Lana Turner, Stewart Grainger, and many other movie stars. Today Mike has returned to North Wales where he still plays and teaches.

Joe Palmer – 250 West End Lane.
In the 1970s, Joe Palmer was one of the founders of the successful ‘Peelers’ folk club in 1968, and from that grew ‘Peelers,’ a popular folk group led by Joe, with Tom Madden, and Jim Younger. Their 1972 album Banish Misfortune used old acoustic instruments such as the dulcimer, banjo, tin whistle, guitar and concertina.

Joe ran a record shop at 250 West End Lane. Marianne remembers the shop – which later became a video rental store still run by Joe – as very dark, with painted walls. Today Joe Palmer lives in Spain and runs Sunshine FM on the Costa Blanca.

Brian Eno, Gavin Bryars, Evan Parker, Howell Thomas and Graham Simpson –28 Brondesbury Villas
In 1971 Brian Eno moved into a room in 28 Brondesbury Villas which had lately been vacated by Gavin Bryars, the composer and bassist. This was another house full of musicians. At the front was Evan Parker (sax); the pianist Howell Thomas lived below Eno and the late Graham Simpson, bass and co-founder of Roxy Music, had the ground floor. After this Eno moved to LeithMansions, Grantully Road, Maida Vale. But in 1994 he was back in a flat at 28 Brondesbury Villas. Eno was a member of Roxy Music from 1971 to 1973. He has worked as a producer with David Bowie, Coldplay, Talking Heads, Depeche Mode, Paul Simon, Grace Jones, and U2 among many others.

Colin Bluntstone

Colin Bluntstone

Colin Blunstone – Inglewood House, West End Lane
Colin was the lead singer with a very distinctive voice in The Zombies. The band was formed in 1962 in St Albans by school friends, Colin, Rod Argent (keys), Paul Atkinson (guitar), Chris White (bass) and Hugh Grundy (drums). They signed to Decca and in 1964 released ‘She’s Not There’ which became their biggest hit. The breathy vocals of Colin and the jazz-tinged keyboards of Rod Argent was a noticeable feature of the Zombies and the song reached number 2 in the US. Their other well known song was ‘Time of the Season’ (1968). When the band broke up Colin began a solo career and he had some success in 1972 with ‘Say You Don’t Mind’ which reached number 15 in the UK. He released several albums on Elton John’s record label and was the vocalist with the Alan Parsons Project. Colin was living in Inglewood House, on the corner of Inglewood Road and West End Lane, in 1972 and 1973.

Alan Lee Shaw – West Hampstead
Alan moved to the area in 1975 after art school in Cambridge. When the punk explosion began he formed a band called The Rings. He worked as a singer and guitarist with several other bands including, The Maniacs (1977), and The Physicals (1977 to 1980). Alan was with guitarist Brian James in other bands and then in the reformed The Damned from 1993 to 1995.

Phil Lynott – WelbeckMansions, Inglewood Road, and Embassy Court, West End Lane.
Philip Parris Lynott, singer and bass player, was born in West Bromwich but when he was four he went to live with his grandmother in Dublin. He formed the band Thin Lizzy in 1969 and they recorded their first album at the Decca Studios in 1971. They had big hits with ‘Whiskey in the Jar’ (1973) and ‘The Boys are Back in Town’ (1976). In 1973 he was in Welbeck Mansions with his girl friend Gale Barber. By 1976 Phil was living at Embassy House. His heroin addiction led to his collapse on Christmas Day 1985 at his home in Kew and he died on 4 January 1986.

Candy McKenzie – Kilburn
Candy worked as backing vocalist for many bands including Bob Marley, Aswad, Gary Moore, Go West and Leonard Cohen. Candy was living in Kilburn in 1977 when she went to Jamaicato record with Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry at his Black Ark studios. The album has been released as Lee Scratch Perry Presents Candy McKenzie. She married and in 2003 she was living in Willesden.

Annie Ross – 12a Douglas Court West End Lane, and Ellerton Mill Lane
Jazz singer Annie Ross was born as Annabelle Allan Short in Mitcham, the daughter of Scottish vaudeville performers. Her brother was the entertainer Jimmy Logan. When she was four the family went to America and she got work as a child singer and performer. As Annie Ross she began recording as a jazz singer in 1952. In 1958 she recorded an album with Gerry Mulligan, baritone sax, and Chet Baker on trumpet. She is probably best know for her work with Dave Lambert and Jon Hendricks as the trio, Lambert Hendricks and Ross, who recorded seven best selling albums between 1957 and 1962. She left the group and came to London where she opened her own nightclub, Annie’s Room, in 1964. In addition to solo recordings and theatre work, she appeared in a number of films including, Superman III, Throw Momma from the Train, and Short Cuts.

Annie had a relationship with jazz drummer Kenny ‘Klook’ Clarke and the comedian Lenny Bruce. In 1963 she married the actor Sean Lynch, but they were divorced in 1975 and he died soon afterwards in a car crash. She had drug and finance problems and became bankrupt in 1978. Annie lived at 12a Douglas Court (numbered so as to avoid the superstitious number 13), from at least 1978 to 1983 and then moved to Ellerton the block of flats in Mill Lane.

Adam Ant – Sherriff Road
Adam’s real name is Stuart Leslie Goddard and he grew up in St John’s Wood. Before he achieved success, Adam squatted in Sherriff Road. After working in several bands, Adam formed The Ants who played several times at the Moonlight Club in the Railway Hotel in 1978. Adam and the Ants had ten top ten hits from 1980 to 1982, including ‘Stand and Deliver’ and ‘Prince Charming’. He then had a solo hit with ‘Goody Two Shoes’.

Clive Sarstedt – Kilburn and West Hampstead
Clive and his brothers Richard and Peter Sarstedt were born in India and the family returned to Englandin 1954. The three brothers all became musicians. Richard became Eden Kane who had a number one hit with ‘Well I Ask You’ in 1961. Clive Robin became Wes Sands and had a hit in 1976 with ‘My Resistance is Low’. Peter kept his name and had a huge hit single with ‘Where Do You Go To My Lovely’ which reached number one in 1969. Only Clive lived locally: he was in Kilburn in 1981 and West Hampstead in 1985. Clive, as Wes Sands, recorded his debut single ‘Three Cups’ in 1963 with the legendary producer Joe Meek, who was also his manager.

Hazel O’Connor – Hemstal Road
Singer, songwriter and actress, Hazel was born in Coventry. In 1980 she played punk rocker Kate in the film ‘Breaking Glass’. This won her a Best Actress award in Britain, and the soundtrack reached number 5 in the UKcharts. She has made more than twenty albums and appeared in numerous theatre, film and TV parts. During the 1980s Hazel lived in a flat on the fourth floor of Beacon House in Hemstal Road. One of the residents remembers the fans waiting outside and that Hazel used to walk her Alsatian dog on the roof. She now lives in Ireland.

Dave Dee – Wavel Mews
A neighbour says that David John Harman of the band, Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick and Tich, lived in Wavel Mews. The five friends from Wiltshire originally formed a band in 1961 called Dave Dee and The Bostons. In 1964 the name was changed to the more memorable Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick and Tich, which were their nicknames. They had several hits between 1965 and 1969 and two of their singles, ‘The Legend of Xanadu’ and ‘Bend It’, sold over a million records each. David died in January 2009.

David Van Day – Wavel Mews
David Van Day and Thereza Bazar formed Dollar in 1978 and their first single ‘Shooting Star’ reached number 14. Later singles, ‘Love’s Gotta Hold on Me’, ‘Mirror Mirror’ and ‘Give Me Back My Heart’ each reached number 4. In 1981 David was living in Wavel Mews.

Lynsey De Paul – FairfaxGardens
She was born as Lyndsey Monckton Rubin in 1948. Her parents Herbert and Mena lived at 98 Shootup Hill. Herbert was a property developer. After leaving the HornseyArtSchool, Lynsey designed album covers and then began writing songs. In 1972 she performed her own song ‘Sugar Me’ which reached the UK top 10 and was covered in the US by Nancy Sinatra. She has had written many other successful songs and appeared on TV.

Jimmy Nail – 50 Maygrove Road
Actor and singer, Jimmy Nail was one of the stars of the TV series Auf Wiedersehen Pet. When filming finished in 1983 he had what he called his first proper London home at 50 Maygrove Road. When the show was first shown Jimmy said:

I walked along to the end of the street and on to the Kilburn High Road to get a newspaper and read a review of the show, if there was one. All of a sudden all these car horns were honking. I wondered what all the fuss was about, until I saw people hanging out of their cars pointing, waving and shouting — at me. People in the street were coming my way, lots of them. I ran home with a mob on my tail, got in and locked the door. People were climbing up the railings and peering through the windows. I hid behind the settee and wondered what had happened. Fame had happened, and I was woefully ill-prepared for it. I didn’t know what to do. Everywhere I went there was madness. It was more than fame, it was hysteria. People believed Oz was me and I was him. I tried to explain he wasn’t real, but they didn’t want to know.

From Jimmy Nail’s autobiography, ‘A Northern Soul’, 2004

Jackie McAuley – Kilburn
Born in Northern Ireland, singer and guitarist Jackie McAuley was a member of Them with Van Morrison. After the breakup of the band, Jackie kept the name as Them Belfast Gypsies. He latter teamed up with Fairport Convention singer Judy Dyble and recorded as Trader Horne. In the 70s and 80s Jackie was a session player on records by Jim Capaldi and Rick Wakeman. He also worked with Lonnie Donegan’s band and set up a Celtic rock band called Poor Mouth.

Barry Mason – 22 Priory Terrace
(John) Barry Mason is an important songwriter who has written hundred of songs including ‘Delilah’, Tom Jones’ big hit. Elvis recorded Mason’s ‘Girl of Mine’ and Rod Stewart did ‘That Day Will Come’.

Craig Collinge – Woodchurch Road
Craig was born in Sydney and started playing drums at a young age with local bands. He came to London in 1969 and joined Manfred Mann Chapter Three. He also played with Third World War, Shoot and the Frankie Reid Band. Craig also toured with Alan Price. In 1973 the manager of Fleetwood Mac put together a band, without any of the original members, to complete their remaining engagements. Craig joined the band after answered an advert in the Melody Maker, and toured with them until the manager was sued. He returned to Australia about 1976.

Chrissie Hynde – Canfield Gardens
American born Chrissie moved to London in 1973 and formed The Pretenders in 1978. Their first album was released in December 1979 and they have made eight albums. Two of the original members, James Honeyman-Scott and Peter Farndon both died of drugs.

Stewart Copeland and Sonja Kristina – Hillfield Road
Stewart was born in Virginia, the youngest son of Miles Copeland, a CIA officer. He came to Englandin 1975 and was a roadie for Wishbone Ash and Renaissance and the tour manager for Curved Air and Joan Armatrading. Stuart formed The Police in 1977. In 1978 he had a flat in Hillfield Road, West Hampstead which he shared with Sonja Kristina, the lead singer of Curved Air. In September 1978 Stewart and Sonjamoved to 21 LenaGardens, Shepherd’s Bush. They were married in 1982 and had three children. They split up after sixteen years when Stuart moved to Los Angeles.

Edwyn Collins – West Heath Studios, Mill Lane, and Kilburn
Singer-songwriter Edwyn formed the band Orange Juice in 1979 and their single ‘Rip It Up’ went to number 8 in the charts. His big solo hit was ‘A Girl Like You’ in 1994. This was recently used in a 2012 TV advert. In 2005 he suffered a serious brain haemorrhage but has now recovered and is performing again. He has recorded and produced records at his West Heath Studio in Mill Lane. He lives in Kilburn with his wife Grace.

Paul Cook – Kilburn
Paul Cook the drummer with the Sex Pistols, grew up in Hammersmith. About 1972, Paul and school friends Steve Jones and Wally Nightingale formed a band called The Stand. By 1975 they became the Sex Pistols and achieved success with their manager Malcolm McLaren. After a final Pistols concert in San Francisco in January 1978, Paul and Steve Jones continued working together with a new band called The Professionals. In the early 80s they discovered Bananarama and Paul Cook produced their first album Deep Sea Diving. Cook joined a re-formed Sex Pistols and they were a headline act at the 2008 Isle of Wight Festival. He has played with several bands, including that of Edwyn Collins. He lived in Kilburn about 1977/78.

Annabella Lwin – near Sumatra Road
In 1980, fourteen years old Annabella had a Saturday job in a Kilburn dry cleaners when she was discovered by a colleague of Malcolm McLaren. She auditioned and McLaren made her lead singer with Bow Wow Wow, which was made up of several members of Adam Ant band. Their first top ten hit was ‘Go Wild in the Country’ (1982).

Steve Severin and Spizz – Priory Road
Steve (Stephen John Bailey) was the bassist and co-founder of Siouxsie and the Banshees in 1976. Around 1980 he had a flat in Priory Road which he shared with Spizz 77 (Kenneth Spiers), the singer with a punk band who changed their name often.

James Honeyman-Scott – Westside, 55 Priory Road
In 1981 Jimmy, the guitarist with The Pretenders, was living in Priory Road. He died from heart failure associated with cocaine in July 1982, aged just 25.

Jeremy Healy, Kate Garner and Paul Caplin (Haysi Fantayzee) ­– Sandwell Mansions, West End Lane
Formed in 1981, the members of Haysi Fantayzee were living in a West Hampstead flat owned by Paul Caplin. One night Jeremy wrote the lyrics to oddly titled, ‘John Wayne is Big Leggy’. He woke everyone up and announced that he had written their first hit. In 1982 this reached number 11. Kate Garner went on to become a successful photographer.

Don Powell – 37 Platts Laneand 23 Cavendish Mansions, Mill Lane
Don was the drummer with Slade, a Wolverhampton band. In 1973 he had a serious car crash and his girlfriend was killed. He bought a flat in Platt’s Lane in 1976 and lived there until about 1980 when he moved to Cavendish Mansions. He was in Cavendish Mansions until 1985. Slade were formed in 1969 and became very popular, making over 30 albums. The original band broke up in 1992. Don Powell now lives in Denmark.

Barrie Masters – Cavendish Mansions, Mill Lane
Singer Barrie was an original member of the band, Eddie and the Hotrods formed in CanveyIsland in 1975. He lived in Cavendish Mansions in the early 1980s. After gained a reputation as a live act they had a residency at The Marquee in 1976. The opening act was The Sex Pistols playing their first London gig. The Hotrods most successful record was ‘Do Anything You Wanna To Do’ which reached number 9 in 1977. That year they toured the US with The Ramones and Talking Heads. There were various personnel changes: one of the first to leave was Eddie, who was a tailor’s dummy. The band disbanded in 1981 and Masters joined The Inmates, other members joined The Damned. Later Barrie rejoined the band and The Hotrods have made over a dozen studio and live albums. They are still touring and in 2012 they supported Status Quo.

Tony Bagget – Kilburn
Tony is a bass player who still lives in Kilburn. He was in the punk band Cuddly Toys which formed in 1979 from a previous group. Their first release was ‘Madman’ a song written by David Bowie and Marc Bolan shortly before his death. It reached number 3 in the UK Indie Chart.

Seal – Brondesbury Villas
Seal Henry Olusegun Olumide Adeola Samuel, to give him his full name, was born in Paddington in February 1963. His mother was Nigerian and his father was Brazilian. He spent his infant years with a guardian away from his family. After four years he was reunited with his family and grew up with his older sister and four younger siblings in Kilburn. His best known hit was ‘Kiss From A Rose’ which won a Grammy Award in 1996. He married the model Hedi Klum in 2005 and they divorced in 2012.

Paul Jones – 182 Willesden Lane, and Garlinge Road
Paul is the singer and harmonica player with The Blues Band. He was born as Paul Pond in Portsmouth in 1942, the son of a Royal Navy Captain. He sang with Manfred Mann’s band from 1962 to 1966 and they had hits with ‘5-4-3-2-1’ and ‘Do Wah Diddy’. The Blues Band was formed in 1979 by Paul and guitarist Dave Kelly. Today Paul hosts a regular rhythm and blues show on BBC Radio 2.

Ronnie Scott – Messina Avenue
Jazz club owner and tenor saxophonist, Ronnie Scott was living in Messina Avenue in 1981 when he was awarded the OBE in the New Year Honours. He helped Dick Jordan and Geoff Williams who ran Klooks Kleek at the Railway Hotel, by allowing famous American jazz players to perform there before they played at his Frith Street club. Ronnie also played several times at Klooks on jazz nights.

Errol Brown – 84 Hillfield Road. Tony Wilson – 64 Hillfield Road
The founders of Hot Chocolate both lived in Hillfield Road. Born as Lester Errol Brown in 1948 in KingstonJamaica, at the age of 11 Errol and his mother came to England. He said: ‘To begin with we lived in a room of a cousin’s big house in Gipsy Hill, South London.’ When he was 14 they moved to 84 Hillfield Road, West Hampstead and he went to Warwick House, a small private school at 30 Lymington Road. Errol continued:

In 1968, through mutual friends, I met Tony Wilson whose flat was almost opposite mine. Tony and I formed Hot Chocolate, and I sat down and wrote new words to John Lennon’s “Give Peace a Chance”. We demoed the song but being so new we had no idea you needed permission. The guy that paid for the recording sent it to the Apple label for John’s approval. We all laughed but four days later he called and said: “John Lennon loves it and wants to put it out straight away!

In 1970 the debut single of Hot Chocolate, ‘Love is Life’, reaches number 6 in the UKcharts. A string of hits followed including, ‘It Started with a Kiss’ and ‘Everyone’s a Winner’. In 1981 the band performed at Prince Charles and Princess Diana’s wedding reception. In 1997 their previous 1975 hit, ‘You Sexy Thing’, was revived in the film ‘The Full Monty’. It’s believed that Errol may have later lived near Sherriff Road.

Michael Jeans – West Hampstead
A classically trained oboe player, Michael performed with John Williams on the soundtrack of Star Wars in 1980. He has been in the band Talk Talk since 1988, with the violinist Nigel Kennedy. Michael has made two solo albums, Eagle on the Wind (2002) and Leather and feathers (2005).

Sheena Easton – Mill Lane
In 1981 Sheena moved from a shared flat in south London to her own flat in Mill Lane. She was born in Scotland as Sheena Shirley Orr in 1959. The 1979 BBC TV documentary, Big Time, which followed her progress in the music business, propelled her to success. Her theme song for the 1981 James Bond film, For Your Eyes Only, was a top ten hit in the UK and US. Sheena has had a very successful career winning two Grammy Awards, achieving seven Gold albums and one Platinum and has sold over 20 million records worldwide.

Geno Washington – 212 West End Lane
In 1983 Geno co-owned a basement restaurant at 212 West End Lane, but he probably did not live there. About 10.30 he would sing blues songs such as ‘Little Red Rooster’ and ‘Got My Mojo Working’ to the diners. Born in Indiana, Geno was stationed in Englandwith the US Air Force in the 1960s. In 1965 he was asked by guitarist Pete Gage to front his band which became Geno Washington and the Ram Jam Band. They played in all the London Blues clubs including West Hampstead’s Klooks Kleek, and had two best selling live albums in 1965 and 1966. In 1971 Gage formed Vinegar Joe with ElkieBrooks and Robert Palmer in the early 1970s. Kevin Rowland’s big 1980 hit ‘Geno’ was based on hearing Washington at gigs where the fans shouted ‘Geno! Geno! Geno!’ Washington is still performing today.

Jimmy Somerville – 12a Inglewood Rd
In 1983 Jimmy Sommerville co-foundered Bronski Beat with the other members of the band. They had a hit with their first record, ‘Smalltown Boy’. In 1985 Jimmy and Richard Coles formed The Communards. Their record ‘Don’t Leave Me This Way’ stayed at number 1 for four weeks in 1986. After two years he went on to a successful solo career.

Loudon Wainwright III – Inglewood Road
Singer-songwriter Loudon Wainwright was born in North Carolina in 1946. His father who was an editor for Life magazine, played piano and the records of Tom Lehrer and Stan Freberg to his children and these had an influence on young Loudon. He started playing guitar in the late 1960s and while living in Rhode Island he wrote about 20 songs in a year. He was discovered when he was playing in New York folk clubs and released his first album on Atlantic Records in 1970. He is perhaps best known for his 1972 novelty song ‘Dead Skunk (in the middle of the road)’. In 1974-75 he played the part of Captain Spalding, the ‘singing surgeon’ in several episodes of the hit TV series of M*A*S*H. He has also appeared in several films, such as The Aviator and Big Fish. He was the regular singer on Jasper Carrott’s TV show in the late 1980s. Wainwright has recorded over 20 albums, several of which were nominated for Grammy Awards and in 2010 won a Grammy for High Wide and Handsome. In 1986 he lived in a top floor flat in Inglewood Road.

Herbie Flowers – West Hampstead Mews
In the late 1980s renowned bass player, Herbie Flowers had a recording studio in his house in West Hampstead Mews. He was a member of Blue Mink, T. Rex and Sky. Herbie was a session player on hundreds of records, including those by Elton John and David Bowie. He is best known for the bass introduction on Lou Reed’s 1972 ‘Walk on the Wild Side’.

Kevin Rowland – West Hampstead, Marlow Court Willesden Lane
Kevin achieved success with Dexy’s Midnight Runners which was formed in Birmingham in 1978. Their record ‘Geno’ about Geno Washington was a number 1 hit in 1980. ‘Come On Eileen’ was another number 1 in 1983. They disbanded in 1987. In an interview for The Guardian he said that in 1987, with the music business closing its doors and his self-esteem at an all-time low, he sought out cocaine. At his worst, he was spending £360 a night. Friends and family were frozen out. ‘Drug dealers were my gods.’ The following year he went bankrupt with debts of over £180,000. Evicted from his flat in West Hampstead, Kevin got a place in Willesden, stopped paying the rent and squatted. In 2012 now known as just Dexy’s they released a fourth studio album after 27 years.

Nick Beggs – Priory Terrace
In 1979 bass player Nick Beggs formed the band Art Nouveau, with Steve Askew, Stuart Croxford Neale and Jez Strode. Chris Hamill (who used the name Limahl), joined the band in 1981 and it was renamed Kajagoogoo. In 1983 their first single, ‘Too Shy’ reached number 1in the UK Singles Chart. After Limahl and Strode left, the three remaining band members worked as Kaja. A reformed Kajagoogoo with Beggs, Askew and Neale toured in 2004. Since then Limahl and Strode have both rejoined and the band has toured extensively over Europe in 2008 and 2009. Nick Beggs has worked with a large number of other musicians including, Howard Jones, ABC, Cliff Richard, Tina Turner, D:Ream, Gary Numan, and Kim Wilde.

Bros – Exeter Road
Twins Matt and Luke Goss, together with Craig Logan formed Bros in 1986. They had eleven top 40 singles and three Top 20 albums, making them one of the biggest acts between 1988 and 1991. They reached number one when ‘I Owe You Nothing’ was reissued in 1988. They continued having hits throughout the late 1980s, including ‘Cat Among the Pigeons’ and ‘Too Much’, both which made number 2 during 1988 and 1989. About 1988 and 1989 they are believed to have lived in Exeter Road, near Kilburn Station.

Boz Boorer and Alain Whyte – West Hampstead
Boz Boorer and Alain Whyte are guitarists, song writers and record producers who live in West Hampstead. In 1977 Boz formed a band called Cult Heroes which became The Polecats and they released a single, ‘Rockabilly Guy’ in 1979. The following year they made their most successful album, Polecats Are Go! They had success in the UK and US charts.

Since 1991, Boorer and Alain Whyte have worked closely with Morrissey. The distinctive sound which Boorer and Whyte produced has been credited with revitalizing Morrissey’s career. Boorer has made solo albums and worked with other artists including Adam Ant, Joan Armatrading, Kirsty MacColl, Jools Holland and Edwyn Collins. Alain Whyte is best known for being Morrissey’s song writing partner, but he has also written material for Madonna, Rihanna, Chris Brown and The Black Eyed Peas. In 2005 he was with a band called Red Lightning.

Bernard Butler– Fawley Road
In the early 1990s Bernard lived in Fawley Road in West Hampstead. He was the guitarist with Suede who were formed in 1989. The original band consisted of Brett Anderson, vocals, Bernard Butler, guitar, Matt Osman, bass, and Simon Gilbert on drums. Their best selling debut album, Suede was released in 1993 and it won the Mercury Music Prize. Their second album Dog Man Star was recorded in 1994 at Master Rock Studios in Kilburn. In 1994 Bernard formed the duo McAlmont and Butler with singer David McAlmont who lived in Belsize Road. In 2004 Butler and Brett Anderson reunited with the band The Tears.

Bernard has worked as a producer on a number of records at Edwyn Collins’s West Heath Studios in Mill Lane. He has worked with Duffy on the five million selling album Rockferry. He has produced records for the Black Kids, Cajun Dance Party, the 1990s and many other groups. In 2008 and 2009 Butler won several best record producer awards.

Natalie Imbruglia – Goldhurst Terrace
Australian born singer, actress and model, Natalie, lived in the area since 1998. After appearing in the TV soap Neighbours from 1992 to 1994, she began a singing career and her debut album, Left of the Middle (1997), has sold over 6 million copies. Her best selling single, ‘Shiver’ reached number 1 in 2005. In 2010 Natalie was a judge on The X Factor and she has continued her singing and acting careers.

Alexander O’Neal – West Hampstead
R&B singer Alexander O’Neal was born in Natchez, Mississippi. He has lived in London since about 1999. He said in an interview, ‘I spent nine months of every year travelling between the States and England.’ He released his first album in 1985, and the 1987 single ‘Fake’ was number one in the American R&B chart. Other successful records were, ‘If You Were Here Tonight’ which reached number 13 in the UK, and ‘Criticize’ which was number 4 in the UK in 1987.

Lord Eric Carboo – Kingsgate Road
Still living in Kilburn, Lord Eric is the leader and percussionist with Sugumugu, an African drumming and dance group. He has worked for many years performing and promoting The Master Drummers of Africa.

Sophie Ellis-Bextor – West Hampstead
In 2002 singer and model Sophie Ellis-Bextor lived in a West Hampstead flat with her manager Andy Bond. In 1997 she came to prominence as the lead singer with indie band Theaudience. After two years the band split up and she went solo. In 2000 she added vocals to Italian DJ Spiller’s instrumental ‘Groovejet (If This Ain’t Love)’ which went to number 1, and the record won several awards. Her single ‘Murder on the Dancefloor’ became Europe’s most played record in 2002.  Sophie has now made five albums and she is a contestant in this year’s Strictly Come Dancing. She is married to bass player Richard Jones and they have three children.

Rachel Stevens – West Hampstead
Rachel lived in a Hampstead flat for three years before buying a mews house near Fortune Green Road in 2004. She was a member of the pop group S Club 7 who had a TV series in 1999. During the five years they were together the group had four UK number 1 singles and a number 1 album. They sold 14 million albums worldwide. After they disbanded in 2003 Rachel began a solo career. She has appeared in several films and the 2008 series of Strictly Come Dancing.

Elliott Randall – Kilburn
It is not known how long American guitarist Elliott Randall has lived in the Kilburn area. Elliott is a session guitarist who has played on hundreds of well known records. He grew up in New York where he was a friend of Donald Fagan and Walter Becker. They moved to LA and became Steeley Dan, releasing their first album Can’t Buy a Thrill in 1972. They asked Elliott to record guitar solos and he best known for his work on ‘Reelin in the Years’. Reportedly, Jimmy Page said this is his favourite guitar solo. Elliott also played on Steely Dan’s later albums Katy Lied (1975) and The Royal Scam (1976). As a session player he has worked with John Lennon, The Doobie Brothers, Carly Simon, ElkieBrooks, and Peter Frampton. Elliott gives workshops and plays with bands here and in the US. There is a great duet with Mick Abrahams on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oYGbnDs8DMI&list=RD02N9-ZlCpL17E

Adam Sieff – Kilburn
After living in Willesden, Adam has lived in Kilburn for the last three years. Adam is a guitarist and record producer and is currently executive producer at Gearbox Records. He has worked as a session player on records and for many TV shows including, Spitting Image, Who Dares Wins, Ben Elton and Fry and Laurie. Adam was the jazz manager at Tower Records for three years, Head of Sony Jazz for ten years and an original member of SellaBand, the first music crowdsourcing website. He has worked with artists such as Herbie Hancock, The Bad Plus, Martin Taylor, Clare Teal, Wasted Youth, Alex Korner, Wynton Marsalis, KebMo and Jazz Jamaica.

Stephen Lipson – West Hampstead
Currently living in West Hampstead, Stephen is a guitarist, record engineer and producer who has worked with many major musicians including; Frankie Goes to Hollywood, Pet Shop Boys, Grace Jones, Cher, Annie Lennox, Paul McCartney and Jeff Beck. In 2006 with Trevor Horn who ran ZTT Records, Lol Crème, and Ash Soan, they formed a band called Producers to allow the friends to play as a break from producing records. They played gigs in CamdenTown and in 2012 they released an album, Made in Basing Street, named after the address of Sarm Studios.

Andrew McCulloch – Fordwych Road
Andy is a drummer who has worked with Manfred Mann, Greenslade, The Crazy World of Arthur Brown, and is best known for his work with King Crimson who he joined in 1970. He gave up drumming to peruse his love of boats, and now charters his own yachts and teaches sailing.

Sean Taylor – Kilburn
Singer-songwriter Sean Taylor was born and still lives in Kilburn. He has played at the Glastonbury Festival four times. Sean released six albums between 2006 and 2013. One of the tracks on his 2012 album which was recorded in Austin Texas, was called ‘Kilburn’ and can be heard on YouTube. Another track celebrates ‘Biddy Mulligans’ the pub on the corner of the High Road and Willesden Lane.

Flutes – Kilburn
Formed in Glasgow, Flutes are Godfrey McFall (lead singer and guitar), Andy Bruce (bass, vcls and piano), Alex Bruce (drums, vcls), and Robert Marshall (guitar, piano, and vcls). Their debut album was called Flutes (2012). They have a single called ‘Kilburn’ which was released in 2013, and they say that they have all lived in Kilburn. The video can be seen on YouTube.

Musicians in West Hampstead and Kilburn – part one

Our new book - available from West End Lane Books, published by The History Press

Our new book – available from West End Lane Books

To coincide with this we will be doing an illustrated talk at West End Lane Books on Monday 18 November at 7.30. Come along to hear the true story about the Beatles failed audition at Decca, the evening that Jimi Hendrix played at Klooks, as well as the other great people who played at the club which was run in the Railway Hotel for nine years.

Musicians in West Hampstead and Kilburn
A little while ago I met guitarist Adrian Wyatt and we began talking about the surprising number of musicians who had lived in the area. Ade has been involved in music for many years. In 1975 he moved into Tower Mansions in West End Lane, and for two and a half years worked in Macari’s Music Shop in the Charing Cross Road, selling guitars, keyboards, and amps. The punk movement was blossoming, so one minute he was serving Mickie Most, the next, Mick Jones and Glen Matlock.

In 1978 Ade went to Australia for six months with a rock concept band called World, and when he returned he found his flat was playing host to a whole swathe of new rock and roll neighbours. These included, Wilko Johnson, Jean-Jacques Burnel, Lemmy and ‘Philthy’ Phil Taylor, Billy Idol and Steve Strange.

From July 1980 to June 1981 Ade operated the sound system at The Moonlight Club at The Railway Hotel. Here he heard early gigs by everyone from Pigbag to Tenpole Tudor, Birthday Party to Joy Division, Altered Images to The Pretenders, Flock of Seagulls to U2, Depeche Mode, Squeeze, and ABC.

In the early eighties Ade joined The Vibrators (Mark IV) and he has played and toured with many bands. As a session guitarist he played with Joe Egan, B.A Robertson, Maggie Bell, and Oleta Adams. He is currently in the band ‘Dakota Red’ with singer-songwriter Sara Eker. She also lived locally in Dennington Park Road.

In addition to Ade Wyatt, thanks are due to Dean Austin, Wally Smith, Pat Wilkinson, Adam Sieff, Phil Shaw, Steve York, Val Simmonds, Brian Wilcock, James Moyes, Dave Kemp and Peter Murray for their help in identifying some of the musicians.

The following list of musicians is roughly in chronological order and as it has grown considerably, we will publish it in two blog stories. We have not covered classical musicians who lived here.

This is the most comprehensive list of people ever produced and we hope you find some surprises here. You can find lots of examples of the musicians work by searching on YouTube.

Max Jaffa – 5 Hillcrest Court, Shootup Hill
Violinist and band leader. Max lived in this block of flats for about two years in the 1930s. At the time his neighbours in Hillcrest Court were Joe and Elsa, the parents of Joan and Jackie Collins. Max Jaffa got his big break in 1929 with weekly BBC radio broadcasts. His ‘Palm Court’ style was very popular and in 1960 he did a summer season at Scarborough which he repeated for the next 27 years.

Joe Loss – 16 Kendall Court, Shootup Hill
The famous bandleader moved here in the late 1930s. His record of ‘Begin the Beguine’ sold over a million records in 1939. Astonishingly, he was awarded a 50 year contract with EMI and he played several times for the King and Queen at Buckingham Palace.

Maurice Elwin – 16 CanfieldGardens
Born Norman McPhail Blair, Elwin’s obit in the local paper described him as, ‘one of the most recorded artists in the world.’ He made hundreds of 78rpm recordings under no less than 30 pseudonyms. He began in his native Glasgow singing ballads, moving on to popular songs and composing. In the 1920s and 1930s he regularly appeared with the Savoy Orpheans, the hotel’s big band led by the American Carroll Gibbons. There’s a short film of the band on British Pathe, http://www.britishpathe.com

Maurice died in 1975 and was buried in HampsteadCemetery.

Wally Shackell – Bridge Street and 12 Hillfield Road
Singer Wally Shackell was born in Bridge Street at the bottom end of Kilburn in 1933. This area has since been redeveloped. In 1957 he joined The Five Dallas Boys and recorded ‘Shangri-La’ which was a minor hit. Most of the band came from Leicester and they appeared regularly on the TV shows, Six Five Special and Oh Boy. As a result of this they became national stars with a fan club of over 5,000 members. Wally went solo under the name of Jerry Angelo and made five records between 1959 and 1962, but they weren’t big hits. He now lives in Australia.

Dusty Springfield104 Sumatra Road
Dusty Springfield is considered by many people to be the greatest British soul singer. Her real name was Mary Isabel Catherine Bernadette O’Brien, and she was born at 87 Fordwych Road on 16 April 1939. This was long believed to be the family home, but we found that the writer Jackie Collins was born at the same address, which was in fact a maternity home. Dusty was the daughter of Gerard and Catherine O’Brien, who lived at 104 Sumatra Road from about 1933 to 1939. Her father, who had grown up in India, was a tax consultant at 97 Lauderdale Mansions, Maida Vale. By 1944 they had moved to High Wycombe. Some years later they moved again to Ealing.

After leaving school in 1958 Dusty answered an advert for a female singing trio called the ‘Lana Sisters’. Then in 1960 she joined her elder brother Dion (who became Tom), and Reshad Field, to form The Springfields, a pop-folk trio. In 1963 she began her solo career with ‘I Only Want to Be with You’, which reached Number 4 in the charts. Her most famous songs were ‘The Look of Love’ which was featured in the Bond film ‘Casino Royale’ (1967) and ‘Son of a Preacher Man’ (1969). In 1998 she was awarded an OBE. Dusty was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1994 and she died in March 1999.

Mike Hurst – 7 Priory Road and Brondesbury Road
In 1962 Mike Hurst joined Dusty Springfield and her brother Tom in The Springfields. That year they had their biggest hit ‘Island of Dreams’ which reached number 5. They split up in October 1963. Mike formed a band called The Methods with the seventeen year old Jimmy Page on guitar. They played country rock and toured with Gene Pitney, Cilla Black and Billy J Kramer. In 1965 Mike Hurst rented a flat in Priory Road. This was the same flat that bass player John Paul Jones and Madeline Bell of Blue Mink later occupied. Mike Hurst became a record producer and worked with Andrew Loog Oldham and Mickie Most. Hurst produced records for Marc Bolan, Cat Stevens, Spencer Davis and Manfred Mann. He later lived in Brondesbury Road.

Edric Connor – 27 Crediton Hill
Edric was a pioneering calypso singer from Trinidad who came to England in 1944. In 1951 he brought the Trinidad Steel Orchestra to the Festival of Britain. In 1952 with his band Edric Connor and the Caribbeans, he recorded the album ‘Songs from Jamaica’. This included ‘Day Dah Light’ a version of which became Harry Belafonte’s big hit, ‘Day-O’, or ‘The Banana Boat Song’, in 1957.

Edric lived in Crediton Hill from 1957 and his daughter went to school with Marianne. With his wife Pearl he set up an agency to support black actors and musicians. In 1958 he became the first black actor to appear in the Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford. He appeared on TV and in 18 films, including ‘Fire Down Below’ with Rita Hayworth and Robert Mitcham. Edric died in Putney in 1968 and Pearl died in 2005.

Phil Seaman – Goldhurst Terrace
Phil was a renowned jazz drummer who played with all the key figures in the 1950s and 1960s. In 1964 he played with Alexis Korner and Georgie Fame. He taught Ginger Baker and played on his Air Force album in 1970. He was a heroin addict and died in October 1972 in Lambeth.

Tony Meehan – 18 Sidney Boyd Court, West End Lane
Tony grew up in Kilburn and he went to Kingsgate primary school with Dick Weindling. He bought his first drum kit in Blanks music store on the Kilburn High Road. He played in the house band at the 2 I’s in Soho and with the skiffle group The Vipers. From 1959 Tony was the drummer in Cliff Richard’s band The Shadows until October 1961, when he joined Decca as a trainee producer. On 1 January 1962 he was at the famous audition when Decca turned down the Beatles. In 1963 he worked with his friend from the Shadows, Jet Harris, and had a number 1 hit with ‘Diamonds’ which featured two future Led Zeppelin members, Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones. His style influenced other drummers. Sadly, Tony died after a fall in his London house in 2005.

Screaming Lord Sutch– 241 Fordwych Road and Glengall Road
David Edward Sutch was born at New End Hospital in 1940. His parents William and Annie Emily, lived in two rooms at 241 Fordwych Road. His father, a war reserve police constable, crashed his motorbike and died in September 1941 when David was only ten months old. With no money, his mother, known in the family as ‘Nancy’, moved to a single room in Glengall Road. David went to school at Salusbury Road and then they moved to South Harrow. At the end of the 1950s he first performed at the 2 I’s club. The ‘Savages’ were formed in 1960 and he called himself Screaming Lord Sutch after Screaming Jay Hawkins. His outrageous appearance and performances gained the band publicity. From 1963 he stood in parliamentary elections for the National Teenage Party and founded the Official Monster Raving Loony Party in 1983. He contested over 40 elections with little hope of winning. Depressed after the death of his mother the year before, Sutch committed suicide in 1999.

Gary Grainger – Dibden House, Maida Vale
Gary was born in Kilburn in 1952 and grew up in Dibden House (where Sir Bradley Wiggins lived). After trying drums Gary took up the guitar and joined the band Strider who made two albums in the 1970s. He then worked with Rod Stewart’s group. Gary lived in the US for five years and did two world tours with Rod. During this time he also wrote songs for Rod’s albums. In 1981 he returned to England and wrote for Paul Young and then worked with Roger Daltrey during 1986 and 1987. In 1991 he formed the band The Humans with Jess Roden, and Jim Capaldi. Steve Winwood played organ on their recordings. In 1998 he formed the Blues Club. He is still touring the UK and Europe with colleagues from earlier bands.

Sandy Brown – 97 Canfield Gardens
The legendary New Orleans style jazz clarinettist Sandy Brown was born in India where his father worked as a railway engineer. He grew up in Scotland and moved to London in 1954. Sandy lived in Canfield Gardens from about 1959. He was an acoustic engineer and in 1968 he formed Sandy Brown Associates which eventually had an office in West Hampstead. Sandy designed the Moody Blues ‘Threshold Studios’ when they took over one of the Decca Studios in Broadhurst Gardens. He had his own band and played with numerous jazz musicians including Humphrey Lyttleton and Al Fairweather. Sandy played locally at Klooks Kleek, the jazz and blues club which was held in the Railway Hotel from 1961 to 1970. Sandy died in March 1975.

Colin Purbrook, Tony Coe, Brian Lemon and Jimmy Deuchar – 4 Fawley Road
Known as ‘Bleak House’ from the terrible condition it was in, Sandy Brown said that about 50 jazz musicians in the 50s and 60s lived in this house in Fawley Road. Colin Purbrook and Brian Lemon were pianists. Tony Coe was a sax player and Jimmy Deucher played trumpet.

Colin was ‘The Grand Vizier’ of parties in Fawley Road where he lived from 1961 to 1964. He died in 1999 and Steve Voce wrote a wonderful obituary in The Independent.

When his ex-wife, Maureen visited Colin in a Hospice in Hampstead, she told the consultant that Purbrook was one of the 10 best jazz pianists in the country. Later she told him what she had said. Purbrook, by now barely able to speak, croaked ‘Five, Dear. Five’.

Tucker Finlayson  – Hillfield Road
Tucker Finlayson played double bass in various Scottish bands in the late fifties. After his National Service in the RAF he came to London.  In 1963 he joined the Terry Lightfoot Band. The following year he joined the Acker Bilk Band and still plays with them. He has played bass with many other musicians, including Ray Davies’s album The Storyteller (1998).

Jack Bruce – Alexandra Mansions and 25 Bracknell Gardens
Bass player Jack Bruce was classically trained at the RoyalScottishAcademy of Music but also played jazz and blues. In 1962, soon after he arrived in London, he shared a flat with trombonist John Mumford on the top floor of AlexandraMansions on West End Green. On 26 September 1964 Jack married Janet Godfrey, who was the secretary of the Graham Bond fan club and who later helped with the lyrics of some of the Cream songs. They moved to a flat at 25 BracknellGardens, just off the Finchley Road, and not far from Jack’s old home. Jack and Ginger Baker played in the Graham Bond Organization and then with Eric Clapton they formed the Supergroup Cream in 1966. Harry Shapiro has produced a very good biography, ‘Jack Bruce: composing himself’ (2010).

Mick Jagger and Keith Richards – 33 Mapesbury Road
Mick and Keith had moved to a £9 per week flat on the top floor of 33 Mapesbury Road in 1963, after leaving 102 Edith Grove. The Stones manager and record producer, Andrew Oldham, joined them in Mapesbury Road in early 1964. He says in his autobiography ‘Stoned’ that he locked Mick and Keith in the flat for several hours and wouldn’t let them out until they had written a song.

Chris Jagger – Kingsgate Road
In 1982 Mick’s younger brother, singer Chris Jagger, lived in a house that Mick bought in Kingsgate Road. He released his first albums in 1973 and 1974. He has worked as a journalist and radio presenter. In 1994 he made a third album after a 20 year gap and his style has incorporated cajun, folk, country, blues and rock.

Tony Hooper – 32 Dennington Park Road
Tony Hooper, guitarist, was a tenant in the early 1960s. With Dave Cousins he founded The Strawbs in 1964. He left the band in 1972 and then re-joined them in 1983. Tony didn’t tell the landlady he was in a group and she was furious when she found out. The band members met to record a demo tape and the landlady’s daughter was told to run up and down a short staircase above their room, wearing hard, wooden ‘Dr Scholl’ sandals. The dreadful noise destroyed all hope of their recording.

Glen Hughes – Lymington Road
Glen was a very talented baritone sax player who regularly played at Klooks Kleek in the Railway Hotel. In 1964 he was part of Georgie Fame’s highly successful Blue Flames. But in 1966 Glen tragically died in his flat in Shepherds Bush. Fellow sax player Dick Heckstall-Smith said: “Glen died in bed with a cigarette in his hand, drugged unconscious with smack. Glen was, in my opinion, one of the best baritone players the world has seen.”

Paul Soper – 350 Finchley Road
Guitarist and bass player, Paul lived with his elder brother in Finchley Road from 1964 to 1966. During this time he regularly visited Klooks Kleek, the jazz and R&B club at the Railway Hotel, where he saw many of the top blues bands. Paul has played with various blues bands including Bluejuice and the Bluesdragons. He still plays at various London pubs. See his interesting memories of the top British blues bands at; http://www.britishbluesarchive.org.uk/eyewitness.php

Olivia Newton John – 9 Dennington Park Road
Olivia was born in Cambridge in 1948 and went to Australia when she was five. Her father Bryn was an academic, who became the Dean of Ormond College, Melbourne University. She appeared on Australian radio and TV shows. About 1965 she returned to England and lived in Dennington Park Road. Her first single, ‘Till You Say You’ll Be Mine’, was recorded at the Decca Studios, Broadhurst Gardens, in 1966. Towards the end of the summer 1966 she met Bruce Welch, guitarist with The Shadows. He was 24 and married at the time, she was 17. They dated from September 1966 and lived together. In 1969 they moved from a flat overlooking Lords to Hadley Common, Tottridge. She became best known for her role in the film ‘Grease’ in 1978 with John Travolta. From then on her singing career blossomed and she still tours today.

Joan Armatrading – Cholmley Gardens
Joan joined a repertory production of Hair in 1968 and shared a flat with Helen Chappelle, in CholmleyGardens. Her first album, Whatever’s for Us, was released in1972. She had considerable success in the 1970s and 80s. Her biggest single hit was ‘Love and Affection’ in 1976 which went to Number 10.

Bert Jansch – 16a Christchurch Avenue
Bert Jansch was born in Glasgow in 1943. He and fellow guitarist John Renbourn shared a flat in Kilburn in 1966.  In 1968 with Renbourn, Jacqui McShee, vocals, Danny Tompson, double bass, and Terry Cox drums, he formed Pentangle, a very successful folk rock group. Thompson and Cox had previously played with Alexis Korner. In May 1967 Pentangle had a sell-out concert at the Royal Festival Hall. Jansch left the band to work solo in 1973. Pentangle reformed in 1982 and with various musicians continued to 1995. Their combination of folk, rock and jazz influenced later musicians. Bert Jansch died in Kilburn in October 2011

Roy Harper – Fordwych Road
In 1966 he was living in Fordwych Road and his first album, Sophisticated Beggar, was made that year. Singer songwriter and guitarist, Roy Harper has made over 30 albums. His work has influenced Jimmy Page and Robert Plant of Led Zeppelin, who named a track ‘Hats Off to Harper’ after him. Other musicians who say they have been influenced by him include; Pete Townsend, Kate Bush, Pink Floyd and Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull. In 1965 he had a residency at the folk club Les Cousins and he met John Renbourn, Bert Jansch, Alex Korner, and Paul Simon. Roy Harper played at numerous venues including the Lyceum and Klooks Kleek in West Hampstead. In 1968 he played at the first free concert at Hyde Park with Jethro Tull, Tyrannosaurus Rex and Pink Floyd. He is still performing today.

John Paul Jones ­– 7 Priory Road
Born as John Baldwin, he played bass in various bands and did a large amount of session work. In 1968 with Jimmy Page, Robert Plant and John Bonham, he formed Led Zeppelin. Before he joined the band he lived in a flat in Priory Road. He recently played with Seasick Steve at the Glastonbury Festival.

Michael and Peter Giles, Robert Fripp – 93 Brondesbury Road
In 1967 and 1968 Giles, Giles and Fripp who became King Crimson, lived in Kilburn. Their 1968 home recordings were later released as ‘The Brondesbury Tapes’. Their first album ‘In the Court of The Crimson King’ (1969), initially received very mixed reviews, but has since gained classic status. They released another 12 albums by 2003.

Lulu and Maurice Gibb – Priory Place.
Lulu and Maurice each had long and successful careers. Lulu was born in Glasgow and when she was fifteen her 1964 recording of ‘Shout’ in the Decca Studios in West Hampsteadreached the top ten in the UK. With his brothers Robin and Barry, Maurice Gibb formed the Bee Gees in 1958. They achieved world-wide success with their music for the soundtrack of the film Saturday Night Fever in 1977. Lulu and Maurice were married in 1969 after they had met during a Top of the Pops TV show. Maurice and Lulu lived in one of the modern houses at the Belsize Road end of Priory Place. They later moved to Compton Avenue near Highgate and were divorced in 1973. Maurice died in 2003.

Andy Ellison – Sumatra Road
He was the singer with John’s Children, Jet, and Radio Stars. In 1967 Marc Bolan joined John’s Children, and they toured with the Who and managed to upstage them, with Ellison ripping open feather pillows and diving into the audience. Jet was a glam rock band formed in 1974. Radio Stars started in 1977 and released three albums. They made their TV debut on ‘Marc’, Marc Bolan’s show.

Marmalade – Douglas Court, Quex Road
The Glasgow band, the Gaylords named after the post-war street gang the Chicago Gaylords was formed in 1961. They met the Tremeloes who suggested that they should join manager Peter Walsh, who also managed The Bay City Rollers, Billy Ocean, The Troggs and Blue Mink. In 1966 he renamed them as Marmalade and got them a residency at The Marquee Club in 1967. Their biggest hit was ‘Ob-La-Di, Ob-La Da’ which they were given by Dick James of NEMS in 1968. At the time they recorded it they did not realise it was written by Paul McCartney. The record topped the UK charts in January 1969. They signed to Decca in November 1969. Their other hits were ‘Reflections of My Life’ which went to number 3 in 1969 and later sold two million records. ‘Rainbow’ also went to number 3 in 1970. At this time the band consisted of Junior Campbell, Dean Ford (Thomas McAleese), Alan Whitehead, Graham Knight, and Pat Fairley and when in London they lived at Douglas Court.

Root Jackson – Sumatra Road
Root had a hit with his cousin Jenny with ‘Lean on Me’ in 1969. He has been a member of groups such as FBI (1976), The Breakfast Band (1989), and the GB Blues Company. A track on his album Funkin’ With Da Blues (2011) is called ‘Kilburn High Road Blues’.

Gaspar Lawal – West Hampstead
Gaspar is a Nigerian-born African drummer and percussionist who came to London in the mid 1960s. He has recorded with a very wide range of musicians including: The Rolling Stones, Ginger Baker’s Airforce, Stephen Stills, Joan Armatrading, and Barbra Streisand. In 1975 he joined the rock band Clancy and in 1978 he formed his own group Afrika Sound. In the 1980s he worked with The Pogues, UB40 and Robert Palmer.

Dick Heckstall-Smith– 5 Eden Mansions, Gondar Gardens
Dick Heckstall Smith was an outstanding tenor sax player with Blues Incorporated, John Mayall, the Graham Bond Organization, Jon Hiseman’s Colosseum and Big Chief. He had lived in Gondar Gardens since 1972 and continued playing despite ill health, until his death in December 2004.

James Moyes – West Hampstead
James is a guitarist and composer who still lives in West Hampstead. He formed Sagram with sitarist Clem Alford and tabla player Keshav Satte. In 1971, with the addition of singer Alisha Sufit, they became Magic Carpet. They played at the 100 Club, and Cleo Laine and John Dankworth’s Wavedon, plus other clubs and venues.Their 1972 album ‘Magic Carpet’ was described as ‘one of the finest Indian-influenced psychedelic folk albums of the 1970s’.

Robert Palmer – Dennington Park Road
Singer Robert Palmer lived in a basement flat in Dennington Park Road in 1972. Robert moved out of after the flat was flooded, destroying most of his belongings. He married and moved to New York. Then about 1976 he moved to Nassau in the Bahamas.

After working with several bands Palmer and Elkie Brooks formed Vinegar Joe and they released their first album in 1972. His first solo album, Sneakin’ Sally Thorough The Alley, was recorded in New Orleans in 1974. Palmer had a successful career and a number of major hits. His iconic music videos for ‘Addicted to Love’ (1985) and ‘Simply Irresistible’ (1988) featured identically dressed women with pale faces, dark eye makeup and bright red lipstick. Robert died in France in September 2003.

Steve York, and Graham Bond – 55 Mill Lane
Bass player, Steve York lived in Mill Lane from 1972 to 1977. He has had a long career playing with many well known musicians and recording numerous records.  Beginning with various blues bands in the 60s including Graham Bond and Manfred Mann, in 1971 he joined Dada which had three singers Robert Palmer, Elkie Brooks and Jimmy Chambers. Dada became Vinegar Joe in 1971. Steve said: “I left Vinegar Joe after we recorded our first album and lived in the US for about a year. I let Graham Bond stay in my flat in Mill Lane while I was away on tour in 1973. He was homeless after his marriage broke up.”

Steve recorded with Marianne Faithful on her albums Broken English and Dangerous Acquaintances,
also with Ringo Starr, Chicken Shack, ElkieBrooks, Joan Armatrading, Dr John, Chris Jagger and many others. He played harmonica on Robert Palmer’s Sneaking Sally and Pressure Drop.

Today Steve lives in Mexico. See his website for more details: http://www.steveyork.com/

Graham Bond was a sax player but he was better known for his Hammond organ playing with the Graham Bond Organisation. This amazing group include Jack Bruce, Ginger Baker, and Dick Heckstall Smith. Guitarist John McLaughlin was also in the band in 1963. The GBO were very popular and played 39 times locally at Klooks Kleek. One of his best known tracks was ‘Wade in the Water’ which can be heard live from Klooks on YouTube with a jokey introduction by club owner Dick Jordan: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6okZU9O2n1E

Brilliant as he was, Graham had a major drug problem and most of the money he earned was spent on getting a fix. He may also have been suffering from schizophrenia. Steve York, a good friend who supported Graham said, “When I returned from the US, Graham was in bad shape and he stayed with me intermittently in Mill Lane until May 1974. He told me that if it hadn’t been for Mill Lane, he would have finished it all. But even so, things were so bad that before I got back, he had collapsed in the street suffering from malnutrition and had to be admitted to hospital.”

Things got worse and tragically, Graham committed suicide by jumping in front of a train at FinsburyPark station on 8 May 1974. For an excellent biography see, ‘Graham Bond: the mighty shadow’, by Harry Shapiro, 1992 and 2005. The book includes a detailed discography.

Jeff Bannister – Holmdale Road
Keyboard player Jeff Bannister lived in Holmdale Road in 1972. He had worked with Alan Bown in the John Barry Seven who had supported visiting American acts such as Brenda Lee. When Barry disbanded the group in 1965 because of his increasing film work, Jeff joined Alan in the Alan Bown Set. Jeff sang and played organ and piano on the first singles produced by Tony Hatch, and then Jess Roden became the vocalist. When the Alan Bown Set split up in 1970 Jess Roden formed Bronco and Jeff played on their first album. In the mid 70s he joined The O Band and then toured with Charlie Dore and latter Gerry Rafferty. He continued writing songs and played on Joan Jett’s ‘Bad Reputation’. He also wrote the books, The Multichord for All Keyboards, and a history of The Alan Bown Set. Jeff is still performing today as a member of The Swinging Blue Jeans, which originated in Liverpool in the 1960s.

Wilko Johnson, JJ Burnel, Steve Strange, Lemmy and Phil Taylor – Tower Mansions, 134-136 West End Lane.
While Ade Wyatt was in Australia in 1978, Wilko Johnson the guitarist in Dr Feelgood with the distinctive choppy style, rented his flat in Tower Mansions. He had formed the Canvey Island band with singer Lee Brilleaux in 1971. Sadly this year, Wilko announced that he is retiring because he has terminal cancer.

Jean-Jacques Burnel the bass player with The Stranglers lived upstairs in Tower Mansions. He had been with the group since they formed in 1974. Steve Strange had just arrived from Wales where he had previously met JJ Burnel at a Stranglers gig. Steve and Billy Idol squatted in the basement of Tower Mansions. One day the local postman saw Steve and his girlfriend Suzy with their dyed spiky hair and said, “You two are an odd looking couple, you’re Mr and Mrs Strange”. They liked the idea and called themselves Steve and Suzy Strange. After playing in several other bands, Steve formed Visage in 1979. He appeared in the David Bowie video, ‘Ashes to Ashes’ and Visage had a hit with ‘Fade to Grey’ in 1980.

‘Lemmy’ (Ian Fraser Kilmister) and ‘Philthy’ Phil Taylor, drums, were in Motorhead. Both lived at Tower Mansions during the late 1970s and 1980s. Motorhead was formed in 1975 and they have made twenty albums. Still performing today, Lemmy is the only remaining member of the original band.

Billy Idol – Tower Mansions, and 315 West End Lane
Billy Idol also lived for a short time in Tower Mansions. He and his girlfriend Perri Lister, who was an actress and dancer in Hot Gossip, were together from 1980 to 1989. They were a very distinctive couple when they lived in West End Lane in a flat above Fortune Gate, the Chinese Restaurant near the Fire Station in West Hampstead.  Billy Idol in Generation X was one of the first punk bands to appear on Top of The Pops. In 1981 he moved to New York and the following year he had a major success with ‘White Wedding’ when the video was shown on MTV.

Here’s Part Two

JW3 Cinema

JW3 cinema: comfortable and eclectic

As keen readers of this website, you will have of course know about JW3, the brand spanking new Jewish community centre that has opened on the corner of Finchley Road and Lymington Road. But had you caught up yet with the fact that it has its very own cinema? Clearly, I had to investigate.

The JW3 centre officially opened late last month, and cost a reported £50m. It is aiming to become a cultural hub for north-west London and beyond. The facilities are impressive: a large hall with the capacity to hold concerts, theatre shows, weddings and bar mitzvahs and a kosher restaurant. They also include a 60-seat screening room which hosts both recent cinema releases as well as Jewish film festivals.

Keen to check out the centre, we went to see Woody Allen’s latest, Blue Jasmine, last Saturday night. The experience was excellent, akin to a private screening room (think great comfort and relaxed atmosphere). We booked ahead (advisable) and our seats were unreserved, so my advice would be to get there early. Tickets were priced at £12 (equivalent to the multiplex and notably cheaper than the Everyman), and there are no pre-film trailers or advertisements.

If you are thinking of heading down and, based on my experience, you really should, it’s worth noting that the JW3 cinema will offer an eclectic programme. It won’t necessarily screen the latest blockbusters so check its website as well as the NxNW6 film listings on these pages to check out what’s on when. There are regular slots for “Golden Oldies”, family films, and all manner of other film delights, such as the Misogynists Film Club (don’t worry, it’s “a feminist celebration of the terrible portrayal of women in cinema”), and even some Israeli TV.

With six cinemas all within walking distance of West End Lane [Ed: you walk faster than most people!], we were already spoiled for choice. With the addition of this new jewel, we now have an embarrassment of riches. Let me know what you think.

Making Music in West Hampstead and Kilburn

Our next book, ‘Decca Studios and Klooks Kleek’ will be published by The History Press in November 2013. This is the first history of Decca Studios, which were in Broadhurst Gardens from 1937 to 1980 and where thousands of well-known recordings were made. From 1961 until it closed in 1970, Klooks Kleek was the famous jazz and blues club run by Dick Jordan and Geoff Williams on the first floor of the Railway Hotel, next to the Decca Studios.

This blog is the first of two stories about music in West Hampstead and Kilburn. The area has a surprisingly rich history of music. The first instalment looks at music production and the recording studios and record companies who operated here. The second, to be published later, will cover the many musicians who lived there.

The Crystalate Gramophone Record Manufacturing Company
Crystalate took over West Hampstead Town Hall in Broadhurst Gardens in 1928 and moved their recording studio there. That year the Crystalate Manufacturing Company appears at 165 Broadhurst Gardens for the first time in the phone book. Today the building is used by English National Opera.

In August 1901 the Crystalate Company was founded at Golden Green (note, not Golders Green), Haddow, near Tunbridge in Kent , by a partnership of a London and an American firm. The British company had begun by introducing colours into minerals and making imitation ivory. The American company which had made billiard balls and poker chips started making gramophone records from shellac. In July 1901 the American George Henry Burt, applied for a trademark on the word ‘Crystalate’ for all their plastic products. The secret formula to make Crystalate substances was kept in a sealed iron box which required two keys to open it. Burt had one and Percy Warnford-Davis, the English director, had the other. It is said that Crystalate made the first records to be pressed in England in 1901/2; but there is no direct evidence of this apart from the 1922 recollections of Charles Davis, the works manager.

In 1926 they moved their office and recording studio from 63 Farrington Road to Number 69 which was named ‘Imperial House’ after one of their record labels. In 1929 they moved again to 60-62 City Road which they called ‘Crystalate House’. T he company made records for some of the very early labels such as Zonophone, Berliner and Imperial. Crystalate also produced large numbers of records for Woolworths under various budget labels, including Victory and Rex. At first they cost a shilling which represented very good value for the enormously popular artists of the day such as Gracie Fields, Larry Adler, Billy Cotton and Sandy Powell. Also on the label were American stars: Bing Crosby, the Mills Brothers, the Boswell Sisters, and Cab Calloway.

During the Depression many of the record companies ran into financial trouble and they were bought up by either EMI or Decca. In March 1937 the record side of Crystalate was sold to Decca for £200,000, or about £10 million today. The Crystalate engineers were very relieved when they found out Decca had decided to close their existing studio in Upper Thames Street and move to Broadhurst Gardens.

Decca Studios, today used by English National Opera

Decca Studios, today used by English National Opera

Decca Studios
The Decca studios were in Broadhurst Gardens from 1937 to 1981 and our new book will provide a detailed history. Stars such as The Rolling Stones, David Bowie, Marc Bolan, Billy Fury and the Moody Blues were recorded here. On 1st January 1962 the Beatles auditioned at the studios, but after travelling down from Liverpool in a van, they’d gone out to celebrate New Year’s Eve, and their playing did not impress Decca. Other labels also turned them down until EMI Parlophone, Decca’s great rival, signed them in June 1962. The Beatles first single, ‘Love Me Do’ was released on 5 October 1962 and peaked at Number 17 in the charts.

Gus Dudgeon, engineer and producer Lymington Mansions and Kings Gardens, West End Lane
When he left school Gus (Angus) had several short-term jobs before he got a job as the tea boy and junior assistant at Olympic Studios near Baker Street. He was ‘blown away’ by the power of the studio speakers with their tremendous bass and treble ranges. Desperate to play with the controls he said ‘I was terrified at the idea of ever getting onto the recording console.’ But he managed to get a job as an engineer at Decca Studios in 1962. At the time Gus was sharing a flat at 2 Lymington Mansions in West Hampstead where he stayed until 1965. The blues singer Long John Baldry slept on a bed in the hallway.

During his five and a half years at Decca Studios, Dudgeon engineered the Zombies’ hit ‘She’s Not There’ (1964) and the celebrated John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers with Eric Clapton (1965), known as the Beano album from the cover, where Eric is pictured reading a copy of the comic. Early sessions included recordings for Marianne Faithfull with producer Andrew Loog Oldham and session guitarists Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones, later of Led Zeppelin.

His first co-production credit came in 1967 with the debut album of Ten Years After. A year later, encouraged by Rolling Stones manager Andrew Loog Oldham, he left Decca to found his own production company. He worked on all the classic recordings by Elton John, including such hits as ‘Your Song,’ ‘Rocket Man,’ and ‘Goodbye Yellow Brick Road’. In 1969, he produced David Bowie’s first hit, ‘Space Oddity,’ and later, albums by such artists as Chris Rea, Lindisfarne, and XTC.

In the 70s Gus joined Elton John and formed Rocket Records. In the early 80s he built SOL Studios in Cookham Berkshire which he later sold to Jimmy Page.

From 1967 till 1973 Gus lived at 3 Kings Gardens in West End Lane. He then moved to Surbiton. The record world was shocked in July 2002 when Gus Dudgeon and his wife Sheila were killed in a car crash.

British Homophone, 84a Kilburn High Road
This building was behind the present Sainsbury’s in Kilburn High Road. Before British Homophone opened their recording studio there in 1929, it was the site of a large house called St Margaret’s.

The last owner and occupier of St Margaret’s was the builder Robert Allen Yerbury who rented the house about 1877. He soon bought the freehold as well as a large piece of land adjoining his grounds and built Colas Mews (behind the present Iceland store). He then used the garden in front of the renamed St Margaret’s Lodge as the site for a terrace of shops. Although completely hemmed in by the shops on the High Road, Yerbury was able to rent the house to a series of tenants.

By 1903 a hall and conservatory had been added to the back of St Margaret’s Lodge. ‘Professor’ Sidney Bishop ran ‘The Athenaeum’ for dancing there from 1902 to 1914.   During WWI it was used as a forces recreation room and in the 20s the Hall became the Kilburn branch of the Church Army, with successive secretaries living in the old Lodge.

The site was next adapted as a recording studio for the British Homophone Company Ltd. William Sternberg was the director of a company that had been selling gramophones under the trade name of Sterno for some years. They had used the masters and distributed records of the Homophon Company of Berlin since 1906, and also produced Sterno records from 1926 to 1935. On 24 May 1928 the Times announced that British Homophone was issuing a share capital of £150,000. In a contract dated 21 May 1928 , Sternberg put all his assets into the new company of British Homophone, for £37,500 worth of shares. They moved into 84a Kilburn High Road the following year.

British Homophone advert, 1928

British Homophone advert, 1928

Lots of well known performers and dance bands of the time were on the Sterno label including Mantovani, Oscar Rabin, and Syd Lipton. The most important artist on the label was the pianist and band leader Charlie Kunz who was selling an astonishing one million records. He became the highest paid pianist in the world earning a £1,000 week. Born in America , he came to England in 1922, and during the 1930s he lived in Dollis Hill.

Charlie Kunz record on the Sterno and British Homophone label

Charlie Kunz record on the Sterno and British Homophone label

In 1934 the BBC studios in Maida Vale sent recordings by telephone lines to British Homophone in Kilburn who recorded them onto wax discs. They were able to offer the BBC a quick turnaround of 12 hours for programme repeats.

But like other companies in the Depression, British Homophone struggled financially and in May 1937 Decca and their rival EMI jointly purchased all the British Homophone masters for £22,500. When British Homophone left Kilburn in 1939, the ladies clothing chain, Richard Shops, who had been at Number 82 since 1936, took over Number 84 and probably the studio as well.

William Sternberg lived at ‘Mondesfield’, in Exeter Road Kilburn, from 1924. When he died on 14 June 1956 , his addresses were Exeter Road and Seddscombe , Sussex . He was buried at the Willesden Liberal Jewish cemetery probably with his wife Eva who died in 1925. He was a wealthy man and left £19,379, today worth about £900,000.

Sterno and Canned Heat
As an interesting aside, Sterno was also the name of an American campsite cooking fuel made from jellied alcohol. During the Depression, and strained through cloth, it was used as a cheap substitute for whisky and popularly known as ‘Canned Heat’. The early bluesman, Tommy Johnson, wrote and recorded ‘Canned Heat Blues’ in 1928, and the famous American band Canned Heat, which was formed in Los Angeles in 1965, took their name from the song.

The Banba
The studio building was used from 1951 to 1968 by Michael Gannon who ran the famous and very poplar Irish dance hall there called ‘The Banba’ (taken from a poetic name for Ireland ). In 1971 the property was demolished with Sainsbury’s redevelopment of the entire site. Marianne can remember being taken to the Banba. She was bought a coffee made from Camp Coffee Essence, which Wikipedia describes as: A glutinous brown substance which consists of water, sugar, 4% caffeine-free coffee essence, and 26% chicory essence. She left it untouched after the first sip.

British Homophone after the buyout
Despite the 1937 buyout by Decca and EMI, the British Homophone name continued into the early 1980s, but was no longer based in Kilburn. By 1962 it was at Excelsior Works, Rollins Street, SE15, New Cross. The new company pressed some of the early records for Chris Blackwell’s Island Records about 1965. Edward Kassner the boss of President Records owned the pressing plant. Eddy Grant and ‘The Equals’ were signed with President Records. Eddy set up Ice Records and a studio called the Coach House and bought the pressing plant in New Cross from Kassner in the late 1970s, where he pressed his own records until the early 1980s, when he left England.

Island Records, 108 Cambridge Road
Island Records was formed by Chris Blackwell who was born in London, but grew up in Jamaica. In 1958 after trying various jobs and using money from his parents, he decided to record Lance Hayward, a young, blind jazz pianist who was playing at the Half Moon Hotel in Montego Bay. The record was released in 1959, and this was the beginning of what would later become Island Records. The following year Blackwell had a hit with Laurel Aitken’s ‘Boogie In My Bones’. Using the money from the sales he set up a small office in Kingston.   In 1962 Blackwell moved to London and began selling records to the West Indian communities in London, Birmingham, and Manchester from the back of his Mini-Cooper.

Blackwell took the name of Island Records from Alec Waugh’s novel ‘Island in the Sun’. Island Records Ltd began in May 1962 with four partners who invested a total of £4,000: Chris Blackwell, Graham Goodall, an Australian music engineer living in Jamaica, the Chinese-Jamaican record producer Leslie Kong and his brother.

From March 1963 to 1967 Island Records had their office at 108 Cambridge Road , since demolished as part of the South Kilburn redevelopment plan. Originally a barber’s shop run by the Gopthal family, when accountant Lee Gopthal bought the house, he rented it out. Chris Blackwell converted the premises into offices managed by David Betteridge, who was later made a director of Island. Initially the records were pressed by British Homophone and then at the Phillips factory in Croydon. In 1962, the basement store at 108 had been a recording studio set up by Sonny Roberts of Planetone Records. Blackwell introduced additional labels such as Black Swan, Jump Up, Aladdin, Surprise, Sue Records and Trojan which was run by Lee Gopthal .

Rob Bell describes his time at Island from 1965 to 1972 in a series of articles. See www.trojanrecords.com. He said that Island were releasing about half a dozen records a week. The new release sheets were printed by Mr Reed who had a small print shop a few doors up Cambridge Road. Rob said he and others used to eat at Peg’s Café over the road and drink at The Shakespeare pub next to the office. In 1968 when business picked up with the popularity of reggae, together with the compulsory purchase for the South Kilburn redevelopment, Island moved to the much larger Music House at 12 Neasden Lane.

In 1963 Blackwell decided to bring the fourteen year old Millie Small to London. Looking for a suitable song for her to record, he found a copy of American singer Barbie Gaye’s ‘My Boy Lollipop’ which he had bought five years earlier in New York. Recorded at Olympic Studios with a ska arrangement, the record was leased to the Phillips’ Fontana label and in 1964 it sold six million copies worldwide. It reached Number 2 in the UK and the US and became the first international Jamaican hit. Marianne heard Millie sing the song at one of the regular Saturday morning music sessions at the Kilburn State , held in their dance hall with an entrance in Willesden Lane.

Other successful records followed with Jimmy Cliff and the Birmingham band, the Spencer Davis Group who had several hits leased to Fontana such as, ‘Keep On Running’ (1965) and ‘Gimme Some Lovin’. Building on these hits, Island moved to new offices at 155 Oxford Street. In 1970 they moved again to Notting Hill where they had established their own studio in a former church at 8 -10 Basing Street. From here they expanded massively, with artists such as Bob Marley, Cat Stevens, Fairport Convention, Free, Traffic, Jethro Tull, Grace Jones and U2.

In 1989 Blackwell sold his stake in Island and eventually resigned in 1997. His mother Blanche was Ian Fleming’s longtime lover and Blackwell now owns the writer’s house, Goldeneye, in Jamaica . He bought it from Bob Marley. For a beautifully illustrated book see, ‘The Story of Island Records’, edited by Suzette Newman and Chris Salewicz (2010).

Ritz Records, 1 Grangeway
Grangeway is the small road leading off the Kilburn High Road into the Grange Park. Mick Clerkin ran Ritz Records here which began in about 1981. They produced Irish records and had big hits with Joe Dolan and Daniel O’Donnell. Clerkin had previously worked as a roadie for the popular Mighty Avons Showband, and then in 1968 he set up Release Records. Ritz were still at Grangeway in 1996 but had moved to Wembley by 2000. The company went into liquidation in 2002.

New building in Grangeway today, the site of Ritz Record

New building in Grangeway today, the site of Ritz Record

Master Rock Studios, 248 Kilburn High Road
In January 1986 Steve Flood and Stuart Colman opened their studios in Kilburn High Road. Stuart Colman was a musician who produced hits for Shakin’ Stevens, The Shadows, Kim Wilde, and Alvin Stardust. He also worked as a presenter at the BBC before opening Master Rock Studios. Flood and Colman were soon joined by studio manager Robyn Sansone who came from New York. An amazing number of musicians were recorded here including: Elton John, Jeff Beck, U2, Eric Clapton, Roxy Music, Simply Red and Suede. The music for the film ‘The Krays’ was also recorded at Master Rock.

They wanted the very best quality recording equipment so they bought a Focusrite console. Focusrite was founded in 1985 by Rupert Neve and the Forte console was developed in 1988. The idea was simply to produce the highest-quality recording console available at the time, regardless of cost. But the prohibitively expensive design limited the production to just two units, after which Focusrite got into financial difficulties. One console was delivered to Master Rock Studios in Kilburn and the other to the Electric Lady Studio in New York .

The Focusrite Forte console at Master Rock Studios

The Focusrite Forte console at Master Rock Studios

Bernard Butler the guitarist with Suede who recorded at Master Rock said: “Master Rock Studios was originally haunted by buying one of the only custom made Focusrite consoles. It arrived several months late so left them without business for a long time and despite being used on everything after it arrived, I don’t think they recovered.”

Bernard was right. Despite the Master Rock Studios being busy, there were financial problems and in 1991 the business was put up for sale. Douglas Pashley bought it and became the CEO in 1992. But problems continued and eventually they closed in June 2000. Number 248 Kilburn High Road has since been demolished.

248 Kilburn High Road today, site of Master Rock Studios

248 Kilburn High Road today, site of Master Rock Studios

West Heath Studios, 174 Mill Lane
The composer and conductor Robert Howes, who worked with Alan Parsons and Eric Woolfson on the Alan Parsons Project, said he was doing lots of work in different studios and decided that he needed to build his own. He had previously lived in Welbeck Mansions and knew the West Hampstead area. He found a building in West Heath Mews which ran along the top of a row of garages, and set up his studio there at the end of the 1980s to record his music for TV. He did ‘Songs for Christmas’, the theme music for Kilroy and Rescue and lots of other programmes. Then he leased the studio to Eric Woolfson who later built his own studio in Cricklewood Lane . Woolfson had met Alan Parsons at the Abbey Road studios where Parsons had recorded Pink Floyd’s ‘Dark Side of the Moon’.

West Heath Studios, 2013

West Heath Studios, 2013

West Heath Studios is currently owned by Edwyn Collins who took it over in 1995. Edwin was born in Scotland and had hits with the Glasgow band Orange Juice. His major success was ‘A Girl like You’ which became a worldwide hit in 1994. After he and his wife Grace moved to Kilburn, Edwyn suddenly had a stroke in 2005 which left him paralysed. But he has since made a remarkable recovery and started to perform again. His cofounder and recording engineer Seb Lewsley kept the studio going. Edwyn’s friend Bernard Butler who lived locally in Fawley Road, recorded Duffy’s Rockferry album (2008) at West Heath. Edwyn recorded his latest album Loosing Sleep at the studio in 2010.

Have a look at YouTube for some amusing episodes of ‘West Heath Yard’.

Shebang Studio
This was a small studio in Coleridge Gardens, a mews off Fairhazel Gardens, run by Nigel Godrich. Nigel is a recording engineer and producer, best known for his work with the band Radiohead. He has also worked with Paul McCartney, Travis, Natalie Imbruglia, U2 and REM. Bernard Butler said, “Nigel Godrich’s studio was off Fairhazel Gardens where it meets Belsize Road and was called Shebang. He shared it with Sam Hardaker and Henry Binns who later became Zero 7. They were all assisting / engineering at RAK Studios at the time, which is where Radiohead and I met Nigel.” RAK Studios is in St John’s Wood and was started by Mickie Most in 1976.

The next blog story will look at the musicians who lived in West Hampstead and Kilburn.

Zadie Smith’s NW: Opportunities knocked

Kilburn, Willesden, Harlesden. London’s north-west neighbourhoods pulse through this triptych of interconnected tales. Their council estates and streets are the building blocks and threads of a narrative that sweeps its way through ideas of opportunity, identity and class.

Zadie Smith’s affection for the area, her area (at least before she moved to New York), is clear. Her characters never escape it, whether they want to or not and irrespective of the rare foray into central London. Readers, especially those living locally, may choose to revel in the fecundity, though for many of the young professionals who now call NW home, it may be easier to observe this multicultural landscape dispassionately; just as it’s possible to spend time on Kilburn High Road yet never engage with anyone meaningfully.

“A local tip: the bus stop outside Kilburn’s Poundland is the site of many of the more engaging conversations to be heard in the city of London.”

Gazing down on NW from such a height would be a disservice to Smith’s abilities. The crowning glory of this book is its dialogue, internal or conversational (and the two often merge). Rich in vernacular and alert to linguistic trends (“It was the year everyone was saying that such and such a person was ‘their rock'”), the conversations peppered across the pages are those you hear on the streets.

Yet, for all the local detail, and the acute, native understanding of lives lived here, the setting ends up a backdrop when it feels as if Smith wanted it to be a character in its own right. Her prose doesn’t help here: the conflict between self-aware changes of pace, style and form, and the natural ebbs and flows she creates in dialogue left me tripping up; forcing me to stand back from the story rather than fall into it as if into the arms of a lively Kilburn pub.

NW has had some lofty accolades heaped on it, but it certainly hasn’t grabbed everyone. It has some gorgeous vignettes but is never the sum of its parts. It has interesting things to say about opportunity and aspiration, but fell short of making me think new thoughts, which I feel any great novel should do. It has some entertaining and insightful characters, but they are often the co-stars rather than the protagonists. Ultimately, it feels more like a book set at a precise time rather than one set in a particular place.

In a final, unsettling, move, it ends abruptly.

NW
Zadie Smith
Penguin, 2012

Fifty years since Bowie recorded in West Hampstead

He was just 16 and still known as David Jones, but this was his first ever professional recording session. He wasn’t even on lead vocals.

David Jones (via the David Bowie official website)

Die hard fans can visit the David Bowie website for the full story, but here’s the overview.

On August 29 1963, The Kon-rads, David’s band, quickly recorded just one song live at Decca Studios on Broadhurst Gardens in West Hampstead (now the ENO building). They laid down a new song of their own composition called ‘I Never Dreamed’. There were talent scouts waiting to give the thumbs up or down. This was just two years after The Beatles had been turned down by Decca of course.

Once again, Decca said no. The Rolling Stones’ manager Eric Easton followed suit, as did the bookers of TV talent show ‘Ready Steady Win’.

Bowie wouldn’t be Bowie for another few years – David Jones was too close to the Monkees’ Davy Jones – but this recording session would mark the stat of one of the most remarkable careers in pop music. Bowie was only on backing vocals, it would be another 10 months before Davie Jones and the King Bees recorded “Liza Jane”, also in West Hampstead.

Decca’s master recording of I Never Dreamed has vanished, but there were some metal acetate discs cut at the studio. However, none have ever surfaced and two of the Kon-Rads have lost their copies.

The Bowie website has, however, managed to come up with the original lyrics to this historic track:

I never dreamed
That I’d fall in love with you
I never dreamed
That your eyes could be so blue

Till I looked your way baby
And saw your tender smile
I wanted you so badly
My heart was captured for a while

I never dreamed
Your caress could hurt so much
I never dreamed
That I would shake to your tender touch

Till you held my hand
Run your fingers through my hair
The other guys all laughed at me
But I didn’t really care

I never dreamed
I never dreamed
I never dreamed

The Detmold twins: Artistic genius and depression

Charles Maurice (known as Maurice) and Edward Julius Detmold were twin brothers with outstanding artistic ability who worked at the Sherriff Road Studios between 1902 and 1905.

They were born at 97 Upper Richmond Road on 21 November 1883. Their parents Edward Detmold and Mary Agnes Luck had married in 1881. Mary was brought up by her uncle, Dr Edward Barton Shuldham. He was born in Bengal where his father was an officer in the Indian Army. Mary’s parents may have died when she was a child: in 1871, aged 10, she was living in Croydon with Edward and his wife Elizabeth, who had no children of their own. Dr Shuldham was to play a major role in the Detmold story.

Edward was the son of Julius Adolph Detmold, a colonial merchant from Hamburg; ( Detmold is a town in Germany). It seems Edward decided not to enter the family business. Instead, in 1876, Julius placed his son as a ‘pupil’ with farmer Samuel Butcher in Hampshire, to learn the business. Ostensibly, theirs was a partnership but Julius remained in control. When the business failed in March 1879, Julius settled its debts by paying 20sh in the pound and the bankruptcy was annulled. Butcher said he’d always had sole management of the farms and was paid money for Edward’s keep. There’d never been any profits. Samuel later took Edward to court, accusing his ex-partner of stealing papers and other property from his farmhouse. Butcher said Detmold had threatened him and his wife Jane: “He placed himself in a fighting attitude and said “I’ll punch your head and thrash you both within an inch of your lives.” Detmold countered, saying he believed the papers were the property of his father. Both parties were bound over to keep the peace for six months.

A couple of years later, the 1881 census showed Edward still living in Hampshire, where he was sharing a house with his brother Henry. Henry was an artist while Edward had remained a farmer, with 250 acres employing five men and two boys. Dr Shuldham and his wife Elizabeth were the witnesses when their niece Mary Luck married Edward a few months later. The newly weds moved in with the Shuldhams in Upper Richmond Road and their first child, Nora was born the following year. The 1883 baptism record of twins Charles Maurice and Edward Julius describes Edward as a stockbroker, so he’d abandoned farming. He tried various jobs and became an electrical engineer: in the 1908 phone book he is listed as ‘Electrical Signs’, at 7 Warwick Lane.

The Dictionary of National Biography entry for the Detmold twins says their mother probably died shortly after their birth. This is wrong, Mary died in 1954. Rather, it looks as though the marriage failed and in 1888 Edward left and the three children and their mother stayed with Dr Shuldham.

Dr Shuldham graduated from Trinity College Dublin and was a physician at St James Homeopathic Hospital and the editor of ‘The Homeopathic World’. He wrote several medical books and was interested in stammering. Lewis Carroll, a convinced homeopath and a stammerer was a friend of Shuldham. Several of Shuldham’s medical books are in the British Library: The Family Homoepathist (1871), Headaches: their causes and treatment (1875), Clergymans Sore Throat (1878), Stammering and its rational treatment (1879), and The Health of the Skin (1890).

Shuldham was also an artist and the Victoria and Albert Museum has a landscape by him in their collection. He loved natural history and Japanese painting and agreed to educate the twins after their father had left. Part of each year was spent at Ditchling in Sussex. The Detmold boys showed early artistic talent and some time after the age of six, they briefly studied drawing at the Hampstead Conservatoire in Eton Avenue. This was the only formal training they received, but Dr Shuldham took them on regular sketching visits to the Regent’s Park Zoo and the Natural History Museum. Their uncle Henry Detmold, an artist of some renown, played an important role in helping the twins develop their natural talent. They won prizes in a nationwide art competition before they were eleven years old.

Dr Shuldham moved to Hampstead from south London and is shown at 15 Frognal (renumbered as 42) from 1891 to 1896, and then at ‘Katwych’ 49 Fairhazel Gardens, (1897 to 1906). This was followed by a series of moves downhill – literally and in terms of the value of the property he occupied. From 1906 to 1910 the family was at 13 Inglewood Road in West Hampstead. By the time of the 1911 census he was at 5 Priory Court in Mazenod Avenue and then he moved to number 7 where he stayed until his death in 1924, aged 86. Rather surprisingly, previously relatively wealthy, he left only £14 to Mary Agnes Detmold.

Number 42 Frognal (on the left), is a substantial 14 room house and one of a pair of semi-detached Victorian properties. Originally the roof line and front entrance would have mirrored number 40, (right).

Number 42 Frognal (on the left), is a substantial 14 room house and one of a pair of semi-detached Victorian properties. Originally the roof line and front entrance would have mirrored number 40, (right).

As child prodigies, at the age of 13, Edward and Maurice Detmold were the youngest people to exhibit watercolors at the Royal Academy. These were displayed ‘on the line,’ in other words at eye level, a great accolade. They also sent drawings to the Institute of Painters in Water Colours, where the doorman, seeing two children, refused them entry. He asked; “Whose pictures do you want to see – your father’s?’” They replied, “No, our own.” He fetched the secretary, who let them in.

Edward Julius Detmold, pencil sketch by Maurice, 1899, NPG

Edward Julius Detmold, pencil sketch by Maurice, 1899, NPG

Maurice Detmold, pencil sketch by Edward, 1899 NPG

Maurice Detmold, pencil sketch by Edward, 1899 NPG

Working jointly on their illustrations and etchings, in 1899 they produced a book of illustrations for Pictures from Birdland, which had rhymes by Edward Shuldham. With money from their sales, they bought and installed a printing press at their studio in Sherriff Road and produced a large number of prints. Their talent was obvious: a June 1900 review of work then on display at the Fine Art Society, described the “clever boy artists” as possessing “very remarkable genius. No reproductive process could quite do justice to their skilful brushwork and the quaint charm of their coloured etchings.” This critic concluded: “If they are not entirely submerged by juvenile success, if they are strong enough to survive precocious popularity and its attendant vices, they are sure to be heard of again.”

In 1903, at the age of twenty, they created a portfolio of sixteen superb watercolors for Kipling’s The Jungle Book. Their original drawings are in Kipling’s home ‘Batemans’ in Burwash, Etchingham, East Sussex, and the British Library has a set of the astonishing prints in the rare book collection which I went to see.

Kaa the Python, illustration for The Jungle Book by Maurice Detmold, 1903

Kaa the Python, illustration for The Jungle Book by Maurice Detmold, 1903

A review of the their work in 1907 said: “Many mediums are within their authority: etching, drawing, fresco and glass-painting, brushwork and wood-printed blocks in the Japanese fashion. In everything they do there is evidence of close observation, accuracy, strength and a wonderful sense of composition.”

But their productive partnership came to a sudden end in April 1908 when Maurice Detmold committed suicide. He was found in his room in Inglewood Road by his brother, in the bedroom they shared. Maurice was lying on the bed with a bag over his head and a cotton wad soaked in chloroform. There were three bottles of chloroform nearby and two dead cats in a box. He had left a suicide note which read: “This is not the end of a life. I have expressed through my physical means all that they are capable of expressing, and I am about to lay them aside – Maurice.”

The body was identified by his father Edward Detmold. At the inquest Dr Shuldham said the boys had lived with him since they were young. He said they were about to go to the country (presumably to Ditchling). He had given the brothers chloroform before to kill half-starved stray cats, so he was not suspicious when Maurice asked for more. When Edward Julius was asked if he knew why his brother had killed himself, he replied: “I cannot tell, except that he had done all that he wanted to do. He was most cheerful as a rule, and was exceptionally successful in his work.”

The verdict of the jury was: “suicide whilst of an unsound mind.” Maurice’s suicide appeared to re-unite his parents Edward and Mary, who started to live together again. The 1911 census shows them in number 5 Priory Court , a block of flats in   Mazenod Avenue. Dr Shuldham and his wife occupied number 7 with their unmarried daughter Nora. Edward Julius, Maurice’s brother, was still living with the doctor but he later moved in with his parents. They left Priory Court for 137 Broadhurst Gardens , about 1932, where Edward Detmold senior died in 1938.

The captive, by Edward Detmold, 1923

The captive, by Edward Detmold, 1923

Edward Julius Detmold was stunned by his brother’s death, but he continued to work at the publishers Hodder and Stoughton and at the Rossetti Studios in Flood Street into the 1920s and 1930s, creating etchings, drawings and paintings, and coloured block prints. Then he largely withdrew from public life. After the death of his father the family moved in 1940 to ‘Bank House’, a large house on the edge of Montgomery, North Wales where Edward lived with his mother and sister Mrs Nora Joy, the artist Sidney Lawrence Biddle and the musician Harold Rankin Hulls. Biddle and Hulls had lived with the family in West Hampstead. His mother Mary died at Bank House in 1954. Three years later on the morning of Monday 1 July 1957, like his brother Maurice almost fifty years before, Edward committed suicide. He shot himself in the chest and died of a haemorrhage.

At the inquest Hulls said that he had owned the single-barreled shotgun which Detmold had used to kill himself, and he kept it in his bedroom. The local doctor said he had treated Detmold for arterial disease which caused fainting attacks, and depression was a common symptom in such cases. Then the coroner read a statement from Mrs Joy who was too upset to attend the inquest. She said that after Hulls had left, her brother had returned to the house and kissed her and gone into his room. This was not unusual because they were an affectionate family. Then she heard the sound of a shot and she rushed into his room. Her brother staggered towards her and fell at her feet. She said that in the past year Edward had lost the sight in one eye and the other eye was deteriorating rapidly. This, combined with his blackouts, had caused considerable depression. The coroner’s verdict was: “death by self-inflicted gunshot wound while the balance of the mind was disturbed.”

The Roc which fed its young on elephants, for The Arabian Nights, by Edward Detmold, 1924

The Roc which fed its young on elephants, for The Arabian Nights, by Edward Detmold, 1924

The twin’s art work, influenced by Japanese prints, particularly those by Hiroshige and Hokusai, was highly original. In 2002 at a Sothebys book auction The Arabian Nights with illustrations by Edward Detmold, was estimated to reach between £100,000 to £150,000. Today their work is greatly prized.

Scene and heard – live music in West Hampstead & Kilburn

Francesca Baker, music blogger, promoter and recent arrival in West Hampstead, takes a look at why our local area isn’t as buzzing as it could be when it comes to live music.

Music. NW6. The two aren’t generally associated, but is that fair? We’ve already revealed West Hampstead and Kilburn‘s musical legacy and the impressive list of bands who’ve tuned up and rocked out in the area: The Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix, The Beatles, Cream, U2, Joy Division, The Smiths, Nirvana, Blur, Suede – even Adele!

Anyone who’s recently walked past the billboards on their way to Kilburn Park station will see the vintage ticket stubs and posters that are testament to a once buzzing music scene. Where is it now, and can it be revived?

Music culture and creativity does continue in the area. Bands play in Kilburn most nights, there’s regularly jazz of various hues on West End Lane, Folkies, an ‘Aladdin’s cave of musical instruments’ does a roaring trade (for an independent store) and, of course, the Institute of Contemporary Music Performance attracts talented musicians to study on its many courses.

So far, so fertile. But a bunch of sporadic gigs doesn’t make a thriving humming music scene. Do West Hampstead and Kilburn have what it takes to be uttered in the same breath as Camden Town or Shoreditch when it comes to London music?

My generation
A music scene implies a community, a group, a shared feeling. This all helps generate the “longevity and consistency” that Simon Whiteside, local jazz musician, believes creates a scene. Ultimately, it is people – the right people – not history.

Matt Churchill, another musician who’s cut his teeth at local venues, thinks that the culture can transform quickly if the right mix of passionate people are there. This is what has driven the success of places such as Walthamstow, with its thriving art trail and mini festival Stowfest. It proves that a lot can happen when like minded people “start making some noise…and people who are interested start paying attention.”

Matt Churchill (photo (c) Howard Key)

I used to live in Ealing and, fed up of getting the night bus back home from central London and constantly bemoaning the lack of gigs closer to home, I decided to put on my own nights in a local pub. Lo and behold, I was not the only music lover in the area. A lack of music doesn’t mean there’s no demand; more likely it means the demand isn’t being heard or acted on.

Everyone wants to be in a gang and once something starts to develop it often spirals driven by the excited members’ willingness to spread the word, entice new people, and welcome them in.

You can’t always get what you want
A cursory glance at listings reveals alarmingly few gigs in the area. A prerequisite for a thriving music scene must be a range of good quality venues in which to perform (and rehearse).

There are venues of course. The Good Ship, which opened in 2005, delivers quality acts almost every night and attracts people from across London. Owner John McCooke asks that all Londoners ‘consider us an extension of your front room with a jukebox in,’ which in many ways is exactly what a venue should be: comforting and creative. The Good Ship has managed to attract a regular crowd due to its consistency, but this sort of thing does take time – and commitment

Carnegie Hall was real fabulous, but you know, it ain’t as big as the Grand Ole Opry.

Patsy Cline

Across Kilburn High Road is Powers, a smaller and darker venue-cum-bar owned by music impresario Vince Power but run by his son Patrick. Down the other end of the road there’s Love & Liquor, which has garnered attention for having Idris Elba (aka “Stringer Bell” aka “Luther”) as a guest DJ.

Up in West Hampstead the focus is more on jazz than ‘boys with guitars’, but it’s still individual venues doing their own thing rather than any sense of collaboration to drive the music scene. A jazz festival is in the offing, which might help unite the venues – most of which are cafés, bars or restaurants rather than dedicated gig venues.

Crosstown traffic
There are more than 60 live music venues across Camden, but the majority are in Camden Town and Kentish Town. Both have the larger venues that attract big-name bands, such as The Roundhouse or Koko. Is our part of London too far from Camden Town to pick up from its gravitational pull; yet too close to compete?

If you’re not a new-music addict, it is easier to go and see a well-known band than take a risk on a new and upcoming artist in a local pub. By the same token, bands and artists are more likely to gravitate towards bigger venues with a solid reputation rather than magnanimously attempt to kickstart a new scene. If it’s a choice between the chance of bumping into A&R in the Old Blue Last or Shackelwell Arms or playing a small gig to friends and family on a rainy Tuesday in Kilburn, well… need I go on?

Come together
The ease with which music can spread across the world means that local scenes don’t have time to develop like they used to. It is possible for bands to succeed without playing local gigs, and the allure of working hard to build a local following fades when challenged by the glamour and allure of a worldwide audience. The venues meanwhile find it hard to make much of a profit, and this means that the people involved generally have to be doing it for the love rather than for a lucrative return.

A venue that built a reputation as a high-quality (if eccentric) bastion of the independent music scene was The Luminaire in Kilburn. Yet, despite all its credibility and big-name acts, the owners closed it in 2010 as it became harder to meet their financial obligations.  If such a successful venue still couldn’t be profitable enough to survive then what hope is there?

Perhaps the answer lies in alternative uses of space. The Albert in Queen’s Park is a pop-up creativity hub that runs music and arts events, and there are some lovely alternative venues in West Hampstead itself, such as The Wet Fish Café, Brioche or La Brocca.

Simon Whiteside performs regularly at La Brocca as well as Ronnie Scott’s

A scene requires a network of people – fans – beyond the musicians and the venues. There needs to be a buzz. The Good Ship’s heavy use of social media to spread the word means it is well known in the music world, but McCooke believes that Brent Council should do more to help to encourage the scene to thrive in the community. He says that there is, for example, no night time culture featured in the Brent Magazine.

A support network could mean radio stations such as Shoreditch Radio, or a large student population. Local blogs, radio stations, and dedicated music media are all necessary to keep enthusiasm bubbling for longer than one night. Support and exposure are the real drivers, whilst passion, and a genuine belief in an area’s potential, can ensure longevity.

Kilburn’s Institute of Contemporary Music Performance attracts and turns out quality musicians. It was once home to The Vaccines, Daughter, and The Robbie Boyd Band. But, according to its Industry Liaison Officer Giaco Bridgett, it too is “crying out for somewhere that has great production, cool nights and attracts cutting edge talent to the area.” We come back to the venues.

Where the streets have no name
Sometimes, it’s only after a few bands have emerged that a music scene is defined. The Happy Mondays were famously ignored in Manchester until ‘Madchester’ was coined. The Manchester scene was far more than a marketing ploy, but perhaps building a Kilburn Crawl or Whamp & Blues nights might get the ball rolling. Perhaps.

There’s enough activity bubbling along to suggest there is potential for a thriving music scene here, but the challenges that face music across the country are always exacerbated in London with high rents and stiff competition. The situation is, in the words of McCooke, by ‘no means terminal’, but it’s certainly in need of some love and attention, some great venues, and some excited people. Is that you?

The sculptor Fred Kormis

Fritz, or later as he called himself Fred Kormis, was born in Frankfurt Germany in 1897. Shortly before the outbreak of WW2, he came to London where he lived and worked for almost fifty years in West Hampstead and Kilburn.

Fritz was fourteen when he began an apprenticeship in a workshop specializing in decorative sculpture and mouldings. In 1914 he won a scholarship to the Frankfurt Art School but was drafted into the Austro-Hungarian army when WWI broke out. He was wounded and captured by the Russians in 1915 and sent to a Siberian prisoner-of-war camp. This terrible experience provided the inspiration for much of his later work. Kormis escaped from the camp and returned to Frankfurt about 1920 where he earned his living as a portrait sculptor. He married Rachel in 1924. As a Jew, Kormis was no longer allowed to work once Hitler came to power in 1933, so he and Rachel went to the Netherlands and then to England in 1934. Here Fritz anglicised his name to Fred.

Kormis lived in 41 Broadhurst Gardens (1935-1937) and then at number 9, Sherriff Road Studios (1938-1940). His studio was destroyed in a raid during 1940, but we don’t know its location. Sherriff Road never experienced any serious bomb damage, but many of the houses in Broadhurst Gardens were demolished during a September raid. Fred may still have been renting space there as reports speak of his ‘larger works’ being lost. Having moved briefly to Hampstead Garden Suburb, he was at 3b Greville Place by 1944, where he stayed until his death in 1986.

3b Greville Place today

3b Greville Place today

Built about 1822, number 3 Greville Place was a large and extended property, home to artist Sir Frank Dicksee and prima ballerina Madame Lydia Kyasht, before being split into several flats and studios in the 1930s. John Hutton, artist and glass engraver (Number 3a) and Dolf Reiser, artist and fellow refugee from the Nazis (Number 3i) were neighbours of Kormis. Briefly (1964-1967) Kormis also rented number 3h.
Once settled in London , Kormis’ reputation continued to grow. About 1945 Willesden Council commissioned a sculpture for the new Church End redevelopment. In 2006 Reg Freeson donated the sculpture ‘Angel Wings’ by Kormis to Queen’s Park. It stands in the quiet garden, in the south east corner of the Park.

Angel Wings, in Queens Park

Angel Wings, in Queens Park

Kormis was especially well known for his bronze portrait medallions which were highly regarded. Subjects ranged from politicians to royalty and entertainers, and included Edward VIII, Winston Churchill and Charlie Chaplin. Kormis exhibited a total of 41 pieces at the Royal Academy .

Winston Churchill, by Kormis, 1941

Winston Churchill, by Kormis, 1941

Waiting for a life dream to come true
Since escaping from Siberia , Kormis had been working on studies for a memorial to prisoners of war, and later, to include victims of the concentration camps. His unsuccessful design for the British Holocaust memorial was a beautiful figure with two arms stretching up from the earth; (he gave a model of the work to Yad Vashem in Jerusalem ). A bequest from a relative in Germany allowed Kormis to move his dream forward. Sculpting a series of figures, he looked to install them in a building bombed in WW2, but the search for a suitable site proved fruitless until his friend and leader of Brent Council, Reg Freeson, suggested the figures might find a home in the Borough. Kormis wanted the work to be erected in a depressed area, to act as an incentive to continued improvements. Various locations were put forward: Willesden High Road, Canterbury Road, Granville Road and Gladstone Park. Nothing was decided until February 1967, when Freeson (then an Alderman and MP), told the Council’s planning department, “This is a very generous gift, I think it is one of the finest pieces of work I have seen”. The Council decided to accept the memorial figures but no site was agreed.

The following month, the local paper interviewed an impatient Kormis at his Greville Place studio. Four of the figures were now complete, the sculptor explaining that each was intended to illustrate an aspect of his war experiences. “First there is the numb shock of realizing you are a prisoner in the hands of the enemy. Then there is the dawning awareness of your predicament and the primitive conditions. The next phase is the thought of escape and freedom. After that many succumb to despair and a sense of hopelessness. Others overcome their dejection and manage to escape.”

Kormis had two designs in mind for the fifth and central figure – a figure with outstretched arms, alive and hopeful for the future, or a seated woman, face in hands, sunk in deep grief. “I prefer this but I must admit it is a very sad study. It could be too depressing.” But before going any further he needed to know where the memorial would be placed, so he could adapt the design accordingly.

Gladstone Park Memorial, standing figure and three of the seated figures

Gladstone Park Memorial, standing figure and three of the seated figures

Gladstone Park, four seated figures

Gladstone Park, four seated figures

Memorial plaque

Memorial plaque

Brent decided a “shabby site” would be unworthy of the piece and chose to place the memorial in Gladstone Park, in a position chosen by Kormis. The five male, fibre glass figures were unveiled on May 11, 1969. Sadly their condition deteriorated over the years and the site became neglected. When the sculptures were graffitied with bright yellow paint, the simple ‘repair’ consisted of over painting them in matt black. Then in December 2003 the figures were seriously vandalized: all were decapitated and one sustained further severe damage.

Fortunately, as part of the Heritage Lottery Fund restoration of the park, there was funding available to properly restore the memorial. A search revealed four of the vandalized heads thrown into surrounding undergrowth. One was missing but archive material allowed it to be replicated. Under expert guidance the figures were split open, foam filler removed and their internal structure replaced with stainless steel. The black paint was cleaned off and their original bronze finish restored, the resulting increase in definition allowing their features to be clearly seen for the first time in many years. The memorial is located close to Dollis Hill Lane , just a short walk downhill from the car park. Today the bronze finish has deteriorated but the impression given by the group, in particular the seated figures is very powerful. The standing figure is perhaps a version of the one Kormis described in his interview.

Rachel Kormis died in December 1971 and Fred died on 17 April 1986, still living and working at Greville Place. The couple are buried in adjacent graves at Bushey Cemetery.

Whampbooks is Five – August 29th

This month sees the return of the ever-popular Whampbooks lock-in; the fifth edition no less.

What is this event? I hear you cry. It’s a chance to browse and stock up on some holiday reading at the lovely West End Lane Books, while drinking free wine (thanks Chelsea Square) and meeting some lovely literary locals. As if that wasn’t incentive enough, there’s 20% off all books on the night.

There’s no need to book a ticket – just turn up anytime from 7.30pm; browse, chat, mingle, drink, buy. It’s not too hard.

Put August 29th in your Moleskine diaries (yes, there’s 20% off all cards and stationery too) and we’ll see you there!

Film on Fortune Green: We’re on a mission from God

Yes! Sanity prevailed. The people spoke (well, 186 of them did) and the overwhelming winner in the vote for August 31st’s Film on Fortune Green is The Blues Brothers.

This classic musical comedy from 1980 stars Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi and was directed by John Landis. It features cameos from some of America’s musical legends – most famously Aretha Franklin, Ray Charles and James Brown. It also has one of the best (and longest) car chase sequences of all time and spawned a thousand tribute bands, imitators and wannabes.

It’s 106 miles to Chicago, we got a full tank of gas, half a pack of cigarettes, it’s dark… and we’re wearing sunglasses.

The film starts at 7.45pm, and will once again be bike-powered (volunteers are very welcome indeed), but come earlier to grab a good spot and bring a picnic. It is a 15 certificate, though that’s really for a few swear words (always in context, of course) rather than anything more disturbing for younger kids. It’s really a glorified cartoon – and brilliant for it.

These film nights are getting more and more popular and this one should be even better. Bring your dark glasses and thin black ties and lets get our whampblues on.

Jake and Elwood Blues – They’re on a mission from God
Rapt audience for Back to the Future in June

Vote for the next Fortune Green film

Everyone agreed that the screening of Back to the Future in June was a huge success, and the Friends of Fortune Green raised enough money that night to put on another bike-powered summer film on Saturday August 31st.

Photo via Mark Stonebanks

Mark “The Hills are Alive” Stonebanks, chair of the FoFG, is determined that it should be a musical, but is leaving the choice up to the Great Whamp Public. He’s come up with a shortlist based on some early suggestions and you can vote for your favourite.

The choices are:

  • Bugsy Malone (1976, Jodie Foster, dir Alan Parker – famous for the custard gun scene)
  • Fame (1980, Irene Cara, dir Alan Parker – famous for legwarmers (but not as good as the TV series))
  • Footloose (1984, Kevin Bacon, dir Herbert Ross – famous for the theme tune)
  • The Blues Brothers (1980, Dan Aykroyd, John Belushi, dir John Landis – famous for being bloody brilliant)
  • Les Misérables (2012, Russell Crowe, Hugh Jackman, dir Tom Hooper – famous for being entirely in song)

You have to go the Friends of Fortune Green event site to vote (scroll down when you get there). Far be it from me to sway your vote in any particular direction. I shall just leave you with this.

New plays and new seating policy at the Tricycle

Indhu Rubasingham, entering her second year as Artistic Director at the Tricycle Theatre, has announced the new season of plays and some changes to the seating policy.

The new season opens in September with the UK première of Colman Domingo’s award-winning A Boy and His Soul. This is followed by the world première of Handbagged – Moira Buffini’s take on the relationship between the Queen and Margaret Thatcher. Rubasingham herself directs Stella Gonet as Margaret Thatcher and Marion Bailey as Elizabeth II.

Starting in November,  Kathy Burke directs a major revival of Mary J O’Malley’s Once a Catholic; and to complete the season, the multi-award-winning Red Velvet written by Lolita Chakrabarti and directed by Rubasingham, returns to the theatre ahead of its transfer to New York. Adrian Lester reprises his role as Ira Aldridge. Chakrabati and Lester also join the Theatre as Creative Associates, along with Rosa Maggiora.

New seating policy
Starting in September, the theatre will also introduce allocated seating throughout the auditorium. This means ticket-holders will no longer need to queue for seats before performances (hurrah – it can be a bunfight at times!). The theatre will also have some £8 preview tickets, cheaper than it’s previously been able to offer. Normal ticket prices will stay the same. Concession tickets will save £2 Tuesday-Saturday. There’s also a season ticket deal: book for three or more plays at one go and save 20%. Finally, there are a limited number of £10 tickets available for people aged 25 years and under for Monday–Thursday for the first two full weeks of A Boy and His Soul, Handbagged and Once A Catholic.

The Tricycle is also re-launching the Tricycle’s Young Company. This is free, and open to 11-25 year olds. It provide opportunities to make high quality theatre productions, and develop skills, confidence and professionalism. In March 2014, a Tricycle Takeover festival will see the Young Company present at least two new works.

Indhu Rubasingham, commenting on the new programme, said “It’s an exciting time for the company, seeing us collaborate with so many writers, actors, and directors, and to reach out to new audiences both here, and in the US, with such a diversity of work.”.

NW6 Film Club: The Bling Ring on July 14th

It’s nearly time for the next instalment of NW6 Film Club, and this month’s offering is not only a great pick, but also one of the most eagerly awaited films of the year.

Sofia Coppola’s films have fallen into two distinct camps: either they focus on the reality of celebrity, especially its claustrophobic qualities (Lost in Translation, Somewhere), or they feature teenagers who are desperate and isolated from society (The Virgin Suicides). It could be argued that The Bling Ring contains elements from both strands.

The Film Club screening is at The Tricycle Cinema in Kilburn at 8pm on Sunday 14th July. We’ll meet in the bar at the Tricycle from 7.30pm. There’s no need to tell us you’re coming – though a tweet is always welcome.

You can book through the Tricycle Box Office on 020 7328 1000 – we will have a reserved block right in the centre of the cinema so mention “NW6 Film Club” if you want to sit with us (or don’t if you don’t!). It’s unlikely to be booked out so feel free to come along on the night as well.

After the film we’ll go to the Black Lion opposite the cinema for a drink and a chat. We’ll wait at the top of the stairs for a few minutes after the film finishes and head over together but if you miss us there then just head over.

The film is 90 minutes long, so there should be time for a good post-movie discussion. As always, follow @NxNW6 for updates on Twitter (or the #nw6filmclub hashtag), and hopefully we will see you on Sunday 14th.

Mark (@NxNW6) and Nathan (@nathankw)

Stock the shelves at West End Lane Books

Yesterday afternoon, everyone’s favourite independent bookshop tweeted:

Bet yr *really* well read! Want to show how clever you are? Send list of fave books & if we like ’em we’ll add shelf with your name & books!
— West End Lane Books (@WELBooks) June 13, 2013

What a great idea, I thought. So I asked Danny from West End Lane Books, to give us a bit more info:

“West Hampstead folk are a well-read-bunch. We should know, we spend all day, every day, recommending great reads. And very grateful we are too.

But now we’re turning the tables.

We want to know what your favourite books are. The best submissions will have their selections displayed in the shop on their own dedicated shelves with their names on show to boot.

Send your choices, which can include as few as 6 books to a maximum of 12, to ku.oc1519360122.skoo1519360122blew@1519360122ofni1519360122 marked ‘bookshelves’. Winners will be announced next week.

[Tip: try not to include any titles which may be out of print or we will find it hard to order and display them]

This is one occasion when you might want to be left on the shelf”

Crowdsourcing your stock from local recommendations. What a fantastic notion. I’ve already submitted my list, an electic mix of children’s literature, highbrow fiction, social theory and rip-roaring tales of adventure. Lets see whether I win!

Photo via @theprettybooks

NW6 Film Club: Once more unto the breach

A slightly different tack for June’s NW6 Film Club – and a discount price! The Tricycle is one of the cinemas that’s teamed up with the Globe Theatre to show three productions from last year’s season at the open-air theatre on the South Bank.

First up is perennial crowd-pleaser Henry V, on Sunday June 9th. The screening starts at 5.30pm and there’s a Q&A afterwards with artistic director Dominic Dromgoole, Jamie Parker who plays the title role, and Brid Brennan who plays Queen Isabel. The screening includes the interval.

The production was very well received by the critics (see here, and here), and is always apt whenever the country finds itself in conflict – be it to support or criticise the idea of war and leadership. If you’re not sure about Shakespeare, this might be a good one to try out. The story is easy to follow, there’s not too much witty wordplay or sub-plots involving twins, and it’s fairly action-packed.

The Tricycle has very kindly given us a discount for this screening. Normally, tickets are £15, but NW6 Film Clubbers can get them for £10. To benefit from this, either ring the box office on 020 7328 1000 or book online using code “NW6FilmClub”.

You do need to book in advance for this one and we don’t have a pre-booked block of seats. However, we’ll meet beforehand in the bar as per usual, and we’ll also have a table reserved in the bar for the interval. What’s not to love?

See you there!
Mark, Nathan and Jonathan

Back to the Future on Fortune Green

This Saturday, the Friends of Fortune Green will pick up where they left off last summer with the first outdoor film screening of the year. Powered by bike (not DeLorean).

If you didn’t come to these last year, they were a great success. The premise is simple: a large screen is put up on Fortune Green and everyone bring a picnic, settles out on the grass from about 6.30 in the evening and then as the sun sets the film starts. With people cycling on fixed bikes to generate the power. Volunteers are needed to do a bit of the cycling (10 minute spells are fine) and a few bikes are also needed. Please contact FoFG if you can lend a bike for the evening.

The first film this year is 1980s cult classic Back to the Future with Michael “never gets older” J Fox and Christopher Lloyd. Sure, you’ve seen it before, but films like this always merit watching again.

The forecast is reasonably good for the week, so the FoFG are optimistic that it will go ahead. The film is PG, and it’s free thanks to sponsorship from Benham & Reeves estate agents.

The one lesson from last year: bring some bug spray.

See you there.

Godzilla in Hampstead

If you’ve been to Camden Arts Centre over the past few weeks then you’ll have seen the rather amazing T-Rex/Godzilla sculpture by Serena Korda. If you’ve looked more closely you’ll have spotted a couple of harnesses inside it – yes, it’s designed to move!

This Saturday, the 9ft-tall latex beast will embark on a procession from the Arts Centre on the corner of Arkwright Road and Finchley Road up to Hampstead Heath where the performance will culminate with a re-enactment of The Battle of the River Plate in Whitestone Pond, where the monster will be waiting. This one took a while to get council approval but it promise to be one of the local events of the spring.

The excitement kicks off at 3pm at the Arts Centre and they’d like you to let them know if you plan to participate.

Korda’s beast in Blackpool

NW6 Film Club: The Look of Love

In April the film club saw Trance, which was enjoyed by almost everyone.

Our next movie is also London-based and also the work of an original and eclectic British director; in this case Michael Winterbottom. His latest film, The Look of Love, reunites Winterbottom with Steve Coogan (they worked together on 24 Hour Party People and the recent TV series The Trip) to tell the life story of strip club entrepreneur Paul Raymond.

Winterbottom certainly has a thing about sex and movies – his Nine Songs is supposedly the most explicit film to get a general release in the UK. He’s also a highly political director (Road to Guantanamo and The Shock Doctrine). So will this be a thoughtful examination of the politics of pornography and exploitation or a sexy romp through Soho? Come along on May 5th and find out.

The film is screening at The Tricycle at 8pm on Sunday 5th May and tickets are already available.

How do I book?
Through the Tricycle Box Office on 020 7328 1000. We have a block of seats reserved right in the middle of the cinema so mention “NW6 film club” if you want to sit with us (or don’t if you don’t!). It’s unlikely to be booked out so feel free to turn up on the night as well.

How do I find you?
We’ll meet up in the bar area at the Tricycle from 7.15pm, so collect your ticket and come and say hi. You’ll spot the crowd! There’s no need to tell us you’re coming – though a tweet is always welcome.

After the film we’ll go to the Black Lion opposite the cinema for a drink and chat. It’s a bank holiday weekend (hurrah) so do come along for a post movie meetup.

It’s going to be a great night, I hope you can join us. As always, follow @NxNW6 for updates or the #nw6filmclub hashtag.